Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Formula One: Elo Ratings, Post-Chinese Grand Prix

A few years ago Bernie Eccelstone floated the idea of ringing the track with sprinklers, which would randomly turn on during the race. The idea was to shake up the ordering and introduce a degree of randomness that would confound the drivers and strategists. While we didn't get an unforeseen rainstorm or "accidental" car into the wall, we did get the next best thing: six different teams placed cars in the top ten on the grid, with Lewis Hamilton getting relegated to the back of the grid due to technical issues.

This lead to a memorable start.

Pictured: A whole lotta oops.
Vettel and Raikkonen collided in the first corner, while Felipe Nasr slammed into Hamilton while trying to avoid Raikkonen as the Ferrari came back onto the track. By the end of the first lap, Raikkonen, Romain Grosjean, Hamilton, and Nasr all had to pit for new front wings, leaving the track scattered with debris. Race leader Daniel Ricciardo became a victim of this debris, picking up a puncture on the back straight and getting quickly overtaken by Rosberg. By that point the FIA decided that enough was enough, and sent out the safety car to give track workers a chance to clear some debris.

In the end Rosberg had a clear path to victory, while Vettel, Daniil Kvyat, and Ricciardo worked their way back up to the front of the pack. Hamilton was saddled with a damaged underbody and limped home to seventh place.

Rank+/-Driver TeamRating+/-
1 -- RosbergMercedes 1715 +35
2 +1 VettelFerrari 1471 +53
3 +1 RaikkonenFerrari 1429 +21
4 +1 RicciardoRed Bull 1397 +89
5 -3 HamiltonMercedes 1335 -339
6 +6 KvyatRed Bull 1224 +203
7 -1 MassaWilliams 1211 -3
8 -1 BottasWilliams 1187 +28
9 -1 VerstappenToro Rosso 1159 +32
10 -- Sainz Jr.Toro Rosso 1129 +58
11 +4 PerezForce India 1020 +146
12 -1 HulkenbergForce India 1006 -53
13 +4 AlonsoMcLaren 930 +101
14 -- ButtonMcLaren 928 +44
15 -6 GrosjeanHaas 922 -187
16 -3 VandoorneMcLaren 901 --
17 +1 GutierrezHaas 819 +17
18 +1 EricssonSauber 818 +21
19 -3 MagnussenRenault 809 -50
20 +2 NasrSauber 694 -7
21 -- WehrleinManor 687 -51
22 -2 PalmerRenault 673 -115
23 -- HaryantoManor 594 -44

Between his last-place start due to technical failures and his seventh-place finish due to a damaged car, Hamilton has a disastrous weekend in our ratings. Grosjean saw his luck finally run out, as his 19th place finish dropped him six places in our ratings. On the flip side, Kvyat finally jumped back into the top ten, with teammate Ricciardo nipping at the heels of the Ferrari teammates.

Rosberg continues his climb back up the ratings, achieving his highest score since the end of the 2015 season: a 1723 at Abu Dhabi. He's been aided by some mistakes by Hamilton -- poor starts at Bahrain and Australia -- and some rough luck for Hamilton -- getting shoved wide by Rosberg in Australia, and getting slammed into by Bottas in Bahrain and Nasr in China -- but has parlayed some great racing and that luck into his largest championship lead ever, at 36 points.

Rosberg's lead of 244 points in the Elo ratings is the largest gap between first and second since Hamilton held a 252 point advantage over Vettel after last year's Japanese Grand Prix, 1746 to 1493. While it's unlikely that Hamilton's luck will continue to be as bad as it has these last few races, he's currently six 1-2 finished behind Rosberg in the standings.

Further down the field, it'll be interesting to see if the championship points will eventually start to reflect the Elo standings. Right now the constructors standings is Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, Williams, Haas, Toro Rosso, Force India, and then McLaren. With the exception of an oddly out-of-place Hamilton -- the ratings currently can't distinguish between a mechanical failure and a performance failure in qualifying -- Elo has a slightly different picture of the teams at this point: Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, Williams, Toro Rosso, Force India, McLaren, and then Haas. Sauber, Renault, and Manor are all at or below rookie-level quality.

Will Haas continue to overperform in the points standings? Can Williams continue to stay ahead of Toro Rosso? How long will it take for Hamilton to climb back into the top two of the Elo ratings? We'll find out more this weekend in Russia.