Alternative history: the 2008 championship without misfortune

2008 was an amazing year in Formula One, with the title fight between Hamilton and Massa literally going down to the last corner! However, how much of this was influenced by the drivers being closely matched, and how much was down to bad luck on either driver’s side? In alternative history, we have a look at how the 2008 Formula One world championship would have turned out if the title candidates would not have encountered bad luck.

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, an undeserved penalty
What does not count as misfortune: wrong tactical choices, crashing their own car, penalty by the driver’s own doing

Grand Prix of Australia
Due to a fuel pressure problem, Kimi Räikkönen had to start in 16th place. If not for that, he could have realistically qualified 5th, just behind Massa, who was slightly faster in Q1. In the race though, Räikkönen had a great start and a good pace for most of the race as well. While his mistakes in the race were his own fault, he arguable wouldn’t have been in the position for such mistakes if if it wasn’t for how woes in qualifying. Second place for the Finish driver would have been realistic, setting Heidfeld back to 3rd. Massa spun in the first lap, which set him back quite far. When his engine blew up, Massa was however not that much faster than Heidfeld, so p4 for Massa would have been realistic.

Standings 2008: Hamilton 10pt, Räikkönen 1pt, Massa 0pt
Alternative standings: Hamilton 10pt, Räikkönen 8pt, Massa 5pt

Grand Prix of Malaysia
Although the McLaren duo was penalized in qualifying for creating a dangerous situation, it doesn’t constitute as bad luck. Neither did Massa’s spin on lap 30, so nothing changes for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Standings 2008: Hamilton 14pt, Räikkönen 11pt, Massa 0pt
Alternative standings: Räikkönen 18pt, Hamilton 14pt, Massa 5pt

Grand Prix of Bahrain
While almost stalling the McLaren at the start could be considered bad luck, Hamilton running into the back of Alonso and dropping down the field with a broken nose, is entirely one’s own fault. So again, no changes for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Standings 2008: Räikkönen 19pt, Hamilton 14pt, Massa 10pt
Alternative standings: Räikkönen 26pt, Massa 15pt, Hamilton 14pt

Grand Prix of Spain
Another uneventful race in the context of this article, with all the title contenders finishing with no real issues.

Standings 2008: Räikkönen 29pt, Hamilton 20pt, Massa 18pt
Alternative standings: Räikkönen 36pt, Massa 23pt, Hamilton 20pt

Grand Prix of Turkey
Another uneventful race in the context of this article, with all the title contenders finishing with no real issues.

Standings 2008: Räikkönen 35pt, Massa 28pt, Hamilton 28pt
Alternative standings: Räikkönen 42pt, Massa 33pt, Hamilton 28pt

Grand Prix of Monaco
While Räikkönen plowed into the back of Sutil as if he had seen a champagne glass in the German’s hand and wanted do strike pre-emptively, this was his own fault and does not change the outcome in the context of this article.

Standings 2008: Hamilton 38pt, Räikkönen 35pt, Massa 34pt
Alternative standings: Räikkönen 42pt, Massa 39pt, Hamilton 38pt

Grand Prix of Canada
Canada 2008 is of course remembered for the pit stop incident in which Hamilton ran into the back of Räikkönen. So while this doesn’t do anything for the Brit in this article, Kimi was not at fault here, and could have won the race, as he pulled out before the eventual race winner, Robert Kubica. Felipe Massa meanwhile had to make an extra stop due to a refueling problem. Giving Massa back the time he lost with the extra pit stop, he would have not finished 5th behind Heidfeld Glock, but 4th in front of Glock and Coulthard.

Standings 2008: Massa 38pt, Hamilton 38pt, Räikkönen 35pt
Alternative standings: Räikkönen 52pt, Massa 44pt, Hamilton 38pt

Grand Prix of France
Receiving a drive-through penalty for cutting corners, albeit a little harsh, Hamilton has only himself to blame for. Räikkönen suffered from an exhaust problem, which gifted the win to Massa.

Standings 2008: Massa 48pt, Räikkönen 43pt, Hamilton 38pt
Alternative standings: Räikkönen 62pt, Massa 52pt, Hamilton 38pt

Grand Prix of England
Although Massa was unable to set a second lap time in Q3, he would not have qualified much higher, and would not have made any difference in the two laps he was down to Hamilton at the finish, after having an abominable race in the wet conditions at Silverstone.

Standings 2008: Hamilton 48pt, Massa 48pt, Räikkönen 48pt
Alternative standings: Räikkönen 67pt, Massa 52pt, Hamilton 48pt

Grand Prix of Germany
While not an uneventful race, nothing happened to the title contesters in the context of this article.

Standings 2008: Hamilton 58pt, Massa 54pt, Räikkönen 51pt
Alternative standings: Räikkönen 70pt, Massa 58pt, Hamilton 58pt

Grand Prix of Hungary
With Hamilton puncturing a rear-tyre while in second place, and Massa blowing up his engine from first place three laps before the end, lady luck was obviously asleep today. Massa would have won the race, in front of Hamilton, setting Räikkönen back from p3 to p5.

Standings 2008: Hamilton 62pt, Räikkönen 57pt, Massa 54pt
Alternative standings: Räikkönen 74pt, Massa 68pt, Hamilton 66pt

Grand Prix of Europe
Although Räikkönen was not too sharp driving away with the fuel hose still attached, the later engine faillure cost him a probable 5th place finish.

Standings 2008: Hamilton 70pt, Massa 64pt, Räikkönen 57pt
Alternative standings: Massa 78pt, Räikkönen 78pt, Hamilton 74pt

Grand Prix of Belgium
Räikkönen lost his own race when spinning into the wall, but the mayor factor in the Belgian Grand Prix was Lewis Hamilton’s penalty for overtaking Räikkönen after cutting the bus-stop chicane. To this day, a subject that no one agrees on, so we’ll leave it as a consideration in the end. In my book though, it was an undeserved penalty, so for now we’re giving him back first place.

Standings 2008: Hamilton 76pt, Massa 74pt, Räikkönen 57pt
Alternative standings: Massa 88pt, Hamilton 84pt, Räikkönen 78pt

Grand Prix of Italy
In Sebastian Vettel’s first ever pole-position and victory weekend, Räikkönen and Hamilton put themselves in a difficult position by qualifying down the field. In the race, neither of the three championship contenders had bad luck to speak of in the context of this article.

Standings 2008: Hamilton 78pt, Massa 77pt, Räikkönen 57pt
Alternative standings: Massa 89pt, Hamilton 86pt, Räikkönen 78pt

Grand Prix of Singapore
The inaugral Singapore Grand Prix will be remembered for one thing: crash gate. While Räikkönen threw away his own race, Massa saw victory slip through his fingers when he was sent off from his pit stop with the fuel hose still attached. Hamilton too was affected by Renault’s schemes, as he would have normally finished second behind Massa. So in that sense, we give Massa the win and promote Hamilton from p3 to p2.

Standings 2008: Hamilton 84pt, Massa 77pt, Räikkönen 57pt
Alternative standings: Massa 99pt, Hamilton 94pt, Räikkönen 78pt

Grand Prix of Japan
Hamilton and Massa were just all over the place in Fuji, ruining not only their own races, but also those of others. Räikkönen would have won the race if Hamilton hadn’t pushed him off the track, and Massa was clearly to blame for the incident with Bourdais. For that, Massa is given the 25 second penalty that was given to the Frenchmen, dropping him outside the points to p11, and Räikkönen is given the win.

Standings 2008: Hamilton 84pt, Massa 79pt, Räikkönen 63pt
Alternative standings: Massa 99pt, Hamilton 94pt, Räikkönen 88pt

Grand Prix of China
Another uneventful race in the context of this article, with all the title contenders finishing with no real issues.

Standings 2008: Hamilton 94pt, Massa 87pt, Räikkönen 69pt
Alternative standings: Massa 107pt, Hamilton 104pt, Räikkönen 94pt

Grand Prix of Brazil
A spectaculair final race either way, albeit one that in the context of this article would have been ‘over’ sooner, as Hamilton would have had to win with Massa 3rd to become champion; something that quickly became clear not to be likely to happen.

Standings 2008: Hamilton 98pt, Massa 97pt, Räikkönen 75pt
Alternative standings: Massa 117pt, Hamilton 108pt, Räikkönen 100pt

In conclusion I
* Kimi Räikkönen lost a net 27 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune.
* Felipe Massa lost a net 20 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune.
* Lewis Hamilton lost a net 10 points due to mechanical failures and other misfortune.
* If one considers the the penalty given to Hamilton in Belgium to be fair, the final results would have been: Massa 119pt, Hamilton 104pt, Räikkönen 100pt

In conclusion II
First off: wow! Massa a clear world champion, rather than just missing out on the title. Actually hadn’t seen that one coming. While Hamilton has also lost quite some points during the season, those were often his own fault, while Massa lost a lot of points due to simply bad luck. While Räikkönen still had an aweful season, losing 25 points due to bad luck didn’t quite help him either.

Coming up next in Alternative History F1: the 2005 world championship was Fernando Alonso’s first title, with Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari and the Bridgestone tyres being far off the pace. But how much bad luck did Räikkönen have with his McLaren, and should he have won the 2005 title instead?

2 Responses

  1. abductee says:

    well,
    i think there is a mistake:
    raikonnen was slowed by a faulty exhaust in france 2008:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_French_Grand_Prix#Race
    so you could argue that he should get 10 in alternate history :)

  2. Martijngamer says:

    Thank you abductee for your feedback. While not a big game changer, it just cost him two points, you are definitely correct in that, and I have changed it in the article.

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