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What is the most important factor to securing success in Formula 1? An eight-season study has offered up an answer.

According to experts, a “long-held belief” that the car and the team contribute to 80% of race success with the skill of the driver making up the other 20% – sometimes called the 80-20 rule – is not accurate.

It’s actually the interaction between the driver and the team, they said.

Lead author Duane Rockerbie, from the University of Lethbridge in Canada, said the findings are “particularly validating for drivers”.

The professor added: “The car and team’s input has been greatly overestimated.

“Rather than 80%, it is closer to 20%. The driver’s input accounts for roughly 15%.

“The biggest factor is more nuanced and it’s the interaction between the driver and the team, which accounts for 30-40%.

“Random factors that occur during the race make up the rest.

“Our findings are particularly validating for drivers as it shows they do not just drive the cars but also provide valuable input and feedback on the development of the cars.

“More skilled drivers improve the return to team technology and vice-versa.

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“After all, F1 cars do not drive themselves and drivers cannot ply their trade without an F1 car.

“The 80-20 rule vastly underestimates the role of the driver, given the critical complementarity between driver and team.”

They also looked at the variation of driver skill and compared it to how much a team spends on the car.

The outcome suggests that although the teams which spend more on their budgets and driver salaries will improve their rank finishes, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

“The return to hiring more driving skill (at an assumedly higher driver salary) is positive, in terms of returning better position finishes, but it diminishes the size of the team budget,” says Professor Stephen Easton, co-author and professor of Economics at Simon Fraser University.

“The return to spending more on the team budget is positive, for finishes, but diminishing in the size of the driver salary. The team with the largest budget outlay overall, therefore, is most likely in the best position to win each season, as they can afford to not diminish the car’s performance in exchange for a high-quality driver.

“This finding is further backed up with the casual evidence: drivers who move to teams with superior cars, and team support, or who are lucky enough to begin their F1 career with these teams, achieve superior results and possibly world championships.”

The findings, published in the journal Applied Economics, were analysed by Professor Rockerbie and co-author Stephen Easton using statistical modelling and data from the 2012-2019 seasons.

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