Alonso leading by 4? – II

Apropos the earlier post (I know the stats-shy may have stopped reading by now), I came across some new information on the same at http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/statistics/. The most shocking of all was that Eddie Irvine would have been the champion in 1999 had the new points system been in effect. Actually, it should not be that surprising, considering Mika Hakkinen had won it over Irvine by a mere 2 points. Under the news points system, Irvine would have won by a 6-point margin.

Michael Schumacher may have won in 1997 with the new points system, but he also would have lost the 1994 title to Damon Hill. Under the old points, Schumacher piped Hill by a solitary point; the new one would have seen Hill being World Champion by a good 8 points.

Other statistical highlights courtesy http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/statistics/
1992- Michael Schumacher’s first season was so impressive that, had the 2003-specification points system been used that year, he would have tied for second with Riccardo Patrese.
1995 – Had the 2003 points system been used in 1995, Johnny Herbert would have been third overall, instead of David Coulthard.
1996 – To highlight how the post-2003 points system rewards consistent finishing in the lower places more than occasional finishes in the higher places, compare Jean Alesi and Michael Schumacher. Alesi (no wins) trailled Schumacher (three wins) by 12 points in real life, but under post-2003 points he would have been just two points behind.

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Alonso leading by 4?

Five races down, and Lewis Hamilton still drives a fairytale of a first Formula-1 season. A race win has eluded him, but he’s not been far from it. Four consecutive second place finishes have helped him to the top of the points table alongside defending champion and team-mate Fernando Alonso. However, the rookie from the United Kingdom is currently placed behind the Spaniard, thanks to Alonso’s two race wins.

This brings us to an interesting debate, on whether Hamilton would have been on par with Alonso on points had he been competing under the old points scoring system. The new points system came into effect in 2003, in order to spur greater competition and rewarded eight drivers with points instead of the earlier system of six finishing in the points. Also, the points for the second and third placed drivers on the podium were changed, which cut down the 4-point cushion for a race winner over the second-placed opponent to a mere 2 points. The old system was as follows: the drivers finishing in the top six were awarded 10, 6, 4, 3, 2, and 1 points respectively for that particular Grand Prix. The new system: 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 for the drivers placing 1-8.

Going by the old points system, Alonso would be on 32 points for the races held so far, 6 points less than the tally with the current points system. Lewis Hamilton would be worse hit, his points this season would drop from 38 to 28 if the old system was still in existence. Hence, if we were still in 2002, Alonso would have been going to Montreal with a 4-point lead over his team-mate.

One can go on about the merits of the old and the new system. The major difference being that earlier a race win was given more importance, since the driver placed in second scored 4 points less than the winner, who got 10. Nevertheless the current system has been well-accepted by all and perhaps is a better one.

Last season, there was a close contest between Alonso and the now-retired Michael Schumacher. I think you get what I intend to do: Check if Schumi could have won that title in the farewell season had the points system been different. Schumacher was second-best by a good 13 points in the end, but the title race was much closer before the tragic engine blowout at the penultimate race in Japan.

Current points system: Alonso 134, Schumi 121.
Old points system: Alonso 116, Schumi 104.

So, it wouldn’t have really made a difference. The duo were equal on points before the race in Japan, which Alonso won and Schumacher didn’t score a point in. Interestingly, had it been the old system, Schumacher would have led Alonso by a point heading into Japan. So, could that 1 point have crumbled Alonso’s march to the title. Perhaps not.

Those still interested read on. We shall look at another title-race involving Schumacher, though this time around it is back in 1997, when the old points system was in place. 1997 saw the infamous incident where Schumacher tried to take out championship winner Jacques Villeneuve in the final race of the season – the European Grand Prix. Schumacher was penalised; the authorities disqualified him from the final championship standings.

What follows is to check whether Schumacher would have benefited had the new points system been followed.

Old points system (Actual standings): Villeneuve 81 Schumacher 78.
New points system : Villeneuve 89 Schumacher 94.

Interesting? And the standings before the European Grand Prix is given below:

Old system: Villeneuve 77 Schumacher 78.
New system: Villeneuve 83 Schumacher 94.

Villeneuve did not even have a shot at winning the title. Schumacher could have well gone on driving his way to the championship. Although, in hindsight, that would have made for a rather blunt conclusion to the season. And the connoisseurs of sport would have been denied the opportunity the decry that instance of sporting impropriety.

The title race is in all probability likely to be tight this season. But at the back of our minds would be the fact that perhaps a different points scoring system could have made a world of difference.

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F-1: Monaco – The Inflection Point

A bizarre event. The man who replaced Michael Schumacher does an accidental replay of what the German ‘deliberately’ did a year ago. To top it, Kimi Raikonnen’s Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa nearly dislodged the Finn from the stationary position he had got comfortable in. Yes, you could be forgiven for thinking this was a ‘Salute to Schumi’ from Ferrari at Formula 1’s glitziest Grand Prix.

Massa qualified third, while Raikonnen’s brush with the surreal pushed him back to 15th. Meanwhile, on the front row a two-time defending champion managed to pip the rookie who is seen capable enough by many to win the World Championship. A lot of talk going into this weekend was about the successes McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton has had at Monaco, albeit at lesser levels of motor sport.

However, teammate Fernando Alonso has once again out-qualified the Briton (a 4-1 record this season so far). But Hamilton will surely be looking to outdo the Spaniard at the start in Monaco. And a win at Monaco would definitely be one of the defining moments of world sport this year.

It is heartening to see that the BMWs have been pushed back to the fourth row, followed by the Hondas in Row 5. Giancarlo Fisichella in the Renault, Nico Rosberg in the Williams and Red Bull’s Mark Webber fill the slots 4-6. Hopefully, Monaco shall mark the inflection point for a few teams and their drivers.

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Post-Schumacher Syndrome

Mathew Varghese

Even before the lights go off, the 2007 season is set to be a cracker. This despite the absence of Michael Schumacher, the man whose performances made him the sport’s global icon following the trail of perhaps a greater legend – the late Ayrton Senna.

Schumi may still be around at the paddocks, and it is certain that no camera is going to miss him. However, the question remains who will be the man to even come close to his record seven world titles. In a glittering career spanning 17 years, Michael broke nearly every record in sight.

The odds are in favour of Kimi Raikonnen to win this year’s championship, however one still cannot discount the current two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso, more so for seasons to come. The Spaniard has moved to Mclaren, a team that struggled last season. ‘Iceman’ Kimi would be hoping Ferrari can provide him what Mclaren could not – a reliable car – which many believe cost him the 2005 World Championship. However, that’s the way sport is.

If given a choice, I still see Alonso coming closer to matching up to Schumacher than Kimi. For starters, Kimi seems the kind who will happily retire after two or three wins. Both Kimi and Alonso started their FI careers in 2001, though at 27 Kimi is the older of the two. The 25-year old Alonso is also two steps closer to Schumacher’s record, in the process becoming the youngest-ever F1 World Champion.

Coming from a generation that has seen both Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, one cannot be blamed to believe that Alonso could blitz all the records set by Schumacher. For this, he first needs to change the fortunes of Team Mclaren. Fortunately, Alonso has a rookie as team-mate. Lewis Hamilton is by far a better foil for the world champion than a Juan Pablo Montoya. However, Hamilton is a Mclaren product, and he looks set for a long stint with the team.

One doubts if any driver can replicate the work ethic and professionalism shown by Michael Schumacher. The Ferrari team will surely miss him, and Kimi will have a daunting task ahead. Alonso can only benefit if he can work well and build a rapport with Ron Dennis’s team.

Alonso needs six world titles to beat Schumi, a daunting task indeed. Even if he wins half that number, he will book his place in F1 history, and probably rightfully share the limelight with fellow greats such as Roger Federer and Tiger Woods.

PS: I am sure if Schumi and Kimi fans could change history, Alonso would still be looking for his first championship. Being a Schumi supporter, I ask all not to start on the tyres and engines that worked in Alonso’s favour.

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Trackback – A racing legend retires

The signs looked ominous for Schumacher fans. A second engine problem in as many weeks, a trophy handed over even before the race began. Ferrari fans the world over might have suffered a cardiac arrest during qualifying at Sao Paulo had they not seen the crueller engine-failure endured by the seven-time world champion at the race in Suzuka. Coming into Sao Paulo with a 10-point cushion following Schumacher’s retirement at Suzuka while leading, Fernando Alonso looked all but set to become F1 youngest two-time champion. And with Schumacher starting at No. 10 on the grid, one felt it was a race to be added in the F1 records. Perhaps that prompted the organisers to request Pele to hand over a special trophy to MS.

Nico Rosberg may have ruined the day for Williams on Lap 1; Alonso and Renault won the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship, but the day belonged to Ferrari, with Felipe Massa winning in front of an ecstatic home crowd and Schumacher signing off in style, summing up all his energies for the last race of the season, and more importantly of his career.

Massa, the first Brazilian to win on home soil since Ayrton Senna’s victory in 1993, had a good start on pole. Michael had an even better one, overtaking Red Bull’s Robert Doornbos and fellow German Nick Heidfeld in the BMW Sauber to move ahead to eighth. The next lap he went ahead of his brother Ralf. In the meanwhile, Williams driver Nico Rosberg – who had a great start to the season in his debut race – ended the season in misery for his team – touching the back of team-mate Mark Webber, both cars having to retire.

Misfortune struck Schumacher once again on Lap 9. What seemed a brilliant overtaking manoeuvre to get ahead of Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella at Turn One turned into a disaster, as Schumacher’s Ferrari got a puncture in the rear left-tyre. A small touch caused the damage; though many blamed debris on the track, the master could not have erred. An 11-second stop in the pits ensued, and now for sure even the staunchest of believers would have given up on the miracle. Schumacher was relegated to No. 20 on the track, while Alonso was racing along to another podium finish.

A few laps later BMW Sauber was assured fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship, with both Toyota cars joining the retirement list. By Lap 18, Schumacher was still at 17, with all cars behind him having retired. But this also egged on the great champion, who by Lap 33 was up to tenth place. Briton Jenson Button also was making a move up, and on Lap 29 went past Kimi Raikonnen, the man who will replace Schumacher at Ferrari.

Alonso moved up to second following a long pit-stop for Mclaren’s Pedro De la Rosa, on a one-stop strategy. Schumacher raced up to eighth, focussed on clinching the Constructors’ for Ferrari, which still seemed up for grabs. No one seemed to have an answer for the German, clocking faster laps than the rest lap after lap. Schumacher entered the pits on Lap 47 in sixth place, and managed to get out in ninth, ahead of De la Rosa. By Lap 51, Schumacher was up to sixth place again, having overtaken his team-mate in Ferrari’s glory days, the Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, now driving a Honda. For the sentiment of the occasion, even the critics would have forgotten of the infamous Ferrari team orders of 2002, when Schumacher overtook Barrichello. Today was the day to celebrate the glittering career of Michael Schumacher.

And he gave further proof – not that he needed any- of his genius. The German was once again eyeing the Renault of Fisichella, and by Lap 63, he had his reward, a mistake from the Italian enabled Schumacher slipped into fifth on Turn One. And the cherry on the cake –or career in this case- was the duel with Kimi Raikonnen, Schumacher emerging victorious in a wheel-to-wheel with the Finn at Turn One on Lap 69. With two laps to go, Schumacher could not manage a podium or the Constructors’ Championship for Team Ferrari; Massa, Alonso and Button taking the honours.

Celebrations befitting a season-ender followed. Felipe Massa jumped in delight in front of a crowd that had witnessed a great race, while Alonso too enjoyed his second consecutive championship. Schumacher too joined in a brief moment but did not get a chance to uncork the champagne.

Many champions may have been forced to go when they were beyond their best, but no one who saw Schumacher race today would have dared said so. Maybe Jean Todt might have asked Schumacher to reconsider his retirement after the race. The podium perhaps rightly was taken by the talent that remains for the seasons to come. Surely, the Alonsos, Buttons and Massas will have many more podiums to come. But they also had the honour of racing alongside perhaps the sport’s greatest living legend, a man who – in spite of all the controversies that have dogged him – quietly receded into the background that day, leaving his supporters to savour a career of greatness.

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