Sunday, July 31, 2011
Lewis Hamilton's Garden of Forking Paths
It's often said that there are more ways to lose a Grand Prix than to win one, and the diagram here makes that explicit.
Lewis Hamilton lost the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday primarily as a result of the tyre-choice made at the third pit-stop. Leading the race from Jenson Button and Sebastien Vettel, Lewis took his third set of options, while Jenson and Sebastien took a set of the harder, prime tyres. With thirty laps to the end of the race, Hamilton would require another pitstop, whereas Button and Vettel wouldn't. That decision alone restricted Hamilton to third place, at best.
The subsequent drive-through penalty and stop for intermediate tyres merely reduced Lewis's highest possible finishing position to 4th, which he duly achieved after passing Webber.
The diagram here demonstrates twelve possible paths through the last thirty laps of the race. Branches to the left constitute errors. The branch furthermost to the left is the one actually followed, while the branch furthermost to the right is the one for which victory would have been most likely. All the other branches, with one exception, lead to an eventual 3rd or 4th place.
The one exceptional case corresponds to the scenario in which Lewis took primes at the third pit-stop, but still spun, and lost the lead to Jenson on the damp track-surface. If Lewis had avoided a drive-through penalty, he would then have finished either 2nd behind Jenson, or perhaps even have retaken the lead. Whether Lewis could have made a set of primes last thirty laps, however, is unknown.