j man wrote:Zoue wrote:If the 1997 Williams had been on a par with the 2014-16 Mercedes then it wouldn't have mattered how good Schumacher was as he wouldn't have been able to touch them. From Canada onwards pole yo-yo'd between different cars - not just Schumacher - and it's almost impossible to imagine that happening in the Merc dominant years. I don't think that's a realistic comparison at all.j man wrote:Exediron wrote:j man wrote:To re-iterate what I said before, I don't think Villeneuve could have failed to look impressive in those first two years given the car he was driving.
I don't see that. We've had one-sided driver pairings in dominant cars before. How about 1998, when Coulthard won a grand total of a single race (compared to eight for his teammate) in a car that was at times a second per lap faster than the competition? If Villeneuve had done something like that, it wouldn't have been impressive. He didn't match Hill, but he was respectably close for his first year.
He didn't do as well as Hamilton in his first year, but I don't think you need to match the best rookie season of all time to look good. And to be perfectly honest, I think Villeneuve's 1997 campaign was every bit as impressive as Hamilton's 2008 season. He beat a highly rated teammate who many had tapped to expose him, and he didn't make any more mistakes than Hamilton did.
Again I feel there's a false equivalence being drawn here because the competitiveness of the 1997 Williams and 2008 McLaren were quite different. I am firmly of the opinion that the 96-97 Williams was on the level of the 14-16 Mercedes and that Schumacher only made it look like it wasn't by being that much better than everyone else. Villeneuve did admittedly beat Frentzen quite comfortably in 97, although less so in 98, but Frentzen is such a difficult yardstick to use because he was so hopelessly inconsistent over his career. Personally I never worked out if he was any good or not: I have trouble believing that the Frentzen of 1999 was the same driver as the one I saw in 1997 and 2001.
But the sport was quite different back then, it wasn't as data-driven (although it was on its way there) and the drivers didn't have the level of constant coaching, feedback and supervision from the pitwall that they do now. Thus I believe the driver made a greater difference; without looking at any stats I'd be willing to bet that the average time difference between team mates was greater then than it is now.
If we do look at the non-Williams and non-Schumacher poles I see Berger and Alesi at Hockenheim and Monza - two circuits where straight line speed dwarfed all other factors and Benetton evidently had an advantage - and Hakkinen at the Nurburgring by which point in the season I'll concede that McLaren were getting close to Williams' level.
Yeah but how many times did they have 1-2s with clear air between them and the next car? At the British GP, for example, there was half a tenth to Hakkinen, so clearly the Williams drivers didn't have the luxury of being able to relax. That wasn't the case in the first few years of the hybrid era. In France not only did Michael get pole, but his brother in the Jordan split the Williams pair, too (like Rubens had done in Canada earlier in the season). I seem to remember at least one qualifying where both Lewis and Nico completely fluffed their final runs and yet still ended up locking out the front row.
I do agree with you about the data driven aspect of the sport, but that's all part of it, isn't it? The Merc drivers were racing each other and the rest of the field were a mere inconvenience. The only thing either driver had to worry about was reliability or some race-ending error. I don't think that was the case in 1997. The Williams was definitely the car to have and certainly at the beginning enjoyed a massive advantage, but that was eroded throughout the season and they couldn't just cruise in formation and get virtually guaranteed podiums.
Incidentally, the fact that other teams were able to close the gap highlights how much the hybrid rules strangled a team's potential development. It was pretty much game over for the rest of the field for years the moment the lights went out at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne 2014.