The 2015 Formula Virtual season has been an intriguing season so far, with new winners, crazy pit strategies, lots of unreliability, new venues, and completely different formula. So far Franklin and Wagner are on top, but Rossi and Liverpool are close behind. Here are ten potentially interesting statistics that tell the story of the season so far (in no particular order) with a brief analysis of each one.
Franklin, as in the two previous seasons of Formula Virtual, have consistently had the fastest car on the grid so far this season. Many will say that Franklin deserve to be far out in front of rivals Rossi and Liverpool, but that they have been hit by unreliability and (literally hit) by back-markers disproportionately. While this may be true when one compares Franklin with Liverpool, it is not as simple with Rossi. Scuderia Rossi have had their fair share of bad luck so far, with Giodano failing to score in four out of nine races so far compared to Franklin’s five non-scoring results.
Enrique Ruiz has clearly had an abnormal amount of misfortune so far this season. Some of this has been his own fault; he has caused a few collisions that have damaged his point total. Most of the points he has dropped, however, have been through no fault of his own. Scott Parsons took him out in Australia and Ruiz’s Honda engine failed while he was leading in both South Africa and Spain. Without those last two failures, Ruiz would be nearly level with teammate Wagner. Instead, he is 65 points (two wins and a third place) behind Wagner despite Wagner retiring in Canada. Enrique Ruiz has outperformed Wagner when he has had healthy equipment, but has had terrible fortune so far this season. This may lead to an exciting comeback in the second half of the season, and hopefully it does from an entertainment point-of-view.
One of the stories of the season so far has been the pace in the Rossi SR-03 and the emergence of Enzo Domenicalli as a top FV driver. Both of these factors have allowed Rossi to go from a team with four podiums out of two seasons (35 races) to a team that averages exactly a podium a race in 2015. In addition, Rossi have secured their first two career victories and have already scored more points than they did in either 2013 or 2014. Rossi have already had a special season, but can they challenge Franklin for the title in the second half? For the sake of the viewers, hopefully they can.
Normally the lower mid-pack teams are close to the number of points scoring finishes of the 5th and 6th place teams in the Constructors’ Championship, but they have a lower average finishing position (and don’t score as many points as a result). This season, however, the teams below 7th-placed AMR (Meteor, FUN, Ocelot, Warrior, Lucas) have rarely scored points. Combined, these teams have just 8 points scoring finishes in comparison to 6th-placed Westwood’s 9 points scoring finishes. In comparison, the 8th and below teams had scored points almost twice as many times as 6th-placed Peugeot and they also had a larger combined total of points than Peugeot at the end of 2014, something which is not true of them in comparison to Westwood in 2015. The lack of points was frankly expected from Ocelot who are new to the series and should be happy with their double points score in Spain. For FUN, Meteor, and Lucas, however, they have had their all-time worst points scoring droughts so far this season. And instead of making progress like AMR, Warrior seem to remain in 2014 form (rarely scoring points). This lack of points from the lower part of the grid has come despite a lot of retirements in the early rounds of the championship and most of these teams scoring a decent amount of points in Australia, both of which suggest that these teams really are struggling for pace at the moment.
While this season has a predictable mid pack, the front of the field has been relatively wide open, with many new faces in the mix. As previously discussed, Rossi have made tremendous progress this season and their long-time drivers Puccio Giodano and Enzo Domenicalli have been rewarded with their first victories. Marcus Thunder also won his and Downton’s first victory in an unpredictable Brazilian V-Prix. The only drivers that have won multiple races have been the two Franklin drivers, who have won 5 of the 9 races. But if the two of them fail to win, it has been hard to predict who will.
Formula Virtual is rapidly expanding internationally, with the inaugural South African V-Prix being the first V-Prix to be held in Africa. In addition, Ocelot have become the first Asian team to join the series and next season will see the first North American team join the series with FIRST Motorsport being confirmed on the grid for 2016. Despite the increased diversity on the grid and in the races, British teams have dominated the 2015 season so far: 5 out of the top 6 places in the Constructors’ Championship are held by British teams (and there are only 6 British teams if Lucas is counted), and Rossi are the only non-British team to score at least one podium so far this season. Even while the series is becoming more global, the best place to base a Formula Virtual team appears to be in the United Kingdom.
Rossi and Liverpool may be close to Franklin’s point total for the season, but they are nowhere near Franklin when it comes to race pace. In recent rounds Rossi has been able to qualify within a tenth or two, but it simply has not mattered. It should also be noted that every non-Franklin victory this season has had a winning margin of less than 12 seconds. This stat demonstrates the dominance of Franklin when they get clear air and make it to the finish. To put this stat into context: before this season, there were only two or three instances where races were decided by more than 20 seconds and there have been five such races already this season, all by the same team.
Elroy Wagner may have only won 2 of the first 9 races, but he has a comfortable 65 point lead over teammate Enrique Ruiz and an 18 point lead over Enzo Domenicalli. The only other two drivers to have ever had this high of a podium strike rate at this point in the season have been Nathaniel Powers in 2013 and Enrique Ruiz in 2014, with both having exactly 7 podiums out of 9 races as well. Of course, both Powers and Ruiz went on to win the championship in both of those respective seasons. Consistency is required to become champion, and Elroy Wagner has had it so far this season.
Lewis Ellington has become the driver with the most starts without a classified finish in any season of Formula Virtual (providing he doesn’t find another team this season). This stat sums up the torrid season for the Lucas team, which has seen them go from horribly off of the pace and struggling to finish to off of the grid altogether. Hopefully fans will remember Lucas for their strong end to 2013 and not their 2015 season.
Defending champion Ruiz is trailing teammate Wagner by 65 points and has already won 3 races, one more than the German. But his terrible first four rounds of the season, in which he only scored one point, mean that he could win every remaining race of the season but not win the championship. If Wagner finished second in every remaining race (behind Ruiz), then Wagner would still win the championship by 2 points. This scenario is incredibly unlikely, but it demonstrates that the championship is completely out of the control of Ruiz despite having half of a season to go. Wagner, however, does not have full control at all with Domenicalli and Simon well within striking distance providing Liverpool or Rossi can take the fight to Franklin (or at least be more consistent than Franklin). Ruiz has it all to do to win this championship, but even if he does it all he might not win.