Archive for August, 2010

Belgium Snippets

August 30, 2010

Another good race; it is a good sign if I choose to start re-watching the race the same evening. With so much rain and other incidents, it is still difficult to judge the impact of the change in refueling regulations, but the reaction against the new rules after the first round on the wrong Bahrain circuit was perhaps disproportionate.

Apart from a heart-stopping detour across the gravel, Hamilton and McLaren put in another very solid performance. It seems churlish of Christian Horner to describe Hamilton as riding his luck, because after all Lewis’s luckiest asset is the inability of Red Bull and their drivers to not keep finding new ways to not get the results their speed merits. For a long time in Formula One, it has been consistent results at or towards the sharp end that win titles, which is why the McLaren driver leads the points. It struck me earlier this week that the exception to consistency winning the big prize was 2008, when Lewis did win the title with a few too many mistakes along the way in his first year leading the team, but won anyway because Massa had a patchy year, Räikkönen did not seem on it for whatever reason, and best of the rest, Kubica, may have had a point about BMW not putting enough behind his title-tilt. On this reflection, I realised that of his almost-four seasons in F1, Hamilton won the title in the year he put in his worst performance. I do not blame LH for what happened in China in 2007, when he ended up in the kitty-litter entering the pits, as this armchair-enthusiast had been yelling for about ten minutes at the screen for McLaren to pit him, it being utter stupidity to leave him out even after the canvas of one of the back-tyres was showing. With two rounds remaining, he needed four points if Räikkönen won both (as happened), and had a 13-point lead pre-race on Alonso, so I will never understand why McLaren did not take a more conservative decision, and believe that he would not have slipped off in the pit-entry if his tyres were not shot. (The argument for staying out was the track was drying from needing intermediates to being ready for dry tyres, so delaying the stop avoided having to put on inters and then bring him in again soon after for drys.)

I thought the penalty on and strong criticism of Vettel was harsh. He made a mistake on a damp track, as did Hamilton, Alonso, Barrichello, and indeed Button totally misjudging his braking with the early move on Kubica. It so happened Sebastian’s mistake effected another driver, as Button’s easily could have done, and ruined his own race as well. A comment by Horner suggests Vettel was not so much trying to pass as to avoid hitting Button, surprised how early JB braked. Webber was flummoxed in Valencia by how early Kovalainen’s Lotus braked, and perhaps the Red Bull drivers have so much grip they struggle to comprehend the braking-distances of others. Horrible luck for Jenson but in his backmarker days, he made similar mistakes.

The one thing Schumacher’s second career is hanging on is the support of the team, so muscling his way past Rosberg thus damaging Nico’s front-wing was a very stupid move, compounded by the failed attempt by Michael to pass his team-mate around the outside later in the race that easily could have become very messy. Unlike Vettel, his impetuosity can not be excused by youth.

I read a very interesting article on the ScarabsF1 web-log, which I mostly understood, about how Red Bull use retarding of the engine-ignition to maintain flow through the exhausts-blown diffuser at lower revs. F1 teams tried exhaust-blown diffusers from the late ‘nineties, the problem being although it increased downforce, the increase was in relationship to engine rpm, so kept going up-and-down, meaning the drivers had a fluctuating grip-limit (beyond the relationship to car-speed), that was more difficult to drive to without the risk of going off by overstepping this jumping-around limit than the improvement in downforce was worth (plus possible compromise on engine-performance in suiting the exhausts to this approach). One-by-one they abandoned it, except at McLaren where Adrian Newey stuck with it, until Mercedes decided they wanted shorter exhausts that curtailed the blown-diffuser from 2004 onwards. Newey has reintroduced the concept this year at Red Bull, with at lower revs the air-fuel mixture being ignited late, so it is still expanding as it leaves the cylinders into the exhausts, maintaining volume-flow of the gasses out to the diffuser. Many were puzzled at Red Bull being so protective of the back-end of the car earlier this season, with team-members standing to block the view on the grid, when all the other teams had digital photographs anyway. One theory I have is it was to draw attention to the system to avoid others noticing they also had found a flexing advantage, the other theory being it would persuade other teams to throw more resources at the blown-diffusers when Red Bull knew they would struggle to deal with the low-RPM issue as they had before. Of course, McLaren are probably on top of ignition-retardation judging by the funny engine-noises at low-revs in corners, perhaps because they have been able to refer back to how Newey did it when back at Woking. With Newey’s expertise, I expect Red Bull will by now have a pretty good F-duct system, but whatever Horner says, I suspect the new underfloor flexing tests will affect them.

So Fernando still thinks he has a fifty per-cent chance at the title. As before, I suspect this is to a considerable extent at the request of the Maranello PR-department, with Scuderia Ferrari having had such a pasting in the Italian media this season. If anyone does believe it, 10/1 is available at the bookies, but I would not recommend it, however many times Räikkönen’s late comeback in ’07 is mentioned.

Yesterday’s win was Hamilton’s fourteenth, and McLaren’s 169th. Whilst I do not wish to begrudge Rubens Barrichello’s achievement of three-hundred Grands Prix, he may still be two or three short of that mark. The total excludes San Marino 1994, when Barrichello’s violent Friday FP accident, which knocked him unconscious, was the starter for the string of calamities that weekend, including the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna. However, included in the 300-tally are two races in 2002, Spain and France, when the Brazilian’s Ferrari both times conked out on the warm-up lap (whilst team-mate Schumacher had 100% race-reliability that season). The other bone of contention is the Belgium GP in 1998, when a gigantic pile-up occurred after the first turn, involving most the field, the race being red-flagged, and re-started with a depleted field because many teams had two smashed cars and only one spare. Rubens did not take the second start. This is a sticky point for statisticians, as under such circumstances, the first start is dismissed, the second start being the race proper. This interpretation means Riccardo Paletti, killed in a terrible start-line crash on the first attempt to start the 1982 Canada GP, counts as a DNS, and that despite the horrific injuries suffered by Nicki Lauda in his fiery crash at the 1976 German GP, he never started the race. Congratulations none the less to Rubens Barrichello, although I would count it as 298, choosing to include the first start at Spa ’98.

Before Monza is the FIA hearing over Ferrari’s use of team-orders in Germany, and the charge of bringing the sport into disrepute. While Todt is not chairing the hearing, it should not be forgotten that every person on the council (except Uncle Bernie if there as a FIA Vice-President) owes their continuing high position within the organisation to Jean Todt’s favour. Back in 2007, the transcripts of the McLaren and Renault hearings revealed Mosley asking all the questions, except the very occasional inquiry by Ecclestone, and when on one occasion someone else did dare to ask their own question, Mosley quickly and rudely interrupted the answer, dismissing it as already covered, which did not seem to be the case. Todt is less belligerent than his predecessor, but when it comes to discussing the judgement, which happens in private, as before the only voices that will count will be the FIA President and the FOM boss. At the second McLaren hearing, a FIA delegate, seemingly popping out for a gasper, told journalists McLaren were to be thrown out of F1 that season and next, news which flashed around the World, whilst indoors Ecclestone was persuading Max to reduce it to loss of ’07 Constructors’ points and the $100 million fine. My entry into the how-will-they-punish-Ferrari sweepstake is that both drivers-and-cars will be disqualified from the German result.

What’s The Points – Belgium Update

August 29, 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

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 countback.

1   Hamilton   182   Hamilton   75   Webber   59
2   Webber   179   Webber   71   Hamilton   59
3   Vettel   151   Vettel   61   Vettel   45
4      Button   147      Button   59      Button   43
5   Alonso   141   Alonso   57   Alonso   43
6   Massa   109   Massa   44   Massa   26
7   Kubica   104   Kubica   41   Kubica   22
8   Rosberg   102   Rosberg   39   Rosberg   20
9   Sutil   45   Schumacher   15   Schumacher   7
10   Schumacher   44   Sutil   15   Barrichello   5

Hamilton’s Belgium victory gives him the lead in the real World Championship, and strengthens his lead by last season’s points. Under 10-6-4-3-2-1, Webber clings on at the top by countback, with his four wins to Lewis’s three more rewarded under that system. Lewis has four other podiums, Mark three. For all systems, Vettel, Button, Alonso, and Massa maintain their positions, with Kubica’s third-place promoting him to seventh at Rosberg’s expense. Sutil, who has finished eight times between fifth and tenth, overtakes Schumacher in this year’s points, and is tied with Barrichello on 5 under 10-6-4-3-2-1, but the Brazilian managed fourth-place at Valencia.

Obviously, the big news is three top contenders, Sebastian, Jenson, and Fernando, not scoring any points. Señor Alonso, before this result, gave himself a 50% chance of winning the title, with which the betting market violently disagreed. With this being such a close point-scoring year at the top, never mind the possibility of forthcoming FIA penalties, being 1·64 wins behind with six to go, I would put his chances near to zero. Sadly for Button, his hopes to defend his title now look bleak. Vettel even is now more than a win behind.

Formula One sees rapid car developement so the next table shows the points scored by the World Championship contenders over the last five events. Just in case, I include the Ferrari drivers.

   Driver Score    Average
1   Webber    76      15·2   
2   Hamilton   73   14·6   
3   Vettel   61   12·2   
4   Alonso   47   9·4   
5   Massa   42   8·4   
6   Button   41   8·2   

If these mean averages of recent performances are multiplied by the six 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   Webber   270
2   Hamilton   270
3   Vettel   224
4   Alonso   197
5   Button   196
6   Massa   159

I have put Webber before Hamilton as unrounded, Mark would be on 270·2, Lewis 269·6. It will easily happen that this title will be decided by just a single case of a reliability issue or an accident-not-the-fault-of-the-effected-driver, but that aside, I still feel the momentum is with Lewis. The Australian has messed up results this season whereas the Brit has only finished outside the top-six twice, due to a puncture at the Spanish GP and a gearbox malfunction in Hungary. Vettel needs to return to the consistency he showed in the first part of the season and hope for some luck.

I predicted after the German Ferrari 1-2 that the title-favourite had changed from Vettel to Hamilton, and the first time I did this calculation after Hungary, it predicted Lewis for the title. So I put my money where my mouth is, and put a modest bet last week on Hamilton to win the title. I use Betfair and was pleased to get 6·2 (about 5/1). He is now down to 2·98, and I am thinking of hoping he does well in Italy, and then consolidating (letting someone bet against me at lower odds, so I break even if Hamilton fails but get profit if he wins).

These are the points if given to engines:

   Engine Score    Average
per Team
1   Mercedes    533      177·7   
2   Renault   453   226·5   
3   Ferrari   287   95·7   
4   Cosworth   40   10·9   

Mercedes had the best week with 50 points, Hamilton winning, and Sutil, Rosberg, Schumacher, and Liuzzi all in the points. Renault scored 35 with Kubica and Petrov adding points to Webber’s second-place haul. Ferrari only had Massa in fourth, and Kobayashi eighth for 16. Since Cosworth failed to score, all the points-gaps widened.

The scores by nationality of drivers are:

   Nation Points   Scoring
1   Germany   352     5
2   Britain   329     2
3   Australia   179     1
4   Spain   150     2
5   Brazil   139     2
6   Poland   104     1
7   Japan   21     1
8   Russia   19     1
9   Italy   13     1
10   Switzerland   7     1

Britain got 25 for the win, but Germany countered with Sutil, Rosberg and Schumacher fifth, sixth and seventh for 24 points. No other nation scored twice. The only change in position is Kobayashi’s four points for eighth moving Japan one place up to seventh, with Petrov only getting two for ninth (Russia were previously ahead on countback).

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   74    
2   Australia   59    
3   Germany   58    
4   Spain   43    
5   Brazil   31    
6   Poland   22    
7   Russia   2    
8   Japan   1    

A bad race for Germany having to fall back on Sutil’s fifth-place, thus losing second to Australia. Spain, Russia and Japan did not score.

I remember that in Grand Prix International, at the end of the season they used to publish tables based on such as grid positions, fastest laps, and the order at half-distance in races. I have decided to do the first two, this next table being the standings based on qualification using current points.

1   Vettel   265
2   Webber   253
3   Hamilton   151
4   Alonso   130
5   Massa   109
6   Kubica   91
7   Rosberg   89
8   Button   88
9   Schumacher   43
10   Barrichello   28
11   Sutil   21
12   Hülkenberg   18
13   Liuzzi   10
14   Petrov   9
15   de la Rosa   4
16   Kobayashi   4

When I first did this table after Hungary, I was very surprised Button was behind Rosberg. Jenson qualifying fifth with Nico outside the top-ten puts Button within a point of Rosberg, but Kubica qualifying third means he jumps both of them. Webber on pole gained 13 points on his team-mate, with Vettel qualifying fourth.

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

1   Webber   194   (2)
2   Hamilton   163   (3)
3   Vettel   153   (3)
4   Alonso   137   (2)
5   Massa   102  
6   Kubica   97   (1)
7   Button   96   (1)
8   Rosberg   76  
9   Petrov   57   (1)
10   Schumacher   50  
11   Barrichello   44  
12   Sutil   43  
13   Buemi   30  
14   Alguersuari   27  
15   Liuzzi   16  
16   Kobayashi   11  
17   de la Rosa   9  
18   Hülkenberg   8  

The top-five in fastest laps were the same order as the top-five in the race. Hamilton takes second place from Vettel, and Button falls two places to seventh.

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

Out Of This World

August 28, 2010

This week, I acquired a Motor Sport archive DVD containing scans of all 120 editions of the magazine from the ‘sixties. One reason amongst many for being keen to eventually collect a full set of these DVDs was that I could look up from contemporary race-reports the points awarded for certain shared-drive results that different sources disagree on how to score. With such an enormity of material to look at, I decided to start with the edition covering Jim Clark’s 1965 Indianapolis 500 win. It also contained race-reports for the Monaco and Belgium World Championship Grands Prix of that season, plus ‘Reflections’ pieces on each by the famed Denis ‘Jenks’ Jenkinson.

I mentioned in a previous post (The 1950 British (European) Grand Prix) that the new World Championship was largely ignored, with a single line in Autosport in the 1950 Italian GP report about Giuseppe Farina winning the drivers’ title. I knew that drivers of the early period of Formula One, such as Stirling Moss, were more interested in winning the individual events than the title. Believe it or not, the race-reports in that July 1965 edition did not even include the World Championship points-standings. On reading through, the Belgium coverage did not even mention the World Championship, whilst the Monaco report only mentioned the subject because the guaranteed-start list depended on the 1964 driver-points positions. DSJ in his ‘Reflections’ piece refered in passing, writing about the situation concerning Jim Clark missing Monaco to compete with Team Lotus in the Indy 500, to the, “nebulous World Championship”.

I decided to look up the ’65 German GP, when Jim Clark won the title with three rounds to spare. The scoring system counted only the best six results, the race at the 14·2 mile Nürburgring circuit giving Clark, in the Lotus-Climax, his sixth victory and maximum points. At the end, the report mentioned JC winning six of six entered, “must make Jim Clark undisputed Grand Prix champion driver”, plus another mention in the ‘Reflections’ piece about the Scottish racer being a true World Champion with his Indianapolis 500 win. (Clark also won the Tasman Cup and the French F2 Championship that year.)

I moved onto looking at the 1969 GP reports, and still no mention of points. In 1976, James Hunt and Nicki Lauda fighting for the title was in Britain’s national news, and I know by the ‘eighties Motor Sport were publishing F1 reports that not only included points but chassis numbers and which engine-builders prepared each of the Ford Cosworth DFVs used (the magazine has now dropped race-reports, concentrating on the history of the sport, since ownership of the title is now by the same group that publishes Autosport). I knew Formula One was a backwater sport, especially in the 1961 to 1965 era of puny 1·5 litre engines, when the discipline was in danger of being eclipsed by sportscar racing, but I am absolutely staggered that even in a specialist magazine of that period that there seemed so little interest in the World Championship compared to today.

(Unbelievably, Motor Sport do not seem to have a dedicated page on their site to publicise and sell these DVDs. If you click here, there is a link to a .pdf file that you can print off and post, or order by phone. I expect they accept cheques and postal-orders. They obviously struggle with multi-media – I have a subscription and there was quite a gap between starting their podcast and actually mentioning it in the magazine! Bless.)

2010 Laps Completed and Led

August 22, 2010

You would have thought by now that I would have run out of things to count, but I decided to look at laps and distance completed so far this season. The graph represents distance based on multiplying the laps each driver completed at each circuit by the circuit-lengths (which I did using a spreadsheet). The total number of laps is 737, the total distance (I decided to round to the nearest unit in these results and obviously part-laps before a retirement are not included) 2264 miles or 3643 kilometres.

The main thing that stands out is that the Ferrari drivers have only missed three laps between them; Alonso retired in Malaysia with his gearbox-engine problem on the penultimate lap, and Massa finished a lap down in Canada. There is not much to choose between the next seven drivers, Rubens Barrichello and drivers from McLaren, Red Bull and Mercedes. Generally, Rubens apart, the top-four teams are not just faster but also a bit more consistent, with them being more often on the lead-lap at the end only being a partial explanation. Sauber had obvious reliability problems aplenty earlier, but it is still surprising to see their drivers languishing behind even most the new-team drivers. Bearing in mind Chandhok managed one lap in Bahrain and has missed the last two races, that he is still a few places off the bottom is something.

You will notice that Barrichello, Hulkenberg, Button, and Rosberg are all higher on distance than on laps; this is because the Williams drivers and Jenson lost a lot of laps at easily the shortest circuit of the calendar, Monaco, and Rosberg at Hungary which is shortish. Robert Kubica went the longest without failing to complete a lap. By the time of his drive-shaft failure on lap 19 of the British GP, he had managed the first 567 laps of the season.

The European GP at Valencia had the highest number of finishers on the lead-lap at sixteen, helped by a safety-car after the Webber-Kovalainen incident on lap nine. The races in Germany and Hungary, the latter of which also had an early safety-car period, both had the least, with only six cars on the lead-lap by the end.

The worst comparative performance between team-mates is at STR, with Buemi having only managed 80·2% the laps and 78·8% the distance of Alguersuari. Sébastien had accidents on lap one in Australia and China, and retired with only one lap on the board at Hockenheim with accident-damage. Factoring out the last three races at HRT to look at before Yamamoto displaced either Senna or Chandhok, Bruno had only completed 70·0% the laps and 69·7% the distance of his Indian team-mate, but that can mostly be attributed to reliability issues.

Below are the laps and distance completed by teams. (I did think of doing another graph, but the one I did for drivers, I could not find anything easy to set up that I liked, or would show miles and kilometres, so I did something myself using image-editors, which took hours of frustrating fiddling about, with a result I am not that taken with, so no more graphs until further notice).

(Gigantic thanks to Jackie (Saltire of Viva F1 fame), of whom I asked advice about graphs, and unbidden has been hugely kind in providing this excellent graph to add to this post.)

Ferrari     4519     7271     1471    
Mercedes     4203     6763     1367    
McLaren     4235     6813     1348    
Red Bull     4192     6745     1373    
Williams     4009     6451     1269    
Renault     3867     6222     1274    
F. India     3848     6190     1260    
Toro Rosso     3645     5864     1184    
Lotus     3238     5210     1051    
HRT     3195     5140     1043    
Virgin     2920     4698     962    
Sauber     2634     4238     854    
Maximum     4529     7287     1474    

The obvious shocker is Sauber being rock bottom, having done only 58·1% of the maximum distance. Of the new teams, Lotus have the edge despite struggling with reliability earlier on, and Virgin need to pick up their game.

Finally, a table of laps led.

Mark Webber     314
Sebastian Vettel     189
Jenson Button     82
Lewis Hamilton     56
Felipe Massa     40
Fernando Alonso     39
Nico Rosberg     16
Sébastien Buemi     1

My only observation on this is that only one lap was led by an unexpected driver, courtesy of Buemi staying out longest in Canada. In the days of refueling, we more often had unusual drivers leading here and there during the season, and Montreal was the race that saw the front-runners make more than one stop.

Team Orders

August 16, 2010

(Yes, I should have written this some time ago, but I didn’t.)

In a recent entry, Magnanimous, I wrote about the very harsh use of team-orders by Ferrari to settle the 1957 World Championship, back in the days when junior team-members would be expected to hand their cars over during the race, if needed by a senior driver whose own car had retired. For most of the sport’s history, team orders have been permissible with only in recent times the practice banned by the regulations.

When Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss both drove for Mercedes Benz in 1955, to this day, Moss denies he was ever asked to let Fangio win, except for one sportscar race in Sweden. The usual pattern in the races was that Fangio took the lead with Stirling following just behind him. The Mercedes cars were significantly faster than the rest, and Stirling’s account (Motorsport, October 2003) was that if they were thirty seconds ahead of the rest, the team showed, “REG”, on the pit-board, which meant that they hold their positions. Yet it was always Fangio leading Moss, the one exception being the British Grand Prix held at Aintree that year. Moss took the lead in that race, and recalls how he was shown, “PI”, piano, the slow-down instruction, which Stirling did. In Sir Stirling’s own words, “Fangio closed, and coming into the last corner, I was in front by a car’s-length or so. I remember vividly putting my accelerator to the floor, pulling over to the right and waving him past on the left.” This way, Moss won his first Formula One World Championship race, but this answer he gave shows he believed he was supposed to let his team-leader by, but chose not to. It seems clear that at all the other F1 WC races that year, he played the team game, sitting behind Fangio subject to some un-admitted understanding.

It looked a similar story in 1978. The Lotus 78 introduced ground effects to Formula One, and was the fastest car in 1977, when it worked. By 1978, the car was more developed, and a few races in was replaced with the even better Lotus 79, which if reliable, the Brabham fan-car at Sweden aside, was in a class of its own, giving Mario Andretti the World Championship. The first full Grand Prix I ever saw on TV was that season, not sure which, but I remember the magnificent looking black-and-gold JPS Lotus cars cruising to a one-two formation finish (which after an hour or so became quite boring), Andretti leading Ronnie Peterson. Peterson died from his injuries after a crash at the start of that year’s Italian GP, having gained enough points to retain second-place in the ‘Championship despite not scoring at the last three rounds. Ronnie made no secret of having to follow his American team-mate home, but journalists asking Andretti about the team-orders tend to receive very sharp answers insisting Peterson was free to pass him any time he could. This seems very uncharacteristic for the usually jovial trans-Atlantic superstar. It was blatantly obvious that it was not a case of Ronnie Peterson time-after-time finding himself always behind Mario, being just fast enough to keep up but never fast enough to attack.

In 1979, Ligier were fastest in the earlier part of the season, Williams won five of the last seven races with the new FW07, but it ended up being Ferrari’s year. It was difficult to package the required ground-effects around the Ferrari flat-12, but the engine had a power-advantage and the car was more reliable than its close rivals. Even though Gilles Villeneuve led Ferrari one-twos in the third and fourth rounds with a points advantage over Jody, he was only in his second full season and was asked to help Scheckter win the title, which he did. In fact, there was only one race after that when they were running line-astern, the third-last round at Monza, when Villeneuve followed Scheckter home not challenging for the win, which result sealed the South African’s World Championship. With Villeneuve taking a second and a win in the last two rounds to one 4th place by Jody, had Gilles successfully gone for the win in Italy, he would have won the title himself. The Canadian driver’s ballistic fury after the San Marino GP of 1982, when Didier Pironi slipped by on the last lap to nab the win against instructions, had much to do with Villeneuve having paid his dues, in 1979 helping Scheckter, in 1980 and 1981 struggling with uncompetitive cars, and now it was his turn.

Another example of a driver ignoring orders was Carlos Reutemann in 1981. Williams got one-twos in the first two races, Alan Jones winning in South Africa, and Reutemann winning in Brazil, simply ignoring pit-board instructions to let his team-mate past. In the end, Carlos lost the title to Brabham’s Nelson Piquet by one point at the Las Vegas finale, qualifying on pole, but sliding down the field during the race to finish only eighth. He ended up three points ahead of Jones that he gained by winning in Brazil. The team celebrated Alan Jones winning the race held in the Caesar’s Palace car-park (where did people park?) and Reutemann was ignored as he slunk off. With the Australian’s (first) retirement, Carlos was team-leader in 1982, but after a hard-won second in South Africa and a race-ending collision in Brazil, chose very unexpectedly to retire himself. According to Wikipedia, this was due to a dispute with Frank Williams regarding politics, which I have never heard or read before.

The first time team-orders really embarrassed the sport was the opening race of 1998. The quirky characteristics of the Melbourne track exaggerated the speed advantage of the first McLaren-Mercedes that Adrian Newey had led the design of. With such an advantage, but concerns about reliability, the drivers, Mika Häkkinen and David Coulthard, agreed that whoever won the first corner would win the race. Häkkinen won this battle and the two cars pulled away from the field at three seconds a lap! Near the middle of the race, Mika mistakenly believed he had been told on the radio to pit, and drove through the pits without stopping at his box, handing the lead to Coulthard. The Scotsman was asked to let his team-mate past, which he eventually did very obviously, causing uproar. After the race, Häkkinen was full of gratitude for David honouring their gentleman’s agreement, promising one day to pay him back. He never did.

The main point of contention was the fury of those that had bet on Coulthard winning with droves of losing betting slips sent in disgust to Ron Dennis, who pointed out no one had contacted him to thank him for winning their bets on Häkkinen. I have very strong views on betting being a test of judgement, knowledge, and luck, and have less than no sympathy for those that whine about losing money for reasons that constitute their ignorance*. The penultimate race of 1997 had been the Japanese Grand Prix when Eddie Irvine had been in the lead followed by Michael Schumacher, the Ulsterman stating later, “I was waiting for the phone call.”, with Irvine slowing after the call to let his Ferrari team-mate by for the victory. This left Schumacher one point ahead of Jacques Villeneuve for the European Grand Prix at Herez that ended the season. On lap 48 after the second round of pit-stops, Villeneuve threw his Williams from a long way back inside Michael’s car, the Ferrari driver turning right into his title-rival, but the red car ended up in the gravel and Jacques had the lead. Behind were the McLarens of Coulthard and Häkkinen, David letting Mika by under team-orders with three laps to go. Villeneuve was slowing, feeling his car was behaving strangely after the collision, and he chose to let the McLarens by on the last lap rather than risk pushing to defend, and going off without those vital points. McLaren did not elucidate on why they swapped their cars around. The Finn had been close to dying after an accident in free practice in Adelaide, the last round of ’95, in the two seasons since had done less well than Coulthard, and word at the time was the team felt he needed the confidence of a first win. It was also possible they felt Häkkinen could circulate faster than David, and if released was more likely to catch and pass the slowing Villeneuve. Either way, the team-orders passed the victory from the flying Scotsman to the flying Finn.

Those that bleated about losing money backing Coulthard to win in Melbourne, amplified by the ravings of the gutter-press and objections of supposedly higher-end media, completely ignored that these gamblers should have been aware that it was the third race in a row decided by team-orders, indeed the second consecutive race that Häkkinen had won courtesy of McLaren orders, and if they had forgotten or chosen to bet with limited knowledge of the sport, then they had no one to blame but themselves.

(*I lost money on the 2005 USA Grand Prix after the Michelin runners decided not to race. After the result, the Betfair markets on the race were not settled whilst they considered the possibility of voiding bets. I had no sympathy for those in the forum complaining about unfairly losing money if the market was not voided, indeed commenting that I would complain if they refunded my money. If one gambles, one takes one’s chances.)

However, FIA subsequently decided to ban team-orders. Later in the season, when Irvine found himself ahead of Schumacher, it became a standing joke that he was due for some braking problems, which would indeed be the reason he quoted with a grin that Michael was able to pass him. Amongst the sport and those covering it, and I believe most following it, the understanding was it was OK that Ferrari were favouring Michael, also later in the season that McLaren were helping Mika, as long as they did not make it too obvious.

I believe the rule, seen as ridiculous, was rescinded by 1999 (if you know better as to when it was dropped, please comment). Again, it was McLaren verses Ferrari, Häkkinen looking to win a second year, Eddie Irvine leading the Maranello campaign after Schumacher broke his legs at Silverstone. Mika Salo was drafted in to support Eddie. Salo and Häkkinen both grew up in the Helsinki area, developing a fierce rivalry. Salo finished second to Häkkinen in the 1990 British F3 Championship. Whilst the future double-World Champion went on to drive for Lotus for two years before moving to McLaren, Salo ended up racing in Japan. He finally made it to F1 for the very last two dismal races of Team Lotus’s existence at the end of ’94, leading to three years with Tyrrell, then 1998 with Arrows. When Ricardo Zonta was injured, Salo did three races with BAR in 1999. When joining Ferrari later that season, his best previous result was fourth. In Austria, he could only manage ninth, but the next race at the old Hockenheim, Salo took the lead after Häkkinen had a re-fueling problem. What happened next was inevitable, that only after one lap in the lead he was required to let his team-mate past, finishing second just behind Eddie 20 laps later. Salo did four more races for Ferrari only scoring once more with a third in Italy. After that, he did a season with Sauber, before testing for Toyota in 2001 and racing with the team in their first season the year after, at the end of which Toyota sacked Mika Salo and Alan McNish, not believing that it was their cars that were that bad. Seeing Salo give up that win is one of the most heart-breaking things I have ever seen following Formula One.

After Italy, motormouth Eddie had a new number-two for Malaysia and Japan, Michael Schumacher. If the story is to be believed, Michael was only interested in Ferrari winning their first drivers’ title for twenty years if it was Schumacher winning it, that Stefano Domenicali phoned Schumacher for his daughter to answer and to tell that her father was looking for his football boots, after which Domenicali told his multi-million salaried driver, in no uncertain terms, that if he was fit enough to play football, then he was fit enough to drive. Certainly, Michael appeared entirely race-fit in Malaysia, being just for once on the sharp end of team-orders, letting Irvine through to win. However in the last round in Japan, Mika Häkkinen won the race and the title with Schumacher second and Irvine third. Had Michael let Eddie through, Irvine would have been equal on points with Mika but lost on having less wins. If Schumacher, only a few seconds behind the leading McLaren, could have finished ahead of Häkkinen, Irvine would have won by two points. The more suspicious of us believed that Michael was not trying that hard to win. He managed pole and fastest lap, as he had done in Malaysia, but just lacked a bit of race pace when it mattered. Of course, Eddie Irvine’s failure to win the title meant Salo giving up his only possible F1 win had been a forlorn sacrifice.

Michael Schumacher made an interesting admission in an interview during his retirement that when first he tested for Jordan, prior to his impressive debut qualifying seventh, he was unsure he was good enough. It is known that it deeply bothered him to be slower than a team-mate in any session, even a Free Practice session. This seems evidence of a streak of insecurity that probably drove him to the success he achieved, and the utter ruthlessness in what he would do to win (or will do to protect a point for tenth). His near pathological need to best his team-mates whatever was served first by Benetton then Ferrari. Johnny Herbert joined Benetton, then run by Flavio Briatori, for the last couple of races in 1994 remaining for 1995. He soon showed he was closer to matching the speed of the German than those that had tried before, to find abruptly that the team-management thereafter arranged that Schumacher had access to information from Herbert’s side of the garage, but Johnny was denied seeing his team-mate’s telemetry to help him work out how to improve his lap-times. Rubens Barrichello has hinted at the dark tales he will later tell about his time as Schumacher’s team-mate, describing being proud of the nine wins he achieved with Ferrari because he did not just have to beat the field, but the team as well. One thing I read was that sometimes with pit-strategy, Rubens was told not only did Michael have first pick on which laps he wanted to stop, but the Brazilian could not even stop close to those lap-counts in case Schumacher needed to stop earlier or later than provisionally planned, so Barrichello had to select second-rate strategies to fit around this. It is the way of Formula One that a team may choose to favour the driver they consider the best to maximise results, but profoundly shocking that Benetton and Ferrari were willing to sabotage drivers to keep Michael happy.

(The impression is that Fernando Alonso was given much the same service driving for Renault under Briatori’s reins, and could not cope with or comprehend the fact that at McLaren, Lewis Hamilton was allowed to race him and could race him on equal terms.)

The race, as we all know, that led to the second banning of team-orders was Austria 2002. It was the sixth of seventeen races. Michael was walking the ‘Championship (the year his worst finish was third). Rubens Barrichello had just signed a contract extension. He had set pole, been generally fastest all weekend, had beaten Micheal fair-and-square, and was asked from lap 63 of 71, progressing to threats of dismissal, to let Schumacher by. Finally, he acceded, slowing on the start/finish straight to lose by 0·182 seconds, so only just. For the podium ceremony, the crowd booed and whistled so much that Michael ushered Barrichello onto the top-step, and gave him the trophy. Team-orders, even when agreed to be justified, are ugly, but so late in the race, so early in the championship, when poor old Rubens had already lost three race-results to reliability gremlins, made the blood boil.

It was an appalling decision. It was against a backdrop of Ferrari’s third year of domination. Their refusal to let their drivers race was making things very dull, and Ferrari’s agenda was to take everything they wanted from the sport without worrying that the way they were doing it was taking away from the sport. When McLaren and Williams had dominated, they let the drivers race unless it was towards the end of the season, and it was reasonable to back one driver over the other. The excuse Ferrari used was their job was to win the title, that anything could happen, citing 1999 when Michael broke his legs. Of course, when Schumacher had his 1999 Silverstone crash, it was team-mate Eddie Irvine that was more in need of points, thus I do not believe that excuse, as Rubens getting the extra four would have been better insurance, for him to take over the title-challenge if necessary. Michael would have had 50 points to Juan Pablo Montoya’s 27, more than two wins extra without the help, and Rubens, with his previous problems that season, was knocked back from 16 points to 12 by the swap. My suspicion is they did it to make Michael happy. We all knew that Rubens was number two but this was just horrible.

So again team-orders were banned. In my view, and it seemed to be the consensus at the time, this meant do what you have to but just do not embarrass the sport. Thereafter, Ferrari did seem more willing to let Barrichello win over Schumacher that season (if he could beat the team), four times Barrichello leading one-twos that year – although that did include Indianapolis where Schumacher may have accidentally let Barrichello slip by at the finish, not realising where the actual line was, to get jeered again. I doubt that policy was Ferrari’s first choice but even they were jolted by the backlash in Austria into temporarily amending their ways. In the two seasons that followed, Rubens only got to lead a team one-two once, with many a race when the team talked about turning the engines down, with little impression of racing as Barrichello followed Schumacher home.

At Brazil ’07, Ferrari juggled the pit-stops to have Massa hand Räikkönen the lead he needed to beat Hamilton and Alonso to the title. Canada 2008, Heidfeld let Kubica, whom still needed to pit, past to give BMW not only their first win but the one-two. That the pass was team-orders was never admitted, but it looked obvious, plus the TV coverage cut to the BMW pit-wall to show several men staring down looking guilty and awkward. Felipe Massa had his turn when later that season Kimi Räikkönen let him past to second place in China.

I will not revive the details of what happened in Germany because the bottom-line is Ferrari had Massa let Alonso by for the win with what was so obviously team-orders that we all knew everyone knew it. Operationally, it was a fiasco. The team, if they were to do that, should have made sure Massa was properly drilled to make it look like it might have been with a mistake that he relinquished the lead, and Rob Smedley can not have endeared himself to management with the ham-fisted way his combined radio-messages had the subtlety of a nuclear-bomb swathed in bubble-wrap.

Article 39.1 “Team orders that interfere with a race result are prohibited.”

Firstly, just quite what does this mean? It has been argued that which pit-strategy a driver is given, or giving one driver a new part and not the other, are team-orders that could affect the outcome. It is understood that it means an instruction to let a driver by for position. Is it allowable if a team performs a slightly slow pit-stop to effect the result between their drivers, and could it be proved? Is it permitted if the two drivers are on conflicting strategies, that when one catches the other, that he be allowed to pass so both can benefit from their different approaches, and find out at the end who is ahead? Team-orders are not just about who wins; Antony Davidson, who drove for the uncompetitive Honda and Super Aguri teams, spoke about times when he was asked to let a faster team-mate by, or was given that advantage when he was faster. Why would any team let one driver spoil the prospects of the other in such circumstances?

Secondly, is a ban workable? Of course not. Every single team knows that and will apply team-orders, perhaps more subtly, which would not be difficult, if better results, and certainly the title, are at stake. If Lewis moves up to second in Abu Dhabi on the last lap, needing the win for the title with Button leading the race, it would be crazy if McLaren did not execute orders. FIA and the stewards would look the other way.

Thirdly, is a ban desirable? My opinion is it is not. Success in Formula One has always been more down to teams and cars than drivers. The media coverage has always been driver-centric, but of the thousands of man-hours that go into any win, the driver does a fraction of the winning but gets the lion’s share of credit. It is teams that enter Formula One, that employ drivers, and if drivers do not like that they can try starting their own team. If they want purely individual success as competitors, they picked the wrong game.

I happen to think Ferrari’s decision to give the win to Alonso was a justified call. Even if he had won, Felipe after Germany would only have been on 72 points, with the four main contenders on 136 to 157. Mathematically, he could still win the title, but realistically his title-chances were dead in the water. Alonso’s bid for the World Championship was still a very outside chance with the 123 points the win gave him, but, bearing in mind if he does win it will likely be by a tiny margin, those extra seven points could be gold-dust at the end of the season. The team-order ban is nonsense, and at that point in the season in those conditions, it made utter sense for Ferrari to decide to put all their eggs in the basket that did not have a gaping hole in it.

I know I am in a minority on this. Like everyone else, I would have enjoyed the race more if the Ferrari drivers were left to fight it out for the win, and always find team-orders leave a bad taste in the mouth, however justified. People say it spoils the sport. It has to be remembered that what makes Formula One what it is is that it is a team sport first and foremost. It would be great to see all the drivers compete in identically prepared cars to see how they made out, but we would scream blue murder if teams were abolished to be replaced by twenty-four souped-up GP2 cars, all run by one organisation to guarantee identical specification. The life-blood of Formula One is every team has to construct their own cars, run complex team-organisations, raise their own budgets, employ their own drivers, and if the inevitable consequence of this is sometimes they order their drivers’ finishing positions as it is a team-sport, this has to be accepted as part of what makes Formula One what it is. Teams should be allowed to do it openly, albeit to be criticised if done to the detriment of the sport without good reason, as for Austria 2002.

We await the FIA hearing on the naked use of team orders by Ferrari in Germany. It has been pointed out that the more serious issue may be bringing the sport into disrepute. I still believe FIA’s attitude is team orders are fine if not made too obvious, and above all do not embarass the sport. I do not hold with the view it will be fine because Jean Todt was involved in the decision leading to the Austria 2002 outcry; I think his loyalty to Ferrari ended when the job did, and I do not think he is a man who likes to be embarrassed. After Herr Mosley lost the battle with FOTA last season, Ari Vatenen was full of talk of a much more concillitory approach, whilst Todt seemed to suggest he thought Mosley had not taken a hard enough line! So far, Jean has led FIA from the background but he is a man that takes his authority very seriously, this being his first obvious chance to show his power and independance, so if I was Ferrari, I would be very, very worried.

Virgin On The Ridiculous

August 11, 2010

I read this story on Autosport about Virgin Technical Director, Nick Wirth, still believing that the team need to be targeting tenth place in the Constructors’ Championship (it really is that quiet a news-week), and it reminded me of my view that the points system for constructors is fine for establishing the top positions, but is increasingly inequitable for judging the performance-order further down the field. For the new teams, it is most unlikely any will score a point this season, in which case the order they finish in will not be decided by how they perform comparatively across the season, but by countback, such that whichever new team has the highest-placed driver at the Grand Prix of the highest attrition-rate amongst the established teams will thus win tenth-place in the Constructors’. At present, Lotus lead with Kovalainen’s thirteenth-place in Australia, HRT are second with two fourteenth-places for Chandhok in Australia and Monaco, with Virgin last with only one fourteenth-place for di Grassi in Malaysia. Since the finishing-rate tends to increase during the season as teams sort out earlier gremlins, chances are that Heikki’s somewhat fortuitous 13th at Melbourne will guarantee us the displeasure of seeing Richard Branson in his Air Asia air-hostess uniform with a massive grin on his face that would win a gurning contest, imprinting images on our retinas that will make us wish our memories had a selective delete option.

Although in this aspect, increasing the points-scoring positions to ten is an improvement, even below fourth or fifth place in the Constructors’, how well a team does can be skewed by being fortunate enough to get their act together in a mixed-up safety-car effected race and/or races in which more than the usual number of front-runners have issues. A lot of television-money, other rewards, and status rely on this order of success.

Especially for the teams outside the points, maybe also for lower-order points-scoring teams at least in respect to prize-money, pit-lane order, and flyaway travel-allowances, I believe there is an argument for excluding the finishes of higher ranked teams and re-calculating the points. It could be done by excluding the winning team and re-calculating for the rest et cetera down the order, but that seems too finicky (and would take too long for me to work out). My proposal is the top-five teams be taken as given by the current system, then exclude those and recalculate the next five, with this order counting for financial, travel and pit-lane order advantages, and then do the same for the remaining teams with this counting to finishing order in the Constructors’ Cup for any team without points (or perhaps even one points-finish or less).

Anyway, that would give the current top-five as Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault. Working out the next five would give this.

1   Force India   322
2   Williams   287
3   STR   223
4   Sauber   170
5   Lotus   76
6   HRT   52
7   Virgin   32

The big difference here is that STR are ahead of BMW Sauber, and with good reason. Toro Rosso have been doing a stronger job than Sauber most the season, but although the Swiss team maybe deserved the good finish for Kobayashi in Valencia, they lucked into high positions in Britain and Hungary because the top-five teams had a lot of problems between them. In twelve races, STR have managed 18 finishes to Sauber’s eleven, had the higher finish over Sauber seven-races-to-five, beating both Saubers with both cars four times, which Sauber have done to STR three times.

This leaves two teams.

1   HRT   277
2   Virgin   259

This system puts Lotus, HRT and Virgin in the same order, but I believe by a much fairer way. Under this approach, Virgin have been gaining steadily on HRT in recent races, being faster and having improved reliability, with every chance of beating HRT by the end of the season. Under the countback system, they may well end up thirteenth behind HRT with what objectively will be a stronger season, if Virgin Racing can not manage to get a 14th or higher overall position in the remaining races, or may end up tenth over the better performing Lotus because in just one race they win the new-team battle and fluke a twelfth place. Surely it is ridiculous to have this rest on which team gets the luckiest single result?


August 9, 2010

(My entry on the historical context of team orders is three weeks overdue. This was supposed to be it, but the subject covered here on closer examination seemed to justify its own entry.)

The oft quoted example in the history of team orders is when during the last race of 1956 at Monza, Peter Collins handed over his Ferrari to team-leader, Juan Manuel Fangio, despite Collins still having a shot at the title himself. Fangio won the title by three points over Stirling Moss (competing for Maserati), and five points over Collins. However, Moss had already lost the title by Monza. It was a matter of which Ferrari driver would take the ‘Championship with a team-decision taken that the Maestro was the prefered choice, not a situation of handing Collins’s car to Fangio as the team deemed he had a better chance of beating Moss to the prize.

Juan Manuel would have been the preference of the marketing department, and whilst that description would have been unknown, marketing, as in the saying of the time, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday”, was part of motor-racing. Fangio had won in 1951 with Alfa Romeo, 1954 and ’55 with Mercedes, and was certainly the star-name. More than that, driver-hierarchy, especially in factory teams and most especially at Ferrari, in those days could be very rigid. It was not unknown for a team to enter a junior driver just so he could be called in and hoicked out if one of the senior names had a problem with his own vehicle. From 1950 to 1957, points for shared drives were split, half-points if two drivers, a third of the points each if three drivers. From 1958, shared drivers were permitted but did not count for points. I am not sure when shared drives were banned altogether (please comment if you know). The last example I can find is the penultimate round in 1964 at Watkins Glen (USA) when Jim Clark dropped from the lead with fuel-injection problems, then swapping cars with Lotus team-mate, Mike Spence. Clark almost caught his title rivals, John Surtees and Graham Hill, in the hope of passing them to reduce their points, but a fuel-pump problem saw him fall back again to seventh/retired.

The scoring system in 1956 was 8-6-4-3-2 plus 1 point for the fastest lap, with only the best five results from seven rounds (ignoring the Indianapolis 500) counting. Before Italy, Fangio had 30 from five scoring results, the worst of those being four points for third in France and Monaco, so he had to finish first or second to improve his tally. Moss had 19 points from five results, only had to improve on single-point scores from France and Britain, but could not win the title. Collins had 22 and did not need to worry about dropped scores, so if Fangio failed to improve his score at Monza, he could win the title with the eight points for a win on countback, or outright if he also took fastest lap. The race was held on the double-clockwise 6·21 mile (10 km) road-course/banked-oval configuration (in which the two straights in front of the pits were one wide straight separated by some cones or the like).

After Castellotti and Musso had used up their tyres squabbling for early first position and had to pit, Moss, Fangio, Collins and Schell were then in the lead slipstreaming group. Near half-distance, Fangio pitted his Lancia-Ferrari with a damaged steering arm. The car was patched up and sent out again, but with Castellotti (having crashed earlier) at the wheel. It eventually finished eighth, 4 laps down, but after the delay of repairs, was of no use to Fangio, needing as he did at least second-place to improve his score. Moss was pulling away at the front, Musso’s Lancia-Ferrari moved up to second when Schell pitted for fuel, and then Musso pulled in to refuel, the car not being handed over to Fangio as many expected. (Maverick points out in the comments that Musso refused to hand his car over.)

At this stage, Fangio could only add to his ‘Championship score by getting a team-mate’s car, winning the race for four points for a shared win, plus gaining the extra point for fastest lap to make five points, improving his score by one with having to thus drop one of his four-point scores. Of course, had Fangio won with or without the FL, it would stop Collins getting the victory to win the title. Collins meanwhile was in a position to win the race and title if Moss had any sort of problem. With fifteen to go, the team called Collins in for a ‘tyre check’, and then put Fangio in the car. At this point, Fangio was World Champion, and Collins was not. Moss had a scare when his Maserati ran dry, was nudged back to the pits by team-mate, Luigi Piotti, losing the lead to Luigi Musso, but regaining it when the Italian driver had a steering-arm failure. Stirling won with the fastest lap, scoring the maximum nine points, albeit only improving his total by eight to 27, because of having to drop a one-point score. Juan Manuel scored three for a shared second-place with Collins, but remained on thirty points, as the 3-point haul became his dropped score. So Moss scored the maximum points he could, Fangio scored none towards his total, and still became World Champion. Peter Collins also got three for the shared second-place, pushing his account up to 25 for third behind Fangio and Moss.

The myth is that Collins heroically handed his car over to Fangio so the Argentine could beat Moss to the title with the points he got for shared second. This is clearly bunkum (to put it politely). At the time of the race I am sure that it was realised Moss could not mathematically win the title, even if dropped scores can confuse some people. I contend this idea that Collins, in this great sporting gesture, was helping Fangio to win the title over Moss was added to the legend later on, by those that could not credit that the Ferrari management would simply do it to make one driver, and definitely not the other, World Champion, and without checking the arithmetic, beyond seeing Fangio scored three points in that race, and won the title by two. Furthermore, I do not buy that Collins volunteered his car to Fangio. In those days, the media were far more likely to accept what they were told, unlike the modern press corps that question unrelentingly anything they may have reason to doubt. Why would Ferrari bring Collins in for a tyre-check? It was certainly a period when the team’s concern for driver-safety was only conspicuous by its absence. The way they would have checked the tyres would be to leave the car out and see what happened. Just as more recently Massa was supposed to let Alonso by without revealing he had been told to, I believe Collins had to come in, had to hand over the drive, and then explain it was his decision to reporters, who might have had their own doubts, but would relay what they were told. I would be willing to bet good money, and plenty of it, that when the Brit bought his Ferrari in, Fangio was on the spot immediately ready to jump in, and did not need to be called over to need persuading that due to an entirely unexpected, spontaneous, magnanimous gesture on Peter’s part, the car, and title, was his to take.

What’s The Points – Hungary Update II

August 6, 2010

In What’s The Points? – Hungary Update, I calculated how many points the title-contenders had scored in the last five events, divided by five for the mean, multiplied this average by the seven remaining races, and added this product to the points the drivers have (rounded to the nearest point), to give an approximate ‘Championship prediction. This was the result.

1   Hamilton   259
2   Vettel   253
3   Webber   242
4   Button   230
5   Alonso   228
6   Massa   139

I was interested what this process would predict for the 10-6-4-3-2-1 scoring system. Since I worked it out for myself, I figured I may as well blog it. These are the totals and averages for the last five races.

   Driver Score    Average
1   Hamilton    26      5·2   
2   Webber   23   4·6   
3   Vettel   21   4·2   
4   Alonso   20   4·8   
5   Button   15   3·6   
6   Massa   9   1·8   

Then adding the averages multiplied by seven, rounded to the nearest point, to what the drivers would have after Hungary under 10-6-4-3-2-1 gives this.

1   Hamilton   85
2   Webber   85
3   Vettel   74
4   Alonso   71
5   Button   64
6   Massa   36

I was not sure if I should put Hamilton or Webber first, as with four wins so far against two for Lewis, Mark would be ahead on countback, but not rounding to the nearest point, Hamilton had 85·4 to Webber’s 85·2.

As I have made clear before on this web-log, I believe the points used in F1 should have more emphasis on outright results (I would introduce 20-12-8-6-4-3-2-1 as argued here). This would certainly suit Webber with his extra wins but mixed form. Vettel’s early reliability issues taking away probable wins would be more significant. Hamilton’s sheer consistency this season might be enough under either the old or new system.

Hungary Snippets

August 3, 2010

Mark Webber scored his sixth win in Hungary. In the previous twenty-four years of Grands Prix in Hungary, only eight times has the winner gone on to win the title. It was Vettel’s fifteenth podium (I noticed he has scored more points this season, 151, than in all his previous seasons, 125). It was Red Bull’s 100th race having gained 12 wins, 16 poles, and 31 podiums.

It was good to see a driver win with a contrasting strategy, although only courtesy of Vettel’s penalty. Had Mark pitted with everyone else, then it might have been the usual dull race the circuit provides, exasperated by not even the variation of drivers taking their first stops a bit earlier or later. Had there not been a safety-car period, would it have occurred to the team to try leaving Mark out when the rest of the field went through the pit-cycle? He was able to pull out enough time on Alonso from a small lead after the safety-car went in, yet without a safety-car would have had a bigger head-start if Alonso and the rest pitted about 15 to 18 laps into the race. Of course in such a scenario, if Webber had pitted a lap before Alonso into a gap in the field that gave him a clear track, that would have probably done the trick as the first onto new tyres is faster sooner, but if there is such a gap, it is always the car ahead that has that opportunity to pitstop into it that bit earlier.

Concerning Schumacher’s brutal move on Barrichello, the question that strikes me is if that did not deserve a ban, then what the hell would? Does he have to kill someone? Perhaps maiming someone will be enough. It will be interesting to see if the punishment in any way amends Schumacher’s behavoir to those trying to pass him. Bless Barrichello for not only not backing out, but once he had taken to the end of the pit-exit to squeeze by, viciously turned left to make Schumacher flinch out his way. Following the avalanche of international media condemnation, it has been reported that Schumacher apologised on his web-site, this only included on the German-language version. Borrowing Autosport‘s translation, “I wasn’t seeking to endanger him with my move. If he feels I was then I’m sorry, this wasn’t my intention.”, it hardly comes across as a fulsome, gracious apology. My translation is, “I am not at all sorry but I will give the most grudging conditional apology I can get away with because I have been advised I do not have a choice.” A sorry excuse for an apology.

Brawn’s attempt to defend the action of his driver was despicable. “It may have ended up in a dangerous way but that wasn’t the intent I am sure by Michael. Michael was defending his position, trying to encourage Rubens to go around the outside. I don’t think for a moment that he saw Rubens there and thought ‘I will squeeze him’.” I expect if Michael were to stab someone, Brawn would explain that Schumacher held the knife out to merely show it to the other man, and did not see how close he was standing, and then stabbed him again in demonstrating how it had been accidental the first time.

One of the rumours that surfaced in recent days is that Nick Heidfeld might join Kubica at Renault next season. I wrote about the Polish driver’s need to be his team’s clear number-one here. For the races they both drove for BMW Sauber, Robert scored 137 points and quick Nick 150. Kubica only won at Canada in 2008 after the team clearly had Heidfeld let him past for the lead to get the 1-2 as the Pole still had a pitstop to do. If they are re-paired, we will see the truculent Kubica soon return if he thinks the team are giving his team-mate too much attention. Knowing Heidfeld’s fortune, if he did sign with Renault, a few days later Schumacher would quit, and Mercedes would blitz the opposition next season.

What’s The Points? – Hungary Update

August 1, 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

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 countback.

1   Webber   161   Hamilton   65   Webber   53
2   Hamilton   157   Webber   63   Hamilton   49
3   Vettel   151   Vettel   61   Vettel   45
4      Button   147      Button   59      Button   43
5   Alonso   141   Alonso   57   Alonso   43
6   Massa   97   Massa   39   Massa   23
7   Rosberg   94   Rosberg   36   Rosberg   19
8   Kubica   89   Kubica   35   Kubica   18
9   Schumacher   38   Schumacher   13   Schumacher   7
10   Sutil   35   Sutil   11   Barrichello   5

Webber has the strongest lead under the 10-6-4-3-2-1 system as that gives more reward for his four wins. He has the lead over Hamilton under this year’s points courtesy of the six points he gathered for 8th and 9th in the first two races of the season, with those low finishes scored proportionally more generously than by last year’s system. Eighth place this season pays 24% of win-points, last season it was only 10%; ninth place now gives 12% of a win but last season nothing. Alonso is 80% of a win behind the points-leaders under this and last year’s points, which lean towards rewarding consistency, but is a whole win behind under 10-6-4-3-2-1.

It was obviously a painful race for McLaren, very good for Red Bull, and good for Ferrari but realistically not good enough. It is probably Button that will enjoy his holiday least as eighth was barely better than Hamilton’s wash-out, and Lewis at least is still close to the points-leader, with Webber having a habit of putting in the occasional weak race-weekend.

Formula One sees rapid car developement so the next table shows the points scored by the World Championship contenders over the last five events. I have included Massa (just) as a title contender, but not Kubica or Rosberg, as at least the Brazilian is in a car that looks to have race-winning potential.

   Driver Score    Average
1   Hamilton    73      14·6   
2   Vettel   73   14·6   
3   Alonso   62   12·4   
4   Button   59   11·8   
5   Webber   58   11·6   
6   Massa   30   6·5   

If these mean averages of recent performances are multiplied by the seven 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   Hamilton   259
2   Vettel   253
3   Webber   242
4   Button   230
5   Alonso   228
6   Massa   139

Obviously, this is rough and ready, not perhaps reflecting Ferrari moving forward and McLaren dropping back as much as might be more relevent, but does show how difficult it will be to beat Lewis with his tenacious approach of grabbing all the points he can get, even if his car is not fastest. Jenson is starting to show sadness in his eyes at effectively being Lewis’s number two because Lewis keeps edging him, often with Button not far behind to mop up points other rivals will not get when McLaren have better races. Vettel will have Webber taking points off him, and although his run of unlikely reliability issues seems to have passed, has not been scoring as many points as he should have done recently. Sebastian’s best hope of overturning this unfavorable projection is getting results with a Ferrari or two, and sometimes his team-mate, between himself and Hamilton. For Fernando, the Ferrari improvement of recent times will probably prove to be too late in the season to make up the deficit, and for Massa, his title chances would have been on life-support to dead even had he been allowed to win in Germany. Both Ferrari drivers have lost too many points through non-performance issues when behind on pace to be within striking distance now they have found the extra speed.

After Valencia, I described Vettel as the title favourite although he was third, 12 points behind Hamilton and six behind Jenson, because I believed he would generally out-score them with quite a few races left to do so. After Ferrari’s re-emergence to do so well in Germany, I predicted that Lewis had become favourite, just as Button the year before had benefitted from his rivals taking points off each other. If this projection is re-calculated based on the scenario that Ferrari had not made this recovery, such that Vettel would have beaten Hamilton in Germany for the win, giving him a bigger points margin, and finished second in Hungary, then it would come out as predicting 284 points for Vettel and 271 for Hamilton. So another reason for Vettel to see red.

These are the points if given to engines:

   Engine Score    Average
per Team
1   Mercedes    483      161·7   
2   Renault   418   209·3   
3   Ferrari   271   90·3   
4   Cosworth   40   10·9   

An excellent week for Renault gaining 50 points with Petrov’s best finish adding to two Red Bulls on the podium. Mercedes only got 4 for Jenson’s eighth place, with Hamilton, both Mercedes cars, and both Force Indias failing to trouble the scoreboard. Ferrari had all four cars in the points for the first time, with both Saubers in the top-nine, totalling 38 points. Cosworth had both Williams in point-scoring positions getting nine.

The scores by nationality of drivers are:

   Nation Points   Scoring
1   Germany   328     5
2   Britain   304     2
3   Australia   161     1
4   Spain   150     2
5   Brazil   127     2
6   Poland   89     1
7   Russia   17     1
8   Japan   17     1
9   Italy   12     1
10   Switzerland   7     1

With Australia getting 25 for Mark’s win, Spain getting 24 (Alonso/de la Rosa), and Germany 23 (Vettel/Hülkenberg), Britain, only with Jenson’s lowly 4 points, were the main loser, but do hold position. Brazil had 13 from Felipe and Rubens. Kobayashi added a couple to the Japanese account. Petrov, with his best finish of fifth, caused the only position-changes, moving Russia from ninth to seventh, edging just ahead of Japan on countback.

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   64    
2   Germany   56    
3   Australia   53    
4   Spain   43    
5   Brazil   28    
6   Poland   18    
7   Russia   2    
8   Japan   1    

With Britain non-scoring, Germany reduced their deficit by 4. Australia added ten, Spain 6, Brazil 3, and Russia entered the table in 7th with 2 points from Hungary.

I remember that in Grand Prix International, at the end of the season they used to publish tables based on such as grid positions, fastest laps, and the order at half-distance in races. I have decided to do the first two, this next table being the standings based on qualification using current points.

1   Vettel   253
2   Webber   228
3   Hamilton   133
4   Alonso   129
5   Massa   101
6   Rosberg   89
7   Button   78
8   Kubica   76
9   Schumacher   43
10   Barrichello   22
11   Sutil   17
12   Hülkenberg   16
13   Liuzzi   10
14   Petrov   9
15   de la Rosa   4
16   Kobayashi   4

The drivers of STR and the new teams have failed to qualify top-ten this season. Only the RBR drivers and Kubica have made Q3 for every race.

It is hardly the shock of the century that the Red Bull drivers have under-performed in races compared to their qualifying record. The biggest surprise is Button being pushed out of the top-six by Rosberg. They have out-qualified the other six times each. Jenson’s wins in Australia and China came from 4th and 5th on the grids, with all other driver wins from higher starts. Four wins only this season have been from pole, four from qualifying second, and two from the third slot.

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

1   Webber   176   (2)
2   Vettel   145   (3)
3   Hamilton   138   (2)
4   Alonso   133   (2)
5   Button   96   (1)
6   Massa   90  
7   Kubica   82   (1)
8   Rosberg   75  
9   Petrov   51   (1)
10   Schumacher   50  
11   Barrichello   44  
12   Sutil   33  
13   Buemi   30  
14   Alguersuari   25  
15   Liuzzi   16  
16   Kobayashi   11  
17   de la Rosa   9  
18   Hülkenberg   8  

As to be expected, these results are more random. All drivers except those of the new teams feature. No driver has been top-ten in all races.

Only at the opening race in Bahrain did the race-winner, Alonso, get fastest lap. Webber took pole and fastest lap in Malaysia, as did Vettel in Germany and Hungary.

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