Alternative history: the 2010 championship without misfortune

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    The 2010 formula one season goes down into history as the season in which most the last race had most drivers still contending for the championship: Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. An amazing season, and in a way reminiscent of the 2005 season in which Kimi Räikkönen was not only battling Alonso, but also the reliability of his own McLaren.

    While Sebastian Vettel became the youngest world champion in Formula One history, some might feel that had another driver been in that fast Red Bull, it would not have been such a close fight, and the championship would have been over much earlier. A somewhat understandable point, but then you are forgetting the amount of points Vettel has lost out due to technical misfortune. To put things a little in perspective, here is what the championship would have looked if the five main championship contenders would not have had to deal with any misfortune; what do the driver’s  performance results look like in 2010.

    What counts as misfortune: mechanical failure, being crashed in to by another driver
    What does not count as misfortune: wrong tactical choices, crashing their own car, penalty by the driver’s own doing

    Grand Prix of Bahrain
    At the Grand Prix of Bahrain, Sebastian Vettel was on his way to certain victory until a badly functioning spark plug ruined his chances. Although he was still able to finish in fourth place, Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton pushed him off the podium. Were it not for this bad luck, Vettel had would have certainly taken the first win of the season.

    Standings 2010: Alonso 25pt, Hamilton 15pt, Vettel 12pt, Button 6pt, Webber 4pt
    Alternative standings: Vettel 25pt, Alonso 18pt, Hamilton 12pt, Button 6pt, Webber 4pt

    Grand Prix of Australia
    During the Grand Prix of Australia, again Sebastian Vettel was in a comfortable lead when his car decided to do give up. When the torque dropped, and with that his brakes, the young German got stuck in the gravel pit and went home empty handed. Fernando Alonso also had his share of bad luck when he was spun in the first corner by the later race winner Jenson Button. In our alternative standings, Vettel would have won the race, and although Alonso would have probably not passed Button, he would have probably been able to stay ahead of Kubica and finish third.

    Standings 2010: Alonso 37pt, Button 31pt, Hamilton 23pt, Vettel 12pt, Webber 6pt
    Alternative standings: Vettel 50pt, Alonso 33pt, Button 24pt, Hamilton 20pt, Webber 6pt

    Grand Prix of Malaysia
    There was some bad luck in qualifying for some of the championship contenders in the Grand Prix of Malaysia, when tactical mistakes made by Hamilton, Alonso and Button left them at the back of the grid. The race was not without issues for Fernando Alonso. Although it was clear the Ferrari was not a front-runner this race, he had issues with his gearbox all race, and on top of that, his engine blew up two laps before the end. If he had not suffered these problems, a sixth place finish in front of Hamilton, Massa and Button could have been a realistic result. Although Mark Webber lost two seconds in his pitstop, it would not have made a difference and he would have still finished second behind Sebastian Vettel.

    Standings 2010: Alonso 37pt, Vettel 37pt, Button 35pt, Hamilton 31pt, Webber 24pt
    Alternative standings: Vettel 75pt, Alonso 41pt, Button 26pt, Hamilton 26pt, Webber 24pt

    Grand Prix of China
    The Grand Prix of China was very chaotic, but other than tactical mistakes, none of the championship contenders really had any bad luck in this race.

    Standings 2010: Button 60pt, Alonso 49pt, Hamilton 49pt, Vettel 45pt, Webber 28pt
    Alternative standings: Vettel 83pt, Alonso 53pt, Button 51pt, Hamilton 44pt, Webber 28pt

    Grand Prix of Spain
    At the Spanish Grand Prix, for a long time things went well for the championship contenders, until first Sebastian Vettel got problems with his brakes, which put him back behind Alonso, yet he did still finish third. Lewis Hamilton was not as fortunate though, as a flat tire in the last lap send him into the barriers. If Vettel and Hamilton did not have this bad luck, Webber would have won in front of Hamilton and Vettel, with Alonso on p4.

    Standings 2010: Button 70pt, Alonso 67pt, Vettel 60pt, Webber 53pt, Hamilton 49pt
    Alternative standings: Vettel 98pt, Alonso 65pt, Hamilton 62pt, Button 61pt, Webber 53pt

    Grand Prix of Monaco
    The Grand Prix of Monaco got off to a bad start for Fernando Alonso, who crashed his Ferrari in the third free practice session and because of that, had to miss out on qualifying; this was his own fault though. Jenson Button however was not to blame for an engineer that left something in his sidepot, killing the engine on the second lap. Although the reigning champion showed a slower pace this weekend than the Mercedes drivers, he should have been able to finish in 8th position.

    Standings 2010: Webber 78pt, Vettel 78pt, Alonso 75pt, Button 70pt, Hamilton 59pt
    Alternative standings: Vettel 116pt, Webber 78pt, Alonso 73pt, Hamilton 71pt, Button 65pt

    Grand Prix of Turkey
    The Grand Prix of Turkey was highlighted by the crash of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. In the end, it was the young German’s mistake that cost both drivers points. For the alternative championship standings, Mark Webber is given the victory, where Vettel is responsible for his own loss in points.

    Standings 2010: Webber 93pt, Button 88pt, Hamilton 84pt, Alonso 79pt, Vettel 78pt
    Alternative standings: Vettel 116pt, Webber 103pt, Hamilton 90pt, Button 80pt, Alonso 77pt

    Grand Prix of Canada
    The Grand Prix of Canada started with bad luck for Mark Webber, who received a 5 grid penalty because his gearbox was changed, starting him from P7. Although team mate Vettel also had problems with his gearbox, the Red Bull’s pace was not such that they lost out on a certain podium finish.

    Standings 2010: Hamilton 109pt, Button 106pt, Webber 103pt, Alonso 94pt, Vettel 90pt
    Alternative standings: Vettel 128pt, Hamilton 115pt, Webber 113pt, Button 98pt, Alonso 92pt

    Grand Prix of Europe
    The European Grand Prix in Valencia was known for two things: first, the spectacular crash of Mark Webber, which was his own mistake and thus doesn’t count in the context of this article. Then there was the controversy with Lewis Hamilton, who passed the safety car, and Fernando Alonso, who did not. Although it is hard to say exactly how much time Hamilton would not have gained if the stewards did not wait 20 minutes before they penalized him, he was still very fast in the final laps of the race. He would have probably finished in third position behind Button, but still in front of the chasing pack lead by Barrichello.

    Standings 2010: Hamilton 127pt, Button 121pt, Vettel 115pt, Webber 103pt, Alonso 98pt
    Alternative standings: Vettel 153pt, Hamilton 130pt, Button 116pt, Webber 113pt, Alonso 96pt

    Grand Prix of England
    At the British Grand Prix, two championship contenders were faced with bad luck, which they themselves were partially responsible for. Sebastian Vettel had a flat tire, but this was because of contact with Hamilton. The bad timing of Alonso’s penalty behind the safety car could also have been prevented if the Spaniard had not caused the penalty in the first place. So for the alternative standings, the Grand Prix of England changes nothing.

    Standings 2010: Hamilton 145pt, Button 133pt, Webber 128pt, Vettel 121pt, Alonso 98pt
    Alternative standings: Vettel 159pt, Hamilton 148pt, Webber 138pt, Button 128pt, Alonso 96pt

    Grand Prix of Germany
    In the context of this article, placing the German Grand Prix is a difficult one, since it is debatable how much ‘bad luck’ the Ferrari team order would constitute. However, like we did with Lewis Hamilton in the European Grand Prix, we’ll put Alonso back to second place in the alternative outcome of the German Grand Prix. Although Mark Webber had an oil pick-up problem later in the race, he would have probably not passed the McLarens.

    Standings 2010: Hamilton 157pt, Button 143pt, Webber 136pt, Vettel 136pt, Alonso 123pt
    Alternative standings: Vettel 174pt, Hamilton 160pt, Webber 146pt, Button 138pt, Alonso 114pt

    Grand Prix of Hungary
    Another tricky situation, when Sebastian Vettel saw a certain victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix slip through his fingers after his team failed to inform him about the safety car. As it was avoidable however, this won’t change the alternative standings, and Vettel will stay third. Someone who did see bad luck, was Lewis Hamilton, whose gearbox failed, losing him a fourth place finish and 12 points.

    Standings 2010: Webber 161pt, Hamilton 157pt, Vettel 151pt, Button 147pt, Alonso 141pt
    Alternative standings: Vettel 189pt, Hamilton 172pt, Webber 171pt, Button 142pt, Alonso 132pt

    Grand Prix of Belgium
    The Grand Prix in the Belgian Ardennes was a disastrous race for Sebastian Vettel, but also for Jenson Button, whose race was ended when Vettel tried to overtake him. Although Vettel is to blame for this, Button lost out on a fairly certain second position because of the incident. Alonso’s slip-up later in the race was his own mistake.

    Standings 2010: Hamilton 182pt, Webber 179pt, Vettel 151pt, Button 147pt, Alonso 141pt
    Alternative standings: Hamilton 195pt, Vettel 189pt, Webber 186pt, Button 160pt, Alonso 132pt

    Grand Prix of Italy
    Although it was Hamilton’s own fault for crashing out in the first lap of the Italian Grand Prix, this time it was Sebastian Vettel who was the victim of bad luck when his engine seemingly died. Luckily for him, the Renault engine came back to life and he ended up taking fourth place. Even without this mechanical issue, it was unlikely that he would have caught up with the much faster Ferrari of Massa, so in the end, nothing changes in this race.

    Standings 2010: Webber 187pt, Hamilton 182pt, Alonso 166pt, Button 165pt, Vettel 163pt
    Alternative standings: Vettel 201pt, Hamilton 199pt, Webber 194pt, Button 178pt, Alonso 157pt

    Grand Prix of Singapore
    The crash between Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton was a race incident, which could be considered either’s fault. As such, it will be negated and will not affect the alternative outcome.

    Standings 2010: Webber 202pt, Alonso 191pt, Hamilton 182pt, Vettel 181pt, Button 177pt
    Alternative standings: Vettel 219pt, Webber 209pt, Hamilton 199pt, Button 190pt, Alonso 182pt

    Grand Prix of Japan
    As a result of the crash with Webber in Singapore, Lewis Hamilton had to change his gearbox in Suzuka, which cost him 5 positions on the starting grid. Later in the race, the new gearbox also acted up, because of which he finished only in fifth position. Although Lewis was not faster than the Red Bulls, without these issues he would have easily taken third place from Alonso, which would have set Button back to fifth.

    Standings 2010: Webber 220pt, Alonso 206pt, Vettel 206pt, Hamilton 192pt, Button 189pt
    Alternative standings: Vettel 244pt, Webber 227pt, Hamilton 214pt, Button 200pt, Alonso 194pt

    Grand Prix of Korea
    The first Grand Prix of Korea was driven under poor weather circumstances, which would eventually cost Mark Webber his race by his own mistake. Actual bad luck was experienced by Sebastian Vettel however, who saw a certain victory go up in smoke when his engine died, giving valuable extra points to Alonso and Hamilton.

    Standings 2010: Alonso 231pt, Webber 220pt, Hamilton 210pt, Vettel 206pt, Button 189pt
    Alternative standings: Vettel 269pt, Hamilton 229pt, Webber 227pt, Alonso 212pt, Button 210pt

    Grand Prix of Brazil
    The Grand Prix of Brazil went by without too many issues for the championship contenders, aside from Jenson Button who -by his own doing- failed to qualify in the top 10.

    Standings 2010: Alonso 246pt, Webber 238pt, Vettel 231pt, Hamilton 222pt, Button 199pt
    Alternative standings: Vettel 294pt, Webber 245pt, Hamilton 239pt, Alonso 227pt, Button 222pt

    Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
    Apart from the strategical errors of Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso, and the ‘bad luck’ they had in returning to the track behind Nico Rosberg and Vitaly Petrov, in the context of this article nothing changes after Abu Dhabi.

    Standings 2010: Vettel 256pt, Alonso 252pt, Webber 242pt, Hamilton 240pt, Button 214pt
    Alternative standings: Vettel 319pt, Hamilton 257pt, Webber 249pt, Button 237pt, Alonso 233pt

    In conclusion I
    * Sebastian Vettel lost a net 63 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune.
    * Jenson Button lost a net 23 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune.
    * Lewis Hamilton lost a net 17 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune.
    * Mark Webber lost a net 7 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune.
    * Fernando Alonso gained a net 19 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune from his direct championship competitors.

    In conclusion II
    Were it not for mechanical failures or other cases of bad luck…
    * …Sebastian Vettel would have secured the championship after the Grand Prix of Brasil, after which his 49 point lead would have been too big for Mark Webber to make up.
    * …rather than finishing just 4 points in front of the number two (Fernando Alonso), Vettel would have ended the season with a 62 point lead on Lewis Hamilton.
    * …rather than finishing just 14 points in front of his team mate, Vettel would have ended the season with a 70 point lead on Mark Webber.
    * …rather than leading the championship in the middle of the season, Webber would have never been closer than 3 points behind Vettel at any point during the season.
    * …rather than finishing just fifth in the championship, 26 points behind his team mate and 38 points behind Alonso, Buttno would have ended the season as fourth; still 20 points behind Hamilton, but 4 points ahead of Alonso.
    * …Fernando Alonso would have never lead the championship, and would have trailed Vettel, Hamilton, Webber and Button for most of the season. He would have finished the season as fifth, 86 points behind Vettel.

    In a few days in Alternative history: 2007, the year in which Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton tied with the same amount of points, just one point short of Kimi Raïkkönen who started the last race third in the championship. How did they all get so close to eachother in the last race? Was Raïkkönen’s title a lucky shot, or could he have had a bigger lead?


    Not sure that this proves anything, who’s to say what would have happened later in the race if driver A hadn’t retired or driver B had done so. I can see a few crashes and incidents that have been omitted so I’m sure others will see many more.


    While anyone having watched Back to the Future understands that you can’t simply alter one thing in history without other things being affected, and thus these results are not completely definitive, they can’t be completely ignored either, considering any Formula One driver will always push for the best results. This article provides some context to the raw statistics of world championships.


    In Australia I don’t think Button took Alonso out. Alonso got sandwiched and moved across Button while going for the apex and avoiding Rosberg. Not that it makes much of a difference to your standings anyway.

    Singapore is debatable. It is very difficult when looking at the footage to see who is more at fault- Hamilton cut in quite a lot, but possibly Webber had more space up the inside. But if you agree that it was equal blame then isn’t it fair to either give Webber the same DNF as Hamilton or remove Hamilton’s DNF?

    Generally seems a good analysis though.


    We had a similar (and hotly-debated) article late in the season that year:

    He’s 14 points behind but Vettel should be leading the championship by 59


    Did you also have that for other championship years?
    Right now, i’ve written 2010, 2007, 2008 and 2005.


    Right, as much as I appreciate the effort you went to (and I do agree with a fair amount of what you said by the way) these stats are largely worthless. “Misfortune” is part of motor sport, there is no way of getting around it. Everyone has mechanical failures (even though they are appallingly rare these days), everyone has a spin from time to time (most of which go unpunished these days, but that’s another story) and everyone has the odd collision. It’s just part of motorsport, and it always will be.


    Interesting summary although I liked how the 2010 season was fought for…. and totally accept that Ferrari was to blame for Alonso missing out…. I still think RBR should´ve favoured Webber… Again.. that´s just my opinion….


    -63 for Vettel compared to -7 for Webber. Wow.

    So even in his strongest year, Webber still had to (mostly) rely on luck to get as far as he did. I guess Red Bull were right to support his teammate all along.

    Alonso gaining 19 points really surprised me though.

    Good effort, OP. Looking forward to your 2007 analysis.


    I echo @failbane ‘s sentiments to the letter.


    The championship table is the most important thing, but this analysis make it clear as day that Vettel was the far superior driver at RBR in 2010. Lewis Hamilton was very unfortunate as well, and did much better than his final championship position showed.

    I basically agree with @pamphlet ( @raymondu999 tagged the wrong person again :P )


    @david-a Oh B0ll0cks. I meant @pamphlet!!


    Hamilton was p3 in oz when Mclaren called him in, had they not he’d of been 4th in your alternative


    @GeorgeDaviesF1 it would’ve been Vettel-Button-Kubica-Hamilton. Is that what you’re talking about?


    it would’ve been Vettel-Button-Kubica-Hamilton. Is that what you’re talking about?

    @raymondu999 yeah it is

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