Stats don’t mean prizes…

This morning, I read a piece posted on the BBC Sport website by Andrew Benson, which made for interesting reading on a subject I already believed in. I also read some of the comments, and felt many unjust.

To summarise, without plagiarizing, Andrew highlighted that while Micheal Schumacher has seven world titles, he could have won less had circumstances not gone his way. At the same time, Fernando could have had four, as could Ayrton Senna, while Alain Prost may have had five or six, and Vettel only one.

Yet people have perceived the article as full of bias towards Alonso, stating that Andrew has an agenda against Michael Schumacher. Obviously Schumacher is the best, he won seven titles, right? Wrong, and it shows the gulf between true fans of the sport, and those who believe more is better.

Schumacher had a team which benefitted from extensive testing, bespoke tyres and a team-mate who had his back. This led to the domination Ferrari saw between 2001 and 2004 – the 2000 title was fought for. Added to this, there was no driver capable of leading a team to the heights needed until Alonso dragged Renault up there, and it’s easy to see how Michael cantered to his championships.

Now look at Ayrton Senna. Three titles, and could have had more had Imola 1994 not happened. This would have eaten into Schumacher’s seven titles but ignoring that, look at the 1993 season. McLaren had a customer Ford engine, hopelessly down on power on the Williams Renault, while the McLaren lagged behind in the technology race. Their systems were less advanced. Senna fought the car throughout the year winning five races, and never gave up. Why couldn’t Schumacher, with all his seven titles, drag the Mercedes through to more wins?

The article makes for interesting reading, and if you are a true F1 fan, you’ll understand it. Even Schumacher and Vettel fans will understand that their drivers benefitted from various factors. But the vitriol aimed at Andrew Benson is unjust, and shows how narrow-minded some are.

You can read the article here –


One Response to “Stats don’t mean prizes…”

  1. I’d agree that statistics aren’t the end all and be all. But the what if’s are just as problematic as well. They often rely on changing only one set of facts in favor of a driver, while not changing other facts that don’t favor the driver.

    This year is an excellent case in point. The article points out that without Spa and probably Suzuka, Alonso would have been champion. At another point, Benson points out what might have been without without the issues that befell Hamilton.

    Yet at the same time, one could say without the reliability issues that hit Vettel (Valencia alone was a 32 pt swing in favor of Alonso), Alonso wouldn’t have been close.

    Autosport recently had an article on what would have been without the issues that Hamilton and Vettel faced this year. Alonso would have been a distant 3rd, and Hamilton would have gone into the last race 13pts behind Vettel. So stats aside, the what might have beens could have been much worse for Alonso and if he’s wallowing a distant 3rd in the championship, no one is talking about the epic season he’s had — and to your point, he would have been the same driver have a great season either way.

    One thing that always perplexes me, and a point you bring up here, and one that’s been used to describe Alonso this year — is the idea of Senna and Alonso ‘never giving up’. I think 2008 and 2009 are better examples of Alonso not giving up, considering the Renault was never going to take him anywhere near the front.

    But what perplexes me is that in saying that one driver ‘never gives up’, it implies that other drivers have or would have under similar circumstances. I think there’s a strong argument to be made that Vettel in 2010 never gave up. He was hit with massive reliability problems in the first part of the season that cost him a haul of points (plus engine failure in Korea), not to mention a couple of rough races (Turkey, Spa, Hungary) where he lost out on big points, but he kept at it, notably in Silverstone with the first/second corner puncture and coming back to 7th or nursing an ailing car to (4th or 6th at Monza), then finishing the season with a string of victories when it was really win or go home time (Alonso having famously said whoever can score podiums for the remaining races – from Italy onward, iirc, would win, and for Vettel he needed to score wins. Unfortunately for Alonso, he failed to fulfill his own premonition in Abu Dhabi, which cost him the championship).

    This year as well, Vettel kept fighting despite being in a struggling Redbull and when the McLaren looked to be (and was) the class of the field.

    Hamilton also continued to fight despite some gutting reliability issues and operational errors — in fact, on track, this must have been Hamilton’s most mature season as a driver. And once he was out of the running, he still gave it everything to win. (the one moment where he seemed to give up was in Germany, after his puncture and he said “we should just park it” or something like that).

    I’d be interested in your thoughts on that. Where have you seen other top drivers “give up” or “settle” or “not fight hard” or not try for a pass when it was there, etc. And if that hasn’t been the case, how can we use that.

    One thing I do find fascinating, is how drivers cope with the ebbs and flows of a season and of a race. It’s funny how we keep talking about the Ferrari being a “dog”, yet Alonso was leading the championship from pretty early in the season. It was more that primary chasers (including for a while Webber) who had to deal with being behind and trying to catch Alonso. That must have seemed a daunting task, and near impossible.

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