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Wrapping up the Championships - The Importance of a Number 2

  • Published on 12 Sep 2015 21:36
  • comments 5
  • By: Matthew Gannon

It Takes Two - The Power of the Second Driver

There's a conundrum for team bosses when hiring drivers, firstly the team needs a front runner to challenge for the silverware over the 20 races, the second needs to be scoring enough to wrap up the constructors crown. Over the years we have seen a number of approaches, have two star drivers who both get involved in the title fight, or have one clear number 1 and a driver who plays second fiddle and yields when needed. 
Nelson Piquet is considered up there with the best drivers the sport has had, three times he has won the ultimate crown, whilst driving for Brabham in 1981 and 1983 Piquet was world champion, Brabham had a line up with a clear number two and Piquet the clear number one. This was clear was Williams in '81 and Ferrari in '83 won the constructors competition. The 1987 season however saw Piquet at Williams with Nigel Mansell, the pair collected a 1-2 in the championship and clearly the constructors also headed Williams's way. While operating a clear number two Brabham had just one title yet Williams had two marquee drivers and with it two championships. 
So the star driver is best, correct? Wrong, the relationship ended sour between Piquet and Mansell, so much so that Nelson left to join Lotus, a similar story happened the following season... And the year afterwards with arguably the most legendary partnership in Formula 1 history. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost at McLaren. Two legends of the sport, Senna the young upstart and Prost the wily old master. The two had a great battle in 1988, down to the final in Japan, Senna took the championship and again Prost in second which secured the constructors crown. The same thing happened again entering Japan in 1989, this time however the pair collided. Prost was out and Senna continued to victory making Senna champion again, but not for long, Prost who was Ferrari bound called an enquiry on his team mate who was subsequently disqualified handing Prost the championship and McLaren retained the constructors. 
1994 was known for two reasons, the fatal weekend in Imola which proved a tragic end to he careers of Roland Ratzenberger and the legendary Ayrton Senna, and the controversy surrounding Benetton's entrant for the season. This car may have won the title in the hands of German Michael Schumacher, a controversial man himself, but Benetton's second driver was nothing like a star, Jos Verstappen, J-J Letho and for the finale Johnny Herbert. The team lost the constructors championship to Williams who had the runner up Damon Hill in the car 0 and world champions in Senna and Mansell partnering the new boy [David] Coulthard in car 2 (car number 1 wasn't used as Alain Prost won the championship but had retired from the sport at the end of 1993). This plan won Williams the constructors championship and made it 3-0 to the star drivers and for the first time, the drivers remained friendly. 
1995 was both Williams and Benetton fielding a star driver and a less big name, Schumacher (Benetton) won the title from Hill (Williams), Coulthard (Williams) was third ahead of Herbert (Benetton). Schumacher accumulated enough of an advantage on points for Benetton to clinch the crown, the next time we saw this clash of stars Vs Number 1 & 2 was 1998, McLaren vs Ferrari, Hakkinen and Coulthard the stars of McLaren took on the mighty Michael Schumacher and his accomplice Eddie Irvine. Hakkinen took the drivers crown from Schumacher, Coulthard in third ahead of Irvine. This meant McLaren and the star drivers who the day. 
12 months later McLaren technically had the star drivers however it was clear Coulthard was behind Hakkinen in the pecking order. This however didn't pay off as the Irvine/Schumacher/Salo partnership won the race for the championship making the scores Star Drivers 4-1 Number 1&2. 
Fast forward to the dominant Ferrari years and everyone preferred the clear number 1&2 system, the next time we saw a battle was 2005 where McLaren stars Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya took to battle with Renault's eventual world champion Fernando Alonso and his new team mate Giancarlo Fisichella. A horrible run of early season luck and struggles to adapt from Williams to McLaren meant the constructors championship went to Renault, 4-2 now to the stars. 
2007, McLaren had reining double champion Fernando Alonso and rookie Lewis Hamilton, Ferrari had last seasons third place man Felipe Massa partnering fourth place and new acquisition from McLaren Kimi Raikkonen. Ferrari had the biggest stars but McLaren came out constructors champions, Kimi Raikkonen took the title by a single point over the joint second placed McLaren's of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, the British rookie was ahead on the placement ruling. Technically McLaren won the formula one championship with 218 points however due to the 'spygate' espionage scandal they were deducted 15 points before later being excluded. This meant Ferrari were champions however on points the McLaren drivers won the day, 4-3 to the star drivers. 
For 2008 the star drivers extended there lead in our fictional contest with Kimi Raikkonen comfortably beating fellow countryman Heikki Kovalainen, this was enough to counteract Ferrari compatriot Felipe Massa who trailed Kovalainen's team mate, the 2008 world champion, Lewis Hamilton by a mere 1 point. 
So the debate will always rage on, the more close you have your drivers on ability the more likely they will fall out, one we didn't mention was the friction between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, such incidents such as the British Grand Prix "not bad for a number 2" radio message and the disobeying of a "multi 21" order robbed Webber of victory, his best chance in his final season. Despite this having star drivers makes you 6-3 more likely to win the constructors championship than having a clear number 1 and number 2 yet having the two bigger drivers runs the risk of losing the drivers crown, on our featured examples the team with star drivers have won the drivers title 6 times and lost it 3 times (interestingly not the same 3 that lost the constructors title). So as a team boss there is not a simple solution but one thing is for sure, the more drama, the better it is for us watching at home.
Matthew Gannon 

Replies (5)

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  • Great article!

    • + 0
    • Sep 12 2015 - 22:47
  • TonyB

    Posts: 18

    I guess Mercedes have it just about right. Hamilton is very good when he is on song, but can be inconsistent. His team mate is usually VERY consistent and any error means the win goes Rosbergs way. This is just what a team manager needs, he would like 1-2 in every race, not just to win, but to get the maximum points because points converts to prize money, and they really care about the bottom line. It seems to me that team manager could care less about the Dricers Crown, they WANT the constructors Champinship. On reflection no other team in 2015 has such a finely balanced pair of drivers.....

    • + 0
    • Sep 13 2015 - 01:09
  • I agree but it's close, I think Ferrari also have a fantastic line up as well as Williams, I also think red bull would be good but Kvyat is too inconsistent for me

    • + 0
    • Sep 13 2015 - 09:39
  • Interesting article indeed, a number of good points. I personally think the 1-2 relation is flawed: several times, the number 2 driver has had a better season than the number 1, yet he has to yield his lead to the number 1 because of team orders.

    • + 0
    • Sep 13 2015 - 12:17
  • khasmir

    Posts: 893

    Nice article but takes a lot of reading ;)
    I think you just need to have the 2 best drivers that are available and within budget. And make sure they don't take each other out ;)

    • + 0
    • Sep 15 2015 - 19:54

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