Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2016

Are Hamilton’s title hopes “impossible”?

2016 Abu Dhabi Grand PrixPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

“I’m faced with pretty impossible odds,” was Lewis Hamilton’s assessment yesterday of his chance of winning the title in the upcoming season finale.

On the face of it he’s not wrong. Based on all possible outcomes in Sunday’s title-decider, Nico Rosberg’s chance of beating Hamilton to the title is almost 90%.

But, as also mentioned last week, the likelihood of that outcome happening is a different matter. It’s a matter of interpretation how remote Hamilton’s title chances* really are. Here’s three possible views.

*Of course we could do all the same calculations for Rosberg’s title chances. But Hamilton’s quote has prompted this article and it’s much easier to work out his odds as there are far fewer ways he can win the title compared to his team mate.

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Finishing positions this year

Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Hockenheimring, 2016
Hamilton’s dream result this weekend
The strongest guide we have to the drivers’ current form is their finishing positions this year. Simply by looking at the results of the 20 races so far and considering what those outcomes would mean on Sunday we can get a rough idea of Hamilton’s chances of victory.

Four of the 20 previous races produced an outcome which would make Hamilton champion if they happened again on Sunday. That would give Hamilton a 20% chance of winning the title. But we can refine this figure further.

Those 20 races give us probabilities for each driver’s chance of finishing in each position:

1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th-22nd DNF
Nico Rosberg 45% 20% 10% 10% 5% 0 5% 0 5%
Lewis Hamilton 45% 15% 20% 0% 5% 0 5% 0 10%

Hamilton can only win the title on Sunday if he finished on the podium and Rosberg is further down the order. The above data allows us to estimate the odds of both drivers finishing in a position which serves Hamilton’s needs.

For example, Hamilton’s chance of winning the race is 45%. If that happens, Rosberg can no longer win the race, so his chances of having one of the other results rises proportionally. Hamilton’s chances of winning the race and winning the title therefore work out as 20.45%.

We can repeat this for the chances of Hamilton finishing second or third. As you’d expect the prospects of this happening are much slimmer: just 1.88% and 1.25% respectively. But it adds up to a slightly better overall chance of Hamilton winning the championship: 23.58%. But that still means Rosberg has a better than three-quarter chance of taking the title: 76.42%.

Finishing positions at Yas Marina

Although drivers prefer not to admit it, they do perform better at some circuits than others. However looking at past races in Abu Dhabi gives us so little meaningful data there’s little oint in trying to predict an outcome based on it:

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Nico Rosberg 9th 4th 6th DNF 3rd 14th 1st
Lewis Hamilton DNF 2nd 1st DNF 7th 1st 2nd

The title contenders have only lined up at Yas Marina as team mates on the three previous occasions. Of those, Rosberg has prevailed twice and retired once with a technical problem while running behind Hamilton.

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2013
Rosberg has good form against Hamilton at Yas Marina
But even these results are open to a wide degree of interpretation. In 2013, for instance, Hamilton’s qualifying effort was hampered by a suspension problem. And Rosberg’s victory last year came after Hamilton had already secured in the title, prompting many to suggest he was ‘phoning it in’ at the wheel.

A repeat of 2014, where Rosberg was struck by a power unit problem while running second, would secure the title for Hamilton. This might even be considered a ‘fair’ outcome, as Hamilton lost a likely win to a breakdown in Malaysia, while Rosberg has had no equivalent misfortune.

But don’t count on the ‘law of averages’ helping Hamilton. The belief that bad luck evens out over a period of time is a popular misconception known as the ‘gambler’s fallacy’.

For example, if you toss a coin there is a 50% chance that it will land heads-up. If you toss the same coin four times in a row and it comes up heads every time, the odds it will come heads up the next time remains 50%.

Making no assumptions about the quality of their equipment, Rosberg is no likelier to suffer a mechanical misfortune than Hamilton this weekend. Rather, the fact Mercedes’ cars have only dropped out due to technical problems in 2.5% of races they have started this year tells us Rosberg’s chances of retiring are very low.

Past season finales

Vitaly Petrov, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Abu Dhabi, 2010
The championship took a stunning turn in 2010
These mathematical models are blind to the human element of racing. Winning a championship is the culmination of more than just a year’s work: drivers dedicate their careers and devote their lives to this purpose. The pressures involved are huge.

That’s why Formula One history is replete with examples of stunning turnarounds when the title hangs in the balance at season’s end.

Hamilton knows from bitter experience how a seemingly invulnerable championship lead can crumble. He looked certain to land the title in the 2007 finale but he slipped back into the pack, suffered a gearbox glitch, and the silverware went to Kimi Raikkonen.

The following year Hamilton snatched victory from the jaws of defeat on the final lap. Since then we’ve seen Fernando Alonso come agonisingly close to winning the title in 2010 and 2012, with Sebastian Vettel the benefactor both times.

Perhaps the most encouraging statistics for Hamilton is that over a third of the occasions where the title has gone down to the last race the championship lead changed hands at the final round:

Year Points leader before final race Points leader after final race
1950 Juan Manuel Fangio Giuseppe Farina
1951 Juan Manuel Fangio Juan Manuel Fangio
1956 Juan Manuel Fangio Juan Manuel Fangio
1958 Mike Hawthorn Mike Hawthorn
1959 Jack Brabham Jack Brabham
1962 Graham Hill Graham Hill
1964 Graham Hill John Surtees
1967 Denny Hulme Denny Hulme
1968 Graham Hill Graham Hill
1974 Emerson Fittipaldi Emerson Fittipaldi
1976 Niki Lauda James Hunt
1981 Carlos Reutemann Nelson Piquet
1982 Keke Rosberg Keke Rosberg
1983 Alain Prost Nelson Piquet
1984 Niki Lauda Niki Lauda
1986 Nigel Mansell Alain Prost
1994 Michael Schumacher Michael Schumacher
1996 Damon Hill Damon Hill
1997 Michael Schumacher Jacques Villeneuve
1998 Mika Hakkinen Mika Hakkinen
1999 Eddie Irvine Mika Hakkinen
2003 Michael Schumacher Michael Schumacher
2006 Fernando Alonso Fernando Alonso
2007 Lewis Hamilton Kimi Raikkonen
2008 Lewis Hamilton Lewis Hamilton
2010 Fernando Alonso Sebastian Vettel
2012 Sebastian Vettel Sebastian Vettel
2014 Lewis Hamilton Lewis Hamilton

How will the title be decided?

There’s no doubt Hamilton is in great form at the moment having won the last three races from pole position. But as already discussed he needs to do more than that to win the title.

In an ordinary race his best chances of taking the crown involve Rosberg either suffering a technical fault or being beaten by two other cars. The Red Bulls are the greatest threat to him, and he was beaten in a straight fight by them in Germany.

Outside of those possibilities, the only other option for Hamilton may be to find some way of delaying Rosberg and provoking one of their rivals to overtake him. But that’s a risky strategy, and one he may only turn to as a last resort.

2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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113 comments on “Are Hamilton’s title hopes “impossible”?”

  1. I think Hamilton should have the grace to realise that, were Rosberg of the same mindset as Hamilton’s hero, Senna, then Hamilton’s chance would be 0% after the first corner…

    1. Didn’t Schumacher pull a similar trick on Hill (succesfully) and Villeneuve (unsuccesfully). I suspect that the FIA might be minded to exclude a driver from the Championship nowadays for such deliberately unsporting behaviour.

      1. the FIA might be minded to exclude a driver from the Championship nowadays for such deliberately unsporting behaviour. – but that would imply the FIA to have found MSch guilty in doing so, yet the FIA never made that judgement call. I’m talking about the Hill-case, because in ’97 he actually was excluded from the Championship, though most listings keep having him those wins etc.

    2. @dustybloke Lol let’s push that a little further, in fairness to Senna. Should read ‘if Nico gets pole and Todt changes the rule on Saturday night and puts him on the dirty side of the track’..,then Hamilton’s chance would be 0% after the first corner.

      @gnosticbrian I still can’t look on 94 as ‘successful’ for MS even though he got away with what he did. He crashed out to begin with, thus cracking under pressure, then limped his broken car onto the track and drove it into Hill and was somehow rewarded for that…but never in my books.

      1. I wasn’t alluding to that one incident where Senna knew that no-one , not Prost, the spectators or his fellow drivers could possibly be harmed by his actions, but rather to his record since the time his car was parked atop Brundle’s helmet.

      2. The rule wasn’t changed for Senna. Every race up to that point for 40 years had the pole on the inside line. Senna whined as he quite often did for the pole to be moved because he thought that was how Prost jumped him in ’89.

        1. @darryn You’ve made me review that. I think we both have bits right and bits wrong about it, according to an article on this site from 2014 that I found. By 1990, pole had been on the right hand side (inside line but dirty side of the track) for the past 3 races, not 40. Ahead of qualifying Senna lobbied for pole to be on the clean side, as he had observed for the last 2 years Prost getting the jump on him from second because of being on the clean side.

          So Senna thought he had agreement from Balestre on this, ahead of qualifying day, to put the pole sitter on the clean side, but when Senna in fact got pole Balestre said no you’re going to the dirty side again after all. Senna thought he had agreement beforehand and therefore thought he was being conspired against (my wording) once he got pole and Balestre left Prost on the cleaner gripper side.

    3. I think F1Fanatic should have the good grace to admit that its clickbait 90% figure was already well and truly debunked last time the claim was made.

      1. I think that you should have the good grace to admit that these are statistics – the whole point is that they can be manipulated to show any opinion.

        For example – I could say that Hamilton has a 100% chance of winning the championship, as every season finale since 2014 has resulted in Hamilton being champion when the race ends.

        Although the above example is completely true, it is obviously misleading. Similarly, no matter who calls the 90% stat ‘clickbait’, it is categorically not incorrect.

        Furthermore, statistics are meaningless to the individual case – Rosberg cannot win 90% of a championship, it is either a win or a loss which cannot possibly hope to be represented accurately by a probability.

        There is no one perfect statistic – the most anyone can do is list multiple statistics with the meaning behind them, and let the reader come to their own conclusions, which is exactly what Keith has done.

  2. The difficulty Hamilton is facing in backing Rosberg into competitors is that he will risk being overtaken himself. If Hamilton is slow, Rosberg can get within DRS of him. Let’s face it, “accidents” can happen. Rosberg will surely be aggressive.

    If Rosberg crashes out and gets penalty points, what more can the stewards do? Deduct points for “forcing another driver off the track” or for “leaving the track and gaining an advantage”? That would be an absurd penalty. Rosberg knows this. He won’t play fair, he will do what he has in order to beat Hamilton.

    1. Not sure if anything has changed since then but Bernie as well as Max Mosley have said numerous times that the first place in the world championship will not be changed afterwards trough a penalty. That’s the reason why Schumacher did get disqualified in 1997 by the way – he only came second. Had he been successful with his attack, he probably wouldn’t have been penalized.

      1. That’s the reason why Schumacher did get disqualified in 1997 by the way – he only came second

        I’m pretty sure he was disqualified from the championship, though the FIA still let his results count towards his official statistics. Frentzen is officially listed as having finished second in the 1997 world championship, followed by David Coulthard.

        1. @geemac
          he was disqualified from the championship – isn’t @dh1996 saying the same?

          1. The perils of reading articles at work…

    2. Rosberg will surely be aggressive

      I’m sure Rosberg making contact with Hamilton is the last thing he would want to do. Anything could happen just like Austria for example, in fact a similar incident would give Hamilton the championship.

      Rosberg will cruise around making sure he’s around 2-3 seconds behind Hamilton at all times. Even if this means he gets overtaken by a Red Bull, he will still win the championship and besides this is not Interlagos. That Mercedes will cruise past Red Bulls like a hot knife through butter thanks to our good friend DRS.

      It’s probably closer to 90% than 80% chance.

    3. Hamilton won’t back Rosberg into others so they can attack him but he may very well back him up a bit to put him at risk of the undercut. If Hamilton is in front, he’ll pit first and if others pit at the same time and Rosberg isn’t far enough clear, he’ll get jumped.

      1. One of the risks for LH in trying to back NR into traffic would be losing his optimum tire temp window and becoming a sitting duck.

  3. To make a long story short; the chance that ROS will congratulate HAM on the podium with the 2016 title is 0%.

    1. :-) well, you never know, maybe they will let him up there after the offical part to do the gratulating @coldfly

    2. Well, unless he ‘does a Vettel’ and gets demoted.
      “Here’s a message for Charlie” cries Rosberg!

      1. @john-h

        Well, unless he ‘does a Vettel’ and gets demoted.

        I shudder at the thought of the social media meltdown that would involve…

        1. Prepare thy servers @keithcollantine!

      2. Good one, @john-h ;-)
        I recall VES’ face in Mexico when he saw on screen that he was no longer 3rd.
        Will be tough for ROS to act as cool though.

    3. Tommy Scragend
      22nd November 2016, 13:39

      And the chance that HAM will congratulate ROS (and mean it) is probably not much higher ;-)

  4. In 2012 Vettel was the points leader both before and after the final race.

    1. Good point – have amended that.

  5. I love that 40% stat!

    It’s amusing to conjure with dastardly deeds. but I don’t think anyone will do anything unfair, in reality.

    1. @lockup Due to the amendment mentioned above it’s actually slightly less than that, but still a healthy number.

  6. in almost 40% of the occasions where the title has gone down to the last race the championship lead changed hands at the final round

    Great factoid, Keith, especially when we see how many of those cases were in this millennium.

  7. I am a fan of Lewis and It would be great for him to win the race and the title but he must take solace from 52 plus wins even if the title proves beyond him this year. I’ve been a follower of F1 since the mid sixties and have had the privilege of admiring a crop of fantastic drivers .Without doubt one of the very greatest and most complete geniuses at the wheel was Alain Prost , I still have a suspicion he could give many of today’s drivers a run for their money even now. I hope Lewis understands the incredible position of overtaking Prosts tally, for me a greater feat than a fourth title.

    1. I still have a suspicion he could give many of today’s drivers a run for their money even now. – though I’ve never seen a race of his, I do to and it’s not even a weak one.

  8. One factor that hasn’t been mentioned is the difference or not of engine mileage on the engines/transmissions etc that Nico and Lewis will use.

  9. I will just repeat what I said the other day, about why I believe Hamilton will take the WDC in Abu Dhabi.
    Nico had a good advantage of points, but just played the ultra conservative option and focused on arriving second, now three races in a row. I think he assumes he will be able to do it again the next race and get the championship.
    But all it takes now to see his dream vanished is not finishing the race. And that can happen because of a car failure or a wrong move, either his or someone else ‘s.
    I don’t know if this Nico is the same strong one we saw at the beginning of the year. Now I see Lewis having the real edge.

    1. I’m sure Nico has known not to get into any tangles if at all possible in these most recent races, but I also think he has been trying for poles and wins and it is just simply that on average LH has the better of him. I don’t think he is assuming anything, but certainly now that it has come to this, with them being where they are with one race to go, it still holds that Nico will be looking to stay clean and not take any unnecessary risks. I’m sure he is the same strong individual he was at the start of the year. He has certainly only ever spoken like he takes one race at a time and doesn’t get ahead of himself obsessing over the points standings. No matter what has happened to LH this season, NR has still had to prepare for and run his own races in just the same manner as always, and he would be best advised to do the same again.

    2. Hamilton can’t currently do anything about the Championship other than win the race. He’s fairly powerless to affect Nico’s race as it stands. If Rosberg decides to battle him, it gives Lewis the chance to do something (right or wrong) to affect Nico’s race…

      It’d be like Oxford Town leading Manchester United 2-0 going into the final 10 minutes – you would expect them to be cautious and defend. In fact, they’d be stupid to do anything other than that!

      As I said below, the problem Nico has is that if he is cautious, he’ll be one of the few drivers on track doing so and he’ll leave himself open to the undercut as the first pitstop goes to Hamilton. Mercedes won’t be able to do anything to protect Rosberg’s 2nd (ie pitting him first instead) as that would be favouring one driver over the other.

      1. @petebaldwin

        But even if Rosberg gets undercut do you expect the closest car to be able to stay in front ? I’m not sure if it will be RedBull or Ferrari at this track, but the long straights will surely hurt Redbull and I don’t think the Ferrari has the pace to match Mercedes. We’re yet to see practice of course, but looking at last year the Force India out qualified Redbull and Ferrari in 3rd were nearly a second slower than Rosberg. I just don’t think they’ve closed up enough to make that much different this year. That leaves the door completely open for Rosberg to take the Championship. The only thing which will stop him is car reliability.

        1. Yeah I’d expect Rosberg to fight he way back through but it adds another hazard for him to deal with. The ideal race for Rosberg would be that after turn 1, Hamilton would drive off into the distance and he wouldn’t see another car for the rest of the race. Nice clean drive to the flag.

          If he suddenly finds himself in 3rd, it gets a bit more tricky. Does he hold 3rd place or does he try and get himself back up to 2nd? With every overtake, there is a chance of damage and when you are trying to be very careful and those you are racing against have nothing to lose, the chances are even higher.

      2. so you’re already assuming Lewis takes pole? lol let’s not get ahead of ourselves, if Rosberg win in Abu Dhabi he fully deserves the title.

        1. Sebastian with the most dominate car on the grid: 4 years, 4 titles. 100%
          Lewis with the most dominate car on the grid: 3 years, 2 titles. 67%

          Sebastian > Lewis.

          1. Wins in every season driving a race winning car

            Hamilton: Yes
            Vettel: No

            Hamilton > Vettel ?

      3. Hamilton can’t currently do anything about the Championship other than win the race. – though the last part is not completely accurate, it did wonder me a bit Ham didn’t try anything (other than to have it look easy) last time out in Brazil. If he ever had the chance to unnerve Ros a bit the last three races, I think that would be it.

  10. Re the “Finishing positions at Yas Marina” section, I would have to note that Hamilton retired from the lead in both 2009 and 2012. I would have to call Yas Marina a “Hamilton circuit” because he does always seem to do well there.

  11. I think Hamilton’s chances of winning the title providing Rosberg has a trouble free race are almost impossible. It is however, very possible that Rosberg will fail to have a trouble free race….

    I’m really looking forward to seeing how Nico approaches this race. Does he attack and go for the win or does he try and keep out of trouble and make sure of a podium finish? I can’t imagine he’ll want to get too close to Hamilton during the race as he has nothing to lose however if he is in 2nd, Hamilton gets choice of pitstops etc and that could cause Rosberg problems if the Red Bulls or Ferraris are on it.

    Can you imagine how Rosberg will feel during the race? Every slight noise the car makes or anything that doesn’t quite feel right will cause panic. Red Bull are already guaranteed 2nd in the constructors and Ferrari 3rd so there is nothing to lose for them either – they can turn everything up to 10 and hope their cars get through to the end. Rosberg has to keep everything turned down well within the “safety zone.”

    1. so there is nothing to lose for them

      And there’s actually a 4th place to win for Verstappen if he earns 5 more points than Vettel. I expect another aggressive race from the youngster and he has shown that he’ll do almost anything to overtake when stuck behind a conservative Rosberg. @petebaldwin

      1. @coldfly Good point about Max but hopefully he has had the point made clear to him that he probably shouldn’t be deciding for the world who the WDC will be for 2016 by taking one of them out. Pass them fair and square if it comes to that, sure…just no contact please.

        1. Rosberg that has driven on the safe side since Hamiltons DNF has already thrown away his right to be respected by the “best of the rest”. If Verstappen takes Rosberg out trying to pass him for 2nd or 3rd place Rosberg has noone to blame.

          1. @rethla Your first sentence…no he hasn’t and no he has not. Your second sentence…if Max takes
            Nico out, the world, not just Nico, will have Max to blame for deciding the WDC that way.

          2. @robbie Yes but just like Massa is now reminiscing about his near driver championship being lost during the season and not the last lap both the world and Rosberg will slowly come to terms with it. If Rosberg for some reason doesn not make P3 it will be becaused he failed to take action when he had the chance.

            It funny that the man thats most often quoted taking each race by its own is the one thats most clearly not doing that.

          3. @rethla I think that all drivers could play woulda coulda shoulda for every race of every season. You are making it sound like Nico could have just snapped his fingers and changed a result for himself earlier in the year. Hindsight is 20/20. Just as Massa is using. ‘Failed to take action when he had the chance’…how convenient and easy to say using hindsight from one’s armchair. How about putting yourself in his shoes in the split seconds that counted the most, and then ask yourself how easy it is.

        2. Good point about Max but hopefully he has had the point made clear to him that he probably shouldn’t be deciding for the world who the WDC will be for 2016 by taking one of them out.

          I’m pretty sure that is the approach to every race. I would not expect Max to drive any differently just because it is the last race of the season than he would in the first.

          1. @Martin No I wouldn’t either, and no drivers, nor team members and principals, ever recommend taking someone out physically, so this of all races is not the time to forget that. Are you suggesting Max starts every race with the intention of whacking someone off the track? I kind of doubt that. You make it sound like that is one of his goals every Sunday he gets in the car.

          2. Are you suggesting Max starts every race with the intention of whacking someone off the track?

            No

            You make it sound like that is one of his goals every Sunday he gets in the car.

            Errr? Coldfly was talking about Max racing hard, you were the one that brought up Max taking other drivers out. I merely said that I’m sure the approach to every race is to not take other drivers out and that I expect Max to drive no different now than at the beginning of the season … literally the opposite of what you are accusing me of :/

        3. when has Max taken another driver out? can’t remember, he has way less crashes than lewis or vettel in their early seasons

          1. Splitting hairs…Max makes contact with other cars, and it would be best for all if he didn’t do that to either WDC contender this weekend.

          2. at IB
            hahahahha, dutch, now are we?

      2. @coldfly – Yeah fair enough but I don’t think it’ll change how Verstappen drives. If he’s catching Nico for 2nd in the last 10 laps, he won’t hold back to protect 4th in the Championship. He’ll send one up the inside and go for 2nd even though it won’t benefit him in the standings.

        If Nico is 2nd with 10 laps left and is catching Hamilton, I doubt we’ll see anything too risky!

        1. Max needs 3rd if Vettel is 5th, so second place is even better.

    2. I say Nico will only attack and go for the win if he gets pole. He’ll attack for the pole on Saturday no question, but assuming it will be a Merc 1-2 on the grid, which is a safe bet but no guarantee, it will just depend on which spot Nico is in for the start of race. It’s going to be a nail-biter of a turn 1 no matter what.

  12. Given Rosberg survived accidents on 2 previous circuits, I think chances are slim anything of a race incident will happen andhamper him on a wide and open circuit which limits accidents.

    Your best bets are the start and a mechanical failure. This is not exactly a weak circuit for Rosberg either, so performance-wise he does not look set to be beaten by anyone else than Hamilton.

  13. I think people are forgetting about the start. There might be a chance that Rosberg might get a bad getaway and drop to 4th or 5th, or even get spun around like in Malaysia

    1. But unless something more happens he will still get at least 4th place.

    2. Talking about bad starts, shouldn’t you be looking more at LH?

  14. On the face of it (stats aside) a normal race, free of incident, will see a Mercedes 1-2 in some order. This being the case, I’m sure Rosberg will be entirely content to follow his rival home and pick up the Championship.

    However… as the great Murray Walker once said “anything can happen in Formula One and it usually does!”

    Rosberg may only be aiming for second (or even third), but a lock-up in qualifying, a flash of nerves as the lights go out, a stuck wheel gun at a pit stop, an ill-timed safety car… or any number of things could see Rosberg fall down the order. Not to mention a potential car failure, which could happen to any driver at any time. The two Red Bull cars will be lying in prey ready to demote him at all times.

    So far, Rosberg has done everything that can be asked of him and has played his part to perfection. Should he be blamed for getting a seat in the best car? Of course not… he’s had poor races (Monaco springs to mind) but generally has done everything that’s needed… winning well when necessary and taking a riskless second place when necessary. He’s played the percentages game and well done to him if he wins. Hamilton has had the worse reliability, but he’s also had some shocking starts… Rosberg hasn’t won 9 races simply by default.

    Personally, as an impartial spectator (British, but no particular fan of Hamilton), I just want to see a good fight and as much tension as possible. Let the games begin!

    1. His poor drive in Brazil wasnt an “riskless second place”?
      In so many ways did he luck into that second place without making any effort.

      1. @rethla – “without making any effort”. That’s exactly the point I’m making… he knew that to attempt to challenge Hamilton for the win (assuming he could have done, which is a different matter) would risk him leaving Brazil with no points, putting him on the back foot for Abu Dhabi… as it is he approaches the final race with a healthy margin.

        1. Yes he has made it clear hes not gonna challenge Hamilton in any way but im talking about how he didnt even cared to defend his second position which was absolutely vital for him.

          1. @rethla – the stats disagree… it wasn’t vital… he could afford a third place finish in any of the final four races and still win the title with three second positions.

          2. @rethla ‘Didn’t even care to defend’ said like you were in the car and knew exactly that there was tons there for him in the tires etc. You’ve got it all figured out from your armchair…easy peasy. Yes Nico has intentionally chosen to be only 12 points ahead when he could have just snapped his fingers and already have sealed up the WDC by now, because F1 is as easy as hindsight.

          3. @robbie Who said drivers championship should be an easy thing?

          4. You seem to think so. If not why are you claiming Nico should have just done this or that?

          5. @robbie What are you talking about? Im saying that his 2nd place last race was anything but riskless as he didnt managed/wanted (take your pick) to defend his position on track.

    2. this whole comment sections is discussing on how Rosberg will screw up, all the things you list can happen to Hamilton as well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

      1. let’s not get ahead of ourselves. – would it make more sense to if all these alternatives would be discussed AFTER the race??

      2. Ham fans are coping with the inevitable Rosberg championship.

        1. COTD:-)
          And Thanks to Keith for a good article with no flaws in the probability section.

          I hope for Nico to win, simply because I admire his ability to come back and go for it, even if Lewis has beaten him very often. Nico hasn’t accepted a role of #2 driver, but keeps trying and has just been waiting for his chance. We can all learn from that – to never give up, even if You are normally the underdog, when all conditions are equal.

  15. Y’all should just quit with the barrel-scraping what-ifs and jinky probability suppositions. More likely than not ROS wins the Championship, ok? Stupendous if the reverse happens, but not freakin’ likely. There. Some reality from a HAM fan. Now let’s speculate on something more unpredictable, like who gets to win ‘Team no 1 Driver 2016’ between VES and RIC. Conjecture away.

  16. A repeat of 2014, where Rosberg was struck by a power unit problem while running second, would secure the title for Hamilton. This might even be considered a ‘fair’ outcome, as Hamilton lost a likely win to a breakdown in Malaysia, while Rosberg has had no equivalent misfortune.

    So, Rosberg having power unit problems in 2 last rounds of different championship would be a “fair” outcome?

    1. If we are talking about “fairness” it wouldnt matter at what races in the season the problems occur and yeh right now Hamilton is the unlucky one.

  17. Hamilton lost this season with poor, emotion-driven performances at Baku and Suzuka. That’s it basically. When he’s been emotionally in control, he’s been better. Rosberg has been hugely lucky and consistent.

    That said, the most likely win scenarios for Hamilton are (a) mechanical failure for Rosberg, unlikely but very possible, and (b) the Red Bull’s are close, nerves get to Rosberg, he loses out somewhere (qualifying, the start or the first laps), loses positions and can’t make up the gap to the Red Bulls. That’s not so difficult to imagine. It depends which Rosberg shows up.

    1. But…you just said Nico is lucky and consistent and it is LH that had poor emotion-driven performances. Sounds like the question is more which LH will show up, not which Nico.

      1. True, only Hamilton has shown he’s in the right frame of mind in this run in. So I think – barring any mechanical issues – he’ll be at his best, fighting for pole and probably winning it. On the other hand, I’m not sure Rosberg has been under any intense pressure yet this season, and he’s never been in this title decider situation with a real chance to win and everything down to him. I don’t actually think he’ll ‘bottle it’, but who knows, he may have the same kind of issues under pressure – especially with braking – seen at Austin last year and various tracks before then. And just a bad start may be enough to lose him the race and the title – if, as I said, the Red Bull’s are strong and they don’t make tactical mistakes (which has been a real weakness all season).

    2. Rosberg has not been more consistent at all. And it’s ridiculous to pick out two LH off weekends and pretend they’re the ONLY factor, as though everybody else has been perfect all season. I can’t think of anybody who’s been more consistent than Hamilton, in fact, it’s just that when Seb/Alo/Kimi spin off or whatever it’s not such a big deal.

      1. Don’t be so touchy. What I mean is that Hamilton has only been off the boil at two races. He himself admitted as such both times. The point is that removing all the bad luck he’s had – which is by definition beyond his control – the poor performances at Baku and Suzuka, all weekend in both cases, cost him the points that would have made a title almost certain. Yes it’s a harsh fact, but it’s true. You could pick out the bad starts, but there I’d give both drivers some leeway and put the blame on the car instead. Does Hamilton deserve the title more? I think so, he’s been much the better driver. Can he blame himself for losing this year? Yes he can, there were two races where he was distracted. Like I said, he admitted as much: he lost concentration between Canada and Baku, and he got too involved with the media at Suzuka.

        1. Your criticism is that there were two weekends where he was off the boil. TWO. Explain how that is blameworthy. As in, who has had less than two, this year or any other year?

          Because you describe those two as the cause:

          “Hamilton lost this season with poor, emotion-driven performances at Baku and Suzuka. That’s it basically.”

          But they are not the cause. They are part of the cause, obviously, but an entirely normal part of any sportsperson’s season.

          1. I’m not saying their ‘abnormal’, I’m saying that they cost him the title. Why? Because the margins for error were so tight this season precisely because of the mechanical issues he’s faced. You can pick and choose events all the time, of course, but even if you subtract all the bad luck, poor decisions from Red Bull and so on that have affected the championship, Hamilton still had a margin to win the title – due precisely to his excellent performances on most other occasions, but those two weekends cost. What’s the problem with stating that? Anyhow, as this article points out, there’s still a statisically reasonable chance he might win so my point is totally pointless…

          2. Yes maybe has not lost. Anyway it’s a question of focus, positive, neutral or negative.

            Hamilton lost this season with

            is what I took issue with. That negative focus, suggesting those were the entire story. He’s where he is, so far, with 20-50 or whatever causes; some good, some bad, some down to him and some not.

  18. How many races old is the race PU Rosberg will be using? This should be the most important factor of the weekend when comparing his performance against Lewis.

    If the quali/race PU had 4-5 races logged then 2nd place is essentially a perfect performance.

    These PUs still lose a measurable amount of HP after every race because mappings are detuned to a pre-programmed schedule. Lewis will have more HP, no reason for nico to risk anything.

  19. With all due respect, all this analysis begins to get old after a while. Truth is Rosberg needs to place third or better to take the championship. Everything we know points to the probability that unless he has a DNF due to reliability issues or other mishap, that isn’t going to happen.

    Regardless of our individual thoughts or beliefs as to how the season ended like this, the fact is Rosberg will drive on Sunday NOT for the race win, but for the championship. In other words, he will cautiously make sure he comes in at least third. Again, from what we have seen throughout the season, that shouldn’t be too difficult.

    It is what it is.

    1. ^^ Meant to say “Everything we know points to the probability that unless he has a DNF due to reliability issues or other mishap, that IS going to happen” ^^

  20. With all due respect, all this analysis begins to get old after a while. Truth is Rosberg needs to place third or better to take the championship. Everything we know points to the probability that unless he has a DNF due to reliability issues or other mishap, that IS going to happen.

    Regardless of our individual thoughts or beliefs as to how the season ended like this, the fact is Rosberg will drive on Sunday NOT for the race win, but for the championship. In other words, he will cautiously make sure he comes in at least third. Again, from what we have seen throughout the season, that shouldn’t be too difficult.

    It is what it is.

    1. It is what it is.

      True @stubbornswiss. Still, we saw in 2010 what traction and brakes mean around this track and Red Bull have them. There’s not a lot of aero demand so they’ll trim drag off. Max and Ric will figure Rosberg will jump out of the way if they sling one up the inside, which they both have form for. The Ferraris tend to start well and Vettel is as uncompromising as the next guy. So it may work out for Nico, or it may not.

      My biggest dread is the commentary. Think I’ll watch the onboards!

      1. No DRS in 2010, it sure would have changed things

  21. It’s not impossible, just improbable!

  22. All this interpretation of Keith’s (and other’s) analysis seems to have an underlying tone of hoping that Hamilton takes the WDC this round. Perfectly normal if you’re a Hamilton fan but surely not everyone on this site wants him to win??

    I’m not a ”fan” of Rosberg per se, but I very much hope he wins the championship. Both drivers have driven well – and sometimes badly – this year and whoever wins it shall be a ”deserving” champion.

    Just my opinion, but Hamilton’s ”smug douchy-ness” has ebbed and flowed over the last 10 years and this year I feel it’s been on the rise again. Whereas, I’ve enjoyed Rosberg’s demeanour more this year than in prior years. As such, my ”desire” is for Rosberg to take it in Abu Dhabi.

    But yeah……is anyone here a fan of Rosberg’s???

    1. Why would anyone be a fan of Rosberg? Genuine fan I mean. Some people who can’t bear for Hamilton to have confidence and status attach themselves to him.

      And fans of F1 as a sport want the champion to be the best car/driver of course, rather than the one whose PU didn’t keep failing. Even a lot of people who are alienated by his culture/lifestyle/hair nevertheless admire his racing.

    2. Well, i think it would be devastating if he lost at this point, especially from a mechanical issue or something else beyond his control. So I don’t wish him that. However that’s not the same as hoping he wins. He’d clearly have won it due to Hamilton’s engine problems this year. I’d put him fourth this year in terms of performance, after Verstappen, Hamilton and maybe Ricciardo, the only ones really to stand out. It’s not been a vintage year.

    3. Just my opinion, but Hamilton’s ”smug douchy-ness” has ebbed and flowed over the last 10 years and this year I feel it’s been on the rise again. Whereas, I’ve enjoyed Rosberg’s demeanour more this year than in prior years.

      I think you have a point here. I wouldn’t call it ‘smug douchy-ness’, but I think Hamilton easing off last year paved the way for Rosberg to win (perhaps) this year. Hamilton destroyed Rosberg in the first half of 2015. Then Rosberg – maybe after the tire pressure changes for some reason – started getting back. Only too late to affect the championship, with Hamilton winning at Austin by an aggressive move at the start and by a faster Rosberg losing position under pressure later. After that Hamilton eased off and I remember commenting that it was a mistake, it would give Rosberg the confidence for 2016. Hamilton returned fine enough, but bad luck and some poor starts meant that Rosberg indeed was able to capitalize with none of the erratic moments of 2014 and 2015. When Hamilton recuperated the points midway through the season, I agree he got overconfident and lost concentration – which resulted in the appalling (relatively) Baku weekend.

      In the end, so what? Maybe it will be good all round for Rosberg to actually win this year.

      1. but I think Hamilton easing off last year paved the way for Rosberg to win (perhaps) this year

        Not really. By any objective measurement Hamilton has outdriven Rosberg over the course of this season. The only real difference is the greater number of mechanical issues Hamilton has faced. Taking the races affected by reliability out of the equation Hamilton’s win rate to Rosberg (9-6) is fairly similar to 2014/2015 and Rosberg has been just as inconsistent as in previous years (Spain, Monaco, Canada, Austria, Germany, Silverstone, Mexico, Brazil).

        As much as I am a Hamilton supporter I kinda hope Rosberg wins the championship. I can’t remember the last time a driver was handed such a massive opportunity to take the title and really it should have already been wrapped up. If he doesn’t take it this time I really worry about what sort of affect that will have on him next year, especially if Red Bull emerge with the dominant car and his chance to fight for a championship is over.

  23. I would like Nico Rosberg to score a dominant win at Yas Marina (but it would be to no avail, the fanchildren won’t stop saying it’s an undeserved title no matter how it goes). Surely it won’t happen, because he doesn’t need to and probably won’t fight for it.

    But now matter what happens in Abu Dhabi, after his 2P at Interlagos NR is already the 2016 WDC for me.

    Why? I don’t consider random mechanical failures like Sepang, it’s not NR’s fault if he benefited from it. It just happens, it’s racing, so far NR has been luckier with mechanics this year (but remember Monza last year) but of course it could happen to him at Yas Marina, who knows.

    I don’t consider also random strokes of luck like Dan’s horrid Monaco pitstop, it was a a gifted win for Lewis Hamilton, but again it’s racing, he did nothing wrong to get it.

    So people make longer and longer lists of undeserved point gains and point losses and draw their conclusions. Well, it doesn’t mean much to me, that’s racing and champions often need a little luck. You may say (Alonso, for one, often says) that luck tends to balance in the end, but it’s not true, dice have no memory. The mathematician’s model for it is the random walk, and it tends to drift more and more away from the even line.

    Then do I have to conclude that a point is a point and how you got it doesn’t matter? well I don’t. I draw the line at dishonesty, prevarication, blatantly arbitrary and unfair steward’s decisions, and just plain old cheating. Cranegates I don’t buy.

    The Mexican T1-T3 shortcut did it for me. If you can get away with that, why bother trying to stay inside the track? Specially when other driver gets a penalty for doing exactly that, in the same race, in the same turn. And no, I don’t buy Charlie Whiting’s “explanations”. Lewis went out to pasture but this guy must be put out to pasture ASAP.

    So how much did Lewis gain? (the “he did not gain a lasting advantage” line is up there with “the check is in the mail” or “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you”). Hard to say how many positions he was going to lose after the massive lockup by actually getting to T2, but at an absolute minimum I’d say 5 or 6, and that’s assuming he wouldn’t need to pit right away with a square tyre and come back to the bottom of the pack. Or get into a massive shunt and DNF. Or have to wait for the pack to pass to avoid the shunt and again coming to the bottom.

    Mexico is not an easy circuit for overtaking, but anyway, I’ll accept for the sake of argument that LH’s car and tyres would sustain no significant damage and he could recover up to P2. I drawn the line here, a Merc is a Merc and by then NR should have a massive advantage, after the T1 incident it was well nigh impossible for LH to win.

    So in the best of cases for LH after his T1 lockup but without the shortcut it would come to a P2, with a win for NR (a significant penalty after the shortcut should come to the same result at least).

    Then that would mean 7 more points for NR and 7 points less for LH. Adding the 12 point advantage NR still keeps after Interlagos, it would mean a 26 points advantage, and therefore the title.

    Now people will disagree with me, and that’s fine, I agree to disagree. But as the song goes, “you can say what you want but I won’t change my mind”.

    BTW in the fan video that showed the shortcut so well, the guy who yelled “pinche tramposo” got it exactly right (he is yelling at Max, though).

    https://youtu.be/EI-nMx-gnTU

    1. You disapprove of cheating so you support the biggest cheat that has ever driven in F1. Okay :/

      1. Who, Nico? Honestly? I can’t remember him ever getting back to track in a crane

        1. Of course you don’t remember Rosberg being told to stay in his car while it was craned, otherwise it wouldn’t be ‘cheating’ suddenly ;) Just like you don’t remember Rosberg powering across the chicane in Canada.

          Picking cheating wasn’t the best idea for your campaign really, given that Rosberg has been dodgy two or three times every year since the car became competitive.

          1. Not that I don’t remember. It never happened. The crane I mean.

            Not that I believe that Nico is perfectly clear. The most dodgy situation he has been charged with so far was causing the yellow flag at Monaco last year in order to secure the pole. It kinda looked deliberate. But there’s no way to know for sure, even for the stewards who had the telemetry data. Maybe he just lost the car, and there’s no more to it. And so what? It was last season and he lost anyway. And a guy’s misdeeds do not justify another’s. And more to the point, Lewis’ illegal shorcut at T1 in Mexico is plain for all to see. If it was intentional or not is beside the point. While Nico’s cheating or not cheating in the Monaco incident depends on his intentionality which we’ll never know.
            And anyway calling Nico the biggest cheat who has ever driven in F1 is clearly delusional. Most drivers have been involved in some kind of dodgy situation. But after misdeeds like the Singapore crashgate, or Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher trying to secure the WDC by ramming their rivals, everything you can try to blame Nico for sounds like kiddie stuff. Not to mention Lewis lying to the stewards, overtaking the SC (ipso facto black flag stuff if you ask me), and my favorite, the one and only cranegate.

    2. The problem is nothing there is Hamilton ‘cheating’, you’re complaining about stewarding decisions on very clear incidents with no attempt at deception by the driver (being rescued by the crane at the Nürburgring 2007, or the corner cutting at Mexico this year). That’s simply not the same as, say, stopping or spinning off deliberately in qualifying or deliberately driving into a rival, both of which are ‘cheating’ insofar as they are masked to appear non-deliberate. Perhaps. That’s the point. In most cases nobody can be 100% sure except the driver. But with Hamilton you’re basically saying that you’re against him winning because you disagree with a stewarding decision over an incident that was made more or less irrelevant with the safety car a short time later. That’s not really very convincing.

      1. “more or less irrelevant with the safety car a short time later”
        Really?! I think hyoko has summed up the gain pretty well.

        I agree that ultimately it was a stewards decision, but the act of driving straight on at T1 was Hamilton’s choice.

        1. No, you’re both completely wrong. There’s a difference between how many places he would have lost sticking to the track, which is what the stewards measured, and how many places he would have lost had he not released the brakes despite the lock-up, which is a scenario the stewards couldn’t adjudicate on. How are they supposed to calculate that?! They can tell more or less how many cars someone passed by cutting a corner, or how much track advantage that gave. They can’t tell what position a driver would be in had he continued braked – how hard? what would the consequences be in terms of position? how would hard braking and maybe loss of control have affected the other drivers? If you’ve got a reliable program for predicting all the physical and congnitive (human input) variables for that, send it to FIA.

          1. I know it’s been hashed out already, but it certainly looked like Lewis could have chosen to come back to the track for turn two and instead he consciously took to the grass. It also looked like he would have lost at least one position had he come back to the track instead. From that it is seems clear that he won a lasting advantage. So on that, I’m with hyoko: the steward decisions in that race were not consistent at all and CW’s explanation was woeful. However, this is just another example of the sorts of ‘luck’ that go into determining a champion, just like reliability problems.

      2. Some of the drivers suggested that Lewis did do it deliberately. i.e. the Hulk said it looked like he was going way off, with no chance of making turn 1 or turn 2. In other words, perhaps he had already decided that he could take to the grass if it suited him. He just had to make it look like a mistake. I don’t see how this is any different to the examples you give of stopping deliberately.

    3. I agree completely. Just add the +7 points rosberg would have from spain where they collided (rosberg was in front though). I believe both would deserve the championship at this point. There is one thing that bothered me with Rosberg this season and thats not winning one of the required 3 races by sheer pace to not have to rely in Abu Dhabhi. Especially that Austin weekend where he used to be strong since he had tyre warmup issues due to his setup/style in mexico and well I do believe he is worse than Hamilton in rain.

  24. It’s going to be mercedes 1-2 at yas marina, no way Redbull or ferrari going to match them which means Roseberg wins the title. Roseberg is wise, he’ll drive carefully.

  25. I think it’s quite simple, ‘never say never’ as the saying goes and who knows that better than Lewis himself being on either side of the championship results in 2007 and 2008. Surely, Lewis has been playing his ‘I am unlucky’ card to create a fine cushion in case he losses the title and put some mental pressure on Rosberg. Nico did nothing different in 2014 so it’s normal.

    I am glad that once again that the championship is once again heading to the finale in the last 3 years of the hybrid era in a phenomenal backdrop of Yas Marina (I am not talking about the track). May the best man win!

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