Winning from the front

An often-heard complaint about Sebastian Vettel is “he can only win when he starts out in front”, as if to say that the ‘real great drivers’ have always battled their way through the mid-field before taking their hard-earned victory or podium. Since I’m quite certain my memory isn’t that bad yet, I went on a little fact-checking quest.

Did you know that…
* Of these drivers, Kimi Räikkönen has won most of his races from a low starting position.
* Of these drivers, Nigel Mansell has achieved most of his podium finishes from a low starting position.

* Juan Manuel Fangio has never finished on a Grand Prix podium if he didn’t start from the first two rows.
* Alain Prost won 8 races starting from pos. 5, 6 or 7; he only won 2 races starting lower.
* Ayrton Senna only won 2 races starting lower than the second row, and finished on the podium only 6 times not starting in the top 6.
* Out of his many wins, Michael Schumacher won only 6 races starting lower than the second row, and finished on the podium only 9 times not starting in the top 6.
* Juan Pablo Montoya, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have never won a race starting lower than p4.
* Fernando Alonso won only 3 races starting outside the top 4, while Kimi Räikkönen won 6 of his 18 races starting lower than p4.
*Of the 392 combined race wins of these drivers, only 41 (less than 1 in 9) were not won by starting in the top 4.
*Of the 193 combined race wins of the modern day drivers, only 18 (less than 1 in 10) were not won by starting in the top 4.
*Of the 795 combined podium finishes of these drivers, only 97 (less than 1 in 8 ) were not achieved by starting in the top 6.
*Of the 440 combined podium finishes of the modern day drivers, only 42 (less than 1 in 10) were not achieved by starting in the top 6.

THE NUMBERS
Juan Manuel Fangio
24 wins, 35 podiums
* Won 54% of his races from pole (13 / 24)
* Won all of his races from front row
* Took 46% of his top 3 finishes from pole (16 / 35)
* Took 91% of his top 3 finishes from front row (32 / 35)
* Took all of his top 3 finishes from front 2 rows

Jim Clark
25 wins, 32 podiums
* Won 60% of his races from pole (15 / 25)
* Won 84% of his races from front row (21 / 25)
* Won 88% of his races from top 4 start (22 / 25)
* Took 50% of his top 3 finishes from pole (16 / 32)
* Took 75% of his top 3 finishes from front row (24 / 32)
* Took 75% of his top 3 finishes from top 4 start (24 / 32)
* Took 84% of his top 3 finishes from top 6 start (27 / 32)

Jackie Stewart
27 wins, 43 podiums
* Won 30% of his races from pole (8 / 27)
* Won 52% of his races from front row (14 / 27)
* Won 81% of his races from top 4 start (22 / 27)
* Took 23% of his top 3 finishes from pole (10 / 43)
* Took 47% of his top 3 finishes from front row (20 / 43)
* Took 77% of his top 3 finishes from top 4 start (33 / 43)
* Took 86% of his top 3 finishes from top 6 start (36 / 43)

Alain Prost
51 wins, 106 podiums
* Won 35% of his races from pole (18 / 51)
* Won 59% of his races from front row (30 / 51)
* Won 80% of his races from top 4 start (41 / 51)
* Took 24% of his top 3 finishes from pole (25 / 106)
* Took 43% of his top 3 finishes from front row (46 / 106)
* Took 75% of his top 3 finishes from top 4 start (80 / 106)
* Took 91% of his top 3 finishes from top 6 start (96 / 106)

Nigel Mansell
31 wins, 59 podiums
* Won 55% of his races from pole (17 / 31)
* Won 84% of his races from front row (26 / 31)
* Won 90% of his races from top 4 start (28 / 31)
* Took 29% of his top 3 finishes from pole (17 / 59)
* Took 34% of his top 3 finishes from front row (20 / 59)
* Took 56% of his top 3 finishes from top 4 start (33 / 59)
* Took 66% of his top 3 finishes from top 6 start (39 / 59)

Ayrton Senna
41 wins, 80 podiums
* Won 71% of his races from pole (29 / 41)
* Won 80% of his races from front row (33 / 41)
* Won 95% of his races from top 4 start (39 / 41)
* Took 49% of his top 3 finishes from pole (39 / 80)
* Took 63% of his top 3 finishes from front row (50 / 80)
* Took 90% of his top 3 finishes from top 4 start (72 / 80)
* Took 93% of his top 3 finishes from top 6 start (74 / 80)

Michael Schumacher
91 wins, 154 podiums
* Won 44% of his races from pole (40 / 91)
* Won 76% of his races from front row (69 / 91)
* Won 93% of his races from top 4 start (85 / 91)
* Took 36% of his top 3 finishes from pole (55 / 154)
* Took 59% of his top 3 finishes from front row (90 / 154)
* Took 88% of his top 3 finishes from top 4 start (135 / 154)
* Took 94% of his top 3 finishes from top 6 start (145 / 154)

Jenson Button
12 wins, 43 podiums
* Won 33% of his races from pole (4 / 12)
* Won 50% of his races from front row (6 / 12)
* Won 75% of his races from top 4 start (9 / 12)
* Took 12% of his top 3 finishes from pole (5 / 43)
* Took 26% of his top 3 finishes from front row (11 / 43)
* Took 58% of his top 3 finishes from top 4 start (25 / 43)
* Took 79% of his top 3 finishes from top 6 start (34 / 43)

Juan Pablo Montoya (included because he is known for being a great modern overtaker)
7 wins, 30 podiums
* Won 43% of his races from pole (3 / 7)
* Won 71% of his races from front row (5 / 7)
* Won all of his races from top 4 start
* Took 13% of his top 3 finishes from pole (4 / 30)
* Took 40% of his top 3 finishes from front row (12 / 30)
* Took 80% of his top 3 finishes from top 4 start (24 / 30)
* Took 87% of his top 3 finishes from top 6 start (26 / 30)

Fernando Alonso
27 wins, 73 podiums
* Won 48% of his races from pole (13 / 27)
* Won 63% of his races from front row (17 / 27)
* Won 89% of his races from top 4 start (24 / 27)
* Took 27% of his top 3 finishes from pole (20 / 73)
* Took 36% of his top 3 finishes from front row (26 / 73)
* Took 63% of his top 3 finishes from top 4 start (46 / 73)
* Took 82% of his top 3 finishes from top 6 start (60 / 73)

Kimi Räikkönen (included because he is known for getting good results from lower starting positions)
18 wins, 62 podiums
* Won 28% of his races from pole (5 / 18)
* Won 50% of his races from front row (9 / 18)
* Won 67% of his races from top 4 start (12 / 18)
* Took 15% of his top 3 finishes from pole (20 / 62)
* Took 34% of his top 3 finishes from front row (26 / 62)
* Took 66% of his top 3 finishes from top 4 start (45 / 62)
* Took 79% of his top 3 finishes from top 6 start (57 / 62)

Lewis Hamilton
17 wins, 42 podiums
* Won 53% of his races from pole (9 / 17)
* Won 76% of his races from front row (13 / 17)
* Won all of his races from top 4 start
* Took 33% of his top 3 finishes from pole (14 / 42)
* Took 57% of his top 3 finishes from front row (24 / 42)
* Took 93% of his top 3 finishes from top 4 start (39 / 42)
* Took 98% of his top 3 finishes from top 6 start (41 / 42)

Sebastian Vettel
21 wins, 36 podiums
* Won 76% of his races from pole (16 / 21)
* Won 95% of his races from front row (20 / 21)
* Won all of his races from top 4 start
* Took 67% of his top 3 finishes from pole (24 / 36)
* Took 86% of his top 3 finishes from front row (31 / 36)
* Took 97% of his top 3 finishes from top 4 start (35 / 36)
* Took 97% of his top 3 finishes from top 6 start (35 / 36)

List updated to include the results from the last races of 2011 as well, for Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

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