Championship arithmetic

Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, 2007, 4 | Daimler ChryslerWhat does Lewis Hamilton have to do to win the championship this weekend?

And what do Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen have to do to stop him?

And not for the first time it seems the whole thing would be more interesting if they just got rid of championship points.

First up, here are the points for the top four drivers with two races left:

1. Lewis Hamilton 107
2. Fernando Alonso 95
3. Kimi Raikkonen 90
4. Felipe Massa 80
(points in full)

Massa is, of course, out of the championship race – I’ve left him in here for reasons that will become clear shortly.

Here’s what the three championship contenders must achieve in Shanghai to win the championship, or stay in the hunt.

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton will become champion this weekend if he wins the race, regardless of where his rivals finish. But even if he ends the race losing up to one point to Alonso and six points to Raikkonen, he will still be champion.

The odds are stacked in Hamilton’s favour. Ironically if Ferrari are strong at Shanghai it could serve his ends very well. A finishing order of Raikkonen-Massa-Alonso-Hamilton would make the Briton champion.

Fernando Alonso

Alonso must score at least two points more than Hamilton to keep his championship hopes alive. Prior to Fuji, where Alonso failed to finish, he had beaten Hamilton eight times out of 14 races.

However if Alonso finishes third or lower he needs Hamilton at least two places behind him, which will be difficult as the chasing pack have rarely split the McLarens and Ferraris this year in normal racing conditions. Nor can he expect that wet weather will make his job easier – it didn’t at Fuji (although Hamilton had a nightmare at the N??rburgring).

Of course it was in the penultimate race last year that Alonso’s championship rival Michael Schumacher suffered an extremely rare engine failure, giving Alonso a ten point lead going into the final round. If that happened to Hamilton and Alonso won, he would be just two points behind going into the finale.

And if he’s hoping Hamilton will be slowed by car trouble, the stats are against him there too. While neither driver has been put out of the race by car failure all year, Hamilton suffered a wheel failure at the N??rburgring in qualifying that left him tenth on the grid, and tyre failure during the race at Istanbul. If either of the drivers are due an inconvenient car problem, it must be Alonso…

Kimi Raikkonen

Raikkonen drove magnificently to third at Fuji but he needs a fair bit of luck to get into the championship battle. Even if both McLarens retire at Shanghai and he wins, he will still be seven points behind Hamilton going into the last round.

Unless Hamilton suffers a misfortune Raikkonen will most likely be out of the championship race after Shanghai. If Hamilton finishes in the top four, Raikkonen’s title hopes are finished. He’s only done that twice this year – at the N??rburgring, where he suffered a variety of misfortunes, and in Istanbul, where he was delayed by tyre failure.

If points didn’t matter

I’ve often written about why it would be better to have the championship decided not by points, but by which drivers gets the most best results. Ranking the top four drivers in this way gives the following championship table:

1. Lewis Hamilton – 4 wins, 5 seconds, 3 thirds, 1 fourth, 1 fifth etc…
2. Fernando Alonso – 4 wins, 3 seconds, 3 thirds, 1 fourth, 1 fifth etc…
3. Kimi Raikkonen – 4 wins, 2 seconds, 4 thirds, 1 fourth, 1 fifth etc…
4. Felipe Massa – 3 wins, 3 seconds, 2 thirds, 0 fourths, 2 fifths etc…

In this scenario any of the top four drivers could win the title, including Felipe Massa, if he won the final two races.

Under the current system Lewis Hamilton knows that nine points for a fourth and a fifth would be enough to make him champion. Under this system he wouldn’t have the option of settling for a lower position – he would need one more win to be sure of the title.

As it is it’s quite conceivable that Raikkonen and Alonso could win one of the last two races each and lose the title to Hamilton despite having won more races than him.

For more on the points vs places argument, take a look at the links below.

Photo: Daimler Chrysler

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18 comments on Championship arithmetic

  1. the only thing to add to this is…

    if Spyker win their arbitration case next week, and STR and SA are thrown out of the championship, points *may* get redistributed.

    in which case Alonso would have 1 extra point. more info here:

    http://www.grandprix.com/ns/ns19717.html

    it’s all very, very unlikely, but worth keeping in the back of your mind.

  2. Nathan Jones said on 3rd October 2007, 11:28

    how about the old system we had?
    hamo 87
    kimi 73
    massa 68
    alonso 66
    under this system (which i do prefer as winning gets more reward) Hamo would have clinched the title with victory at Fuji!
    it was brought in to make it harder to win the title earlier (in this case it’s worked) in the year but does massa really deserve to b 3rd ahead of alonso at this stage?

  3. Nathan Jones said on 3rd October 2007, 11:29

    forget that last post!
    what am i on?
    all bar alonso would b in contention!
    my bad!

  4. Robert McKay said on 3rd October 2007, 12:17

    “t

    if Spyker win their arbitration case next week, and STR and SA are thrown out of the championship, points *may* get redistributed…in which case Alonso would have 1 extra point.”

    Yeah, I read that too. I don’t understand, though, why STR and SA’s points could be redistributed, but Mclarens weren’t.

  5. Because Alonso would receive one of the points that got redistributed, by virtue of finishind behind a STR or SA at some point…

  6. OK, but still it does not answer the question “why STR and SA’s points could be redistributed, but Mclarens weren’t”. McLaren were thrown out of the constructors championship but the teams that are finishing the races behind them are not receiving the points…

    If SA and STR were thrown out entirely, including the drivers, that would probably be a different story… but I doubt that will happen

  7. oliver said on 3rd October 2007, 13:44

    prior to shangai where alonso failed to finish, now what bull are u talking

  8. Dan M said on 3rd October 2007, 14:00

    The only problem with using finishing position instead of points is that, back when The Shu won almost every race (2004?) he could have stopped racing by mid season and won, even if the other driver was in second for every race he won, and then won every race he didn’t compete in.

    If there are 17 races and someone won the first 9, then he won the championship. That would be pretty anticlimactic. But in this case it would make for an interesting finish.

    Lets not forget that this is Ferrari, and there is a good chance that they will appeal to get Drivers Points removed from McLaren as well. Assuming that you believe that the Constructors points should have been taken away it only makes sense to do the same for the other championship in which the car was used.

  9. oliver said on 3rd October 2007, 14:08

    if points didnt matter then the only way to implement it is by associating ur position as the point where the champoinship is decided by the driver with the lowest cumulative point…for exeample
    ..
    1st = 1pt
    2nd = 2pt
    3rd = 3pt
    4th = 4pt

    that way u can gaurantee that a drivers finishing position has a complete effect on his overall standing cause lower positions would mean greater penalty since ur looking for the driver with the lowest accumulated points tally….or does that agree with ur suggestion

  10. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd October 2007, 14:48

    Oliver, regarding your first point, I don’t mind people pointing out errors (in fact it’s quite welcome) but a little civility would be appreciated. Fixed now.

    Regarding your second point, surely that would unfairly punish a driver who had a single poor finish? For example if one driver won five races and finished eighth in another he would have 13 points, but the guy who’d finish second in all six races would have 12 points and be beating him.

    I prefer the ranking system because it puts the most successful drivers first and makes the occasional poor result due to a car failure or a crash irrelevant.

  11. TommyBellingham said on 3rd October 2007, 16:16

    Very interesting about the ‘best finishes’ scoring. That could make it a lot more crucial to win the race and we could see drivers pushing to the limit to win rather then settling for 2nd to get points. I doubt this would ever happen though

  12. Robert Mckay said on 3rd October 2007, 16:56

    I suppose it depends on how you think…in a 17 race season, is 9 wins and 8 DNF’s better or worse than 8 wins and 9 2nds?

    If you think yes, then the ranking system is for you, if you think no then it’s probably the WDC points system (though the debate then comes down to exactly how the points are distributed). They are two different philisophies, really. I think the real point of contention just below the surface of this debate is that the 2 point gap between 1st and 2nd is insufficient, really. 4 is what it ought to be: that is a good compromise between the two philosophies, especially in this era of ultra reliability. Maybe it even ought to be 5 points of a difference. How about a scoring system of 15-10-8-6-4-3-2-1?

  13. oliver said on 3rd October 2007, 17:07

    my apologies keith, im usually civilised, but u cant blame me too much for over reacting, i’ve come across all kinds of reasoning lately from bloggers, that i believe my mind just shut down..

    regarding ur reply to may second comment, yes that would seem to be the case, but the only other option would be to make a win absolute like the do in the olympics, where 300 silver medals never equate to a gold. and the only way to achieve that is by ensuring the point from a single win is greater than the sum of all second places for the entire season..and like wise for the next position..this can only be achieved by dispensing with the linear points system and going geometric, because it is easier for many to understand points than having to lay a mat indicating final finishing positions for the entire season.

    i must admit my earlier reduced points system was over simplistic and wasnt exactly in tune with what u recommended, if we wanted to present a points system thats understandable and at the same time ensuring every finishing position is absolute, then we may yet get into very high points being delivered for a win and then for each subsequent position

    1st = 1 exp 75
    2nd = 1 exp 72
    3rd = 1 exp 69
    4th = 1 exp 66

    yes we are left with points but not very many use a scentific calculator or would understand it, however it does ensure that baring having over a hundred or thousand races in a season, u cant ever have an accumulation of second positions or for that matter any positoin,, surpasing the points tally for a higher position.

    absurd yes but achieves ur objective

  14. Actually I think that a brilliant idea. I love the idea of ITV having to have Pure Mathematics lessons at the start of every broadcast, and enormous silences during the commentaries as they try to work the championship positions out…

    Seriously, I’m still in favour of the ‘best places count’ system, and I’ll produce a few more arguments on it later on. I’m determined to convince you all yet!

  15. oliver said on 3rd October 2007, 21:14

    yes best places count is surely guaranteed by the exponential points system however complicated it may be or another alternative would be to use the alphabets, since we have only 24 teams we wont run out of alphabets at least the a-z variety…so we can have it thus

    1st = A
    2nd = B
    3rd = C
    4th = D
    ..
    ..
    10th = J
    ..
    ..
    24th = X

    At the end of the day we will end up with something like this up to fuji

    LEWIS ..CBBBBAACCIAEBDA = 4A 5B 3C 1D 1E 1I
    FERNANDO..BAECAGBGBADCACW = 4A 3B 3C 1D 1E 2G 1W

    Which comes out exactly the way u summed it up ealier., and will also still result in each position being of absolute value.

    Hamilton would still be ahead cause he had a higher number of second positions.

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