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A study on "The F1 dominators" (a rejected article)

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#1 Henri Greuter

Henri Greuter
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Posted 21 March 2003 - 21:10

To the reader of this thread:

I opened this thread since I mentioned in another thread (Poll: Which was the most dominant car of the last 20 years) that I had made a compilation like this and would submit it.
Please note; this piece was written as an aticle but rejected. So this is not a short message or so to fire on. React if you want, but please keep in mind that this was supposed to be an article.
Thus please, don't complain about length or so, I am fully aware of that. all other opinions and reactions however are much appreciated.
And I apologize if you feel this piece to be out of place here.

Henri Greuter


The F1 Dominators
Or: Putting Ferrari’s 2002 dominance in perspectives

Note in advance: I swear that this is true.
The title for this article and the general concept of it was already written before Autosport Magazine came with the article on page 43 of the Sept 5, 2002 edition.
I can’t prove it but believe me, it is true.

I became rather angry during 2002. The longer the F1 season continued the more complaints I noticed about Ferrari dominating the season so much that it became boring.
Well, I’m from 1961 and following F1 for a longer time already. Maybe it is because I do have a soft spot for Ferrari that I didn’t mind this so called domination so much. The other reason however is that I remember a number of other seasons in which one team completely overwhelmed the opposition.
So was this Ferrari domination new? And of unseen proportions?

First: to put one complaint straight with bare facts.
In the years from 1984 till 1998 there were 15 constructor titles to be won. 14 of those went to either Williams or McLaren, the lone title they missed went to Benetton. But Benetton used the same brand of engine that Williams used to win the titles with from 1992-1994 and 1996-1997. Thus: 5 out of 6 for Williams-Renault between 1992-1997. And McLaren-Honda scored 4 constructor titles in the years from 1988-1991 in addition to the driver titles they also won those years. As for engine manufacturers, Honda had six titles in a row from 1986 to 1991 and Renault six straight from 1992 to 1997. Ferrari’s engine dept. is still two down on equalling that performance.
Driver titles: between 1984 and 1998, 13 out of 15 titles were won by McLaren or Williams drivers, the two missing titles were Schumacher’s Benetton titles. So far, since Ferrari came into power, they didn’t break a Williams or McLaren average yet, they tied the four consecutive constructor titles of McLaren from 1999-2002 but in 1999 it was still McLaren equipped Hakkinen who became champion. Thus 4 driver titles in a row is a record McLaren still owns and Ferrari can try to equal in 2003

It is my guess that there has not been so much complaining about all this McLaren and Williams domination because of 4 drivers being involved those years.
- Alain Prost. (Not the most popular but well respected)
- Ayrton Senna (Couldn’t do anything wrong with the majority of the fans worldwide, even if he did.)
- Nigel Mansell (the all time British (Under)Bulldog)
- Damon Hill (like father like son and another Brit)
Doesn’t take away that in the 15 years from 1984 till 1998 90% (!) of all F1 world titles went to McLaren and Williams and their engine partners.

Then, I began to wonder which cars had been utterly dominant in their years. From memory I recalled a few but then the question arose, did Ferrari so much better in 2002 than any of those back then.
I dug up the Annuals and decided to find out which cars can be called the ‘Dominators’ within F1.
I decided to stick with the statistics only. Several cars are remembered to be utterly dominant but when the checquered flag fell, they were gone. Thus, it can be argued that some cars were far more dominant that the bare statistics prove them to be. But I excluded the "What if" thoughts for all cars. But I admit, things could have been different for some cars.

To qualify for the distinction of ‘Dominator’ I came up with the following requirements.

1) Win at least 50 % of all GP’s in a season. Thus: 8 out of 16 would be enough, 8 out of 17 however wasn’t enough.

2) Score at least 50% + 1 point from the maximum amount of point one type of car could score over a full season. Thus: if a car started 16 races, the maximum score obtainable for a car were 16 doubles. Score half of this amount of points and at least one more point and the car qualified for being a ‘Dominator’.
The maximum obtainable score was adjusted accordingly in case of races being awarded half points only (rain races at Monaco ‘84 and Adelaide ‘91) and in case a team entered only one car or had to withdraw injured drivers after qualifications. (All the latter happened to Williams on occasion) Points deducted because of disqualifications were not returned. In case of drivers disqualified from the event I scored the car as retirement (not classified score) and the amount of laps driven in the race was not counted.

I selected the era from 1980 on, when more different factory engines came into F1. It became rather obvious that dominating cars were often the result of the perfect gelling between chassis and factory supplied engine. Going further back in time, maybe in another holiday. But the 1978 Lotus 79 would qualify for the distinction, (8 victories in 16 races to begin with) and I expect some of the flat-12 Ferraris also making the list because of scoring more than 50% of the total point score possible.
Another reason to select the post 1980 era is that the constructor points could be scored by both cars of a team instead of only the best score as happened before 1979.
Then, to compare more fairly, all ‘Dominators’ that only got 9 points for a race victory instead of 10 (introduced in 1991) had their scores modified into the 10-6-4-3-2-1 score.
The results surprised me. I thought the two requirements would be fairly tough to meet already but I had forgotten one thing. Ever since 1984, the domination of F1 by one car was enhanced thanks to the increasing reliability of the top F1 cars and the fact that unlike in the kit car era, exclusive engine deals prevented that the dominant engine powered more than two cars of one and the same team on several occasions. McLaren and Williams earned their titles and left the impression of domination not only by outright speed but with high rates of reliability too. Much to my surprise, the limits for becoming an F1 ‘Dominator’ were not high enough to prevent two cars earning the distinction in the same year in three different years!
But looking the list over, some people will definitely point out that a few cars are missing from the list, sometimes despite qualifying for the distinction. I will discuss these cars from here on and explain why they are missing.

The first car that can be called a ‘Dominator’ is the 1980 Williams FW07B. The car marks the end of the era in which a Cosworth kit-car could be way dominant above its rivals.
The next ‘Dominator’ is the 1984 McLaren-TAG, type MP4/2. Some might claim that the scores for the 1985 and 1986 versions of the MP4/2 chassis (the MP4/2B and MP4/2C) have to be included too. I disagree with that and haven’t done it.
The McLaren-Honda’s of 1988, 1989 and 1991 easily made it to the list, the 1990 car however at the skin of it teeth. Out of a maximum of 240 points it scored 121 points, exactly the minimum of 50%+1 point. In fact, if in 1990 winners had scored 10 points instead of 9, the car would have missed qualification for the ‘Dominator list’ with two points. The 1990 car might have qualified more easily for the list if at Suzuka Ayrton Senna had not….
The records of the 1988 MP4/4 are close to beyond belief. More on that later on. Nevertheless, Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher did set some F1 records without the MP4/4.
1991 is a strange year: Two cars made it on the list that year because apart from the McLaren MP4/6, the Williams-Renault also scored more than 1 point of 50% of its maximum obtainable points. Though it lost out to the McLaren, its performance equals outdid some of the 1990 McLaren figures that made it on the list and thus I decided that in case of two cars qualifying for the list, both cars were accepted. That is why we will find both the 1998 and 2000 McLarens and Ferraris on this list as well.
The most unlucky car that didn’t make the list is the 1999 Ferrari. It scored only 6 GP victories, two down on the required 8. And out of a 256 point maximum, it scored 128 points: exactly 50%! Thus 1 point short…
Many people name the 1992 Wiulliams as the all time dominant car of its year because Mansell in particular performed so dominant. Surprisingly enough, though the car scores rather well,there are cars that scored better in the world title scores. Maybe Mansell ran rings around everyone, he had a few too many retirements and Patrese didn’t do the car that mush justice. This car in the hands of two top drivers….
Another unlucky car was the 1997 Williams. 8 GP victories in a season of 17 GP’s is one victory short. But it also scored a little over 47% of its maximum obtainable score. Thus in every way it was a matter of: close but no cigar. The McLaren of 1999 came one GP victory and a few points short.
No decision as controversial as about one particular car. The Benetton B194 qualifies for being a dominator because of winning 8 of 16 races. But it was also disqualified twice, losing a first and a second place, Schumacher being the culprit. These two disqualifications saw Benetton lose more points than the other drivers than Schumacher combined (Lehto, Verstappen and Herbert) scored together! Also, if Senna wasn’t killed, how many of the 6 post-Senna victories for Benetton would have been retained? (Then again, imagine if Michael had been able to retain those first and second places he lost by being disqualified and if he had not been suspended two races as well. What would he have scored in those two events?) Add to this the fact that the B194 has always remained rather controversial (were illegal software options used or not?) and that is enough for me to refuse the B194 for the list of ‘F1 Dominators’.
The 1994 Williams came very close to be named a dominator too. It nearly scored 50% of the maximum points score for the car. Again, had Senna not been killed, it might have earned the ‘Dominator’ title too. But the Williams also inherited points because of Schumacher’s disqualification in Belgium and Hill won the two events for which Schumacher was banned. So, the best two cars of 1994 could have been on the dominators list.
The Benetton B195 however made it handsomely, even after loosing 10 points because of Benetton being punished for a fuel irregularity. 11 victories did it, other than that however the car had only one point to spare. The 2000 McLaren which also lost 10 constructor points also had points to spare and still better the 50% +1 point entry level.
Another complicated car was the car that started off this project: the 2002 Ferrari. It didn’t contest the full season and adding the results scored in 2002 with the F2001 would be an insult. Thus, the results for the F2002 are based on the 29 races it qualified for.

Thus: the list of F1 Post 1980 nominated ‘Dominators’ initially looked like this:

1980 Williams FW07B - Cosworth
1984 McLaren MP4/2 - TAG
1986 Williams FW11 - Honda
1987 Williams FW11B - Honda
1988 McLaren MP4/4 - Honda
1989 McLaren MP4/5 - Honda
1990 McLaren MP4/5B - Honda
1991 McLaren MP4/6 - Honda
1991 Williams FW14 - Renault
1992 Williams FW14B - Renault
1993 Williams FW15 - Renault
1995 Benetton B195 - Renault
1996 Williams FW18 - Renault
1998 McLaren MP4/13 - Mercedes
1998 Ferrari F300
2000 Ferrari F1-2002
2000 McLaren MP4/15 - Mercedes
2001 Ferrari F2001
2002 Ferrari F2002

That makes 19 cars and a reject. Obviously selection rounds are necessary to select the true masters among the ‘Dominators’.

I raised the bar. To be a dominator a car had to comply to both demands: 50% of its GP’s won and 50% of its maximum possible score + 1 or more points. This eliminated the 1980 Williams, the 1990 McLaren, the 1991 Williams, the 1998 Ferrari and the 2000 McLaren from the list.

The second elimination contest for the remaining cars was that cars had to score either 9 GP victories in a season or score 54.6 % of their maximum possible points score. 54.6 may look a strange value but it is the average of the following calculation:

{ [ ( 9 / 16) + ( 9 / 17 ) ] / 2 } x 100 %

I could have ignored that round, none of the remaining cars was taken off the list. Only when cars had to meet both these demands, that eliminated the 1995 Benetton (the 10 points lost with that disqualification took care for that) and the 1991 McLaren. Still 13 ‘dominators’. Narrowing down the list seemed impossible to achieve easily. Time for a change in strategy.

By then I decided to select on the top 5 of cars for the following categories:
A) Number of Grand Prix victories
B) Number of double victories
C) Highest percentage of maximum obtainable point score.

All cars that made it into the top 5 for each of these categories are the genuine ‘Dominators’ within F1. This was the score.

A) GP winners:
1 1988 McLaren (15)
2 2002 Ferrari (14)
3 1984 McLaren (12)
4 1996 Williams (12)
5 1995 Benetton (11)

B) Double victories
1 1988 McLaren (10) (A)
2 2002 Ferrari (9) (A)
3 1992 Williams (6)
4 1996 Williams (6) (A)
5 1998 McLaren (5)

C) Highest percentage of maximum score possible
1 2002 Ferrari (88.46%) (A+B)
2 1988 McLaren (83.59%) (A+B)
3 1996 Williams (68.36%) (A+B)
4 2001 Ferrari (65.81%)
5 1993 Williams (65.63%)

By the way, the arrival of the 2002 Ferrari on these three lists eliminated a number of joint fifth scores for both GP victories and double victories and pushed the 1992 Williams to 6th highest percentage maximum score. And that eventually did cost the 1992 Williams a spot in the top 5 for all three of these criteria, hence its place on the list of the ‘Post 1980 F1 Dominators’.

And thus, here is our list of genuine Post 1980 F1 ‘dominators’

1988 McLaren MP4, 1996 Williams FW18 and the 2002 Ferrari F2002.


Since no points are awarded for qualification results, I avoided taking the qualification results into the evaluations. But in that aspect, the MP4 stands up among the very best too.
The MP4 is one of 4 cars scoring 15 poles, missing out on one, single pole position all season. (1989 McLaren, 1992 and 1993 Williams matching that feat.) Tie break is the number of second places and then the 1993 Williams tops the 12 scored by the MP4 with 13.
At last: MP4/4 ‘only’ second best!
Both the MP4/4 and the 1989 MP4/5 Mac’s have 12 2nd places each. The MP4/4 and the 1993 Williams both have 12 times both cars on the front row.
About the MP4/4’s worst record is that on one occasion it failed to get a single car at the front row. The 1989 McLaren and the 1992, 1993 and 1996 Williams’ all had at least one car at the front row every race.
So: if it comes on the amount of missed front rows: MP4/4 ‘only’ fifth best!
Other weaknesses of the MP4/4? Maybe that on one occasion one car was qualified 7th, the 1993 Williams worst qualifying effort is one single 6th place, all others were at the first two rows, the 1992 Williams never qualified lower than 4th though that car has only 28 top three starts, the 1993 Williams 29 and (here we go again) the MP4/4 topping the list with 30 top 3 qualifications.
The ultimate season qualifying kings and their cars?
No, it ain’t Ayrton Senna! Nigel Mansell scored 14 poles in 1992, one better than Senna did in ‘88 and ‘89. Nigel’s other two grid positions were a second and one third place. But let’s call this contest a dead heat between Nigel in 1992, Alain Prost in 1993 and Senna in 1989. Alain and Ayrton scored 13 poles and three second places those years, thus starting every race from the front row.

The 1996 Williams plays second fiddle to all these qualification achievements of the 1988 and 1989 McLarens and its predecessors of 1992 and 1993. But 12 poles make it joint fifth on the list with the 1987 Williams, the 1990 and 1998 McLaren and the 2000 Ferrari. It wins the tiebreak between those cars because of 13 second spots and in addition, there was always at least one 1996 Williams at the front row that season. And that’s one of the few achievements the MP4/4 failed to deliver.

Did I rate the Williams FW18 playing second fiddle to the Qualifying Masters, the 2002 Ferrari is a rather poor contender in that category, even if we keep in mind that it three less starts than the MP4/4 and 5 compared with the FW18. Still, the F2002 was a rather poor qualifier compared with many of the other initial Dominators. Even the Ferraris of 2000 and 2001 scored more Poles than the F2002 managed to do. Main reason for this was Juan Pablo Montoya making the most of the Williams-BMW-Michelin combination that for a while was unbeatable over one single flying lap. The Ferrari was on occasion no match for this combination on Saturday. Though qualifying spots outside the top 3 were rare for the F2002, (2 4th and 1 5th place), in qualifying it definitely wasn’t all dominant. For sure, 8 poles in 15 races is a good record but only one more Pole that Montoya won with the Williams. But points were not awarded on Saturday, only on Sunday.

And then the difficult task: evaluate the dominators.

1988 McLaren MP4/4 - Honda: Close to perfection

If it comes to point scoring performances, there are hardly any performance figures in which the MP4/4 doesn’t lead the way. The car still towers above everything else that has been used in one single season only in race day performance. Very few things are missing: One of them is that it didn’t score points in every race it contested. But even for that record the car came close if it wasn’t for Senna messing up in the final stages of the Monza GP. Other than that, the race day performances of the MP4 are simply overwhelming. Using the 9-6-4-3-2-1 point system it scored 199 points in 16 races in which its own maximum score was 240 points. And during the entire season there were 400 points for the taking.
Had a victory been worth 10 points the car had scored 214 points out of a 256 point maximum. Perhaps a sickening thought, if a 17th race had been held that year and the car scored additional points according its 83.6% points score, the car would have scored 13 more points, finishing with 227 points after 17 races.
The car was driven by the best two drivers of those days but we can only wonder what kind of achievements either Prost or Senna had scored if a lesser driver had been their teammate.
What definitely helped the cause for the McLaren was that, simply said, it had no opposition worth that name. 1988 was the transition year in which the 1.5 liter turbos were allowed but only on a fairly low boost level and a near minimal amount of fuel and minimum weight of 540 kilos. The other alternative was 3.5 liter atmo engines, unlimited fuel permitted, used in cars of 500 kg. But the new brand of 3.5 atmo’s were not ready for 1988 yet, only enlarged and reworked Cosworth’s and generally the same kind of design Judd engine. Also, new chassis regulations were introduced, making it mandatory to have the driver’s feet behind the front axle. All new 1988 chassis had to meet that rule, elderly design chassis were saved the modifications as long as they were approved for use in 1988. Thus, a number of the teams that remained with the turbo engines merely presented slightly modified 1987 chassis. Effectively stopgap solutions in a transition year in which teams saved their efforts for the start of the new era in F1. Only two teams with turbo engines (coincidently, both Honda V6 teams) built brand new cars for this one season: Lotus and McLaren. McLaren used the possibilities offered by the improved lowered Honda V6 to the maximum and designed a car entirely for the rules of 1988.
Driven by the best drivers in the business, designed by one of the best ever teams within F1 at the time and within the best organized team and no opposition to worry about, we could do nothing else but watch how McLaren rewrote the history and the record books. About the only amazing things were its near bulletproof reliability and that it didn’t set even more perfect scores.
Many believe the MP4/4 to be the best ever F1 car of all time. It definitely comes close to this distinction. But the car had it kind of easy compared with many other world championship winners. No other championship winning car had such weak opponents to conquer. The only danger came from within their own organisation, own errors and mistakes. Which with Senna’s non-scores were the case. Two driver errors under pressure (one of those occasions totally unnecessary) and a disqualification. Prost had one engine blow-up, the only mechanical failure that year and he retired in the rain at Silverstone in a car that didn’t handle properly.
No, the MP4/4 had an easy time if it came to beating opponents. It only had itself to beat. Having said that, to finish first, you must first finish. You can’t beat weak opposition if you have your own weaknesses too (think about Renault in 1982!) and the MP4/4 didn’t have much weaknesses worth to mention that affected its performances. It stood way above anything else that year. All 16 races combines had 1031 laps together, the MP4/4 failed to lead 28 of those, thus leading 97.28%. Even its Race Day reliability is unmatched: Out of 2062 possible race laps for two drivers, it did 1930 laps or 93.6%. Only the 2001 Ferrari comes close with 93.1%
And here is one other record the MP4/4 missed out on. Prost’s reliability rate in 1988 was 94.37%. Eddie Irvine bettered this figure when in 1999 when out of a maximum of 1000 laps he did 986, giving him a reliability rate of 98.6% But as we all know, close as he came, there was no championship for Eddie.
Perhaps ironically, the MP4/4 wasn’t the most reliable car in the entire carreers of both Senna and Prost. Senna scored his highest reliability rate with the 1991 MP4/6 (95.41%, 14 pointscores in 16 races, one lone retirement, 96 points the highest pointscore for a single season within his carreer.) Prost scored his best reliability rate with the 1993 FW15 (94.64% though his scores with the MP4 remained the best season he ever had) Perhaps this once and for all approves that either one of them could have scored benchmarks unapproachable for years to come if the other had not been his teammate. And their figures combined, no wonder that the McLaren MP4/4 didn’t leave many records suitable for improvement. A few were bettered in the years to come by several cars but no other F1 car of the modern days owns such a staggering amount of seasonal records, 15 out of 16 races won, 10 times with a double victory, 11 successive GP victories.
The MP4/4 had about everything going for it to come as close to perfection as a F1 car could come. And that opportunity was used, to put it mildly.

1996 Williams-Renault FW18: Given the chance….

I am afraid that many Williams and Damon Hill fans will disagree with me when I say about the FW18 that it is likely that its drivers filled a void left by one, single man: Michael Schumacher.
When the 1994 season began I had a bet on 13 victories by Senna. Why not? Williams had been the car to beat in ‘92 and the second half of 1991. And with both Prost and Mansell no longer in F1, what could stop Senna to dominate like no-one had ever done before yet?
Damon Hill rose to the occasion to rescue something that year 1994 for Williams. But in 1995 my Crystal Ball session fooled me again. Benetton got the all superior Renault engine like used in the Williams too. But no way that a constructor and engine manufacturer could be successful in their first year together. McLaren had been so in 1988 but of course, that was McLaren. If Michael Schumacher was the lone decisive factor, I doubt it. But Michael’s 1995 season with the Benetton-Renault is for me still one of his best achievements. That Benetton was mostly the second best car in the field, occasionally the third best car and still Michael did near miracles with it. We can only wonder what Benetton-Renault could have achieved if Michael had stayed on a few more years with the team. But the fact is that he left Benetton and went to Ferrari and was in for a very steep learning curve yet again to get Ferrari on the way up. And he left Benetton with the task to make a car that suited their new recruits Berger and Alesi. Which didn’t happen.
So: with Michael taking himself out of the equation, unless miracles happened, in the mean time also weakening Benetton, this left room for the remaining top teams to fill the gap. The most obvious candidate, if not the only one: Williams-Renault. I still have my doubts if Hill and Coulthard had achieved the maximum for their team in 1995, some monumental errors in driving still come to my mind when thinking about them and their 1995 season. Still, Hill had to be one of the two obvious favourites for the 1996 season, the other being his teammate Jacques Villeneuve. There must have been people who may have rated Jacques over Damon. OK, there had been the case of a former CART champion in F1 failing miserably (Michael Andretti in 1993) but Jacques always made the better impression compared with Michael if it came to commitment to F1. Jacques also arrived at Williams at a much better time for the team than Michael at McLaren. And Jacques didn’t disappoint many people that year.
Having Damon in the team for a fourth straight year provided some stability needed to develop a good car, the Renault V10 still being second to none in F1 and the services of the best designer in the business at the time: Adrian Newey. There wasn’t much to worry for Williams. Only if Benetton recovered well from the loss of Schumacher and some inspired drives by Michael if circumstances played into the hands of Ferrari.
Williams won 12 races that year 1996. Benetton didn’t recover in time and the 1996 Ferrari was too experimental and too unreliable. Only once the rains washed away all chances for Williams, presenting the race to Michael. Monaco went to Olivier Panis in his Ligier while two inspired drives at Spa and Monza yielded Michael Schumacher two more Ferrari victories. The battle between teammates Hill and Villeneuve kept the season interesting to some extend but other than that, it was too easy for Team Williams that year.
The FW18 did however face many more challengers built according the rules for that year. Its opposition was theoretically of a higher level than the MP4/4 faced in 1988, not mentioning the fact that the best driver of the moment was driving against the FW18. It was therefore more difficult to shine like the McLaren had done in 1988. The 1996 FW18 was the car that scored second highest or second best in a number of race achievements for F1 cars behind the MP4/4 for quite a while. In qualifying performances it is not among the very best but still way, way above average.
We remember Mansell’s domination in 1992 and Prost’s domination in 1993. Remarkably enough, though both Mansell and Prost set records with their cars that remained benchmarks for many years, no other year within the history of Williams the performance as an entire team was so impressive as in 1996. The team of Hill & Villeneuve in the FW18 is the best that Williams ever fielded.
But it can’t be denied that the two Crown Princes ascended to the throne because the King abdicated voluntary.
Having said that, if the throne is for the taking, you must be ready to take it and Williams was more than ready to capitalize on that. Even if there had been a 1996 Benetton-Renault with Michael Schumacher behind the wheel, no doubt that Williams should have been a top contender too. Would that have been something to see? Schumacher in Benetton-Renault vs. Damon & Jacques in their FW18’s?

2002 Ferrari F2002: One man’s Sunday afternoon dreamride

Before dealing with the F2002, we must pay attention to its forerunner, the F2001 because the Ferrari F2002 wasn’t ready to start the season. For that reason Ferrari relied on the title winning F2001’s for the first races of the season because of proven reliability of the car. It says something about the performance of the F2001 that it was still considered to be good enough for the early part of the new season with a supposed better car waiting in the wings.
The decision to use the F2001 was kind of justified when the old car scored two poles and a first and a third place with Schumacher driving. This victory of Michael gives the F2001 a special place among the F1 dominators. Though the 2002 car was probably a much different animal under its skin than the versions driven the year before, it still was in many ways a car of the previous year and not so many F1 designs can claim a victory scored in a second season of active duty.
The car failed miserably on Barrichello with three early retirements though on one occasion it was a metter of being at the wrong place, at the wrong time, at the wrong moment. These retirements almost assured instantly that several season records set by the MP4/4 were destined to survive for at least one more year. And indeed, if it comes to the all season performance for Ferrari in 2002, they were unable to better some of the records of Team McLaren in 1988 if we keep in mind that the McLaren gained only 9 points for each victory and had only 16 races to contest and set the records in. However, if we look to the performances of the F2002 on its own, then it becomes a somewhat different story.
Briefly about the F2001 one last time. Schumacher’s two races with the F2001 in 2002 brought him 14 points. And in two starts (five if we include Rubens’ efforts) the basically one year old car scored more points that all but three rival F1 teams managed to score with their 2002 cars in 34 starts!

But now about the F2002. Apart from some words of respect for Ferrari’s achievements with the older F2001 (For daring to trust the car to open the season with) I also heard comments about Ferrari having done a bad job because their new car wasn’t ready yet while in theory they could have worked on it for so long already. Well, those who hit out at Ferrari for failing to have the new car ready must have regretted their comments because once the car was out at the track it became more than obvious that its delayed debut was time well spend to express it carefully.
When the F2002 finally made its debut it impressed. No pole but again, Michael Schumacher was victorious.
The F2002 was not a revolutionary concept. Its general lay-out was very similar to other cars designed for that year. But it had new details to refine the concept, particularly at the rear end of the car. It ran close to the edge of what was known to be possible in some areas of construction but somehow the car was hardly prone to failures during races. This despite being easily and by far the fastest thing at the track on Sundays. So fast that Michael never needed any of the nasty behaviour he occasionally is known for as well. The advantage of the F2002 was so big that he didn’t need to blot his copybook with ruthless behaviour, could even allow it to be done to him! Think about the race when he wanted to overtake Montoya who then forced him to fall back behind him or be pushed off the track. Michael tucked in behind Montoya, waiting for the moment that the hardpushed Montoya would make a bigger mistake and could be passed with ease. Which eventually happened.
But there was one other thing which we didn’t see very often in 2002. In previous years we had seen Michael win races against the odds thanks to brilliant drives in events he should not have won yet somehow he carried them off after all. Regrettably we didn’t see so much of that brilliance we know Michael is capable of as well. How often did we see Schumacher or Barrichello drive at the limit for an entire race?
The F2002 came very close in doing the impossible: winning every race it was entered for. Ironically, it shot itself in the foot. Qualifying was never the strongest asset of the F2002 and in Monaco, that place where overtaking is next to impossible, Schumacher qualified third and had the misfortune that Coulthard drove the perfect race and despite that Michael was faster, he couldn’t get by. People might argue that Raikkonen should have won the French GP if it wasn’t for the error he made. But Michael had made an error that race as well (crossing the white line of the pit exit too early) and if Schumacher had not been given the drive-through penalty then he had never been behind Kimi to begin with and ranked up yet another devastating victory.
Opposition for the F2002 on race day was generally kind of mediocre. Williams and McLaren had come up with cars that were good, the Williams in particular. McLaren and Williams humbled the remaining competition but were in return occasionally humiliated by Ferrari. In particular the Williams was a tough competitor in practice. And the one Williams victory of 2002 was indeed a double. In 2001 Williams had been powered by the most powerful engine of the year and much had been expected from the 2002 Williams-BMW, particularly with Montoya behind the wheel.
The F2002 was a fierce competitor in qualifying but far from dominant. It scored `only` 8 out of 15 possible Poles. A neat figure but far from impressive compared with other cars. Juan Pablo Montoya in the Williams-BMW won 7 poles which is an achievement on its own. Michael `only` equalled the performance of 7 poles in the season. Nevertheless, out of 29 opportunities, the Ferrari F2002 scored 26 top 3 qualifying spots. This underlines the performance of Montoya, almost single-handedly destroying the Ferrari F2002’s chance to dominate in practice as well.
Was qualifying for the F2002 a rather weak point, certainly among the ranks of the ‘Dominators’, perhaps even more embarrassing was the fact that the car was so sensitive that it failed to leave the starting grid for the warm-up lap no less than three times, all of them with Barrichello behind the wheel. Only once Rubens could join the field at the back but twice he was out of the race before the start, including on the day that Michael won his fifth world title. These two DNS’s of Rubens effectively ruined the reliability rate of the F2002. Other than that, the F2002 had a near stunning reliability record: as long as it had started the race. If Rubens got away, he always finished and failed to score only once: Monaco.. With Michael ‘only’ second there, that was the worst event performance for the F2002. Thus, 26 point scores out of 29 starts because the F2002 never failed on Michael. First or second, that were the only scores Michael achieved.
The Ferrari F2002 was not a car that dominated entire race weekends. Often fast on Friday, regularly missing out on the Pole on Saturday. But on Sunday, it never failed to deliver to Michael Schumacher and in a lesser extend to Rubens Barrichello.
Its excellent performances can be credited to a number of factors. A good design by a fully committed team guided by Jean Todt. Good engineers, a brilliant driver and a good one in the cockpits. A brilliant race strategist and a nearly flawless operating crew within the pitlane. Add to this that the cooperation between Ferrari and tire company Bridgestone was second to none. There were occasions when Michelins were the things to have to score a pole, but rarely Ferrari could blame Bridgestone for bad products for a race.
As the starting grid maladies of Rubens prove, the car was somewhat sensitive and that was indeed the biggest problem that Ferrari faced. Their wonder weapon was difficult to beat in a straight fight (I can’t consider Monaco a serious race).
Compared with the MP4/4, I dare to say that the F2002 had a more difficult task at hand, at least on first sight. It faced opposition designed for the same year as the F2002, and not a bunch of stopgap projects like the MP4/4 did. And thus the superiority of the F2002 versus its opponents was to some extend more difficult to achieve than it had been for the MP4/4. But the much expected opposition from Williams-BMW and to a lesser extend McLaren-Mercedes simply wasn’t strong enough.
The F2002 was once and for all Michael’s car. Only once he failed to make the car work for him in a race but team orders helped him that day. The one race Michael didn’t deserve to win this year at all was Austria yet it was handed to him by the Ferrari management and on a very obvious manner by Barrichello. Thus, the F2002 also scored probably Ferrari’s most controversial victory ever. Also the Indianapolis finish was an embarrassment, perhaps less controversial as the Austrian one but still. Putting up a brilliant display of utter domination the entire weekend and the end the final lap like that.
Eventually, the F2002 failed to improve on a number of the scores of the MP4/4. We will never know if those scores were to be bettered if the F2002 had made 32 starts in 16 races like the MP4/4 did instead of the 29 starts in 15 races it actually made. But to the credit of the F2002 it can be said that no other car ever managed to put the MP4/4 records under so much pressure and actually better some of the race performances and statistics and percentages for a type of F1 car. Let’s face it: 14 out of 15 victories of which 10 in succession, 9 double victories in 14 races, 5 of those in a row, that makes the F2002 a hallmark car.

But even the remarkable performances of the F2002 couldn’t gain Ferrari the all time season records set by McLaren in 1988 though they came close. By the time I started to compile this piece and made the calculations I already knew that some of the MP4/4’s seasonal records were safe for another year. Not even a string of 5 doubles to close off the season would be enough for that. But man did they come close!
At the end of the season Ferrari came 7 points short to better the percentage of maximum points score as set by McLaren in 1988. They would have needed to score 228 points. Barrichello’s three retirements in the first three races being the main culprit. For the record, if we calculate what Ferrari’s point score for the entire season should have been if the F2001 should have performed equally as good as the F2002 had done, Ferrari should have scored 241 points. Nevertheless, specially when it comes to reliability records, there are 7 cars from the original list of `Dominators` that scored better over the entire season in that respect then Ferrari achieved in 2002, In all fairness to the F2002, its reliability record is only bettered by two cars, the MP4/4 and, ironically: the F2001 during the 2001 season!
Schumacher did however manage to set the perfect score of finishing every race he started, scoring a 100% reliability rate, point scoring rate and podium finishes.

So: my conclusions.
Did Ferrari dominate F1 in 2002 and making the season boring?
On Sunday they did dominate. But not on Saturday.
They were only highly competive on Saturday compared with a number of McLaren-Honda’s and Williams-Renaults that truly dominated qualifying in their year of active duty.
More correct: it was one driver within Ferrari that dominated: Michael Schumacher. Though Barrichello is among the best drivers in the business, Michael overwhelms him like giant over a dwarf. Only in Austria Rubens was definitely more than a match for Michael that year but the obvious manner in which he handed the one race he deserved to win to Michael rewarded him with more victories later on. Having seen Nurnburgring, Hungary, and Italy, it was easy to see that Michael remained behind Rubens since team orders had ordered such but if given a chance, he could have taken at least two of those victories away from Rubens. Not mentioning him literally giving away the USA GP. So they who claimed that the season was boring because of Ferrari’s team orders, I think Michael lost more races because of team orders for just one race in return! Had they been permitted to race another as so many people claimed Ferrari should have permitted, I don’t know if that would have won Rubens that many more races, maybe even less!
Not that Rubens is a bad driver, everything but that. But Ferrari is built around Michael and the difference between Michael and the rest, including Rubens Barrichello is too big. And Rubens had the misfortune that when the F2002 was unreliable, it happened to him.
Michael’s 144 points for the entire season is a record beyond belief in itself. The question remains, if he had been able to go all the way in every race, winning some of the ones he was forced to lose, how many more victories than 10 in a single season and how many points within a single season would he have scored, making his records even more beyond belief? Michael had the chance to better the 9 victories in one season record dramatically, for some reasons he raised the record to only 11. Did we see a Sergei Bubka inspired act? The fabled Pole Vault athlete refused to improve on his world record with more that 1 cm on every occasion. Knowing all too well that every centimetre more within a single event was one less world record attempt to break and one less bonus to earn?.
It has often been criticised that Ferrari didn’t permit its drivers to fight another like McLaren and Williams allowed their drivers. I doubt however if it would have helped Barrichello to do better against Michael if it had been every man for his own. And permitting teammates to go against another often doesn’t create a good atmosphere within the team. Remember Jones and Reutemann at Williams, Prost and Arnoux at Renault, Mansell and Piquet at Williams, Prost and Senna at McLaren, or Ralf and Juan at Williams.
The finishes at Austria and Indy were embarrassing for Ferrari in 2002. But was it more embarrassing than seeing bitter rivalry between supposed teammates at the track, up to a point that one of them forces the other to back off or end up in the wall, sliding off in a run off area or seeing a driver leave the team with the coveted starting number 1 because he won’t be in a team with his teammate any longer?

Yes, Michael Schumacher and Ferrari did dominate F1 in 2002, at least during the races, to a much less extend in practice and qualifying.
Back tot the complaints that Ferrari was dominating, thus ignoring the difference between Rubens and Michael. Ferrari dominating F1 like never seen before, effectively ruining F1?
We have seen it all (and more) before already.
In 1988.
The year that McLaren won almost everything on Sunday and did what Ferrari failed to do in 2002: also winning about everything there was to win on Saturday too.
And because all performances of the F2001 and F2002 combined, and corrected for the fact that they had 34 race starts against 32 for McLaren in 1988, several of McLaren’s season averages scored that year still stand unbroken.
And that makes McLaren’s 1988 season as a whole one of more utter domination than Ferrari achieved in 2002.
But I think that because of the increased media coverage of F1 worldwide, compared with1988 this more crushing McLaren domination was less visible, has been too long ago for a number of fans to remember and/or perhaps the difference of opinions about Michael Schumacher vs. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost with the racing fans worldwide. The fact remains: McLaren dominated F1 even more in 1988 then Ferrari did in 2002.

But what if the F2002 had been battleready from Australia on?
Maybe the race performances of Ferrari might have improved but there’s still the fact that even with the F2002 on full steam and at the zenith of its performances, Juan Pablo Montoya managed to win 7 poles against the F2002. Thus I think it is fair to say that McLaren still should have had a more dominant season as a whole, because of being so much more dominant in qualifying too.

For those who want to see the numbers and figures on which I based my conclusions, I hereby present a table in which on horizontal lines the performances, in the vertical columns the scores for the three ‘Dominators’. In addition I have added a fourth column for the figures for the entire 2002 season for Ferrari.

1988 1996 2002 Ferrari
MP4/4 FW18 F2002 2002

Qualifying positions
1st 15 12 8 10
2nd 12 13 10 11
3rd 3 4 8 9
4th 1 2 2
5th 1 1
6th 2
7th or higher 1 1 1
Starts 32 32 29 34
Both cars on front row 12 9 5 6
No car on front row 1 2 2

Race results
1st 15 12 14 15
2nd 10 7 10 10
3rd 2 1 2
4th 1 1 1 1
5th 1
6th 1
7th or higher 2 1 1
Classified 27 25 27 29
Retired/Not Class/ Disq. 5 7 2 5
Total races 32 32 29 34
Double Victories 10 6 9 9

Total points 214 175 207 221 (1st place scores 10 points)
Max: 256 256 234 272
% total/max 83.59 68.36 88.46 81.25
avg pts per start 6.69 5.47 7.14 6.50

Laps covered 1930 1778 1743 1912
Maximum Laps Season 2062 2028 1881 2180
Reliability percentage 93.60 87.67 92.66 87.71

Leaves one final question.
Is the MP4/4 still the alltime dominator of modern day F1 or not?
May I purpose a suggestion?
Though the MP4/4 has some better numbers and figures to boost, especially if we consider qualifications too, the F2002 had more serious opposition to beat (on paper at least) and was denied the chance to make as many starts as the MP4/4.
Taking everything in account, pro’s and con’s for both cars, why don’t we declare it a dead heat between them?