How will reliability affect the title race?

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BMW has had the most reliable F1 car so far this year
BMW has had the most reliable F1 car so far this year

In the last two seasons we’ve seen car failures at critical moment have a huge bearing on the championship: like Michael Schumacher’s engine failure at Suzuka in 2006, or Lewis Hamilton’s gearbox failure at Interlagos last year.

Will another car failure change the course of the 2008 championship? Here’s a breakdown of how reliable each driver’s car has been this year.

Race-ending F1 car failures by driver in 2008 so far - click to enlarge
Race-ending F1 car failures by driver in 2008 so far - click to enlarge

Full marks to BMW – neither of their drivers have had their races ended by a car failure so far this year. In comparison they had four race-ending car failures in the whole of 2007.

McLaren too are doing an excellent job, with Heikki Kovalainen’s wheel failure at the Circuit de Catalunya the only problem that’s forced a retirement. Lewis Hamilton has not lost a race to a car problem yet, although he was delayed by a wheel problem at Sepang, a puncture at the Hungaroring, and had to use an unfavourable strategy due to other tyre problems at Istanbul.

Ferrari led the way in improving reliability earlier this decade but they are not living up to their old standards at present. The two mechanical DNFs for Kimi Raikkonen (Valencia) and Felipe Massa (Melbourne) tell only part of the story.

Massa lost a likely race win to an engine failure at Hungary, but was classified 17th, and Raikkonen also stopped with a car failure at Melbourne, but still picked up a point for eighth. Raikkonen also had a car problem in qualifying at Melbourne and fell from first to second with a broken exhaust at Magny-Cours.

Factor in those two failures, and only Force India’s VJM01 has been less reliable than the F2008.

What has happened to Ferrari’s famed reputation for reliability? And will they – or any of their closest title rivals – suffer more untimely trouble in the final three races?

Total race-ending car failures by team

McLaren 1
Williams 1
Ferrari 2
Toro Rosso 2
Red Bull 2
Super Aguri 2
Renault 3
Toyota 3
Honda 4
Force India F1 Team 5

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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24 comments on “How will reliability affect the title race?”

  1. I think team failures will play a larger part than mechanical.

    Ferrari have been rightfully criticised for throwing away Singapore, but that was not the first time this year team error has cost them.

    Also McLaren’s strategy (or more particularly their failure to strategically respond to unfolding events) has also cost them this year.

  2. Heikki also had a gearbox failiure this year, stopping on the last lap, I think it was the Belgium GP just a few metres away from the finish line.

  3. Yeah, funny stats aren’t they? Imagine adding Ferrari pitlane failures to that! I think it’s the real story of the Championship. Not McLaren’s apparent strategy blunders or any of the 3-4 Championship contenders constant driving errors, but Ferrari’s total collapse in terms of mechanical, strategic and baseline pit failures. Will they continue, or will the lollipop man save the Italians?!

  4. red bull only had 1 mechanical failure at Singapore. Germany was from debris that struck the car.

    oh well better then 07.

  5. How did McLaren all of a sudden have no problems after years of Engine DNFS with Kimi & Mika?

  6. The number is wrong for Massa. It should be at least 02 (Australia and Hungary). Furthermore, if you add up the two times the team screwed it up in the pits (Canada and Singapore), it becomes 04 – I know that these last two are not strictly what one would classify as lack of reliability, but if you want to have an overview on how many times the driver was let down by his car/team, you have to include those.

  7. i think Maclaran Merc have replaced Ferrari papers with theirs, last year…..(remember spy scandle)..

  8. Nick – I think it’s because McLaren were deliberately sabbotaging all of their previous drivers to make way for Little Lord Hamilton.

  9. Antifia – I mentioned Massa’s Hungary engine failure in the article. I didn’t include mistakes in the pits because they aren’t related to car reliability.

  10. Nick Caulfield
    9th October 2008, 13:58

    Do either of Sebastian Vettel’s mechanical failure’s count towards Ferrari’s tally?

  11. It looks like you have Seb B without a mechanical problem. Didn’t he blow and engine in Australia while in 4th? Or does that count toward Ferrari?

  12. Just to be clear – the graph is race-ending mechanical failures. Raikkonen and Bourdais were both classified in Melbourne despite suffering car failures, so they’re not on the graph. Vettel’s mechnical failures count towards Toro Rosso’s total.

  13. Keith: I get your criteria, although it is hard to agree that what happened to Massa in the Hungarian grand prix was not a race-ending failure (you know, it took him from 1st to 17th).
    On another point, your comment that LH “had to use an unfavourable strategy due to other tyre problems at Istanbul” seems a bit Hamiltonian to me. For staters, it is hard to tell whether Mclaren was forced into that strategy or whether they did think it was the best strategy for the day (the fact that it did not work is irrelevant – people sometimes miscalculate). But the bone is with the “tyre problems” thing. All the teams use the same tires and they worked fine for all the other 19 drivers – including Kovi. If your drive stile is harder than anybody else on the tyres, the problem is not the tyres, is it?

  14. Antifia – The only criteria I used for the chart was whether the driver was a classified finisher or not. Massa was a classified finisher at Hungary. You don’t need to tell me he dropped from first to 17th – I wrote it in the article.

    As for the Hamilton thing, I covered the other technical problems Ferrari had during the year in the text – like Raikkonen’s in qualifying at Melbourne for example – so I thought it reasonable to do likewise for McLaren. If you want to re-visit the Istanbul discussion you can find it here.

  15. Hey Keith, no need to become upset – I indeed took the info (17th place, wasn’t it?)from your text. I was just stressing my point.
    As for Hamilton…well…I root for Massa and I am unanbiguous about it. You rood for LH (which is alright, you should be able to support a driver like anyone of us – and you can be candid about it too). And because people support different drivers, we tease each other and throw some partisan jabs around – that is what makes the whole thing about blogging fun. So, don’t be crossed and tell me: Do you really think was LH adversely affected by things beyond his control in Turkey?

  16. Antifia – Partisan arguments only ever boil down to “I like Hamilton” vs “I like Massa” or similar. Sorry if you thought I came back at you a bit harshly but I was trying to be fair to all sides. I wouldn’t described myself as ‘rooting for Hamilton’, though my sympathies certainly lay with him after Spa.

    Yes I do think Hamilton was affected by things beyond his control in Turkey, as you put it. I’m not ruling out that his particular driving style might have been responsible in some way, but there was a technical problem too.

  17. Becken – ah I’d forgotten about that, thanks.

  18. I hope car failures don’t decide this world championship as it’s been an amazing one.

    Best thing for me is that I am a fan of both Hamilton and Massa so really don’t care who wins, in fact a part of me hopes Massa does cos I think Hamilton is more likely to be in a position to do so repeatedly again. That said, I also hope if Massa wins it that he does so by more than the 6 points he gained on Hamilton at Spa, otherwise people will always say that he shouldn’t really have won it…

    Three races, Two challengers, One Title….

    I’m gripped (and also glad the races are all at girl-friend freindly times (Japan and China – early morning; I can leave her tucked up in bed and watch it downstairs before making her breakfast in bed and earning brownie points, Brazil – tea time; will be round at her parents and her dad will have the race on so she won’t be able to argue with that either!!)

  19. @Adrian
    Got to agree with you, I’d like to see this championship decided on the track & hopefully both teams will give their drivers the cars needed to compete for the last few races.

    I’m finding it hard to decide who I want to win this season, as a Ferrari fan I’d like to see Massa win but after all of the questionable decisions we’ve seen from the FIA I’m also hoping that Lewis can win it too.

    Obviously they can’t both win it and while I don’t like to admit it, this is probably Massa’s best & only chance of ever winning the DWC & as you say, Lewis will probably win a few more in the coming years.

    Whoever does win, let’s hope it’s on the track with some great racing.

  20. Let’s hope Hamilton doesn’t get a chance to blame the car this year. If the fight goes to the final round and neither of the contenders get a chance to blame their respective cars, Massa should be able to cream Hamilton :)

  21. My thinking was this was an article about reliability.

    @El Gordo:- you can also say Ferrari have been having reliability problems since Kimi joined them, but like your above comment, its baseless.

    Going by the graph u put up Keit, it would appear the Mclaren of Hamilton is long overdue some mechanical failure. I just hope Mclaren are not saving their reliability problems for the last few races.

  22. @ Oliver – my comment at Post 8 was a sarcastic comment on various nutty conspiracy theories I’ve seen. Reading it back I realise the sarcasm is not overly apparent. Apologies to anyone confused by it.

  23. Keith : You can make a post about 3 types of mistakes
    1. Car-reliability troubles ( LH : Hungary, FM : Hungary )
    2. Team-personnel’s mistakes ( LH:Sepang, FM:Singapore )
    3. Driver brainfades ( LH:Canada; FM:Britain )

    After this; we can see; who has had most ill-luck all year

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