When did the modern champions decline?

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Johnson
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When did the modern champions decline?

Post by Johnson »

Decline can be aging, life circumstance, motivation, decisions, race craft, speed etc etc

Rosberg - Never since he retired at 31

Vettel - Very hard to say and his low points seem quite circumstantial. He is still only 33 and arguably has not declined yet or you could say around 2019 at age 31. How this year continues will give a good indication.

Button - He raced until age 37 but I am not sure where he dropped off if at all. Also hard as he was partnered with an aging Alonso. Although I do not have much data or memory of his later years.

Hamilton - Age 36 now and moving toward the twilight of his career, no obvious signs of diminishing but has had the luxury of a great car for 2019 and 2020 so possibly it is occurring.

Raikkonen - I think he has definitely fallen away the last 2 seasons, especially this one at age 41. He turns 42 this year, Schumacher retired at 41 for reference. Arguably was never the same driver after leaving Mclaren.

Alonso - he said himself he felt he was slowly down before his years off. It is so hard to tell again with many circumstances but I never noticed any decline. He turns 40 this month.

Hakkinen - The title fights of 1998-2000 took it out of him and after 4 DNFs in the first 6 races in 2001 he was down motivationally, had a young family and some big accidents in his career too. Aged just 31.

JV - Never looked the same after 2003 when Button beat him (aged 33)

Hill - Checked out mid season in 1999 aged (surprisingly 39). Credit to Hill, he was still pretty strong over 97 and 98 aged 37-38.

Schumacher - to me, he never appeared to decline in his Ferrari career. Although his absolute peak was 1994-2001, its much harder to showcase your talent when you are in the best car which coincided with the end of his Ferrari career (similar to Hamilton). The returning Schumacher (aged 39) was not the same for various reasons (neck injury, different cars, tyres, age etc).

Which raises the question, how long can an F1 driver stay at the top of their game? It seems to be around age 35-36

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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by A.J. »

Johnson wrote:
Tue Jun 15, 2021 1:07 pm

Raikkonen - I think he has definitely fallen away the last 2 seasons, especially this one at age 41. He turns 42 this year, Schumacher retired at 41 for reference. Arguably was never the same driver after leaving Mclaren.

Schumacher - to me, he never appeared to decline in his Ferrari career. Although his absolute peak was 1994-2001, its much harder to showcase your talent when you are in the best car which coincided with the end of his Ferrari career (similar to Hamilton). The returning Schumacher (aged 39) was not the same for various reasons (neck injury, different cars, tyres, age etc).
Schumacher is born on Jan 3, 1969 - which would make him 41 when he returned to the sport, and 43 (almost 44) when he retired again. Even at that age he was showing flashes of speed, so if we use him as a reference Kimi might still have a couple of good years left in him (although I think Kimi went past his peak a few years ago already).

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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by Delphic »

Today's athletes have more longevity than the older ones, I would say even compared to the athletes of 2000s. Diet and training is much different than what it used to be 10-15 years back.

That being said, I think the average age a F1 driver may start declining today is once he crosses 35. Hamilton may not be showing those signs, yet this season, but if the title battle stays close for the next 5-6 races we will see that age effect. That's why I feel that Max will win the WDC title this year. If it was Hamilton of 2017 I would have put my money on LH though.

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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by Tufty »

I'm going to preface this by echoing what Delphic said in their first paragraph. Training especially has made a huge difference to how/when athletes in general decline.

Let's start with Hamilton. I actually think his raw speed is already declining, but it's countered by just how complete a driver he is. I do wonder if Bottas would stand a chance of outqualifying the Hamilton of 2008.

Rosberg never really declined on track, he retired at the top of his game. I'd suggest his time in retirement has done more harm to his form than natural decline would/likely has.

Vettel is a strange one. I don't for a second believe he suddenly fell off a performance cliff in 2014, but it clearly messed with his head. 2017/18 showed what he could do still, but once they brought Leclerc in the writing was on the wall and he became desperate to retain #1 status. This year he seems to be struggling more with the car than with his own abilities, as shown by his points in Monaco and Baku.

Button is very difficult to assess. Overall he performed about as people expected against Hamilton - very well, but Hamilton's ceiling and adaptability was always superior, although Hamilton fell apart mentally at times, especially in 2011. After Lewis defected to Merc, Button had a few teammates who are very difficult to place. Magnussen and Perez were/are both very solid drivers, as shown by subsequent success elsewhere. Button broadly had the measure of them, maybe a little less so against Magnussen. I'm inclined to say that against Magnussen is where his form started to slip. I realise he was broadly on par with Alonso, I'll explain that in more detail later.

Raikkonen lost motivation after emulating Hunt. He was fearsome in 2003, solid but a bit lucky in 2007, and after that was basically the number 2 driver to Massa. Felipe is a good driver, but not so good that Kimi should have been behind him at any point. Once he was paid to not race, the writing was on the wall. Last year and especially this, he proved he's past it. The rookie mistake of not looking where he was going in Portugal highlights this better than anything, but although he had moments of greatness (including podiums and wins for Lotus) since his rally-rolling experiment, he was never really the driver he used to be.

Alonso is one of the enigmas of modern F1. Full of talent, but no concept of how to maintain a team's loyalty. Abandoned Renault multiple times, helped implode McLaren, failed to take the title for Ferrari in arguably the equal best car in 2012, and finally offended Honda and McLaren to such a degree that neither team nor driver could use Honda power in Indycar or F1. The lack of focus on a single series, and his time away from F1, have definitely dented his raw ability, but arguably his decline came after 2012. He never fought for a title after that, which was in part due to the RB9 and partly due to Ferrari failing to make the most of the 2014 rules, but he also seemed to gradually lose interest at the same time.

Schumacher. He never declined on track, his decline happened in his forced retirement. The return with Mercedes was understandable but a disaster as a result.

Hakkinen probably wouldn't have declined when he did if he wasn't utterly fatigued after 2 intense title fights, but I doubt he'd have lasted at his best form until Schumacher retired anyway. The controversial answer for Mika would be that his decline was actually very abrupt, and happened in a runoff in Adelaide. It's been noted that after that crash, he lost his edge somewhat. The 1996/7 McLarens weren't exactly world-beaters so it's very hard to say for sure, but it's definitely a factor to consider.

I'm not convinced Villeneuve was ever that good, he just gradually got found out over the years. When he went part time that was the end of his career, and of course that affected his form. Someone mentioned 2003 above but I think that's more a sign that Button was maturing than Villeneuve was declining.

Hill is the last driver I can really comment on, anyone earlier I haven't watched enough of their career to say. I think it's very clear that it was motivation that dropped before ability, but 1999 was definitely the year that happened.
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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by KingVoid »

Schumacher peaked from 1994-2001, but around 2003 the first cracks began to appear. Then when he lost to Alonso in 2006, the decline was evident.

Alonso - very difficult to say because he spent the last two years of his first career alongside Vandoorne, who was never tested against anyone but Alonso.

Hamilton - his absolute peak was 2018, but as it stands he still seems to be driving at an elite level today with no signs of a decline relative to Bottas (in terms of speed).

Vettel - has always been a flawed driver, but that mistake at Germany 2018 really accelerated his decline. Over the next 18 months or so, he would go on to make 8 major mistakes which is just ridiculous.

Raikkonen - had a short peak from 2003 to 2006, declined when Michelin left the sport. Even in 2007, he was only marginally better than Massa at best.

Button - his final year was very poor

Hakkinen - in his final year

Hill - same as Mika and JB

Villeneuve - 2003 was the year when his stock truly took a nosedive

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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by Exediron »

This is an interesting thread, and I'll try to give my own opinion later. But I couldn't pass this nitpick up first...
Tufty wrote:
Tue Jun 15, 2021 2:20 pm
After Lewis defected to Merc, Button had a few teammates who are very difficult to place. Magnussen and Perez were/are both very solid drivers, as shown by subsequent success elsewhere. Button broadly had the measure of them, maybe a little less so against Magnussen. I'm inclined to say that against Magnussen is where his form started to slip. I realise he was broadly on par with Alonso, I'll explain that in more detail later.
It's an urban legend that Button beat Perez more comfortably than Magnussen. In reality, Button was closely matched by Perez (particularly in the second half of 2013) and comfortably dominated Magnussen.
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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by Tufty »

Exediron wrote:
Tue Jun 15, 2021 6:38 pm
This is an interesting thread, and I'll try to give my own opinion later. But I couldn't pass this nitpick up first...
Tufty wrote:
Tue Jun 15, 2021 2:20 pm
After Lewis defected to Merc, Button had a few teammates who are very difficult to place. Magnussen and Perez were/are both very solid drivers, as shown by subsequent success elsewhere. Button broadly had the measure of them, maybe a little less so against Magnussen. I'm inclined to say that against Magnussen is where his form started to slip. I realise he was broadly on par with Alonso, I'll explain that in more detail later.
It's an urban legend that Button beat Perez more comfortably than Magnussen. In reality, Button was closely matched by Perez (particularly in the second half of 2013) and comfortably dominated Magnussen.
I've checked my stats again from 2013/14 and yes, you're right.

Button lost to Perez 6 times in 19 races, in one of which he followed Checo home. Checo in turn was on his tail twice.

He lose to Magnussen 3 times, one of which he follow K-Mag home and Kevin in turn was only just behind him once too.

I'll amend that then to Jenson declining during his partnership with Alonso, but exactly when is difficult to ascertain given what I said about Alonso. Thanks for the correction!
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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by pokerman »

Tufty wrote:
Tue Jun 15, 2021 7:20 pm
Exediron wrote:
Tue Jun 15, 2021 6:38 pm
This is an interesting thread, and I'll try to give my own opinion later. But I couldn't pass this nitpick up first...
Tufty wrote:
Tue Jun 15, 2021 2:20 pm
After Lewis defected to Merc, Button had a few teammates who are very difficult to place. Magnussen and Perez were/are both very solid drivers, as shown by subsequent success elsewhere. Button broadly had the measure of them, maybe a little less so against Magnussen. I'm inclined to say that against Magnussen is where his form started to slip. I realise he was broadly on par with Alonso, I'll explain that in more detail later.
It's an urban legend that Button beat Perez more comfortably than Magnussen. In reality, Button was closely matched by Perez (particularly in the second half of 2013) and comfortably dominated Magnussen.
I've checked my stats again from 2013/14 and yes, you're right.

Button lost to Perez 6 times in 19 races, in one of which he followed Checo home. Checo in turn was on his tail twice.

He lose to Magnussen 3 times, one of which he follow K-Mag home and Kevin in turn was only just behind him once too.

I'll amend that then to Jenson declining during his partnership with Alonso, but exactly when is difficult to ascertain given what I said about Alonso. Thanks for the correction!
Button started declining after he announced his retirement in 2016 just past the halfway point of the season, he later admitted it was a mistake because he immediately lost motivation, it wasn't really an age thing as such he just lost motivation, I don't think that a physical decline in F1 happens overnight.

It seems to me that a good portion of drivers lose motivation round about 37/38, that could also be related to a feeling of being past your physical best. I suspect you start to physically decline after 35 but it's a very slow process.

The thing is can you put a number on it that corresponds to it being obviously noticeable, 40 seems a convenient cut off point for me, Kimi at 41 seems to be in decline certainly in qualifying being 3 tenths down on Giovinazzi, Schumacher in his 40s certainly was past his best, you see very few F1 drivers go on into their 40s.
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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by wire2004 »

To be fair. 2006 Schumacher was still a world beater. The retirement in japan destroyed the championship he was hunting and may of won from alonso in 2006.

I think it's been said many times on here that Schumacher would of romped to the title possibly in 2007 and deffo in 2008. He would be just too consistent. And with alonso and hamilton at loggerheads with each other. And michael knowing the car better than kimi would. I would hazard a guess that Michael would of nicked 2007 stealing a couple of the wins lewis and alonso had in 2007. And obliterated hamilton in 2008. With how inconsistent both hamilton and Massa were in 2008. Schumacher would NOT have made the same mistakes that both Hamilton and Massa made throughout the year. Take the simple error massa had at Singaporewith the fuel pump that would never have happened if it was michael. Michael would not have spun 36 times at Silverstone like massa did and may of well won the race instead of hamilton. Michael would probably of retired at the end of 2008 as a 9 time champion and probably the magical 100 wins that we are expecting hamilton to reach within the next few races. Also knowing that. we probably wouldn't have had his mercedes career in 2010 - 2012.

On another note. Some of the other drivers you mentioned.
Damon Hill. Silverstone 1999 was the turning point. I think he even referenced it himself.
Mike hakkinen. Spain 2001. That last lap retirement just finnished him off.
Jacques Villeneuve. Hype train left the building when he went to launch BAR in 1999.
Jenson Button. His return to Alonso's seat didnt help him. But he probably got out of the sport at the right time.
Fernando alonso. He has stated his performance was declining in his final year in 2018. But I wouldn't put that down to performance and more to motivation. He just lost intrest with the sport in 2018. Time will tell at alpine if he can keep up.with ocon.
Kimi Raikkonen. He should of gotten out when he left ferrari. He reminds me of piquet with regards to his last win. (Piquet knew his time was up when Michael came in and immediately beat him). And patrese in sticking around too long. (1993 in the bennetton)
And sebastian Vettel. Difficult. Is he actually that good. He is kinda like villeneuve. As soon as danny Ric came in. He was beat and he jumped. And as soon as leclerc came in. He got beat and he jumped. He never really stayed to compete with a team mate for a second season after losing the preceding season. Massa was never at the same level. (Which is why I think schumi would of destroyed hamilton in 2008) and kimi was coming in as a safe pair of hands to partner ferraris number 1.
Nico Rosberg. Couldn't handle the pressure of Hamilton. The title battles between the Mercedes drivers in 2014-2016 would of retired most of the field after they won it. With the exception being kimi as he doesnt give a rats pickle and wouldn't have gotten in on the mind games. And Michael at his peak as he did the exact same things hamilton would of done mind game wise. I discount seb as he would never be a team mate to hamilton at that time. And he was just as much of a equal if you look at his red bull form.

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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by F1Tyrant »

In terms of age-related decline, the consensus is anywhere from age 35-38. I believe several drivers in OP's list haven't experienced an age related decline.

Vettel's struggles have come from handling characteristics and confidence rather than age. Button was similar but started feeling the impact of Father Time in 2015.

Raikkonen's peaky form is explained by tyres, handling characteristics and a utter refusal to adapt his driving style. I think age-related decline kicked in from 2013 with some recovery in his latter Vettel years as the car migrated towards his sweet spot.

Schumacher's decline did coincide with his best cars and his late 2003 form almost cost him the title to Raikkonen in an inferior car who didn't have the luxury of a number 1/2 system at McLaren.

Which brings me to Hamilton, I believe we are seeing the glimpse of old fashioned pressure and age this season. I think if he loses comfortably to Verstappen, he'll retire. With Russell coming next year, he will see the way the wind is blowing.

If he clings on to win the title, I think Russell will push him enough to make him strongly consider retirement as he will have a within and without title battle for the first time since 2013.
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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by DFWdude »

There was a time when F1 drivers didn't need to anticipate a long career, as a good number of them died early at the wheel. With the (welcomed) focus on safety in the 70's and 80's, drivers could think about racing til they were in their thirties... thinking about retiring rather than dying. This coincidentally brought physical fitness to the sport, as drivers needed to become more fit if they expected to race 20 years or more.

In discussing "decline" I think this is a reflection of human nature... Drivers are a crossection of humanity, and some have motivation for a lifetime, while others don't. Some are content to achieve a goal, then move on (Rosberg) while others are challenged to reach a pinnacle and then maintain it seemingly well beyond their goals are achieved, and they have little else to prove (Hamilton).

The rest are stuck in the middle... with some goals achieved but with changed circumstances that challenge further achievement (Vettel, Raikkonen, Alonso). Some of this is beyond driver control, while there are drivers whose decisions have shot themselves in the foot long term (Alonso).

IMO, it's only with the safety improvements over the years that permit us to witness and discuss the full range of driver careers. Team managers/owners are recognizing this as well, slowly realizing that a driver can perform well into their thirties... even early 40's... and making team plans that accommodate longer careers.

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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by Siao7 »

DFWdude wrote:
Wed Jun 16, 2021 12:16 pm
There was a time when F1 drivers didn't need to anticipate a long career, as a good number of them died early at the wheel. With the (welcomed) focus on safety in the 70's and 80's, drivers could think about racing til they were in their thirties... thinking about retiring rather than dying. This coincidentally brought physical fitness to the sport, as drivers needed to become more fit if they expected to race 20 years or more.

In discussing "decline" I think this is a reflection of human nature... Drivers are a crossection of humanity, and some have motivation for a lifetime, while others don't. Some are content to achieve a goal, then move on (Rosberg) while others are challenged to reach a pinnacle and then maintain it seemingly well beyond their goals are achieved, and they have little else to prove (Hamilton).

The rest are stuck in the middle... with some goals achieved but with changed circumstances that challenge further achievement (Vettel, Raikkonen, Alonso). Some of this is beyond driver control, while there are drivers whose decisions have shot themselves in the foot long term (Alonso).

IMO, it's only with the safety improvements over the years that permit us to witness and discuss the full range of driver careers.
Not sure about the first paragraph, they were racing well into their 50's in the first years of F1.

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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by Exediron »

F1Tyrant wrote:
Wed Jun 16, 2021 6:30 am
In terms of age-related decline, the consensus is anywhere from age 35-38. I believe several drivers in OP's list haven't experienced an age related decline.
Interestingly, it's much earlier for sports where physical decline is easier to track; the consensus number for ice hockey (quite possibly the most physical sport on the planet) is after 27, and I think it's similar or slightly later for football. Some outliers are able to maintain peak physical condition into their early 30s, but never as far as 35.

This leads us to a question that has certainly been raised before: why does the effect of age hit later in motor racing? The obvious answer seems to be that it doesn't -- an F1 driver still peaks physically at the ends of their 20s -- but that instead one has to reach a more advanced level of physical decline for it to become relevant in a racing car.
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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by myattitude »

Tennis too, it used to be once you pass 25, it's downhill from there. Federer has really rewritten the book for that and I wonder why it has changed for that sport. Now you have Nadal and others going long. It could be that the new generation just aren't as good as they should be and so the old guard are still hanging on. That's Ronnie O'Sullivan's explanation for him and others going so long in snooker.

This is one of the things that makes measuring decline in F1 difficult. A new generation usually starts from a higher level than the previous one did, so is an old driver declining (pick a driver) or are the new guard just raising the standard?

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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

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Exediron wrote:
Wed Jun 16, 2021 7:36 pm
...but that instead one has to reach a more advanced level of physical decline for it to become relevant in a racing car.
Agreed. F1 has always struck me as a more mental sport anyway. The drivers are more akin to the car's brain than a biological mechanical component. Cognitive performance tends to peak at closer to 40 than 30 which further supports my hypothesis.
myattitude wrote:
Wed Jun 16, 2021 8:15 pm
Tennis too, it used to be once you pass 25, it's downhill from there. Federer has really rewritten the book for that and I wonder why it has changed for that sport. Now you have Nadal and others going long.
Bjorn Borg famously retired at 26 but I think the Big Three are simply freaks. Djokovic looks poised to win 25 Grand Slams and perhaps another calendar slam this year. Its simply incredible for so small a number of players to utterly dominate the field for so long. They also feed each other as I doubt one player of their calibre would have won 59 of the last 73 Grand Slam tournaments.

Also, an entire generation of players born in the 1990s simply haven't been good enough to challenge them. Thiem was the first player born in the 1990s to win a Grand Slam and he's already 27!
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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by Rockie »

F1Tyrant wrote:
Thu Jun 17, 2021 5:55 am
Exediron wrote:
Wed Jun 16, 2021 7:36 pm
...but that instead one has to reach a more advanced level of physical decline for it to become relevant in a racing car.
Agreed. F1 has always struck me as a more mental sport anyway. The drivers are more akin to the car's brain than a biological mechanical component. Cognitive performance tends to peak at closer to 40 than 30 which further supports my hypothesis.
myattitude wrote:
Wed Jun 16, 2021 8:15 pm
Tennis too, it used to be once you pass 25, it's downhill from there. Federer has really rewritten the book for that and I wonder why it has changed for that sport. Now you have Nadal and others going long.
Bjorn Borg famously retired at 26 but I think the Big Three are simply freaks. Djokovic looks poised to win 25 Grand Slams and perhaps another calendar slam this year. Its simply incredible for so small a number of players to utterly dominate the field for so long. They also feed each other as I doubt one player of their calibre would have won 59 of the last 73 Grand Slam tournaments.

Also, an entire generation of players born in the 1990s simply haven't been good enough to challenge them. Thiem was the first player born in the 1990s to win a Grand Slam and he's already 27!
Yeah in Tennis everyone starts with the same racket, so it depends on your style and technique.

You either turn up good or not, just like the sampras, Agassi era now you have Federer Nadal Djokovic era.

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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by pokerman »

Exediron wrote:
Wed Jun 16, 2021 7:36 pm
F1Tyrant wrote:
Wed Jun 16, 2021 6:30 am
In terms of age-related decline, the consensus is anywhere from age 35-38. I believe several drivers in OP's list haven't experienced an age related decline.
Interestingly, it's much earlier for sports where physical decline is easier to track; the consensus number for ice hockey (quite possibly the most physical sport on the planet) is after 27, and I think it's similar or slightly later for football. Some outliers are able to maintain peak physical condition into their early 30s, but never as far as 35.

This leads us to a question that has certainly been raised before: why does the effect of age hit later in motor racing? The obvious answer seems to be that it doesn't -- an F1 driver still peaks physically at the ends of their 20s -- but that instead one has to reach a more advanced level of physical decline for it to become relevant in a racing car.
Maybe what you are talking about here is endurance levels in the sports you mention, F1 drivers don't push themselves to that level, after a race how many drivers look exhausted?

With F1 maybe we're looking more at reaction times, concentration levels that start to decline with age?
Last edited by pokerman on Thu Jun 17, 2021 11:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by pokerman »

myattitude wrote:
Wed Jun 16, 2021 8:15 pm
Tennis too, it used to be once you pass 25, it's downhill from there. Federer has really rewritten the book for that and I wonder why it has changed for that sport. Now you have Nadal and others going long. It could be that the new generation just aren't as good as they should be and so the old guard are still hanging on. That's Ronnie O'Sullivan's explanation for him and others going so long in snooker.

This is one of the things that makes measuring decline in F1 difficult. A new generation usually starts from a higher level than the previous one did, so is an old driver declining (pick a driver) or are the new guard just raising the standard?
I think with tennis you are looking at a golden era, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are the best players to have ever graced the sport.
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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by pokerman »

Going forward with the tennis comparison, Nadal has just announced he's pulling out of Wimbledon citing fatigue, Nadal turned 35 just a few days ago and there's suggestions that Nadal might not have long left in the sport, his loss in France, a major he has won 13 times, he seemed to be struggling physically.

Meanwhile at 39 Federer may well be still competing but has been struggling these past few years with injury, his last major he won was when he was 36, so he may still be playing but he's no longer winning.
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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by F1Tyrant »

pokerman wrote:
Thu Jun 17, 2021 3:16 pm
...his loss in France, a major he has won 13 times, he seemed to be struggling physically.
Djokovic is the only man to have beat Nadal at Roland Garros and won the final. Soderling and Djokovic both lost the final (to Federer and Wawrinka) after beating Nadal in 2009 and 2015. Rafa will be back.
pokerman wrote:
Thu Jun 17, 2021 3:16 pm
...so he may still be playing but he's no longer winning.
I wouldn't have any confidence backing the young guns over Federer in a Grand Slam final. He can't beat Nadal or Djokovic anymore but I've not seen anything from Tsitsipas, Zverev or Thiem to think they wouldn't bottle it against Roger with the crowd behind him.
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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

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Tufty wrote:
Tue Jun 15, 2021 2:20 pm
I'm going to preface this by echoing what Delphic said in their first paragraph. Training especially has made a huge difference to how/when athletes in general decline.

Let's start with Hamilton. I actually think his raw speed is already declining, but it's countered by just how complete a driver he is. I do wonder if Bottas would stand a chance of outqualifying the Hamilton of 2008.

Rosberg never really declined on track, he retired at the top of his game. I'd suggest his time in retirement has done more harm to his form than natural decline would/likely has.

Vettel is a strange one. I don't for a second believe he suddenly fell off a performance cliff in 2014, but it clearly messed with his head. 2017/18 showed what he could do still, but once they brought Leclerc in the writing was on the wall and he became desperate to retain #1 status. This year he seems to be struggling more with the car than with his own abilities, as shown by his points in Monaco and Baku.

Button is very difficult to assess. Overall he performed about as people expected against Hamilton - very well, but Hamilton's ceiling and adaptability was always superior, although Hamilton fell apart mentally at times, especially in 2011. After Lewis defected to Merc, Button had a few teammates who are very difficult to place. Magnussen and Perez were/are both very solid drivers, as shown by subsequent success elsewhere. Button broadly had the measure of them, maybe a little less so against Magnussen. I'm inclined to say that against Magnussen is where his form started to slip. I realise he was broadly on par with Alonso, I'll explain that in more detail later.

Raikkonen lost motivation after emulating Hunt. He was fearsome in 2003, solid but a bit lucky in 2007, and after that was basically the number 2 driver to Massa. Felipe is a good driver, but not so good that Kimi should have been behind him at any point. Once he was paid to not race, the writing was on the wall. Last year and especially this, he proved he's past it. The rookie mistake of not looking where he was going in Portugal highlights this better than anything, but although he had moments of greatness (including podiums and wins for Lotus) since his rally-rolling experiment, he was never really the driver he used to be.

Alonso is one of the enigmas of modern F1. Full of talent, but no concept of how to maintain a team's loyalty. Abandoned Renault multiple times, helped implode McLaren, failed to take the title for Ferrari in arguably the equal best car in 2012, and finally offended Honda and McLaren to such a degree that neither team nor driver could use Honda power in Indycar or F1. The lack of focus on a single series, and his time away from F1, have definitely dented his raw ability, but arguably his decline came after 2012. He never fought for a title after that, which was in part due to the RB9 and partly due to Ferrari failing to make the most of the 2014 rules, but he also seemed to gradually lose interest at the same time.

Schumacher. He never declined on track, his decline happened in his forced retirement. The return with Mercedes was understandable but a disaster as a result.

Hakkinen probably wouldn't have declined when he did if he wasn't utterly fatigued after 2 intense title fights, but I doubt he'd have lasted at his best form until Schumacher retired anyway. The controversial answer for Mika would be that his decline was actually very abrupt, and happened in a runoff in Adelaide. It's been noted that after that crash, he lost his edge somewhat. The 1996/7 McLarens weren't exactly world-beaters so it's very hard to say for sure, but it's definitely a factor to consider.

I'm not convinced Villeneuve was ever that good, he just gradually got found out over the years. When he went part time that was the end of his career, and of course that affected his form. Someone mentioned 2003 above but I think that's more a sign that Button was maturing than Villeneuve was declining.

Hill is the last driver I can really comment on, anyone earlier I haven't watched enough of their career to say. I think it's very clear that it was motivation that dropped before ability, but 1999 was definitely the year that happened.
While I agree with most of this, Ferrari definitely was not equal best car in 2012, far away from it.

J. Villeneuve was an enigma. Mediocre in F3, then exploding in IndyLights/Indycar, some really strong seasons in F1, some truly weak ones. Post F1 mediocre at best. My guess: the talent was there but will and determination were in limbo.

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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by EPROM »

pokerman wrote:
Thu Jun 17, 2021 11:53 am
Exediron wrote:
Wed Jun 16, 2021 7:36 pm
F1Tyrant wrote:
Wed Jun 16, 2021 6:30 am
In terms of age-related decline, the consensus is anywhere from age 35-38. I believe several drivers in OP's list haven't experienced an age related decline.
Interestingly, it's much earlier for sports where physical decline is easier to track; the consensus number for ice hockey (quite possibly the most physical sport on the planet) is after 27, and I think it's similar or slightly later for football. Some outliers are able to maintain peak physical condition into their early 30s, but never as far as 35.

This leads us to a question that has certainly been raised before: why does the effect of age hit later in motor racing? The obvious answer seems to be that it doesn't -- an F1 driver still peaks physically at the ends of their 20s -- but that instead one has to reach a more advanced level of physical decline for it to become relevant in a racing car.
Maybe what you are talking about here is endurance levels in the sports you mention, F1 drivers don't push themselves to that level, after a race how many drivers look exhausted?

With F1 maybe we're looking more at reaction times, concentration levels that start to decline with age?
Serious question here...

Back when I was following Champ Car (a series with no power steering allowed), I heard on a broadcast that someone had run telemetry on Champ Car drivers and they averaged something like 160 bpm heart rate over a 2 hour road race. If accurate, that's simply huge!

I can't claim that as being accurate (I have not searched for a confirming cite), but if true, that really does indicate that physical preparation is a huge factor in road racing (at least without power steering) and the decline in performance as drivers get into their mid-30s.

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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by Exediron »

EPROM wrote:
Thu Jun 17, 2021 10:30 pm
Serious question here...

Back when I was following Champ Car (a series with no power steering allowed), I heard on a broadcast that someone had run telemetry on Champ Car drivers and they averaged something like 160 bpm heart rate over a 2 hour road race. If accurate, that's simply huge!

I can't claim that as being accurate (I have not searched for a confirming cite), but if true, that really does indicate that physical preparation is a huge factor in road racing (at least without power steering) and the decline in performance as drivers get into their mid-30s.
As far as I can tell from doing some casual looking around, that figure is likely accurate and maybe even on the low side for a modern F1 car.

Some articles I turned up (very little in the way of primary sources, sadly, but similar figures cited):

Fitness of an F1 driver
Physical Stress in Formula 1
Formula 1 Drivers are NOT Athletes

The consensus seems to be around 160-170 for bpm during a race, with peaks nearer to 200.
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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by Covalent »

Exediron wrote:
Fri Jun 18, 2021 12:44 am
EPROM wrote:
Thu Jun 17, 2021 10:30 pm
Serious question here...

Back when I was following Champ Car (a series with no power steering allowed), I heard on a broadcast that someone had run telemetry on Champ Car drivers and they averaged something like 160 bpm heart rate over a 2 hour road race. If accurate, that's simply huge!

I can't claim that as being accurate (I have not searched for a confirming cite), but if true, that really does indicate that physical preparation is a huge factor in road racing (at least without power steering) and the decline in performance as drivers get into their mid-30s.
As far as I can tell from doing some casual looking around, that figure is likely accurate and maybe even on the low side for a modern F1 car.

Some articles I turned up (very little in the way of primary sources, sadly, but similar figures cited):

Fitness of an F1 driver
Physical Stress in Formula 1
Formula 1 Drivers are NOT Athletes

The consensus seems to be around 160-170 for bpm during a race, with peaks nearer to 200.
That's crazy. I do crossfit and my max is usually around 160bpm 8O

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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by myattitude »

Ant Davidson was once explaining the physical toll on the body and said you're still always breathing through your nose in the car. I wonder if those high BPM figures cited here involve exited adrenaline more than physical taxation.

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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by JN23 »

myattitude wrote:
Fri Jun 18, 2021 10:40 am
Ant Davidson was once explaining the physical toll on the body and said you're still always breathing through your nose in the car. I wonder if those high BPM figures cited here involve exited adrenaline more than physical taxation.
As someone who struggles to breathe through their nose this puts another nail in the coffin of my hopes of being an F1 driver. A sad day :(

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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by myattitude »

JN23 wrote:
Fri Jun 18, 2021 10:48 am
myattitude wrote:
Fri Jun 18, 2021 10:40 am
Ant Davidson was once explaining the physical toll on the body and said you're still always breathing through your nose in the car. I wonder if those high BPM figures cited here involve exited adrenaline more than physical taxation.
As someone who struggles to breathe through their nose this puts another nail in the coffin of my hopes of being an F1 driver. A sad day :(
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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by pokerman »

EPROM wrote:
Thu Jun 17, 2021 10:30 pm
pokerman wrote:
Thu Jun 17, 2021 11:53 am
Exediron wrote:
Wed Jun 16, 2021 7:36 pm
F1Tyrant wrote:
Wed Jun 16, 2021 6:30 am
In terms of age-related decline, the consensus is anywhere from age 35-38. I believe several drivers in OP's list haven't experienced an age related decline.
Interestingly, it's much earlier for sports where physical decline is easier to track; the consensus number for ice hockey (quite possibly the most physical sport on the planet) is after 27, and I think it's similar or slightly later for football. Some outliers are able to maintain peak physical condition into their early 30s, but never as far as 35.

This leads us to a question that has certainly been raised before: why does the effect of age hit later in motor racing? The obvious answer seems to be that it doesn't -- an F1 driver still peaks physically at the ends of their 20s -- but that instead one has to reach a more advanced level of physical decline for it to become relevant in a racing car.
Maybe what you are talking about here is endurance levels in the sports you mention, F1 drivers don't push themselves to that level, after a race how many drivers look exhausted?

With F1 maybe we're looking more at reaction times, concentration levels that start to decline with age?
Serious question here...

Back when I was following Champ Car (a series with no power steering allowed), I heard on a broadcast that someone had run telemetry on Champ Car drivers and they averaged something like 160 bpm heart rate over a 2 hour road race. If accurate, that's simply huge!

I can't claim that as being accurate (I have not searched for a confirming cite), but if true, that really does indicate that physical preparation is a huge factor in road racing (at least without power steering) and the decline in performance as drivers get into their mid-30s.
They presently do this in MotoGP and we see numbers as high as 170bpm, however Vinales is somewhat of a freak, he never goes above 120bpm.
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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by SlipstreamF1 »

Paolo_Lasardi wrote:
Thu Jun 17, 2021 8:47 pm

While I agree with most of this, Ferrari definitely was not equal best car in 2012, far away from it.

J. Villeneuve was an enigma. Mediocre in F3, then exploding in IndyLights/Indycar, some really strong seasons in F1, some truly weak ones. Post F1 mediocre at best. My guess: the talent was there but will and determination were in limbo.
Jacques got a late start in racing as his mom wouldn't let him do it when he was young. So he was actually attending racing school while he was competing in F3. There were efforts to get him into F1 after his rookie season in Indy but he wanted to win there first, and he did in his 2nd year, same as he would do in F1. He only missed out in LeMans for the hat trick, finishing 2nd with Panis. The talent was there and he had a strong work ethic, but getting beat by a just OK driver in your own car/team must've been pretty embarrassing. In the end I think he was just an OK driver who was lucky to start his career in a dominating car. I mean in hindsight I think the Williams car should have been as dominant as Mercedes with the right driver.

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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by Tufty »

SlipstreamF1 wrote:
Fri Jun 18, 2021 9:34 pm
Paolo_Lasardi wrote:
Thu Jun 17, 2021 8:47 pm

While I agree with most of this, Ferrari definitely was not equal best car in 2012, far away from it.

J. Villeneuve was an enigma. Mediocre in F3, then exploding in IndyLights/Indycar, some really strong seasons in F1, some truly weak ones. Post F1 mediocre at best. My guess: the talent was there but will and determination were in limbo.
Jacques got a late start in racing as his mom wouldn't let him do it when he was young. So he was actually attending racing school while he was competing in F3. There were efforts to get him into F1 after his rookie season in Indy but he wanted to win there first, and he did in his 2nd year, same as he would do in F1. He only missed out in LeMans for the hat trick, finishing 2nd with Panis. The talent was there and he had a strong work ethic, but getting beat by a just OK driver in your own car/team must've been pretty embarrassing. In the end I think he was just an OK driver who was lucky to start his career in a dominating car. I mean in hindsight I think the Williams car should have been as dominant as Mercedes with the right driver.
Factor in reliability and the 96 Williams basically was. Yes that was split between two drivers, but so was the early years of Merc domination. The 97 Williams was a strange one, in that it was easily the best (though development may have been compromised by the loss of Newey) but the Ferrari wasn't totally hopeless and Schumacher made up for the remaining limits. 97 and 98 were very much a case of best driver versus best cars. And both times the best driver almost came good.
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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by SlipstreamF1 »

[quote="Tufty

Factor in reliability and the 96 Williams basically was. Yes that was split between two drivers, but so was the early years of Merc domination. The 97 Williams was a strange one, in that it was easily the best (though development may have been compromised by the loss of Newey) but the Ferrari wasn't totally hopeless and Schumacher made up for the remaining limits. 97 and 98 were very much a case of best driver versus best cars. And both times the best driver almost came good.
[/quote]

Ferrari was the best "team" hands down. What gets lost is how important tire choice, fuel and pit stop strategy played during that era. Michael's team was a master of all those so they were able to compete with an inferior car. For a long time up until the banning of refueling and having a sole tire supplier, whatever team MS was on was the only team who could master pit stops every race. I think those are the main reasons for teams like Williams and McLaren underachieving with such great cars and drivers and the brilliance of MS was enhanced by the team. Up until recently Mercedes were masters of pit stops and strategy too.

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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by pokerman »

The subject is interesting when I look at Indycars which I've been watching a bit more of this year including qualifying.

Two of the drivers who have been keen players for over a decade now are Scott Dixon and Will Power, Scott Dixon a 6 times Champion with 50 wins, I think he's considered the best modern day Indycar driver, while Will Power only one time Champion but with 55 poles considered the fastest driver over one lap.

They both have turned 40 now, Dixon turns 41 next month, but are they now signs of decline, Dixon is getting beat by his new teammate Alex Palou a young Spanish driver in his second season of Indycars, Palou is leading the series and in particular seems faster than Dixon over one lap.

Meanwhile Power the pole king, I've seen him struggling this season in qualifying maybe he's had one pole I'm not sure, but it's not the car as I'm sure I've seen his much younger teammate Newgarden, himself a 2 time Champion, grab a couple of poles.

Out of interest now I'm going to keep a closer eye on how the season pans out for these two drivers.
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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by Exediron »

IndyCar is an interesting case study indeed, because due to the nature of the series (no limit on the number of cars a team can run) there's much more tendency for older, popular, once-great drivers to stick around past the point of decline.

I would agree that Dixon has clearly lost a little bit over one lap, although it should be noted that he was never a one-lap specialist. Power has been off to a very poor start this year, so we'll see if that becomes a trend. Certainly, there was a time when a top six without Will Power in it was practically unthinkable.

We also see that it's mostly one-lap pace that seems to suffer with age. The older drivers are generally more competitive in the race (even with a very physical car to drive) than in qualifying.
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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

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In my view it's always difficult to separate age-caused decline in speed and the increase of speed in the next generation of drivers. Take e.g. Kimi as an example, sure his speed has declined over the 20 years he's been in the sport, but at the same time I think in general the standard of drivers is higher nowadays than when he entered the sport. So how much of his relative speed reduction compared to the pack can be attributed to his age and how much to the higher calibre drivers?

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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by pokerman »

Exediron wrote:
Tue Jun 22, 2021 1:50 pm
IndyCar is an interesting case study indeed, because due to the nature of the series (no limit on the number of cars a team can run) there's much more tendency for older, popular, once-great drivers to stick around past the point of decline.

I would agree that Dixon has clearly lost a little bit over one lap, although it should be noted that he was never a one-lap specialist. Power has been off to a very poor start this year, so we'll see if that becomes a trend. Certainly, there was a time when a top six without Will Power in it was practically unthinkable.

We also see that it's mostly one-lap pace that seems to suffer with age. The older drivers are generally more competitive in the race (even with a very physical car to drive) than in qualifying.
Yeah I think that Dixon in particular has always been very canny in the races being able to maximise his results and I agree that the one lap pace goes the first, this has always been Power's forte and like you say he's missed some top 6 shoot outs this year.
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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by Badgeronimous »

Every driver will be different. It's as much psychological as it is physiological. Mid to late 30s seems to be a fairly accepted answer in the general sense.

A young family, wealth, fame, etc, etc - these will effect different people differently. Then just keeping motivation up, the drive, the focus, the confidence, doing it year after year, etc.

I know myself at 38yrs old, I don't have the same competitive streak and determination to win at sport that I had at 28yrs old. Most guys I know are the same.

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Re: When did the modern champions decline?

Post by Tufty »

Badgeronimous wrote:
Wed Jun 23, 2021 8:29 pm
I know myself at 38yrs old, I don't have the same competitive streak and determination to win at sport that I had at 28yrs old. Most guys I know are the same.
Honestly I'm still 28 and naps appeal more than competing!
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