Will Gray

Gray Matter: Are McLaren duo great Britons?

Will Gray

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Formula One heads to Silverstone this weekend with one of the most exciting British line-ups in years - but how do the latest two home heroes stack up in the record books?

There have been 13 different British winners of the British Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton the most recent when he took victory in 2008.

Only five British drivers have won their home race more than once, with Jim Clark leading the way on five, Nigel Mansell second on four, followed by double winners Sir Stirling Moss, Sir Jackie Stewart and David Coulthard.

The chances of Hamilton becoming the sixth man to take a home double or Jenson Button becoming the 14th home racer to stand on the top of the podium at the British Grand Prix seem high, with their McLaren team introducing a potentially pivotal upgrade this weekend.

They were left disappointed in Valencia, but this is the one both of them want to win - and Button, who will start his 11th British Grand Prix this weekend, will be particularly desperate to finally get his name on the trophy alongside such a strong list of illustrious drivers.

But how do they stack up on overall statistics?

In terms of races started, Button is high on the list. David Coulthard is streets ahead with 246 races over 15 seasons in F1 and Nigel Mansell is second, but he is on 187 and Button, who will start his 180th at Silverstone, should pass that figure in Brazil, before the end of this season.

But driving lots of races is perhaps F1's least important statistic - except for the fact that it ruins your averages if you spend too many of those races in bad cars. And that's what has ruined Button's figures.

He joined the grid with Williams but managed just six points-finishes during that season before moving to an under-performing Benetton team, where he had to wait until the very last race of the season to even get into the top 10 on the grid.

His first podium didn't come until his 69th race, in 2004's Malaysian Grand Prix, by which time he had moved to BAR-Honda. His first pole came two races later in San Marino, but he had to wait until 2006, and his 115th race, for victory number one, which came in Hungary.

In fact, he only started posting some strong statistics last year - arguably the first time he got his hands on a truly decent car.

In comparison, Hamilton stepped straight into a front-running car when he made his debut with McLaren in 2007 - but it is one thing being given a good car and another knowing how to use it.

Hamilton proved immediately that he was up to the job, taking his first podium in his first race, in Australia, and his first pole and victory in his sixth outing, in Canada.

Since then, over four seasons, he has continued to rack up the figures and has put himself firmly amongst Britain's greats.

Hamilton's 13 wins so far leave him some way to go to get amongst it in terms of outright victories (Mansell leads the way on 31, with Stewart 27 and Jim Clark 25) but his percentage success is on the way there with just over a fifth of his races resulting in victory - only Clark, with 35% and Stewart on 27% are ahead of his 21.3%.

Button, with nine wins from many more races, has just a 5 conversion rate.

Hamilton is outstanding at podium finishes, sitting at the top of the tree with 52.5% (a podium every two races). Clark is second on 44% and Stewart 43%, with Button some way back on 18%.

In terms of pole positions, Clark takes some beating, with 33 from his 72 races (a 46% average) but Hamilton is second in that table on 29.5% (almost one pole every three races). Button, meanwhile, is on 4%.

You could argue that if Button had the talent to deserve a good car, he would have been in one much sooner - but sometimes F1 just doesn't work like that. And his statistics since he did get hold of a good car, in the 26 races since he started winning with Brawn, show how good he is at getting the best out of a front-running car.

Taking those stats alone for Button, he has won 30.8% of his races and been on the podium 53.8% of the time.

Sure, statistics can be manipulated and twisted in many ways, but there is no denying, in Hamilton and Button, McLaren has some of the best British talent at their disposal - and if the team delivers the goods, the home fans should be celebrating that this weekend...

Top British Driver Statistics

Grands Prix started

Coulthard 246

Mansell 187

Button 179

G. Hill 176


Mansell 31

Stewart 27

Clark 25

D. Hill 22

Wins (%)

Clark 35%

Stewart 27%

Hamilton 21.3%

Mansell 17%

Podium places

Coulthard 62

Mansell 59

Stewart 43

D. Hill 42

Podium places (%)

Hamilton 52.5%

Clark 44%

Stewart 43%

D. Hill 37%

Pole Positions

Clark 33

Mansell 32

D. Hill 20

Hamilton 18

Pole positions (%)

Clark 46%

Hamilton 29.5%

Moss 24%

Mansell 17%


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