Top 10: Biggest championship leads overturned

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Lewis Hamilton’s hopes of winning a fourth world championship took a major blow in Japan, leaving him 33 points behind Nico Rosberg.

A significant threshold was passed in Japan as Hamilton can no longer guarantee the title for himself by winning all the remaining races. Rosberg needs at minimum three seconds and a third to take the title regardless of what Hamilton does.

The good news for Hamilton is that other drivers have overcome greater deficits to win the championship in the past.

Which F1 drivers overturned the biggest points leads?

Formula 1’s points systems have changed many times over the years which makes comparing different seasons problematic. However in almost all seasons the most points a driver can score in a race is by winning it. Therefore each driver’s lead or deficit has been converted to represent how many race wins it would take to overcome it. For example a one-win deficit today would be 25 points, whereas in 1991 it was ten.

We also need to consider how many races it took a driver to catch up. It’s easier to make up a deficit of 25 points in four races instead of one. So the number of races taken to catch up is also taken into account.

Based on that, every championship which was won by a driver who was not leading the points at one stage was analysed to find the point at which they were furthest behind in the standings. The results are below, with two caveats.

In early seasons drivers could also score a point for fastest lap, so this has been added to the maximum available points for winning a race. Furthermore in some seasons drivers were required to drop their lowest scoring results. Due to the negligible effect this rule has on the data before it hasn’t been taken into consideration.

How does Hamilton compare at the moment? He is 33 points behind Rosberg with 25 points available for a win and four races remaining. He therefore needs to catch Rosberg at the rate of 0.333 wins per race (i.e. just over eight points). As we will see if he can do that he will belong in this top ten.

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1974: Emerson Fittipaldi beat Clay Regazzoni

Gap overturned: 0.333 wins per race over three races

Having won the championship for Lotus in 1972 Emerson Fittipaldi missed out on the title the following year. Displeased with the manner in which he lost the crown – he would have stayed in the hunt had team mate Ronnie Peterson let him win at Monza – Fittipaldi switched to McLaren, whose new M23 chassis was shaping up nicely.

Ferrari were also enjoying a resurgence and at Tyrrell Jody Scheckter stepped in to replace outgoing champion Jackie Stewart. The result was a wide open championship. Fittipaldi won his second race for his new team but point-less races in Germany and Austria left him fourth in the standings.

He began to overturn that nine-point deficit – equivalent to a race victory at the time – by finishing second at Monza, coincidentally to Peterson once again. Crucially he led Clay Regazzoni home at Mosport, taking the championship lead from the Ferrari driver, and fourth place at Watkins Glen sealed his second title.

1982: Keke Rosberg beat Didier Pironi

Gap overturned: 0.355 wins per race over five races

Just one win – plus a few seconds – made Rosberg champion
When championship leader Didier Pironi suffered appalling leg injuries in a crash during qualifying for the 1982 German Grand Prix, it seemed inevitable his points lead would be overhauled before the end of the season. It was, but remarkably the unfortunate Ferrari driver still came second in the overall standings.

The only driver to out-score him was Keke Rosberg, in circumstances which owed more than a little to The Tortoise And The Hare. Rosberg’s Williams-Cosworth was nimble and reliable but hopelessly out-gunned by the monstrously powerful turbos. Or so it seemed.

Instead while the turbo cars repeatedly blasted away at the start of races, more often than not they weren’t running at the chequered flag. Rosberg, who had driven for backmarker teams until his surprise promotion to Williams, raised his game with consistent points finishes and a breakthrough victory at Dijon. It was the only victory of his unlikely championship campaign. Fifth place in Las Vegas secured the crown as emerging rival John Watson had to settle for second behind Michele Alboreto.

1999: Mika Hakkinen beat Eddie Irvine

Gap overturned: 0.4 wins per race over one race

Hakkinen bounced back for second title in a row
Mika Hakkinen was briefly declared champion in the aftermath of the Malaysian Grand Prix, the penultimate race of 1999, after both Ferraris were disqualified. Eddie Irvine and Michael Schumacher had finished first and second, but their exclusion on technical grounds handed Hakkinen to first place and an unassailable points lead.

But with F1 set to enjoy a championship showdown at the final race if Ferrari lodged a successful protest, few doubted how events would unfold. Sure enough the FIA accepted Ferrari’s contention that a bargeboard had been measured incorrectly and annulled the ruling. That left Hakkinen four points behind Irvine heading into the finale.

Irvine put up a lacklustre fight in Japan. He crashed in qualifying and though Schumacher took pole position Hakkinen seized the lead at the start. From there the McLaren driver and was on his way to victory in the race and the championship.

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1950: Giuseppe Farina beat Juan Manuel Fangio

Gap overturned: 0.444 wins per race over one race

The first world championship came down to a three-way contest between Alfa Romeo’s Argentinean great Juan Manuel Fangio and his Italian team mates Luigi Fagioli and Giuseppe Farina.

Unsurprisingly, some insinuated that the Italian team would prefer Fagioli or Farina to take the title at the finale, which was held in Italy. But Fangio wouldn’t hear anything of such claims, even when his car broke down during the race. He took over the sister car of team mate Piero Taruffi but that too let him down, and Farina duly became F1’s first world champion.

“If I had paid attention to the rumours I would have felt as though I had marred my stablemate’s victory,” wrote Fangio in his 1961 autobiography. “If a driver could no longer trust the firm for which he races, that would be the end.”

1964: John Surtees beat Graham Hill

Gap overturned: 0.481 wins per race over three races

The 1964 championship was a humdinger. For much of the year it seemed either Jim Clark or Graham Hill would seize their second championship titles. But John Surtees, who had just ten points at mid-season, pinched it from beneath their noses at the final round.

Surtees, a Nurburgring master, scored his first win of the year at the German track. The next races on Austria’s bumpy Zeltweg course was a stalemate: none of the trio scored and Surtees apparently remainder an outsider. But victory on Ferrari’s home ground at Monza moved him decisively into calculation. He was back on the podium at Watkins Glen but victory for Hill gave him a handy five-point lead heading into the final race.

The title was decided in circumstances which would cause a social media meltdown today. Third-placed Hill was on course for the title until Surtees’ team mate Lorenzo Bandini punted him off. Leader Clark was now on course for the crown, but his Lotus split an oil line on the final lap. That put Hill back in the points lead – until Bandini waved Surtees through for a second place which clinched the title.

2010: Sebastian Vettel beat Fernando Alonso

Gap overturned: 0.5 wins per race over two races

Vettel bounced back from this to take 2010 title
With two races to go in 2010, Fernando Alonso took the lead of the championship by winning the inaugural Korean Grand Prix. Both Red Bull drivers had retired – Sebastian Vettel with an engine failure, Mark Webber crashing out – and though both still had a chance to be champion Webber was the clear favourite, 11 points behind Alonso and 15 ahead of his team mate.

The obvious thing for Red Bull to do was force Vettel to support Webber’s championship bid, particularly as Alonso had a subservient team mate in Felipe Massa who had already handed him a victory in Germany. But the team elected to let their drivers fight it out. In Brazil Vettel won followed by Webber, who was quietly nursing an injured shoulder, and Alonso. It seemed as though Vettel was inadvertently helping Alonso to the crown.

But the final race in Abu Dhabi delivered a stunning twist. While Vettel won as he pleased Alonso, preoccupied with Webber, pitted early to cover off the other Red Bull. He succeeded, but had allowed too many cars to separate him from Vettel. The first of these was the Renault of Vitaly Petrov, and Alonso toiled in vain for lap after lap trying to find a way past. He failed which meant Vettel, who had started the day third in the standings, snatched an improbable title.

1983: Nelson Piquet beat Alain Prost

Gap overturned: 0.518 wins per race over three races

Piquet became the first turbo-powered champion
A PR coup beckoned for Renault in 1983: Alain Prost was on the verge of becoming France’s first ever world champion in one of their cars. But Brabham’s Nelson Piquet was advancing.

Prost warned Renault of the growing threat posed by Brabham with Gordon Murray’s missile-like BT53, BMW’s potent four-cylinder turbocharged engine and its exotic fuel cocktail which unleashed the extreme levels of performance the turbo era was renowned for. But Renault were too slow to heed his words, particularly after a tangle between the two title contenders left Piquet 14 points down with only three races to make up the deficit.

The alarm bells rang at Monza where Prost’s turbo expired and Piquet motored to victory. Piquet won again at Brands Hatch, though Prost chased him home to limit the damage. But the Brabham driver was now just two points behind as they headed to Kyalami in South Africa for the showdown.

Once again Piquet scorched off into the lead while team mate Riccardo Patrese held second and Prost, third, was on course to lose the title. And then the Renault’s turbo packed up again. Piquet, wisely, turned the boost down and cruised home third to collect the championship. He had needed to score 21 points from the final three races; had he chosen to, he could have scored a maximum 27.

1976: James Hunt beat Niki Lauda

Gap overturned: 0.555 wins per race over seven races

Unquestionably the most famous championship comeback was the one 40 years ago which helped make Formula 1 the global spectacle it is today. The final showdown at Fuji might not have gone ahead had it not been for the pressures of live satellite television coverage, which was still a novelty at the time.

A season of drama had preceded the finale: Even Ron Howard’s excellent Hollywood recreation Rush couldn’t convey all its twists and turns. James Hunt’s pursuit of Niki Lauda had been dogged by controversial disqualifications at Jarama and Brands Hatch. But Lauda’s near-fatal crash at the Nurburgring gave Hunt the chance to eradicate his lead.

Even so the odds were stacked against Hunt: Halfway into the season he had only half of Lauda’s 52 points. And the Ferrari driver’s astonishing return, with terrible scarring from his burns, to take a heroic fourth at Monza, meant Hunt had to keep delivering wins.

They arrived at Fuji with Lauda just three points to the good. But to him racing in the Fuji rain was suicidal madness. He withdrew, spurning Ferrari’s offers to pretend a mechanical failure had forced him out. Hunt endured the conditions to take third which was one place better than he needed to become champion. Before the Nurburgring he’d been almost four wins behind with seven races remaining.

1986: Alain Prost beat Nigel Mansell

Gap overturned: 0.611 wins per race over two races

Prost exloited intra-team rivalry at Williams
Ten years later, victory for Nigel Mansell in the Portuguese Grand Prix set him up to become Britain’s first world champion since Hunt. He was followed home by Prost, who lagged 11 points behind in the championship with 18 available over the final two races.

Prost’s situation was only marginally improved at the next race in Mexico, where Gerhard Berger and Benetton took a surprise victory thanks to the durability of their Pirelli tyres (yes, you read that right). Prost collected second while a disgruntled Mansell ruined his race with a poor start and finished a unhelpful fifth.

Even so third place for Mansell in Adelaide would guarantee him the title. He was running in that position on lap 64 when his left-rear tyre exploded without warning. Keke Rosberg had retired from the lead with a similar but less spectacular failure one lap earlier. Nelson Piquet, also in the championship hunt, was called in for a precautionary tyre change. Luckily for Prost he had already pitted due to a puncture, and not needing to make a further stop he took the win and the championship.

2007: Kimi Raikkonen beat Lewis Hamilton

Gap overturned: 0.85 wins per race over two races

A late pit stop cost Hamilton dearly
Formula 1 has never had a rookie world champion, save for the obvious exception of its first season, but as the teams packed up at a sodden Fuji on September 30th, 2007, it seemed inevitable that would change. Hamilton had just won his fourth race of the season. Of his title rivals, team mate Fernando Alonso had crashed out and Kimi Raikkonen only managed third after starting the race on the wrong tyres.

The Ferrari driver was 17 points behind with 20 available in the final races. To win the championship he almost certainly needed to win both races and also needed Hamilton to hit trouble. And that’s exactly what happened.

Hamilton should have clinched the title at Shanghai. He was pulling away from the field on a wet but drying track but he and McLaren made the strategic error of staying out far beyond the point at which his intermediate tyres could tolerate. When he finally came into the pits the McLaren failed to negotiated a simple left-hander and skidded to a pathetic halt in a tiny gravel bed from which it could not emerge under its own power.

Raikkonen won the race but second for Alonso left him as Hamilton’s closest threat at the finale in Brazil. The points leader made a nervy start, sliding wide while duelling with Alonso. Now running sixth, one place away from championship safety, his chances were finished for good when a gearbox fault caused a loss of power. He eventually reset the car and got going again, but had now fallen to 18th.

Hamilton fought his way back up to seventh by the end of the race, but with Massa waving Raikkonen through to a second victory the championship was lost. The most improbable Formula 1 championship comeback was complete.

Hill’s near-miss

One driver who very nearly occupied a place on this list is Damon Hill. In 1994 he came from 31 points behind Schumacher – needing 0.516 wins per race – to go into the final race just one point behind. A controversial collision between the pair decided the title in Schumacher’s favour.

Hill’s pursuit of his rival was aided by a string of disqualifications for the Benetton driver. Schumacher was stripped of victory in Belgium due to a technical infringement and barred from racing at Monza and Estoril after ignoring black flags during the British Grand Prix.

Over to you

Which F1 championship comebacks were the most impressive? How do you rate Hamilton’s chance of winning the title this year?

And which other series have seen drivers overcome huge deficits to become champion? Have your say in the comments.

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Author information

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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110 comments on “Top 10: Biggest championship leads overturned”

  1. I really Hope Hamilton still wins but i feel something will happen to Hamilton’s car the coming races.

    1. He wont. His body language is all wrong. It reminds me of 2011. In Malaysia it was understandable, but in Suzuka, it was surprising. Its almost as if he’s accepted that he’s lost the title, or at least doesnt fully believe, like he did in 2014 and 2015, that he can recover and win it. Lets see what his mindset and body language are like in Austin.

      1. @JackL And his body language is wrong because of the team that let him down time after time so you can’t blame him for that. The team messed up big time for Hamilton, it reminded me of McLaren 2012 season. If your car keeps failing time after time you have have no trust in it.

        1. As a professional it is LH’s job now to remember how lucky he is to be on a team and in a car that has provided him the equipment to win races and WDC(s) with, and that taking on a defeated attitude now would only do a disservice to himself and the team. LH is part of the team and the team part of LH. This is not about LH being let down by the team…the whole team is let down when a problem occurs. Last race it was LH that said sorry on the radio right after the blown start. His only option now is chin up, press on and do everything in his power. If he wants to take a defeated attitude that’s totally on him. I suppose he’s capable of it since he wanted to pack it in after he won the WDC last year, so he is capable of ‘giving up’ but this year he can’t afford it. It is a team effort, sometimes the team gets let down, but they’re all in it together. This is not LH vs. the team. This is racing. And it’s far from over.

          1. @robbie

            As a professional it is LH’s job now to remember how lucky he is to be on a team and in a car that has provided him the equipment to win races and WDC(s) with

            No, his job is to drive to the standards Mercedes expect of him.

            Won’t say I disagree with the rest of what you said though.

          2. @robbie Easy talk mate. Hamilton already came back from a 43 point deficit to bend that into a points lead yet again to face more penalties and car problems. Hamilton has all the right to be like this, you can’t smile for ever pretending lik everything is ok and all that.

        2. Yep, the team that gave him an unbeatable car is at fault. This is the right time for Hamilton to stick it to Mercedes and switch to a team that will not “let him down”.

          1. What good is an “unbeatable” car if it repeatedly breaks down?

      2. Not sure about that really.

        It is obvious the Malaysia hit hurt badly particularly given he has suffered the only major reliability issues. (How Toto can suggest that NR two issues in 014 make up for it I don’t know given in 014 LH had suffered four mechanical and one team mate retirements from races or qualy and the last one for NR was only viable due to double points, and he had lost it regardless at the start anyway but there we are)

        When it comes down to it LH has dealt with far far more reliability issues that affect points or positions than Nico and without Malaysia would be right there regardless of the start issues.

        I have a feeling he may well come back on fire but like he said – is the machinery there?

        Nico has driven well this year – in or around the same percentage as usual. In other words, remove the issues and once again he would be on about half the wins of his team mate regardless of start problems. He has on average been out qualified hugely only for issues or luck to play a part.

        He has also driven some races worse than ever before. Monaco, Austria – do I need to go on?

        Given a reliable up to scratch car, Hamilton will beat him. Enough? I don’t know.

        Whether Nicos driving standards or some reliability (I mean it would be ridiculous to get through with zero issues given the other side of the garage) comes into play?

        Well who knows.

        1. “Given a reliable up to scratch car, Hamilton will beat him. Enough? I don’t know.”

          He had a reliable car in Japan, still he couldn’t even come second. Just saying…

        2. Maybe because Hamilton’s car has a more aggressive setup, that also makes it faster? Didn’t they say something about thin oil after Malaysia?

          Funny how everyone forgets what happened to Rosberg last year at Monza. Probably one of the most significant moments in the championship fight.

          1. @bobec Lol. Monza 2015, Rosberg’s car had already done almost six or seven race distances and he was behind Hamilton when his engine blew. Compare that to Malaysia 2016, i’ll wait for your reply on that one.

          2. bobec, it is worth noting that Rosberg had been asking to turn his engine up in his pursuit of Vettel and had been running in a qualifying power mode for quite a few laps before his engine blew – not to mention, as Guccio notes, that the engine was on its 6th race weekend.

      3. It’s a little difficult to psyche oneself up when, having just overcome a massive 43-point deficit and being on the cusp of opening up a significant lead with 5 races to go, the old unreliability gremlins strike with predictable accuracy at the one engine they have always struck – 25 points gone up in smoke in Malaysia, a sure lead turned into yet another deficit, and you want him all professional – smiling ear to ear, kissing babies and exuding confidence? What is he, Superman?

        1. Rosberg was in a similar situation last year in Hungary. He was taken out of contention by Ricciardo just when he was about to take the lead in the championship. Instead the difference to Hamilton grew even though Hamilton must have had the worst race ever.

          It is not the same as having reliability issues, but it is another scenario where luck is involved.

  2. Lovely article, Keith 👍
    The wins/race metric is also a neat way of tracking progress.

    1. Really good way to rate. An article Full of historical info as well!

    2. Excellent isn’t it! Well done Keith!

      When I first saw the headline I was thinking that the points would mess everything up and make the article inconsistent. But as always, you had it covered ;)

  3. kimi was right behind Lewis at Shanghai, and overtook Lewis before he bin it at the pitlane.

    1. Because McLaren left Hamilton far too long. Even when he was losing 5 seconds a lap they still didn’t call him in.
      Only after the tyre started to actually come apart did they call him in and by that time Raikkonen was already close behind.

      1. Raikkonen was fueled 3 laps longer than Hamilton and had better tyre wear. Lewis was never going to win that race. As soon as the circuit dried up, Kimi always had the pace on him.

        1. He wouldn’t win, but four points (a fifth place, if I’m not mistaken) would be enough to secure the Championship at that race.

        2. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
          12th October 2016, 20:53

          @ kingshark yea, but even a second place would have sufficed Lewis to become WDC.

        3. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
          12th October 2016, 20:56

          @kingshark yeah, but even a second place would have sufficed Lewis to become WDC.

  4. Only twice before has a driver been behind a team mate with four races to go managed to overhaul their colleague to win the World Championship:

    Sebastian Vettel in 2010 was 21 points behind Mark Webber with four races to go.

    Juan Manuel Fangio in 1956 was two points (old money) behind Peter Collins with four races to go.

    Oddly enough, both were fourth in the championship standings at the time!

  5. How did Jacky Ickx do though? I know he failed to surpass Rindt but that’s must’ve been the longest shot at a title one ever had?

    1. @xtwl Rindt died at the tenth race of 1970, with three rounds remaining. Ickx failed to score in that race which left him 26 points behind with three races to go, an average of 0.962 wins. In real terms, he had to win all three races.

      And he nearly did, winning in Mont Tremblant and Mexico City, but only placing fourth in the intervening race at Watkins Glen after being forced into the pits with a fuel system problem having started from pole position. That meant he averaged 0.777 wins. To his credit, Ickx said he was relieved he didn’t beat Rindt given the tragic circumstances.

      1. @keithcollantine, the sad thing is that, in a number of ways, the memoirs of Miles suggests that Rindt’s fatal accident was potentially avoidable.

  6. The additional problem for Hamilton is Mercedes’ dominance (sounds ironic isn’t it!). Even if he wins all the remaining races it’s unlikely Rosberg would be beaten by other cars on pure pace and that won’t be enough to seal the title. Back in 2010 Vettel could have relied on the McLarens and Webber getting between him and Alonso. So in reality Hamilton must rely on extraordinary circumstances like car problems or mixed conditions.

    1. @michal2009b Indeed. Reliability aside I think there are two possibilities which could help Hamilton.

      A poor start for Rosberg: Both he (in Germany) and Hamilton (on four occasions) have shown that even the super-quick Mercedes can’t always regain places lost at the start.

      Wet weather: Rosberg was pretty lousy in Monaco and he was mugged by Verstappen at Silverstone.

      1. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
        12th October 2016, 13:44

        @keithcollantine and don’t forget a gust of wind.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          12th October 2016, 14:03


      2. This is all well and good, but the bit most of the analysis in the final run up miss is Rosberg is the in form driver so it’s not comparable to the years for drivers like Raikkonen or Vettel for Hamilton.

        Now considering the start in Suzuka was a mistake from Hamilton according to Lauda who can say it won’t happen again.

      3. @michal2009b @keithcollantine The other factor that is against Hamilton is that, unlike Suzuka, you can overtake at Austin, Hermanos Rodriguez, Interlagos and Abu Dhabi (post the introduction of DRS). Even if Rosberg has terrible getaways in each of the next 4 races, he should have enough in the tank to get 2nd or at the very least 3rd.

        1. Unless that makes the engines go bang @geemac!

        2. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
          12th October 2016, 21:00

          @geemac don’t forget that Interlagos is Lewis’s unreachable milestone so far.

        3. @geemac So in your mind, LH got 8th last sunday?

          1. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
            13th October 2016, 17:18

            I think @geemac refers that the upcoming circuits permit MORE passes to regular cars, so having a Mercedes guarantees you a podium. It would be good for Hamilton to reach a podium (at any place) just to keep chances alive, but what would work against him is that even if LH wins, It’s almost sure Rosberg (except for major damage, such as a DNF accident) will also be there, just right behind.

    2. If you look at the statistics there have only been four 1–2 finish for Mercedes out of 17 races this year. I think the pressure is on Rosberg. Hamilton will go all or nothing the next four races. The WDC is still very open in my opinion.

  7. I LOLed hard at the Pirelli reference!

    Nice article Keith!

  8. Great article Keith!

    Love reading this type of content. Cheers!

  9. All done in different cars though I think. That’s the major difference here.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      12th October 2016, 14:10

      Hmm, that’s an interesting observation

  10. This is not just an interesting compilation; it also reminds us that anything is possible in 2016 as well.

    All it takes to go back to ground zero in 18 days from now is one Hamilton victory where Rosberg finishes second and another one where the championship leader fails to finish the race. If you drive a W07 and your competitor is out of the race, it is very likely you will score 25 points so it is a very possible scenario.

    While Rosberg certainly deserves praise for his recent performance, nothing suggests that he has now got the upper hand over his team mate. If Hamilton’s engine had not failed in Malaysia and his final Q3 lap in Japan had been by 0.014s faster, the situation might be completely different now. The only recent race where Rosberg convincingly beat Hamilton over the weekend was the Singapore GP.

    Hamilton already recovered 32 points in the four races between the Monaco GP and the Austrian GP even without any Rosberg retirements. Now there are some concerns about Hamilton’s mental state, slow starts etc. but remember that even in his worst F1 season ever (2011) he had many highlights so even when he is in a bad shape, he can still shine.

    Rosberg is the favourite now but the championship battle is far from over.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      12th October 2016, 14:26

      @girts Yeah we’ll see – given the reliability and clutch issues that have affected Hamilton, it’s impressive he’s still in the hunt for the championship.

      If he wins this one, it’ll be quite something because Nico was just part of his competition and he hasn’t been able to race him on track due to the other issues. Nico has had the easiest season other than for the fact that he’s competing against Lewis who can literally have his car explode, lose 50 points left and right and still be competing.

      If Nico was in Lewis’ position in 2014 and 2016, he would have had a tough time matching Barrichello’s points…

    2. @girts Even in Singapore Hamilton had car problems so Rosberg did not convincingly Hamilton.

      1. Lewis is a god! It’s those evil Mercedes ne’er-do-wells that are stopping him!
        Nico is no good! Nico beating Lewis is inconceivable!
        The teutonic mafia are conspiring together! Niki and Toto and Loki are all plotting together to overthrow the divine right of Lewis to another championship!

    3. Far from over, and the Malaysia engine failure reminded us how this point scoring system is too harsh on a retirement. A third and a fourth place (27 points) are worth more than a win and a DNF. Until 2002, a second and a third place would still be less than a win and a DNF, because would be the same points (10), but the best score rule would still favour the winner.

  11. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    12th October 2016, 14:22

    When was the last time that a driver has won the championship without a single reliability issue forcing them to retire during a race? Nico had a retirement in Spain but it was a wash cause it took both drivers out and saved Nico from a 14 point swing in favor of Lewis.

    While a retirement, that was actually Nico’s biggest victory in 2016.

    1. Vettel’s only retirement in 2011 was from a puncture if that counts. Otherwise Button in 2009, where his only retirement came from the first lap crash at Spa.

    2. @freelittlebirds
      Why do you say that it saved Nico froma 14 point swing in favor of Lewis? Rosberg was in the lead when they collided.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        12th October 2016, 15:31

        @exeviolthor Nico was about to get passed – huge speed difference because of Nico having the wrong setttings as we found out – and couldn’t stop Lewis without crashing into him. So Nico would have dropped from 25 to 18 while Lewis got 25. It’s a 14 point swing in favor of each driver… without a crash.

        1. @freelittlebirds ‘Couldn’t stop Lewis without crashing into him’. Wow, perhaps you should rewatch that and see who crashed into who. Who took out who. Nico’s light was flashing which is how LH knew what was up and he still picked the side of Nico that was always closing. Poor judgement on LH’s part, and showed impatience too. LH was lucky, after getting passed by Nico, to get away with taking Nico out of the points. Nico might have made a settings mistake, but Lewis made an even bigger blunder but got away with it being a wash.

          1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            12th October 2016, 19:59

            @Robbie that’s a joke right:-) you cannot be serious about Hamilton being at fault passing effectively a 2013 Manor – wasn’t the car like 30 seconds slower per lap when Lewis passed him?

            The fact that Nico had turned his Mercedes into a Manor 2013 that’s a separate issue and quite remarkable on its own merit but Nico had to concede the lead especially since Lewis conceded with at Turn 1 with a Merc 2016. Lewis could have easily pushed Nico out if he wanted to on turn 1 but like they say no good deed goes unpunished.

            Nico put Lewis into the grass and practically into a wall and Lewis was lucky that his car bumped into Nico as he lost control because Nico could have gotten away with it.

            That was completely reckless driving by Nico with such a margin in the championship and with so many races to go.

        2. No it’s not. If Hamilton won and Rosberg came second, he would have gained 7 points, as it stands they both scored 0.

          14 Points is only true if they swap lead and BOTH FINISH in 1st and 2nd.

          1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            12th October 2016, 19:49

            @lheela yes that’s exactly what they were doing when the crash happened – they were swapping leads and Nico had to swap or crash – he chose option 2 because it’s a 14 point delta. He knew there was no way Lewis couldn’t pass him since he’d made a mistake and was slower.

          2. @freelittlebirds Not sure we’re talking about the same race. Where do you get 30 seconds slower? Nico had just passed Lewis and then had to defend while correcting his mode, at which point Lewis, who acknowledged he could see from Nico’s light that he was recharging, made a desperate and impatient attempt and put himself on the grass and out of control, taking Nico out. Nico was doing everything legal. If you are going to claim Nico was that slow then Lewis had all kinds of time to attempt a far less risky pass than to go for a gap that was always closing, legally, as allowed by the leading drivers one move to defend. You can’t blame Hamilton’s over-exuberance on Nico. Nor should LH fans, in their eagerness to give Nico zero credit for anything, ignore the fact that he passed LH on the outside of T1 to begin with. LH would have been fuming and figured he could win the race in the next corner and took them both out instead.

          3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            12th October 2016, 23:27

            @Robbie someone mentioned the speed differential which was huge without DRS enabled. Lewis would have gotten past if Nico hadn’t driven him off track. Nico knew that otherwise he would have simply defended and kept his spot on the corner.


            Watch how much space Lewis gives Nico on T1:-)

          4. @freelittlebirds what @lheela told you is that if Hamilton had won (a big if as he did not complete the pass) and Rosberg was second then Hamilton would get 25 points and Rosberg 18. That’s 7 points not 14.

            The bottom line of the incident is that Rosberg defended aggresively, but legally. Hamilton did not expect such an aggresive move so he had to go to the grass and lost control of the car.

            Hamilton gives Rosberg space in T1 because he has already made his defensive move by going to the right of the track. He could not go back to the left as it would be a second defensive move which is not allowed. Also Rosberg is alongside Hamilton by T1 so there is no room to defend. Hamilton was never truly alongside Rosberg when he attempted to pass (if he was, it was only for maybe a tenth of a second just before he lost control).

          5. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            13th October 2016, 13:48

            @Nikos simplify it to see the point difference. I win I get 25 and you get 18. You win I get 18 and you get 25. In scenario 1, I’m 7 points ahead of you. In scenario 2, I’m 7 points behind you. Yes, either driver is only 7 points ahead at the end. However, the net difference is 7+7 = 14 that’s what P1 meant there. Whatever points you lose become my gain and vice versa.

            As for your analysis of the start, there is no 1 defensive move on the start and Lewis had not defended by going to the inside. It’d be impossible for the stewards to hold Lewis to that rule on turn 1.

            Second Nico’s move wasn’t legal – unless you’re suggesting that the stewards’ decision rendered it legal which of course is a joke of some kind because it broke a major rule of racing by forcing Lewis onto the grass and into a wall that he miraculously avoided.

          6. @lheela @exeviolthor @robbie
            Just let this bird go. It clearly isn’t capable of any critical thinking regarding LH, doesn’t comprehend simple arithmetics or acts like it doesn’t, and just keeps on brabbling around it.

    3. Hamilton in 2008 comes to mind, before that Schumacher in 2002. I can’t remember any other instances.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        12th October 2016, 19:49

        @kaiie good points especially 2008 since Hamilton crashed there.

  12. Jonathan Parkin
    12th October 2016, 14:32

    According to Eddie Jordan in his book, Eddie Irvine’s floor wasn’t working properly in Japan when he lost to Mika Hakkinen

    1. @Jonathan Parkin
      And EJ would know.

  13. I still to this day can’t believe how the 2007 season ended and how Hamilton didn’t take that title when it looked like there was no way he wouldn’t. Over 2 races all Hamilton needed to do was score a single 5th place and the title was his. This is the season where he finished his first 9 races were all on the podium. Easy. Or so we thought.

    1. If you consider the Spygate, I think that it was better for him that he didn’t win that year. It would be very controversial to say the least.

      1. Seeing as they couldn’t prove that there was a single bit of Ferrari IP-ed kit on the MP4-22, it wouldn’t have been that controversial.

        1. @geemac not being able to prove it does not mean that it would not be controversial. It is the same with Schumacher in 2014. They could not prove that he deliberately crashed with Hill so he won the championship, but it was controversial. I mean who really doubts that he did it on purpose (especially after trying to do the same to Villeneuve 3 years later)?

      2. The title probably would have been taken away if Mclaren had won the championship considering the spygate.

        1. If he was going to be disqualified, it would’ve happened already.

    2. I still believe that McLaren had to relinquish 2007 title to Ferrari because of Spygate. What they did to Lewis in China I’ll never forget. That title belonged to Lewis’ until McLaren messed it up!

      1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
        12th October 2016, 16:57

        They made him bin it at the pit entry?

    3. To this day I cannot understand why McLaren chose to wait so long to pit Hamilton. I don’t think there was one person watching the race that day who weren’t thinking why are they waiting so long?

      It’s definitely up there among the worst strategical blunders of all times.

    4. He would have needed a 2nd place finish (8 points) in the last 2 races to guarantee the title as Alonso was only 12 points behind him going into China (a 5th place would have been enough to guarantee finishing ahead of Raikkonen).

    5. Yeah he should of won that championship. Never forget seeing the Tyres Lewis was on in China and thinking, ‘why haven’t they pitted him yet?’

  14. Just one comment regarding 2007 Japanese GP.

    Hamilton was involved in two very controversial incidents. Firstly, behind the safety car Hamilton was playing pace games, even though there was a heavy rain and zero visibility. Webber, being 2nd, was complaining for this over radio. On a left turn Hamilton went wide and Webber was forced to brake heavily not to overtake him and get a penalty. Vettel, being 3rd, was not able to see this and crashed onto Webber. Both were out, under safety car. Hamilton got away with it. Later, Hamilton being 2nd, went wide again on a left turn and Kubica, being 3rd, maintained the inside racing line and tried to take 2nd position. Hamilton tried to recover to the left, where racing line was, and hit Kubica. Both were lucky to continue but surprisingly, Kubica was handed a drive through penalty. Story would have been so much different had he had a penalty there, given the fact that Shangai DNF and Interlagos first lap incident were his own faults.

    1. @sakis I wouldn’t call Shanghai his own fault.

      1. @davidnotcoulthard

        Correct me if I am wrong but when a driver can’t make the pit lane entry and gets on the gravel trap, isn’t this his own fault?


        I don’t know if you remember Monaco 2011. Hamilton hit both Maldonado and Massa and knocked them off the race and had two penalties. After the race he stated: “I don’t fu**ing care what the stewards say. They have been absolutely ridiculous today”. Judge for yourself And after Singapore race and in front of the cameras, Massa was so furious at him because it was the 4th time that year that he knocked him off a race. Hamilton got a penalty (once again) and when asked by the journalists why Massa is so upset with him, he simply left I really can’t understand how this spoiled brat has so many fans. Maldonado, who everybody in here always make fun of, never drove such an irresponsible way. Hamilton has so many more incidents and penalties for reckless driving than him.

        1. @sakis Not when the main reason for him not making the corner was the same reason Vettel lost out to Hamilton in Suzuka.

          1. @davidnotcoulthard I really can’t follow you. We are talking about Chinese GP 2007, penultimate round, in which Hamilton had a DNF (I guess you saw the gif I uploaded) because of his own unforced error. Japanese GP 2007 was not held in Suzuka.

            If you are talking about this year’s Suzuka, the only thing that comes to my mind is the criticism of Ferrari’s strategy. So, if you are suggesting that Hamilton’s F1 father Ron Dennis “sabotaged” his own F1 son in his rookie year, then I have nothing more to say. You people are really insane.

          2. @sakis Being left by your team on tyres to the point that they’re very worn meaning the car had less grip going into the pits isn’t my idea of unforced.

            I’m talking about the 2007 Chinese round of the World Championship.

            if you are suggesting that Hamilton’s F1 father Ron Dennis “sabotaged” his own F1 son in his rookie year

            No, I’m saying Mclaren f\_/<k3d up.

          3. @sakis And by f\_/<king up I meant getting the strategy wrong, the same thing Ferrari has done quite a few times this year. Unintentionally. Just like Shanghai 2007. No Sabotage.

            (and why are you calling me insane anyway?)

        2. @sakis
          Oh yes I remember that and hundreds more. Not just reckless driving, and there was plenty of it. The worst was the sense of impunity, the way the guy could get away with absolutely everything. Why, in Nurburgring ’07 he even got a crane to put him back on track from the gravel trap, you had to see it to believe it (how come there was no crane in the holy-of-holies Shanghai gravel pit?). I heard the FIA was changing its name to HIA (you known, Hamilton International Assistance).

          By 2011 it was not so bad. I mean, his driving skills were sickeningly poor but at least he got a few token penalties. Before that it was “innefectual penalty” time, as in Valencia 2010, where he overtook the SC (yes he overtook the Safety Car, no kidding) which so far had always been an automatic black flag (and he should know, got one for that in ’06 San Marino GP2). Well, there was no black flag, but 17 laps later he was given a drive through, which by then didn’t change anything.

          1. @hyoko
            LOL, I remember the SC overtake, it was so close call. But he got away with it (ONCE AGAIN). As far as HIA, it was a logical step since Schumacher had retired from the sport. They had to find a new protegee! 1993-2006 it was Schumacher International Assistance. Anyway, I hope Keith will give us the opportunity in the future to discuss about Schumacher also, with a related article. I hope the title of the article is like this: The most overrated driver in F1 history.

            @davidnotcoulthard I do not mean to insult you. But when it has to do with Hamilton, hardcore fans are seeing conspiracies everywhere behind his failures. With such kind of failure Mansell lost a title on the last laps of the very last race for crying out loud. If it was nowadays, you people would have gone MAD. I am not saying this, but fanbase’s reaction on Hamilton’s engine failure a couple of weeks ago say this. And since you insist on Chinese GP, let me tell you something. All front runners including RAI, ALO and HAM, had opted for WORN wet tyres. Same strategy from all front teams. But Hamilton’s degraded faster, most likely due to his driving style. So, when a driver knows that his tyres aren’t good and he gets a call to “Box now”, he drives CAREFULLY to the pits. He was eager to pit as he was eager to overtake on the first lap of the following race at Interlagos. EXACTLY THE SAME MANEUVER ON BOTH LAST COUPLE OF RACES. LEFT TURN AND HE WENT WIDE. The same unforced error. I accept the insinuation that McLaren should had called him in 1-2 laps earlier. But this doesn’t justify his own actions. Period.

    2. Yes that was infuriating. Hamilton T-bones Kubica and Kubica gets the penalty. It was typical those days, it seemed that Hamilton could just machine-gun all the other guys and get away with that. When finally Hamilton got a richly-deserved penalty in Spa 2008 I could not believe it, so many others had gone by.

  15. One more thing. Brasilian GP 2007. Software glitch on Lewis’ car. After loosing substantial time trying to get the car going Lewis continued the race reaching seventh. Regrettably he lost the championship by one point. Raikkonens comeback? No way! Title was relinquished to Ferrari, I tell ya!

  16. The greatest comeback mentioned here in my opinion is Piquet’s in 1983.

  17. What a brilliant article. I personally loved 2007 for obvious reasons, feeling robbed as I was of Kimi 2003 and 2005 championships, but the race was ridiculously tense, an absolutely wonderful climax. 2010 was even better, because it was so unexpected, and unlike 2007, the best driver of the season actually became world champion. Alonso shot himself in the foot, and for all his fighting prowess couldn’t beat Petrov.
    I wasn’t an F1 watcher in 1999, but I never realised Eddie Irvine came so close to being champion. Very surprising, since you rarely hear of him these days as a top driver.

    1. @hahostolze Thanks very much!

    2. @hahostolze I read his stinking rich though – why would he care? :) (maybe that’s why he doesn’t bother with being a commentator and all that, or does he?)

    3. @hahostolze

      Alonso shot himself in the foot, and for all his fighting prowess couldn’t beat Petrov.

      See what Ferrari did in Australia this year? They did that in Abu Dhabi in 2010 :P

      Alonso’s foot was shot, just not by himself.

  18. The greatest comeback of them all was the one that did not happen. In 1994, Damon Hill started the season as the clear number two driver to Ayrton Senna. Then came Imola and in spite of it not being clear that it had *not* been a mechanical failure and without the assurance that it it could not happen to his own, Hill got back in his car to finish the race in 6th place. He then proceeded to assume the responsibility of Team Leader from the fallen Legend to such effect that when the pressure became too much for Schumacher and he went off the track and damaged his car to such an extent that it was obvious that he would never get it to the finish line, all Damon Hill had to do was pass the ailing Benetton.

    We then saw how Schumacher deliberately crashed into Hill and incredulously had to stomach the facts that with F1 at the time owned to 67% by German interests and also that there had never before been a German F1 World Champion, Schumacher was allowed to get away with it *in spite of* a clear infringement of the rules as they were at the time.

    No matter what the record books say, Damon Hill is the legitimate, rightful and moral World Champion of 1994.

    1. You are of course entitled to your opinion, but it doesn’t change a thing.

      An after Schumacher got a totally ridiculous string of disproportionate disqualifications, a Damon Hill ’94 WDC would have been a total farce. Like it or not, his driving was nowhere near Schumacher’s.

  19. ”when a gearbox fault caused a loss of power” – I thought the reason for his temporary loss of speed early in the final race (Brazil) of 2007 was due to him accidentally pressing, and therefore, activating the pit limiter. At least that’s what I remember being mentioned at the time.

    1. The gearbox fault is the ‘official’ explanation.

      Most fans actually do believe it was a driver error.

    2. That story was put about after someone invented a quote from Hamilton which was then widely repeated, though he later admitted it wasn’t real. McLaren put out an explanation for what happened. Inevitably some prefer to believe the explanation which casts Hamilton in a negative light despite it being discredited.

      1. @keithcollantine
        If I remember correctly, Kovalainen did hit the pit lane speed limiter in 2008 (or 2009?) during a race and after that it was said that McLaren’s pit lane speed limiter could easily be hit accidentally. I believe that McLaren changed or moved the pit lane speed limiter after that. I don’t have a source for that though, so I could remember wrong.

        In addition to that, Hamilton’s problem in Brazil was rather odd – how often do we see a car go that slow and then recover? McLaren’s explanation could be true, but I also think that it’s possible Hamilton actually hit the speed limiter. We’ll probably never know for sure.

        I wouldn’t blame McLaren (or Hamilton) for telling a false story in that situation – their rookie driver had just lost an almost certain championship, so there was no need to bash him more.

        1. @hotbottoms

          how often do we see a car go that slow and then recover?

          The most recent example which springs to mind is Ryan Hunter-Reay at Pocono in IndyCar this year.

          1. @keithcollantine
            Fair enough. I only watch Formula One and I can’t remember many incidents like that.

            I googled the incident involving Kovalainen and it actually was in Australia in 2008 – the first race after 2007 Brazil: Coincidence? It’s possible. But I think it’s reasonable to say that it’s also possible that Hamilton did push the pit lane speed limiter. As I said, we’ll probably never know for sure.

  20. @keithcollantine
    I swear someone at autosport is an avid fan of your work:

    I won’t call it plagiarism, but its the same method of casual re-write that I used for my uni essays.

    Always love the statistical analysis articles :)

    1. @eurobrun Yeah there’s no chance it’s plagiarism, just coincidence :-)

  21. Roseberg will punt him off one race that’s for sure

    1. We call it “understeer”.

  22. Ryt 4rm d Sessn of 2014 2 2015,Nico has been dominant in d circuits of Austria, Singapore, Japan,Brazil, USA n Abu Dhabi.Likewise he’ll be even mre strngr in d remnng races of 2016.Mark my Wrdz.He is going 2 nail Lewis n shll win d WDC 2016 mre cnvnntly.Irrvcbly n undbtly Nico is a guarntd 2016 WDC.

  23. Hope the rain god’s will help Hamilton in pursuit of his 4th world title.

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