Derek Bell on Motor Sport Podcast

March 31, 2012

I am enjoying listening to Derek Bell on the February Motor Sport magazine podcast so much that I have to plug it:

Click here to open podcast page.

A couple of filmed laps are mentioned, both of which are superb viewing. I have tracked both down on YouTube, choosing to link to them rather than embed, as the latter often makes blog-pages clunky to load.

The first here is a lap of the old Nürburgring in a Porsche 956. The second here is again in the 956, and features a lap at Le Mans (followed by another) including the old four-mile Mulsanne straight uninterrupted by chicanes.

All links open in new windows.

The Motor Racing Game

January 13, 2012

I would like to draw attention to my reader that I am running a motor-racing prediction game this season that starts with the upcoming Monte Carlo Rally and ends with the Brazilian Grand Prix. I have decided to set up a new blog to host the game and please go here for details.

Six Wheels On My Wagon

July 1, 2011

I have always had an unaccountable fascination for six-wheeled cars and since the only decent page on F1-cars with more than the usual four wheels has disappeared, I decided to fill the gap.

Pre-war, Auto Union, Mercedes Benz amongst others would affix two extra wheels on the back axle, mostly to adapt their cars for hill-climbs, such as for this Auto Union Type-C at Shelsley Walsh in 1936.

Post-war, the Pat Clancy Special was entered in the 1948 and 1949 Indianapolis 500s.

The extra traction made it faster on the straights but the four at the rear also made the car want to go straight for the turns creating understeer that negated any advantage. It finished twelfth (ten laps down) in ’49 and failed to finish the year after.

The only six-wheeled car to enter the Formula One World Championship, and indeed to win a race, was the famed Tyrrell P34.

Jody Scheckter, Germany, 1976

Patrick Depailler, 1976

Patrick Depailler, France 1976
The Cahier Archive)

The P34 (short for Project 34) debuted at the fourth round of 1976, the Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama, for Patrick Depailler, with Jody Scheckter also on six wheels by the next GP. Designer, Derek Gardner, had worked on the four-wheel-drive turbine-powered Lotus cars that raced in the 1968 Indianapolis 500, which were fastest but failed to finish. The only way found to have the cars handle at all well was to send most the power to the rear wheels, so Gardner had the idea to have four wheels at the front, two of which were powered, but 4wd and turbine engines were banned before the 1969 event. The idea inspired the P34 (which was only rear-wheel-drive).

The point of the four smaller wheels at the front was not to reduce drag by reducing frontal area, as the air would instead hit the huge rear tyres. It seems the spinning tyres in the airflow create lift. I am not sure of the physics, please comment if you can cast light on this, but I am guessing the top of the tyre travelling backward at the speed of the car relative to the oncoming airflow creates faster airflow over the tyres (the way wings work is that faster airflow is lower pressure than slower airflow), thus ‘sucking’ the tyres upwards. The principle was that four smaller tyres created less lift, therefore less front-wing could be used, which did reduce the drag making the car faster in a straight line without losing performance in the corners.

Depailler was very enthusiastic about the experimental concept, but Scheckter hated it, despite scoring the P34’s only win in his third outing with it in Sweden, with four second places and five other top-sixes propelling him to third in the title chase with his then highest points tally. His main complaint about the car was that it was too easy to lock a front-wheel. Scheckter also relates an incident in one practice when he saw a wheel bouncing along, wondered whose it was, and found out on reaching the next corner it was his. On returning to the pits, he was asked what the problem was and replied, “Understeer.”

Patrick managed five podiums with the six-wheeler in ’76 for fourth overall. Jody left for Wolf to be replaced by Ronnie Peterson in 1977. The year saw a high rate of retirements by both Tyrrell drivers but also netted a few podiums. That was the last of the P34, as whilst Goodyear had considered the expense of making the 10″ tyres had proved to be fantastic value for money with the initial huge publicity the car had created, they failed to develop the smaller tyres as they did with the front tyres for other teams, which gave Tyrrell little choice but to revert to four wheels in 1979.

March designer, Robin Herd, took much interest in the Tyrrell P34, coming to the conclusion that four wheels at the back was the more effective way to reduce drag, as well as improving the airflow to the back wing and giving better traction. Team manager, Max Mosley, was more inspired by that publicity created by the six-wheel concept, and in its potential to help attract sponsors at a time the team were struggling financially. Thus in late 1976 team engineer, Wayne Eckersley, was assigned to adapt a 1976 March 761 as cheaply as possible into essentially a show car. However, the unveiling in November/December (depending on source) caused extensive press excitement including the car making the front cover of Autosport. Below is the March 2-4-0 presented, Mosley in the middle, Herd to the right, with the exotic backdrop of sun-kissed Bicester.

(The “2-4-0” refers back to the designation of the wheels on steam locomotives, whereby, for example, a 4-6-2 would have four smaller un-driven wheels at the front, then six large powered wheels, then two smaller trailing wheels behind.)

A full test for the car was announced for (I believe) the last day of the year with the team throwing itself into rushing out a working version, as shown below at Silverstone.

The budget-limited build meant the gearbox casing had not been strengthened as required for the new four-wheel-drive, causing the cogs sending power to the very back wheels to un-mesh soon into the first lap as the gearbox flexed. The team quietly removed the offending parts sending Howden Ganley back out to complete the test with only the forward rear wheels powered (2-2-2). Fortunately for March, it was a wet day so slow times could be blamed on un-indicative conditions without needing to let the press on.

By the time Ian Scheckter tested the car in February on another wet day at Silverstone the gearbox had been strengthened. Scheckter described the traction as incredible but was not so happy with the heaviness and power-delivery in the turns. Again the car made the front cover of Autosport. The next picture shows the car sporting the new season’s Rothmans sponsorship as was the case at that test, although this does not look like Silverstone to me.

After that, development of the March 2-4-0 ceased and never came close to being raced by the team. Never the less it turned out to be highly profitable, with Scalextric paying to produce what became a very popular slot-car, and the car being hired out (probably with myriad liveries) for trade shows and other business promotions.

In 1979, Roy Lane bought a March 771 and was loaned the kit to convert it to 2-4-0 configuration which he used for the British Hill Climb Championship that year. He won events, notably in the wet, but overall it was uncompetitive and, even for such short-distance events, it was on the fragile side.

Shortly after March’s six-wheel media launch, in December ’76 Ferrari joined the fun with their own announcement generating another gigantic wave of publicity. The story went quiet until March of 1977 when the Ferrari 312 “T6” (a semi-official designation) broke cover in a test at Fiorano.

With two extra wheels attached to a single back axle, this was reminiscent of the pre-war hill climb cars. Nicki Lauda gave no statement after this test. The next was at Nardò Ring, a FIAT owned high-speed banked testing facility, from which little public feedback emerged. Carlos Reutermann had a big accident at its next outing back at Fiorano, and by standard Ferrari policy of the time was entirely blamed until mechanical failure was established a few days later. Lauda conducted further tests but any near-future race-debut of the car was pooh-poohed. In May, the project was shelved, Enzo Ferrari stating that it was until Goodyear provided special tyres, but that was probably a convenient face-saving tactic bearing in mind front tyres were utilised.

It is difficult to see where Ferrari intended to go with the concept, almost questionable whether it might have just been again about the publicity. The extra rear tyres caused the car to exceed the maximum width regulation. Ferrari’s success in 1975 to 1977, when Lauda would have won three consecutive titles but for his terrible crash at the Nürburgring in ’76, was founded on the decision to adopt a transverse gearbox (which was aligned parallel to the back-axle instead of the more conventional longitudinal arrangement along the length of the chassis), which made moving the wheels inwards impractical without a fundamentally major re-design. It would have been an enormous obstacle to configure suspension that would have prevented the outer wheels wobbling with greater than usual amplitude to maintain consistent contact patches. It was surely physically impossible to have a differential (which splits the power between the (normally) two back wheels allowing the outer wheel in corners to turn faster than the inner wheel as the outer wheel has further to travel, otherwise the outer tyre would spin and/or the inner tyre drag, causing loss of grip, high tyre wear, and more difficulty in persuading the car to turn) that could cope with a much more significant difference between the distances travelled in corners between the inside of the inner tyre and outside of the outer one on each side. Ferrari without commercial sponsors and the cost of producing their own engines were not that well funded in this period, but it is difficult to see how the publicity of a dead-end project would help to alleviate this.

In 1981, the writing was on the wall for the normally aspirated customer-affordable Ford Cosworth DFVs that had powered all the driver World Championships, apart from three for Ferrari, since 1968. Rumour was that Williams had a future deal with Honda (which transpired by 1984) but what to do until then? Patrick Head decided that the March six-wheel configuration offered great potential advantage in the ground-effect era that had arrived since. The first foot in the water was to adapt the FW07, with versions of which the team had won races in 1979-81 along with the 1980 World Championship (Alan Jones). Initially tested in October 1981, I suspect this photo of the FW07E was from later in the year.

The FW08 introduced for 1982 was specifically designed to be adaptable to racing with four wheels and conversion to six when the necessary engineering changes were proven and reliable. This was why the cars that raced appeared stubby for having short wheelbases. The team continued to test the six-wheeler in private tests, with reports emanating during the summer of stupendous speed. Meanwhile, Keke Rosberg in the four-wheeler was unexpectedly on his way to winning that season’s title, although it would have been Ferrari’s year but for the death of Gilles Villeneuve and the career-ending accident Didier Pironi had at Hockenheim.

Unlike March, Williams had the engineering resources to develop the FW08D properly. The additional weight involved with the extra parts needed was not a huge handicap as their usual cars without ballast were significantly below the minimum weight limit. The same advantages of extra traction, better airflow to the rear wing, less drag over smaller rear-wheels, less lift from those wheels, and being able to use what would normally be front tyres with their continued development all applied as (at least in theory) for the 2-4-0. The hugely significant difference was that this was the era of full ground effects. There were no flat bottoms with diffusers at the rear doing the best they could to pull air from under the car. As much as possible, the whole underside of the car acted as a gigantic diffuser with skirts along the bottom outer edges of the sidepods to contain the low pressure under the floor with the main body of the chassis effectively being a huge wing.

The skirts were only allowed to run back to the rear axle so the six-wheeler enabled greater exploitation in this aspect, as well as the skirts not having to awkwardly deviate inside the conventional rear wheels with the new arrangement giving wider airflow out the back of the car. The main and acceptable disadvantages seemed to be an increase in mechanical complexity and higher friction losses in the transmission to four wheels.

Williams planned to run the six-wheeled cars in 1983, but FIA banned six-wheel cars AND four-wheel drive! (After twenty-eight years, this still makes me angry. If it had been Renault or Ferrari…)

Jonathan Palmer drove the FW08D up the Goodwood hill in 1994, setting an unofficial record that stood for a few years. His observation on the car was that if lateral forces caused the back-end to begin to slide, when the first tyre lost grip the driver had 75% adhesion left to save it, whereas with a conventional layout, he only had 50% left.

With the six-wheel craze in 1976, word was that Lotus being unhappy with the 77 were planning to copy the Tyrrell P34 for the Lotus 78 with this prototype photograph emerging.

They did not have Photoshop back then so it probably involved double-exposure or combining negatives to create this fake shot. However, the shot below, also from 1976, of Clay Regazzoni at Fiorano aboard the Ferrari 312 “T8” is completely un-doctored.

I think this is quite clever, as at first glance the brain assumes the car is moving with it being on a track when it is in fact stationary, and although there is no trick photography, it can be spotted on scrutiny that the extra wheels look a little larger than the matching expectedly positioned ones, being slightly closer to the camera because they are just sitting in front of the car. This was a Ferrari-orchestrated hoax not long after the “T6” was canned, renewing my half-suspicion that that project might have been most about the publicity. Like the March 2-4-0, the “T8” spawned a slot-car.

Do have a look at the Spanish-language forum article Cuando sólo cuatro… no bastan  (When Just Four… Are Not Enough), for even more pictures as well as bigger versions of many I used. Avoid auto-translate or you will discover where much of my “research” came from…

(Short link:

Some Podcast Links

March 7, 2011

It is not my practice to do posts comprising links, the plan being to open a Twitter account to plug my posts and anything else I think deserves attention. However a few podcasts have popped up recently that I wanted to highlight.

I expect many of you are aware of Sidepodcast’s excellent output, but the recent exchanges with Another F1 Podcast (that is its name) have been especially amusing. I suggest listening to the AF1P edition first as it fully recaps the interaction a few minutes in. All links open the host-page in a new window.

Sidepodcast Debrief 151 (Right-click the blue link, “debrief151.mp3”, to download.)

Another F1 Podcast Season Preview (Warning: includes very strong swearing and should not be to listened by anyone unless over 99-years old and accompanied by both parents. Right-click the v. small play-symbol to download.)

Next are a couple of BBC Radio podcasts that unfortunately may be geolocked if outside the UK, but I hope not. The first is a Radio Five Live season preview with Jake Humphrey, Murray Walker and Anthony Davidson including some top-name interviews. It is only available until about the 11th March, 2011.

R5L Chequered Flag Season Preview

The second is a World Service documentary on Formula One that I have not yet listened to, but I thought I had better do this post before the above podcast expired. Go down the list to Friday 4th March 2011. It is available indefinitely.

The Changing Worlds Of Formula One

(Finally, this has absolutely nothing to do with Formula One, but if you scroll down to Thursday, 20th May, 2010, for the above link, there is a very fascinating documentary on how the World Health Organisation overstated the risk of swine flu, and why this might have been due to being too cosy with the drug companies.)

Shortlink to this post:

Is Nick Quick?

February 17, 2011

So Heidi is back and the question of the moment is did he deserve the gig? Despite the ever prevailing driver-focused coverage, Formula One is most about the teams, meaning that comparing driver-talent is hugely difficult if they are in different cars, so the best way to gauge a driver is against his previous team-mates (albeit that drivers are not always treated equally, and sometimes one team will get the best out of a driver and another will not), so below is a record of how well Nick has performed in points against all his F1 team-mates. The numbers in brackets are how many races that season he was paired with that team-mate.

2000     Prost-Peugeot     Heidfeld   0- 0   Jean Alesi    (17)
2001     Sauber-Ferrari     Heidfeld   12- 9   Kimi Räikkönen    (17)
2002     Sauber-Ferrari     Heidfeld   7- 4   Felipe Massa    (16)
2002     Sauber-Ferrari     Heidfeld   0- 0   Heinz-Harald Frentzen    (1)
2003     Sauber-Ferrari     Heidfeld   6- 16   Heinz-Harald Frentzen    (16)
2004     Jordan-Ford     Heidfeld   2- 0   Giorgio Pantano    (14)
2004     Jordan-Ford     Heidfeld   1- 2   Timo Glock    (4)
2005     Williams-BMW     Heidfeld   28- 24   Mark Webber    (13)
2006     BMW Sauber     Heidfeld   13- 7   Jacques Villeneuve    (12)
2006     BMW Sauber     Heidfeld   10- 6   Robert Kubica    (6)
2007     BMW Sauber     Heidfeld   61- 39   Robert Kubica    (16)
2007     BMW Sauber     Heidfeld   0- 1   Sebastian Vettel    (1)
2008     BMW Sauber     Heidfeld   60- 75   Robert Kubica    (18)
2009     BMW Sauber     Heidfeld   19- 17   Robert Kubica    (17)
2010     Sauber-Ferrari     Heidfeld   6- 11   Kamui Kobayashi    (5)

The year at Prost is a pointless comparison. It was respectable to beat a future World Champion the season after at Sauber, although it was Räikkönen’s debut year (and only his third year of car-racing), after which Kimi was snapped up by McLaren. Massa was rubbish in his early days, so his later signing by and progress at Ferrari was a revelation. The trouncing by Frentzen was unfortunate, but Heinz-H. was an experienced well-regarded driver, with even Patrick Head subsequently conceding that mistakes were made in how the driver was managed at Williams. Little was proved either way at Jordan.

Heidfeld joined Williams in 2005, with less than great timing with the team’s last win to date being in 2004. He missed the last four races of the season, two after a testing accident, then two more after being hit by a motorbike when out cycling. Outscoring Webber at Williams looks decent, and might make us wonder how Heidi would have done last year if driving for RBR, but bearing in mind last season Mark had the fastest car, excellent reliability, and better luck than any other contender, he had no excuse for not winning the title, so the German beating him on points in ’05 was a good but not a great scalp.

It is difficult to know how much beating 1997 World Champion Villeneuve by a good margin counted for, but interesting to note that it was by about the same margin (12-6) that Button beat Jacques by at BAR back in 2003; it seems JV was about as miserable in his last year with Sauber as he was his last year at BAR.

The most obvious comparison has to be with the man NH is replacing, Kubica himself. In the 59 races together, Nick scored 150 to Robert’s 127. It is the only time he has been with a race-winning team, the only race-win in question being the 2008 Canadian GP. Typically, it was an incident strewn race, with Hamilton taking himself and Räikkönen out by driving into the Ferrari at the pit-exit having missed the red-light. After the last safety-car period, it was Heidfeld’s race to win as he was in the lead and fueled to the end, but, in what was obviously team-orders, he let Kubica by, the Pole being able to pull away from Nick’s heavy car, take advantage of the track-shortcut the Montreal pit-lane provides to make his last stop, and win the race ahead of Heidfeld. It gave the BMW Sauber team the 1-2 instead of just the win, but the agony on Nick’s face after the result is painful even to remember. It is fair to observe that Heidfeld had a lot of experience over his younger team-mate, hence it might be argued that Kubica had the greater potential even if a bit behind on points, but their last season together Kubica did not pull away but fell behind, and was very fortunate indeed it suited team-tactics for him to win that one race. (Special mention should also go to Nick for over-taking two-cars-at-once three times in 2008, including twice in the British GP.)

Frankly, Nick Heidfeld looked to be struggling against Kobayashi in the five races he deputised at Sauber in 2010. It is also fair to argue that who would not in those circumstances, and Nick did a passable job, although that his races got worse not better did not help the impression (I wonder if testing Pirellis then returning to Bridgestones may have been unhelpful).

Many people including Joe Saward and Fernando Alonso (although I often wonder how much of what the latter says is for effect) see much talent in Vitantonio Liuzzi, and there is a case that at the Red Bull teams and Force India, he has not had the chance to prove his abilities, but since it is possible he may not have shone given better opportunities, he is essentially unproven and not so experienced. It is strongly rumoured that Mr Kubica himself recommended the Italian, but in his hospital-slippers, would he really want to be replaced by the driver that previously outscored him? The better his replacement does, the less soon the team will want him back, and if Kubica can get back in the car to race this season, there will be less pressure on his immediate results if they are just plain glad to get shot of his stand-in. He hated when BMW gave Heidfeld attention at his expense, and signed with Renault expecting the number-one treatment (see this). Robert is a Formula One driver, and will propose the worst replacement that sounds a credible suggestion; obviously suggesting Luca Badoer would have been stretching it!

At 33, Nick is not a young driver, but by no means at an age a driver might not be expected to have several good years left. Recent history has taught us it is tough for any driver coming back after a career gap, which most of last season was, but with everyone having to get used to the new tyres (which have been developed a lot since he tested them last year), it might be more of a level playing field. I think it is highly unfair to dismiss him for not having won in 172 starts as, like Button for many years, he just has not been with the right teams at the right time. Of concern is he is one of those drivers (that are often unfairly overlooked because of it) that does not project attitude. At methodical teams like BMW Sauber or McLaren, that does not matter so much, but looking at how badly it ended when Räikkönen went to Ferrari, where the ability to broadcast enthusiasm, and pester anyone at the factory that will listen with what the driver wants from the car, is an important part of the equation, will quiet Nick be able to inspire Enstone as Robert looked able to? Modesty is an attractive trait, but is bad for a Formula One career. None the less, of the available options, quick Nick has to be the top choice. Judging by the results at BMW Sauber (and points win prizes), either Heidfeld is underrated, or Kubica is overrated.


Reutemann – Mean or Magnificent

December 25, 2010

(I adapted the title, which was originally just, “Reutemann”, after reading the comment left by Ernesto Ruiz.)

Carlos Alberto Reutemann (nicknamed Lole) was one of Formula One’s almost-men, who spent most his ten years in Formula One not quite in the right place at the right time, until 1981 with Williams, when he lost the World Championship by one point at the last round in Las Vegas, perceived by many to have lost his bottle when it came to the crunch. There are some drivers, such as Lauda, Villeneuve or Jones (all team-mates of Lole in their time), that had the charisma and assuredness to get a team behind them, but Reutemann was absolutely not of that ilk, being perhaps far too sensitive, introspective, and doleful for the harsh pressures of F1.

Born the son of a cattle rancher in Argentina in 1942 (April 12th), it was not until 1965 he started his racing in saloons, quickly becoming a top driver in his home country. By 1968, this led to the opportunity to show his talents in Argentine F2 (probably cars that had seen top-line racing in Europe some years earlier), resulting in the Automovil Club Argentino providing Reutemann with the sponsorship to compete in a Brabham BT30 in European F2 in 1970. Carlos spent the year learning, managing a few top-six finishes, doing enough to be given another season’s support. In 1971, he amassed six podiums, including one win, in the eleven Championship rounds, finishing second overall to Ronnie Peterson.

Bernie Ecclestone, who had recently bought the Brabham team, signed Reutemann to drive alongside Graham Hill for 1972. The first round was Carlos’s home Grand Prix at Buenos Aires, at which he became the third driver to get pole for his debut race*. Unfortunately, it being a transition period for Brabham, the only other highlights of the season were one points-finish for fourth in Canada and victory in the non-championship Interlagos GP. For 1973, Gordon Murray had been promoted to Chief designer, Reutemann achieving a couple of podiums and seventh in the ‘Championship. In 1974, Lole won for the first time at Kyalami in South Africa, plus two other victories to finish sixth in the title-chase, and then third the year after, only winning one race but scoring more consistently.

In 1976, the team switched from Ford Cosworths to Alfa Romeo Flat-12s, with a dearth of results, and Reutemann was released from his contract to replace the horribly injured Nikki Lauda at Ferrari (no doubt with a decent chunk of capital moving from Italy to Uncle Bernie’s pocket in return). Unfortunately for Carlos, it was just in time for Nikki to make his miraculous comeback having only missed two races, relegating the Argentine to the sidelines, except for a third-car drive at Monza for ninth.

Clay Regazzoni was shown the door for 1977, and Reutemann kicked off the season finishing third in Argentina, followed by a win in Brazil, but Lauda quickly re-asserted his team-leader position winning his second title whilst Carlos finished fourth in the points. It would have been very difficult for the South American to take on the incumbent driver, especially with Ferrari’s strong policy of the junior driver supporting the senior (although Lauda was actually seven years younger). In 1978, Lauda had left Ferrari, and Reutemann was paired with Gilles Villeneuve. The French-Canadian driver had previously only three GP starts, one for McLaren and two for Ferrari since Lauda had left early following his decision to move on. Carlos won four races (to Villeneuve’s one), but in ’78 there was no stopping the onslaught of the new ground-effects Lotus-Fords, so third was the best that could be salvaged.

In 1979, Reutemann transferred to Lotus, now against established team-leader, Mario Andretti, in a season that saw the team hit the doldrums as others made better use of the ground-effects technology. Neither driver won a race but Carlos scored 25 points (dropping 5) to finish sixth, with the Mario only getting 14 points for 12th in the standings, albeit with reliability favouring the incoming driver.

In 1980, Lole joined Williams, definitely the right team at the right time (usurping Regazzoni to Ensign once more), but yet again up against a driver deeply established with the team, this time Alan Jones. The Australian is surely the only driver they ever had that was more obdurate and opinionated than even Frank Williams amd Patrick Head, and they seemed to love him for it. In 1994, David Coulthard thought he was being asked by Williams why he could not be more like Alain, who had driven for the team the year before, but they meant Alan Jones from more than twelve years earlier (never mind Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna or Nigel Mansell who had all driven for the team since). Following Clay Regazzoni’s debut win for the team at the ’79 British GP, Jones had added four more victories to the team’s tally before the season was out, and carried the momentum through winning five races and the 1980 title over Brabham’s Nelson Piquet, with Reutemann only winning at Monaco, but scoring more regularly to finish third in the title for the third time in six years. (Carlos Reutemann finished in the points (top-six) fifteen consecutive times from Monaco ’80 to Belgium ’81, which back then was a record, in those days it being incredibly rare anyone had a car that finished anything like that many consecutive races. He rather spoilt it by stating Monaco was the easiest circuit to score at, because of the attrition, before retiring there to end the run.)

The off-season was the time of the FISA-FOCA power-struggle over F1, with Bernie and his then cohort Max Mosley wresting control from Jean Marie Balestre. The 1981 South Africa Grand Prix was scheduled for February 7th, a date Balestre refused to accept insisting it be delayed, probably with a large element of face-saving to show he had some power left after his recent defeat, but the race had been heavily promoted in South Africa, and the organisers had a contract with FOCA, so it went ahead as a non-championship Formula Libre race. The continental teams, Ferrari, Renault, Alfa Romeo and Ligier (Matra-engined) had aligned with FISA and stayed away, but all the FOCA Ford Cosworth-powered teams from Britain plus ATS from Germany attended. Sliding skirts were banned for ’81 but being a Libre race, all bought them anyway. Reutemann won over Piquet’s Brabham, but for no points.

The season proper began at Long Beach with Carlos second to team-mate Jones. The following round at Brazil, Reutemann had the lead over Jones and was given team-orders for all the World to see (long before pit-to-car radio) repeatedly shown a pit-board with Jones’s name above his. Carlos ignored it to win the race. Alan was incandescent – the team seemed not so concerned. The decision to favour Alonso over Massa in Germany this season caused huge controversy, even more so the 2002 Austria decision to have Barrichello let Schumacher win in only the fifth of sixteen races, but Williams were asking Reutemann to move over in only the second of fifteen races. It was very interesting to read in a recent edition of Motor Sport what Frank Williams said not that long after to Nigel Roebuck. “Well, it stirred up a lot of controversy at the time, but, quite honestly, I just found the whole thing very boring. As long as the team gets the points, I don’t care who scores them. Why should I care which bloody driver wins? They’re only employees after all.” My interpretation is Jones had a clause in his contract giving him number-one status, so they had to put the team-order out, but if Carlos ignored it, so be it. Never the less, what psychological effect did this have on the sensitive Reutemann to find out the team were prepared to dump on him like that, bearing in mind it was probably the first he knew of any such agenda, as it probably had not been mentioned when he had joined the team?

As the season progressed, Alan Jones did not seem to be quite the force he had been before, whilst Lole was racking up the points, albeit with only one more win, Piquet for Brabham getting stronger results but less often. With two rounds to go (9-6-4-3-2-1 with dropped scores not an issue), Reutemann had 49, Piquet 46, Jones 38 (having picked up after a barren spell mid-season), Alain Prost (Renault) 37, Jaques Laffite (Ligier-Matra) 34. A win in Canada would seal the deal for Lole, but a couple of podiums would probably have sufficed.

For the race at Montreal, the skies opened. Reutemann, on the front row alongside pole-man Piquet, jumped the start, being given a one-minute penalty. In those days, that meant he continued where he was on the track with the commentators having to repeatedly remind viewers that that was not the penalised driver’s actual position, trying to calculate what was. Jones had shot into the lead followed by Piquet, but the Goodyear wets seemed to give in after a few laps. It became a Michelin benefit with Prost taking the lead by lap seven, Laffite, from tenth on the grid, passed the Renault for the lead six laps later, which he kept until the chequered-flag. Prost lost positions and his engine eventually went bang. Piquet scrabbled home in fifth, a lap down behind four Michelin cars, but with two valuable points courtesy of very high attrition. Carlos finished tenth of eleven finishers three laps down, describing the car as, “undrivable”. It might have been easy to have blamed title-pressure but for the fact team-mate Jones tumbled to eighteenth, stopped to change tyres, shortly after that retiring before half-distance complaining about the handling. It can not be avoided that Reutemann botched the start, but in the end that made no difference.

For the season finalé, that put Reutemann on 49, Piquet on 48, and Laffite on 43. Piquet claimed Laffite was the man to beat, which was clearly a case of mind-games in Carlos’s direction. Laffite needed to win with the other two doing badly, so was the outsider. Jones ostentatiously announced he would give his team-mate absolutely no help, but since it came down to a straight head-to-head between the two South Americans, in that if Piquet could finish ahead of Reutemann and in the points Nelson would win the title (just one extra point would give him the win on countback), it was very unlikely indeed Jones could have helped, but the Aussie was still sore about Brazil and needed to say it.

The Las Vegas track, laid out between concrete blocks in the Caesars Palace car-park, in desert temperatures that had people scurrying between air-conditioned building, was a twisty physically demanding track. The cars of the era had fixed skirts, so the only way to keep the ground-effects optimal was to run the cars with virtually no suspension, which made them horrific to drive, and with downforce levels that put the drivers through g-forces not dissimilar to modern cars, with drivers of the period not having the same levels of fitness that they have today. In this period, Nelson Piquet made somewhat of a party trick of passing out dramatically after the more strenuous races. Both the main title protagonists were under scrutiny for signs of succumbing to the pressure, especially Reutemann with his reputation for being moody, apt to fluctuate between brilliance and inferior performance in the past.

In the first qualification session, Reutemann set the pole-time, with Jones joining him on the front row and Piquet third after the second session. Laffite was 12th. It was believed that Carlos’s relationship with the team had been strained since Brazil. This is how his arrival on race-morning is described thus in Grand Prix International¹. “Slowly but purposely he trudged into the paddock under the weight of his famous travelling bag and went towards the motorhome. There in the sunshine, Frank Williams, Patrick Head and Charlie Crighton-Stewart were enjoying the sunshine at a table. From a distance, the Argentine saluted them like a Roman emperor and surveyed the scene. What would he say? And to whom? ‘Hey Charlie, what time is this bloody warm-up?’ Frank and Patrick carried on in deep conversation barely noticing.” (¹Wondrous magazine that came out an agonising ten days after races, but frequently showed the absence of any concept of proof-reading.)

Something seen many times is drivers that seem to lose the plot when it is the last round and there is to be a title to be won or lost, especially if it is a first title, as it would have been for all the contenders. At the start, Alan Jones, supposedly in his last race, shot into the lead where he stayed until the end of the race. Lole made a poor start falling back to seventh, the consolation being Piquet had dropped to eighth. Laffite was up to fifth. The two South Americans had been up for points all season unless they had car-issues, but both that day looked lack-lustre. Piquet overtook Reutemann for seventh on lap 17, with Carlos losing another place the lap after to Andretti’s Alfa Romeo, which had been more than a second slower in qualification. Attrition saw them both make up places, Piquet recovering to third, Reutemann to fifth (Laffite up to second and hunting down Jones but the Frenchman’s tyres were too soft and forced a race-spoiling pit-stop), but both the main contenders started to slide back again, for three laps running fifth and sixth. Piquet hung onto the former whilst by the end Carlos was a lap down in eighth (lapping his team-mate being the icing on the cake for AJ). Nelson Piquet won his first World Championship by a single point. His mechanics lifted him from his car, as he was crowded by journalists and photographers, he duly passed out.

Lole sat in his car in the pitlane disappointment etched into his face. When he did get up in the cockpit, obviously physically shattered, Frank Williams waited to talk to him but Carlos got out the other side, went over to grab his travelling bag, struggled an unconvincing smile for the surrounding photographers and sloped away leaving the team to celebrate Alan Jones’s win.

Reutemann later complained the car was mishandling and of gearbox trouble. Alan also complained of gearbox trouble on the way to his win. Reutemann was in his spare car after coming together with Piquet on Friday morning practice (second day as it was a Saturday race). The spare cars were lighter, including not having adjustable rear anti-roll bars. In the spare, he was half-a-second slower in second qualification when almost everyone else improved their times. Carlos’s car was given springs 400lbs stiffer than those on Jones’s car, which would have made the ride even more excruciatingly painful on a less than smooth circuit, with (all this comes from GPI) an extra-stiff right-rear tyre. Ever since I saw the race on telly to researching this piece, I essentially believed the Argentine bottled it, but now I do not think he did to the same extent. He did botch the starts in Canada and LV, but his spare was obviously slower in the car-park. What puzzles me with the warm-up to check out the car why he ended up using such unhelpful settings. Piquet described passing him as easy, and I would not trust him to be necessarily truthful, but it did look as routine as you like on the TV. I still think Carlos Reutemann let the pressure get to him to some degree but circumstances also conspired against him, and most drivers struggle with their nerves in such circumstances.

In a recent edition of Motor Sport magazine, Nigel Roebuck reported that Reutemann’s performance in that race had come up in conversation earlier this year with Mario Andretti, the following included in what he said.

“The night before the race I remember getting a bit of a work-out with a physio, and the guy had just done Carlos – but he didn’t know who he was. He said to me, ‘Jesus, that guy was so uptight – his back muscles were solid!’ And the next day, he just didn’t drive. Handed the championship over.

“You know, Enzo Ferrari once made a comment to me about Reutemann. He said, ‘He’s a tormented individual’, and he was right actually – Carlos was tormented.”

Alan Jones’s very late retirement announcement left Williams in the lurch as all the top drivers were already placed, so they signed the promising but unproven Keke Rosberg to partner Carlos in 1982. In the first race at the high altitude South African Kylami circuit with its massive straight, the track tailor-made for the turbo-cars, Lole finished an excellent second, there being some suggestion he split the Renaults only because the yellow team thought he was a lap down. In Brazil he was out-qualified by his team-mate, he bumped into a couple of other cars, the second incident ending his race, and retired explaining his heart was not in it. It is rumoured that he fell out with Frank Williams over politics causing the departure, but that was an inevitable piece of speculation that only emerged after Argentina had occupied the Falkland Islands just before the following round at Long Beach; had Reutemann not quit it would surely have been untenable with the resultant military conflict for an Argentine driver to remain with a very British team (but had he hung on for a fortnight he could have left on a point of principle). I do think the events of Las Vegas broke Lole’s heart, and he was not happy at Williams, nor had reason to believe he would be happy with another team. By then, Carlos was nigh on his fortieth birthday. Although as it turned out, Rosberg went on to sneak that year’s title, that early in the season it looked inevitable that a turbo-engine was needed to win the ‘Championship, and quite possibly any of the races. Williams were due to get a blown engine the following season at the earliest, and then probably one that needed developing before later success (maybe), by which time the team would have almost certainly replaced him, with no prospect of his joining another team with title potential. Also, F1 was still in the habit of killing or very badly injuring the occasional driver on which front he had always been lucky. I imagine it hurt to quit having to accept the failure in the title-quest, but Carlos Reutemann left with twelve wins, six poles, 45 podiums, six fastest laps, having driven for Ferrari, Lotus, and Williams, and come within a point of the World Championship.

Reutemann also entered the Rally Argentina in both 1980 and 1985, both rounds of the World Rally Championship, and finished third in both! Even Sébastien Loeb can not say he never finished lower than third. Did Lole chose the wrong discipline? He was the first driver to score points in F1 and WRC, remaining the only driver to have podiums in both.

Bearing in mind that Reutemann never seemed to have the people skills to gather a team around his cause, and came across as a morose character,
it is amazing to learn of his political success in Argentina, with ongoing rumours that he will run for President. If he ever smiled in the years I watched F1, I do not recall it, and although showing teeth in the picture on his Wikipedia page, it looks a very forced smile.

To again quote Frank Williams from Motor Sport, which this time he said some years later, “Carlos needed more psychological support than most drivers. He needed to feel everyone in the team was wearing a Reutemann lapel badge and an Argentine scarf, sort of thing, and we probably didn’t pay enough attention to that at the time.” Maybe that explains why Lole has taken to politics.

(*Obviously, the pole-position by Giuseppe Farina at the first ever round of the F1 World Championship at Silverstone in 1950 was the first on debut. The second driver was Mario Andretti at the 1968 US Grand Prix for Team Lotus. However, he did practise for the 1968 Italian GP before that, unable to race because he had raced elsewhere within twenty-four hours, which was not allowed. He set a qualification time, I am reasonably sure it was when all practice sessions counted towards qualification, which was not good enough for pole, thus he did not qualify for pole at his first attempt, but did start his first race from pole. In 1996, Jacques Villeneuve put his Williams-Renault on pole for his first race in Melbourne, Australia.)

2010 Recap

December 14, 2010

(Hell, I started this weeks ago. First of all, the ‘short’ race summaries took ages each to research and write, and I remember more than once, after working on it on-and-off for days and days, being unbelieving just how many races I still had to cover. Secondly, just as I was ready to start writing the conclusion, my PC died, with all the work so far trapped on the hard-drive. About a week later, it came back from the shop, and died again the same evening, with another week before I could resume. So it is with relief I finally finish and post this.)

There has been a lot of talk about which drivers made the most mistakes in a year when consistency above all else was the key to the title. Often, memories only seem to stretch back to the second half of the season. This entry is to briefly recap the season and analyse the bad races drivers had, to separate bad performances by drivers from problems beyond their control, and work out approximately how good a job they did.

On reflection, I am not sure if readers will want to wade through the overlong recaps for all the races. I suggest you might like to skim over the race-reports to get an idea of how I am analysing the drivers’ successes or failures, and concentrate on reading the conclusion. The stuff above that is a case of showing my workings.

The six drivers I am looking at are those of Red Bull, Ferrari, and McLaren because the evidence is they were all in a position to win the World Championship had they delivered consistently. It is reasonable to point out that the most reliable driver was probably Rosberg, but that perhaps he might have made a mistake or two more had he been under title pressure.


Grid          Race          Points       
Vettel 1st Alonso 1st Alonso 25
Massa 2nd Massa 2nd Massa 18
Alonso 3rd Hamilton 3rd Hamilton 15
Hamilton 4th Vettel 4th Vettel 12
Webber 6th Button 7th Button 6
Button 8th Webber 8th Webber 4

Sebastian took pole and was heading for victory when a spark-plug failed causing him to fall back to fourth. Alonso led the Ferrari 1-2 having taken his team-mate at the first corner. Hamilton salvaged third. Webber messed up sector two in qualifying, lost a position at the start, and lost another place in the pit-stops. Button struggled all weekend with the car.

Vettel was let down by his car but still got twelve points so I will mark that as half-of-a-failure. Button and Webber were both shown what they could have done by their team-mates so minus one each for messing up.

(I will total these at the end, but so far that is one result messed-up each for Jenson and Mark, and half-a-result lost to Sebastian due to reasons beyond his control.)


Grid          Race          Points       
Vettel 1st Button 1st Alonso 37
Webber 2nd Massa 3rd Massa 33
Alonso 3rd Alonso 4th Button 31
Button 4th Hamilton 6th Hamilton 23
Massa 5th Webber 9th Vettel 12
Hamilton 11th Vettel  ret. Webber 6

Sebastian looked good for the victory until a recalcitrant brake-disk spoilt his day (I think it came loose from the axle). The race had started with everyone on inters and there was an early safety-car after a third-corner accident involving Kobayashi, Hülkenberg and Buemi. Button and Alonso had already touched at the first corner, Fernando being spun and rejoining at the back of the field. As the track dried, Jenson changed to slicks in what looked a desperate move (as he was going backwards on inters), sliding off the track in the first sector, but after that quickly setting the pace to take the win, making his slicks last the distance when those that switched later had rear-tyre graining issues. Massa had an indifferent weekend, albeit with a great start from fifth to second, looking unsure in the wet/dry conditions, getting the last podium position as others had problems. Red Bull had been running 1-3 but were late to switch their drivers to slicks when the times Button was setting made the decision obvious. Vettel retained the lead before his later retirement, but Webber, pitted a lap later, dropped to fifth, after which his driving became erratic, making a mistake at the first corner out, getting by Massa, but being mugged by Hamilton, also getting by Alonso after the Spaniard was baulked by a back-marker, but after a second stop to replenish his slicks, managed to tap Hamilton from behind after braking too late, needing to pit for a nose-change. Alonso had charged up the field on inters, tenth after the round of stops onto slicks, and making up more places as others had problems or made stops for new slicks. Hamilton failed to make Q3 after problems with traffic, fuel, and tyres. In the wet/dry conditions he made good progress, even overtaking Button when both on inters, with an excellent move on Rosberg. With his slick tyres struggling, he made a second stop, and after the race was clearly angry with the team as the places lost with the late pit-stop were not made up. (This is supposed to be a brief recap, but hell’s bells it was a complicated race with a lot of squabbling for position between Massa, Webber, Hamilton, and Alonso I did not even mention).

Vettel was the victim of a mechanical problem. Webber should have been bought in sooner for inters with the team having the full information to call that, but still could have finished top three or four if he kept his head, so I am counting that as a race blown by the driver. Neither of the Ferrari drivers had a great weekend, but neither did anything too stupid and gathered decent finishes. For Hamilton it is more difficult to judge to what extent the qualification mess was his or the team’s fault, with a similar situation for the race. His second stop was a misjudged call by the team, but he might have looked after his tyres better or taken the decision himself to stay out, and he made a brilliant recovery drive before that bad call, so I will split the blame for the bad result between the driver and the team (sixth would normally be a half-OK result but with so many others having problems he to some extent inherited that and the opportunity to get a far stronger result was wasted).


Grid          Race          Points       
Webber 1st Vettel 1st Massa 39
Vettel 3rd Webber 2nd Alonso 37
Button 17th Hamilton 6th Vettel 37
Alonso 19th Massa 7th Button 35
Hamilton 20th Button 8th Hamilton 31
Massa 21st Alonso 13th Webber 24

In Q1 it was raining, making the track wetter, but the top-teams did not bother with banker-laps as their clever radar-weather systems said it would get drier, hence two Lotuses and a Virgin made Q2 whilst Alonso, Hamilton, and Massa did not. Button put in 13th fastest-lap in Q1 but ended the session in a gravel-trap. The race was dry. Vettel made a very good start taking the lead from his team-mate at the first corner. Webber pitted a lap later than Vettel (the usual story of the leader being able to get onto the faster fresh rubber sooner without falling behind traffic) and Mark lost more ground with a delay on his front-right at the pit-stop. Of the other four, Button choose to pit early to find clear track, Hamilton and Massa stopped about mid-distance, and Alonso selected to pit late, perhaps waiting for the predicted rain that never came in which case Fernando would have saved a pit-stop. They seemed able to get past some of the slower mid-field cars but all ended up in the second half of the top-ten. The exception was Alonso, who had had a gearbox problem throughout most the race that eventually took toll on his engine, losing him a hard fought ninth-place, but he was classified thirteenth as it was with only two laps to go.

I can not help but feel that the drivers might have said to the teams in Q1 that they were going to go out and do a banker whatever, but it was one of those blink-first situations, and although it did begin to dry eventually, some made it and some did not. Webber went out particularly late but took the successful decision to go with inters. In a way it was dishonours even on this, as RBR were as guilty as McLaren and Ferrari, so all six drivers might have had their races compromised. Difficult call, but I will judge that Lewis, Jenson, and Felipe were half-failed by their teams, with Fernando completely scuppered by circumstances. I will not mark Button down for going off in Q1 because at least he set a decent time when Alonso, Massa, and Hamilton could not.


Grid          Race          Points       
Vettel 1st Button 1st Button 60
Webber 2nd Hamilton 2nd Alonso 49
Alonso 3rd Alonso 4th Hamilton 49
Button 5th Vettel 6th Vettel 45
Hamilton 6th Webber 8th Massa 41
Massa 7th Massa 9th Webber 28

(Incidentally, at this stage, Rosberg was second in the points with 50, and Kubica was seventh ahead of Webber.)

Another complicated wet/dry race. Light rain saw the front-runners on slicks. Alonso shot into the lead, followed by a drive-through for a blatant false start. A first-lap incident bought out the safety-car, and, with the rain getting heavier, Webber, Vettel, Hamilton, Massa, and Alonso, all dived into the pits for inters, only for the rain to lighten again, so after the restart saw them all having to come back in again for slicks, leaving Rosberg leading Button. This left five of the contenders, especially Alonso, forced to mount recovery drives. Not that long later, the proper rain arrived, with everyone switching to wets. Notable pit incidents were Alonso overtaking Massa on the pit-entrance road, and Hamilton released from his box to find himself in a pit-lane drag-race with Vettel, the German driver trying to push Lewis across into unattended wheel-guns. Soon after, Rosberg made a mistake giving Button the opportunity to push by for the lead. Another safety-car came soon, and on the restart, Button slowed down so much the bunching caused Webber to go off, dropping from sixth to twelfth. Hamilton and Alonso made up places soon after the restart whilst Vettel made a mistake at the first corner losing a couple of spots. Lewis was up to third and jumped Rosberg at the final stops, needed as the wet tyres were wearing down. Alonso finished a strong recovery drive in fourth. Vettel made it past the struggling Schumacher but did not look impressive in the conditions. Webber recovered to eighth. Massa rolled home in ninth.

When Button stayed out on slicks with the rain coming down, it did look like a bizarre decision, so the others stopping for inters was more than understandable. Hamilton drove very well to finish second. Alonso pulled off a semi-miracle to finish fourth, but without the jump-start should have finished top-two, so half-a-mark off for that mistake as he half-ruined his result. Also half-a-mark against Vettel for not coping that well with the conditions, and a full mark against Massa for worse. Mark Webber did a decent enough job, jumping his team-mate at the start, recovering well to sixth at the second restart, and from twelfth to ninth subsequently; not a brilliant performance but he was unlucky with how he was forced off, with Button perhaps lucky to avoid censure for slowing down too much, so I will put his bad result down to circumstances.


Grid          Race          Points       
Webber 1st Webber 1st Button 70
Vettel 2nd Alonso 2nd Alonso 67
Hamilton 3rd Vettel 3rd Vettel 60
Alonso 4th Button 5th Webber 53
Button 5th Massa 6th Hamilton 49
Massa 9th Hamilton 14th Massa 49

The start saw the front-runners remain in the same order, spare Massa who made up places when contact between Kubica and Kobayashi saw both fall back. Vettel had a slow pit-stop losing second to Hamilton. Button also had a difficult pit-stop, coming out just in front of Schumacher, Michael promptly and robustly pushing his way past to stay ahead for the rest of the race. Massa damaged his front-wing lapping Chandhok’s HRT, but since this seemed to improve the handling of the Brazilian’s Ferrari, he did not pit. With about twelve laps to go, Vettel took a trip across the gravel with a front-brake failing, pitted for new tyres, and having lost a place to Alonso limped the car home. On the penultimate lap, Lewis had a left-front puncture, his race ending against a wall.

Vettel lost a place and three points so that only counts as slightly bad luck I will not mark. Hamilton lost a strong result through no fault of his own. Button might have qualified better, was unlucky to have a pit-lane delay, but let Schumacher bully him, and I will half-mark him down for a weak weekend. Massa qualified badly, drove unconvincingly, and got lucky, so a mark against for just not being good enough.


Grid          Race          Points       
Webber 1st Webber 1st Webber 78
Vettel 3rd Vettel 2nd Vettel 78
Massa 4th Massa 4th Alonso 75
Hamilton 5th Hamilton 5th Button 70
Button 8th Alonso 8th Massa 61
Alonso 24th Button  Ret. Hamilton 59

Fernando Alonso crashed in Third Practice, and such was the damage that the spare chassis had to be utilised, relegating the Spaniard to missing qualification and starting the race from the pit-lane. At the start, Vettel managed to squeeze past Kubica for second. A bung was accidentally left in the air-intake on Jenson Button’s car resulting in him retiring a couple of laps in with an overheated engine. The safety-car was already out due to Hülkenberg crashing on lap one after a front-wing failure. Alonso grasped this opportunity to make his switch to the prime tyres, which dictated the other top contenders pitting for their tyre-stops earlier in the race than might have been expected to avoid falling behind Fernando (Rosberg tried staying out but the gamble did not work). After all the pit-stops, the top-five, Webber-Vettel-Kubica-Massa-Hamilton, remained constant despite three more safety-car periods, for Barrichello’s crash, for checking for the loose manhole cover that caused Barrichello’s crash, and for the Trulli/Chandhok collision. The pace-car pulled in for the last time at the end of the last lap, with Schumacher hustling past Alonso for sixth at the last final corner, only for Alonso to get the place back when the Mercedes driver was penalised for this move.

Button did not qualify well but was denied any chance of a good result by a team mistake. Hamilton did not have a great weekend but did OK. For Alonso, it is more difficult. Practice crashes sometimes happen to the best at Monaco and he was unlucky that the consequences were so severe. He drove a strong race to make the most of his strategy, but was reasonably fortunate there was such an early safety-car and benefited from fairly high attrition. I will half-mark him down for ruining his own weekend as the crash was a mistake.


Grid          Race          Points       
Webber 1st Hamilton 1st Webber 93
Hamilton 2nd Button 2nd Button 88
Vettel 3rd Webber 3rd Hamilton 84
Button 4th Massa 7th Alonso 79
Massa 8th Alonso 8th Vettel 78
Alonso 12th Vettel  Ret. Massa 67

Ferrari struggled for pace at Istanbul Park but Alonso failing to reach Q3 was a surprise. At the start, Vettel got past Hamilton, and Button lost a place to Schumacher, but both McLaren drivers took the places back by the end of lap one. The four cars in front pulled away with Schumacher building up a queue of eight cars behind him. Vettel pitted on lap eighteen gaining track position after Hamilton’s stop was a touch tardy. Webber’s stop surrendered the lead briefly to Button, with Jenson back to fourth after taking on new rubber. Massa was eighth and Alonso tenth after all the stops. It all kicked off on lap 40 of 58. Webber had been told to conserve fuel whilst Vettel had a lap or two left to push. Sebastian threw his car inside of Mark’s at turn twelve, the Australian leaving the barest space. Vettel had not cleared his team-mate when he abruptly twitched to the right, probably in an instinctive move to get some width for taking the corner, and the resultant contact saw both Red Bulls onto the run-off, with the German retiring, and Webber needing to pit for repairs to fall to third-place. Soon after, very light rain arrived but not enough for tyre changes. Hamilton, then leading Button, radioed to check he was safe from his team-mate to be told it was OK by his engineer, who had not checked, so with nine laps to go it came as an unwelcome surprise when Button slipped by for the lead at turn twelve. Hamilton quickly pushed his way back past to go on to take the victory, but there was quite an atmosphere after the race before the podium guff. Massa moved up to seventh after Vettel’s departure. Alonso had had an erratic race. An early stop moved him up to tenth, stuck in the traffic-jam behind Schumacher. An early failed attempt to pass Kobayashi on the outside of turn three looked clumsy, and the similar move late in the race on Petrov at the same corner to get ninth resulted in contact that put the Russian out the race. Vitaly conceded he had understeered into the Ferrari but had been left little room by a risky move. Alonso looked in the race to be trying too hard from frustration.

I have no hesitation in putting the blame for the RBR crash on Vettel, with half a good result lost to Webber (he still scored 15 points as opposed to 25) for no fault of his own. Alonso messed up qualification and drove a messy race, so blew any chance of a decent result. Massa was hampered by the Ferrari just being off the pace, difficult to know how much the poor result was his fault or not, so I will split the blame 50:50 between the team and the driver.


Grid          Race          Points       
Hamilton 1st Hamilton 1st Hamilton 109
Vettel 2nd Button 2nd Button 106
Alonso 3rd Alonso 3rd Webber 103
Button 4th Vettel 4th Alonso 94
Massa 6th Webber 5th Vettel 90
Webber 7th Massa 15th Massa 67

(At this time, Massa was eighth in points behind Rosberg and Kubica.)

The Gilles Villeneuve track had been resurfaced and tyre-degradation was a huge issue. Hamilton pipped the Red Bulls to pole, not without controversy as he had to stop on his in-lap to leave enough petrol in the tank for the fuel-sample to be tested, but the driver and team escaped with a fine. The RBR drivers had qualified second and third but were believed to have the advantage having done so on the prime tyres. Mark Webber initially qualified second but was relegated five places after needing a new gearbox. At the start, the Hamilton-Vettel-Alonso-Button order held. Massa and Liuzzi (qualified his Force India sixth) hit each other three times in the opening corners enabling Webber to make up ground. Sure enough, the option-tyre runners had to come in early, but it was not that long after that those that had started on primes found their tyres giving up the ghost. Red Bull put Webber on primes, thus his last stint would be on the options, and Vettel on the softer tyres. Sebastian slid backwards with gearbox issues. Mark ran a longer second stint than the other leaders but could not build up a big enough margin before his tyres faded, so came back out after his final stop in fifth behind Vettel. Hamilton led to the flag with Button getting by Fernando in the latter part of the race for second. Massa seemed to spend much of the race skirmishing with the Force Indias, eventually having to change his nose after receiving a Schumacher chop, compounding his bad day (finishing a lap down) with a post-race penalty for speeding in the pit-lane.

Both RBR drivers had their weekends spoilt by the wrong decision to qualify-and-start on prime tyres and by gearbox issues. The tyre mistake was understandable as before the race it seemed all thought it the right call. At least both were able to finish top-five, but probably with the cars, transmission issues aside, should have been able to finish top-two. They both ended up with about half the points they should have got so half-a-mark each for factors beyond the drivers’ control. Massa had an unlucky race in some ways in which he pulled off an excellent move on Sutil, but had he qualified higher would have avoided the start-trouble that pushed him down the order, and, whilst by that point immaterial, can not blame anyone else for his speeding violation; mark against. Alonso did not have a shining race, leading the McLarens after the first stops, but failing to navigate traffic effectively, and later letting Button get by. However, there may have been mitigating factors, perhaps carrying his car and struggling with his tyres, plus he finished on the podium which this season was a good result.


Grid          Race          Points       
Vettel 1st Vettel 1st Hamilton 127
Webber 2nd Hamilton 2nd Button 121
Hamilton 3rd Button 3rd Vettel 115
Alonso 4th Alonso 8th Webber 103
Massa 5th Massa 11th Alonso 98
Button 7th Webber  Ret. Massa 67

Hamilton took a punt at Vettel at the first corner, there being minor contact as Sebastian successfully defended the position, and slight damage to Lewis’s car, although not enough to need to pit. Webber, starting on the dirty side of the grid, not only lost out to Hamilton, but let both Ferrari’s by as the order settled, and was down to ninth by the end of the first lap. He took an early pit-stop, in which there was a delay on his front-left, so his day was pretty much a write-off when on lap nine he drove into the back of Kovalainen as the Lotus was braked for the corner, launching the Red Bull in to the air, with an early bath for both drivers. The subsequent safety-car provided more than its share of controversy as events unfolded. Hamilton, in front of Alonso, came past the pit-exit as the pace-car was coming out, with the rule that if he passed the following safety-car line before the safety-car he could continue ahead, but if not he had to fall behind the pace-car. His mistake was hesitating on the throttle momentarily, when otherwise he would have reached the line first, then he accelerated only to be beaten marginally by the course-car to the line, but forged ahead as Alonso fell behind the safety-car, thus having a strong advantage in being able to get around to the pits for his stop much sooner than Fernando. At the time, the stewards noticed nothing amiss. Alonso and Massa were both compromised by a delayed lap before their stops, whilst those behind, such as Button, were approaching the pits as the SC was called so could go straight in. Alonso complained over the radio about Lewis’s misdeed, but it took the stewards twenty minutes to act, and with Kobayashi in third, having elected not to pit, holding up those behind him, the McLaren driver was able to take the drive-through without losing second. The Spaniard was furious, and to add insult to injury, was far enough back, with gaps in the field having opened, that when Kamui did very late in the race change to options, the Japanese rookie came out behind Alonso and overtook him. Quite a few drivers were given post-race five-second penalties for driving too fast to the pits after the safety-car was deployed, including Button, who retained third-place (which he gained when Kobayashi pitted), and Buemi, whose penalty promoted Alonso one spot to ninth.

Mark Webber took blame for his accident, and should be applauded for promptly embracing the fault as it would have been understandable to have taken a while longer. Lewis Hamilton made a very marginal error over the safety-line but was fortunate to effectively get away with it. Jenson Button was very lucky to end up third with cars in front forced to do a paced lap before also pitting. Fernando Alonso did have his race well and truly spoilt by the timing of the safety-car, and whilst Valencia has been designed by Tilke to obviously dissuade overtaking, I am not the only one that thinks the sulky Spaniard might actually have made up a place or two if he had focused on driving instead of fuming in his car and complaining to his team about that pesky Hamilton getting away with it. Things like this make me question those that describe Alonso as the most complete driver in F1, but I will put it down to circumstances beyond his control. Ditto for Massa, who was worse effected for having to queue behind his team-mate for his tyre-change.

Great Britain

Grid          Race          Points       
Vettel 1st Webber 1st Hamilton 145
Webber 2nd Hamilton 2nd Button 133
Alonso 3rd Button 4th Webber 128
Hamilton 4th Vettel 7th Vettel 121
Massa 7th Alonso 14th Alonso 98
Button 14th Massa 15th Massa 67

I seem to recall some controversy about a Red Bull front-wing at Silverstone but the details escape me. Button struggled to get a handle on his car and only qualified fourteenth. Vettel showed his consummate charm by trying to ease his team-mate into the pit-wall at the start, but Webber did not flinch and took the lead. Sebastian then fell into the clutches of Hamilton, and contact between them saw the German run wide, and again not much later in the lap having suffered a puncture. Massa also dropped down the field having to pit because of a puncture from contact on the first lap with Alonso, the Spaniard having muffed his start. Button had a good start and was making up places. Alonso attempted to pass Kubica, initially around the outside of the left-turning entrance to Vale, but went wide onto the grass, coming back onto the track in front of the Pole after the right-turning exit. Despite overtaking by taking a shortcut, Alonso obdurately refused to give the place back, despite advice to do so from race-control, and was penalised with a drive-through (some did argue Kubica pushed Alonso wide, and it was two minutes before race-control advised giving the place back, by which time Fernando had also passed Alguersuari). Unfortunately, the safety-car was called out for debris which bunched the field (and stops were made), so when Fernando took his penalty very soon after, it dropped him to the back of the field. Vettel had been close to a lap down but the bunching gave him the opportunity to climb the field, including one or two questionable moves, salvaging seventh.

However bitter the pill, Alonso should have fallen back behind Jaime and Robert when it was clear the decision was going against him, and would not have been in the mess he was if he had not had a lousy start. Vettel would probably have been more wise to concentrate on his own start than trying to intimidate Webber, but getting a puncture from minor contact was unlucky. I am inclined on balance to blame him for messing up the result, seeming to succumb to pressure in the opening seconds of the race. For the second race in a row, Button was fortunate to finish so high up due to the tribulations of others. Hamilton showed what the car could do but Jenson lost the plot over set up resulting in terrible qualification, but since he finished fourth after a strong race, I will judge him to have blown half-a-result (partly because it was his second weak-but-lucky race in a row). Felipe did not excel in qualification, was unlucky to get the puncture (but would have been ahead of that trouble with a better grid position) and did nothing to impress in terms of a recovery drive finishing even behind Alonso, so I will split the blame between the driver and circumstances.


Grid          Race          Points       
Vettel 1st Alonso 1st Hamilton 157
Alonso 2nd Massa 2nd Button 143
Massa 3rd Vettel 3rd Webber 136
Webber 4th Hamilton 4th Vettel 136
Button 5th Button 5th Alonso 123
Hamilton 6th Webber 6th Massa 85

The Ferrari’s found their pace in Germany. Vettel scraped into pole position by two-thousandths, with Webber not able to solve an understeer issue all weekend behind the scarlet cars in fourth. Vettel made another indifferent start, and in trying to squeeze Alonso into the pit-wall left the way free for Massa to sweep by him on the outside. Webber lost fourth-place to Hamilton on the first lap with Button back in sixth. The pit-stops started very early, with RBR bringing Webber for reasons that remain a mystery to this day, as he predictably was caught amongst slower cars, and Vettel in to find some clear track to attempt to make up ground on the Ferraris. McLaren tried the same trick with Hamilton but dropped him behind traffic. Ferrari pulled both their cars in on successive laps to respond successfully to Sebastian’s move. Button stayed out longer in the lead, able to clear Webber when he did stop. About two-thirds through the race, Alonso caught and passed Massa for the win. There was some mention of team-orders but I am hazy about the details.

All the drivers put in a reasonable to good weekend. Vettel again made a bit of a mess of the first few seconds of the race but still finished third. Webber was off the pace but was screwed over by the team’s call on strategy. He should have been up there fighting for pole and a strong result, as Vettel should have been closer to competing for a top-two position. Eight points were a rubbishy result, but even without the bad call it looked only likely Mark would manage fifth with his lack of pace, so I will demerit Webber half-a-mark. The McLarens were let down by lack of pace with the difficulties to get the blown diffusers working properly. I am almost inclined to give a half-mark against Button for wasting the opportunity with a poor start to beat his team-mate, but I will not, as with all six of the considered contenders finishing top-six for once, fourth or fifth was not so bad.


Grid          Race          Points       
Vettel 1st Webber 1st Webber 161
Webber 2nd Alonso 2nd Hamilton 157
Alonso 3rd Vettel 3rd Vettel 151
Massa 4th Massa 4th Button 147
Hamilton 5th Button 8th Alonso 141
Button 11th Hamilton  Ret. Massa 97

(Massa did enough in this race to take sixth-place in the standings over the non-finishing Rosberg and Kubica.)

Hungary was expected to be an RBR benefit, with McLaren’s F-duct to be of limited help, as was reflected in qualification, with Button off the pace in eleventh. Alonso took second off Webber at the start. Hamilton lost a place to Petrov, but regained fifth on lap two around the outside of turn three, with the Russian showing generosity in leaving the space. Button made a strong start but was baulked at turn one dropping to fifteenth. Liuzzi lost his front-wing on lap fifteen, prompting a safety-car to recover it from the track. Button was approaching the pit-lane enabling an advantageous stop. Vettel only just heeded the call to come in, with the top-runners following, with the exception of Webber. With RBR’s history of strategy-calls, this looked bad but for a change it was the right decision. Hamilton jumped past Massa in the stops, so it was Webber-Vettel-Alonso-Hamilton-Massa. With the safety-car due to come in, Vettel allowed a long gap to develop behind his team-mate of considerably more than the maximum ten car-lengths, having not noticed the safety-car lights changing, and blaming radio problems for not being aware of the situation from the team. Subsequently, he received a drive-through dropping him behind Alonso, remaining stuck behind the Ferrari for the rest of the race. Hamilton was heading for fourth when his gearbox failed. Mark strode into the distance, able on lap forty-two of seventy to pit and return to the track five seconds ahead of Alonso.

Half-a-mark against Vettel for such a dozy mistake. It was difficult to see any reason why he should have fallen so far back even if the safety-car had not been coming in that lap, and he is paid enough to know the rules and keep his eyes open. A mark against Button for ruining his weekend in qualification. A mark against circumstances beyond his control for Hamilton.


Grid          Race          Points       
Webber 1st Hamilton 1st Hamilton 182
Hamilton 2nd Webber 2nd Webber 179
Vettel 4th Massa 4th Vettel 151
Button 5th Vettel 15th Button 147
Massa 6th Alonso  Ret. Alonso 141
Alonso 10th Button  Ret. Massa 109

Q1 was wet, Q2 the track was drying, and Q3 saw rain towards the end disrupting the final runs, especially catching out Alonso. Kubica inserted his Renault third on the grid. At the start, Webber’s anti-stall kicked in, dropping him to sixth. Hamilton led Kubica, with the Polish driver quickly falling prey to Button, and then Vettel. The Bus Stop chicane at the end of the opening lap turned into a comedy of errors as almost every driver underestimated the dampness of the track on their slicks to end up touring the run-off. Alonso took the corner better than most, being whacked by an out-of-control Barrichello for his pains. Rubens retired but Alonso was able to continue, pitting for wet tyres in anticipation of heavier rain. However the spots of rain around the circuit in the early laps remained just that, with those chosing precautionary stops for wet or intermediate tyres having to stop again for slicks, which notably threw Fernando down the order. On lap eight approaching the Bus Stop, Vettel was close to Button, seeming to go for a gap and then changing his mind, resulting in throwing his car out of control and spinning around into the McLaren’s sidepod. Jenson was out. Vettel had to stop for repairs and a drive-through penalty for the incident augmented the damage. After the safety-car, Hamilton pulled away, and behind Kubica and Webber, Massa battled with Sutil. Vettel was making some headway through the field, but contact with Liuzzi resulted in a puncture for the Red Bull necessitating another extra stop after a lap limping back to the pits. The leaders pitted late in the hope of waiting for the predicted rain, but had to come in sooner. Eventually, the rain came late in the race, initially around the back of the circuit. Lewis had an off at Rivage but scrabbled back onto the track with his lead intact. Fernando spun soon after Les Combes smashing his Ferrari against a wall and back onto the circuit, causing another safety-car. Cue the remaining runners switching to inters. Robert overshot his box, handing second to Mark. Massa finished fourth ahead of Sutil.

Perhaps the team had a hand in the decision, and maybe it was a gamble in response to being hit by Barrichello, but Alonso chose to come in for wet tyres early in the race when conditions simply did not justify it; we all remember Räikkönen changing to wet tyres on a bone dry track at Malaysia last season because the Ferrari radar-system said the skies were going to open. Alonso’s race was shot by the time he stuffed his car, but it was a clear mistake. A mark has to go against Fernando for an undeserving drive. Vettel hitting Button means a mark against Sebastian and a result lost for Jenson due to circumstances beyond his control.


Grid          Race          Points       
Alonso 1st Alonso 1st Webber 187
Button 2nd Button 2nd Hamilton 182
Massa 3rd Massa 3rd Alonso 166
Webber 4th Vettel 4th Button 165
Hamilton 5th Webber 6th Vettel 163
Vettel 6th Hamilton  Ret. Massa 124

Monza was the venue that RBR feared, it being a power-circuit with only about six corners. It might have been thought that this would play to McLaren’s F-duct strengths, but such was the low-downforce configuration required for the circuit that the Woking team were indecisive, even after all the practices, whether to run the higher downforce F-duct wing or a very skinny back-wing sans F-duct. For qualification, Button chose the former, Hamilton the latter. Thus Button split the Ferrari’s in qualification, whilst Hamilton’s time put him between the Red Bulls he should have been ahead of at a circuit that was on paper his prime remaining chance to score some good points over them. At the start, Jenson, with the benefit of higher downforce to aid initial traction, took the lead, with Alonso having to fend off Massa in the first chicane. Lewis was reported to have been livid after qualification that he had made the wrong back-wing call, off the line went past Webber (who had a poor start falling back to ninth), and into the second chicane put his nose-and-front-wheels inside Massa, with the result that Felipe’s left-rear caught Hamilton’s right-front snapping the McLaren’s suspension, ending the Brit’s race. Vettel also had a poor start falling to seventh behind Hülkenberg. Webber pulled a move on Schumacher on lap six to gain eighth, and then on lap 20 cruised past his team-mate, Vettel, when Sebastian reported a problem with his engine that cleared up very soon afterwards (the team explained later the issue had been a sticking brake but it was certainly convenient to have Webber pass with the two drivers on divergent strategies). Button held onto his lead under a lot of pressure from Alonso until the stops, the McLaren pitting a lap before the Ferrari and Fernando capturing the lead. There was much talk that McLaren should have waited for Alonso to blink first, the usual advantage of pitting sooner being lost because it took too long to fully warm up the prime tyres, but Alonso was just plain faster and surely would have taken the win anyway. Massa held onto third. Vettel stayed out on the options until the end of the penultimate lap, taking fourth without overtaking anyone on the track. Webber pitted at more conventional distance. He worked his way past Kubica but got stuck behind Hülkenberg, the Williams driver three times cutting the first chicane as well as indulging in some questionable weaving. Eventually, Mark got by, but too late to challenge Rosberg’s fifth-place.

Hamilton thrills with his opportunistic overtaking, but seemed to take his post-qualifying anger into the race, pushing half-heartedly into a gap that was never going to pay and suffering the consequences. I think he was unlucky but it was an error in judgement and he would have been wiser to have been more composed with a third or fourth place giving fifteen or twelve valuble points, so a mark against. Vettel had a weak start but fourth was respectable and about the best he could get. Mark had another useless first lap, was wronged by Hülkenberg, but should not have ever been behind him. He probably would not have finished that much higher anyway and in many ways it was a strong recovery drive, so half-a-point against.


Grid          Race          Points       
Alonso 1st Alonso 1st Webber 202
Vettel 2nd Vettel 2nd Alonso 191
Hamilton 3rd Webber 3rd Hamilton 182
Button 4th Button 4th Vettel 181
Webber 5th Massa 8th Button 177
Massa 24th Hamilton  Ret. Massa 128

Massa broke down without setting a time in Q1. Alonso held off Vettel at the start. Many of the cars behind the leaders pitted when there was an early safety-car, not helping Massa’s cause as he had tactically pitted at the end of the first lap. Of the contenders, Webber pitted first, falling back behind cars that had already pitted, having to do a lot of work passing the likes of Kobayashi and Schumacher to keep in touch. Vettel pitted as Alonso did, in order to cover the McLarens, harrying Fernando throughout the race to no avail. The McLarens both pitted somewhat later to come out behind Webber. After another safety-car bunched the field, Hamilton attacked Webber after the restart, almost getting around the outside of the Australian at turn seven, but just clipping his left-rear against the Red Bull’s front-right, the damage putting the McLaren out whilst Mark’s car continued to the end despite wheel damage that left the Bridgestone technicians amazed the tyre had survived.

Massa had his Singapore campaign ruined by events beyond his control. Sebastian struggled somewhat in the last gasp of qualification, with Webber’s fifth-place substandard. It might be argued that there was no reason the Australian could not have got pole and won the race so third was not a wondrous result, and that aided by the McLarens pitting too late. It was a remarkable recovery drive but again Webber ended up behind drivers he should never have been racing. He did not put in a ‘Championship-standard weekend but just did well enough to avoid half-a-mark against. I felt sorry for Hamilton, who probably needed to take his chances, was so close to a superb pass on Webber, and was unfortunate to come off worst. I will only call it half-a-mistake, with bad luck and bad team-strategy contributing half-a-mark for stuff beyond his control.


Grid          Race          Points       
Vettel 1st Vettel 1st Webber 220
Webber 2nd Webber 2nd Alonso 206
Alonso 4th Alonso 3rd Vettel 206
Button 5th Button 4th Hamilton 192
Hamilton 8th Hamilton 5th Button 189
Massa 12th Massa  Ret. Massa 128

Lewis qualified third but was penalised five places for an earlier gearbox-change. Button qualified on the harder primes. Webber lost a place to Kubica at the start. There was an early SC after some first-corner trouble, with Massa making a slow getaway before going for a gap at the first corner inside Sutil and Rosberg that was always going to close on him, resulting in a trip over the grass, hitting Liuzzi, and falling down the order (he went out on lap seven after an accident I do not remember). One of Kubica’s wheels fell off behind the safety-car, and at the restart it was Vettel-Webber-Alonso-Button-Hamilton. The Red Bulls ran away with it, Mark unable to challenge Sebastian. Alonso looked vulnerable to the McLaren’s, but Button was left out too long on the primes falling to fifth when he pitted from the lead, and Hamilton fell back, letting his team-mate through, when he lost third gear.

Massa messed up his middle sector on his last flying lap in Q2, made a bad start, and went for a stupid gap at the first turn, so a mark against. Button was left out too long probably in the hope of gaining enough ground to leapfrog a Red Bull or two, but that clearly was not going to happen as they had pitted and were on newer primes, so he just ended up compromised against Alonso and Hamilton. With a different approach, he might have taken third, or might not, so no marks against. Hamilton salvaged fifth, but without the issues with his gearboxes might have made third, or even second with Webber’s lax start, so half-a-mark to events beyond his control.


Grid          Race          Points       
Vettel 1st Alonso 1st Alonso 231
Webber 2nd Hamilton 2nd Webber 220
Alonso 3rd Massa 3rd Hamilton 210
Hamilton 4th Button 12th Vettel 206
Massa 6th Vettel  Ret. Button 189
Button 7th Webber  Ret. Massa 143

After all the faff involving a delay then seventeen paced laps, the race started on a wet track. Hamilton lost a place to Rosberg at the first turn. Webber’s crash at turn twelve took out Rosberg and triggered the next safety-car period. The front-runners stayed out on their wets with Vettel leading Alonso, Hamilton, and (I think) Massa. Button soon found himself struggling for pace, Schumacher overtaking him, and the Brit decided to try his luck on inters, unfortunately falling back into the midfield pack where he made little impression, later being forced off by the errant Sutil to lose more places. After Buemi crashing against Glock caused another SC-period, the leaders pitted for their inters with Hamilton jumping Fernando as the scarlet car was delayed by a sticky wheel-nut. At the restart, Lewis went wide at turn one, Fernando regaining second. With less than ten laps to go, Vettel’s engine gave way, giving Alonso the win ahead of Hamilton and Massa.

Vettel lost the win due to no fault of his own. Webber was responsible for his own downfall. Button just seemed off the pace in qualification and the race. Hamilton was struggling but still gleaned second-place, so a mark against Jenson.


Grid          Race          Points       
Vettel 2nd Vettel 1st Alonso 246
Webber 3rd Webber 2nd Webber 238
Hamilton 4th Alonso 3rd Vettel 231
Alonso 5th Hamilton 4th Hamilton 222
Massa 9th Button 5th Button 199
Button 11th Massa 15th Massa 143

The track dried across qualification. In Q2, Button and Massa battled for the last place to advance, with the Brit losing out. By Q3, the track was dry enough to risk slicks and Hülkenberg set the two fastest laps by some considerable margin. It was dry on race-day. Vettel dispatched the Williams at turn one, with Webber just holding onto third from Hamilton. Webber got by the Hulk later in the lap, and Alonso pressured Hamilton into a slight mistake to squeeze by for fourth. Alonso did not get by Hülkenberg until lap seven, and Hamilton, complaining about lack of grip and discovering the McLaren F-duct advantage in a straight line had expired, was stuck until the Williams pitted. Button had already pitted from tenth, as had Massa, the Brazilian coming back in a lap later with a right-front problem. Button made in to tenth past Petrov. Hamilton pitted at less than a third distance coming back out just ahead of Button. Alonso pitted on lap 21 able to maintain third ahead of Rosberg. Vettel pitted, regaining the lead a lap later as Webber stopped and came back out in second. Both McLarens got by Kobayashi, and were in fourth and fifth by the time everyone had pitted. With twenty to go, Liuzzi crashed out of the esses necessitating a safety-car. McLaren pulled in both cars for new tyres, retaining fourth and fifth. The Vettel-Webber-Alonso-Hamilton-Button order was maintained to the end with lapped cars all over the place preventing any late battles for top positions. Red Bull decided not to impose team-orders as Sebastian Vettel was already ahead.

Button did well to recover to fifth, but again had to launch a recovery drive because of qualifying badly. However, he looked to be holding station behind Lewis, with fourth and fifth about the best the cars could provide. Massa was compromised by the extra stop, but did not look that fast in qualification or the race. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and put it down to circumstances.

Abu Dhabi

Grid          Race          Points       
Vettel 1st Vettel 1st Vettel 256
Hamilton 2nd Hamilton 2nd Alonso 252
Alonso 3rd Button 3rd Webber 242
Button 4th Alonso 7th Hamilton 240
Webber 5th Webber 8th Button 214
Massa 6th Massa 10th Massa 144

Button jumped Alonso for third at the start. Schumacher’s first-lap spin, being mounted by Liuzzi’s car, had the safety-car in early employment. Webber scraped the wall with his right-rear on lap eight, pitting three laps later as his handling went off (I am not sure if the two were connected). He rejoined in 16th behind three cars that had already got their pit-stops out the way during the SC-period. Massa had inherited fifth with Webber’s stop, three laps latter being called in by Ferrari, presumably to hold up the Australian, but the ploy failed with the Brazilian coming out just behind the Red Bull, Mark promptly passing Alguersuari, leaving Felipe stuck behind the STR. The next lap, Ferrari pitted Fernando to cover the Australian, Alonso coming out in front of Webber, the Australian having climbed to thirteenth setting some very fast laps. Alonso and Webber soon caught Petrov, and spent the rest of the race stuck behind him. Vettel and Hamilton pitted a lap apart, the lead going to Button who had qualified on the harder prime tyres, Vettel in second, and Hamilton fifth behind Kubica and Kobayashi, with both, like Jenson, also on the primes and to run longer. By the time these three did pit, Hamilton had moved up to second with Button third.

It saddens me to type this, but Webber lost his bottle, qualified poorly, looked out of sorts in the race, and just could not deliver when it mattered most. He recounted how he was told in Q3 what time he needed to beat Vettel, and thought to himself that he could not do it. Unfortunately, that mental defeat left him fifth when second would have given him a shot at the title. A mark against. Ferrari’s strategy was calamitous all round. First they waited too long to decide to try pitting Massa to block Webber, which if done a tad earlier might have worked, and only succeeded in destroying Massa’s race. That seemed to inspire blind panic in immediately bringing in Alonso to keep him ahead of Webber, as the Australian’s fast pace was very close to bringing him to less than a pit-stop behind Alonso. Team-strategists up-and-down the pit-lane were staggered by the decision, some thinking it had to be a technical issue. The Australian was inevitably going to hit traffic, the freshness of his tyres would not last, and with Vettel looking good for the win, Alonso needed fourth, which was achievable if he had stayed out. In such a situation, the driver can not be expected to work out the permutations, so the blame has to be apportioned to the team, therefore was beyond Alonso’s control. Obviously, Massa was also a victim of events beyond his control.

(We all know that not a single race this season was won by the driver leading the ‘Championship before the victory. It was not until Canada that a driver previously top-three in points won a race (Hamilton). Only two races were won by a driver that had been second in the points, Hamilton in Belgium, and Alonso in Korea.)


Below is a table showing how many results for each driver were spoilt by their own errors, and how many by other issues that were beyond their control. Although included in the ‘Other Issue’ numbers, I have also put in a column counting how many of them were reliability problems. The efficiency-figures are calculated by working out how many good results were available to the drivers and for what percentage of them they delivered a good result. For example, Vettel lost three good results to other issues, which with nineteen races left sixteen opportunities, but I have him down for four errors, thus he delivered twelve-times-out-of-sixteen, which comes out as 75%.

Hamilton 2½ 4½ (2)½ 87%
Button 4½ 2½ (1)½ 76%
Vettel 4½ 3½ (2½) 75%
Alonso 4½ 3½ (1)½ 71%
Massa 4½ 5½ (1)½ 68%
Webber 6½ 1½ (0)½ 67%

Lewis Hamilton had an almost unblemished season until Monza, driving a car that was out-paced by the Red Bulls, also sometimes by the Ferrari(s), but banging in solid results race-after-race if the car held together. He was out-smarted by Jenson in a couple of the earlier wet/dry races, but then so was everyone else. He seemed to realise after the first-lap exit at Monza the game was up, and with hindsight it was where the title was lost with one brief moment of over-aggressive driving. He stated that from then on he had to attack, before taking a risk too many to hustle past Webber in Singapore. Had it not been for that moment of red-mist in Italy, and he had collected the points for third or fourth, Lewis would have been in the ‘Championship lead. The question is whether he would have still tried that same move on Mark in the following race? My belief is he would not have taken such a risk, would still have been in a points-collecting mentality, so without the mistake in Italy would have taken top-four finishes in both races, instead of two DNFs, which, since he eventually only lost the title by 16 points and with two fourth-places totaling 24, would likely have won the World Championship. I have written before that of all the years Hamilton has been in F1, his worst year for mistakes was 2008 when he won the title. He drove superbly in 2010, but McLaren just were not fast enough. (Some may disagree with my judgement of only half-blaming Lewis for the Singapore exit, but had I fully blamed him for the lost result, he still would have had an efficiency of 81%.)

Jenson Button drove a strong season, not quite with Hamilton’s reliability, but unfortunately was so often just that bit slower than his team-mate. The only three races Button looked the stronger man were Australia, China, and Italy, all based on cleverer decisions rather than comparable pace. Bearing in mind how much it was feared that Jenson would be trounced at McLaren by Lewis, it was a very respectable season, and if he had been driving a Red Bull, he probably would have won the title. It can be pointed out it was his first season at Woking, so surely next year he will be more competitive, but his performances against his team-mate did not improve as the season progressed, so I suspect that whilst Button did much this year to show what a good driver he is, that Hamilton will continue to out-class him.

Sebastian Vettel without the earlier season reliability gremlins and his inclination to make too many mistakes should have won the World Championship with an embarrassing number of races to spare. He made far too many mistakes, but when he held it together and the car held together he was usually supreme. Since with a ‘Championship to his name he will probably mature as a driver, his mid-season rash of mistakes being probably down to over-anxiety after losing so many points to reliability quirks, he will surely develop into a fearsome competitor. However, I suspect his tendency to be a bit of an idiot sometimes will never entirely disappear. He does not seem to be that great at overtaking or adapting to mixed conditions, but give him a fast car and the poles and victories will surely flow.

Fernando Alonso had the opportunity to win the title and did not. It was a long season so people remember what a fine job he did from Germany onwards, but forget the pig’s ear he made of much of the season leading up to that. During the time the Scarlet team were struggling for pace against RBR and McLaren, had Fernando put in more tidy results collecting the points available more often, the decision of when to pit at Abu Dhabi would not have been critical, as by then the title might have been already sealed. Perhaps the frustration of an uncompetitive car and the weight of expectation on Ferrari drivers got to him, but the opportunity to win a third title went begging. He is undoubtedly a brilliant driver as he has often shown, but can lose the plot when outside his comfort-zone. Perhaps it is harsh to suggest that had he kept his head together more in 2007 at McLaren that he might have won that title. There are drivers in F1 history that whenever they could win the title then they did, but Fernando does not belong on that list.

My heart goes out to Felipe Massa. I was recently reading an interview in Motor Sport with Mika Häkkinen, in which he talked about the aftermath of his huge crash in 1995. In the first qualifying session on Friday afternoon for the last GP of the season, at Adelaide, Australia, a tyre blow-out on a fast corner led to the Finn’s car smashing into a tyre-barrier so hard that the concrete wall behind it moved back a foot. His skull was badly fractured, his life only saved by a track-side tracheotomy, and it was not until the next day he re-gained consciousness. He returned for the first race of ’96, ostensibly back to full fitness, but it was notable that for a couple of seasons his team-mate Coulthard looked the better driver. In the last GP of ’98 at Jerez, David was asked to let Mika by for second-place, that became the Finn’s first win when Jacques Villeneuve fell back from the lead. In 1998 and 1999, the McLaren-Mercedes was a title-competitive car with Häkkinen taking both titles, and having the clear edge over DC. In the interview, Häkkinen talked about the intensive operations and procedures he had to go through in the off-season after the crash, remembered looking at his watch to see how long it was until the next dose of pain-killers, and how hard the seasons that followed were. Even to this day he still gets intensive headaches when he exercises, so what driving was like heaven only knows. By the end of ’99, he was washed out, with 2000 an indifferent season in which some weekends he was on it but most not, followed by a year off that became retirement from F1. Felipe Massa suffered serious head injuries in 2009 at Hungary, and this season has insisted to anyone that asked that he is now 100% recovered, but that is what drivers have to do. It is not as if he can ask for a year or two off. His only option is to swear blind that he is A-OK fine, suffer in silence and hope he regains his form before he loses his drive. In 2010, he made about as many mistakes as Alonso, had slightly more things go against him, but was mostly just that bit off the pace. This is a driver that has had Schumacher and Räikkönen as team-mates and not looked shoddy against them. Without the accident, I think Massa might have had a tidier season than Alonso did, and been much closer on points. Unfortunately, with such a short off-season and an even longer, more intensive calender next year, I doubt that Felipe will be fully back on form in 2011, must be feeling psychologically battered, but maybe will look stronger than this season.

Mark Webber had one or two minor technical gremlins but not a single race-ending mechanical issue. He had the luckiest season of all the top contenders by a margin, and was in the fastest car. Many would consider him the most likable of the six contenders, and when he gets it right he can be a fantastic driver, but however cruel it is to say, he blew it. Whether it was a mistake in qualification, a bad start, or a racing mistake, too many weekends he (in his own oft used words) left change on the table. He has a huge amount to be proud off, especially the way he fought his way into Formula One with minimal support, but I fear he will always look back on this season with painful memories of the string of mistakes that cost him probably his only chance of the ultimate prize.

I have to finish with a special mention for Kamui Kobayashi. If he was faster than the driver in front, he often threw his car past them in a let-me-past-or-crash-stopping-me way, but if someone was faster than he was, then he did not make it too difficult for another driver to get past. If all the drivers were of that ilk, there would be considerably more overtaking, and Formula One would be so much more exciting and joyous to watch.

What’s The Points – Abu Dhabi Update

November 14, 2010

Previous entries:

    What’s The Points
    What’s The Points – China Update
    What’s The Points – Spain Update
    What’s The Points – Monaco Update
    What’s The Points – Turkey Update
    What’s The Points – Canada Update
    What’s The Points – Valencia Update
    What’s The Points – Great Britain Update
    What’s The Points – Germany Update
    What’s The Points – Hungary Update
    What’s The Points – Belgium Update
    What’s The Points – Italy Update
    What’s The Points – Singapore Update
    What’s The Points – Japan Update
    What’s The Points – Korea Update
    What’s The Points – Brazil Update

Below is a comparison of the World Championship positions for this year’s points (left), last year’s points-system (middle) and the older 10-6-4-3-2-1 approach (right). Ties are decided by count-back.

1   Vettel   256   Vettel   104   Vettel   84
2   Alonso   252   Alonso   101   Alonso   81
3   Webber   242   Hamilton   100   Webber   76
4      Hamilton   240      Webber   97      Hamilton   74
5   Button   214   Button   87   Button   61
6   Massa   144   Massa   57   Massa   36
7   Rosberg   142   Rosberg   55   Rosberg   28
8   Kubica   136   Kubica   52   Kubica   26
9   Schumacher   72   Schumacher   25   Schumacher   11
10   Barrichello   47   Barrichello   15   Barrichello   6

As the concept of this points comparison is to highlight the differences thrown up, the previous two races have been a bit depressing with both finishing with top-ten orders unaffected by the points regime employed. It was always unlikely the different systems would differ in which driver would have become ‘Champion, but at least a little variation appears at the last gasp with Hamilton third over Webber under last year’s points as opposed to Mark having the advantage of Lewis by this year’s points and by 10-6-4-3-2-1. Hamilton on the fifteen occasions he scored this season always did so within the top-six, but falls behind the Australian driver by this season’s points because Webber took three eighths and a ninth which are proportionally given greater reward than before, and under 10-6-4-3-2-1, Mark gains the advantage because he took more wins and podiums than Hamilton with more reward for outright results.

This is the order purely on count-back.

    Wins Seconds Thirds Podiums
1   Vettel   5 2 3 10
2   Alonso   5 2 3 10
3   Webber   4 4 2 10
4   Hamilton   3 5 1 9
5   Button   2 3 2 7
6   Massa   2 3 5
7   Kubica   1 2 3
8   Rosberg   3 3

Vettel had more fourth-places than Alonso so would have won also under this scheme (and the medal system proposed by Uncle Bernie with the title won by most wins with points to separate any ties). As before, Rosberg’s consistency did one place better over Kubica under points than count-back.

Alonso (as I did) premised that the title would go to the driver with the most podiums, but failed to make top-three in Abu Dhabi to give himself the eleventh podium that would have won the title. In retrospect, it was decided by which driver had the most top-fours, with Alonso losing by four points and a fourth-place worth twelve points (or six points more than he got in the race for seventh).

These are the points if given to engines:

   Engine Score    Average
per Team
1   Mercedes    736      245·3   
2   Renault   661   330·5   
3   Ferrari   453   151·7   
4   Cosworth   69   17·3   

Renault scored 47 with the new World Champion’s race-win supplemented by points-finishes for Kubica, Petrov, and Webber. Mercedes had second, third, fourth with the two McLarens and Rosberg, scoring 45. Ferrari’s best finish was Alonso’s seventh-place with Alguersuari and Massa taking the last two points-places, giving only nine points. Cosworth did not score.

The scores by nationality of drivers are:

   Nation Points   Scoring
1   Germany   545     6
2   Britain   454     2
3   Spain   263     3
4   Australia   242     1
5   Brazil   191     2
6   Poland   136     1
7   Japan   32     1
8   Russia   27     1
9   Italy   21     1
10   Switzerland   8     1

Germany already had this one in the proverbial bag, 37 points for the win and Rosberg’s fourth-place just rubbing it in. Britain defended with the remaining podium places for 33. Kubica’s fifth added ten for Poland. Petrov’s eight points for sixth saw Russia gain a place to eighth overall. Both current Spanish drivers, Alonso and Alguersuari, scored, totaling eight points. Webber took four points for Australia, and Massa one point for Brazil.

This is the Nations’ Cup only counting the score of the highest driver in a race for each country. I have also decided to use 10-6-4-3-2-1, partly because I think it a better scoring regime, partly because it meant less work. Thus, for example, the McLaren 1-2 in China would give Britain 10 points for the win, nothing for second, and Rosberg’s third place would give Germany 4 points, with nothing for Vettel’s sixth place.

   Nation Points  
1   Britain   103    
2   Germany   100    
3   Spain   81    
4   Australia   76    
5   Brazil   42    
6   Poland   26    
7   Russia   3    
8   Japan   1    
9   Italy   1    

With Vettel’s late season surge and McLaren’s slump, Britain’s lead was diminishing but Lewis’s second-place in Abu Dhabi was enough to win this despite Vettel’s race-victory. The next scoring driver was Kubica for fifth (Poland) followed by Russian driver Petrov.

This next table shows the standings based on qualification using current points.

1   Vettel   384
2   Webber   336
3   Alonso   232
4   Hamilton   222
5   Button   146
6   Massa   142
7   Kubica   122
8   Rosberg   121
9   Barrichello   58
10   Schumacher   56
11   Hülkenberg   49
12   Sutil   21
13   Petrov   11
14   Liuzzi   10
15   Kobayashi   5
16   de la Rosa   4

Vettel took his tenth pole of the season. Robert Kubica failed to make Q3 for the only time this season, so only the two Red Bull drivers were top-ten (indeed top-six) for every race. Button qualified fourth, two places ahead of Massa, to take fifth-place off the Brazilian. Barrichello before Abu Dhabi was tied with Schumacher, behind on count-back, but Rubens qualified seventh, two places ahead of his ex-Ferrari team-mate, to grab ninth overall. Petrov qualified tenth, edging his team-mate out of Q3 and taking 13th-place off Liuzzi..

The drivers not to have made Q3 at any point this season include the new-team drivers, Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi, and Nick Heidfeld.

These are the fastest-lap points with the number of outright fastest laps in brackets.

1   Webber   267   (3)
2   Alonso   248   (5)
3   Vettel   236   (3)
4   Hamilton   231   (5)
5   Button   157   (1)
6   Kubica   138   (1)
7   Massa   122  
8   Rosberg   120  
9   Schumacher   72  
10   Petrov   63   (1)
11   Barrichello   54  
12   Sutil   46  
13   Buemi   43  
14   Alguersuari   39  
15   Liuzzi   26  
16   Kobayashi   25  
17   Hülkenberg   21  
18   de la Rosa   9  
19   Heidfeld   2  

The top-five in this discipline in Brazil were Hamilton, Button, Rosberg, Vettel, and Kubica. No changes in overall position.

This is the Super-Championship position, adding up the scores for the World Championship, qualification, and fastest-laps. In brackets are the total number of wins, poles, and outright fastest-laps.

1   Vettel   876   (18)
2   Webber   845   (12)
3   Alonso   732   (12)
4   Hamilton   693   (9)
5   Button   517   (3)
6   Massa   408  
7   Kubica   396   (1)
8   Rosberg   383  
9   Schumacher   200  
10   Barrichello   159  
11   Sutil   114  
12   Petrov   101   (1)
13   Hülkenberg   92   (1)
14   Kobayashi   62  
15   Liuzzi   57  
16   Buemi   51  
17   Alguersuari   44  
18   de la Rosa   19  
19   Heidfeld   8  

Click here to see my Google documents laps-and-distance-completed spreadsheet.

See also RG’s final update for his championship for new teams.

What’s The Points – Brazil Update

November 7, 2010

Previous entries:

    What’s The Points
    What’s The Points – China Update
    What’s The Points – Spain Update
    What’s The Points – Monaco Update
    What’s The Points – Turkey Update
    What’s The Points – Canada Update
    What’s The Points – Valencia Update
    What’s The Points – Great Britain Update
    What’s The Points – Germany Update
    What’s The Points – Hungary Update
    What’s The Points – Belgium Update
    What’s The Points – Italy Update
    What’s The Points – Singapore Update
    What’s The Points – Japan Update
    What’s The Points – korea Update

Below is a comparison of the World Championship positions for this year’s points (left), last year’s points-system (middle) and the older 10-6-4-3-2-1 approach (right). Ties are decided by count-back.

1   Alonso   246   Alonso   99   Alonso   81
2   Webber   238   Webber   96   Webber   76
3   Vettel   231   Vettel   94   Vettel   74
4      Hamilton   222      Hamilton   92      Hamilton   68
5   Button   199   Button   81   Button   57
6   Massa   143   Massa   57   Massa   36
7   Rosberg   130   Rosberg   50   Rosberg   25
8   Kubica   126   Kubica   48   Kubica   24
9   Schumacher   72   Schumacher   25   Schumacher   11
10   Barrichello   47   Barrichello   15   Barrichello   6

As for after Korea, the top-ten order is unaffected by whichever of the three systems is employed. In all three standings, Hamilton lost third-place to Vettel, and Rosberg took seventh off Rosberg.

Under 10-6-4-3-2-1, Hamilton would be out of title-contention. As percentages of points-for-a-win, Alonso leads Webber by 32% in actual points, 30% by last year’s points, and 50% for 10-6-4-3-2-1.

Title-wise, it was a good race for Vettel and Alonso, and bad for Webber because he lost points to Vettel and did not gain enough over Alonso. The following assumes these three have the margin over the rest of the field that recent dry-race evidence suggests (we are hardly expecting rain for the last round), so they either individually finish ahead of everyone else or have a bad race that puts them out of contention. If Webber wins, he needs Alonso to be no higher than third, so if a Red Bull 1-2 he can win the title with Vettel’s cooperation. If Alonso can win, split the RBRs or one of the Milton Keynes cars goes out with Alonso inheriting second (if Webber retires and Vettel wins, fourth would suffice), the title is his. Vettel’s best hope is Alonso is fifth or worse in which case winning over Webber would take the title. A Red Bull 1-2 is by no means inconceivable although they have thrown away many this season. I think it unlikely Fernando will have the edge on speed so he needs to hope he has a clean weekend and one of his two main title-rivals does not. Hamilton needs to win, definitely unlikely, with the other three all having stinkers, which makes it unlikely squared. With my bet on Lewis a few races back, I am hoping for a first corner incident that takes out both RBRs and Alonso.

This is the order purely on count-back.

    Wins Seconds Thirds Podiums
1   Alonso   5 2 3 10
2   Webber   4 4 2 10
3   Vettel   4 2 3 9
4   Hamilton   3 4 1 8
5   Button   2 3 1 6
6   Massa   2 3 5
7   Kubica   1 2 3
8   Rosberg   3 3

Pure count-back gives the same top-six order as the points, with Rosberg’s consistency bucking the trend to give him more points than Kubica. The frequency of podiums still aligns with ‘Championship order.

I am abandoning my usual based-on-the-average-scores-for-the-last-five-races predictor. Instead, it is interesting to examine how the results of recent races if repeated in Abu Dhabi would give the title to. In Brazil and Japan, Red Bull took 1-2s led by Vettel with Alonso third, and this would mean RBR could shuffle their drivers for an Australian title. Obviously, Fernando’s Korean win with a double DNF for RBR would give him the title if repeated next week, and even if discounting Mark’s accident in the wet as not going to happen in the Arabian sunshine, Vettel’s engine failure would be enough. Alonso also won in Singapore and Monza. Webber’s second in Belgium would be enough for the title with Alonso and Vettel non-scoring. You have to go all the way back to Valencia to find a result if repeated would give Vettel the title, with Alonso eighth and Webber’s big accident.

Three of the last five results would give the title to the Spaniard, but Monza and Singapore are untypical tracks whilst Abu Dhabi is a typical Tilke-special with far too many corners which will suit RBR. Two of the last five would give the title to Webber, but four of the last five both RBRs have had clean runs which at the last track will have a good likelihood of giving them the 1-2 Webber needs. I think Alonso is favourite because any problem with either RBR may well be enough, but the title is more likely to go to RBR because if Alonso has a bad race, Vettel will probably beat Webber to glory, and if he has a good race, the RBR 1-2 is still a strong if minority possibility.

These are the points if given to engines:

   Engine Score    Average
per Team
1   Mercedes    691      230·3   
2   Renault   614   307·5   
3   Ferrari   444   148·7   
4   Cosworth   69   17·3   

Renault scored 45 with the customer-team one-two and Kubica in ninth. Mercedes managed 36 with the McLarens and Mercedes 3-4-5-6. Ferrari only got 16 for Alonso’s third and Kobayashi’s tenth. Cosworth had four for Hülkenberg’s eighth-place.

This makes Mercedes the Champions as even a Renault-powered 1-2-3-4 with their two teams in the last round would not be enough to catch them. Even with six cars, Ferrari’s poor result means they can not overhaul Renault, whilst Cosworth were condemned to last-place after Japan.

The scores by nationality of drivers are:

   Nation Points   Scoring
1   Germany   508     6
2   Britain   421     2
3   Spain   255     3
4   Australia   238     1
5   Brazil   190     2
6   Poland   126     1
7   Japan   32     1
8   Italy   21     1
9   Russia   19     1
10   Switzerland   8     1

Germany reinforced their lead with Vettel’s win supplemented by Schumacher and both Nicos giving 37 points. Britain got 22 for 4th and 5th, Australia 18 for second, Spain 15 for 4th, Kubica took two points for Poland, and Kobayashi one for Japan. Since if ten drivers of a single nation filled the top-ten it would score 101, this means Britain have a mathematical chance in some alternate universe of winning this one but I think the Fatherland can consider the fat lady to have sung and gone home for her dinner. Webber (barring an unexpected comeback by Alan Jones) will need second in Abu Dhabi with none of the Spaniards scoring to get third-place as held for most the season. Brazil zero-scored in Brazil, which sadly does not surprise us.

This is the Nations’ Cup only counting the score of the highest driver in a race for each country. I have also decided to use 10-6-4-3-2-1, partly because I think it a better scoring regime, partly because it meant less work. Thus, for example, the McLaren 1-2 in China would give Britain 10 points for the win, nothing for second, and Rosberg’s third place would give Germany 4 points, with nothing for Vettel’s sixth place.

   Nation Points  
1   Britain   97    
2   Germany   90    
3   Spain   81    
4   Australia   76    
5   Brazil   42    
6   Poland   24    
7   Russia   2    
8   Japan   1    
9   Italy   1    

Britain had looked to have this one in the bag but with McLaren falling off the pace and Vettel scoring heavily, the Germans may win again. Since Alonso is the only Spanish driver to finish top-six this season, the battle for third reflects his title-battle with Webber. In Brazil, only Germany, Australia, Spain and Britain scored, with fifth for Button and sixth for Rosberg not counting.

This next table shows the standings based on qualification using current points.

1   Vettel   359
2   Webber   326
3   Alonso   217
4   Hamilton   204
5   Massa   134
6   Button   134
7   Kubica   122
8   Rosberg   119
9   Schumacher   52
10   Barrichello   52
11   Hülkenberg   49
12   Sutil   21
13   Liuzzi   10
14   Petrov   10
15   Kobayashi   5
16   de la Rosa   4

Interlagos provided the fifth pole-sitter of the season with Hülkenberg’s surprise pole. Although it more than doubled the Williams driver’s points in this competition, he remains in eleventh with Barrichello and Schumacher doing enough to stay ahead (with the seven-time ‘Champion clinging to ninth on count-back). Massa’s 9th position on the grid was enough to squeeze past Button on count-back for fifth, after Jenson’s Q2 exit. Rosberg failed to make the top-ten for only the third occasion this year, it being the first time that Michael made Q3 when Nico did not. Kubica’s seventh promoted him past Rosberg to seventh overall.

These are the fastest-lap points with the number of outright fastest laps in brackets.

1   Webber   259   (3)
2   Alonso   242   (5)
3   Vettel   224   (3)
4   Hamilton   206   (4)
5   Kubica   128   (1)
6   Button   139   (1)
7   Massa   122  
8   Rosberg   105  
9   Schumacher   72  
10   Petrov   59   (1)
11   Barrichello   54  
12   Sutil   46  
13   Buemi   42  
14   Alguersuari   39  
15   Liuzzi   26  
16   Kobayashi   25  
17   Hülkenberg   19  
18   de la Rosa   9  
19   Heidfeld   2  

The top-five in this discipline in Brazil were Hamilton, Alonso, Button, Webber, Rosberg. No changes in overall position.

Click here to see my Google documents laps-and-distance-completed spreadsheet.

See also RG’s Brazil update for his championship for new teams.

What’s The Points – Korea Update

October 24, 2010

Previous entries:

    What’s The Points
    What’s The Points – China Update
    What’s The Points – Spain Update
    What’s The Points – Monaco Update
    What’s The Points – Turkey Update
    What’s The Points – Canada Update
    What’s The Points – Valencia Update
    What’s The Points – Great Britain Update
    What’s The Points – Germany Update
    What’s The Points – Hungary Update
    What’s The Points – Belgium Update
    What’s The Points – Italy Update
    What’s The Points – Singapore Update
    What’s The Points – Japan Update

Below is a comparison of the World Championship positions for this year’s points (left), last year’s points-system (middle) and the older 10-6-4-3-2-1 approach (right). Ties are decided by count-back.

1   Alonso   231   Alonso   93   Alonso   77
2   Webber   220   Webber   88   Webber   70
3   Hamilton   210   Hamilton   87   Hamilton   65
4      Vettel   206      Vettel   84      Vettel   64
5   Button   189   Button   77   Button   55
6   Massa   143   Massa   57   Massa   36
7   Kubica   124   Kubica   48   Kubica   24
8   Rosberg   122   Rosberg   47   Rosberg   24
9   Schumacher   66   Schumacher   23   Schumacher   11
10   Barrichello   47   Barrichello   15   Barrichello   6

A horrific race for RBR, with their first double-no-score of the season. With an eleven point lead, things look good for Alonso. If the Korea result were to be repeated in Brazil, Fernando would be World Champion. If Webber can win the remaining two races, that would put him on 270 which Alonso could not beat even if he finished second in both. As well as Alonso moving above Webber and Hamilton moving above Vettel, Kubica takes a place off non-finishing Rosberg in all three systems.

With all the top contenders having had such up-and-down seasons, it is not so surprising the top places are the same in all three systems, it was always unlikely that which of these points-regimes used would change the eventual ‘Champion, but for all three top-tens to be identical in order is unexpected. By this year’s points, Fernando’s lead over Webber is 44% of a race-win, last year’s points, 50% of a race-win, and 10-6-4-3-2-1, 70% of a race-win. Under the latter system, Button would be mathematically out of the chase.

Nineteen drivers have scored points in this year’s ‘Championship (all the drivers except those for the new-teams) , eighteen under 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 (Alguersuari is yet to finish top-eight). Liuzzi’s sixth-place brings up to fifteen those that have finished top-six this season.

This is the order purely on count-back.

    Wins Seconds Thirds Podiums
1   Alonso   5 2 2 9
2   Webber   4 3 2 9
3   Hamilton   3 4 1 8
4   Vettel   3 2 3 8
5   Button   2 3 1 6
6   Massa   2 3 5
7   Kubica   1 2 3
8   Rosberg   3 3

Pure count-back gives exactly the same top-eight order as the points, with the number of podiums still looking like the biggest title-factor.

The next table shows the points scored by the World Championship contenders over the last five events.

   Driver Score    Average
1   Alonso    90      18·8   
2   Webber   59   11·8   
3   Vettel   55   11·4   
4   Hamilton   53   10·6   

If these mean averages of recent performances are multiplied by the three remaining races, added to the points the drivers currently have, and rounded to the nearest point, it gives this projection of the final tally.

1   Alonso   267
2   Webber   244
3   Hamilton   231
4   Vettel   228

With only two races left, the value of this indicator is very limited. The title will probably go to the highest placed driver that puts in two strong finishes in the last two rounds.

Alonso has won three of the last five races, plus a third and a DNF at Belgium. It seems very much his title to lose. Hamilton has always looked off his best in Brazil, and the long flat-out stretch will not suit Red Bull, so it should be another good weekend for the Spaniard.

These are the points if given to engines:

   Engine Score    Average
per Team
1   Mercedes    655      218·3   
2   Renault   569   284·5   
3   Ferrari   428   142·7   
4   Cosworth   65   16·3   

Ferrari took a 1-3 with both Saubers in the points to take 46 points. Mercedes had Hamilton, Schumacher, and Liuzzi in second, fourth, and sixth, for 38 points. Renault only got ten for Kubica’s fifth-place. Cosworth had both Williams in the points for 7.

The scores by nationality of drivers are:

   Nation Points   Scoring
1   Germany   465     6
2   Britain   399     2
3   Spain   240     3
4   Australia   220     1
5   Brazil   190     2
6   Poland   124     1
7   Japan   31     1
8   Italy   21     1
9   Russia   19     1
10   Switzerland   8     1

The win for Spain was enough to win the week and take third off Australia. Webber has to defend his country unaided, but Alonso can not expect much help off Alguersuari, or any more from de la Rosa. Massa and Barrichello gave Brazil 21. Hamilton gave GB 18. Sans Vettel, the German hoards still took 4th, 9th, and 10th for 15. Poland got 10. Liuzzi’s sixth-place gave eight to over-take Russia for eighth. Kobayashi added four for the Land of the Rising Sun.

This is the Nations’ Cup only counting the score of the highest driver in a race for each country. I have also decided to use 10-6-4-3-2-1, partly because I think it a better scoring regime, partly because it meant less work. Thus, for example, the McLaren 1-2 in China would give Britain 10 points for the win, nothing for second, and Rosberg’s third place would give Germany 4 points, with nothing for Vettel’s sixth place.

   Nation Points  
1   Britain   94    
2   Germany   80    
3   Spain   77    
4   Australia   70    
5   Brazil   42    
6   Poland   24    
7   Russia   2    
8   Japan   1    
9   Italy   1    

Alonso’s win with Webber’s DNF sees Spain move up to third. It was with Monaco the second race this season to have the top-six feature six different nations. Liuzzi gave Italy its first point, remaining behind Japan on count-back.

This next table shows the standings based on qualification using current points.

1   Vettel   341
2   Webber   311
3   Alonso   207
4   Hamilton   192
5   Button   134
6   Massa   132
7   Rosberg   119
8   Kubica   116
9   Schumacher   48
10   Barrichello   44
11   Hülkenberg   24
12   Sutil   21
13   Liuzzi   10
14   Petrov   9
15   Kobayashi   5
16   de la Rosa   4

Little change in the status quo. Rosberg’s strong fifth did enable him to climb one position pushing Kubica down a place, the Pole disappointed to only qualify eighth after his car had developed a handling issue since FP3.

These are the fastest-lap points with the number of outright fastest laps in brackets.

1   Webber   247   (3)
2   Alonso   224   (5)
3   Vettel   216   (3)
4   Hamilton   181   (3)
5   Kubica   128   (1)
6   Button   124   (1)
7   Massa   122  
8   Rosberg   95  
9   Schumacher   72  
10   Petrov   59   (1)
11   Barrichello   54  
12   Sutil   44  
13   Buemi   42  
14   Alguersuari   39  
15   Liuzzi   26  
16   Kobayashi   19  
17   Hülkenberg   15  
18   de la Rosa   9  
19   Heidfeld   1  

The top-five in this discipline in Korea were Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton, Massa, Liuzzi. Kubica came seventh, Button outside the top-ten, promoting the Pole to fifth. Liuzzi’s good showing took him past Kobayashi to 15th.

Click here to see my Google documents laps-and-distance-completed spreadsheet.

See also RG’s Korea update for his championship for new teams.