Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, 2017

Seven other F1 title fights which failed to go the distance

F1 history

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Sebastian Vettel’s championship bid has collapsed in the last three races. Realistically his title hopes are over unless Lewis Hamilton fails to score in two of the remaining four races.

It’s a disappointing development for those who were hoping the fight would got the full 20 rounds. Particularly when the season got off to such a competitive start, with Ferrari finally taking the fight to the long-dominant Mercedes.

It’s an unusual but not unprecedented situation. Championship fights in F1 tend to either go down to the wire or are a case of season-long domination by one driver. But every now and then a championship which begins as a close fight suddenly fizzles out. Such as on these occasions.

1973: Stewart strolls home

Start, Anderstorp, 1973 Swedish Grand Prix
Anderstorp was a turning point in the 1973 season
Emerson Fittipaldi began the defence of his 1972 title with victories in the season-opening races in Argentina and at home in Brazil. But he faced a renewed threat from Tyrrell’s two-times champion Jackie Stewart and after the first half-dozen races the pair had three wins each.

Then Fittipaldi’s title bid collapsed, largely due to a string of Lotus reliability problems. His gearbox failed at Anderstorp and a constant-velocity joint put him out at Silverstone. During practice at Zandvoort a wheel came off and Fittipaldi crashed heavily, injuring his feet. He dosed up on painkillers for the race but pulled out after two laps. At the Osterreiching he was five laps from victory when a fuel line broke.

Meanwhile Stewart was piling up the points and next time out at Monza he clinched the title. Fittipaldi could have stayed in the hunt had team mate Ronnie Peterson let him by to win, but by then his title hopes were as good as over. Nonetheless a disgruntled Fittipaldi left the team to join McLaren.

1977: Lauda back to the top

Niki Lauda lost the 1976 title to James Hunt after his near-fatal crash at the Nurburgirng Nordschleife and retirement from the final race of the year. But the rivalry between the pair took a beat seat as 1977 began and Lauda found himself up against a trio of other rivals: new Ferrari team mate Carlos Reutemann, Mario Andretti’s improving Lotus and the emerging threat of Jody Scheckter, who sensationally won the season-opening race for newcomers Wolf.

They were among six different winners of the opening eight races. Round nine went to Andretti which left him, Lauda, Scheckter and Reutemann separated by just four points at the head of the table. The title fight was surely going to run until the last race of this longest-ever 17-round calendar.

Then Lauda hit a purple patch: Two wins and three second places over the next five races left him almost un-catchable. Fourth place at Watkins Glen was enough to secure the title. He then let Ferrari know exactly what they thought of the decision to bring Reutemann in by quitting the team with two races to go.

1985: Ferrari failures deny Alboreto

Michele Alboreto, Ferrari, Silverstone, 1985
No points from the last five races sunk Alboreto
McLaren had dominated the 1984 season with their TAG Porsche-engined MP4-2s, but were thrown a curveball in the off-season when tyre supplied Michelin departed. They joined Ferrari on Goodyear rubber and now had a closer fight on their hands. Alain Prost, who narrowly missed out on the 1984 title to McLaren team mate Niki Lauda, spent the first two-thirds of the season scrapping with Ferrari’s Michele Alboreto.

Victory for Alboreto at the Nurburgring put him five points ahead but Prost drew level by winning the next round at the Osterreichring. Lauda, well out of championship contention due to miserable unreliability, bagged a final win for himself at the next round at Zandvoort. That deprived Prost of three valuable points.

But it didn’t matter, because Alboreto’s season suddenly flatlined. He didn’t score a single point in any of the remaining races, usually because of technical trouble. At Brands Hatch, where Prost took the title, Alboreto coasted into the Ferrari pit with the back of his car ablaze, leaving no one in any doubt how the championship had been lost.

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1987: Practice crash ends title fight

Williams-Honda were so dominant in 1987 that from an early point in the championship it seemed inevitable one of their drivers would be champion. And as Nigel Mansell’s car kept breaking down, the odds increasingly favoured his team mate Nelson Piquet.

Somehow even this unpromising championship fight managed to deliver an anticlimax. During practice at Suzuka, which was holding the Japanese Grand Prix for the first time, Mansell spun into a barrier and injured his back. That put him out of the last two races and handed Piquet the title.

1993: Normal service resumes

Start, Monaco, 1993
Prost led but Senna won at Monaco
The 1993 championship shouldn’t have been a fight at all. Arguably it only ever looked close thanks to the genius of Ayrton Senna.

Prost had Williams’ dominant FW15C at his disposal and a novice alongside him in the shape of Damon Hill. As Mansell had wrapped up the 1992 title in 11 races many expected Prost would the same just as early if not sooner.

Instead six races into the championship Senna was at the top of the points table in his McLaren-Ford Cosworth. The rain gods had favoured him at Interlagos and Donington Park, the latter witnessing one of his greatest drives, and he added another win in Monaco.

Then summer arrived and dry weather led to a Senna drought. Williams won the next seven races, four of which went to Prost, following which he took an inevitable if somewhat belated fourth championship. The race after that it rained, and Senna won again…

1995: Schumacher humbles Hill

Following the explosive end to the 1994 championship campaign, big things were expected when Hill and Michael Schumacher went up against each other again the next year. Sure enough, the pair won all of the opening five races.

Schumacher began to assert himself at mid-season but Hill’s victory at the Hungaroring kept him in touch. A pair of race-ending collision between the two at Silverstone and Monza meant Hill was still well within range, even if his driving was starting to look a bit desperate.

But within three races it was all over. Schumacher humbled Hill by muscling past him at Estoril, then took a superb win at a damp Nurburgring while the Williams driver crashed out. Another victory at TI Aida sealed Schumacher’s second title.

2013: Vettel’s clean sweep

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Spa-Francorchamps, 2013
Vettel began a run of nine wins in a row at Spa in 2013
If ever there was a season of two halves it was this one. Prior to the summer break no one managed to win two races in a row. Sebastian Vettel had a handy championship lead but Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had all won races.

But with new engine regulations set to arrive in 2014 several teams chose to down tools on their current campaign early. Red Bull did not, and Vettel incredibly swept all nine of the remaining races, setting a new consecutive wins record and taking his fourth championship crown.

Over to you

What it going to take for Vettel to get back into this year’s championship fight? And which title battles in F1 and other series became anticlimaxes?

Have your say in the comments.

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  • 71 comments on “Seven other F1 title fights which failed to go the distance”

    1. ..and of course the Schumacher years, where his team mates were contractually hobbled, robbing us all of any kind of competition. Thanks Ross Brawn et al. Brilliant.

      1. I’m not sure that they were totally “contractually hobbled”. Irvine has been very forthcoming in admitting that he simply wasn’t as good as Schumacher, while Barrichello was clearly slower and it made sense to back Schumacher.

        I’d argue that the Ferrari hiring policy was what robbed us of competition rather than contracts. There were very few who probably could compete with Schumacher at the time, however Schumacher/Montoya for example may have been a more fiery combination.

        1. @ben-n I think it is as both of you have said. There were contracts in place and of course EI not RB were going to admit that outright. Not until RB got so frustrated that we had the Austria 02 sham, and RB admitted it blatantly in the post-race interviews, like it wasn’t already obvious.

          So if the intent is to find a ‘sucker’ who will agree to forgo his own dreams of winning WDC(s) in F1 in order to help another do so, but in exchange get a bucketload of money and the prestige of driving for Ferrari, that person is not likely going to be of the strong-willed ilk, not amongst the best drivers who would never even think of doing such a thing, so driven are they, and confident of winning and fulfilling their dreams.

          So yes their hiring policy was to take on non-roosters, and on top of that there were contracts to be subservient, which gave them the green flag to design the cars for MS, and eventually the tires as well.

          So…very few people who could compete with MS? It think that is rubbish. He never had any real pressure put on him such that the several other top notch drivers of the time who could have given him a run might have revealed a psychological weakness (said because we know he could drive, but when pressured by the likes of JV he resorted to whacking him off the track as his way to ‘victory’ when the pressure was at it’s greatest).

          1. I don’t see very many drivers from the 2000-2005 era who could have beaten Schumacher in the other Ferrari. Hakkinen, Montoya, Alonso and Raikkonen are to me the only drivers who could have given him a run for his money in the same car. The spread of drivers back then simply didn’t have the quality we have today, as you could argue he found out in 2010.

            I agree that his biggest weakness was when he was under pressure, when he made quite a few mistakes and got very dirty sometimes.

            1. @ben-n I do see where you are coming from with that remark, and at least you’ve now gone from just Montoya, to three others besides him. JV would definitely be one too. But you see it’s just that it’s foggy. You are considering the MS that had advantages hand over fist more than any driver in the history of F1 before and since. So he had the opportunity to compile incredible numbers under very very skewed circumstances. Give other drivers truly equal equipment to MS and I think the story would be far far different. And recall too, that at the time of MS’s run, the drivers the likes of who you, and I with adding JV, have cited were asked by media on several occasions about partnering MS at Ferrari (not that it was something Ferrari would consider) and they all answered correctly that there was no way they could trust equal treatment to what MS was given. They weren’t afraid of MS, just the lack of genuine opportunity to have a chance against him, such was the skewing.

          2. Well amazing really Robbie – we agree on something!

            I was a fan of Shumi but his occasional lapses al la Vettel like (just to wind you up) were clear weaknesses. He could drive like no others at that time but required every advantage to do so and exploited them without mercy.
            I was racing in those years as well and appreciated his gift but not the rather obvious advantages he happily engineered and used.

            He really did not need to.

            As a result the whole sport became about reducing his advantages – a war on them if you like rather than other teams getting to grips with them and drivers rising to the occasion.

        2. what I mean by ‘contractually hobbled’ is when the leading car pulls over to let Schumacher through to win the race. Quite simple really. p.s. Ace response from Robbie

          1. Thanks @rushfan Just noticed on my third line that should have read EI ‘nor’ RB.

            Just to add another little shot at MS to back the point, we saw how he did upon his return with Mercedes, no longer in a designer car on designer tires, no longer with a hobbled teammate, and that teammate being one who some still think to this day was not a WDC level driver even though he now has the trophy.

            1. It’s quite ridiculous to think Nico doesn’t deserve WDC.

            2. Yes good point Robbie, I think it’s unequivocal to say Rosberg won the championship through Hamilton’s (as Toto Wolff put it) ‘freakily coincidental’ reliability issues during that season.

            3. was not a WDC level driver even though he now has the trophy.

              @robbie Define non-WDC level WDC though. Rosberg (I mean, one Ferrari driver died and the other didn’t see the season out. Apparently that’s how a title is won with a non-WCC car)? Phil Hill (v. Tripps)? James Hunt (ahem, the German GP)? Button (because…Honda. And Mercedes, maybe)? Kimi (Shanghai plus other interesting failures)?

              I don’t know. This is just way too much of a slippery slope for me.

            4. @robbie, @jabosha – Strange how Rosberg still gets a bad press with some fans. However, he’s got the trophy and that’s the high ground! I don’t think anyone would claim that he had a dominant campaign though.

            5. @davidnotcoulthard, I suspect that a driver is “not a WDC level driver” when it reinforces Robbie’s particular point of view and he can use it to go off on another rant at Schumacher: in order to do that, therefore, he needs to define Rosberg as a driver who is “not a WDC level driver”.

              I also don’t want to cause trouble, but the way in which rushfan is repeating the same sort of arguments that @robbie has been stating, particularly the similarity of their patterns of speech, does make me wonder what exactly is going on there.

            6. He was also 41 years old(way older than the norm for a driver in modern f1) had spent over 3 years out of competitive driving and returned to cars that had undergone the biggest regulation change in many years(2009) Struggle was almost inevitable!

              Making the argument that his return proved this that and the next thing is pretty ludicrous. Schumacher of 2010-2012 was not at the same level as 2006 Schumacher, heck 2006 Schumacher wasn’t at the same level as 90’s Schumacher.

            7. @anon No no…I’m not defining Nico as non-WDC level. I was suggesting that while he was MS’s teammate and including while he was LH’s teammate, and even until that last race where Nico indeed sealed up the Championship, and for some even after that, he was still considered ‘a waste of that seat’ or ‘not worthy’ or ‘only won because of LH’s dnf earlier in the season.’ So I’m not sure any of us really thought of Nico as WDC level when he was up against MS, and of course he had never had the equipment to show otherwise. I don’t need to run down a teammate of MS’s to support my disrespect for him as a race driver. For the record, wrt MS as a person, I was truly saddened upon hearing of his accident, for him and his family, and remain so. And for thr record, yes Nico is WDC level since he owns a trophy and certainly had to go through far far more personal and on-track strife to get it than any of MS’s WDCs. I honour Nico’s one and Lewis’s soon to be four, way more than I honour MS’s seven.

              For me, as a non-MS fan, I was thrilled to see how well Nico did with him as a teammate. And I seem to recall that when that pairing was made official, and especially with Brawn at Merc too, I think the general feeling by many was that Nico was screwed. Not so, as we saw, and I was thrilled it wasn’t a one-rooster situation, and that Nico could handle it, especially psychologically.

              So when LH joined and a year later they actually had a race and WDC capable car, I was excited to see what Nico could/would do, finally being in such a competitive car, as I say particularly after seeing how he dealt with MS.

              @pantherjag I don’t consider MS’s age as a factor or an excuse because if he and those around him deemed that he was worthy of a return that means he was worthy through and through or he simply should not have returned. So he either was there because he and his close inner-F1 supporters knew he was still competitive enough to be in F1, or it was a complete sham for him to return, and I think the first option is the correct one.

            8. @Robbie: definitely agree with pantherjag, it doesn’t matter if they deemed he was worthy enough for a return, no driver races in this era at over 40 at the same level of competitiveness as at 30 or peak time, look even at mansell, he may not have been the best driver but was definitely fast, but when he was over 40, he no longer was.

              In hindsight, what schumacher did in his comeback considering the age, the years off and the fact he never had as bad of a car compared to the rest of the field in all his career except his only race at jordan, was still remarkable, if we had only seen schumacher for those 3 years we’d have been left to wonder what he’d have done at peak, but luckily we saw that.

              Schumacher was similar or stronger than hamilton who is around the same level as alonso, who is stronger than any other of schumacher’s rival, hakkinen, montoya, raikkonen included, and rosberg wasn’t better than these drivers.

          2. The ironic thing about this statement is that in his Ferrari career Schumacher actually pulled over to let his team-mate by more often than vice versa

            1. Captain Morgan
              14th October 2017, 8:51

              Never let facts get in the way of a cherished opinion.

            2. @Esploratore I don’t think his age and his break after Ferrari get anywhere near explaining why he could no longer ‘build the team around him’ nor dominate his teammate, nor even take the car places it didn’t belong etc etc…all the things that were attributed to him only a few years earlier. His tenure at Mercedes showed the real MS without all the advantages hand over fist over everyone else on the grid. Surely he could not have been less than 90 or 95 percent of his peak raw ability in his comeback, yet made a tiny fraction of the impact on the team and in F1 without all that he had when Max and Bernie and Ferrari were bound and determined to have him smash records and be the story post-Senna.

              @pantherjag It was never about the frequency of EI and RB ‘pulling over’ literally in races for MS. It was about that they metaphorically pulled over by signing up to be his subservient and not give him one night’s restless sleep over being a challenge to him. MS didn’t have to worry a single time even if the odd time he got out qualified by one of them. As long as he was in with a shout, their grid advantage would be magically erased during the race. When the Ferraris were dominant, the only bloke who should have been able to give us a show and compete with him, ala NR to LH in their dominant cars, was contractually not allowed, and we the fans were robbed.

            3. @pantherjag .. of course Schumacher pulled over once the championship was won!

        3. @ben-n Johnny Herbert once explained in an interview that he was not allowed to see Schumacher’s telemetry while Schumacher could study his. So if Herbert was faster somewhere, Schumacher could see this and copy.

          Herbert even said it went so far that he wasn’t allowed to see his own telemetry. Not sure what the exact wording was, but it was something like that it’s an eerie feeling that you are a bit in the dark yourself about your performance while your teammate/opponent knows exactly where you are.

          Also don’t underestimate what having the only say in strategy and car development means for a driver.

    2. “What it going to take for Vettel to get back into this year’s championship fight?”
      A double DNF in Austin and Mexico City, obviously. With 9 points on the line for the last two, it’s game time again.

      Hamilton needs two DNF in four races for Vettel to stand a chance. In other words, the battle is over. It was over the moment Vettel crashed in Singapore really, and only emphasised in Malaysia. And only emphasised, again, in Japan.

      1. History shows those two DNFs are unlikely to happen. Only time one current era Mercedes car has had two no points scoring races out of four was in 2015 where Nicos engine went towards the end at Monza and then three races later in Sochi his car failed again. Last time Lewis himself had two DNFs in four was the back end of 2012.

      2. @chrischrill 10 years ago with 2 races to go RAI was 17 points behind HAM with 10 points for a race win IIRC.

        So…never say never?

    3. Expect to see a very “Nico Rosberg” Lewis Hamilton in the coming races, content to mind his own business in 2nd-4th place if necessary to rack up the points. That said, it only takes a few wet races, a wild start or a little bad reliability and Vettel could be right back in it. I’d always point to the 2007 WDC as an example of how a large deficit can swing quickly.

      Enjoyed reading about these seven seasons!

      1. With regard to your wet race comment, there is no doubt that Hamilton is one of the best in these conditions(max might shade it!) but vettel is not on the same page in wet conditions

        1. @willienjg – indeed. What I meant was that wet races often throw up unpredictability… Hamilton is without doubt one of the best in those conditions, but look at Brazil 2012 where he was crashed into by Hulkenberg, which wouldn’t have happened in a dry race. All sorts can happen in wet/changeable conditions; an ill timed Safety Car, the wrong tyres for a lap or two…

        2. Hmm. I have a lot of expectation for Max too, but let’s see him win a wet race, way ahead of the competition, before we rate him alongside Lewis (e.g. Silverstone 2008, qualifying at Monza this year). Even Vettel had a storming wet weather race at Monza at the start of his career, driving through the pack.

        3. Max might shade it… I mean really?

          Max is excellent in the wet but one good wet race (in F1) and ok result in one of the best rain cars of the last era against an incredible body of wet weather work spreading back ten years and all manner of car and regulation types?

          Let alone the fact he won the very race used as the symbol of MV wet genius?

          No sorry – much more evidence required.

          May I respectfully suggest that those new fans or even those fans that have come on board in the last few years go back and watch wet races ( real wet races not changing wet/dry ones in which Button was really good too) from the last ten years. You will notice one person standing right at the top. He has not lost a wet race since he was punted out of the lead by a back marker (hulk) since 2012.

          Even those he did – it was never the racing ability – almost always some other issue (China 2007 for example – I mean really Macca – bald tyres?? Or Spa 2008 – won it only to have a some unknown rule that did not exist at that time applied)

          No – I have either watched or been there for the amazing Senna (Donnington – good but anyone racing there knows in the wet, the outside lines are best and give amazing grip – ask Rossi or any kart racer) Mansel etc etc races for the last 35 years.

          Like it or not Max has a way to go yet to be the reinmeister.

          Thing is they were also amazing races.

          1. Just to point out that Hulkenberg wasn’t a backmarker at Brazil in 2012 – it was a fight for the lead and Hulkenberg dropped it going into the first corner navigating an actual backmarker, taking out Hamilton!

            1. No he was trying to unlawful himself ahead of a stop he needed and Hamilton did not

          2. Drg….. relax the cax! When I said max might shade, I apologise. That comment was meant to be ”in some people’s mind, max might shade it’
            I agree that max still has a lot to prove(although if his fathers skills are anything to go by in the WET), he will have it in his genes!)
            But if your comparing hulk and button(1 or 2 memorable races each) to Hamilton on a wet road, your clinging to the anti-Hamilton camp coat tails.
            As a ‘neutral’ and a person that ,albeit finds many flaws in Hamilton, he is in my humble opinion, on a pedestal in the wet from today’s current drivers.
            Sorry if I upset you Drg!

            1. no worries Willie – I am fine.

              I just keep reading how Max is the greatest rain driver ever and I find it difficult to understand how someone who has yet to win a wet race holds that accolade.

              I mean even Seb has done that early on – and Rainmeister he ain’t…

          3. Verstappen proved his skill in the wet every single time, not just 1 race! Before coming in f1 there was this race, norisring, where he destroyed the field lapping 1-2 sec quicker than everyone else, and that’s what got him in f1, then at silverstone 2016 he overtook rosberg in the wet and only lost the position in the dry later in the race, vs a dominant mercedes, then in brazil he overtook him again, dropped back due to red bull’s intermediate gamble, which forced him to go back to full wets again and he stormed through the field again (he’d have got 2nd without that ofc, hamilton was similarly fast if not faster, but that’s quite required from a strong wet weather driver with the best car like him), then china 2017 again he stormed through the field from the back and got 3rd in a very uncompetitive red bull (remember, start of 2017, worse than 2016 red bull) and again at monza qualifying there was only 1 who could be faster than verstappen: hamilton and that was in a mercedes, a car which at monza, even in the wet, still has a lot of engine advantage with all those straights. So yes, verstappen proved time and time again he’s great in the wet, give him the same car as hamilton and it’ll be sparks.

            1. Like I said come back when he has won one race…

              Let alone lapped the field up to third and won by over a minute in his 22 race.

              Yes he is good in the wet but this constant he is the equal of stuff.

              No he really is not.

            2. Captain Morgan
              14th October 2017, 9:03

              I wonder how much of that was down to Verstappen’s talent, and how much down to other unknown factors. For example having gone with a wet setup while those around him didn’t. Or the power delivery characteristics and/or mapping of his engine making it much easier to accelerate out of corners without dropping it. Or a high rake angle and soft rear suspension compared to those around him having the same effect. Or perfectly judged/lucky timing on a switch between wets/intermediates/slicks, assisted by just happening to be in the right place on the track at the right time. Or most of the competition being sidelined by similarly bad timing. Or confirmation bias causing fans to forget or wilfully ignore wet races in which the driver they tout as uber rainmeister had a dismal time.

      2. People like to point to 2007, but that season, for me, was characterized by the whole of FIA, FOM, Ferrari, British media and McLaren itself, going against McLaren.
        Let’s start from the first controversies, and see how they were arbitrarily handled by FIA in order to hobble McLaren.

        1. Punishing Alonso in Hungary for leaving the pits at the exact time he was supposed to leave. Hamilton never really should have been where he was in that situation.
        Taking at least 5 points from Alonso, adding 2 to Hamilton.

        2. Penalizing McLaren for the Hungary pits incident.
        Again, Hamilton was in the place where he wasn’t supposed to be according to the pre-qualifying plan.
        Completely arbitrarily penalizing McLaren here with loss of WCC points.
        Taking absolutely sure 18 points from the team.

        Just by these two incidents, Kimi should have never been champion and McLaren should have easily been WCC.

        3. Blowing spygate way out of proportion and coming up with a ridiculous $100 million fine. Remember the “1 million for the fine, and 99 for Ron being a ****”. It was always a personal vendetta more than anything else.
        This inevitable lead to a serious setbacks in car’s development and the functioning of the team.

        4. Ron, Alonso and Hamilton all doing their best to make the worst decisions possible.
        – Ron letting his emotions run the show instead of seeing how best to wrap up the WDC and WCC.
        – Alonso letting all of it get to his head, and having the worst season ever, losing his always strongest weapon – the mental fortitude in WDC fights.
        – Alonso having a great idea to try a hand-twist on Ron. No matter the fact it was just a bluff, it was a ridiculously bad idea.
        – Hamilton doing his best to steer as much **** as possible in order to destabilize Alonso and get the backing from the team.

        5. Ron not managing or braking up the creation of the two warring camps within the team, letting it all go to hell.

        6. Coughlan sending his missus to a corner print shop to xerox some casual drawings.

        7. Alonso being unfairly back on points (see Hungary) and producing the desperate Japan performance that ended in the wall.

        8. Hamilton being too inexperienced and letting Ron drive his car into the gravel trap, because Ron forgot they’re driving against Ferrari, not against Alonso.

        9. Hamilton again stuffing it in the final race, first by desperation, then by some mechanical or self-induced gearshift problem.

        10. And after all of this, Hamilton actually coming home in a place which should have given him the title, but FIA deciding that fuel irregularities are also a completely arbitrary decision.

        11. Oh yeah, and did I mention the British media, in their worst tabloid manner making Alonso a pantomime villain and manufacturing tensions between Alonso and Hamilton wherever possible.

        So, if you think we have enough of these special ingredients to have something like this pulled off, then I must have missed them. :)
        Although I must say, FIA does seem like Ferrari International Assistance again, after taking a break from this role when Todt left Ferrari.

        1. I’m not sure what your point is here. I was referring to the fact that with two races to go, however we got there, eventual WDC Raikkonen trailed the points leader by 17 points (an equivalent of over 40 points in today’s money). Hamilton then had a shocker of a strategy and a mistake in China and received no points, then a mechanical issue in Brazil. These had nothing to do with the other politics of the 2007 season.

          There’s nothing to say that something similar could happen this time round. I totally accept that it’s unlikely… but it could happen.

          1. Errr – apart from all the above – he was also a Rookie…

            1. +1 Exactly, Hamilton was one poor McLaren team decision (China) away from securing the championship in his first season, outracing a driver considered the best of the post-Schumacher era. Losing those points turned what was a stupendous achievement into some kind of failure, which given what he’d managed is ludicrous. The pressure with the Dennis v. Alonso+FIA+Ferrari+Moseley stand-off was intense, way beyond anything any other young driver has experienced in the sport.

            2. Just to demonstrate the point once again, still using Lewis Hamilton.

              Following the 2010 Belgian Grand Prix, Hamilton was leading the Championship with Fernando Alonso in 5th place, 41 points behind. Hamilton then went on to retire in Italy and Singapore, while Alonso won both races to put himself 9 points in front.

              These things can happen – it’s not over until it’s over.

            3. @david-br – I agree. 2007 was a remarkable achievement by Hamilton and had McLaren pulled him in for a pit stop a lap or two earlier in China he would have celebrated a memorable debut Championship. A shame, but it just goes to prove that strategy mishaps can happen, even to those leading the Championship.

        2. What a fabulous rant! Ah, the good old days…

        3. Captain Morgan
          14th October 2017, 9:09

          Gotta laugh at such conspiratorial nonsense. Ferrari International Assistance? If the FIA’s purpose is to assist Ferrari in winning championships, they’ve been spectacularly incompetent at it. Or maybe there’s another shadowy conspiracy which nobody knows about aimed at hobbling the first conspiracy. Maybe there’s a third conspiracy designed to cripple the anti-conspiracy conspiracy which resulted in Kimi’s championship.

      3. I’m inclined to agree. As a long suffering Hamilton fan it has been infuriating watching him throw away races (and the odd championship or two) with some poor decisions and driving like he has a chip on his shoulder.

        Whether this coincides with Rosberg leaving the team or not, he seems to have had a completely balanced approach this year and his consistency in terms of bringing home the points has been relentless. Obviously he hasn’t had the same reliability issues that plagued him last year, but I feel like we’re watching a more mature and complete Hamilton now compared to previous years.

        1. I disagree with the expression ‘chip on his shoulder.’ He’s a driver who identifies as black and is on record as experiencing various forms of racial discrimination in his early career, and also, if you remember, at the start of his Formula 1 career (thanks for that Spanish fans, a shame to your country to this day; also the peanuts thrown at him in Brazil in 2008 from the mauricinhos who have the money to frequent Interlagos; also the reported comments of an unmentionable former head of a Formula 1 team). Saying he had a ‘chip on his shoulder’ seems like an attempt to diminish and erase the effect racism has.

        2. @Mark G Mclaren TOTALLY fumbled 2007. In hindsight, they didn’t even need Alonso that year. Simply put, they should have pitted him earlier but nevertheless a title this year AND next will go a loooong way in making up for missed opportunities. 2016 spoke fir itself. Lewis won 10 races and had the most poles.

          I share your frustrations but I feel team incompetence has cost Lewis at least 10 wins. In 2012 alone Mclaren cost Lewis 4 wins. 2014- 2017 has seen another 6-7 wins lost through no fault of Lewis.

          Hamilton deserves every win, title and records he gets. He has faught against all odds and is on top.

      4. I never subscribed to the view that Nico ‘coasted’ in those last races, content with second place(s), and I expect LH will be going for the wins like normal too. The only difference for them was last year and is now, that they have the luxury of a little less pressure, but I don’t see how the prep and the psychological side of it can be dialed down or ‘engineered’ to just be content with second places. You do everything like you always do, for that is what you have trained to do, and you go for wins like every race you’ve ever run, so that you maximize your chances of at some point in the race consigning yourself that everything is good, and the win is either going to happen or it’s not, but it doesn’t ‘have to’ happen. There’s no ‘disaster’ with a non-win but these guys always want to win.

        1. I don’t think Hamilton will necessarily dial down or try less hard. I simply mean that in a situation where he has, say, Verstappen steaming down his inside, he’ll be more inclined to let him through and bank a points finish than if he was desperate for a win.

          As for Rosberg, I felt it was clear that he never really tried to risk anything to win those races. Look at Abu Dhabi, while Hamilton was backing everyone up, Rosberg was concentrating on defending from Vettel and Verstappen rather than simply lunging at Hamilton for the lead. In fact, I was congratulatory on his approach which was mature and made perfect sense.

          1. Verstappen steaming down his inside, he’ll be more inclined to let him through and bank a points finish than if he was desperate for a win.

            @ben-n In fact, if HAM is to be believed (and in this case I don’t see why not), that wouldn’t even be a first this season if it happens again!

          2. @ben-n I agree with respect to LH not fighting too hard, just as Nico didn’t want to risk too much. I just think they (Nico then and Lewis now) can’t approach the race weekend with anything other than their normal prep, with the ideal scenario being get pole and lead the whole race as the best and safest way to stamp authority on the situation. If they ‘slack off’ in prep with playing it safe in mind, they end up not getting pole and having to deal with traffic and then the risk factor increases. So…don’t change anything…go for pole, nail the start, and try to run away from the field. Failing that, deal with self-preservation as circumstances dictate.

          3. Captain Morgan
            14th October 2017, 9:16

            One could argue that the current points system encourages settling for 2nd rather than taking a risk for the lead, and the previous one even more so. 10-6-4-3-2-1 worked prior to that, however was conceived for an era in which reliability was nowhere near what it is today, hence the current system awarding points down to 10th place. Perhaps 25-15-10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 would have been preferable, maintaining the 1st/2nd/3rd points ratio from the 1990s.

      5. Michael Brown (@)
        14th October 2017, 13:04

        I don’t disagree that a wet race could lead to a points swing in Vettel’s favour. I think it is unlikely, considering that Hamilton has won every rain-affected race of the hybrid era with the exception of Hungary 2014 (he started from the back after a failure in Q1).

        But anything can happen in F1.

      6. That would be very sensible, but im tipping no-one will get near him the next few races. A few wet races is what im sure he would love

    4. I would say even 2006 should be part of this discussions. Alonso and Schumacher were level with 2 races to go. They were running 2nd and 1st with Alonso closing in on Michael with less than 20 laps to go. And Schumacher gets his first Ferrari engine failure in over 5 years. Next qualifying, he gets a problem in Q3 and has to start 10th. In the race, he gets a puncture from Alonso’s teammate.

      1. Yeah, that’s the year which immediately showed up on my mind

      2. Just to clarify on ‘gets a puncture from Alonso’s teammate.’ After the restart on lap 6, Fisichella, who had already held back MS by keeping to the inside line on some corners, when they came around to turn one again, Fisi again kept to the inside line, MS aggressively cut across him to the inside as well to try to get him to back off, Fisi tried to avoid contact by taking to the curb, and there was a slight touch with MS’s tire. ie. MS totally brought that upon himself so it shouldn’t be made to sound like Fisi was doing something nefarious to help his teammate other than to try to keep MS behind him fair and square.

        1. Replay the race, you would find that the front wings had some very pointy objects.

      3. While as a schumacher fan those problems were certainly annoying, let’s not forget alonso lost similar issues through reliability: he had an engine failure too at monza, less punishing since he was 3rd and schumacher 1st, but he also had a wheel problem in hungary when he was 1st and schumacher ended up being 8th thanks to that. So overall schumacher only lost 2 points through reliability in comparison with alonso and generally could have avoided a few points-costing mistakes that year that would’ve made him champion, I think while he still had all his original speed, he was a bit error-prone around 2006 compared to his peak, after all he was 37 and alonso 26.

      4. I think 2006 was more like 1976, when one driver seemingly runs away with the championship, only to be overhauled later on in the season. Alonso started the season well, but after the first few races Ferrari and Renault were quite evenly matched. Then, in the summer the mass-dampers suddenly got outlawed and from then on Ferrari were dominant. Collisions, bad luck with the safety car and some weird reliability problems then prevented Schumacher from winning his 8th title.

    5. I would say 2000 was also a bit anti-climatic, considering what had happened in 97 to 99, with the final GP being the deciders. Mika Hakkinen had that dramatic win in Spa, but then Schumi just dominated afterwards with 4 wins in a row, outscoring Hakkinen 40 points versus 15.

      1. Yeah, the 2000 season definitely is one of these anti-climactic ones. The championship was extremely close until Häkkinen’s Mercedes engine decide to go boom in Indianapolis

    6. Then summer arrived and dry weather led to a Senna drought. Williams won the next seven races, four of which went to Prost,

      It is easy to forget that two of those four (Hockenheim and Silverstone) could very well have gone Hill’s way.

    7. I still think this season is still one race too early to call. If the diva shows up for the next three races, for instance, it’s not inconceivable that Hamilton could trail in fifth in each race. Both Ferrari and Red Bull have the cars to compete on Mercedes off-days. Add in the increased pressure on Hamilton if that happens, and the extra aggression that would be needed to secure more points, it could still be a turnaround. I expect Mercedes to be working flat out to solve the problem, though, and win in Austin, which would more or less wrap up any chances for Vettel.

    8. How about “all constructor’s championships after the points system changed to 25 for a win”?

    9. I never associated the sedating second half of the 2013 season with the upcoming regulations change, and I’m not quite convinced by that. To my understanding, the mid-season switch of tyre construction, which Red Bull and Mercedes had been advocating quite vocally, was what tipped the balance.
      After all, Alonso was the only driver who looked like he could challenge Vettel around mid-season (Räikkönen wasn’t too far away, either, but nobody believed in Enstone’s development potential), so Ferrari had no reason to curtail their season at that stage.
      Therefore, I’d like to have a look at how the top 4 teams scored in the first 9 races (with the original tyre construction) and the next 10 races (with the stabilised construction):
      – Red Bull went from scoring 27.8 points per race on average (ppr) to 31.4 (+13%)
      – Mercedes: 20.3 ppr -> 16.1 ppr (-21%)
      – Ferrari: 20 ppr -> 15.8 ppr (-21%)
      – Lotus: 17.4 ppr -> 14.4 ppr [15.8 when factoring out Räikkönen’s early end of the season] (-18%)
      – McLaren: 5.4 -> 6.6 (+22%)
      – Force India: 6.5 -> 1.6 (-75%)
      – Sauber: 0.8 -> 4.5 (+484%)
      – Toro Rosso: 2.7 -> 0.8 (-69%)

      Observations:
      – In the first half of the season, Red Bull outscored Mercedes and Ferrari on average by ~7.5-8 points per race. That advantage doubled as soon as the new tyres were introduced.
      – Lotus, who were running out of budget, lost slightly in comparison to Red Bull, but all but closed the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari – at a time when key technical staff were fleeing the team.
      – McLaren’s and especially Sauber’s form improved, quite dramatically so in the Swiss team’s case. However, Sauber’s financial situation was dire. Important staff members left the team in the middle of the season due to the team’s failure to pay them, debt enforcement measures were performed, and there was not much in the way of car development.
      – By contrast, Force India’s and Toro Rosso’s seasons took a sudden nosedive.

      Conclusion:
      I don’t think the course of the 2013 season can be attributed to car development. The various form siwngs throughout the field (which atypically did not pattern with budget or the lack thereof) point to a massive shake-up due to an external reason. And that external reason was quite obviously the change of tyre construction.

      1. Yes, the tire construction really played a role.
        Ferrari and Lotus were pretty much designed around rapidly-degrading tires. They basically sacrificed downforce for tire longevity. That worked reasonably well in the first half of the season, but they were suffering when the tires got more durable.
        However, it’s also true that Renault were much more focused on developing the 2013 engine than Ferrari and Mercedes were. In 2014 they complained that they hadn’t been ready for the new season, which is probably a result of this policy. Late 2013 Renault was trying to mimic traction control with some clever engine mapping I believe, and therefore Lotus (notably Grosjean) got more competitive too. Räikkönen was suffering most from the harder tires, as he has a special ability to preserve the tires more than anyone else.
        Mercedes were also complaining about the tire change, claiming it had hindered them too. They indeed lost their advantage over Red Bull in qualifying, although their race pace didn’t seem to be affected too much.

        1. @f1infigures, in the case of Grosjean, I would argue that internal politics within the team also played their part in his upturn in form in the latter part of the season.

          In the earlier stages, Grosjean was not being given that much support from the team – Kimi was being given more engineering resources, had bespoke components built for him and often was at least one upgrade package ahead of Grosjean for most of that season. However, as it became clear that Kimi was leaving the team at the end of the season, the team stopped giving him such favourable treatment and started shifting more resources towards Grosjean, who was going to be staying with them – and, once they started that, Grosjean’s performances began improving quite noticeably.

          In the case of Lotus, I would say that their shift in form was more of a reflection of the internal politics of the team, with Kimi getting reduced support and Grosjean increased support, that resulted in Kimi’s drop in form.

    10. Last night I had a dream, Hamilton gets disqualified at the US GP.

      I’m either spending too much time on this site or smokin something bad, who knows.

    11. Sergio Álvarez
      14th October 2017, 22:05

      The 2013 championship was a fame of two halves because Pirelli changed the construction in an exceptional move, after all the punctures at Silverstone. The revised tyres suited the Red Bull better than the previous version.

    12. You haven’t mentioned Pirelli changing the design of their tires mid season in 2013, because they were spontaneously exploding. That handed Red Bull and Vettel the initiative.

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