Sunday, 25 September 2011

How do you solve a problem like Sebastian?

A while ago over on Significance I looked at what happened if you compared different Formula One scoring systems with that year's drivers' championship. Yesterday, Sebastian Vettel came within 1 point of snatching the title with a whopping five races to go. In 14 races he's won nine times, come second twice and fourth once, amassing a ridiculous 309 points out of a possible 350.

As it stands, Vettel is 124 points clear of his nearest rival Jenson Button, who would have to win every single remaining race and hope that Vettel scores nothing if he is to win the drivers' championship. In short, the season is as good as over, but is the scoring system to blame? A couple of years ago the FIA tweaked the scoring system to try and encourage second-placed drivers to 'race to win'. Previously you got eight points for second and ten for first, which (it was perceived) didn't offer enough incentive to try and push on for first place. Now you get 25 points for winning and 18 for second, a greater incentive that - in theory - will encourage more aggressive racing.

So what happens if we run this season's results (so far) under the older system? If you're happy to assume that the scoring system doesn't significantly affect how a driver races (quite a big assumption, I admit, but this is Just For Fun) you can enjoy this table:
As my previous dabbles with comparing scoring systems suggest, it doesn't make much difference. Admittedly, Vettel would have already won the championship by now, but only just (a 51 point lead with 50 points available), and no-one in their right mind thinks he won't win this year anyway.

If you ask me, we need something more radical than a tweaked scoring system to make things exciting. My proposal: do away with qualifying and have the cars line up in reverse finishing order from the previous race. It's simple, it would certainly increase overtaking, and no-one likes qualifying anyway.

Addendum: have a bonus table, including the results under the old(er) system of ten points for first, six for second. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Vettel is even further ahead on this one.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Under the weather

I recently got over a cold. Like most people (I hope), I don't like colds, and they often seem to be going on forever. If only there was an easy way to tell when I was over the hump, and the worst was behind me. Sure, I could pay attention to whether I 'feel' better, but that's not very scientific. What's scientific is graphs. And what could be more scientific than a graph plotting the number of tissues I use over the course of a cold?

So, for science, I kept count of the number of tissues I used during my cold. It's not glamorous work, but such sacrifices have always been necessary in the pursuit of human knowledge. The main features seem to be a very sharp increase early on (I had a couple of days of mostly a sore throat before the sniffles set in), a peak at around the 5 day mark, and then a more gradual decline as I got it out of my system. I hope many of you will appreciate the choice of colour here, the "communication theory" module I took as part of my statistics MSc is surely not wasted.