Thursday 16 October 2014

Double trouble

The day after the Russian Grand Prix - and Lewis Hamilton's latest triumph - my brother got in touch with me on Twitter with the following (and apologies to Nico Rosberg fans for his choice of nomenclature):

Alright, here's one. Imagine Lewis finished 1st in Austin with Britney second: Lewis leads by 24 points. Then the same thing happens at Interlagos: Lewis then leads Britney by 31 points. Under normal circumstances he'd be champ. Lewis retires at Abu Dhabi, Britney finishes second to (say) Bottas. Britney champion by five points. Britney ends the season with four wins to Lewis's eleven, and ends up champion. Imagine the seethe. Haha.

Lewis Hamilton has been doing more
of the winning at Mercedes this year
Photo: Octane Photography
And within this is a considerable thing left unsaid. That some of us might have even forgotten about amid the heat of an exciting championship battle. The notorious double points that awaits in the final round of the season.

This scenario imagined by my brother if played out would not so much break a record but smash it to smithereens. Lewis Hamilton claimed his ninth win of the season last Sunday, and no one has lost a drivers' title having won that many or even with one fewer than that (seven is the record, held by several drivers). So with the above chain of events the mark would be advanced by upwards of 150%.

I don't have any particular partisan leanings as to which Mercedes pilot indeed takes title honours this year, but at the broadest level there's always been part of me that likes the championship to go to the one with the most wins in that campaign. As implicit in this is that they've been the fastest, battling at the front and going for it, rather than hanging back and gathering points incrementally as might an accountant. Most of the time of course the winningest driver and champion in a season has been one and the same, but there have been odd occasions where it has not been so, with most wins (but not title honours) going to Stirling Moss in 1958; Jim Clark in 1964 and 1967; Mario Andretti in 1977; Alan Jones in 1979; a host of drivers got one more than Keke Rosberg's solitary win in 1982; Alain Prost in 1983 and 1984; Nigel Mansell in 1986 and 1987; Ayrton Senna in 1989 and most lately Felipe Massa in 2008.

As this shows it hasn't happened much lately, which certainly isn't a reflection of the points system which for a lot of that time has rewarded winning less than it had done previously - indeed the gap on points between race victory and first of the losers was reduced to an absurd two from 2003 to 2009. More likely it reflects that reliability has been much less of a factor in the last couple of decades, thus there is less to be had in itself just from making sure you are running at the end. Yet while I don't imagine that this was the intention of double points, it may be a consequence that it undermines rewarding the victor more than ever before.

Notorious double points awaits us in Abu Dhabi
"Abu dabi by night (crop)" by JiteshJagadish, rotated
and cropped by Apterygial -
jiteshjagadish/5178451382/. Licenced under Creative Commons
Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.
But then again as a digression if we take another of Bernie's notorious bright ideas and which curiously would have the extreme opposite effect to that which double points was (officially) designed for, the medals system - wherein the drivers' championship would be ranked as the medals table is the Olympics (i.e. most wins, if tied then most seconds etc) - with that Lewis would have wrapped up the championship definitively last weekend. Perhaps underlining and not for the first time the importance of striking a balance.

Most of us concluded this close to 12 months ago when the double points idea was firmed up, and the passing of time hasn't done anything to alter things, that whatever happens you hope that the effect of double points doesn't alter who wins this year's drivers' championship.

If it does we might then be tempted to conclude as Tony Brooks did at the end of the 1958 season wherein he had three victories to his name to Mike Hawthorn's one, and his Vanwall team mate Stirling Moss had four triumphs, yet it was Hawthorn who took the title, 'that's when I decided the World Championship title didn't really mean an awful lot.'

1 comment:

  1. I'm really dreading Abu Dhabi for this exact reason. Double points for a race with no added challenge is ludicrous. To think that Lewis could've won six races on the trot (11 in total) out of 19 and still lose the title to a man with just 4 wins, is ridiculous. Sure, Lewis has had more reliability issues and Nico has consistently placed 2nd, but no race should be worth more than another. Nico would be embarrassed to win, and Lewis would have the public on his side 100%.

    I hope for everyone's sake that double points plays no role in the outcome - meaning Nico either outscores Lewis fair and square, or Lewis wins and the stupid rule doesn't matter anyway.