Where would Alonso stand in a rival's car?

F1 Shift.net

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I apologize in advance for the length of this post.

It's very clear the 2012 Formula 1 championship will be decided by consistency, from both the car, driver and team, not just outright speed. Despite being in a massively under performing car, Fernando Alonso sits atop the driver's championship standings by a very comfortable and equally impressive 20 points over his heavily favored rivals from Red Bull, McLaren, Lotus and Mercedes. Race after race Alonso has impressed and outperformed the F2012. Despite the great season he's had and a greatly improved car, how much better could he be sitting behind the wheel of one of his rivals? Now this is not the easiest theory to prove so I'll use two parts to bring my point across - numbers and opinion based on the eye test.

Let's start with the more difficult part to explain - the numbers. Here's the formula we created to help give us an idea of how Alonso could perform at another team. By taking the top scoring driver from each of Red Bull, McLaren, Lotus and Mercedes, comparing them to Alonso and using a lot of assumptions, we'll give Alonso points based on this assumed performance. Here's how the formula works: The average of Alonso's and his opponent's qualifying position minus Alonso's actual positions gained/lost per race tells us his assumed finishing place. We then take the points from that place, multiple it by the number of races completed by the team (minus any mechanical failures) and divide by to get his new points total.

First up: Red Bull and Mark Webber. We can assume Alonso's average qualifying position in the Red Bull would be 5th. It is also safe to assume Alonso continues to make up two places on the grid to finish with an average in third place. Red Bull as a team has finished 15 races (1 mechanical failure in Valencia) so we have 15 points X 15 races divided by 2 = 112.5 points, just two more points than he has actually scored this season with Ferrari. If Red Bull did not experience that odd alternator overheating issue, Alonso would be DOMINATING (think 2011 Vettel) the 2012 field. 2010 showed Red Bull can have a great car, but the mechanical failures can hurt the team greatly. Unfortunately for Red Bull, I think their car is closer to 2010 form than 2011 and currently only about 2% better performance wise than the Ferrari. That being said, upgrades can change that percentage quickly, especially with Adrian Newey at the drawing board.

Putting Alonso in a McLaren is a little harder to determine. Through the 8 races, the MP4-27 has been the cream of the crop, but HORRIBLE pit crew work has haunted the team at nearly every round. Because of that, I will assume the team is taking away 2 points from each race (it's probably closer to 3, but at the time of writing this I'm feeling uncharacteristically generous). Comparing Alonso to Lewis Hamilton we can assume his average qualifying position is also 5th with a finishing position of third. The McLaren's reliability has been okay (1 mechanical failure at Bahrain) so we again take 15 points X 15 races divided by two to give us the same 112.5 points. BUT, the pit crew being bad makes us assume a whopping 16 points will be taken away for a total of 96.5. This is 9 points more than Hamilton, but nearly 13% worse than the Ferrari F2012, all because of inconsistent pit stops.

When we put Alonso in the Lotus, we compare him to the 2007 World Champion, Kimi Raikkonen. Alonso's average qualifying position would be around 7th with a finishing position of around 5th for 10 points. The Lotus also experienced the same mechanical failure as the Red Bull. 10 points X 15 races divided by 2 gives Alonso 75, two points more than Kimi, but 32% worse than the F2012. The Lotus continues to impress with massive gains in performance, but this team is still a year away from winning the championship, even with Alonso on board.

Mercedes is another team with what could be a dominant car, but they are yet to fully put together a great weekend, including Nico Rosberg's win in China. Michael Schumacer has been plagued with bad luck and by only scoring 17 points through 8 races, we'll be using Nico Rosberg as the comparison. Alonso's average qualifying position again is 5th, with finishing at 3rd. 15 points X 14 races (2 mechanical failures for Schumacher) divided by 2 gives Alonso 105 points in the Merc. This is 30 points ahead of Rosberg, but still 5% worse than the F2012. Rosberg has been the "luckier" of the two Mercedes drivers, but I believe in 2012, Alonso creates his own luck.

So to recap, Alonso could be at nearly 113 points with Red Bull, nearly 97 with McLaren, 75 at Lotus and an impressive 105 with Mercedes. It sounds ridiculous than Alonso would be outperforming Mark Webber by 22 points, Lewis Hamilton by 9, Kimi Raikkonen by 2 and Nico Rosberg by 30. But if you watch what Alonso has done in 2012, it doesn't seem unrealistic at all. Alonso is a great driver, best currently in F1, and would help all four of these teams with fairly large gains. He will never be the fastest driver on the track, but is smart and consistent driving style (eerily similar to Alain Prost) works perfectly for the 2012 F1 season. What else does this tell us? In F1 2012, it's not all speed. It's a well rounded team consisting of a reliable car, quick pit work and smart driving that will bring home the World Championship. So far the team that fits the bill, is Ferrari with Fernando Alonso. The F2012 still needs to improve at each and every round, but with Alonso behind the wheel, maybe it's not as bad as we all think it is.
An excellent post.

Interesting that McLaren is so far behind Red Bull, and also that the Mercedes is actually a very good car that might be held back by it's drivers.

I see you're not counting incidents in races? (such as Hamilton-Maldonado in Valencia) I acknowledge that it would be hard to deem who is blame for an incident etc. However assuming it was Maldonado's fault in that incident than the story of Alonso at McLaren would look quite different. Is there no way of not including these incidents (unless it a one of the drivers who were being compared's fault)?
no-FIAt-please Thanks, I started looking into including all DNFs but I couldn't remember or find the driver at fault for each accident. I then figured it would be better put more of an emphasis on the safe/consistent driving that will win the championship this season.
Nice work! How about grid penalties due to team/mechanical failures? Hamilton, for example, was hit by having to start at the back of the grid in Spain and having a five place grid penalty due to a gearbox change in China. Are these taken in to account? I suspect it might bring Alonso and Hamilton closer together if not.
Basically, there are so many variables and many of these are human, of which the driver is only one. I think it is evident that in their current situations, both Lewis and Fernando are doing the best job of making the most of things. Would Fernando's head be in the right place at McLaren? Would Lewis be comfortable at Ferrari or Red Bull?

It is so difficult. The only conclusion I can make is that these two drivers in particular are doing an outstanding job and that the Ferrari team, of which Fernando is an employee, are doing the best job as collectively.
Basically, there are so many variables and many of these are human, of which the driver is only one. I think it is evident that in their current situations, both Lewis and Fernando are doing the best job of making the most of things. would Fernando's head be in the right place at McLaren. Would Lewis be comfortable at Ferrari or Red Bull?

It is so difficult. the only conclusion I can make is that these two drivers in particular are doing an outstanding job and that the Ferrari team, of which Fernando is an employee, are doing the best job as a team.

Exactly. These two guys are heads and shoulders above the rest of the field right now and are only been held down by things out of their control - Lewis's pit crew, Fernando's F2012 lack of performance.
As with all questions of this nature the answer a person arrives at is biased towards their own particular driver so it is best to take the points as they stand, because once you start trying to bring ifs and maybes into it, it just becomes an argument full of personal beliefs already people are saying yes but if it wasn't for this and if that hadn't have happened, for instance IF Michael Schumacher hadn't have had all his woes and misfortunes he would be up there at the top of the table with the others and maybe even leading it.

Then you would have to say that Maldonado has lost good points in Australia and Valencia which would move him up the table also every time a driver loses points another driver gains them that would have to factored in on top as well, you would have to decide where a driver would reasonably have been expected to finish if he hadn't have had penalties or a break down, obviously in the case of Valencia that would have been Vettel 1st and then Romain probably would have been second Kimi 3rd Alonso 4th Maldonado 5th Schumacher 6th Webber 7th possibly Rosberg 8th and Lewis probably 9th.

You would have to do this for all the races, some say that Lewis would have won in Spain if he hadn't have had his grid penalty but the fact is his lap times were so woefully slow compared to the front runners he probably would not have finished on the podium.

As with the butterfly effect one drivers misfortunes or good fortunes has an effect on all the other drivers I hope my post shows how futile it is to simply try and say yes but if this would have happened then so and so would be leading and not the driver who actually is leading. what we have are results the rest is just conjecture.

But as to the question I believe Alonso would be in about the same position he is in now no matter which of the other top teams he was driving for....
Alonso, might have been great this year, but I think we are overlooking another factor.

The Ferrari team.

They've not been the best in reliability, pitstops or strategies since Ross Brawn left (pitstops and strategies wise),but this year they've been exceptional in that area, they've may have built a radical car where it takes time to unlock its potential, but they've made up for it in every other aspect, apart from Canada.

If you put in Hamilton or Vettel in the Ferrari with the current Ferrari team, then i'm sure the results would be similar.

I really like what you have done here, but there are a lot of uncertainties.

What I find interesting in your post, is that Alonsk would have had 30 more points than Rosberg, and only 2 points more than Raikkonen. For the latter, for being out of the sport for two years after radical changes, is seriously not bad. Rosberg on the other hand, he's just been consistent, that's all, he didn't score in the first two races so that's probably hampered him.

As for Red Bull and McLaren, I would expect that margin, since their two best drivers have had some problems.

I know you've put a lot of effort into this, but it would be nice to see the qualifying positions and finishing positions to the drivers Alonso's compared :)
Slyboogy I could add in the other driver's qualy/finishing positions too, that would be cool. And yes, there are a lot of uncertainties and assumptions made. I slightly disagree that Vettel or Hamilton in the Ferrari would have similar results to Alonso. I think Hamilton could be close, but Vettel no. Don't get me wrong he's great when he has the best car on the grid, but when he has to work for it, he's not on their (Hamilton/Alonso) level.
Ah nice thanks :)

Well I've seen Vettel work for it this season, with his drives in Melbourne, Malaysia, Canada and in Spain after the drive through penalty he got, and would be leading the championship if his alternator didn't fail in Valencia alone, I would also add in Khartikeyan slicing his tyre in Malaysia, I think he's overlooked by people a lot, even by his peers.
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