Then and Now – Bahrain Qualifying

Much has been said about how much slower the cars are this season compared to last, and doubts have been raised as to whether the current generation of cars would even be quicker than the GP2 feeder category.  In Bahrain, not only did we get the first dry qualifying session of the year so far (and the opportunity to see the new generation of F1 cars at their fastest), but also got to see how they compared to GP2 at the same meeting.

First off I am pleased to be able to confirm that F1 is still faster than GP2 Joylon Palmer’s pole position time of 1’38.865 being 0.952 seconds slower than Max Chilton managed in his Marussia in qualifying.

Moving on to how they compare to last year’s cars throws up some interesting numbers.  While Nico Rosberg (on pole for both 2013 and 2014) was 0.855 seconds slower than last year, Valtreri Bottas was only 0.142 seconds off the time he managed in last year’s Williams (while Felipe Massa was only 0.086 seconds away from the time Pastor Maldonado managed in the second Williams in 2013).  At the other end of the scale Romain Grosjean was 2.146 seconds slower than he managed in the Lotus last year, Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari was 2.325 seconds slower and Sebastian Vettel 2.401 seconds slower in the Red Bull.  The full list of drivers who haven’t changed teams and their comparative times is:

 Driver Time Difference 2013-14
Sebastian Vettel


Fernando Alonso


Romain Grosjean


Max Chilton


Esteban Gutiérrez


Jules Bianchi


Jean-Éric Vergne


Nico Rosberg


Lewis Hamilton


Jenson Button


Valtteri Bottas



Button did not complete a time in Q3 2013, so his time from Q2 has been used.  While it can be said that Williams and McLaren had poor 2013 seasons (so there relative improvement in form is not surprising), the fact that both Red Bull and Ferrari are performing worse than Lotus when compared to last year is a shock.   With even Marussia only losing 1.1 to 1.5 seconds compared to last year (and Caterham between 1.5 and 1.8 seconds although both their drivers have  changed), it appears it is the big budget teams who were perhaps least  prepared for this season and the rules changes.


A long time fan of Formula 1 and grass roots motorsport, I am interested in the engineering aspects not only of F1 but the 'men in sheds' who develop homemade specials to take on the products of the big racing car manufacturers.
  • I don’t think you can say that the big budget teams were the least prepared. Rather, they mastered the aero and the blown diffuser to such a degree that they lost most, whereas small teams like Caterham or Marussia didn’t suffer as much as their aero wasn’t very sophisticated to begin with.

    Though it is interesting how well Mercedes has done compared to the other two works supported teams: Ferrari and Red Bull. Somehow Mercedes managed to regain almost everything they lost from the extra weight and the stifled aero.

    • There was a rumor flying about that Mercedes was toying w/ the split turbine/compressor turbo concept before the V6 was even approved (mid 2011?) Who knows if how significant that distinction is, but as we’ve discussed, the packaging/cooling as well as performance ramifications are quite large; the Works team has had a few years to optimize a potentially huge advantage.

      Ferrari is such a disappointment; historically its cars are built strong and conservative then refined via development, so no surprise it’s a little slow initially, but they haven’t been able to solve recurring issues in its packages for years.

  • jiji the cat

    Ferrari spent many years in the Wilderness until they put the dream team together. Monte disbanded it, and Ferrari have never been the same since.

  • Another point: I just checked the fastest laps of the race:
    2013 – 1:36.961 on lap 55 by Sebastian Vettel
    2014 – 1:37.020 on lap 49 by Nico Rosberg

    So the difference is less than a tenth of a second. Plus while Vettel was squeezing his car on the last lat in 2013 without any traffic and with the last drops of fuel, Nico was battling Lewis while posting his fastest lap and it came a couple of laps earlier.

    Granted, Bahrain is the type of track where the 2014 cars will probably perform best compared to their predecessors, given the many straights and the lack of fast corners. Still impressive.