Formula One Quaternary...


Champion Elect
It seems to me for the past 25 years or so the pattern has been one of long-term domination of the sport by one team and car.
There were a few hiccups in that period when the leading cars were a bit more more even such as the 2005-2009 period but otherwise F1's been notable for long periods of uninterrupted periods of unbroken dominance lasting several years within which others are reduced to grabbing the odd win here and there.

Looking back it seems to me 1988 was something of a turning point. The year where only Senna's collision with Schlesser with three laps in to go combined with Prost's earlier engine failure in the Italian GP prevented McLaren from completing a clean sweep of race wins that year.

Ever since then multiple-year team domination has been the norm. The McLaren era preceeded the Williams-Renault, Beneton, McLaren-Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, with each era seemingly lasting ever-longer.

This is of course an over-simplification. There has over the years been many opportunities to witness on-track battles between two or more similarly-competitive cars. But these a becoming fewer ad fewer whereas they were once the norm. If you look at the past 15 years it's quite clear that long-period supremacy by one car is the norm. It is only really apparent when you look at it from the perspective of the entire history of the WDC since 1950.

I'm not sure what or if anything should be done about it. It seems as though in recent history wherever the sport is punctuated by one of those periodic complete rule overhaul that takes place every few years, one team get a major headstart on the rest, and that advantage carries through for several years. Can't blame them for doing a better job than everyone else to begin with but the problem is that the progressive increase of various limitations concerning testing, engines, gearboxes etc which were originally intended to reduce costs possibly:

1) Achieved precisely the opposite. Do you see any more teams coming into the sport on a regular basis? Are any of the smaller teams on a sound financial basis? And how can they hope to grow and attract substantial partners/sponsors when lack of testing and engine freeze means they have no chance of getting any closer to the top-half? Ah, but I hear you say, won't the bigger teams with their bigger budgets increase the gap even further if testing was unrestricted? Well yes they would initially, but they would also reach their car's optimum development sooner. There's only so much development scope you can have on one car. After that evolution margins and gains to be had become smaller and smaller.
The smaller teams at present simply have NO CHANCE WHATSOEVER of catching up. Testing costs money. Not as much as going out of business altogether after failing to attract investors though...

2 ) The second and third best teams can never make up for lost ground to the top team.

I hadn't even intended to make of an article of this post now I'm getting into I thought it merited a discussion. I don't even think I'm making any one point in particular, just the fact that for whatever reason modern F1 when you compare its entire history has had over the past 15 years or so, been almost exclusively the theatre for multiple-year single-team domination. You can't move for all sorts of records being beaten these days.

Any opinions or why that is?
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Let's have a quick look at the frequency of multiple teams battling for the WDC. I've started at 1975.

1975 - Ferrari (6 wins) - WDC Lauda (5) 64.5 Points - 2nd Lotus / Fittipaldi (2) 45
Niki's most dominant season. The 312T was the class of the field.

1976 - Ferrari / McLaren - WDC Hunt (6 Wins) 69 Points - 2nd Lauda (5) 68
Circumstances conspired to make this one as close as possible, but the McLaren in Hunt's hands was fast.

1977 - Ferrari (4 wins) - WDC Lauda (3) 72 Points - 2nd Wolf / Scheckter (3) 55
Lauda walked this one home, and didn't even need to finish the season.

1978 - Lotus (8 wins) - WDC Andretti (6) 64 Points - 2nd Peterson (2) 51
One of the most dominant cars of all time.

1979 - Ferrari (6 wins) - WDC Scheckter (3) 60 Points - 2nd Villeneuve (3) 53
The red cars outclassed everyone over the whole season, but by the end it was clear a new challenger was emerging.

1980 - Williams (6 wins) - WDC Jones (5) 71 Points - 2nd Brabham / Piquet (3) 54
Williams rode the momentum from 79 into 1980 and AJ won a deserved title.

1981 - Williams / Brabham - WDC Piquet (3 Wins) 50 Points - 2nd Williams / Reutemann (2) 49
After the Williams duo fell out at Brazil, the one man show at Brabham stole the Driver's championship.

1982 - Ferrari / Renault / McLaren / Williams - WDC Rosberg (1 Win) 49 Points - 2nd McLaren / Watson (2) 39
Most remarkable season on record with several fairly equal cars. Ferrari and Pironi were certainly heading for the title.

1983 - Renault / Brabham - WDC Piquet (3 Wins) 59 Points - 2nd Renault / Prost (4) 57
Prost and Piquet slugged it out the whole year. Great battle between two fast cars.

1984 - McLaren (12 Wins) - WDC Lauda (5) 72 Points - 2nd Prost (7) 71.5
First Edition of McLaren domination. The MP4's were about to go on a pretty good run.

1985 - McLaren (6 wins) - WDC Prost (5) 76 Points - 2nd Ferrari / Alboreto (2) 53
Reliability woes for everyone else assured that there was never a real battle, although the McLaren was rarely fastest.

1986 - Williams / McLaren - WDC Prost (4 Wins) 74 Points - 2nd Williams / Mansell (5) 72
Infighting and cruel luck allowed Prost to capture his team's 3rd straight WDC.

1987 - Williams (9 Wins) - WDC Piquet (3) 76 Points - 2nd Mansell (6) 61
The incredibly quick Williams' dominate, but the WDC goes to the arguably slower driver.

1988 - McLaren (15 Wins) - WDC Senna (8) 94 Points - 2nd Prost (7) 105
McLaren at the pinnacle of power. Could have swept all before them.

1989 - McLaren (10 Wins) - WDC Prost (4) 81 - 2nd Senna (6) 60
Another exclusive battle. Other top teams struggling mightily.

1990 - Ferrari / McLaren - WDC Senna (6 Wins) 78 Points - 2nd Ferrari / Prost (5) 73
Epic fight between rival teams and drivers. Unfortunately ended in most unsatisfying fashion.

1991 - Williams / McLaren - WDC Senna (7 Wins) 96 Points - 2nd Williams / Mansell (5) 72
Took Williams a while to get going but they were certainly a match for Senna in the second half. Costly blunders as well.

1992 - Williams (10 Wins) - WDC Mansell (9) 108 Points - 2nd Patrese (1) 56
Nigel coasts to the title utilizing his enormous car advantage and Patrese was finished.

1993 - Williams (10 Wins) - WDC Prost (7) 99 Points - 2nd Hill (3) 69
Williams carried over their advantage and Prost walks to another championship.

1994 - Williams / Benetton - WDC Schumacher (8 Wins) 92 Points - 2nd Williams / Hill (6) 91
Many twists and turns to this one, but the Schumacher / Benetton package had risen to the challenge.

1995 - Benetton (11 Wins) - WDC Schumacher (9) 102 Points - 2nd Williams / Hill (4) 69
Michael made sure there would be no late season dramatics in this one.

1996 - Williams (12 Wins) - WDC Hill (8) 97 Points - 2nd Villeneuve (4) 78
A fast car and lack of real challengers ensured a Williams walkover.

1997 - Ferrari / Williams - WDC Villeneuve (7 Wins) 81 Points - 2nd Ferrari / Schumacher (5) 78
Williams may have made this one closer than it should have been, but Schumey made it moot at Jerez.

1998 - McLaren (9 Wins) - WDC Hakkinen (8) 100 Points - 2nd Ferrari / Schumacher (6) 86
Hakkinen and McLaren jumped out with a big advantage and rarely looked back.

1999 - Ferrari / McLaren - WDC Hakkinen (5 Wins) 76 Points - 2nd Ferrari / Irvine (4) 74
Ferrari were coming, but Schumacher's accident may have delayed it a year.

2000 - McLaren / Ferrari - WDC Schumacher (9 Wins) 108 Points - 2nd Hakkinen (4) 89
The tides had turned and it was a bad omen for the rest of the field.

2001 - Ferrari (9 Wins) - WDC Schumacher (9) 123 Points - 2nd McLaren / Coulthard (2) 65
With a 1-2 system fully in place, Michael made quick work of this one.

2002 - Ferrari (15 Wins) - WDC Schumacher (11) 144 Points - 2nd Barrichello (4) 77
A scarlet whitewash. Complete and total domination.

2003 - Williams / McLaren / Ferrari - WDC Schumacher (6 Wins) 93 Points - 2nd McLaren / Raikkonen (1) 91
Closest competition in a long time was compromised by a sketchy FIA tire ruling. Fantastic effort from Kimi.

2004 - Ferrari (15 Wins) - WDC Schumacher (13) 148 Points - 2nd Barrichello (2) 114
Life would never be this good again in Maranello.

2005 - McLaren / Renault - WDC Alonso (7 Wins) 133 Points - 2nd McLaren / Raikkonen (7) 112
Two fast drivers in very fast cars. Alonso's best?

2006 - Ferrari / Renault - WDC Alonso (7 Wins) 134 Points - 2nd Ferrari / Schumacher (7) 121
Schumacher's last hurrah as Alonso looks set for a record setting career.

2007 - McLaren / Ferrari - WDC Raikkonen (6 Wins) 110 Points - 2nd McLaren / Hamilton (4) 109
Season rocked by scandal and fought out by Champions in nearly identical cars.

2008 - BMW / Ferrari / McLaren - WDC Hamilton (5 Wins) 98 Points - 2nd Ferrari / Massa (6) 97
Back and forth affair featuring several mind boggling moments. Several cars tightly bunched in final year of Regs.

2009 - Braun (8 Wins) - WDC Button (6) 95 Points - 2nd RBR / Vettel (4) 84
Regulation change led to massive advantage for 1st half, RBR caught up but was never a serious threat.

2010 - McLaren / Ferrari / RBR - WDC Vettel (5 Wins) 256 Points - 2nd Ferrari / Alonso (5) 252
If just one thing happens differently you could have had 4 different champions. RBR suffered self-inflicted wounds early.

2011 - RBR (12 Wins) - WDC Vettel (11) 392 Points - 2nd McLaren / Button (3) 270
Seb comes into his own, completely hammering the competition.

2012 - McLaren / Ferrari / RBR - WDC Vettel (5 Wins) 281 Points - 2nd Ferrari / Alonso (3) 278
McLaren make a meal of their pitstops and Fernando takes point gathering to another level, but its not enough.

2013 - RBR (13 Wins) - WDC Vettel (13) 397 - 2nd Ferrari / Alonso (2) 242
Vettel and Red Bull put an exclamation point at the end of an era.

2014 - Mercedes
Paired a phenomenal power unit with an outstanding chassis. Lots to be settled here though!

So by my estimation 22 of the last 40 World Driver's Championships have been handily won by a single constructor. Only 4 of last 40 have been fought over by more than 2 constructors. Formula One is a sport that lends itself to domination. Often it's just one man in a team doing the dominating too. Once in a while you have a great teammate scrap like we do this year. And when you consider the massive Regulation change for 2014, it's no great surprise that one constructors solution has been better than the others. I don't see anything out of the ordinary in the past decade's pattern. And anybody professing to know exactly how 2015 will play out is pulling your leg. F1 can be completely unpredictable at times as well.
I thought this thread was going to be about sequences of four or the Cenozoic Era which as we all know is when Bernie Ecclestone was created..
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In 1998 McLaren came out of the gates with a bigger advantage than Mercedes have enjoyed this year. The Ferrari in Schumachers hands was often formidable, but the MP4-13 was the best car quite easily and showed the potential to dominate.

Although by the end of 2009 the RBR was indeed the fastest car, it was far too late, and there had been too many missed opportunities for a serious title challenge. And Barrichello showed that the BGP001 was still a race winning car in the second half of the season as he won twice. If Newey/RBR had started the season with a double-diffuser it's likely this season would have played out very differently though.

It's possible that Williams reliability and mistakes flattered Schumacher a bit in 1995, but I think Johnny Herbert might say the B195 was a pretty decent ride. Only 7 times in the history of the sport has a constructor won more than the 11 GP Benetton won in 1995.
I firmly believe that had the Brawn been developed with the backing of a full works operation and budget through the season, it would have been a very different story. That said, I do believe that the Red Bull should have been closer based on how things actually panned out, possibly Vettels lack of experience would have played a part.
Just as a complete aside, I read recently that the reason Rubens was faster than Jenson in the 2nd half of 2009 was that they changed the brakes on his car and all of a sudden he could drive it. I'll dig out the some more detail when I get home.
This season really looks like the prime example of a level playing field :whistle:

They all started with the same regulations and all the Merc Teams started with the same engines. In fact they all still have the same engines. Where Mercedes gained an advantage was on how they decided to package the engine, with the split-turbo concept. Add in season development and you would see the Mercs another 1 or 2 seconds up the road from their customer teams. Somebody once told me to be careful what I ask for, as I just might get it.
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Sorry to be an apologist, but although Reuben's did better in the second half of the season, race finishes, jb still finished ahead in more races. He was outperformed in Singapore and Britain, but Italy, and Japan he was right behind.
Barrichello was without question the better driver in the second half of 2009. After JB's magical 6 out of 7 run, Rubens outscored Jenson 42-34, out-qualifying him 9-1 in the process.
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