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As the first four fly-away races have now

finished and we have a short break before the European leg of the season
starts, I thought it would be an opportune moment to examine how the new
regulations have changed the racing when compared to the previous rules
(2009-2013).  Three of the first four tracks have been consistent through the period from 2009 to 2014, with
Bahrain changing to a longer layout in 2010 and missing 2011 altogether before
returning in 2012.

If we look at what should be an indication
of the outright speed of these cars, the pole position time, we get these
results:

Pole

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

Australia

1’26.202

1’23.919

1’23.529

1’24.922

1’27.407

1’44.231

Malaysia

1’35.181

1’49.327

1’34.870

1’36.219

1’49.674

1’59.431

Bahrain

1’33.431

1’54.101

 

1’32.422

1’32.330

1’33.185

China

1’36.184

1’34.558

1’33.706

1’35.121

1’34.484

1’53.860

 

Unfortunately, rain has affected three of the first four qualifying sessions this year, with only Bahrain being dry.  Rain also impacted Malaysia in 2010 and 2013.  As stated above, the time for Bahrain in 2010 can be ignored as the circuit layout was longer for that year only.  From 2009 to 2011 the cars got steadily faster, before the change in 2012 (to ‘ban’ exhaust blown diffusers) which slowed them down.  In Australia 2013 Saturday was so wet that Q2 and Q3 were postponed until Sunday morning, so the lack of rubber on the track may account for the pole time being slower than 2012, while the other dry races had faster times than 2012.  Looking at Bahrain qualifying, the current generation of cars are only 0.8 seconds slower in ultimate pace than last years.  This is a much smaller drop in absolute pace than was seen in 2012 when the cars were about 1.4 seconds a lap slower.  This is particularly impressive given that cars are some 49kg heavier this year than last (conventionally the cars should be 0.3 seconds a lap slower for every 10Kg additional weight carried, so these cars should be nearly 1.5 seconds a lap slower than last year, just from the additional weight).

Looking next at the fastest lap of the
race, these are the results:

Fastest Lap

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

Australia

1’27.706

1’28.358

1’28.947

1’29.187

1’29.274

1’32.478

Malaysia

1’36.641

1’37.054

1’40.571

1’40.722

1’39.199

1’43.066

Bahrain

1’34.556

1’58.287

 

1’36.379

1’36.961

1’37.020

China

1’52.592

1’42.061

1’38.993

1’39.960

1’36.808

1’40.402

 

Once again the figures for Bahrain in 2010 can be discounted due to the longer lap, and of course there is no time for 2011.  Also China in 2009 was badly affected by rain so the whole race was wet.  Although other races were also rain affected, the fastest times were set on a dry track (although in some cases this may have been early in the race when the cars were relatively heavy).  Interestingly these times generally get
slower each year (the opposite of the qualifying times above) which shows the impact of having to save fuel or tyres through the races.

Fastest laps in 2014 are 3 to 4 seconds slower than in 2013 with the notable exception  of Bahrain, which has been the only race to date where the two Mercedes have been racing each other (and were some 2 to 3 seconds a lap faster than everyone else), and here they were less
than six hundredths of a second slower than 2013.  Maybe this is a true indication of just how much faster the silver cars are than the rest of the field this year.  If that remains true for the rest of the season we can only hope that Rosberg starts making some better starts to enable
him to take the battle to Hamilton.

Overall race time is an interesting
comparison, particularly as this year the cars have approximately a third less
fuel to complete the same distance.

Race time

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

Australia

1:34’15.784

1:33’36.531

1:29’30.529

1:34’09.565

1:30’03.225

1:32’58.710

Malaysia

55’30.622

1:33’48.412

1:37’39.832

2:44’51.812

1:38’56.681

1:40’25.974

Bahrain

1:31’48.182

1:39’20.396

 

1:35’10.990

1:36’00.498

1:39’42.743

China

1:57’43.485

1:46’42.163

1:36’58.226

1:36’26.929

1:36’26.945

1:33’28.338

 

Note that many of these races had safety cars, so the times are not representative of the cars pace.  Safety cars circulated on the track in
Australia (‘09, ‘10, ‘12 and ‘14), Malaysia (‘09 and ‘12) with the ‘09 race being stopped early, Bahrain (‘14) and again ’10 being on a different layout and China (’09 and ’10), for this year’s race the chequered flag was shown too early so the race was officially called two laps early.  Hamilton’s actual time to complete the 56 laps was 1:36’52.810, less than 26 seconds slower than last year.  The only other non-safety car affected time was from Malaysia where the race time was within 90 seconds of the 2013 time.

Once again the general trend is for slower times each year, possibly due to tyre or fuel conservation, rather than outright speed of the cars.
In that respect, this generation of F1 cars do stand up well to comparison with the previous generation.

However all the talk of the absolute speed of the cars is rather academic, what really matters is the racing.  Unless you are looking at a stop watch can you really tell whether the cars are faster or slower than the previous year?  What really matters is how good the racing is.  As has been discussed before, over this period we have been particularly fortunate in having a very high quality field (as measured by the number of World Drivers’ Champions there have been competing in each year).


It is very difficult to quantify how good the racing is in terms of statistics.  One possible measure (which the FIA seem to think important) is the number of overtaking manoeuvres.

 Overtakes

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

Australia

19

23

22

30

38

25

Malaysia

16

23

37

40

35

20

Bahrain

15

15

0

43

63

51

China

52

54

63

66

58

24

 

Once again there is no data for Bahrain in 2010 as there was no race.  We can see the number of overtakes was increasing even before the introduction of DRS in 2011, and it continued to go up in 2012 thanks in part to the changes in the tyres.   For this year the absolute number of passing manoeuvres has dropped compared to 2013, which is possibly due to a greater spread in performance between the teams at this stage of the development of the cars to this rules package.  The data in this table is from analysing the lap charts for each race and determining the number of on-track passes that occurred (i.e. not due to pit-stops) between one lap and the next.  What it doesn’t take account of is the passing and re-passing that can occur within a single lap such as between Rosberg and Hamilton in Bahrain this year.  While Bahrain in 2011 was hailed as a turning point for what had previously been a dull circuit, the race in 2014 was to my mind at least much better.  Perhaps the FIA need another metric to determine the quality of the racing?

So in summary, the cars are slower this year, but not as slow as they should be given the regulation changes, and the racing has shown potential to be better than last year.  The only problem is the Mercedes domination, but this could be countered if either one of the other teams catches them or Rosberg gets back on pace with Hamilton.  The developments the teams bring to the next race in Barcelona will be crucial.

 

 

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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.
  • Fascinating, thanks. Are you planning other charts throughout the season? I’d expect the teams to show a more-rapid improvement throughout the year than the ’09-’13 seasons due to 2014’s comparatively large reg changes. As you point out, ’12 saw a major rear downforce reduction and thus speeds dropped, but by the end of the year the cars were at/exceeding ’11 pace. I think we’re in for a similar improvement w/ the even larger changes this year.

    It’d be cool to see ’05 v. ’06 times with the engine change or ’08 v.’09 with the flow conditioner reductions, but I’m too lazy to look it up. Either way, agreed, I can’t see 3 seconds faster/slower, but for those equating lap time w/ excitement, it might be heartening seeing F1 approach last year.

    • MIE

      I’ll look at the rate of development this year (comparing ’14 with ’13) and compare it to the rate of development in ’05 / ’06 and ’08 / ’09 later in the year. I just need to find events in each pair of years through the season where:
      – the circuits were unchanged;
      – qualifying was dry;
      – the race ran without safety cars.
      If I can find some through the year it could be interesting to see how the field develops.

  • Despite the many questions one may have regarding this, it was quite interesting. Some variables that I did not see mentioned: Pit stops dramatically decreasing in time, absence of refueling, average time of the fastest lap by each car could be a different indicator, how many passes were true passes (hold all done under DRS in a different table).

    The times should continue to decrease as teams develop the cars. It will be interesting if these tables were updated after Abu Dhabi.

    • MIE

      Unfortunately, I am limited by what data others have recorded in preparing the tables. I do not know of a source that records the number of DRS passes and the number of non DRS passes, or the pit-stop times for each car. While I agree the analysis of these would be interesting, it is difficult without the source data.

      The reduction in pit stop times due to the ban on refuelling should in theory have increased the overall race time (if it was faster to complete the race without pit-stops then teams would have been doing that anyway).

      I had hoped that the picture would have been clearer after four races (fastest laps in the race are not really a true indication of the ultimate pace of the car as drivers have always been tempted to win at the slowest possible speed, even more so in these days of limited fuel, high degradation tyres and only five power units for the whole season. However we have had an unusual amount of rain affecting the qualifying sessions, and safety cars during race days meaning that qualifying times or total race times have not been meaningful for direct comparison. I’ll look to repeat the analysis later in the season to see how the development of these cars is progressing.