What If….? The 8 Round Championship

Posted on April 2, 2020.

In these grim times, just for fun Nigel Bland (the hard work and the numbers) and Tony Cotton (the words) speculate on a shortened World Championship. Nigel asks us to add that he doesn’t necessarily share the writer’s opinions. 

The precautions concerning the Covid-19 virus have resulted in the non-running of all races until at least mid June. In a recent Daily Mail article, Bernie Ecclestone suggested that the economics are such that the postponements may put F1 under threat. The championship, if it does get off the ground in 2020, will be run over fewer rounds, which got our regular cerebral contributor Nigel Bland into thinking what would have happened if past years had been run to just the first 8 rounds. The results (shown in his spreadsheet below) are surprising, at times disappointing for Tifosi, and at other times a source of unalloyed joy.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, results are unchanged at first, since the championship started with  only 7 rounds in 1950 and ran until 1958 before it hit double figures when Mike Hawthorn won the championship for Ferrari after 11 rounds. The first time an 8 rounder would change the result would be  1964, which would be doubly sad because not only was John Surtees in a Ferrari, but also the classic quiz question of “Who won championships on 2 and 4 wheels?” would be lost.

Although the championship gradually grew in size, we have to wait another 12 years before an 8 round cut off changes the result. This time, it comes as no real surprise that Niki Lauda would win in 1976. He dominated the first half of the season until McLaren reverted to an older spec car, and of course with 8 rounds his round 10 Nurburgring accident would not have happened. A part of me does regret the loss of James Hunt as champion, partly because he’s a Brit. More importantly he was a character, and fun to watch on TV, even if I’m sure I wouldn’t have enjoyed his company.

If 1976 was not a shock, 1977 is for me. My recollection is of a dominant season by Lauda, and certainly a 17 point lead when winning with 72 points supports this. Yet after 8 rounds, Scheckter was ahead in the Wolf WR1 which almost inconceivably these days was a new car for a new team which won on its debut in Argentina – the last time this happened in F1. This design was by future Ferrari man Harvey Postlethwaite, and the WR1 is something of an unsung hero of F1. I also suspect that many would join me in wishing that Gilles Villeneuve was in the list, but even in his best year (1979), he wasn’t even close after 8.

Most of us of a certain age remember the 1980’s as an exciting time in F1. Whether that’s right or wrong, 1981 to 1985 have different results on the first 8 basis. Piquet loses 2 of his world championships, while Prost, considered at the time as a perennially unlucky second, gains a couple. It’s also good to see Reutemann and Watson getting a championship each. The best for Tifosi though must be 1985 when Alboreto, who in reality was scuppered by a succession of five successive non-finishes at the season end, pips Prost. Those with a good memory will recall the third of these at the Brands Hatch European GP, where Michele drove his 156/85 into the pits on fire, supposedly to indicate his displeasure. I have a friend in club racing who did the same in his Dallara, the difference being he didn’t realise it was on fire.

Although a Prost fan, I’m a bigger Senna fan so have no time for 1988  when the Frenchman demotes the Greatest Ever. However, the 1990’s section of the spreadsheet arguably remedies a couple of wrongs. The more serious one is that in 1990 Prost gets his deserved win, removing Senna’s victory due to deliberately driving Alain off in Japan. An unkind man once said that the 1997 “real” World Championship proved the existence of a deity with a mischievous sense of humour. How else, ignoring the input of messrs Head and Newey (sic – ed),  would Jacques Villeneuve have won? Though seeing him replaced by Schuey in an F310B brings mixed feelings after the latter’s controversial driving at Jerez.

10 years later, and everybody’s favourite grumpy Finn, Kimi Raikkonen, gets deposed by Hamilton. That’s not good, though to see Felipe Massa as 8 round Champion replacing Stevenage’s finest in 2008 does make up for it a bit. The Brasil race, with the premature celebration by Massa’s dad and the pass of Glock’s Toyota (“on the wrong tyres so Hamilton got past”)  still gives me nightmares.

Alonso was a driver whose record doesn’t reflect the level of his talent. It’s therefore good to see that one of the injustices of the sport is righted in 2012 as he deposes Vettel who lucked into the championship.  Seb’s overall record remains unchanged as the 8 round format gives him back a Ferrari  championship at Hamilton’s expense in 2017. Hamilton also loses out in 2014, giving Nico Rosberg a first championship. Possibly fair in the balance of the two Mercedes drivers, but was Nico better than Keke?

And so we have 17 changed results in 70 years, a 24% rate. Ferarri lose 3, but gain 7, and both Alonso and Vettel gain a Ferrari championship. Perhaps the idea of a shorter championship appeals.

Season Driver Constructor Engine Clinched No of Races 8 Round  Team
1950  Giuseppe Farina  Alfa Romeo Alfa Romeo 7 7 Farina Alfa Romeo
1951  Juan Manuel Fangio  Alfa Romeo Alfa Romeo 8 8 Fangio Alfa Romeo
1952  Alberto Ascari  Ferrari Ferrari 6 8 Ascari Ferrari
1953  Alberto Ascari  Ferrari Ferrari 8 9 Ascari Ferrari
1954  Juan Manuel Fangio  Maserati
7 9 Fangio Maserati
1955  Juan Manuel Fangio  Mercedes Mercedes 6 7 Fangio Mercedes
1956  Juan Manuel Fangio  Ferrari Ferrari 8 8 Fangio Ferrari
1957  Juan Manuel Fangio  Maserati Maserati 6 8 Fangio Maserati
1958  Mike Hawthorn  Ferrari Ferrari 11 11 Hawthorn Ferrari
1959  Jack Brabham  Cooper Climax 9 9 Brabham Cooper
1960  Jack Brabham  Cooper Climax 8 10 Brabham Cooper
1961  Phil Hill  Ferrari Ferrari 7 8 Hill (P) Ferrari
1962  Graham Hill  BRM BRM 9 9 Hill BRM
1963  Jim Clark  Lotus Climax 7 10 Clark Lotus
1964  John Surtees  Ferrari Ferrari 10 10 Hill BRM
1965  Jim Clark  Lotus Climax 7 10 Clark Lotus
1966  Jack Brabham  Brabham Repco 7 9 Brabham Brabham
1967  Denny Hulme  Brabham Repco 11 11 Hulme Brabham
1968  Graham Hill  Lotus Ford 12 12 Hill Lotus
1969  Jackie Stewart  Matra Ford 8 11 Stewart Matra
1970  Jochen Rindt  Lotus Ford 12 13 Rindt Lotus
1971  Jackie Stewart  Tyrrell Ford 8 11 Stewart Tyrrell
1972  Emerson Fittipaldi  Lotus Ford 10 12 Fittipaldi Lotus
1973  Jackie Stewart  Tyrrell Ford 13 15 Stewart Tyrrell
1974  Emerson Fittipaldi  McLaren Ford 15 15 Fittipaldi McLaren
1975  Niki Lauda  Ferrari Ferrari 13 14 Lauda Ferrari
1976  James Hunt  McLaren Ford 16 16 Lauda Ferrari
1977  Niki Lauda  Ferrari Ferrari 15 17 Scheckter Wolf
1978  Mario Andretti  Lotus Ford 14 16 Andretti Lotus
1979  Jody Scheckter  Ferrari Ferrari 13 15 Scheckter Ferrari
1980  Alan Jones  Williams Ford 13 14 Jones Williams
1981  Nelson Piquet  Brabham Ford 15 15 Reutemann Williams
1982  Keke Rosberg  Williams Ford 16 16 Watson McLaren
1983  Nelson Piquet  Brabham BMW 15 15 Prost Renault
1984  Niki Lauda  McLaren TAG 16 16 Prost McLaren
1985  Alain Prost  McLaren TAG 14 16 Alboretto Ferrari
1986  Alain Prost  McLaren TAG 16 16 Prost McLaren
1987  Nelson Piquet  Williams Honda 15 16 Piquet Williams
1988  Ayrton Senna  McLaren Honda 15 16 Prost McLaren
1989  Alain Prost  McLaren Honda 15 16 Prost McLaren
1990  Ayrton Senna  McLaren Honda 15 16 Prost Ferrari
1991  Ayrton Senna  McLaren Honda 15 16 Senna McLaren
1992  Nigel Mansell  Williams Renault 11 16 Mansell Williams
1993  Alain Prost  Williams Renault 14 16 Prost Williams
1994  Michael Schumacher  Benetton Ford 16 16 Schumacher Benetton
1995  Michael Schumacher  Benetton Renault 15 17 Schumacher Benetton
1996  Damon Hill  Williams Renault 16 16 Hill Williams
1997  Jacques Villeneuve  Williams Renault 17 17 Schumacher Ferrari
1998  Mika Häkkinen  McLaren Mercedes 16 16 Hakkinen McLaren
1999  Mika Häkkinen  McLaren Mercedes 16 16 Hakkinen McLaren
2000  Michael Schumacher  Ferrari Ferrari 16 17 Schumacher Ferrari
2001  Michael Schumacher  Ferrari Ferrari 13 17 Schumacher Ferrari
2002  Michael Schumacher  Ferrari Ferrari 11 17 Schumacher Ferrari
2003  Michael Schumacher  Ferrari Ferrari 16 16 Schumacher Ferrari
2004  Michael Schumacher  Ferrari Ferrari 14 18 Schumacher Ferrari
2005  Fernando Alonso  Renault Renault 17 19 Alonso Renault
2006  Fernando Alonso  Renault Renault 18 18 Alonso Renault
2007  Kimi Räikkönen  Ferrari Ferrari 17 17 Hamilton McLaren
2008  Lewis Hamilton  McLaren Mercedes 18 18 Massa Ferrari
2009  Jenson Button  Brawn Mercedes 16 17 Button Brawn
2010  Sebastian Vettel  Red Bull Renault 19 19 Hamilton McLaren
2011  Sebastian Vettel  Red Bull Renault 15 19 Vettel Red Bull
2012  Sebastian Vettel  Red Bull Renault 20 20 Alonso Ferrari
2013  Sebastian Vettel  Red Bull Renault 16 19 Vettel Red Bull
2014  Lewis Hamilton  Mercedes Mercedes 19 19 Rosberg Mercedes
2015  Lewis Hamilton  Mercedes Mercedes 16 19 Hamilton Mercedes
2016  Nico Rosberg  Mercedes Mercedes 21 21 Rosberg Mercedes
2017  Lewis Hamilton  Mercedes Mercedes 18 20 Vettel Ferrari
2018  Lewis Hamilton  Mercedes Mercedes 19 21 Hamilton Mercedes
2019  Lewis Hamilton  Mercedes Mercedes 19 21 Hamilton Mercedes

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