Abu Dhabi finale from a fan’s view.

It is points that count. The driver with the most points in the end of the season claims the champions’ crown. And this driver is the deserving champion. Number of wins, poles and fastest laps – they are for the statistics.

Do you believe in karma? Back in 2008 Lewis Hamilton in McLaren won the Championship despite the fact that his main rival – Felipe Massa in Ferrari – won more races that season. Many non-Hamilton fans were furious. More reasonable people knew it wasn’t the first time in F1 history this happened (ask sir Nigel Mansell, for example), also they believed Hamilton would have been much more motivated at Interlagos’08 if there weren’t 7 points between him and Massa before Brazilian Grand Prix (back then the race winner earned only 10 points). In that case the title was Hamilton’s to lose.

In 2016 Lewis has lost the Championship despite the fact he has won more races throughout the season. His main rival and the newly crowned World Champion Nico Rosberg did the math and made the right strategy. The title was Rosberg’s to lose after the Japanese Grand Prix.

If you prefer curses over karma, then there is a Hungaroring curse. Last driver who won the Hungarian Grand Prix and the title in the same year was Michael Schumacher back in 2004. Since that time no driver could do the same. In Lewis’s case he won in Hungary in 2007, 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2016 but he didn’t win there in his champion’s years (2008, 2014 and 2015).

Finally, if you believe in hard work Nico did his job better than Lewis this year. Rosberg has had a great season on and off the track right from the start. The latter might be even more important. Hamilton is a very fast and very talented driver. Also Lewis is just brilliant in mind games (one may recall Hungary 2007 or Spa 2014, for example). So if Rosberg wanted to beat Hamilton he had to do something different, something more than just being faster on Saturdays and Sundays. And he did it. Nico was fast but not always, Nico learned from his own mistakes, he concentrated on each race, he stayed cool even after Spain accident and, as I already mentioned, he did his math.

Hamilton didn’t lose the title at Sepang. In my opinion the game of ‘if’ and ‘but’ is pretty stupid. If Hamilton won in Malaysia, if Vettel didn’t crash into Rosberg in Malaysia, if Bottas didn’t crash into Hamilton in Bahrain, if Rosberg was’t penalized in Germany, if two Mercedes didn’t collide in Spain, if Rosberg didn’t let Hamilton through in Monaco, etc. Too many ‘if’. There is an interesting analysis on f1fanatic.co.uk about the technical problems both Mercedes drivers had this season. By the way, reliability issues are also part of motorsport and if you like to put everything in the perspective of ‘good old days’… well, ‘in good old days’ cars broke much easier.

‘You don’t win the championship by luck. Nico won the championship today. He’s a deserved champion.
Don’t forget the seasons when Nico car failed more than Lewis, it is just racing’.

 

Hamilton did nothing wrong on the final laps. Yes, his tactic might seem dirty to some fans and former drivers, but it was also smart. He knew that win is not enough for him and he was in the position when he himself could have influence on his main rival’s result. He drove as fast as he wanted so Nico couldn’t attack him, even close the gap to use DRS, and at the same time Lewis drove as slow as he wanted so other drivers – Verstappen & Vettel – could catch Rosberg. It was a suspense that even Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of.

‘I am a sportsman no I would not do this. This is wrong sorry’.

 

‘Lewis was doing an awesome job at that. He nailed it perfectly. He was pushing in the first sector to make sure I don’t come close where it’s possible to overtake, and then sandbagging in the rest. So that just made it unbelievably tough out there’.
/Nico Rosberg/

 

There is nothing unsportsmanlike in driving slow, it all depends on the angle at which you see this battle and the personalities involved. In 1992 Senna outraced Mansell using this slow defensive tactic. Many people still think that was fantastic. (Maybe sir Nigel Mansell would disagree with this as well). In 2001 again in Monaco Enrique Bernoldi in Arrows slowed David Coulthard in mighty McLaren. I think much fewer people were impressed (the least of all Ron Dennis and David Coulthard) by what that Brazilian did. More often you might hear that Bernoldi just ruined Coulhard’s race, drove like an idiot and so on.

In the end couple non-Mercedes thoughts about the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. I am assured Daniel Ricciardo had a chance to win the race if Red Bull took the risk of not pitting him so early. His 3rd position in the Drivers’ Championship as well as RBR’s 2nd place in the Constructors’ were secure, why not to gamble?

Force India clinched the forth position in the Constructors’ Championship! Wow! Great result for a non-factory team with limited budget. It’ll be tough for them to repeat this result next year with new rules and a rookie driver. On the other hand in recent years this team usually starts the season with very average results but raise its game in the second half of the season.

russian version

Abu Dhabi finale from a fan’s view.

No #1 on the grid

In 2014 Lewis Hamilton won his second WDC and decided not to exchange his #44 for the sacred #1. I doubt he’ll change his mind next year after his triumphal 2015 campaign.

The absence of #1 on the grid is not unusual in other motor sport series (e.g. MotoGP, IndyCar) where drivers/teams also have their own personal numbers. But it’s still something new for Formula 1.

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Lewis Hamilton (? ©)

Last time with no #1 on the grid was back in 1993 and 1994. And in both cases there was the same explanation: there was no defending champion on the grid. Nigel Mansell, the 1992 world champion, moved to IndyCar, Alain Prost retired from racing after winning his 4th WDC in 1993. Both drivers won their titles driving for Williams, that’s why the team used #0 and #2 in 1993-1994. Damon Hill was always allocated #0 in both seasons, while several drivers used #2 (Alain Prost (1993)*, Ayrton Senna, David Coulthard and Nigel Mansell (all three in 1994)).

Have there been any other exceptions in Formula 1 history when there was no #1 on the grid? Or has Lewis created a precedent for the future generations?

Imagine this: until 1974 pretty much any driver could drive a car with #1 on it and the owner of this magic number sometimes would change not even from season to season but from one race to another. And sometimes there was simply no #1 on the grid and it was OK. The cause of such anarchy was that race numbers were assigned on a race-to-race basis by the local organizers.

When full sponsor liveries came on stage at the 1960s, sponsors began to pressure teams to stick to the same race numbers throughout the season, so the teams started to request the same numbers from different organizers.

In 1973 the sport’s governing body decided to control this number assignment issue. First permanent numbers showed up in mid-1973 (starting from the Belgium Grand Prix). And starting from 1974 the reigning champion would get #1 while his teammate got #2. Following numbers should be assigned to the teams (not the drivers) according to WCC’73 standings.

Well, it didn’t go smoothly. Sir Jackie Stewart (Tyrrell) won the title in 1973 and… retired from motor racing. Lotus won the Constructor’s Championship that year, Tyrrell was second in the standings. So who should have gotten #1/#2 in 1974? It was decided Lotus got these numbers (#1 for Ronnie Peterson, #2 for Jacky Ickx), then Tyrrell got #3/#4, McLaren – #5/#6, and so on.

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Ronnie Peterson /#1, Lotus/, Emerson Fittipaldi /#5, McLaren/, 1974 (? ©)

That wasn’t all. According to the new rules the only changes to the race numbering system were meant to be if a team had the reigning world champion, in that case only could that team get #1/#2. At the same time the team’s old numbers were transferred to the team which had had the champion driver the previous year (see the example in the table below). Everybody else stayed with the same 1974 numbers up until 1996 when the FIA introduced new numbering system. That’s why for many F1 fans #3/#4 are associated with Tyrrell (even if the team doesn’t exist for a long time), or #27/#28 are sacred for tiffosi.

1974 1975 1976
##  Driver  Team ##  Driver  Team ##  Driver  Team
 1  Peterson  Lotus  1  Fittipaldi McLaren  1  Lauda  Ferrari
 2  Ickx  Lotus  2  Mass McLaren  2  Regazzoni  Ferrari
 3  Scheckter  Tyrrell  3  Scheckter Tyrrell  3  Scheckter  Tyrrell
 4  Depailler  Tyrrell  4  Depailler Tyrrell  4  Depailler  Tyrrell
 5  Fittipaldi  McLaren  5  Peterson Lotus  5  Andretti  Lotus
 6  Hulme  McLaren  6  Ickx Lotus  6  Nillson  Lotus
 11  Regazzoni  Ferrari  11  Regazzoni  Ferrari  11  Hunt  McLaren
 12  Lauda  Ferrari  12  Lauda  Ferrari  12  Mass  McLaren
WDC WDC WDC
 5  Fittipaldi  McLaren  12  Lauda  Ferrari  11  Hunt  McLaren

New teams were usually assigned the lowest available numbers. If a team left the championship, its numbers became vacant. For example, Toleman made its debut in 1981 and got #35/#36. In 1983 the team took over vacant #19/#20. Then in 1986 the team changed its name to Benetton but still got #19/#20. Finally in 1993 when McLaren took over vacant #7/#8 (ex-Brabham numbers and the first numbers run by the team in the MP4/Ron Dennis era in the early 80s), Benetton got #5/#6 (ex-Mclaren numbers).

In 1996 the FIA decided to create a numbering system based on WCC’s standings in the previous season. The defending champion driver and his teammate still would get #1/#2. But all other teams would change their numbers from season to season (see example in the table below):

1995 1996 1997
##  Driver  Team ##  Driver  Team ##  Driver  Team
 1  Schumacher  Benetton  1  Schumacher  Ferrari  1  Hill  Arrows
 2  Herbert  Benetton  2  Irvine  Ferrari  2  Diniz  Arrows
 3  Katayama  Tyrrell  3  Alesi  Benetton  3  Villeneuve  Williams
 4  Salo  Tyrrell  4  Berger  Benetton  4  Frentzen  Williams
 5  Hill  Williams  5  Hill  Williams  5  Schumacher  Ferrari
 6  Coulthard  Williams  6  Villeneuve  Williams  6  Irvine  Ferrari
WDC WDC WDC
 1  Schumacher  Benetton  5  Hill  Williams  3  Villeneuve  Williams
WCC WCC WCC
 1  Benetton  1  Williams  1  Williams
 2  Williams  2  Ferrari  2  Ferrari
 3  Ferrari  3  Benetton  3  Benetton

Finally in 2014 the numbering system has changed yet again. From now on every driver (rather than team) picks the number which he will use throughout his entire F1 career***. And the defending champion can choose whether he wants to use #1 or prefers his personal number. Sebastian Vettel decided to race with #1 in 2014, while Lewis Hamilton likes his #44 and doesn’t want to swipe it for #1.

But Lewis can always do something like this:

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*A unique achievement belongs to Alain Prost. He’s the only driver who has won the F1 championship driving the car #2.

** When Nigel Mansell signed to race for McLaren in 1995 the team got #7/#8. McLaren formally requested to swap numbers with Williams (#5/#6) so that Mansell could have his famous “Red 5”. Either Williams or the FIA said no.


*** If the driver doesn’t compete in the championship for more than 2 years his personal number becomes vacant.

 

russian version

No #1 on the grid

The real champion

After winning his second title in 2014 Lewis Hamilton joined a very special “club” of Formula 1 drivers who has won WDC with two different teams. The Brit became only the 10th driver in F1 history who has achieved such a great result.

Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport nevertheless it is a pretty young and not very widespread kind of sport. In 2015 we all witness only the 65th championship. And of course you should be a hell of a racing driver to win at least 1 race, not to mention the whole championship. So, we have 65 years of F1 racing and there are only 32 different champions among the drivers. 16 of them have won the championship more than once and only 10 did so with at least two different teams. Juan Manuel Fangio holds the record.

 Driver  Team
 Juan Manuel Fangio Alpha Romeo (1951)
Maserati (1954*, 1957)
Mercedes (1954*, 1955)
Ferrari (1957)
 Jack Brabham Cooper (1959-1960)
Brabham (1966)
 Graham Hill BRM (1962)
Lotus (1968)
 Jackie Stewart Matra (1969)
Tyrrell (1971, 1973)
 Emerson Fittipaldi Lotus (1972)
McLaren (1974)
 Niki Lauda Ferrari (1975,1977)
McLaren (1984)
 Nelson Piquet Brabham (1981, 1983)
Williams (1987)
 Alain Prost McLaren (1985-1986,1989)
Williams (1993)
 Michael Schumacher Benetton (1994,1995)
Ferrari (2000-2004)
 Lewis Hamilton McLaren (2008)
Mercedes (2014)

You won’t find Sebastian Vettel in this table. And I’m sure his ill-wishers will be happy. But you can’t find Fernando Alonso, Mika Hakkinen or Ayrton Senna there neither. Yes, Senna is not in this “private club”. These 4 drivers are multiple champions but they have won their titles racing just for 1 team** even though all of them drove for different teams during their careers and also won races wearing different outfits (except Hakkinen). But they are not as special as those 9 “real” champions. Or are they? And if they are not “real” champions what can you say about famous Jim Clark. He won 2 WDC but he raced all his 73 GPs for Team Lotus.

In recent years there was too much buzz about Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing. They won 4 titles (both WDCs and WCCs) in a row. Quite a record*. But many fans were not happy when Seb and Red Bull did their best. And it’s totally ok, if you are not their fan. But there was (and there still is) a lot of disrespect towards the driver and the team. Remember podium booing in Canada in 2013? Yes, Seb won titles in 2011 and 2013 in dominant fashion. But so were Schumacher in 2002 and 2004 or Mansell in 1992. The point is Red Bull wasn’t as dominant car in 2010-2013 as Scuderia Ferrari in 2002 or Mclaren in 1988 or Mercedes in 2014.

 year  Driver  GPs  Wins (%)  Podiums (%)  Poles (%)  DNFs (%)
 2004  Michael Schumacher 18 13 (72,2%) 15 (83,3%) 8 (44,4%) 1 (5,6%)
 1963  Jim Clark 10 7 (70%) 9 (90%) 7 (70%) 1 (10%)
 2013  Sebastian Vettel 19 13 (68,4%) 16 (84,2%) 9 (47,4%) 1 (5,3%)
 2002  Michael Schumacher 17 11 (64,7%) 17 (100%) 7 (41,2%) 0
 1965  Jim Clark 10 6 (60%) 6 (60%) 6 (60%) 3 (30%)
 2011  Sebastian Vettel 19 11 (57,9%) 17 (89,5%) 15 (78,9%) 1 (5,3%)
 2014  Lewis Hamilton 19 11 (57,9%) 16 (84,2 %) 7 (36,8%) 3 (15,8%)
 1992  Nigel Mansell 16 9 (56,3%) 12 (75%) 14 (87,5%) 4 (25%)
 1971  Jackie Stewart 11 6 (54,5%) 7 (63,6%) 6 (54,5%) 2 (18,2%)
 2001  Michael Schumacher 17 9 (52,9%) 14 (82,4%) 11 (64,7%) 2 (11,8%)
 year  Car  GPs  Wins (%)  Podiums (%)  1-2 (%)  Poles (%)
 1988  McLaren MP4-4 16 15 (93,8%) 25 (78,1%) 10 (62,5%) 15 (93,8%)
 2002  Ferrari F2002 17 15 (88,2%) 27 (79,4%) 9 (52,9%) 10 (58,8%)
 2014  Mercedes F1W05 19 16 (84,2%) 31 (81,6%) 11 (57,9%) 18 (94,7%)
 2004  Ferrari F2004 18 15 (83,3%) 29 (80,6%) 8 (44,4%) 12 (66,7%)
 1996  Williams FW18 16 12 (75%) 21 (65,6%) 6 (37,5%) 12 (75%)
 1984  McLaren MP4-2 16 12 (75%) 18 (56,3%) 4 (25%) 3 (18,8%)
 1963  Lotus 24-25 10 7 (70%) 9 (45%) 0 7 (70%)
 2013  Red Bull RB9 19 13 (68,4%) 24 (63,2%) 4 (21,1%) 11 (57,9%)
 1971  Tyrrell 001-003 11 7 (63,6%) 11 (50%) 2 (18,2%) 6 (54,5%)
2011  Red Bull RB7 19 12 (63,2%) 27 (71,1%) 3 (15,8%) 18 (94,7%)
 1992  Williams FW14B 16 10 (62,5%) 21 (65,6%) 6 (37,5%) 15 (93,8%)
 1989  McLaren MP4-5 16 10 (62,5%) 18 (56,3%) 4 (25%) 15 (93,8%)
 1993 Williams FW15C 16 10 (62,5%) 22 (68,8%) 1 (6,3%) 15 (93,8%)

And if we speak about switching teams…

The great MotoGP champion Mick Doohan won all his 5 titles with Honda; the most successful rally driver Sebastien Loeb got 9 WDCs and all of them driving Citroen; even Michael Schumacher won 5 out of his 7 titles exclusively with Scuderia Ferrari.

Hamilton’s achievement is astonishing and he should be given a standing ovation, but his rivals’ successes should not be underestimated. Only the best drivers become World Champions. Maybe you need some luck sometimes, but there is no such concept as “the true champion”, or a “more real” champion.

* Juan Manuel Fangio started 1954 season with Maserati and ended it with Mercedes.

** Sebastian Vettel has won all his WDCs with Red Bull Racing; Fernando Alonso – with Renault; Mika Hakkinen and Ayrton Senna – with McLaren.

*** This is a record in terms of winning first 4 titles. Only Michael Schumacher and Ferrari won more – 5 – championships in a row, but those were not the first titles neither for the German nor for Scuderia.

russian version

The real champion