Lewis Hamilton secured his 50th Grand Prix Victory with a dominant performance over the USGP weekend. Everything went right for the British driver after tough races in Malaysia and Japan as he secured pole, got off the line strongly and managed the leading margin throughout the race.
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 23, 2016
But mechanical issues from earlier in the season have made it mathematically unlikely for him to secure a fourth world title – If Rosberg’s luck with a lack of attrition continues. While Hamilton has suffered engine failures in Qualifying for China and Russia, a related grid penalty that saw him start from the back of the grid at Spa and the dramatic failure in Malaysia, Rosberg has only endured a gearbox glitch that still saw him finish on the podium at Silverstone.
In a Utopian Formula One season, attrition and mechanical failure wouldn’t be a Championship defining factor, but this can be the case in Motor racing of any form. The comparisons in recent weeks between the Hamilton/Rosberg rivalry and the 1976 battle between Hunt and Lauda is fitting in this sense. Hunt suffered more retirements than Lauda despite the Austrian’s horrific crash at the German Grand Prix and went on the win the title by a single point. However, had Lauda not had the mid-season crash, he would have competed in the following races at the Osterreichring and circuit Zandvoort and probably won the title in ’76. Had Hunt not suffered a heavy bout of mechanical failures early on, his winning margin would have been greater than a single point.
Ifs and buts don’t cut it though and even Lewis Hamilton has adopted this outlook. He can only speculate on Rosberg’s mechanical luck without scorn, but intrigue. We all want to see both drivers fighting for the title in a fight that isn’t defined by mechanical shortcomings and Hamilton said after the race that,
“I don’t have the championships I have through luck. This is not my 50th win through luck. It is a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication from lots and lots of people but also from me. I feel great with the work we collectively did this weekend and I hope we can continue to do this moving forward.
Not many seasons there can be 100% reliability on a car. Will that be the case on Nico’s? I guess time will tell. I can’t get fixated on that. I just have to focus on mine.
I am hoping that for these last three races I have 100% reliability. That would be a breath of fresh air and I will try to utilise that opportunity with driving as I did today.”
– Lewis Hamilton
— Nico Rosberg (@nico_rosberg) October 23, 2016
The segment of his following who continue to accuse Mercedes of the staggeringly ill-founded Germanic conspiracy are experiencing the bitterness of a lack of luck for their driver. The reality is that Mercedes would benefit more from Hamilton winning a fourth title from a commercial perspective and a mild tension between the three-time World Champion and the team continued this weekend.
After the race, Hamilton and Toto Wolff conflicted on Hamilton suffering a loss of engine power, with Hamilton claiming that they lost around 1.8s throughout the race and Wolff denying any issue at all.
This is because the team know, as well as Hamilton does, that mechanical failures have probably cost him the title, which is a shame and only that. It’s hard to justify attributing blame to Nico Rosberg for this. He’s had to be there to pick up the points on the five occasions in a twenty-one race season that Hamilton has suffered attrition.
The gap: 26 points.
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 24, 2016
Despite the themes of “advantage Rosberg” this season, the next three races are critical for both drivers. Should Hamilton retire from the next race and Rosberg win, it’s game over for the Brit. But as Hamilton points out, it’s a rarity for a driver to avoid issues throughout an entire season. If Rosberg retires from the next race and Hamilton wins, we have an exciting two-race season in which the Silver Arrows drivers would be separated by a single point heading to Brazil.