2006 Stats Update: Italy

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Have Fernando Alonso and Renault lost their grip on the championships? The statistics of the last few races paint a grim picture as Michael Schumacher has slashed Alonso’s lead to a perilous two points, and Ferrari have nosed past Renault in the Constructors’ Championship.

Take a closer look at the situation with our post-race statistics.

Robert Kubica became the 19th driver out of 26 to score a point in 2006. There were 24 last year (from 27) but three of those only scored points in the notorious United States Grand Prix, when only six cars took the start.

Kubica’s six points put him equal on points with Mark Webber – but ahead of Webber in the championship under the rule that in the event of a drawer the driver with the greatest number of higher finishes leads. An identical rule handed the Indy Racing League championship to Sam Hornish Jnr ahead of Dan Wheldon last weekend – and could yet have a role to play in determining the winner of the F1 title this year.

The seriousness of Alonso’s predicament is made starkly clear by this graph. Since the Canadian Grand Prix, his last victory, he has scored 24 points to Schumacher’s 27. Renault have to stop the rot immediately – all the momentum at the moment lies with Ferrari.

If Renault can draw any consolation from Alonso’s engine failure it’s that it also took Felipe Massa out of the points, minimising the damge Ferrari could do to Renault with Schumacher winning. It was still enough to give Ferrari a crucial three-point lead in the constructors’ championship.

If Renault are worried, they can console themselves with the thought that they beat back a similarly resurgent McLaren last year.

The extent of Schumacher’s car advantage over Alonso is plain to see in the qualifying statistics. McLaren’s reversal of their earlier reliance on heavy-fuel strategies has given Kimi Raikkonen three pole positions in the last four events.

He was very competitive in Italy and could yet have a role to play in the championship – an intriguing prospect given that he’s heading to Ferrari next year, and one that will give Alonso more cause for concern.

Alonso and Schumacher are predictably close in terms of points scored per race entered. But looking at the points scored per classified finish reveals that Alonso’s scoring rate his been superior by a greater margin. Comparing the figures for the McLaren drivers shows how unreliability has spoiled that team’s season.

A critical difference between Schumacher and Alonso is the reliability of their cars. Schumacher has had no mechanical failures in races this year – Alonso has had two, and both were in the last three races.

Statistically, Schumacher ‘deserves’ a mechanical DNF before the season is out. Realistically, the laws of fortune do not work like that (chance has no memory), Schumacher drives for an exceptionally reliable team (the only other driver to have started every round without suffering mechanical failure is Massa) and Schumacher has always had the good fortune of reliable cars.

Renault can’t rely on Schumacher’s car breaking down any more than they can rely on their own going the distance.

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