Renault and Ferrari cut gap to Brawn (Spanish Grand Prix analysis)

Posted on

| Written by

Ferrari's new parts gave them a boost

Brawn may have scored a one-two in the Spanish Grand Prix but did the chasing pack reduce their advantage? F1 Fanatic guest writer James Bolton takes a look at the qualifying data.

Many F1 teams brought upgrades for the Spanish Grand Prix with the intention of closing the gap between themselves and champinoship leaders Brawn.

Which teams were successful? An analysis of the low-fuel Q2 lap times shows who moved closer to the Brawn cars – and who dropped further back.

The world championship tables show which driver and team are doing the best all round job, they don’t illustrate which team has the fastest car. This is even harder to find out these days because the F1 teams have to run race fuel in their cars in the final part of qualifying (this will change next year).

Using Q2 times

However, in Q2 the remaining drivers may run as light as they choose. Therefore, the lap times from Q2 give us a solid idea of who’s fast and who’s off the pace.

The method used to analyse the Q2 lap times below is simple. The fastest time is converted into seconds and this is designated as the 100% time. Every other car will be slightly slower than this time, for example in Bahrain Jarno Trulli’s Q2 time of 1m 32.671 equates to 92.671 seconds. Nelson Piquet’s time was 1m 33.941, or 93.941 seconds. Therefore, we can state Piquet’s time as 101.37% of Trulli’s.

The perfect score would be to average 100% across a range of races. Where a driver fails to make it into Q2, they register no time for that race, so as Lewis Hamilton failed to set a Q2 time in Australia, the score for his season so far is his average for Malaysia, China, Bahrain and Spain.

Going into Spanish Grand Prix, Red Bull were the fastest in Q2, only fractionally quicker than Brawn. Red Bull’s two drivers averaged 100.29% of the fastest Q2 times from Australia to Bahrain – very close to this perfect 100% score.

The second fastest car was Brawn’s, with a score of 100.295%, just 0.005% slower than the RBR team. In third place was Toyota who were averaging 100.44% of the fastest Q2 time, with a big gap back to fourth fastest Ferrari, who registered 100.68%.

Most teams improve at Barcelona

This picture changed slightly at the Spanish Grand Prix. After Q2, I re-ran the analysis and the fastest team was still Red Bull, but by only 0.001%. This is an astonishingly small margin and shows just how close the two cars have performed as the season has progressed. Toyota still held third but had slipped back by 0.02%.

The headline is that nearly every team improved. The team that improved by the greatest margin was Renault, but this can be party put down to Piquet’s much improved form and the fact that he has now competed in two Q2 sessions, giving him a more reliable average score. In the graph below, only Alonso’s time has been included to avoid Piquet’s adversely affecting the data.

The second biggest improvers were Ferrari and Williams, who gained 0.06% on the average Q2 time, but this was offset by Red Bull and Brawn gaining 0.025% and 0.029% respectively.

Two teams dropped further back from the magic 100% average – McLaren lost 0.038% and Toro Rosso lost 0.129%. But like Renault, Toro Rosso’s performance is slightly masked by the fact that this was only their third appearance in Q2 this season.

This graph shows the performance of the teams before and after Barcelona. The taller the column, the farther the team is from the average 100% time from Q2 sessions we have had so far. As you can see, McLaren and Toro Rosso’s columns grow in height as they drop further away from the perfect score of 100%:

Relative Q2 times before and after the Spanish Grand Prix (click to enlarge)

Of course, no method for analysing lap times is perfect, but this gives us some indication of what the chasing pack are doing to reel in those BGP001s.

This is a guest article by James Bolton. If you want to write a guest article for F1 Fanatic you can find all the information you need here.

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

23 comments on “Renault and Ferrari cut gap to Brawn (Spanish Grand Prix analysis)”

  1. I’d say the most important conclusion is that the Brawn car is not the fastest at all. It’s been the Red Bull. They just don’t seem as good at getting a good race (overtaking, race pace and strategy) together as Button is though.

    Minor nit pick, but the top cars probably don’t do their best lap in Q2. The Brawns and Red Bulls will probably take slightly less risk and they save tyres for Q3. Drivers in lesser cars really need to go flat out to make it into Q3 and sometimes need all the tyres they have just to make it. Nothing you can do about that of course, but still.

    Why not use the fastest time per team for each event. You exclude Piquet to prevent his poor results from skewing the Renault stats, but the same could be said for other drivers too. The fastest time of both drivers would be a more proper indicator for the performance of the car and reduce the component of driver errors/skill in the comparison.

    I think it would also eliminate the anomaly that all teams have improved since Barcelona. That shouldn’t be possible should it? There should be a team that the other teams have gotten closer to. They can’t all improve when you are looking at relative differences.

    And then lastly, why not include Q1 times? If a driver doesn’t make it into Q2 he tried his best and the car just doesn’t go faster. It’s unlikely the Q2 time would have been any better. Of course there is the odd exception with a blundering Ferrari, but still. Just eliminate those times then.

  2. Force India is missing on the chart.

    1. It is because no force india has made q2 this season!

  3. i rate the RBR’s as similar qual pace to the brawn’s, the qual pace data is basically pointless, what matters is race pace, ferrari had a history of having very strong race pace since their car managed tires better and their strategy was solid.

    now the brawn is kind on its tires – maybe too kind since they struggle with heat at times and they have a good strategic team, however the RBR has great grip and hangs on forever it seems, their issues looks down to race strategy.

    they got it right with webber but they really should have brought vettel in earlier to escape from ferrari, vettel had the pace to take the race to brawn.

    i have no doubt vettel could have been pushing for p2.

    similar is true with williams and toyota, great qualifying pace but they can’t run a race. strategy or the consistency over the long laps is letting them down.

    a car might be great to drive for a couple of laps in qualifying but 20 laps non stop is a different issue.

  4. also, 101.37% is a bad number – piquet only made 98.63% of truli’s time.

    the bar should be 100% and then drivers % should be trying to reach the bar, not inversed exceeding it.

  5. @ SamS
    “It is because no force india has made q2 this season!”
    – Yeah, you’re right. Q1 time should’ve been taken.

    @ todd
    I don’t know what your problem is, but I think you don’t understand basic maths. Think it over one more time, mate ;)

    1. lol – was about to post something along those lines yeah…

      Piquet making 98.63% of trulli’s time would make piquet faster… just have a quick sanity check on that. Piquet ran at 101.37% of trulli’s time, i.e. MORE time than trulli.

    2. bah! i do everything backwards :P

  6. keep up the good job ferrari. i believe u can do better in the next races. :)

  7. This says a lot on Alonso quality as driver, he is pulling out points with one of the worst cars in the grid!

  8. A lot of it is irrelevant because many drivers choose to use a mediocre run when they can go better. We’ve already seen people being dropped out of Q1.

  9. This says a lot on Alonso quality as driver, he is pulling out points with one of the worst cars in the grid!

    How do you know that?
    Perhaps Renault is the best car in the field, but Alonso is a poor driver (and Piquet is a tragical driver)???
    Renault can’t be one of the worsts cars.

    1. How do you know that?
      Perhaps Renault is the best car in the field, but Alonso is a poor driver (and Piquet is a tragical driver)???
      Renault can’t be one of the worsts cars.

      I probably shouldn’t even dignify this comment with a reply, but that’s blatantly beside the truth. Renault isn’t the worst car on the grid, but I fail to count that the majority are better. Your Alonso baiting is quite pathetic.

  10. I remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth a few years back when they reduced the qualifying threshold from 110% of the pole time to 107%.
    These days you could make it 102% and no-one would fail the test. Incredible how close in performance all the cars are these days, isn’t it. :D

    1. Excellent point – it must be so disheartening, and yet at the same time so encouraging, for the Force India guys to be so close and yet so far away at the same time!

  11. Ferrari are utter pants this year. Twice they have let a driver get knocked out in Q1 and this time they didn’t get enough fuel into the remaining car!!!

  12. This method only shows the top speed, or the qualifying speed, but this does not always translate into wins!
    I don’t completely agree with the conclusions.

    What is cruicial is that the Brawns have a massive advantage in racing conditions – i.e. worn tyres and heavier fuel. What makes their car superior is that it maintains performance when tyres and weight change.

    That said the RBR is closing on them, WEB remarked that the latest RBR was “behaving pretty neutral to fuel load especially on high speeds” – so they’re chasing but are not there yet.

    And I strongly believe Brawn are not showing all their cards at once, both in qualifying and in the race.

  13. Keith (or anyone else) – do you think Massa’s fuel problem was due to his team being desperate to get him out in front of Vettel, or was it a genuine problem with refueling?

  14. James Bolton
    11th May 2009, 22:32

    Hi All,

    I hope you enjoyed reading my article and thanks also for your comments.

    I guess what the analysis tries to show is which car is purely the fastest. Of course, this doesn’t translate into which car is the necessarily the best… it’s up to the team to harness the quality of their car to claim the points at the end of the weekend.

    In the absence of traditional low fuel qualifying, the Q2 times are the best we have when trying to work out which car is the fastest. But agreed, it’s a slightly flawed analysis and Q1 times should also be included to draw a stronger conclusion that considers all the teams.

    Anyway, I hope you found the article of interest and maybe I’ll be able to try to increase the strength of the conclusions in the future.


    1. Yeah I loved it, thanks.

  15. William Wilgus
    12th May 2009, 3:15

    No, Todd is right. If 100% is perfect, then you have to equate less than perfect as less than 100% and improvements as approaching 100% rather than deviating from it. Thant’s counter-intuitive.

    If you are comparing lap times as a percentage, then numbers above 100% are fine—and intuitive.

    1. Yeah, it’s not that i’m right, both work, it’s just the readability.

      I prefer to read it as the bar being set is 100% – perfect. drivers like PK are only achieving 92% of the theoretical perfect lap.

      That’s just the way i prefer to read it, the ‘basic math’ is the same.

      what really matters is relevant statistics, q2 times is an indicator of fast pace, but not a great race speed indicator – the real stat you should be looking at is race pace since the cars race with fuel.

      and a car at race pace with race fuel is terribly different to a q2 car, different oversteer & understeer etc.

      an understeering q2 car with no fuel might be fantastic over a lap, but as soon as it has fuel it’ll suck hardcore with all it’s oversteer. hardly a race threat or an indicator of progress.


    they surely miss Brawn.

    while mclaren misses Newey, red bull has the fast car without DD.

Comments are closed.