If Hamilton hadn’t pitted…

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

Adrian asked an interesting hypothetical question in the Brazilian Grand Prix analysis post:

Where would Hamilton have finished if he?d stayed on dry tyres? He?d have been further down the road from Glock so might not have struggled as much??

It’s impossible to know for sure but we can get a good idea by using the Toyotas’ lap times, as both their drivers stayed on dry tyres at the end of the race.

It’s not unreasonable to assume Hamilton’s lap times on dry tyres would have been at least as quick as Glock’s. The McLaren has been one of the best cars for keeping heat in its tyres, the Toyota has been one of the worst. And Hamilton was further ahead of Glock, and therefore the track would have been slightly dryer for him.

Here’s how the race progress would have been in the final laps if Hamilton hadn’t switched to wet tyres on lap 66, and instead posted identical lap times to Timo Glock:

The gap between the leading drivers in the final laps of the Brazilian Grand Prix, assuming Hamilton\'s times in the final six laps matched Timo Glock\'s (click to enlarge)
The gap between the leading drivers in the final laps of the Brazilian Grand Prix, assuming Hamilton's times in the final six laps matched Timo Glock's (click to enlarge)

By not pitting Hamilton would have moved up to second. Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen would then have overtaken him on the final lap leaving Hamilton fourth, and champion by two points instead of one.

Jarno Trulli was further behind Glock, on a wetter track, and therefore even slower. If Hamilton’s times had matched Trulli’s, he would have lost fifth place to Sebastian Vettel by 0.05s. He still would have been champion, of course.

Of course all this assumes that the pressure of tip-toeing home on dry weather tyres in pouring rain wouldn’t have gotten the better of Hamilton, and that Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, and possibly Vettel would all have passed him without incident.

I think we got the most exciting of the three options, but it was going to be a thriller whatever McLaren did. Ironically it their ‘safety first’ approach might actually have exposed Hamilton to more risk.

More analysis of how the Brazilian Grand Prix actually unfolded here: 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix analysis

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