Luck, Is There Really Such A Thing?
The working title of this post was to be, Lewis Hamilton silences the critics (including yours truly), Sergio Perez gets a second chance (at the guy in the red car), and Alonso lucked out. It was going to be just a simple recap, but the last part got me thinking. And so the birth of a real post ensued.
I often use a quote from David Hobbs: “In racing, I’d rather be lucky than quick.” This year Fernando has been very lucky. Now I just want to state for the record that Fernando has had his share of bad luck. You only have to go back to 2010 and the whole year is full of bad luck for Fernando. It’s a wonder how he was even in the hunt up to the last race. Let me just refresh your memory. First part of the year – gear problems mean he retires on the last lap of the Malaysian GP while still in the points. At Monaco, crashes during practice, not a big crash by F1 standards, but in a freakish way so that the pick-ups on the chassis are ruined, he can’t take part in the qualifying session (where he could very well have taken pole) and he ends up starting at the back of the grid.
Later that year he gets pushed off the track by Robert Kubica at the British GP and gains a position in doing so, instead of the normal “just give the position back and keep racing” required by race control, Kubica’s Renault expires, thus Fernando cannot give the position back and instead incurs a drive – through penalty. At the time he was in 5th or 6th but instead of 8 or 10 points, his race is ruined, 0 points. Valencia: a bad safety car ruined that podium finish so he finished eighth. Then the mother of them all, in the last race of the year, the Ferrari strategist decided to cover Mark Webber‘s pit stop instead of the race leaders, Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, and Jenson Button, which put Fernando down the order, and he lost the drivers championship.
Its all just the way racing is, but also just bad luck. Either wrong place, wrong time, or circumstances that had nothing to do with him, yet had a profound affect on the outcome of a third of his races that year. Remember, he lost the championship by a mere four points, you get the picture.
2012 is a much different picture and although I would argue that Fernando’s lead in the drivers championship is simply down to the fact that he’s the most complete driver on the grid today and of his generation, there is no denying the fact that he has enjoyed some really good luck this year and Monza is no exception. Of course there was a little bad luck when the rear sway arm broke right before Q3. Fernando was fastest in both previous sessions, and in my humble blogger opinion would have claimed his 23rd pole position if not for that sway bar. However, no points are awarded for pole so it’s better that it broke in qualifying than during the race. Come race day, he started in 10th and finished in third. Lucky or good? He had a great drive, passing a number of drivers, but some retired, including title contender Button. That was lucky. And although Fernando passed Vettel for position, later in the race both Vettel and Webber retired. How lucky is that?
I think back to all the championships, or races, that by rights should have been won by a certain driver, but for reasons that seem too fantastic to believe or predict, they weren’t. Nigel Mansell‘s tire coming apart on the last lap of the Australian GP in 1986 is a great example. Felipe Massa being released by the pit crew and driving off with the fuel rig still attached in Singapore 2008 ruined his chances for a driver’s title.
Kimi Raikkonen was in a three-way race with Michael and Juan Pablo Montoya back in 2003 but was crashed out three different times at the start of races through no fault of his own. Had he not been involved in just one of those first lap incidents he more than likely would have won the driver’s championship that year as he only had a 2-point deficit at season’s end. I could go on and on, and this does not even begin to address the mechanical issues of Formula One in the 70’s, and 80’s and all the bad luck that generation of drivers had to deal with often while leading or in the top five of a race.
I am not suggesting that Fernando has had no bad luck this year, just look back a week ago to Spa where he got a big dose of it at the first turn, 25 points wiped right off his championship lead in mere seconds. And the previously mentioned sway bar that failed in qualifying was painful. But somehow this year has been more lucky than unlucky, some other examples are 1) Rain during the Malaysian race and German qualifying both worked in his favor 2) the safety car in Valencia assisted his great drive so that he took first place even though he started from 11th (payback I guess for 2010), 3) although he doesn’t have a car to challenge at the front, somehow the other five contenders for the title haven’t had the consistency (or enough luck) this year to collect points on a regular basis.
And now, lucky at Monza (as well as good) to gain the podium after starting in 10th. In Formula One, that is sometimes more important than having the fastest car, developing more wings/parts/diffusers, etcetera for each weekend, or even being the fastest driver. (Although those things really can help your cause).
The Ferrari is still not the fastest car, despite its showing at Monza, not by a long shot. I predict that at the next race in Singapore, which is a high down force circuit, the Ferrari will be the third fastest car (which really means the 5th fastet car) behind McLaren and Red Bull. Translation, Fernando still has to drive the wheels off it and he still needs some luck to go his way. Fernando has a good record in Singapore, two wins, a third and a fourth. So, fingers crossed, when I see a penny I’ll pick it up, and I’m not walking under any ladders. Twice before Fernando has missed the championship by a hair, in 2007 by 1 point, and 2010 by 4. It would seem to me all that was missing was a little luck in both those years. Maybe this year Alonso might just have found some, or rather it found him. Whatever the case lets hope that it is still hanging around come November. jp
PS: At some point during this past week, I checked to see if Will Power clinched his first IRL championship. He didn’t. Ryan Hunter Ray is the 2012 IZOD IRL driver’s champion. That makes two years in a row that Will Power has lost the championship at the last race. And by the way they were both ovals, and he crashed out in both. Definitely unlucky.