Who want enemies when you have teammates?

“During the race it’s every man for himself and your teammate is your first rival”Nicky Hayden

In racing, a big chunk of glory (or agony) is consequence of the machine you ride. If not, ask Rossi how his two years in Ducati compare to the results he obtained while riding the Honda inherited from Doohan… Because of this, beating a teammate (or anyone riding a similar motorbike) becomes a rider’s imperative. Because if you beat someone on a similar machine, then it is the rider who did it. The flesh, not the hardware.

To visualise that, we grabbed the MotoGP 2017 results and measured how many points per race did each rider obtain compared with the average points per race of all riders on the same team. Using points per race – and not total points over the season – allows us to compare riders regardless of the number of races started. For instance, we can compare Michele Pirro, with 3 races, to Jonas Folger (13 races), or Dovizioso (18 race). We called this metric Points Over Average (POA) and was computed as:

\(POA = \frac{p}{n} – \sum\limits_{r \in R} \frac{p_r}{n_r} \)

where \(p\) is the number of points during the season and \(n\) the number of races started. \(p_r\) and \(n_r\) are the points and number of races started of rider \(r\), and \(r\) is one of the \(R\) riders with similar machinery, in this case all riders from the same team.

In other words, POA is the difference between points per race of a rider and the average points per race of all riders in the same team, himself included.

We used Tableau to plot the POA (vs. teammates) against the average points per race for all 2017 MotoGP riders:

Marc Marquez, has the highest number of points per race (16.56), so he is well on the right. He is also above the grey line, indicating that he obtained more points per race than the average Honda HRC rider (him and Pedrosa). Next to him, Dovizioso is higher up, indicating that he outperformed his teammates by a bigger margin that Marquez outperformed his teammate. Marquez had 2.44 points more than the average HRC rider, while Dovi dominated the Ducati garage with 3.65 points more than average. Dovi was the rider with higher POA (+3.65 POA), followed by Marquez (+2.44 POA), Zarco (+2.30 POA), Aleix Espargaro (+1.77 POA), Petrucci (+1.67 POA), and Miller (+1.57 POA).

Interestingly, Michele Pirro had more points per race (8.33) on the 3 wild cards than teammate Lorenzo (7.61), who spent all year struggling to be in terms with his Ducati.

Some teams had riders on different machinery: Pramac Racing had Petrucci on a Ducati GP17 and Scot Redding on a Ducati GP16. Thus we repeated the POA calculations, but comparing each rider against all riders on the same machine instead of comparing him against all riders on the same team. This resulted in the following plot:

Again, Marquez, Dovi, Zarco, and Aleix Espargaro outclassed their rivals in similar machinery. Petrucci has a much lower POA now, as he is being compared against Ducati factory riders, as opposed to being compared to Scott Redding. Crutchlow now appears with a high POA (1.98) as he outscored Miller, Rabat, and Aoyama on the same machine.

While this kind of analysis allows us to partially neglect the differences in machinery, a higher POA doesn’t necessary mean a better rider. For instance, the fact that Aleix Esaprgaro has a POA of 1.73 doesn’t mean that he is a better rider than Maverick Viñales, who has a POA of 0.50, as it is not the same to compare your performance to Sam Lowes than to Valentino Rossi…