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Which title contender has lost the most points?
Wednesday 14th November 2012, 20:00 by Daniel Chalmers
Who's suffered the most misfortune? (© Getty Images)
In every F1 season the championship contenders always lose points thanks to calamities, reliability issues and mistakes on strategy.
It's near impossible to go through a 20 race season without any of the above occurring.
Sebastian Vettel recently said he believes himself and Fernando Alonso have suffered a similar amount of bad luck and therefore they're equally deserving of the title.
Is that really the case? Between Alonso and Vettel, who has actually lost the most points this year in such instances? Also what has been the most common cause of losing points for both drivers?
When compiling this analysis it's important to remember that it is only an estimate. For example, it’s not always easy to say where a driver might have finished when they retired from a race, especially if they retired on the first lap.
Furthermore if a driver retires from a race you can never be sure what might have happened to them later on in the race. Something different could have scuppered their race just laps later.
Alonso: In Q2 the Spaniard span and went off at turn one which put him down in 12th on the grid. On Sunday he raced brilliantly and finished in fifth behind the two McLarens and two Red Bulls. Chances are that even if he had qualified higher up he still wouldn’t have been able to touch the McLaren and Red Bulls.
Verdict : Mistake – 0 points lost
Vettel: The young German had to pay a visit to the pits after making contact with Narain Karthikeyan, whilst lapping him. Narain has to take a fair portion of blame for the incident. However Vettel could have easily avoided the contact, had he just been more patient and left more space. He was running in fourth place at the time of the incident. He ended up with no points.
Verdict: Mistake – 12 points lost
Vettel: The Red Bull driver was given a drive-thru for failing to slow down sufficiently for yellow flags. He also lost a few more seconds later on in the race, when he had to have his nose changed. In the end he fought his way back to sixth place, and finished just three seconds behind Kamui Kobayashi.
Without the drive-thru and nose change he certainly would have finished ahead of Kobayashi in fifth, but the top four would probably have still been too far ahead to challenge.
Verdict: Mistake – 2 points lost
Alonso: During the first stint of the race Fernando was running in fourth place. At the pit stop phase Alonso managed to jump Hamilton by doing the overcut ON him to take third. As it turned out if Ferrari had kept him out for longer he could also have done the overcut on leaders Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber as well. So the Spaniard actually had a good chance of winning the race.
Verdict: Strategy – 10 points lost
Alonso: He was holding a very strong second place behind Hamilton. However the decision to go on a one stop strategy and not back out proved costly. Instead of matching Hamilton’s two stop strategy and maintaining his second place he dropped down to fifth.
Verdict: Strategy – 8 points lost
Vettel: Like Alonso, Sebastian attempted a one stop strategy. However the difference is that he backed out of it by making a late second stop. He was able to fight back to fourth (which included passing one stopping Alonso).
If he had stopped at the same time as Hamilton’s second stop, he could have finished second. However if Alonso had decided to respond to that stop then Vettel would likely have finished third.
Verdict: Strategy – 3-6 points lost
Vettel: He was utterly dominant in Valencia. He took pole by 0.324 seconds and was miles ahead in the race. However shortly after the safety car came in his alternator failed and that was that. Vettel was so quick that day that he surely would have gone on to win the race without the failure.
Verdict: Reliability – 25 points lost
Vettel: In the closing stages of the race Vettel overtook Button, taking all four wheels off the track in the process. He was then given a 20 second penalty and dropped from his finished position of second to fifth place. Sebastian was wrong to think that he wouldn’t get a penalty.
Had he just let Button back through chances are he would have got him easily on the next lap, as Jenson’s tyres had gone off.
Verdict: Mistake – 5-8 points lost
Alonso: Fernando had qualified fifth. However he was tangled up in the incident which was triggered by Romain Grosjean. Chances are Alonso would have had a decent chance of making it onto the podium, as he has done from that grid position on other occasions this season. Third place is a conservative estimate of where he might have finished.
Verdict: Misfortune – 15 points lost
Alonso: Ferrari was mighty quick in Monza. It’s probably the only time where you could say they have had the quickest car on a race weekend. Alonso looked quite likely (and super confident) of taking pole position. Unfortunately a reliability issue meant he started down in 10th. Had he started from the front chances are he could have won the race, with the pace he showed.
Verdict: Reliability – 10 points lost
Vettel: Sebastian got a drive-thru penalty for being too aggressive in his defence of Alonso. As it was this turned out to be academic as he was struck by another issue with the alternator, which put him out of the race. Take away the unreliability his most likely finishing position would have been sixth behind Raikkonen, and maybe fifth if he could have overtaken him.
Verdict: Reliability – 10-12 points lost
Alonso: This time it was another incident at turn one which proved costly for Fernando. However unlike Spa he has to accept some of the blame. He didn’t quite give Kimi enough space, and contact was made putting the Ferrari driver out of the race on lap one.
Like in Spa it’s hard to say where Fernando might have finished. However the fact that Massa finished second, shows that Ferrari was quite competitive in race trim that weekend. So again like Spa a third place finish would be a conservative estimate of Alonso’s likely finishing position, with second place behind Vettel being an optimistic estimate.
Verdict: Mistake – 15-18 points lost
Vettel: He had to start from the pit lane after his team’s mistake with the fuel. He did extremely well to finish in third place. However had he started from third position another race victory would have been very likely. Like in Singapore he would have benefited from a Hamilton retirement. Then if Vettel hadn’t already blasted past Webber at the start, the Aussie would surely have been given the instruction to move over.
Verdict: Team error – 10 points lost
Here is the estimate of the number of points lost by each driver
Vettel – 67-75 points
Alonso – 58-61 points lost
Here is a breakdown of how they lost their points
Mistakes – 19-22
Reliability – 35-37
Misfortune - 0
Strategy/team error – 13-16
Mistakes – 15-18
Reliability - 10
Misfortune - 15
Strategy/team error – 18
Overall when you take into account the more conservative estimate, Vettel has lost just nine more points than Alonso this season. Perhaps the most notable difference between them is how they have lost the biggest chunk of their points.
For Vettel his biggest losses have come from unreliability and more specifically the alternator. Without the points lost due to unreliability he would only need five points to guarantee the title this weekend. As it is it's still in the balance.
Most of Alonso's lost points have been down to incidents at turn one. The Spa incident was genuine misfortune, but he has avoided the contact with Kimi at Suzuka. Reliability wise Alonso is yet to have an issue during an actual race.
When drivers lose a title normally they point towards the point losses which weren’t their fault. If Vettel loses the title you can bet your mortgage he will blame poor reliability. Generally as a driver you can’t control poor reliability.
A driver should only blame the points losses that were down to them. Sebastian lost very silly points in Sepang when he made contact with Karthikeyan. Then in Hockenheim he was foolish to think that he wouldn’t get punished for overtaking Button outside of the white lines.
Alonso may look back on that incident at Spa, and Ferrari’s general poor pace in the early races of the season. To be fair you can’t argue with him regarding the second point. However it was his mistake heading down to turn one in Suzuka that lost him a mighty chunk of points. Those points could have seen him heading to Austin leading the championship.