A Pole, A Win, A Championship ??

I know that might be a taking this most recent win by Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton at the wheel a little too far. Sebastian Vettel is probably going to win the championship this year. However, lets look at that word “probably.” Here is what Merriam and Webster has to say about it:

Prob-a-bly adverb 1. insofar as seems reasonably true, factual, or to be expected, 2. without much doubt.

Hmm. “without much doubt” Clearly meaning there is some doubt. Now let’s look at the word probability, only three letters different, but a vastly different meaning.

Prob-a-bil-i-ty noun (there are several definitions, but this is the only one that I am interested in) 2. the chance that a given event will occur.

Lewis Hamilton drove a perfect race in Hungury. What is the probability of a championship effort in the second half of the season?

Lewis Hamilton drove a perfect race in Hungury. What is the probability of a championship effort in the second half of the season?

Interesting, add three letters and we get a ‘chance’ of something unusual happening…

After a week of hitting all my favorite blogs and reading all the news stories, (the only real juicy story out there concerned Alonso’s manager taking a meeting over at Red Bull which I will post about later) I knew right away what my first post at the beginning of the mandatory summer break would be. How is this for a headline?


Has a nice ring to it doesn’t it? It’s true that Vettel will probably take the championship. But it is equally true that there exists a probability that Hamilton will win it instead.

I have never been one to follow the masses, what is obvious or will probably happen. I am a road less travelled kinda guy it must be said. So as the title suggests I am going to go out on a limb and say that with Hamilton’s latest win (which I predicted by the way for what that is worth) Vettel is on notice and you cannot discount the probability of an upset in the second half. How likely a probability? Let’s take a look.

Sebastian Vettel has a 48 point lead over Lewis Hamilton - he will probably win this year's drivers trophy.

Sebastian Vettel has a 48 point lead over Lewis Hamilton – he will probably win this year’s drivers trophy.

Just as a reminder Vettel’s points tally is 172 and Hamilton’s is 124. Let’s do some imagineering as they say at Disneyland about the second half of the F1 season. Say Hamilton continues his run of poles and the Merc truly has corrected its tire issue. It might look like this :

bel      ita      sgp      kor      jpn      ind      abu      usa      bra

15      18       25       12       18        0       18        15        25    =   146 (Vettel)
18      25       12       25       25       15       15        25        12   =   172 (Hamilton)

I came to these numbers simply by taking into account the drivers results so far this season, past history at these tracks, who might be on pole and I threw in a little bad and good luck for each driver. I didn’t try to make the numbers work in favor of my argument or re-run them a second time with different finishing positions. It was just my first impression, and this obviously dose not take into account so many other things that could change the outcomes. Enough said.

For the record where Vettel or Hamilton don’t collect twenty-five points Kimi did. And by the way, the reason we are having this hypothetical conversation about Hamilton and not Kimi or Fernando is down to qualifying and this is the engine behind my thesis for Hamilton and of course counting on Ross and company to have sorted out the tire issue.

If you didn’t already add the two halves together Vettel still takes the championship by 22 points in my hypothetical season (makes his decision to disobey team orders the correct one now doesn’t it, but that is another post for much later) and this could really change if either Ferrari or Lotus or both get their act together. But I think I am right to say the bigger picture here is that if Mercedes has cured their tire issue this championship is not, I say not, over by any means. The final totals are Vettel 318 to Hamilton’s 296, and although this is still a large points spread if Vettel has any kind of bad luck then all bets are off.  Does Vettel’s title look a little less probable now?

Ask anyone what they love about sports and eventually they’ll mention the underdog win, the possibility that on any given day any team or individual can beat their opponent. We have all seen it. Four elements are required for an upset win. 1) A seemingly insurmountable lead, which puts the probable winner at ease. 2) The underdog truly has talent. 3) The underdog has something to prove. 4) The underdog has momentum.  Do we have this perfect storm yet?

Without the tire drama's for in Britian Hamilton probably would only be 23 points adrift of Vettel.

Without the tire drama’s in Britian Hamilton probably would only be 23 points adrift of Vettel.

#1 A seemingly Insurmountable lead
I know that all things being equal the Red Bull in the hands of Sebastian Vettel is still the most competitive package on Sundays therefore the favorite to win. I know that just because Mercedes did not suffer from their tire issues in Hungary, it does not mean they won’t be right back where they started in Spa, or Monza or anywhere else for that matter when we rejoin after the break. Lastly I know that Vettel still has a forty-eight point advantage over Hamilton. I know all this yet I am going to bet against all of it.

#2 Talent
The Lewis factor. Here we have a driver that from the moment he came into the sport set himself apart. Yes he had a great car but what he did with it was what all great champions do and that is win. Now per my usual one-liner of how I favor one certain driver in one certain red car to be the best overall driver on the grid, I have in the past also maintained that Hamilton is quicker for outright one lap speed and when it comes to finding a place to pass where one does not exist and then making it stick Hamilton has this wrapped up as well. That is a simple fact and one I have no problem in stating. You only have to look at his pole and how he overtook Mark Webber in Hungary as a quick reminder of these two facts. Could we see this greatness emerge again with a corrected car and a revitalized driver? Just maybe.

Vettel is also a great driver and if his genius lies in his raw speed and in the way he gets out in front and controls a race, then Hamilton’s genius is the unique quality to find pace when it is not there similar to Alonso. I am sure both of these drivers wished it was the other way around and it must be said that since Vettel has not had a bad car in four years he is at a disadvantage in this category. It is not really fair to Vettel that I can’t include him, but such is the penalty of having Adrian Newey as your chief aero guy and over all designer.

#3 Something to prove
How long has it been since Hamilton won the drivers trophy? 2008 and he like Alonso must he be beside himself to win the next one. He will be driving with a new and different kind a vigor in the second half of this season and although there is only so much a modern day F1 pilot can do in the car, we have seen on more than one occasion how a driver, a really good driver, a great driver, one with that extra will can make a slow car not so slow. Add in determination and focus, toss in as well the fact he still must want everyone to know he made the right choice in leaving McLaren and this is a hard combo to beat.

Take a look at what Hamilton said going into the break following the race:  “Normally I don’t really train much over the summer break, maybe just a little bit, but I mostly enjoy and relax. This time I’m gong train intensely, continue doing what i did last week, get my head down and come back hopefully stronger for the second half of the season.”

#4 Momentum
There is something that happens when an athlete/team/organization can sense their fortunes are about to change. In American baseball it is usually in the form of a rally. A pitcher walks the lead off batter, the next guy up hits a triple to the opposite side of the field. Then someone else hits another single. An over thrown ball to second as the runner on first tries to steal second, etc. and all of a sudden you have four or five unanswered runs and still no outs in the inning. And of course this  leads not just into the winning runs, but into games won.

Fernando Alonso started the year as a favorite for the title. Going into Hungary he lay second, he slipped to third. Alonso will probably not win a third drivers title this year.

Fernando Alonso started the year as a favorite for the title. Going into Hungary he lay second, he slipped to third. Alonso will probably not win a third drivers title this year.

As an example check out the Los Angeles Dodgers. For most of the last four months they were  in last place, and could not pitch their way out of a paper bag. Right now they’re in first by five and half games, they recorded the best record in baseball in the month before the all star break, and they just improved their on-the-road winning streak to fifteen, a franchise record.

The scenario is the same in any sport, take football (American), a quick bomb downfield, score. A fumble and a score, fourteen unanswered points just like that. In basketball a 20-4 point run. etc. The way the rally plays out changes from sport to sport, but my point and result is the same. What could not have happened does, i.e what was probable did not happen and what was improbable did.

Momentum is hard to hold onto, Red Bull might have just misplaced it, fine, Lotus seems to have re-found it, ok, Ferrari has lost it, don’t get me started, and I would have to say, as of right now Mercedes and Hamilton have it – four poles in a row and a definitive win going into the summer break.

We know the pace of Mercedes on Saturday is genuine. It really comes down to this issue of tire wear and if Mercedes has finally found the missing piece of the puzzle then watch out, because as Steve Matchett like’s to say on Sunday’s Lewis and the WO4 is coming. And that makes me happy for as much as I always want Fernando to win, I enjoy Formula 1 as a sport much more when there is an ebb and flow, when you are not really sure who will win, when every little thing a team does over the weekend contributes to the win; The driver, the car, the direction the team takes after their post Friday practice debrief, the new bits and pieces that arrive in the nick of time for qualifying and deliver the desired result, and of course how a race develops which is always a bit of an unknown. The sum of all these parts make for the best races no matter who you want to win.

Ross Brawn accepting the Team trophy in Hungary. Has his team finally gotten on top of its tire issue.

Ross Brawn accepting the Team trophy in Hungary. What is the probability his team finally gotten on top of its tire issue?

No offense to Red Bull and their chassis (deep down inside I wished Alonso was driving one, long before these silly rumors of this past weekend surfaced) but with the RB9 being so dominant there is very little mystery as to who will be on pole or who will win the race for the past three years. Which doesn’t make for exciting Sundays now does it?

This year it has not been as easy for Red Bull to walk away with it. Mercedes has made their life difficult on Saturdays, and just maybe that might now carry over to Sundays as well.

So while Vettel, Christian, Adrian, and Helmet will probably be enjoying the spoils of victory at year’s end, I will be eager to see what if anything Lewis, Ross, Toto, and Mr. Niki I-Got-Hamilton-To-Sign-For-Mercedes Lauda can do to make their probability probable. This could just be the year that what will probably happen won’t, and what is just a slim probability will.

-jp- (and I wonder what is the probability of Ferrari making their car faster in the second half ? Probably nil. Ha. Ha.)

2 Comments on “A Pole, A Win, A Championship ??

  1. Great post as usual JP. I was waiting for it for a few days now. 🙂

    While I agree with you that the championship is far from over, I think the media has overreacted a little bit since the last race. Yes, Hamilton drove a great race and the Merc handled the tyre degradation quite well. But still, 48 points is a formidable lead and the RB9 is not a bad car at all. And it’s no secret that Vettel usually hits form during the latter part of the season and he loves the circuits in Asia. Therefore, for me, it’s still Vettel’s/Red Bull’s to lose.

    So basically I agree with your analogy of “Vettel will probably take the championship. But it is equally true that there exists a probability that Hamilton will win it instead.”. It’s hard to imagine that Lotus will be able to win the in-season development race. Ferrari seems to be going backwards after starting on the front foot and arguably having the best car on average for the first few races. It’s quite a shame as they did a great job last year on developing their car throughout the season. So realistically, this leaves us only Hamilton/Merc as the only combination to challenge Vettel/Red Bull.

    Sorry if I got it wrong somewhere, but, I think the predictions add up to 146 for Vettel. Anyway the predictions are quite reasonable and if not for the DNF I think Vettel is the favourite for India.

    P.S. – I’m eagerly waiting for your thoughts on LDM’s words on Alonso. I just have a feeling that it might be your best article yet. 🙂

    • Tom
      lol. well i knew that my lack of math skills would get me in trouble one of these days. you are correct Vettel’s tally should be 146. which of course means the points difference is not as slim as i predicted. 318 vs. 296 but still if Vettel has any kind of bad luck (which i gave him in the form of a DNF, or is collected once or twice or Hamilton has a couple better results, say two more 2nd’s instead of the 3rd’s then we are back to a close finish. kudos to you for catching the error.
      now on to you know what. the working title is ferrari and fernando: the divorce of the decade -it will probably change ;)-

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