“I hope the team provides me with reliability the way they do with the other car,” a defeated Lewis Hamilton stated when speaking with Sky Sports F1 yesterday.
The Briton has clearly cited his unreliability this season as the main reason for losing the title to teammate Nico Rosberg. Three headline car failures this year have unquestionably hindered him, with the most significant failure coming in October’s Malaysian Grand Prix, where he retired from the lead resulting in a 28 point championship swing from which he never recovered.
However, Hamilton is missing the bigger picture. Here’s why it’s more than just reliability that dashed his 2016 title hopes.
Start procedures in 2016 were a big talking point. Previously, the launch had been governed by a duel clutch mechanism, but in a bid to induce more race start unpredictability, the FIA introduced a single clutch system for this season.
Mercedes, and Hamilton in particular, clearly struggled to come to terms with this change. While Rosberg struggled off the line in Australia and Germany, Hamilton endured disastrous starts in four races, causing an enormous points swing to his rival in the final assessment.
Bahrain evidently stands out on the above graph. While it was contact with Valtteri Bottas that heavily compromised his race, it was a terrible launch from pole position that ultimately put him in the infamous “Carbon Fibre Zone” at the apex of turn one.
In Italy, Hamilton was the class of the field throughout Friday and Saturday. One of his most dominant qualifying performances should have led to a comfortable 25 point haul on Sunday. Yet another 7 points dropped as he recovered to second, while Rosberg won at a canter; a 14 point swing.
Let’s not forget, Rosberg won every single race where Hamilton started poorly.
In total, it is likely that Hamilton dropped 27 points due to poor starts – two more than were lost in Malaysia – and suffered a 45 point swing to Rosberg in the championship as a result.
Had Hamilton nailed just one of those four aforementioned starts, he would have won the championship with his victory yesterday.
Moreover, the Englishman had two weekends where he was fairly anonymous. In Baku, Hamilton had a dreadful Saturday, with mistakes littering his Q1 and Q2 sessions, before he hit the wall in Q3, breaking his suspension and leaving himself tenth on the grid. Given his sketchy first handful of runs in qualifying, it was an accident waiting to happen.
Singapore was a very similar story. Rosberg was in a different league all weekend and Hamilton never managed to find top gear. In the race, he was outclassed by even Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull and very nearly beaten by Kimi Raikkonen as well.
Consistent in 2016, Hamilton was not.
I’m not saying that unreliability made no difference. Malaysia left an enormous chasm in Hamilton’s title bid, but if he had consistently aced those scenarios within his control, then Rosberg’s task in Abu Dhabi would have been a very different one.