Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Formula One: Elo Ratings, Post-Spanish Grand Prix

The 2016 Spanish Grand Prix will be remembered for two things: Max Verstappen shattering the record for the youngest driver to ever win a grand prix, and the Mercedes drivers colliding in turn four and taking each other out of the race.

Max Verstappen claims his maiden victory
Once Mercedes was out this looked like Ferrari -- the #2 team in the Elo ratings -- would finally get a chance to claim a 1-2 finish. The Red Bull drivers of Ricciardo and Verstappen were in the mix, but everyone expected Vettel and Raikkonen to outpace the Red Bull pair. Both teams ended up going for a split strategy, as Verstappen and Raikkonen opted for two stops while Ricciardo and Vettel made three. The two-stop strategy proved to be the winner, as Verstappen held off Raikkonen for 30 laps.

Rank+/-Driver TeamRating+/-
1 -- RosbergMercedes 1737 --
2 -- VettelFerrari 1467 -3
3 -- RaikkonenFerrari 1461 +17
4 -- HamiltonMercedes 1416 --
5 -- RicciardoRed Bull 1346 +3
6 +1 VerstappenRed Bull 1316 +71
7 -1 BottasWilliams 1295 -5
8 +1 Sainz Jr.Toro Rosso 1128 +23
9 -1 PerezForce India 1121 +5
10 -- MassaWilliams 1095 -8
11 +1 AlonsoMcLaren 1046 --
12 -1 KvyatToro Rosso 1023 -28
13 -- HulkenbergForce India 1018 --
14 -- ButtonMcLaren 989 +3
15 -- GrosjeanHaas 949 --
16 -- MagnussenRenault 818 -69
17 -- GutierrezHaas 791 +21
18 +1 EricssonSauber 722 +20
19 -1 PalmerRenault 721 -1
20 -- NasrSauber 637 --
21 -- WehrleinManor 561 -22
22 -- HaryantoManor 501 -31

The (obvious) big winner in the ratings was Verstappen, pulling almost level with his teammate on only his first outing. Verstappen's former teammate, Carlos Sainz Jr., also had a strong race, finishing sixth. As big as Verstappen's boost was from winning, Kevin Magnussen's drop was as large from finishing 15th after causing a collision with his teammate.

Speaking of causing collisions ... let's talk Mercedes for a minute. Both drivers got a great start off the line, but Rosberg managed to draft Hamilton down the long straight and make an amazing pass on the outside of turn one. From there it appears that Rosberg bungled his engine settings, giving Hamilton a 17 kph speed advantage coming out of turn three.

The above video shows the collision. The race stewards determined this to be a racing incident, with neither driver at fault. Hamilton appeared to be more accepting of the stewards' decision than Rosberg, but perhaps that's just because he's gotten more practice at dealing with bad luck this season. Both live and after-the-fact, I was of the opinion that Rosberg cut across too late and too aggressively, forcing Hamilton off the track even after the Brit had pulled alongside the German.

Screenshot from YouTube video of the collision.
Hamilton is alongside Rosberg, but Rosberg continues to veer right.

In the end what's done is done, and Mercedes will have to continue to manage their drivers. Qualifying showed that the team still has a sizable advantage in pace over the rest of the field, they just need to tamp down on the bad starts and the bad luck. This weekend proved, at least, that they may have a handle on the former. We'll need to wait another ten days to see if they've done anything about the latter.