Alternative history: the 2007 championship without misfortune

After having done an ‘alternative history’ article on the 2010 Formula One season before, I’ve gotten several requests on some more seasons. This time, I take a look at 2007, the year in which Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton tied with the same amount of points, just one point short of Kimi Raïkkönen who started the last race third in the championship. How did they all get so close to eachother in the last race? Was Raïkkönen’s title a lucky shot, or could he have had a bigger lead? So, how would things have turned out if the title contenders did not have any misfortune?

DISCLAIMER: While anyone having watched Back to the Future understands that you can’t simply alter one thing in history without other things being affected, and thus these results are not completely definitive, they can’t be completely ignored either, considering any Formula One will always push for the best results. This article provides some context to the raw statistics of world championships.

What counts as misfortune: mechanical failure, being crashed in to by another driver
What does not count as misfortune: wrong tactical choices, crashing their own car, penalty by the driver’s own doing

Grand Prix of Australia
Felipe Massa had to change his engine after qualifying and started the race last. He finished in 6th, just behind Fisichella. While starting further to the front would have most likely put him in front of Fisichella, he was not that much faster that he would have been likely to finish in front of Heidfeld, so we give Massa 1 extra point for p5.

Standings 2007: Räikkönen 10pt, Alonso 8pt, Hamilton 6pt, Massa 3pt
Alternative standings: Räikkönen 10pt, Alonso 8pt, Hamilton 6pt, Massa 4pt

Grand Prix of Malaysia
While Massa dropped to 5th after a failed attempt to overtake Hamilton, it doesn’t count as misfortune.

Standings 2007: Alonso 18pt, Räikkönen 16pt, Hamilton 14pt, Massa 7pt
Alternative standings: Alonso 18pt, Räikkönen 16pt, Hamilton 14pt, Massa 8pt

Grand Prix of Bahrain
Nothing much happened in terms of misfortune.

Standings 2007: Alonso 22pt, Räikkönen 22pt, Hamilton 22pt, Massa 17pt
Alternative standings: Alonso 22pt, Räikkönen 22pt, Hamilton 22pt, Massa 18pt

Grand Prix of Spain
When Kimi Räikkönen’s gear box failed, it cost him a certain top 4 placement. It is debatable if he could have stayed in front of Alonso, but considering the pace of Ferrari today, it is very possible, so Kimi gets 3rd place and Alonso drops back to 4th.

Standings 2007: Hamilton 30pt, Alonso 28pt, Massa 27pt, Räikkönen 22pt
Alternative standings: Hamilton 30pt, Massa 28pt, Alonso 27pt, Räikkönen 27pt

Grand Prix of Monaco
Although Hamilton was slightly held up in qualifying, it probably didn’t matter enough to cost him pole position. Räikkönen’s qualifying problems were caused by himself.

Standings 2007: Alonso 38pt, Hamilton 38pt, Massa 33pt, Räikkönen 23pt
Alternative standings: Hamilton 38pt, Alonso 37pt, Massa 34pt, Räikkönen 28pt

Grand Prix of Canada
While Alonso had a very bad race, none of it is due to unfortune. Massa leaving the pitlane with the red light on, was also his own fault, so nothing changes in Canada.

Standings 2007: Hamilton 48pt, Alonso 40pt, Massa 33pt, Räikkönen 27pt
Alternative standings: Hamilton 48pt, Alonso 39pt, Massa 34pt, Räikkönen 32pt

Grand Prix of the United States
Despite the chaos in the first corner, not much happened to the title contenders.

Standings 2007: Hamilton 58pt, Alonso 48pt, Massa 39pt, Räikkönen 32pt
Alternative standings: Hamilton 58pt, Alonso 47pt, Massa 40pt, Räikkönen 37pt

Grand Prix of France
Alonso’s gear box problems in qualifying meant he started at p10. Based on Q2 times, he could have started from p5, just behind Kubica. Considering the McLaren’s race pace was not that good, chances are that Kubica would have stayed in front of Alonso, so we give Alonso 5th place, 2 places up from his 7th place finish.

Standings 2007: Hamilton 64pt, Alonso 50pt, Massa 47pt, Räikkönen 42pt
Alternative standings: Hamilton 64pt, Alonso 51pt, Massa 48pt, Räikkönen 47pt

Grand Prix of England
Massa’s engine stalled on the grid, which meant he had to start from the pit lane. With Massa’s strong pace working his way through the field, and Hamilton’s slow pace after the last pit stops, Massa would have probably taken third place from the young Brit.

Standings 2007: Hamilton 70pt, Alonso 58pt, Räikkönen 52pt, Massa 51pt
Alternative standings: Hamilton 69pt, Alonso 59pt, Räikkönen 57pt, Massa 54pt

Grand Prix of Europe
A problem with a wheel gun meant Hamilton crashed in Q3, starting him from p10. Based on his speed in Q2, he would have probably started from p4. While Hamilton was caught in the first corner chaos, his eventual spin was his own doing and not related to his qualifying position. Räikkönen’s hydraulic problems while he was catching up to the leaders, did cost him a likely win.

Standings 2007: Hamilton 70pt, Alonso 68pt, Massa 59pt, Räikkönen 52pt
Alternative standings: Hamilton 69pt, Räikkönen 67pt, Alonso 67pt, Massa 60pt

Grand Prix of Hungary
Judging the situation with Alonso holding up Hamilton in qualifying is tricky, as both Alonso and the McLaren team said it was not intentional, and Hamilton had caused the mix-up to begin with. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and put him back on pole, although his race speed was nowhere near that of Hamilton and Räikkönen, so we put him up just one place from p4 to p3. Massa’s low starting position, and consequent bad race, was due to a tactical error.

Standings 2007: Hamilton 80pt, Alonso 73pt, Räikkönen 60pt, Massa 59pt
Alternative standings: Hamilton 79pt, Räikkönen 75pt, Alonso 73pt, Massa 60pt

Grand Prix of Turkey
After having jumped Räikkönen following the last pit stops, a puncture cost Hamilton second place, finishing 3 places lower, behind the Finn and team mate Alonso.

Standings 2007: Hamilton 84pt, Alonso 79pt, Massa 69pt, Räikkönen 68pt
Alternative standings: Hamilton 88pt, Räikkönen 81pt, Alonso 78pt, Massa 70pt

Grand Prix of Italy
Yet another puncture for Hamilton, finishing in second place just six seconds behind Alonso, the puncture likely cost him the win. Massa retired from third place with a suspension faillure, so at the end of the day, the alternative standing would be Hamilton, Alonso, Massa and Räikkönen.

Standings 2007: Hamilton 92pt, Alonso 89pt, Räikkönen 74pt, Massa 69pt
Alternative standings: Hamilton 98pt, Räikkönen 86pt, Alonso 86pt, Massa 76pt

Grand Prix of Belgium
The Belgian Grand Prix was quite uneventful in the context of this article, so no changes.

Standings 2007: Hamilton 97pt, Alonso 95pt, Räikkönen 84pt, Massa 77pt
Alternative standings: Hamilton 103pt, Räikkönen 96pt, Alonso 92pt, Massa 84pt

Grand Prix of Japan
While Jean Todt claimed to have not gotten the memo about the tyre-requirements, it’s odd that Ferrari was the only one that claimed to have missed it, so we’ll leave it at that. Thus, the results for the Japanese Grand Prix are left unchanged.

Standings 2007: Hamilton 107pt, Alonso 95pt, Räikkönen 90pt, Massa 80pt
Alternative standings: Hamilton 113pt, Räikkönen 102pt, Alonso 92pt, Massa 87pt

Grand Prix of China
Hamilton’s slip into the gravel was his own fault, leaving the outcome of the Chinese Grand Prix unchanged as well.

Standings 2007: Hamilton 107pt, Alonso 103pt, Räikkönen 100pt, Massa 86pt
Alternative standings: Hamilton 113pt, Räikkönen 112pt, Alonso 100pt, Massa 93pt

Grand Prix of Brazil
Lewis Hamilton suffered from gear box problems early in the race, which cost him a lot of time. Considering the time he lost there, and the race speed he had, he would have likely been able to finish third, ahead of Alonso. The Ferrari’s were much too fast for him for a higher finishing position though, so the alternative result would be Räikkönen, Massa, Hamilton and Alonso.

Standings 2007: Räikkönen 110pt, Hamilton 109pt, Alonso 109pt, Massa 94pt
Alternative standings: Räikkönen 122pt, Hamilton 119pt, Alonso 105pt, Massa 101pt

In conclusion I
* Kimi Räikkönen lost a net 12 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune.
* Lewis Hamilton lost a net 10 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune.
* Felipe Massa lost a net 17 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune.
* Fernando Alonso gained a net 4 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune from his direct championship competitors.

While mechanical failures did not affect this championship nearly as much as they did in 2010, I think it is most remarkable to see how well Hamilton actually did in comparisson to Alonso and how Räikkönen’s championship title was not that much of a lucky shot, although still greatly aided by Hamilton’s slip-up in China.

Coming up next in Alternative History F1: the 2008 world championship was literally decided in the last corner. Were Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton really that closely matched, or were the chances of one of them highly increased by bad luck of the other?

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