Sebesatian Vettel had the word “Engine” affixed next to his retirement status in the race results for the European GP at Valencia. This was the third such “Engine” retirement of the year in eleven races so far. Robert Kubica and Adrian Sutil were the other two with the same inscriptions against their name (at Malaysia and Hungary respectively).
Since 2001, retirements due to engine failures per season have dropped by almost seventy five per cent. An attribute to restrictions placed on engine developments and regulations for the number of engines per race or the season. Retirements in general have halved over the same period. Single engines for the full race weekend came into force in 2005 and a single engine for successive races thereafter.
Electrical failures, gearbox issues and suspension damages have all come down over the last few years.
Of course all retirements do not taken into account problems during practice or qualifying. The grid penalties for instance for an engine change during those sessions. The troubled McLaren’s Mercedes engine choked and sputtered every now and then in 2004, not necessarily in the race though.
Another indicator of reliability is the ratio of retirements per track in the same period.
The graph below shows a massive dip in accidents in 2009, but then the season is only half done. It still averages less than preceding years though. That is because the FIA stewards pull the leash whenever two pilots dog-fight a bit. Reprimands, fines, suspensions, drive through penalties, stop-go penalties and disqualifications are a few tools to neuter the dogs. Hopefully a new FIA president will let the racing be in years to come.