OK, so I read this article this morning and, ignoring the fact that you never see things like this made for any other driver on the grid, I thought it was frankly amazing how far people will go out of their way to make it known just how much better Lewis Hamilton is than Nico Rosberg.
This is a team sport. A driver is only as good as their car and the car is only as good as its driver. This has always been the way, even if maybe the percentage of car/driver has fluctuated over the years. Mechanical failures are part and parcel of a championship. Many championships have been decided on mechanical issues. Would James Hunt have still won in 1976 without Lauda’s extreme failure at the Nürburgring? Would Prost have won in 1986 without Mansell’s dramatic tyre explosion? Hell, would Lewis have still won his first championship in 2008 had Massa’s engine not expired two laps from the end at Hungary?
But motorsport isn’t always fair.
It’s cruel, it’s ruthless. It doesn’t care how much time and effort you put into it. If it’s not your day, it’s not your day. And it certainly looks like this year is certainly not Lewis’ year. Not to say he can’t pull it back, of course he can. And that’s what you want from a championship, isn’t it? You want it to be a fight to the final race. It would even be nice to have more than two people in contention. But we can’t always get our way.
My main issue with this article is the assumptions it takes. First of all, it shows what sort of state this sport is in that people can quite comfortably say “oh well, they won last year so of course they’d probably have won it this year too”. So much for competition. But secondly, this sport is meant to be unpredictable. A championship is moulded just as much by a team or driver’s failings as it is their successes. So let me put forward a different analysis of the races so far, but instead of focusing on just mechanical failures, let’s focus on if motorsport was actually fair how the race results could have ended up…
Australia – A poor start from both Mercedes handed the lead to Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari. Had Ferrari made the right move during the red flag and covered Mercedes’ strategy, they probably could have won that race. Seb P1, Nico P2, Lewis P3.
Bahrain – Another poor start from Lewis let Nico take the lead and gave Lewis everything to do after a skirmish with Valtteri at Turn 1. I don’t see the result being any different than what we got. Nico P1, Kimi P2, Lewis P3.
China – So the Telegraph point out that Lewis had an engine failure in qualifying, forcing him to start from the back. BUT was that engine failure not put down in part to the incident with Bottas in the previous race? So does that really count as a mechanical failing when it was the result of contact made in a race? But, if we’re trying to be fair, there would have been no penalty and maybe Lewis would have won from previous form. If that’s even a thing. So let’s have it as Lewis P1, Nico P2, Daniil P3. (Of course, who knows what would have happened up front between Sebastian and Daniil had there been another Mercedes up there…You see where I’m coming from with the pointless conjecture now, right?)
Russia – Once again, the Telegraph cite the fact that Lewis has won the previous two Russian GPs so of course, it’s safe to assume he would have won it this year. Completely ignoring the fact that Nico got pole there last year (by a good margin of 3 tenths too) and ended up having to retire thanks to a throttle failure. A mechanical failure! Because they do happen to other people too. And in 2014, Nico scuppered his race at the first corner by ruining his tyres and forcing him to pit on lap 1 but he still recovered to P2. So how about we give Nico a bit more credit and let him keep that win and keep Lewis in second. Nico P1, Lewis P2, Kimi P3.
Spain – Now. If motorsport was fair, Daniil Kvyat would still have been in Red Bull at this point, first of all. The Mercedes both DNFed due largely to Lewis trying to win the race on the first lap. Some argue that Nico closed the door too harshly but in my eyes, it was a fair move and it was Lewis getting on the grass that undid them both and ended Nico’s impressive winning streak. If we use the Telegraph’s methodology of predicting race winners, you’d have to have given it to Nico going by his previous form as he’s always been strong there. So a potential 1-2 in Nico’s favour. But as it stands, we will keep this as a non-race for both. (Had Daniil still been in a Red Bull, I believe it would have been a RBR 1-2 in Ricciardo’s favour.)
Monaco – Let’s face it, the win was handed to Lewis on a platter. It was Ricciardo’s for the taking and Red Bull robbed him of it with a frankly absurd pit stop miscommunication. So, in a fair universe, the result would have been Dan P1, Lewis P2, Perez P3. Nico struggled with mechanical issues early in the race, letting Lewis by to go after Daniel but once the rain hit, he really struggled so I don’t think there can be much debating about his P7.
Canada – So, at the start of the race, Lewis ran Nico off the track – sorry, “eased him onto the grass” – losing the German several positions in the process. I’m pretty sure penalties have been given in the past for forcing a driver off the track but nothing was given and Nico was forced to claw his way back up the order. Ferrari once again chose the wrong strategy, losing Sebastian what I’m sure would have been a win. So I’d go with Seb P1, Lewis P2, Nico P3.
Baku – Nico had the measure of Lewis on the streets of Baku. Lewis’ qualifying pretty much ensured that he wasn’t going to win and then software issues for both of them put paid to an even worse time for Lewis during the race. I don’t see this result being changed in any way, it was a pretty uneventful race after all. Nico P1, Seb P2, Sergio P3, Lewis P5.
Austria – I’ll admit to still not having watched this race. I was at Battersea watching the Formula E double header and avoided all information about the result. But then I heard some bits of information and I lost interest in seeing it for myself. But from what I can tell, the results wouldn’t be any different from what they were as Nico’s position was his own doing. Lewis P1, Max P2, Kimi P3, Nico P4.
Britain – Lewis took another win and there wasn’t really a whole lot to be done by anyone to stop him. Max took second from Nico who began suffering technical issues. Thanks to his team, he managed to sort the problem and regain second place. Only to have it snatched away by the utterly ridiculous radio restriction rule. A rule that was scrapped two races later. Of course, it didn’t get him the points back. But in a fair world, he would have kept that second place. Lewis P1, Nico P2, Max P3.
Hungary – Thanks to the Red Bulls going full attack at the start, Nico was forced to bottle out of Turn 1 which handed the lead to Lewis and it stayed that way to the end. While it was unfortunate for Nico, it’s racing and I don’t think there was anything wrong with how it played out. Lewis P1, Nico P2, Dan P3.
Germany – Nico had a poor start which allowed Lewis and the Red Bulls to get past. However, I think P3 would have been achievable had Nico not been given such a heavy penalty for his move on Max, effectively putting him out of contention to race for the position. Lewis P1, Dan P2, Nico P3.
Belgium – The race where Lewis made it from the back of the grid to P3 with only 4 overtakes. You can’t tell me that sometimes things do go his way, after all. It could have been a lot worse for him. Had he not had the penalty? It’s been a track that Lewis has always performed well at so we could certainly have seen a 1-2 in his favour. Lewis P1, Nico P2, Dan P3.
Italy – Lewis had a terrible start that had him bogged down behind several other cars and left him with all to do. Nico had the win in hand and I don’t think the result would have been any different. Nico P1, Lewis P2, Seb P3.
Singapore – Nico was on top form all weekend. Considering people were expecting a Red Bull win here (and it looked very close to being so at the end), he did an incredible job and that race alone should have had people deeming Nico a worthy champion. I think Red Bull made all the right calls and so P2 was always going to be on the cards for them. Maybe if Ferrari had pitted Kimi when he asked, they could have secured third but I will give Lewis the benefit of the doubt. Nico P1, Dan P2, Lewis P3.
Malaysia – Lewis was miles ahead of everyone all weekend so we can naturally assume that he would have won the race. Had Nico not been spun out on the first lap by Sebastian, he very well could have been in P2 although it’s hard to say as the Red Bulls were proving very strong. Maybe his engine would have gone up in smoke too if he were driving so hard to defend against them. Then of course he got another absurd penalty for nudging into the side of Kimi on a bold overtake. Thankfully it proved a moot point as he finished the race 10 seconds ahead anyway but it’s still just a further inconsistency of the stewards. Lewis P1, Dan P2, Max P3, Nico P4 (but probably P2 without the first lap collision).
While we’re at it, why not take a stab at the next races too? Going by this so called “formbook”, we can expect Lewis to win in Japan & USA and Nico to score wins in Brazil, Mexico & Abu Dhabi. Right? I mean, that’s what happened last year, after all.
Do you agree? Of course you probably don’t! Because it’s all assumptions and it’s all bias. Championships are made from botched calls, from poor or inspired decisions, from mechanical failures, from DNFs of rivals. It always has been and it always will be. You can’t just say “well if this one thing hadn’t happened, obviously this would have happened”. Constants and variables. The butterfly effect. Call it what you will, motorsport will never be as cut and dried as this. Hindsight means you can improve the future, not change the past. If it were a walk in the park, would you really feel like you earned it? And before people come at me saying that it’s been a walk in the park for Nico thanks to Lewis’ failures, please look at his performances this year and tell me they don’t look like the performances of a world champion.
If you wouldn’t say that Lewis didn’t deserve to be champion in 2008, don’t even think about saying Nico wouldn’t be a deserving champion in 2016.
It’s not all about the driver. It’s not all about the driving. It’s a team sport. There is no point looking at what ‘could have’ been. We’ll never know.
“We win and we lose together.”
And sometimes motorsport isn’t fair.