Looking at the points deficit Lewis Hamilton has to his team-mate after seventeen races, and the number of power units that each has used to get to this point in the season, it is easy to draw the conclusion that the current World Drivers’ Champion has been let down by his team. However is this really what has resulted in Nico Rosberg being in the position where he only needs to finish second to Lewis Hamilton in the remaining four Grands Prix to take his first championship?
Comparing the two Mercedes team-mates (let’s face it, no one else has been in contention for the drivers’ championship this season)both have qualified on pole eight times this year. The oddity was Monaco where Daniel Riccardo took pole position. However Nico Rosberg has qualified in second place every other time with the exception of Austria where a penalty for a gearbox change dropped him to sixth. Lewis Hamilton on the other hand has had two starts from the back row of the grid (China when the power unit failed in qualifying and Belgium when he took three new power units to see him through to the end of the season). He has also had two occasions when he qualified in tenth (in Russia his Turbo Charger and Motor Generator Unit – Heat failed while in the European race a driver error prevented him setting a time in Q3). However on two occasions when there have been no issues he has qualified in third place (Monaco and Singapore), leaving three races where he was second. In qualifying then there have been three occasions where his poor qualifying was down to the team, and three where it was due to the driver not performing (on the expectation that the dominant team should be on the front row every race). This compares to one occasion for Nico Rosberg where the car let him down.
Moving to the races, Nico Rosberg has one DNF (Spain, where the two Mercedes team-mates took each other off – definitely not the team’s fault), but he has had a number of results off the podium.
- In Monaco a seventh place was a result of him not being able to generate sufficient temperature in the tyres (driver);
- In Canada after being pushed off the track in turn one he suffered with braking issues and this held him back to fifth place (team);
- In Austria he recovered from starting sixth to lead the race, but was caught and passed by his team-mate thanks to suffering with brakes running out leading to the collision on the last lap – finished fourth (team/driver);
- In Germany he made a poor start and only managed to recover to fourth place (driver).
For Hamilton he has also had a number of races where he didn’t make the podium, other than the Spanish race discussed above:
- In China he only managed to get to seventh place after starting at the back (team);
- In Europe he managed fifth after starting tenth (driver);
- In Malaysia he dominated all weekend only for the power unit to fail close to the end of the race (team);
Turning now to the races where the drivers failed to convert a pole position to a race win:
- In Australia, Hamilton made a poor start, and eventually recovered to second (driver);
- In Bahrain, Hamilton again made a poor start and recovered to third (driver);
- In Hungary Hamilton beat Rosberg (driver);
- In Germany Rosberg made a poor start, recovering to fourth (driver);
- In Italy Hamilton made a poor start, recovering to second (driver);
Finally, in the most recent Japanese Grand Prix, Hamilton had another poor start (his fifth of the year so far) which allowed Rosberg to pull sufficiently far ahead in the points that he now only needs to finish second for the rest of the year to become champion. In summary, while the team has caused Hamilton to loose points on four occasions this year, he has lost points through driver error on seven occasions. The comparison for Rosberg is team two occasions, driver three occasions and other driver once.
While undoubtedly Hamilton has had greater unreliability this year, it has only caused a non-finish once this season. Has Hamilton’s driving dropped slightly when compared to the last two years, or has Rosberg upped his game? Let me know what you think in the comments below.