Echoes of 2014 in this season’s F1 drivers’ title challenge

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Disclaimer: TheJudge13 provides a platform for Formula 1 fans to publish their voice on matters relating to Formula 1. The views expressed in Voice of #F1 Fans are those of the contributor and not those held by TJ13.

Thanks to Steven Diver for his efforts with this, his first TJ13 piece. As outlined in our Social Media article, please share this and future articles using hashtags #F1 & #TJ13.

Just three races into the 2016 Formula One World Championship and some observers are readying the champagne, ribbons and trophies for a Nico Rosberg drivers’ championship win. And why? Well of course he is a whopping 36 points ahead of presumably his main rival, Lewis Hamilton
But some have short memories and forget the season of 2014. The Autumn leg of the championship saw Rosberg 29-points ahead of Hamilton with a mere seven races remaining in 2014.

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 23.48.13

Then came Italy.

After Italy, then Singapore.

Hamilton went on to win six of the final seven races, and took the championship by 67-points (42-points if we discount the finale’s double-points).

Back to 2016 and few could argue Nico Rosberg is off to an auspicious start, taking the top step of the podium in Australia, Bahrain, and China with relative ease. He has been on top form since the Japanese GP last year, but thos final six race weekends don’t count towards this years drivers’ title – and 3 races in a 21 race season will not define the champion.

On the other side of the Mercedes garage, Lewis Hamilton’s poor start in Australia handed Rosberg the lead of the race from lights to flag. In Bahrain, contact with Bottas at the start meant Hamilton was racing for the bottom step of the podium. Then came the Chinese calamity where Lewis was forced to start from the back of the grid after reliability problems with his Mercedes W07 Hybrid. Then contact with Nasr in turn one, left him fighting just to score points.

All this has contributed to Rosberg’s 36-point lead, which is his biggest championship points lead ever. His form to start the season has been impressive, but little in the history of his Formula One career would suggest he will maintain it. Few can argue that the German’s current form is something we have seen consistently from him during his F1 career, but surely there will eventually be a regression towards the mean.

Hamilton, on the other hand, has proven throughout his career that he will win races. Given his speed and the best machinery on the grid, he will soon string some together.

So as we head into the Russian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton needs to get his title bid back on track. Another pole position followed by a race race win would go a long way towards Lewis getting his title defence off the mark. These precious points would also serve to put Rosberg on notice and begin the psychological fight Hamilton would love to be waging with the German.

The 2016 championship is again shaping up to be another entertaining showdown between Mercedes team mates. However, the Ferrari and Red Bull duos should be able to take the fight more effectively to the Silver Arrows this year which may interfere with the battle Royal between Lewis and Nico. Undoubtedly the progress of the Red Team and the Bulls makes Hamilton’s 36 point deficit more stark at present but #44 has demonstrated in past times that despite the odds he can stage the most remarkable of comebacks.

The question over the coming weeks, is how Rosberg will respond if (when?) Hamilton gets rolling, collecting wins and points in the process. Given the history alluded to earlier, will see Rosberg begin to crack under the sustained pressure…

Back at the 2014 Italian Grand Prix following the debacle in Spa, whilst leading and under pressure from Hamilton, Rosberg twice missed the Variante del Rettifilo chicane… handing Lewis the win.

We also may hear again radio outbursts similar to those during qualifying for the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix. “DAMNIT!” was the response from Rosberg across the airwaves when he learned that Lewis had pipped him for pole.

Pick your own Rosberg memories for discussion in the comments, where he appears to have cracked under the pressure – but with just days to the Russian GP only time will tell whether this weekend will see the evaporation of a 36 points lead begin.

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37 responses to “Echoes of 2014 in this season’s F1 drivers’ title challenge

  1. I think the performance of Ferrari and Red Bull will be the determining factor in this years title race. If Ferrari and RB actually realise the projected performance increases they’re predicting (and I think they probably will) HAM will have a hard time fighting and ROS will have a hard time defending. 14 and 15 can’t really be compared to this season. The gap in performance has narrowed significantly, and while I firmly believe Merc will take both titles, it’s not going to be a walk in the park…

    • The way that Rosberg quickly opened up a 40 second gap after the safety car in China tells me that Mercedes have got plenty in hand when they need it. They will romp to both titles again.

      • Yep exactly this, i have no doubt it will be a merc 1 and 2 again. The lead nico has over lulu is not that great when you consider how many more races are left.

  2. I don’t believe for one second that Rosberg cracked under the pressure in 2014, certainly not at Monza at least.

    He was hung out to dry by all and sundry at Merc after Spa, and his rehearsal fuck-up at the chicane was as convincing as Piquet’s in Singapore 2008. His nibble at LH at Spa cost him 2014 and, psychologically disadvantaged, 2015.

    The recent evidence is that 2016 is more of a blank canvas but he is certainly in the ascendency at this point.

    Welcome aboard Steven, always nice to have new blood on here and sure as hell needed right now.

  3. Good article!

    A 39 point lead is not insurmountable! And most of Nico’s wins (or at least the large points gap) has been attributed to Lewis’s poor luck.

    But I do agree with @regga11, because the 2014 Spa incident damaged Nico badly – he basically admitted he hit Lewis on purpose and Mercedes, sitting high on its moral perch, hung Nico out to dry.

    2016 is a different matter, because Nico is just doing his job, driving well and making decent starts. Watching his mirrors with a smirk as the pack behind him plays dodgem cars. We’ll see if Lewis’s luck changes over the next few races – if so, it’s likely to see that gap come down.

    But Nico is in a flow state right now and I’d say it will be neck and neck from here on end – from poles to wins to dnf’s. If Lewis wants his 4th WDC before the rules change in 2017, he is in for a long and hard ride because he is dealing with a different, albeit, much more confident Nico this year.

  4. I echo @regga11 – it’s good to have new blood.

    Small point.

    “…but surely there will eventually be a regression towards the mean.”

    It might be worth having a look into what’s known as Gambler’s Fallacy.

    A small excerpt from Wiki:
    The gambler’s fallacy, also known as the Monte Carlo fallacy or the fallacy of the maturity of chances, is the mistaken belief that, if something happens more frequently than normal during some period, it will happen less frequently in the future, or that, if something happens less frequently than normal during some period, it will happen more frequently in the future.

    That’s not to say that Hamilton will not strike back. I’m sure he will – perhaps as soon as this weekend’s Russian GP. However, 2016 trends are not bound by the averages of any previous period.

    Finally, the most notable memory of Rosberg cracking under pressure, for me, was the Gust-o-Wind at Austin last season. Hamilton taunting Rosberg was particularly funny. Obviously, since then, matters have changed somewhat.

    Cheers,

    @WTF_F1

    • Yh. The “regression to the mean” bit caught my eye as well. That statement implies that Nico’s mean level of ability is fixed in some way when in fact one must allow for the possibility that Nico has improved as a driver.

      A moving average is probably a better (though still flawed) concept / analogy if you want to talk about form or ability in statistical terms.

      As an aside, the contrasting fortunes of the MB drivers this year throws into stark relief how much luck is involved in winning a WDC. And when I say “luck” I mean to say “events that are considered statisically unlikely and that are beyond direct control”. AND luck is more of a random walk in such a small sample – there’s no mean regression in play at all.

      As in life, hard work, skill, preparation, planning and execution just buy you tickets in the lottery. More effort gets more tickets. But your name still has to come out of the barrel before you get to take home the choccies.

  5. Nico has got his sisu back…

    “The Finns have something they call Sisu. It is a compound of bravado and bravery, of ferocity and tenacity, of the ability to keep fighting after most people would have quit, and to fight with the will to win. The Finns translate Sisu as “the Finnish spirit” but it is a much more gutful word than that. Last week the Finns gave the world a good example of Sisu by carrying the war into Russian territory on one front while on another they withstood merciless attacks by a reinforced Russian Army. In the wilderness that forms most of the Russo-Finnish frontier between Lake Laatokka and the Arctic Ocean, the Finns definitely gained the upper hand.” — Time magazine, January 8, 1940

    The team “punishment” at Italy basically pushed him into the support driver position…this year he has been more like the “old” Nico…he not only looks confident but you can see it on track by how he’s driving. I know Lewis has had bad luck but it’s going to be good to watch him have to fight for the title.

    • So are we saying that Nico is not as mentally strong as everyone has been saying he is, if he allowed the Spa incident to fester in his head from then onwards? Look at Seb and multi-21, that didn’t bother him one bit. Is that what Nico’s lacking, that final bit of self belief?

      The whole idea people have been throwing around that he somehow threw the race at Monza, I find extremely unbelievable. If we analyse the entire weekend, he was slower than Lewis in every session, that’s one. Two, are we forgetting how he even got into the lead of the race in the first place? Thirdly, if he deliberately threw the race with out braking himself twice, does that then mean what he did in Monaco was also deliberate?

      Sure Nico has been driving good, but I can’t see this new found ‘sisu’ or confidence. Nico has made the same errors as Lewis so far, only difference is, he wasn’t t-boned by Bottas in Bahrain. He has been out qualified twice (Bahrain he said he knew he had pole after his first run, looked really pissed when he didn’t get it), he has had two poor starts losing positions off the line (Australia/China). His win in Australia was not due to his sisu or driving skills, but rather Ferrari’s monumental screw up. Bahrain and China we all know what happened.

      He has yet to deal with any form of adversity or challenge from either Lewis or Seb. What’s interesting to me, is what many of the experts are saying, and not many seem to believe he has it within him to take the fight all the way and take the title. If Lewis or Seb had that kind of lead after 3 races, I think we’d all be saying, “they’ve got one hand on the title already”.

      2014 will be playing on his mind no matter what image he puts in front of the media. He’s currently trying to project that Lewis is still the benchmark rather than him. By this he’s in a safe zone if he loses, he’ll easily state, “well Lewis was the benchmark and defending champion”. If he succeeds then it will be more favourable for him. But he is the benchmark, because he’s the one sitting at the head of the table.

      But you’re correct, it should be fun watching Lewis fight back, don’t want to hear the usual rhetoric if he was out in front with a 36pts lead, “F1 is boring”. Seems like the only time it’s not boring in the past 2 seasons, is when he’s having to play catch.

      BTW….. Are we going to get that piece on the Jordan 191?

      • I think it was more like the whole team was against him…it’s very hard to be mentally strong if you don’t think anyone is on your side…

        I think he threw the race at Monza…he was told to give the win to Lewis…

        As to Monaco…I don’t know…I wrote about Schumacher’s disqualification at Monaco the week before that happened…and I’m not sure if did it on purpose either…

        He did have to deal with Lewis for the last three races of last year though…unless you think Lewis was partying by that time and wasn’t really trying…

        Of course Lewis is the benchmark…he’s the triple WC. Because of that he’s also very difficult to write off as a major challenge…as Nico well knows…

        I never think F1 is boring!! Even when Seb won 9 races in a row in 2013 I was willing to get up at 3 am to see if Heiki could manage to score any points in Kimi’s car:)

        The Jordon is on my short list…but I want to build the model first…be thankful I don’t want to build a life size one so I should get it written this year 🙂

        • So you think he was ordered to give Lewis the win, so explain Lewis’s RS mode malfunctioning at the start, which gave ROS the lead? Explain the gap in qualifying and the fact he was on average 2-3 tenth slower all weekend?

          Also Lewis lost 18 points in Spa, the win only gave him back 5, not really a good deal is it?

          As for the entire team being against him, in truth he only had himself to blame for that. It was rather a stupid move to admit he did it on purpose, was he expecting a pat on the back?

          • 1. Problems also happen to people who have full team support. When bad luck happens to the side that’s supposed to win, you will see more suspicious behavior by the ‘fixed’ opponent…like missing a chicane multiple times.

            2. If Rosberg was told to hand Lewis the win, he had no reason to push (and stress his engine/car), so it would make sense to drive more conservatively (with engine modes that give less strain). Why risk a DNF or a malfunction in a later race when a conservative drive will give maximum points that is he allowed to have (for second).

            3. It’s in Mercs interest to have a 1/2 podium, as well as not pissing off Rosberg to much (as they need his points for the constructor champ’s), so they may have considered that 5 points enough punishment. Furthermore, most legal systems don’t do ‘eye for an eye’ punishment, so why would you expect Merc to do so?

            4. Lewis put Rosberg in many ‘give way or I’ll crash into you’ situations and Rosberg understandably got fed up. Rosberg picked the wrong time to take a stand, but it was bound to happen sooner or later. Sociology studies have consistently found that people are willing to take a loss themselves to punish anti-social behavior. Lewis shared part of the blame for his very aggressive driving.

            Anyway, I’m not claiming it was definitely fixed, but none of your objections really undermine that possibility.

    • Personally it is not clear to me that Rosberg was specifically under “team punishment” in Italy. Multiple drivers had missed the chicane that weekend, not only Rosberg (something I would ascribe to drivers still getting to grips with the BBW that year & Monza’s extremely low downforce levels & Monza’s T1 being the most gruesome braking zone on the calendar). And if memory serves right, Hamilton had generally had the upper hand speedwise that weekend and was closing in on Rosberg at that stage of the race at a very steady pace.

      While I definitely see the potential for cheating (on Rosberg’s side, BTW, not Hamilton’s — many seem to present this Monza incident as if it were somehow a black spot in Hamilton’s career) and see why people may be inclined to view conspiracy here, and I take at face value TJ13’s reports from back then that team management had imposed a punishment on Rosberg for the Spa incident as a “give back a race win”, it looks (IF any of this conspiracy talk actually holds water) as if Nico decided to cash in Merc’s management “punishment” when he was looking to lose the race anyway… At Monza it can be very easy to overtake, and Hamilton had been closing in quickly enough to mount a potential overtake…

      • According to the article TJ13 was actually informed by a Merc insider that Nico was punished and ordered to gift Lewis the Monza race. Conclusive

        • It was also mentioned on the podcast. I was wondering if it was the tea lady who divulged that information.

          • My sister worked as a tea trolly dolly in university hols. She said that people would tell the tea lady things they would nst tell their other half! She didnt work at Merc though.

    • Digressing (a lot):

      Your mention of sisu there reminds me of good times eating sisig – a fantastic Filipino dish that goes down a treat with some of their tasty local beers. Just don’t look up what’s in it.

  6. Well, I won’t rate Rosberg very high. Even when he becomes world champion this year. For me it’s still down to the machine. Just like button’s title is. (And a few for vettel and hamilton ) that being said they still have that title. And besides they don’t care what I think. (And neither should you)
    But it does seem like Rosberg is a changed man. But we won’t know for sure until he’s up against some real pressure or a team mate who tries to show dominance by driving aggressive along side of him.
    People show their real faces when the heat is on. And I don’t believe that heat will be coming from a ferrari or a red bull. Like mentioned above. But it won’t be the first time that I’m wrong. Nor will it be the last. Even when I thy to be right all the time 😂

  7. I think the interesting story will be if Nico can beat Lewis this weekend, then the points gap grows and everyone has to reassess things. I believe there is a very real chance of that happening. Last year Nico was quicker in qualifying and led the race prior to brake failure. The pressure would really start to mount on Lewis then, and history shows that a Hamilton under pressure, like most other drivers, makes errors or judgement both in the cockpit and in front of the media.

    This will be a fascinating weekend’s racing!

    • Nico didn’t have a brake failure, the problem was to do with the actuator on the accelerator pedal. When pressed, it got stuck in the open position and wasn’t bouncing back immediately.

      Using the, “he was faster last year, so should be this year”, is flawed.

      • You’re quite correct it was the accelerator issue, I confused it with Bahrain 2015.

        RE: logic of who was faster last year, granted it’s by no means exact, but that’s the best we have to go on really.

          • RogerD – So, I guess “we don’t have a reliable way to quantify…” means we use flawed data to come to flawed conclusions —- and that’s just fine… as long as it suits our ends. This is just another fine example further elucidating the well-founded sentiment, “the easiest way to lie is to use statistics.”

          • @dwil
            the well-founded sentiment, “the easiest way to lie is to use statistics.”

            I will have to take offence at that. It seems as if it’s many’s favorite pastime to denigrate statistics for the simple reason that it’s a complex, far reaching tool. However, it is JUST as easy to lie without statistics, yet it is often impossible to make a coherent argument without the help of statistical evidence. What’s more, those who tend to make such pronouncements generally seem to experience some mild form of cognitive dissonance, since when making an argument, e.g. on Hamilton or Senna or Rosberg, we ALL tend to use statistical evidence implicitly or explicitly, such as the number of race wins, nr of poles, nr of WDCs and what have you — basic, raw, unrefined stats without any controls for confounding factors (e.g. number of years in dominant machines).

          • Statistics without nuance and context, yes and there is also the inherent problem of cherry picking (province of bullshit artists) and most especially, confirmation bias which plagues us all. Given the amount of maths necessary to really understand statistics this statement is not inherently wrong as the average laymen is required to simply take them at their word and may not be able to process or appreciate the p and n values associated with the study. Filter it through the media and the problem becomes apparent. Of course, I would truly reserve my largest cudgel for economics, which in many ways is responsible for the poor view many take of the whole field of statistics.

          • @Landroni +1.

            Precisely. I’ve just read these comment updates. You took the words right out of my mouth.

            It’s quite shocking to see – in some – the total lack of understanding with respect to statistical analysis… as if it’s some kind of black magic. There’s no argument here. It’s perhaps too complex for some; I’m not sure. Also a double-blink moment for me.

            —-

            A small and disappointing moment of clarity for me. Just hit me.

            The recent emo-driven degradation in the use of English and lack of statistical comprehension truly expose. It seems I’ve been fencing with a ghost the whole time. I normally don’t get tricked in that way. Now, I suppose, the lesson is for me to learn. I’ve been playing with a shadow. With well developed mimicry. *sighs*

            All these gems… what do I do with them now?

            C’est la vie.

            On we march to qualifying.

          • @landroni, Racer’s Ramblings. landroni – Sorry to disappoint but that was a quote from a university Statistics class professor and repeated in a brilliant academic tome where the author – one of the preeminent Mesoamerican archaeologists, then a professor at the University of Pennsylvania – was dealing with diachronic shifts in dwelling configurations, how those shifts were mirrored at other sites and how they acted as overreaching expressions of shifts in ancient Mayan world view. The quote did not, for me, arise from someone who attempts to devalue statistics. Further, I used statistical analysis daily on the myriad archaeological projects in the U.S. and Belize in which I participated, and I value them greatly. However, I also understand how they are used speciously to artificially confirm a hypothesis or cement a counterfactual personal belief. (This adage was also part of a lengthy comment here about dealing with, in part, the quick removal of postmodernism from academia because it required academicians to publicly state their biases toward their research subject matter.)

            —————–

            R’sR, shame on you. This: “The recent emo-driven degradation in the use of English and lack of statistical comprehension truly expose. It seems I’ve been fencing with a ghost the whole time. I normally don’t get tricked in that way. Now, I suppose, the lesson is for me to learn. I’ve been playing with a shadow. With well developed mimicry. *sighs*” (I was chagrined after reading this…)

            It’s apparent you’ve become Ahab; inflamed by the fact you cannot defeat that which you cannot catch (or intellectually approach). You are left only to bark at the moon for a break from the unseen hands keeping you from ensnaring me in what are becoming ever-desperate attempts to demean my intellect and personage.

            To this point I have, largely, been magnanimous when dealing with you; I will continue to do so. There is no true reason to be angered by your increasingly incautious remarks. However, I will let you know you are treading into dangerous waters. Though some people will, undoubtedly, cheer you on, others clearly see you are swimming past warning whitecaps and diving headlong into breakers.

            I do hope you have a lifeboat waiting.

    • And when that happens, then it’s time for mind games. If nico is as smart as they say…

      • Yep that’s what I think many would like to see, me included, how Rosberg deals with the pressure of leading, and how Hamilton deals with things if he’s beaten in a fair fight this weekend. On that basis I hope for Rosberg finishing higher than Lewis to really spice things up a bit in the paddock. Some bitter summertime sadness is great in F1 🙂

        • Agreed. It would make the dullness of only one winner (rosberg) a bit messier and fun for us. And mind games are part of the business. Although none of them is as good at it as alonso it would be wise to make the most of it.

  8. To the TJ editorial crew: I wrote this comment here and not in my Day One app. I am lost as to how my longer comments are being reformatted into the way they are being viewed. I am searching for a remedy yet I also know WordPress can function oddly, so this formatting artifact may well be out of my control.

  9. @matt55 – Agreed. Though I don’t have enough dealings with the larger schemes of economics (and I do mean, “schemes”) I do see and understand their results. When the machinations behind the schemes are explained it is then that I get the statistical maneuvering. With social sciences I see the potential statistical jury-riggings even as the verbal arguments are being laid out.

    I would rather both – all – sciences be first expressed verbally, not through a philosophy, through rhetoric or ideology, but through unadulterated thought. That they are not and that all indigenous socio-cultural constructs relied on the telling of and remembering The Story makes plain the vast efforts undertaken throughout the want for global domination to destroy The Story and replace it with “a” story and “his” story; The Story becomes but a simulacrum – malleable and easily manipulated for the teller.

    F1, as a global sporting endeavor would surely profit from some “plain talk.” ;-)… as The Old Ones said in no uncertain terms, “In the beginning was The Word.

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