Alternative history: 2012 championship without misfortune

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Alternative history: 2012 championship without misfortune

Post by mnmracer » 09 Dec 2012, 20:17

With some of the closest driver fields in a long time, the 2012 Formula One championship has been crazy thus far. Left and right, the drivers have also been affected by misfortune though, skewing the outcome in comparison to the driver's performances. To put things a little in perspective, here is what the top 5 of the championship would have looked without misfortune. Mark Webber and Michael Schumacher are also included because they have had a big amount of problems as well in 2012.

DISCLAIMER: 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 will always push for the best results. This article provides some context to the raw statistics of world championships.

DISCLAIMER II: If you think "but driver X was unlucky to have a slower car" or "I don't consider mechanical issues misfortune" is a constructive one-liner (it's not), please understand that is not the purpose of this article. It's purpose is to give an overview of what happened, not to ignite another debate on 'the best driver'.

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

Australian Grand Prix
- First race of the season started with a bang, or rather a screech, as Alonso binned his Ferrari in Q2. As it was his own fault, no changes there.
- Both Red Bulls were struggling with KERS in qualifying, but the gap to Schumacher was greater than KERS would have cost likely them, so no changes there.
- Michael Schumacher retired from 3rd place with gearbox issues. Without this, he would have still been passed by Vettel and probably Webber, but fifth should have been very possible.
- Romain Grosjean was punted off the track by Pastor Maldonado. Considering Grosjean's and Lotus' speed, he would have likely finished ahead of Alonso, but behind Schumacher still.
- The influence of the safety car on the Vettel-Hamilton has been much debated, but the pace of Vettel trying to jump Hamilton -before the field was slowed by the safety car- would have been enough to take 2nd, regardless of the safety car.

Changes: P5 for Schumacher, P6 for Grosjean, P7 for Alonso, P9 for Räikkönen.
Alternative standings (actual standings): Button 25pts (25), Vettel 18pts (18), Hamilton 15pts (15), Webber 12pts (12), Schumacher 10pts (0), Alonso 6pts (10), Räikkönen 2pts (6)

Malaysian Grand Prix
- Kimi Räikkönen received a 5 place grid penalty for changing his gearbox, setting him back to p10, which moved up Vettel, Grosjean, Rosberg and Alonso. Considering his race pace though, he would have probably not finished ahead of Webber, who qualified ahead, anyway.
- Grosjean spun Schumacher on lap 1, retiring by his own doing a few laps later. No change for Grosjean. Schumacher lost a lot of positions, and although the time difference was made up by the safety car a little later, he would have likely had a good chance to fight for Räikkönen's position.
- Vettel's radio stopped working shortly after the restart, which is a strategical nightmare in rainy conditions. Having been able to pit a lap earlier would have saved him some time, but would not have him overtake Hamilton.
- Webber lost 2 seconds in the pit stop, affecting his fight with Vettel, who in turn had also lost time due to the radio. As Vettel was the faster driver today, it likely evens out.
- Jenson Button collided with Karthikeyan trying to overtake him. This was his own fault.
- Infamously, Vettel and Karthikeyan came together when the Red Bull tried to lap the HRT. While there's a lot of would have/could have/should have's, the stewards also agreed Karthikeyan was at fault. This cost Vettel 4th place. While he was catching up with Hamilton, the McLaren's top speed makes that it wasn't certain the accident cost Vettel 3rd, so just 4th.

Changes: P4 for Vettel, P5 for Webber, P6 for Räikkönen, p7 for Schumacher.
Alternative standings (actual standings): Alonso 31pts (35), Vettel 30pts (18), Hamilton 30pts (30), Button 25pts (25), Webber 22pts (24), Schumacher 16pts (1), Räikkönen 10pts (16)

Chinese Grand Prix
- Lewis Hamilton was given a 5-place grid penalty for a gearbox change. Although Rosberg looked too strong for anyone this weekend, Hamilton would have probably taken second.
- Schumacher retired and lost a likely 3rd place (he was on the same winning strategy as Rosberg) podium finish when his mechanic failed to screw his tire on correctly.
- While Vettel and Räikkönen didn't saw their strategies work out, those do not count in these scenario's.

Changes: P2 for Hamilton, P3 for Schumacher, everyone behind one place down.
Alternative standings (actual standings): Hamilton 45pts (45), Vettel 38pts (28), Button 37pts (43), Alonso 33pts (37), Webber 32pts (36), Schumacher 31pts (1), Räikkönen 10pts (16)

Bahrain Grand Prix
- Although Webber did not have KERS in the first lap, considering his later race pace it is unlikely he would have finished ahead of the Lotus'.
- A slow first pitstop cost Hamilton 10 seconds, which left him behind Rosberg. Losing another 12 seconds in the second pit stop, and Rosberg finishing just 17 seconds behind Webber, Hamilton might have been able to challenge the Australian for 4th. As Webber probably didn't push too much in the final laps, we'll give Hamilton 5th.
- Button was pushing and had likely overtaken di Resta if not for a tire puncture and later exhaust problems. We put Button ahead of di Resta.
- Althought Rosberg had a broken exhaust in the final laps, it did not make a big difference.

Changes: P5 for Hamilton, P6 for Button, P7 for Rosberg, P9 for Alonso, Schumacher out of the points.
Alternative standings (actual standings): Vettel 63pts (53), Hamilton 55pts (49), Button 45pts (43), Webber 44pts (48), Schumacher 31pts (2), Räikkönen 28pts (34)

Spanish Grand Prix
- Two strategy calls by Red Bull in qualifying did not quite work out. In an attempt to safe tires, Webber was stuck in Q2 and had to start 12th. Vettel subsequently decided to safe tires in Q3, and to have a choice of tires in the race. Both choices ended up not working out for them, but as strategy can both win and lose you a race, it doesn't count.
- Underfueling Hamilton in Q3, we can assume, was not done on purpose, yet had grave consequences. Bad luck, so we put him back on pole. Judging his race pace if on pole is tricky, as his race pace from the back would not have won him the race. All throughout qualifying though, his pace was such that a win would be likely.
- Vettel's drive-through penalty for not slowing for yellow flags was his own fault as well. His front wing change later did cost him 6 seconds though, which would have been enough to finish ahead of Kamui Kobayashi.
- Judging the impact of Webber's front wing problems is a bit tricky; he was in 8th when he fell back through the ranks, and lost time on the pit stop as well. He wasn't leading the 6-car pack by much though, so without the issues he would have probably ended just in front of, or behind, Kamui Kobayashi. Considering he was fighting back really well, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and give him 7th, behind Vettel, ahead of Kobayashi.

Changes: P1 for Hamilton, P3 for Alonso, P6 for Vettel, P7 for Webber, P9 for Rosberg, P10 for Button.
Alternative standings (actual standings): Hamilton 80pts (53), Vettel 71pts (61), Alonso 49pts (61), Button 46pts (45), Webber 44pts (48), Räikkönen 43pts (49), Schumacher 31pts (2)

Monaco Grand Prix
- Schumacher's crash with Senna in Spain cost him the pole position, but this was his own fault.
- Vettel was given the wrong set-up in qualifying, but this counts as a strategic error, so it doesn't count for this article.
- At the start, Alonso pushed Grosjean into Schumacher, which cost the German Schumacher valuable time and made him fall back behind Räikkönen who held him up. Schumacher's race ended with a fuel problem, but if not for the start-crash, and if his fuel pressure hhad kept, he would have certainly kept up with the leading pack, finishing 7th or possibly higher. Considering Rosberg finished 2nd, let's split the difference and give Schumacher 4th, ahead of Vettel.
- With Grosjean not taken out at the start, he would have likely been able to stay ahead of di Resta, Hülkenberg and Räikkönen, finishing 8th and pushing Kimi out of the points.

Changes: P4 for Schumacher, P5 for Vettel, P6 for Hamilton, P10 for Räikkönen.
Alternative standings (actual standings): Hamilton 88pts (63), Vettel 81pts (73), Webber 69pts (73), Alonso 64pts (76), Button 46pts (45), Räikkönen 43pts (51), Schumacher 43pts (2)

Canadian Grand Prix
- Vettel and Alonso saw their race strategies crumble, but strategy doesn't count.
- Running 9th, Schumacher had to retire when his DRS stayed open, so we're giving him P9.

Changes: P9 for Schumacher.
Alternative standings (actual standings): Hamilton 113pts (88), Vettel 93pts (85), Webber 75pts (79), Alonso 74pts (86), Räikkönen 47pts (55), Button 46pts (45), Schumacher 45pts (2)

European Grand Prix
- Problems in qualifying for Webber meant he had to start in 19th. Free practice indicated he would have been fast, but still a few tenths off Vettel. Considering his start and his race pace, I would say he would been 4th after lap 1, behind Vettel, Hamilton and Grosjean.
- A bad pit stop cost Hamilton 3rd place at the time. Aside from losing position, having to fight with Räikkönen because of that also cost him tire wear later on. While he would have still suffered, it would not have been as severe, dropping him behind Webber and Alonso at worst.
- Alonso would not have been able to surprise Grosjean, as he would be behind the more experienced, and better defending, Webber and Hamilton.
- With Vettel and Grosjean not suffering from engine faillures, this would mean the top 5 would end up Vettel, Grosjean, Webber, Alonso and Hamilton.

Changes: P1 for Vettel, P2 for Grosjean, P3 for Webber, P4 for Alonso, P5 for Hamilton, P6 for Räikkönen, P7 for Schumacher, P9 for Rosberg, Button out of the points.
Alternative standings (actual standings): Hamilton 123pts (88), Vettel 118pts (85), Webber 93pts (91), Alonso 86pts (111) (75), Räikkönen 53pts (73), Schumacher 51pts (17), Button 46pts (49)

British Grand Prix
- Button was stuck in Q3 because of the yellow flags due to Glock spinning. As the qualifying was a mix-up, it's hard to see exactly where he could have qualified and thus finished. It would be safe to assume he could have finished in front of Senna, just 1 second ahead, so let's give him that.
- Other than that, not much happened in the context of this article.

Changes: P9 for Button.
Alternative standings (actual standings): Hamilton 127pts (92), Vettel 133pts (100), Webber 118pts (116), Alonso 104pts (129), Räikkönen 63pts (83), Schumacher 57pts (23), Button 48pts (50)

German Grand Prix
- Webber and Rosberg were given a 5-place grid penalty for changing their gearboxes.
- Rosberg would have finished ahead of Hülkenberg.
- Judging where Webber would have ended up is tricky, as he didn't quite have the race pace, and ended up behind drivers that started behind him anyway. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt on Räikkönen, Kobayashi and Perez, but with Schumacher on p4 and both McLarens very fast, Webber would have finished 6th.
- Hamilton's puncture and consequent suspension damage ruined his race, though it would be hard to judge his actual speed, as his race speed was very fluctuating. His mix-up with Vettel and Alonso was thanks to fresher tires, but it did show he still had some pace in the car. In practice and qualifying, Hamilton was faster than Button though, and at times also faster than Vettel. The race would have probably come together with a three-way fight between Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel, but with Hamilton having incredibly superior straight-line speed over Vettel, it's safe to give Hamilton 2nd.
- Which of course brings us to Vettel's illegal overtaking move on Button. Hamilton's overtake on Vettel has been much discussed, but regardless of what you feel about it, the move itself cost Vettel just enough for him to drop behind Button after his pitstop. So with Hamilton not ahead, Vettel would not have made the frustrated move on Button, and had finished 3rd.

Changes: P2 for Hamilton, P3 for Vettel, P4 for Button, P5 for Webber, P6 for Räikkönen, P7 for Kobayashi, P8 for Perez, P9 for Schumacher, P10 for Rosberg.
Alternative standings (actual standings): Hamilton 152pts (92), Vettel 148pts (110), Webber 128pts (120), Alonso 129pts (154), Räikkönen 71pts (98), Schumacher 62pts (29), Button 60pts (68)

Hungarian Grand Prix
- Schumacher's brain-fart at the start, which ruined his race, was his own fault. Although he failed to finish due to mechanical issues, it is unlikely he would have gotten any points today.
- Webber suffered an issue with his differential. Although it didn't cost him anything speed-wise, it burned his tires, requiring the final pit stop that put him back from p5 to p8, so we're giving him back p5. Vettel would have shortly fallen behind during the pitstop, but on fresher tires and not the lack of speed Red Bulls have with other cars, he would have easily passed back Webber on older tires.

Changes: P5 for Webber, P6 for Alonso, P7 for Button.
Alternative standings (actual standings):
Hamilton 177pts (117), Vettel 160pts (122), Webber 138pts (124), Alonso 137pts (164), Räikkönen 89pts (116), Button 66pts (76), Schumacher 62pts (29)

Belgian Grand Prix
- The start crash caused by Grosjean also meant the end of the race for Alonso, Hamilton and Perez.
- Judging where Alonso and Perez would have ended up is tricky, but judging by their team-mates, it looked like the Ferrari had much better race pace than the Sauber. I also take into account that Hamilton was struggling, and that Vettel was running circles around Webber (who qualified only just behind the trio) and much faster than 3rd qualified Räikkönnen.
- Schumacher lost 6th gear half-way through the race. Without it, he would have had a good chance of finishing ahead of Massa.
- Also about half-way through the race, Räikkönen had to start saving 10% KERS.
- Considering all that, I would say that without the start crash, and without Kimi's and Schumacher's issues, the race would have ended with:

Changes: P1 for Button, P2 for Alonso, P3 for Vettel, P4 for Räikkönen, P5 for Hamilton, P6 for Hülkenberg, P7 for Perez, P8 for Schumacher, P9 for Massa, P10 for Webber.
Alternative standings (actual standings):
Hamilton 187pts (117), Vettel 175pts (140), Alonso 155pts (164), Webber 139pts (132), Räikkönen 101pts (131), Button 91pts (101), Schumacher 66pts (35)

Italian Grand Prix
- Alonso's mechanical issues may have cost him a possible pole position. Looking over the entire race though, and considering Hamilton had higher top speed, I think Lewis would still have won, ahead of Alonso in second.
- Jenson Button's fuel pressure issues cost him a possible third place. Even with Perez's late charge, Button could have probably stayed ahead.
- With Alonso in front, Vettel would not have gotten the drive-through, and without his alternator faillure, he would have finished ahead of Räikkönen in seventh.
- Mark Webber retired with tire issues, but would likely not have been able to stay ahead of Schumacher even without them.

Changes: P2 for Alonso, P3 for Button, P4 for Perez, P5 for Massa, P6 for Vettel, P7 for Räikkönen, P8 for Schumacher, P9 for Webber.
Alternative standings (actual standings):
Hamilton 212pts (142), Vettel 183pts (140), Alonso 173pts (179), Webber 141pts (132), Räikkönen 107pts (141), Button 106pts (101), Schumacher 70pts (43)

Singapore Grand Prix
- Vettel was able to keep close to Hamilton, but it is unlikely he could have overtaken the McLaren had the engine not failed.
- Maldonado was pretty convincingly ahead of Alonso before hydraulic issues started dropping his lap time. As we've seen in Barcelona, it's not certain Alonso could have overtaken the Williams, so Maldonado stays in 4th, and Alonso 5th.
- The safety car came at a bad time for Mark Webber. Without it, he probably would have finished just behind di Resta in seventh.
- Schumacher's crash with Vergne was his own fault.

Changes: P1 for Hamilton, P2 for Vettel, P3 for Button, P4 for Maldonado, P5 for Alonso, P7 for Webber, P8 for Räikkönen.
Alternative standings (actual standings):
Hamilton 237pts (142), Vettel 201pts (165), Alonso 183pts (194), Webber 147pts (132), Button 121pts (119), Räikkönen 111pts (149), Schumacher 70pts (43)

Japanese Grand Prix
- Jenson Button received a 5-place grid penalty for a gearbox-change. He had a better start than Mark Webber ahead, and good race pace, so a second place would have been likely.
- Mark Webber was spun around by Romain Grosjean in turn 1, but at that point he was already behind Kamui Kobayashi. His later pace seemed pretty much on par with Massa's, so we'll give Webber third, ahead of Massa in 4th and Kobayashi in 5th.
- Alonso made a similair move on Räikkönen as he did on Grosjean in Monaco. Unfortunately for the Spaniard, this time it was Alonso who took himself out.
- Schumacher received a 10-place grid penalty for his crash with Vergne, which left him out of the points.

Changes: P2 for Button, P3 for Webber, P4 for Massa, P5 for Kobayashi, P6 for Hamilton, P7 for Räikkönen.
Alternative standings (actual standings):
Hamilton 245pts (152), Vettel 226pts (190), Alonso 183pts (194), Webber 162pts (134), Button 139pts (131), Räikkönen 117pts (157), Schumacher 70pts (43)

Korean Grand Prix
- Jenson Button was crashed into by Kobayashi in turn 2. He hadn't a lot of speed that weekend though, so I'll place him between Grosjean and the Toro Rosso's.
- Lewis Hamilton's rollbar failed, which cost him a lot of race pace later on. Without it, he would have likely finished behind Massa, who was much faster than Alonso.

Changes: P5 for Hamilton, P6 for Räikkönen, P9 for Button.
Alternative standings (actual standings):
Hamilton 255pts (153), Vettel 251pts (215), Alonso 198pts (209), Webber 180pts (152), Button 141pts (131), Räikkönen 125pts (167), Schumacher 70pts (43)

Indian Grand Prix
- A pretty straight-forward race, bar of course Webber's KERS faillure.

Changes: P2 for Webber, P3 for Alonso.
Alternative standings (actual standings):
Vettel 276pts (240), Hamilton 267pts (165), Alonso 213pts (227), Webber 198pts (167), Button 151pts (141), Räikkönen 131pts (173), Schumacher 70pts (43)

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
- Vettel was sent to the back of the grid after issues with the fuel pump. Without it, he would have most likely been second after turn 1 and stayed there. Neither Red Bull had the race pace to challenge Hamilton.
- Without his engine faillure, Hamilton would have won the race, hands-down.
- Without Hamilton and Vettel's misfortune, Webber would have been in 7th before being taken out by Grosjean.

Changes: P1 for Hamilton, P2 for Vettel, P3 for Räikkönen, P4 for Alonso, P5 for Button, P6 for Perez, P7 for Webber.
Alternative standings (actual standings):
Vettel 294pts (255), Hamilton 292pts (165), Alonso 225pts (245), Webber 204pts (167), Button 161pts (153), Räikkönen 146pts (198), Schumacher 70pts (43)

United States Grand Prix
- Button lost power late in Q2, which cost him a likely 4th place on the grid. With better race pace than Webber, he would have likely finished 3rd.
- Continueing the above, Webber would have been 4th without an alternator faillure.

Changes: P3 for Button, P4 for Webber, P5 for Alonso, P8 for Räikkönen.
Alternative standings (actual standings):
Hamilton 317pts (190), Vettel 312pts (273), Alonso 235pts (260), Webber 216pts (167), Button 179pts (163), Räikkönen 150pts (206), Schumacher 70pts (43)

Brazilian Grand Prix
- Vettel's collision with Senna was a racing incident. Even more of a disaster for the young German, as in this scenario, he is not 13 points ahead of Alonso, but 5 points behind Hamilton.
- Hülkenberg cost Hamilton a win in his last race for McLaren, certainly considering he would still have gotten a penalty.

Changes: P1 for Hamilton, P2 for Button, P3 for Alonso, P5 for Webber, P7 for Vettel, P8 for Schumacher, P11 for Räikkönen.
Alternative standings (actual standings):
Hamilton 342pts (190), Vettel 318pts (281), Alonso 250pts (278), Webber 226pts (179), Button 197pts (188), Räikkönen 150pts (207), Schumacher 70pts (49)

In conclusion I
* Lewis Hamilton lost a net 52 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune.
* Mark Webber lost a net 47 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune.
* Sebastian Vettel lost a net 39 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune.
* Michael Schumacher lost a net 21 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune.
* Jenson Button lost a net 9 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune from his other competitors.
* Fernando Alonso gained a net 28 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune from his other competitors.
* Kimi Räikkönen gained a net 57 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune from his other competitors.

In conclusion II
* Rather than ending the season in 4th, a distant 91 points beind Vettel and 88 points behind Alonso, without mechanical failures and other misfortune Lewis Hamilton would have won the 2012 world championship, 24 points ahead of Vettel and a massive 92 points ahead of Alonso.
* Rather than edging out Alonso in the championship by 3 points, Sebastian Vettel would have just lost the championship in the last race, ending the year 24 points behind Hamilton.
* Alonso would have been out of contention for the championship after Abu Dhabi, being 69 points behind Vettel.
* After losing 32 net points halfway through the season, Schumacher actually gained 12 points through other's misfortune in the second half.
* Although Romain Grosjean was actually still ahead of Kimi Räikkönen half-way through the season, the Finn clearly distanced himself from his team-mate in the second half of the season.
* One interesting thing to consider about Hamilton's 'alternative championship' this year though, is that counting back the 'championship without misfortune years', Hamilton would still only be a one-time world champion, as he would have been short of the championship in both 2007 and 2008.

In conclusion III
Like we've seen with the 2010 championship, we see here that the results can be very skewed, and with that, our impression of a driver performing. Hamilton in the fastest car in a distant 4th place looks like underperforming, but look at the context and you see the kind of results you can expect of him. It is also kind of funny to see Fernando being Fernando again; not perse blowing the competition out of the water on speed every weekend, but decisively picking up any points that his competitor's lose. That's worked for him amazingly in 2005, 2007 and 2010, and that's the cool-headedness that has had him leading the championship for so long. It does indicate however, that if Red Bull and especially McLaren had gotten their game together, Vettel and Hamilton would have been a more serious treat than most of us thought.

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