2010 in stats part three: car performance

2010 F1 season review

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There’s no question which team had the fastest car of 2010. With 15 pole positions in 19 races Red Bull were clearly the team to beat.

But which was the second-fastest car of 2010? McLaren recently argued it was their MP4-25 but a look at the data suggests a Ferrari F10 was the thing to have if you couldn’t get your hands on an RB6.

Car performance

Here’s how McLaren made the case in a blog post two weeks ago that the MP4-25 was the second-fastest car of 2010:

Over the course of the 2010 season, said Tim [Goss, chief engineer of the MP4-25], our qualifying pace was just 0.001s per lap slower than third-placed Ferrari – negligible. On race pace alone, he asserted, the MP4-25 was actually 0.136s per lap quicker than the Ferrari.

Overall, then, this means our car was 0.074s per lap faster than the Ferrari.

McLaren haven’t shown how they worked this out so pulling their numbers apart is a little tricky.

To get a clear picture of the relative differences between all the cars, the chart below compares the fastest lap time of every car at every race weekend – including practice, qualifying and the Grand Prix.

That is converted into a percentage to give a simple and reasonable accurate view of who had the quickest car at each stage of the season:


BahrainAustraliaMalaysiaChinaSpainMonacoTurkeyCanadaEuropeBritainGermanyHungaryBelgiumItalySingaporeJapanKoreaBrazilAbu Dhabi
Red Bull00000000.36000000.570.060000
Force India1.171.911.161.491.941.821.430.720.941.992.273.480.831.513.332.062.32.461.53
Toro Rosso1.

Some trends are easy to spot (use the select none/all and teams buttons to compare different lines). For example, Force India and Toro Rosso gradually lost ground to the leaders whereas Williams generally reduced their deficit.

As for Ferrari and McLaren, the pendulum swung back and forth between the two all year. But, more often than not, it was Ferrari who were ahead.

This simple graph shows the difference in the best lap times set by the two cars at each race weekend:

Gap between Ferrari and McLaren's fastest laps in 2010
Gap between Ferrari and McLaren’s fastest laps in 2010

To illustrate how dominant Red Bull were, here’s how many laps each team led in 2010:

Laps led by team, 2010
Laps led by team, 2010

Car reliability

A car’s performance is only one part of the story. And when it comes to reliability, Ferrari were the best of all the teams.

Had it not been for Fernando Alonso’s crash at Spa and Massa’s at Suzuka, Ferrari would have had both cars classified in every race this year.

Alonso’s engine failure in Sepang was the only instance of a Ferrari breaking down during a Grand Prix, but he was still a classified finisher.

Here are all the teams’ non-classifications, broken down into mechanical failures and other problems:

Reliability: race finishes by team, 2010
Reliability: race finishes by team, 2010

This data can’t tell us about occasions where drivers nursed a car problem to the end of a race. This happened to Red Bull on several occasions – Sebastian Vettel was hampered by such problems at Bahrain, Spain and Canada to name a few.

Sauber struggled with reliability the most and completed the fewest racing laps of any team:

Laps completed by team, 2010
Laps completed by team, 2010

Got any observations on the performance of the different cars in 2010? Any other data you’d like to see? Have your say in the comments.

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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...

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63 comments on “2010 in stats part three: car performance”

  1. “including practice, qualifying and the Grand Prix” – You cannot include practice in this comparison. Fuel loads, different practice programs, tyre comparisons, lost time though reliability etc. Too many variables.

    1. Actually you can compare times through FP sessions. At any given point throughout these sessions we have the RBs, Mclarens and Ferraris having low fuel runs on hard and soft compound tyres. At the end of FP3 all the teams have gone through a similar combination of variables. And 9 out of 10 times FP3 gives an accurate reflection of the car’s quali pace.

      1. Really? I’ve always thought FP3 was the least reliable of the practice sessions as an indicator. You usually get some random non-Big 3 team topping the times.

        The best indicator for me (especially in the 2nd half of the season) has been, surprisingly, FP1. The raw pace is most apparent there. The pace ebbs and flows as they adjust setup, but by the time we reach quali, they’ve usually answered the main issues, so we’re back where we started pace-wise.

        1. I always saw that a lot of teams either sandbag or have very different programs for FP1. But by the end of FP2 we have an accurate reflection of the car’s race pace. Usually FP3 did give a solid indication of quali potential.. but I agree that we do some surprises from time to time.

          But my point was that if you combine and analyse the data of all the 3 sessions, you do get a pretty accurate picture of the true pecking order.. 9 out of 10 times at least.

    2. You cannot include practice in this comparison. Fuel loads, different practice programs, tyre comparisons, lost time though reliability etc. Too many variables.

      All those apply to qualifying and the races too. The benefit of using practice data as well is you get a larger pool of data to start with, which is especially useful when qualifying was wet.

  2. Great summary, but I would change one thing – the colours used for the laps led pie chart. McLaren are depicted in traditional Ferrari red, and Ferrari in traditional McLaren orange!

    1. Something went wrong there! Have swapped them.

  3. Mclaren loves to talk lot of nonsense. I remember they even said ( Hungary if i’m not mistaken) They were the fastest car without flexi-wings.

  4. great summary! shows how redbull dom’d but had the reliability issues..
    also good to see tororosso get a mention on the pie chart!

  5. So if Button had given his place to Hamilton in China, Hamilton would have finished only five points short of Alonso in a team that was slower than Ferrari and, unlike Ferrari, didn’t overtly favour one driver. I think that Hamilton can be justly pleased with his performance this year. I’m not denigrating Alonso, who I think had a fine second half of the season, but we mustn’t forget that Hamilton was leading for a long time in a car that was comparatively poor.

    1. We all tend to favour our fav driver and always try to push circumstances in his favour. If Button had given his china win to Ham,he would be only 5 points behind Alonso. Another argument from u ll be, had Sutil given his place to Ham in Malaysia, he wud be 1-2-3 (dont know how many)points ahead/behind Alonso.
      This is a worthless point u r making just to assure urself that Ham drove well ( He did indeed) . We ll know Ham drove well but ur argumntis wrthless.

      1. Also had Button let Hamilton through then you could not argue that “unlike Ferrari, didn’t overtly favour one driver”.

        I don’t think Ferrari was faster in the 1st half of the season. McL were mostly conserving fuel, tyres, engines etc and Alonso was making fastest laps in anger when the tracks were at their most “rubbered in” such as Britain, Valencia and China where he was nowhere in the race.

      2. Sorry, but it’s a little arrogant to suggest that my argument is worthless. I don’t need to convince myself that Hamilton drove well. I know this already, but it’s extremely frustrating when Ferrari fanboys jump on this site to rip into Hamilton or, with no noticeable trace of irony, tear into Keith for being biased.

        1. This Ferrari fanboy likes to rip into Button, not Hamilton! :)
          Alonso and Hamilton are the only two drivers currently active who are of Hall-of-Fame caliber. Michael has lost a step; Vettel hasn’t shown what he can do when he doesn’t have superior equipment and the rest are also has-beens, never-will-bes or aren’t-quite-there-yets.
          Hamilton is a boring PR wind-up doll outside the car, but I for one will never accuse him of shortcomings once he gets in it.

  6. You have picked the fastest laps but not the average fastest lap of the two drivers. This was what the McLaren’s used to come to their conclusion. They also used quali laps and practise times.

    It may not have been as reliable as Ferrari so you can conclude that Ferrari was a better car not necessarily faster.

    1. I would argue that by picking the best of the two drivers you’re going to get closer to the true ultimate performance of the car. By taking the average of the two you increase the likelihood that the data will be affects by one of the two drivers suffering some sort of problem.

      1. No drivers can have problems ALL weekend.

        Felipe Massa, in spite of all his niggles all season, is going to put atleast one quick lap over the 3 day race weekend.

        Plus, you are taking just one lap per team which is obviously giving us skewed results. I mean, China, Spain, Silverstone – Ferrari faster? Korea – Mclaren faster?

        In China & Korea, the race was entirely wet, so all practice and qualifying data can be shift-deleted. Spain – Lewis was ahead of Fernando and Jenson was ahead of Felipe. To many, that means Mclaren faster than Ferrari. Silverstone – Fernando set a brilliant lap on fresh set of soft tyres after his late puncture on a fully rubbered-in track.

        But again, I understand the tediousness it would be for you to go through all laps of all drivers of all sessions to answer this question.
        But Mclaren do have the time and resources to engage in that sort of analysis, so when they say that they were 0.136s / lap faster than Ferrari, I tend to believe them.

      2. Hmm not sure. If we are talking about driver+car combinations maybe.

        There isn’t much to chose between the two teams. It was basically a fight for 3rd place mostly. Therefore for Alonso to finish between the two Red-Bulls in the WDC is impressive and at the same time underlines how poor Massa has been.

  7. You have to laugh at Force India’s “other retirements”.

    1. I think the most shocking stats are Saubers – equal number of mechanicals as HRT, and more ‘other failures’ (read driver errors) in a car that was in theory far, far more drivable that that HRT!

  8. My assumptions on mclaren vs ferrari for every race-
    Bahrain-ferrari easily. Was almost a match for rbr.
    Aus-i think ferrari was a bit better but safety car and rain hid the true pace
    mal-mclaren. Because massa who didnt have relaibility problems couldnt match lewis.
    Barcelona-again mclaren.
    China-again mclaren because in the rain they mostly were quicker.
    Monaca-i thought ferrari was almost as quick as rbr. It was more due to the circuit suited to them.
    Turkey-mclaren by a long way
    canada-again mclaren by a small margin. Look at the lap times of lewis towards the end
    valencia-ferrari by a small margin.
    Silverstone-mclaren. Jenson was bad bcoz he couldnt adjust to the new upgrades
    monza-mclaren…looking at practice sessions i think so..lewis could’ve been quicker had he the right set up
    suzuka-mclaren but unreliable.
    abu dhabi-mclaren.

    Its 10-9 for mclaren but when u consider reliability i guess ferrari is a slight better option…and its just my opinion..

    1. Yep I agree with your estimations. I would say either 10-9 to Mclaren or 9-10. There wasn’t a lot to chose between the both of them all year.

    2. Whoops, you missed a line – Korean GP, which you must have given to Ferrari as that would agree with the total.

  9. Imagine if only Sauber had completed a couple hundred more laps. They might easily have finished sixth instead of eighth. I’m pretty excited for them next season.

  10. This is really great work.

    These tables, specifically, the first one, provide definitive proof that McLaren butchered the car with the Silverstone floor modifications. Aside from the rain race in Belgium, they just faded away. Even when showing a burst of speed in Japan, they were critically hampered by a car that had become incredibly hard to drive and set up. Button and Hamilton struggled to keep it on the road on Fridays and test the myriad parts and flow-vis art the team were forced to try on. The Singapore data point flatters terribly, because in the race, after a few laps, they were losing big scoops of time time to RBR and Ferrari. You can say the same about Korea, where Hamilton struggled terribly in the race relative to Alonso and Button put in an infamous stinker.

    Going back to the article about Vettel’s achievement relative to his precessors, on paper, RBR should have had a year like the 88 McLaren Ferrari 2002. They should have put 13 or 14 wins in the bag, easy. The other two shouldn’t have had a look in. Besides Canada and Monza, the only two tracks McLaren apparently considered with they set out to design their car, McLaren should have been nowhere. So controlling for the car, this year, you have to give Hamilton and Button gold stars for pulling results from that car it had no right to make.

    1. Agree. McLaren were poor post-Silverstone. Even at Spa and Monza, tracks where they clamed a 1st and a 2nd, they didn’t have the speed they should have given the MP4/25’s characteristics and and the supposed benefits of an EBD. Maybe they shouldn’t have bothered with the EBD and concentrated their efforts elsewhere.

    2. Both Jenson and Lewis’ performances were relatively poorer after Silverstone. You cannot blame just the car.. Hamilton had no idea how to set the car up for Monza.. a car that was actually the fastest over the weekend. (Jenson’s only front row grid position is proof enough that the Mclaren was good enough to take pole). In japan the car was actually quicker than the Ferrari, but it was Jenson’s lack of pace, and a little bad luck for Lewis that prevented him from getting that podium. Since Silverstone Mclaren was the quickest car at Spa and Monza, which is one race more than they were prior to Silverstone.

      I really do not think they butchered the development as much as you claim they did. Sure they didn’t get ideal weather to test their parts.. but it was their drivers who weren’t as strong after Silverstone as well.

  11. Love that interactive graph! F1 Fanatic really is a statto’s paradise!

  12. Hi,
    It would be interesting to watch Team Sauber-Ferraris development throughout the season, because in the first quarter of the season they weren’t even able to score a single point, but later on passed STR-Ferrari in the constructors championship, as Williams did pass Force India (Which is also an interesting ‘battle’ to watch).
    – So do you think that Team Sauber-Ferrari might have been capanle of passing Force India, if they hadn’t suffered from the 2nd most retirements and wouldn’t have driven the lowest amount of rounds? And is the upward trend of Sauber (they scored 38% of their 2010 season in the last 4 races) steady?

    Thanks for reply

    1. Looking at the performance of Sauber over the year, they seemed to just start of so far down (behind Williams, FI AND Torro Rosso).

      After arriving in europe, Sauper didn’t stagnate like those that started the year ahead.

      Then, with their EBD, Williams pulled away, and Sauber slowly followed, while Torro Rosso was left behind, and FI started falling back.

      Williams seem to have made another jump after the summer break, while Sauber didn’t. Torro Rosso didn’t either, and just fell away towards the end of the season.

      Sauber however did manage to work the car through the fly-away end of the season, regaining some ground on Williams, while FI got lost.

      1. Didn’t finish to conclusion: I think Sauber started a bit too far back, and progressed too slowly, to really regain the advantage FI claimed before they started falling away. FI were not that far behind at the end, looking at the above graph, and they were really a lot faster earlier in the season, so even without the early Sauber DNFs it seems likely FI would have been ahead in points.

  13. Great series of articles and analysis, Keith!

    I know you have been working on the display issues. This time around I had visibility of all graphs except the first one – where I have both the axes and the legend on display but no chart. However, when I put the cursor in the chart area the individual points are highlighted. Very strange.

    1. Can you let me know your browser details please?

      1. Certainly … MS Internet Explorer 9 Version 9.0.7930.16406. I am using the version for your site in “compatibility mode” – otherwise I also do not display the axes, but display the legend. Thank you.

        1. dont use IE. switch to firefox or opera or chrome. nothing works on IE…

  14. Is there any reasonably objective way for you to factor in driver performance? Did any driver, front-runners and also-rans, really “out-drive” their car?

    1. Anagh … In one of his previous articles, Keith did reference that Peter Windsor was working with Patrick O’Brien – a colleague of his for 25 years from South Africa – and his system of driver ratings. It is quite complicated, requires a significant data base, and time consuming. As Keith said, if you’re interested check out Peter’s blog.

  15. Sadly Ferrari lost everything in the races between Bahrain and Germany, despite they alreay counted on only Alonso.

  16. Alonso’s Ferrari was at times faster than both McLarens. Massa was nearly always behind all 3.

    1. Massa is rubbish, though.

      1. Right… One engine failure away from WDC in 2008 and he’s rubbish?

  17. Very interesting data and analysis Keith. It goes to show, how much the teams want to take something positive from not winning it.
    Second fastest, right.
    If you take the right data and ignore what does not fit, then the McLaren was the fastest car.

    1. Since Button mainly lacked qualy pace compared to Hamilton, rather than race pace, while Massa was behind Alonso for most of the season, but especially after Germany both in races and in qualy, I suppose averaging the drivers would be saying something like: well, we have the 2nd best team – but for that they could also have just pointed to the WCC …

      I hope the McLaren people who are so offended at having the 3rd quickest car do know they failed to integrate the EBD well enough, and take the lessons into next year so they can also give their overall better team a fast enough car to just go and prove it with race wins for the whole season.

      1. Yes, they need to face facts about the hash they made of the EBD. Ferrari came clean about the trouble they had with the F-Duct, and they got back on the right path with both the F-Duct and generally. You have to give it to Domenicali, he eats his crow, and gets on with it. McLaren kept blowing sunshine about how their new floor upgrades were going to rock, but every race it was just more flailing around, flying in last minute parts, flow-vis, etc.

  18. Younger Hamilton
    13th December 2010, 19:46

    I think we know why McLaren couldnt maximise their package which was claimed and backed up with evidence to be the 2nd fastest.Ferrari had a much easier and good setup system which enabled them to maximise it more than McLaren who on the other hand had a tough/hard setup system and both Lewis and Jenson wasnt able to maximise the package.

  19. Younger Hamilton
    13th December 2010, 19:48

    I have to say in terms of Reliablity McLaren were the best not Ferrari.

    1. IN ur view Mclaren was the fastest car and it had all the poles and fastest laps and race wins coz ur name says so

    2. Apart from some trouble for Hamilton, like the wheel rim failure in Spain, and Hungary gearbox issues?

  20. A crazy crazy thing about graph 1 are the Hungary data. Or, more to the point, what happened afterward. Hungary emphasizes downforce, but so do Spain, Monaco, Singapore, and others. How did Ferrari and McLaren suddenly go to 1.5 to 2.5 seconds off the pace and then back again? You can look at Mercedes and Renault’s relative recession to see that this was not a McLaren/Ferrari one-race swoon. The new FIA testing that came in for Italy and later and the disappearance of that ridiculous advantage can’t have been a coincidence.

    Newey/Horner will deny their front-diffuser wings to the end but I put as much credence behind their denials as I do their whinging about the Renault motor. That wing was literally dragging on the ground in Hungary. I won’t forget the image of the RBR mechanic on his knees and elbows checking the wear underneath the endplate in the garage in Hungary. Those images stopped after Hungary.

    1. RBR apparently don’t check the legality of their innovations before they race them: they wait for others to point them out. This means that they maximise the potential of their car, perhaps even getting race wins, whilst the others play it safe.

      I suppose McLaren might have a reason to play it safe, given their run-ins with the FIA…

  21. Why is the “Laps led by team” chart saying Redbull led 699.62% of of all laps?

    1. Sounds about right from my memory of the season…

      That RBR nearly lost both titles, with that car, is amazing. The RBR must have been one of the best cars in F1 history, relative to the opposition.

      People heap praise on Vettel for winning the title. But that’s a little daft when you consider that Vettel SHOULD have won the title; in fact, there would have been something very wrong if he hadn’t. After all, he had the best car by miles, an average team-mate who felt completely out of love in the team, in a team where the love for Vettel even stretched to taking Mark’s new wing OFF his car and giving it to Vettel…

      Even so, it went down to the wire. That says a lot about Vettel.

  22. Great article again Keith, you might be working on it already but I would like to see a statisical review of team-mate comparisions for 2010. Would be interesting to see the data. Thanks

  23. These observations, like the McLaren claims, are interesting to look at. However, there’s one fundamental flaw: the data can’t distinguish between the driver and the car he drove. So a lap-time may suggest that car X is better than car Y; but it might just be that driver A in car X is better than driver Y in car B; but that car Y is better than car X. This is especially so when the gap between times of different drivers in different cars is so close, as it sometimes was last season.

    It should be obvious that Ferrari had a better car than McLaren. It was clear in the first race and in the last. Mclaren went through a short period of being faster than the Ferrari; but as soon as the exhaust-blow difusser came in, McLaren couldn’t adapt it to their highly sensitive car. The Ferrari had better overall downforce and accepted updates much better.

    McLaren, once more, had the third best car, poor strategy and pitstops on the whole, not great reliability, etc. However, they did have the best drivers. That was their only saving grace. People go on, unfairly, about Lewis’s mistakes. The simple fact, though, is that for him to be in contention for the title in the last race, with the third best car, means that he must have made very few mistakes compared with the three drivers against whom he was competing but in far better cars.

    Lewis made one mistake all year: monza. Because his car, etc., were far from the best, that mistake cost him the title. Whereas, Vettel and Alonso, who had much better cars, were able to make half a dozen mistakes and still finish ahead. Besides, we know how Alonso and Lewis compare in equal machinery: if Alonso is ahead, he has a better car.

    1. Mmmm.. Mclaren – 3rd best car in the final race? Are you sure..

      I think this debate of the 2nd placed car is pointless. Ferrari fans are gonna say that Massa’s pace is the true potential of their car, in order to claim that Fernando was best of all drivers. Mclaren fans are gonna claim that Jenson’s pace is the true potential of the car and that Hamilton outperformed the car.
      One must only look at what Mclaren themselves said. 0.136s/lap faster in race conditions. That should settle the debate.

      1. But one problem is that not only race conditions count – and qualy is where Button lagged the most behind Hamilton – averaging those as well might still have worked out for McLaren, but then only because Massa fell back so far in the 2nd half of the season.

        As I also said above, Button was much closer on race pace, so yes, I can believe the McLaren team beat the Ferrari on track, if not in the pit stops …

        I personally found the MP4/25 a very interesting car, but it also clearly was rather sensitive, which is probably why adopting a EBD gave them trouble. The F10 seemed much more conservative, but that did allow them seemingly better adaptability to new things.

        Ferrari managed (needed?) a special Monza F-duct, McLaren didn’t even try that seemingly. Arrogance or inflexibility – eventually they changed their F-duct after inspiration from Renault etc., but it took until the last race to get it properly working. I think McLaren were outdeveloped.

  24. interesting, but what if we take the slower of the two cars & see how they did in the rankings when compared to this.

  25. spa not in the charts ?!?

  26. oops there it is ! sorry

  27. As Mclarens 1-2 Finish in SPA was supported by failures of Sebastian Vettel and Ferraris 1-2 in Hockenheim was due to the raw pace of the F10 (also because of Vettels bad start, but that hasn’t to Be taken that much into Account, because Vettel only gaind the pole by beeing 0:00.001 faster than Alonso) it seems as if the Ferraris F10 is the faster car, but as the Mclarens mainly ruled Massa (except Germany) I think it also depends on the driver. So if Alonso would have driven together with Hamilton at Mclaren, the Mclaren might Look as the faster Car.
    I’m sure it depends to 50percent on the driver which Team Looks faster – do you agree?

  28. I completely agree with Keith’s rankings. Hamilton overcame an inferior car with poorer reliability and greater misfortune to stay in the title hunt to the very end.

  29. To get a clear picture of the relative differences between all the cars, the chart below compares the fastest lap time of every car at every race weekend – including practice, qualifying and the Grand Prix.

    This particular analysis-Keith has looked at overall pace-(not just qualifying pace)

    So Hamilton challenged all the way in the 3rd fastest car. 2010 is one of Hamilton’s most underrated seasons

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