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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Roger Cracks Rafa Riddle

Kunal Diwan

It’s official. Strap your wiggly butts to your lazyboys and prepare for launch. Roger has started liking the dirt. It doesn’t choke his nares as before. His air-maxes have attained firm footing. And a certain someone in three-fourths is certainly frowning in displeasure.

If Federer’s pummeling of Nadal in the final of the Hamburg Masters is anything to go by, we have a French Open of epic proportions awaiting us.

It was not the eventual victory that mattered. It was the timing and manner of it – a handful of days before the French, all knives out against a ‘suspect’ Federer on clay, and this ripped teenager in highly un-recommended tennis attire having his own disdainful way with the champion. Here was a man who had just parted ways with his coach because he did not want any “interference” from any quarter in his preparation for the French. Was this the supercilious decline of a haughty champion? This was surely it. Or so we thought.

Federer’s scowl in the first set was representative of the 2-6 scoreline. His forehand lacked punch. His first serve was off by a mile and did nothing to extricate him from the hypnotic domination that his Majorcan opponent exercised over him each time they met across the net. It was been downright embarrassing, the way this teenager had made the magician appear to be a semi-professional drifter in their earlier encounters.

The first set followed an expected course. Nadal powered his way through whatever Federer hurled his way. Federer scowled, flicked his hair in that arrogant manner of his and (to the best of this writer’s tennis acumen) resigned himself to the ignominy of yet another defeat. Nadal even had a better percentage of points won at the net.

Then suddenly the first serve started hitting the sweet spot. The forays to the net seemed increasingly sure-footed. And before anyone could breathe a familiar gasp of awe, the Federer we knew was back at his dismissive best. He out-ran, out-hit, out-rallied, and out-played Nadal in every possible aspect of the game – in the second set Nadal was out-Nadal-ed by Federer. Second set in his pocket, we waited like scared cats for Rafa to step up a gear in his well-oiled musculature. He did. But Federer out-geared him there as well. I guess all the propitiating on my part had worked wonders. Not that this man needs the help of any Gods that require pleasing.

The decider was vintage (pardon the usage) Federer. He did not play as much as he rammed his brilliance into his opponent’s face. Nadal was blasted off court and ended his 81 match-winning streak on clay with an embarrassing 0-6 drubbing. But then there is no shame in losing to someone who would beat you with equal ease with a toothpick. Spectatorship was elevated to such euphoric levels that Custom Officials may well accost Federer for carrying contraband.

Midway through the third set, (with the end a good ten minutes and three games away) a commentator chimed – “It is going to be a deserved win for Federer. Nothing that Nadal can do about it now”. When someone is playing at this humanly unattainable level, precognition may well be excused.

For the record, Roger Federer beat Rafael Nadal 2-6 6-2 6-0.

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