Part 2 of this blog series on the formula 1 2016 season is on whether or not Nico Rosberg is a worthy champion.
My short take on this is yes.
The argument I put forward is that despite Hamilton being desperately unlucky with mechanical problems in 2016, Rosberg accumulated sufficient points. He may not be the fastest driver to have won a world championship but he has done it by being incredibly consistent this year and finding a way to bounce back from two successive defeats by a driver most consider to be his superior.
When Hamilton won the driver’s championship in 2015 it was his 3rd overall and 2nd in a row. Rosberg started 2016 having never previously beaten Hamilton to the ultimate prize. In Rosberg’s on words “I’ve been racing him forever and he’s always just managed to edge me out and get the title – even when we were small in go-karts,”
The sporting lesson? While 2016 again showed Rosberg’s best, without mechanical problems, is not good enough to beat Hamilton F1 is a mechanical sport and at the end of the day both driver’s can only control what they can control.
If you are interested in a quick analysis of the Hamilton vs Rosberg 2016 I put some data together so I could play around with Tableau.
Pole positions: 12 Hamilton vs 8 Rosberg
Hamilton clearly secured more pole positions than teammate Rosberg in 2016.
However, while Hamilton had more fastest qualifying laps than Rosberg, he was also more inconsistent than Rosberg. Hamilton qualified 2nd just 3 times, while in comparison, Rosberg qualified 2nd 12 times.
Overall, these performances meant Hamilton had 15 front row starts and Rosberg a staggering 20 out of 21 front row starts. Even accounting for mechanical issues Rosberg can claim to have been more consistent. Hamilton suffered 3 mechanical-related issues in qualifying to Rosberg’s 1 (China, Russia, Belgium versus Austria).
Race wins: 10 Hamilton vs 9 Rosberg
Hamilton pipped Rosberg in race wins during 2016.
Of Hamilton’s 10 wins 7 came from pole position with his other 3 wins coming from a starting position of 2 or 3. Similarly of Rosberg’s 9 wins, 6 came from pole position with his other 3 wins coming from a starting position of 2.
The other two races were won by Red Bull driver’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo. Verstappen took his maiden victory as the youngest ever formula 1 winner (as a 17 year old) in Spain when Hamilton and Rosberg retired after colliding into each othr on lap 1. Daniel Ricciardo won the Malaysian grand prix after Hamilton’s engine blew up and forced him to retire from the lead and with a 22.7 second gap to 2nd with 15 laps remaining. Rosberg finished 3rd after recovering from a first lap bump from an errant Sebastian Vettel that sent Rosberg to 17th .
Points cumulated: 380 Hamilton vs 385 Rosberg
In the one statistic that matters at the end of the day Hamilton’s points total fell just short of Rosberg’s.
In Formula 1, 5 points is not much and the gap between the two driver’s ebbed and flowed throughout the season. The points gap increased notably two times during the year. The first of these was after the grand prix in China and Russia and the second of these were after the grand prix in Malaysia. Both of these periods coincided with mechanical problems for Hamilton.
In China and Russia Hamilton’s car suffered ERS failures that reduce the power available to the driver and saw him qualify 22nd and 10th, respectively. These mechanical problems also contributed to the grid penalty that saw Hamilton start from 21st in Belgium for exceeding the regulatory maximum of engine parts. In Malaysia Hamilton’s engine blew up and forced him to retire from the race.
Rosberg has also had mechanical reliability problems in 2016. Though, luckily for him not as often nor as damaging to his race results. In Austria a broken suspension in practice led Rosberg to crash and incur a 5 place grid penalty for replacing his gearbox and in the UK a gearbox problem that Rosberg unlawfully received team instructions to address dropped him from 2nd to 3rd, after 10 seconds was added to his finishing time.
Hamilton was able to recover after falling 43 points behind Rosberg early in the season following the grand prix in China and Russia and retirement in Spain by winning 6 out of 7 races and establishing a 19 point lead. Rosberg then took advantage of Hamilton’s grid penalty in Belgium to arrest the momentum and win the next 3 races to take an 8 point lead into Malaysia. This is where Hamilton suffered a race ending engine failure and Rosberg finished 3rd. Had Hamilton gone on to win the race he would have retaken the lead, by 2 points, instead of going 23 points down. While he won 4 out of the next 5 races this ultimately saw him finish the year 5 points adrift.
The summary of this is that Rosberg drove consistently and took his chances when Hamilton suffered mechanical issues in China, Russia and Belgium. While Hamilton may not be the 2016 world driver’s champion he solidified his reputation as one of the best. Head-to-head, with no major mechanical issues, Hamilton had 8 wins and Rosberg 6.