With some of the closest driver fields in a long time, the 2012 Formula One championship has been crazy thus far. Left and right, the drivers have also been affected by misfortune though, skewing the outcome in comparison to the driver’s performances. To put things a little in perspective, here is what the championship would have looked if the top 4 teams and Alonso would not have had misfortune set them back. So, how would things have turned out if the title contenders did not have any misfortune, and how would they go into the second half of 2012?
DISCLAIMER: While anyone having watched Back to the Future understands that you can’t simply alter one thing in history without other things being affected, and thus these results are not completely definitive, they can’t be completely ignored either, considering any Formula One will always push for the best results. This article provides some context to the raw statistics of world championships.
What counts as misfortune: mechanical failure, being crashed in to by another driver, undeserved penalties
What does not count as misfortune: wrong tactical choices, crashing their own car, penalty by the driver’s own doing
Australian Grand Prix
- First race of the season started with a bang, or rather a screech, as Alonso binned his Ferrari in Q2. As it was his own fault, no changes there.
- Both Red Bull were struggling with KERS in qualifying, but the gap to Schumacher was greater than KERS would have cost likely them, so no changes there.
- Michael Schumacher retired from 3rd place with gearbox issues. Without this, he would have still been passed by Vettel and probably Webber, but fifth should have been very possible.
- Romain Grosjean was punted off the track by Pastor Maldonado. Considering Grosjean’s and Lotus’ speed, he would have likely finished ahead of Alonso and Maldonado, but behind Schumacher still.
- The influence of the safety car on the Vettel-Hamilton has been much debated, but the pace of Vettel trying to jumpfrog Hamilton -before the field was slowed by the safety car- would have been enough to take 2nd, regardless of the safety car.
- Pastor Maldonado’s crash wash his own fault, so no change.
- Rosberg’s coming together in the last lap was his of fault, so no change there.
Changes: P5 for Schumacher, P6 for Grosjean, P7 for Alonso, P9 for Räikkönen.
Alternative standings (actual standings): Button 25pts (25), Vettel 18pts (18), Hamilton 15pts (15), Webber 12pts (12), Schumacher 10pts (0), Grosjean 8pts (0), Alonso 6pts (10), Räikkönen 2pts (6), Rosberg 0pts (0)
Malaysian Grand Prix
- Kimi Räikkönen received a 5 place grid penalty for changing his gearbox, setting him back to p10, which moved up Vettel, Grosjean, Rosberg and Alonso. Considering his race pace though, he would have probably not finished ahead of Webber, who qualified ahead, anyway.
- Grosjean spun Schumacher on lap 1, retiring by his own doing a few laps later. No change for Grosjean. Schumacher lost a lot of positions, and although the time difference was made up by the safety car a little later, he would have likely had a good chance to fight for Räikkönen’s position.
- Vettel’s radio stopped working shortly after the restart, which is a strategical nightmare in rainy conditions. Having been able to pit a lap earlier would have saved him some time, but would not have him overtake Hamilton.
- Webber lost 2 seconds in the pit stop, affecting his fight with Vettel, who in turn had also lost time due to the radio. As Vettel was the faster driver today, it likely evens out.
- Jenson Button collided with Karthikeyan trying to overtake him. This was his own fault.
- Infamously, Vettel and Karthikeyan came together when the Red Bull tried to lap the HRT. While there’s a lot of would have/could have/should have’s, the stewards also agreed Karthikeyan was at fault. This cost Vettel 4th place. While he was catching up with Hamilton, the McLaren’s top speed makes that it wasn’t certain the accident cost Vettel 3rd, so just 4th.
Changes: P4 for Vettel, P5 for Webber, P6 for Räikkönen, p7 for Schumacher.
Alternative standings (actual standings): Alonso 31pts (35), Vettel 30pts (18), Hamilton 30pts (30), Button 25pts (25), Webber 22pts (24), Schumacher 16pts (1), Räikkönen 10pts (16), Grosjean 8pts (0), Rosberg 0pts (0)
Chinese Grand Prix
- Lewis Hamilton was given a 5-place grid penalty for a gearbox change. Although Rosberg just looked too strong for anyone this weekend, Hamilton would have probably taken second.
- Schumacher retired and lost a likely 3rd place (he was on the same winning strategy as Rosberg) podium finish when his mechanic failed to screw his tire on correctly.
- While Vettel and Räikkönen didn’t saw their strategies work out, those do not count in this scenario.
Changes: P2 for Hamilton, P3 for Schumacher, everyone behind one place down.
Alternative standings (actual standings): Hamilton 45pts (45), Vettel 38pts (28), Button 37pts (43), Alonso 33pts (37), Schumacher 31pts (1), Webber 32pts (36), Rosberg 25pts (25), Grosjean 16pts (8), Räikkönen 10pts (16)
Bahrain Grand Prix
- Although Webber did not have KERS in the first lap, considering his later race pace it is unlikely he would have finished ahead of the Lotus’.
- A slow first pitstop cost Hamilton 10 seconds, which left him behind Rosberg. Losing another 12 seconds in the second pit stop, and Rosberg finishing just 17 seconds behind Webber, Hamilton might have been able to challenge the Australian for 4th. As Webber probably didn’t push too much in the final laps, we’ll give Hamilton 5th.
- Button was pushing and had likely overtaken di Resta if not for a tire puncture and later exhaust problems. We put Button ahead of di Resta.
- Althought Rosberg had a broken exhaust in the final laps, it did not make a big difference.
Changes: P5 for Hamilton, P6 for Button, P7 for Rosberg, P9 for Alonso, Schumacher out of the points.
Alternative standings (actual standings): Vettel 63pts (53), Hamilton 55pts (49), Button 45pts (43), Webber 44pts (48), Alonso 34pts (43), Rosberg 31pts (35), Schumacher 31pts (2), Grosjean 31pts (23), Räikkönen 28pts (34)
Spanish Grand Prix
- Two strategy calls by Red Bull in qualifying did not quite work out. In an attempt to safe tires, Webber was stuck in Q2 and had to start 12th. Vettel subsequently decided to safe tires in Q3, and to have a choice of tires in the race. Both choices ended up not working out for them, but as strategy can both win and lose you a race, it doesn’t count.
- Underfueling Hamilton in Q3, we can assume, was not done on purpose, yet had grave consequences. Bad luck, so we put him back on pole. Judging his race pace if on pole is tricky, as his race pace from the back would not have won him the race. All throughout qualifying though, his pace was such that a win would be likely.
- Schumacher’s collision with Senna was his own fault.
- Vettel’s drive-through penalty for not slowing for yellow flags was his own fault as well. His front wing change later did cost him 6 seconds though, which would have been enough to finish ahead of Kamui Kobayashi.
- Judging the impact of Webber’s front wing problems is a bit tricky; he was in 8th when he fell back through the ranks, and lost time on the pit stop as well. He wasn’t leading the 6-car pack by much though, so without the issues he would have probably ended just in front of, or behind, Kamui Kobayashi. Considering he was fighting back really well, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and give him 7th, behind Vettel, ahead of Kobayashi.
Changes: P1 for Hamilton, P3 for Alonso, P6 for Vettel, P7 for Webber, P9 for Rosberg, P10 for Button.
Alternative standings (actual standings): Hamilton 80pts (53), Vettel 71pts (61), Alonso 49pts (61), Button 46pts (45), Webber 44pts (48), Räikkönen 43pts (49), Grosjean 41pts (35), Rosberg 33pts (41), Schumacher 31pts (2)
Monaco Grand Prix
- Schumacher’s crash with Senna in Spain cost him the pole position, but this was his own fault.
- Vettel was given the wrong set-up in qualifying, but this counts as a strategic error, so it doesn’t count for this article.
- While Grosjean’s crash at the start was his own fault, it cost Schumacher valuable time, which made the German fall back behind Räikkönen and held him up. Schumacher’s race ended with a fuel problem, but had Grosjean not crashed into him at the start, and had his fuel pressure kept, he would have certainly kept up with the leading pack, finishing 7th or possibly higher. Considering Rosberg finished 2nd, let’s split the difference and give Schumacher 4th, ahead of Vettel.
Changes: P4 for Schumacher, P5 for Vettel, P6 for Hamilton, P10 for Räikkönen.
Alternative standings (actual standings): Hamilton 88pts (63), Vettel 81pts (73), Webber 69pts (73), Alonso 64pts (76), Rosberg 51pts (59), Button 46pts (45), Räikkönen 44pts (51), Schumacher 43pts (2), Grosjean 41pts (35)
Canadian Grand Prix
- Vettel and Alonso saw their race strategies crumble, but strategy doesn’t count.
- Running 9th, Schumacher had to retire when his DRS stayed open, so we’re giving him P9.
Changes: P9 for Schumacher.
Alternative standings (actual standings): Hamilton 113pts (88), Vettel 93pts (85), Webber 75pts (79), Alonso 74pts (86), Rosberg 59pts (67), Grosjean 59pts (53), Räikkönen 48pts (55), Button 46pts (45), Schumacher 45pts (2)
European Grand Prix
- Problems in qualifying for Webber meant he had to start in 19th. Free practice indicated he would have been fast, but still a few tenths of Vettel. Considering his start and his race pace, I would say he would been 4th after lap 1, behind Vettel, Hamilton and Grosjean.
- A bad pit stop cost Hamilton 3rd place at the time. Aside from losing position, having to fight with Räikkönen because of that also cost him tire wear later on. While he would have still suffered, it would not have been as severe, dropping him behind Webber and Alonso at worst.
- Alonso would not have been able to surprise Grosjean, as he would be behind the more experienced, and better defending, Webber and Hamilton.
- With Vettel and Grosjean not suffering from engine faillures, this would mean the top 5 would end up Vettel, Grosjean, Webber, Alonso and Hamilton.
Changes: P1 for Vettel, P2 for Grosjean, P3 for Webber, P4 for Alonso, P5 for Hamilton, P6 for Räikkönen, P7 for Schumacher, P9 for Rosberg, Button out of the points.
Alternative standings (actual standings): Hamilton 123pts (88), Vettel 118pts (85), Webber 93pts (91), Alonso 86pts (111), Grosjean 77pts (53), Rosberg 61pts (75), Räikkönen 54pts (73), Schumacher 51pts (17), Button 46pts (49)
British Grand Prix
- Button was stuck in Q3 because of the yellow flags due to Glock spinning. As the qualifying was a mix-up, it’s hard to see exactly where he could have qualified and thus finished. It would be safe to assume he could have finished in front of Senna, just 1 second ahead, so let’s give him that.
- Other than that, not much happened in the context of this article.
Changes: P9 for Button.
Alternative standings (actual standings): Hamilton 127pts (92), Vettel 133pts (100), Webber 118pts (116), Alonso 104pts (129), Grosjean 85pts (61), Räikkönen 64pts (83), Rosberg 61pts (75), Schumacher 57pts (23), Button 48pts (50)
German Grand Prix
- Webber and Rosberg were given a 5-place grid penalty for changing their gearboxes.
- Rosberg would have finished ahead of Hülkenberg.
- Judging where Webber would have ended up is tricky, as he didn’t quite have the race pace, and ended up behind drivers that started behind him anyway. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on Räikkönen, Kobayashi and Perez, but with Schumacher on p4 and both McLarens very fast, Webber would have finished 6th.
- Hamilton’s puncture and consequent suspension damage ruined his race, though it would be hard to judge his actual speed, as his race speed was very fluctuating. His mix-up with Vettel and Alonso was thanks to fresher tires, but it did show he still had some pace in the car. In practice and qualifying, Hamilton was faster than Button though, and at times also faster than Vettel. The race would have probably come together with a three-way fight between Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel, but with Hamilton having incredibly superior straight-line speed over Vettel, it’s safe to give Hamilton 2nd.
- Which of course brings us to Vettel’s illegal overtaking move on Button. Hamilton’s overtake on Vettel has been much discussed, but regardless of what you feel about it, the move itself cost Vettel just enough for him to drop behind Button after his pitstop. So with Hamilton not ahead, Vettel would not have made the frustrated move on Button, and had finished 3rd.
Changes: P2 for Hamilton, P3 for Vettel, P4 for Button, P5 for Webber, P6 for Räikkönen, P7 for Kobayashi, P8 for Perez, P9 for Schumacher, P10 for Rosberg.
Alternative standings (actual standings): Hamilton 152pts (92), Vettel 148pts (110), Webber 128pts (120), Alonso 129pts (154), Grosjean 85pts (61), Räikkönen 72pts (98), Schumacher 62pts (29), Button 60pts (68), Rosberg 58pts (75)
Hungarian Grand Prix
- Schumacher’s brain-fart at the start, which ruined his race, was his own fault. Although he failed to finish due to mechanical issues, it is unlikely he would have gotten any points today.
- Webber suffered an issue with his differential. Although it didn’t cost him anything speed-wise, it burned his tires, requiring the final pit stop that put him back from p5 to p8, so we’re giving him back p5. Vettel would have shortly fallen behind during the pitstop, but on fresher tires and not the lack of speed Red Bulls have with other cars, he would have easily passed back Webber on older tires.
Changes: P5 for Webber, P6 for Alonso, P7 for Button.
Alternative standings (actual standings):
1. Lewis Hamilton 177pts (117)
2. Sebastian Vettel 160pts (122)
3. Mark Webber 138pts (124)
4. Fernando Alonso 137pts (164)
5. Romain Grosjean 100pts (76)
6. Kimi Räikkönen 90pts (116)
7. Jenson Button 66pts (76)
8. Michael Schumacher 62pts (29)
9. Nico Rosberg 59pts (75)
In conclusion I
* Lewis Hamilton lost a net 60 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune.
* Sebastian Vettel lost a net 38 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune.
* Michael Schumacher lost a net 32 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune.
* Romain Grosjean lost a net 24 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune.
* Mark Webber lost a net 14 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune.
* Jenson Button gained a net 10 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune from his other competitors.
* Nico Rosberg gained a net 16 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune from his other competitors.
* Kimi Räikkönen gained a net 26 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune from his other competitors.
* Fernando Alonso gained a net 27 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune from his other competitors.
In conclusion II
* Rather than being in 4th, a distant 47 points beind Alonso, without mechanical failures and other misfortune Lewis Hamilton would have been leading the championship, 17 points ahead of Vettel.
* Rather than trailing Alonso by 42 points in 3rd, Sebastian Vettel would have been 2nd, just 17 points behind Hamilton.
* Mark Webber would have been one position lower, he would be closer to the championship leader, albeit a different one, with a 29 point gap in stead of a 40 point gap.
* Rather than leading Webber, Vettel and Hamilton by 40, 42 and 47 points, Fernando Alonso would be trailing the trio by 40, 23 and 1 point.
* In stead of having just 1/3rd of Rosberg’s points, Michael Schumacher would have been 3 points aheads of Rosberg.
* Romain Grosjean would not have been in 8th place to Kimi’s 5th, but in 5th place to Kimi’s 6th.
In conclusion III
Like we’ve seen with the 2010 championship, we see here that the results can be very skewed, and with that, our impression of a driver performing. Hamilton in the fastest car in a distant 4th place looks like underperforming, but look at the context and you see the kind of results you can expect of him. Same goes for Vettel, who is the only one to have been fighting for the top 6 in every race this year; take away the misfortune he had no control over, and he’s a close second in generally the 2nd-fastest car.
It is also kind of funny to see Fernando being Fernando again; not perse blowing the competition out of the water on speed every weekend, but decisively picking up any points that his competitor’s lose. That’s worked for him amazingly in 2005, 2007 and 2010, and that’s the cool-headedness that has him leading the championship at this point. It does indicate however, that if McLaren and Red Bull get their game together, Vettel and Hamilton will be a more serious treat than most of us thought.