Make Formula 1 Great Again: Shuffle the Drivers!

One concerning trend of modern F1 is that the drivers' champion is now almost always predetermined by the constructors' champion. Here is a potential solution for a fairer and more entertaining motorsport.

Today, we can no longer be sure that the best driver wins the championship, we just know that the better driver of the best car wins the championship. And when Mercedes driver Lewis beat his colleague Valtteri in the last years, the rest of the field was left far behind. Admittedly, Lewis is a great driver. One of the best in F1 history – just rewatch his rookie season if you’re unsure of that. But in recent years every win seemed to be predetermined by the car he was driving.

How the Car Determines the Champion

Since the F1 season of 2000, it only happened twice that a champion sat in a car that didn't win the constructors' championship: 2008 and 2021. And if we tally up all the data since 1958, a champion sat in 52 out of 64 seasons in the car that won the constructors' championship – that's an 81.3% of winning the season by just being placed in the right cockpit.

Schumacher won with the dominating Ferrari, Vettel with Red Bull, and Hamilton with Mercedes. Don't get me wrong, each and every single one of them beat their competition fair and square. All of their wins were justified.

You could – of course – object by mentioning that the correlation between the gathered points by the best driver (aka the champion) and the gathered points by the best team shouldn't surprise us: Good drivers get more championship points for the team. Thus, the champion sits in the most successful car.

But how likely is it that a team has the two best drivers in their team? Can their driver recruitment be that good? And how good is the recruitment of Red Bull in the Mercedes era?

So let’s look at the data again: The vice-champion was a driver of the winning constructor in 45% of all seasons. With ten teams this season (in the 1950s there were a lot more teams), statistically, the vice-champion should have been a driver of the winning constructor in only 10% of all seasons – if the cars didn't matter. But of course, they do matter.

How often were the Champion and the Runner-Up teammates?

Solving the Problem: Every Driver drives Every Car

But first, let’s get back to basics. What is the purpose of the F1 World Drivers' Championship? We want to determine who the best F1 driver of the season is.

And what is the purpose of the F1 World Constructors' Championship? We want to know who built the best car und applied the winning strategy.

But haven’t we all wondered before: How good is Lewis Hamilton in a Williams? Or how good is Nikita Masepin in a Ferrari? We do know that Lewis is good with a Mercedes Engine and that Verstappen is good in a Red Bull car. No doubt, both are great drivers, no matter the car. But how do they compare to other drivers in similar cars? We know that Verstappen has beaten every teammate in at least one season, and except Ricciardo every teammate has lost in each season. We know that Lewis usually beats his teammates, except Jenson Button in one season and Rosberg in a really unlucky season.

We also saw what happened at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. George Russell was already known to be a great talent and had proven to be fast enough to beat his teammates: He dominated Nicholas Latifi in 2020 and Robert Kubica the year before in 2019. Finally, in Bahrain, Russell got the chance to compare himself to a race winner in the best car of the grid – and he succeeded. That GP indicated what no fan ever questioned: The two best drivers don't always sit in the best cars. But the best car enables good drivers to become champions.

So, let's split both championships up. Suppose there are 20 races and 20 seats. At the beginning of each season there is a lottery: Every driver gets to drive every car. Randomly, for example, Max Verstappen gets a Mercedes in Zandvoort and a Red Bull in Monza, a Haas for Paul Ricard, an Alpine for Monaco, and so on. Every driver gets a random seat at a random track; but every driver must have a different car on every track – and every team has every driver for two races of a 20-race-long season.

What a F1-season with shuffled drivers could look like. Everyone gets to drive a Ferrari, Mercedes, ....

What Will this Do to the Sport?

More Innovation

Why doesn’t the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (more commonly known as FIA) let constructors be more innovative? Currently, there is not much freedom to experiment with radical new car designs, because that would most likely result in a bigger gap between the best and the worst team. This literally prevents innovation and, in turn, excitement for the fans.

If one new innovation gives a constructor a major advantage, the championship is not only decided for just one season, but maybe even for the next five or six seasons if other teams have a hard time catching up. With the driver-shuffling approach, this problem is gone. Sure, the constructor championship might get boring, but the more exciting driver championship will still be on. The driver championship was always the main focus of the fans’ attention; that's why it is older (and more established) than the constructor championship.

Exciting Races

With shuffled driver seats, there is no team order anymore. Meaning: Teammates are no longer teammates. Get ready for a fight worth watching!

And since every driver must drive 10 different cars in 20 races, they will regularly need to adapt to a new car. That means more mistakes, leading – again – to more excitement in races.

Exciting Driver Championships

This new format will show who is the best driver in every F1 car. It reveals the drivers’ true adaptability of their unique driving styles. No more "the rear end doesn’t fit my style" or "the car development just focused on Verstappen." No more crying. Just racing. The best driver wins. Adapt or loose. Period.

Exciting Constructor Championships

Teams also need to adapt to drivers. This is their time to shine by creating different strategies for different drivers on different tracks. This dynamic and complex play of interactions will add a whole new layer to the sport.

Real and Honest Competition

Since both championships will be separated, winning the championship as a driver will give us fans a bare and honest result of the best driver – based on their driving abilities, adaptability, and hardened character.

So What Do We Change?

F1 Hires Drivers, Not Teams

Let the Formula One Management Ltd. hire the drivers. They drive for themselves, not for a team.

One major advantage of this proposal is that teams can no longer be pressured into paying high wages to hire and retain top drivers.

Who Gets a Seat?

Who gets which seat is the big question that torments drivers all year. In the first season of the new format, just keep the old drivers. If there is a gap, take the best Formula 2 driver by points earned.

At the end of every season, the three drivers with the fewest points earned are kicked out. The free seats are then backfilled by the three leading F2 drivers.

Survival of the fittest. Drive to survive.

Transforming Innovation

Don't regulate to much: Just the basics: This would include regulating security features, max length, max weight, max width, and CO2 emissions from 2025 onwards.

Everything else about the cars should only be limited by the phantasy of the teams' engineers. Let them do whatever they can come up with. Let the teams create exciting cars with technologies that are relevant to an evolving sport! We shouldn’t worry that too much innovation is bad for the sport, simply because there are no teammates anymore.  Even with one dominating team, races would be exciting.

F1 Data: Champion and Runner-Up of every season

Season Champion Champion's Car Runner-Up Runner-Up's Car Constructors' Champion: Chassis Constructors' Champion: Engine
1950 Giuseppe Farina Alfa Romeo Juan Manuel Fangio Alfa Romeo    
1951 Juan Manuel Fangio Alfa Romeo Alberto Ascari Ferrari    
1952 Alberto Ascari Ferrari Giuseppe Farina Ferrari    
1953 Alberto Ascari Ferrari Juan Manuel Fangio Maserati    
1954 Juan Manuel Fangio Maserati/Mercedes José Froilán González Ferrari    
1955 Juan Manuel Fangio Mercedes Stirling Moss Mercedes    
1956 Juan Manuel Fangio Ferrari Stirling Moss Maserati    
1957 Juan Manuel Fangio Maserati Stirling Moss Vanwall    
1958 Mike Hawthorn Ferrari Stirling Moss Cooper-Climax/Vanwall Vanwall Vanwall
1959 Jack Brabham Cooper-Climax Tony Brooks Ferrari Cooper Climax
1960 Jack Brabham Cooper-Climax Bruce McLaren Cooper-Climax Cooper Climax
1961 Phil Hill Ferrari Wolfgang von Trips5 Ferrari Ferrari Ferrari
1962 Graham Hill B.R.M. Jim Clark Lotus-Climax BRM BRM
1963 Jim Clark Lotus-Climax Graham Hill B.R.M. Lotus Climax
1964 John Surtees Ferrari Graham Hill B.R.M. Ferrari Ferrari
1965 Jim Clark Lotus-Climax Graham Hill B.R.M. Lotus Climax
1966 Jack Brabham Brabham-Repco John Surtees Ferrari/Cooper-Maserati Brabham Repco
1967 Denis Hulme Brabham-Repco Jack Brabham Brabham-Repco Brabham Repco
1968 Graham Hill Lotus-Ford Jackie Stewart Matra-Ford Lotus Ford
1969 Jackie Stewart Matra-Ford Jacky Ickx Brabham-Ford Matra Ford
1970 Jochen Rindt5 Lotus-Ford Jacky Ickx Ferrari Lotus Ford
1971 Jackie Stewart Tyrrell-Ford Ronnie Peterson March-Ford Tyrrell Ford
1972 Emerson Fittipaldi Lotus-Ford Jackie Stewart Tyrrell-Ford Lotus Ford
1973 Jackie Stewart Tyrrell-Ford Emerson Fittipaldi Lotus-Ford Lotus Ford
1974 Emerson Fittipaldi McLaren-Ford Clay Regazzoni Ferrari McLaren Ford
1975 Niki Lauda Ferrari Emerson Fittipaldi McLaren-Ford Ferrari Ferrari
1976 James Hunt McLaren-Ford Niki Lauda Ferrari Ferrari Ferrari
1977 Niki Lauda Ferrari Jody Scheckter Wolf-Ford Ferrari Ferrari
1978 Mario Andretti Lotus-Ford Ronnie Peterson5 Lotus-Ford Lotus Ford
1979 Jody Scheckter Ferrari Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari Ferrari Ferrari
1980 Alan Jones Williams-Ford Nelson Piquet Brabham-Ford Williams Ford
1981 Nelson Piquet Brabham-Ford Carlos Reutemann Williams-Ford Williams Ford
1982 Keke Rosberg Williams-Ford Didier Pironi Ferrari Ferrari Ferrari
1983 Nelson Piquet Brabham-BMW Alain Prost Renault Ferrari Ferrari
1984 Niki Lauda McLaren-TAG-Porsche Alain Prost McLaren-TAG-Porsche McLaren TAG
1985 Alain Prost McLaren-TAG-Porsche Michele Alboreto Ferrari McLaren TAG
1986 Alain Prost McLaren-TAG-Porsche Nigel Mansell Williams-Honda Williams Honda
1987 Nelson Piquet Williams-Honda Nigel Mansell Williams-Honda Williams Honda
1988 Ayrton Senna McLaren-Honda Alain Prost McLaren-Honda McLaren Honda
1989 Alain Prost McLaren-Honda Ayrton Senna McLaren-Honda McLaren Honda
1990 Ayrton Senna McLaren-Honda Alain Prost Ferrari McLaren Honda
1991 Ayrton Senna McLaren-Honda Nigel Mansell Williams-Renault McLaren Honda
1992 Nigel Mansell Williams-Renault Riccardo Patrese Williams-Renault Williams Renault
1993 Alain Prost Williams-Renault Ayrton Senna McLaren-Ford Williams Renault
1994 Michael Schumacher Benetton-Ford Damon Hill Williams-Renault Williams Renault
1995 Michael Schumacher Benetton-Renault Damon Hill Williams-Renault Benetton Renault
1996 Damon Hill Williams-Renault Jacques Villeneuve Williams-Renault Williams Renault
1997 Jacques Villeneuve Williams-Renault Heinz-Harald Frentzen Williams-Renault Williams Renault
1998 Mika Häkkinen McLaren-Mercedes Michael Schumacher Ferrari McLaren Mercedes
1999 Mika Häkkinen McLaren-Mercedes Eddie Irvine Ferrari Ferrari Ferrari
2000 Michael Schumacher Ferrari Mika Häkkinen McLaren-Mercedes Ferrari Ferrari
2001 Michael Schumacher Ferrari David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes Ferrari Ferrari
2002 Michael Schumacher Ferrari Rubens Barrichello Ferrari Ferrari Ferrari
2003 Michael Schumacher Ferrari Kimi Räikkönen McLaren-Mercedes Ferrari Ferrari
2004 Michael Schumacher Ferrari Rubens Barrichello Ferrari Ferrari Ferrari
2005 Fernando Alonso Renault Kimi Räikkönen McLaren-Mercedes Renault Renault
2006 Fernando Alonso Renault Michael Schumacher Ferrari Renault Renault
2007 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes Ferrari Ferrari
2008 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes Felipe Massa Ferrari Ferrari Ferrari
2009 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault Brawn Mercedes
2010 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault Fernando Alonso Ferrari Red Bull Renault
2011 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes Red Bull Renault
2012 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault Fernando Alonso Ferrari Red Bull Renault
2013 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault Fernando Alonso Ferrari Red Bull Renault
2014 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Nico Rosberg Mercedes Mercedes Mercedes
2015 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Nico Rosberg Mercedes Mercedes Mercedes
2016 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes Mercedes
2017 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Mercedes Mercedes
2018 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Mercedes Mercedes
2019 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes Mercedes
2020 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes Mercedes
2021 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes Mercedes