It is funny how the actions of the almost rookie driver became the topic of heated debates following the final race of 2008 season. But how did Glock actually end up in that position ?
Well on the Brazilian GP race day it was combination of his tactics and the weather. He was well behind Hamilton before the rain, and without the rain he would not even be ahead of Hamilton in those final stages. There would be no drama and no premature celebrations in Ferrari garage. Unless of course all the cars ahead of him planned one more splash and dash stop even without rain.
That was the race day. But how come neither Massa nor Hamilton were able to lock title earlier ? How come we even had to talk about Timo Glock ? They both had their opportunities… (read on)
Felipe Massa had horrible start to the season, first 2 races, zero points. Hard to say where he would end up but let’s take the worst case realistic scenario given the performance advantage of Ferrari over other teams and give him two 4th place finishes. That would be 10 points.
Then came string of races where Massa could have done better but let’s forget those and fast forward to Hungary. Probably the best race day performance from Massa to date and sure win on cards. The engine blow up 3 laps from the flag cost him 10 points. It cost him even more in the championship math because instead of gaining 7 on Hamilton he lost 4 … Deficit 11 points.
Fast forward to Singapore. Massa was the class of the field and the only danger to him seemed to be gradually pace picking Raikkonen. Then however Piquet smashed the car, safety car came out, Massa went to pits, his crew let him go with the hose still attached to the car. Time lost there, drive through penalty and race ruined. What looked like safe bet on 10 points ended up in 0. Hard to say where Hamilton would have finished without the safety car incident, but even if finished 2nd Massa would still leave Singapore with 2 points gained. He left with 4 points lost. Total loss 6 points at least.
Simple math adding up the above – 27 points
Should things go at least just about right for Massa in the above four races, he would be entering the Brazilian GP as a new World Champion with 20 points lead over Hamilton and nobody would be giving Timo Glock hard time after the race.
Lewis Hamilton was spared the reliability issues. He retired only once and the only reason of that retirement was himself. So let’s look where his points were wasted:
In Bahrain Hamilton seemed quick and podium was well possible for him considering he was 3rd on the grid with Kubica (not a likely race winner that time) on pole. He however messed up the start, dropped back 7 places and later hit Fernando Alonso. Result – 13th place and at least 6 points if not 8 lost.
Canada was the place for Hamilton’s 2008 season moment of madness. Clearly superior on track Hamilton forgot there may be traffic light at the exit of the pitlane and rammed his car into stationary Kimi Raikkonen. Ten points lost. Massa’s race was ruined thanks to additional pit stop but he still picked up 4 points. What could have been 6-7 points gain turned into 4 points loss. Let’s call it 10 points here.
Then in France Hamilton received one of the controversial drive through penalties (cutting chicane) and finished pointless. His chances of decent finish however were slim anyway following 10 place grid penalty as a result of his Canadian GP pitlane crash. Hard to say if he under normal circumstances he would be able to win in France but let’s assume he would not finish worse than 3rd – that would be at least 6 points lost here.
Then came Belgium and perhaps the biggest controversy of the season – the Hamilton – Raikkonen incident that resulted into 25 seconds penalty to Hamilton. Instead of 2 points gained on Massa, he lost 4. The difference – 6 points.
Japan was another place where Hamilton wasted chances for a decent point haul. Not a best start from him from the pole position but instead of taking some safe approach he got himself into trouble again. Collision with Massa, drive through penalty for his first corner actions (controversial again, both the actions and the penalty), no points. Without risking that much in that first corner he would probably only finish 2nd or 3rd but likely still ahead of Massa. That potential 1 point gain turned into 2 points loss. Not much, be he could have left Japan at least 3 points better off against Massa than he did.
Adding up the above gives total about 31 points. Should all go normal for Hamilton in those races, he could have been crowned champion in Singapore already and Timo Glock could have finished his season in peace.
Sure there are countless other “ifs” and “buts” resulting in totally different totals. But coming out with “accurate alternate ending” to the 2008 Formula 1 season was not the point of this post. I simply wanted to point out that each of the title contenders provided his main rival with several matchpoints. None was taken and as result the race went to the wire. But I would say that with so mnay points dropped both of them should consider themselves lucky that Kubica, Vettel or Alonso did not have better cars in hands this year …