Hamilton’s luck: the stats

Lewis Hamilton’s chances of winning the 2014 world championship took another blow yesterday when his Mercedes W05 caught fire in final qualifying. Since the championship is still probably only between himself and his team mate, Nico Rosberg, forumula1.com decided to look into how much damage Hamilton’s luck has caused him this season…

So we thought what we’d do is have a system. Nico and Lewis have finished first and second in every race this year where neither of them has had mechanical issues. So we can say that every time either of them had a mechanical issue, they lost either first or second place – an average of 21.5 points. Where has Lewis been race-unlucky this season? Australia and Canada. (We’ll exclude Canada for the moment, because both of them had brake issues, and Rosberg was able to manage the brakes and therefore can have those points on merit). So Lewis is 21.5 points down.

But then Rosberg was also the victim of gremlins in Silverstone, which means it’s back equal. So let’s turn to qualifying. Can we apply the same rule – that either driver would have come first or second without problems in qualifying? Arguably, yes – although it’s adding another degree or two of decreased probability, that’s balanced out by the probability that the driver without difficulties in qualifying and so on pole has an easier run and wins more often.

But the driver is not losing the whole race here after quali – not both first and second, just the possibility of the win. So he only loses an extra 1.75 points on average – the difference between first (25) and the average score (21.5). (Again, although this does depend on how far down the field he ends up qualifying, that’s balanced out by the fact that he has a vastly superior car to the rest of the field and has in most cases been able to work his way through the field on pace alone to a theoretical second place).

Lewis’ travails in qualifying – Monaco, where he was forced to back off through no fault of his own; Silverstone, where he chose to back off; Germany, where he had brake failure; Hungary yesterday. We can discount Silverstone on the basis that it was his error. But if we take Monaco, Germany and Hungary together, Lewis has lost 5.25 points.

And he hasn’t. He’s down by 14 (even before Hungary today). There are other factors of course, like Hamilton’s slower pitstops, which arguably cause him more lost points. But there are glaring errors, like failing to conserve brakes in Canada, and running into Jenson Button in Germany (which cost him second). So bemoan Hamilton’s luck all you may, fans, but the reality is that the discrepancy between himself and Rosberg is probably to be found somewhere else.

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