Vettel and Mansell’s 14 pole positions in a season compared

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Nigel Mansell, Williams, Monaco, 1992

Sebastian Vettel equalled Nigel Mansell’s record of 14 pole positions in a single season in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

But while Mansell exerted a crushing superiority over his rivals at the wheel of his Williams, Vettel’s advantage has been far smaller.

And, as this data shows, Vettel’s rivals have got closer throughout the season.

14 pole positions in one season

This graph shows how far ahead of second place each driver was (in second) for each of their 14 pole positions:

Sebastian Vettel0.7780.1040.7150.4050.4410.1850.1880.1630.4320.450.3510.0090.330.141
Nigel Mansell0.7410.0161.1911.0051.0530.8730.4681.9190.552.1980.6010.6310.8590.47

Clearly Mansell’s advantage over his rival’s was usually larger than Vettel’s. On average he was 0.9s faster than second place. Vettel’s advantage was a much smaller 0.3s.

Mansell’s margin of superiority ballooned to daunting proportions at times. At Silverstone he was nearly two seconds quicker than his team mate and 2.7s faster than the next quickest car, the McLaren of Ayrton Senna.

At Spa Mansell took pole by the greatest margin of the season – 2.198s. Vettel’s largest advantage in real terms was much smaller – 0.778s, less than Mansell’s average margin as a pole sitter.

That high-water mark for Vettel came in the first race of the season at Melbourne. Since then his superiority in qualifying has been gradually eroded. Some of his most recent pole positions have been achieved by very slim margins – 0.141s in Abu Dhabi and 0.009s in Japan.

In Korea Red Bull were beaten to pole position for the first time the year and, as was the case for Mansell, it was a McLaren that spoiled the streak – this time one driven by Lewis Hamilton.

The cars: FW14B vs RB7

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2011

Both drivers had Renault-powered, Adrian Newey-designed cars at their disposal. As you’d expect for creations of the wizard of downforce, both cars excelled in medium-to-high speed corners.

The Williams-Renault FW14B used advanced active suspension to maintain perfect aerodynamic balance.

The fearless Mansell was a supreme exponent of the FW14B’s capabilities, tackling F1’s fastest corners at speeds team mate Riccardo Patrese often couldn’t match. It wasn’t unusual to see the pair separated by a full second in qualifying – with Patrese still second on the grid with a comfortable gap to their pursuers.

Created with almost two decades’ more experience, Newey’s RB7 is a refined package which conjures maximum downforce out of F1’s increasingly stringent regulations, thanks in part to the effective design of its exhaust-blown diffuser.

But it has not enjoyed anything like the margin of superiority the FW14B had in 1992. The Williams was on average 1.1s faster than the next best car in qualifying in 1992 – the Red Bull’s average advantage has been 0.3s.

This gap shows the difference (in seconds) between the fastest RB7 and FW14B in qualifying and the quickest other car:

Red Bull-Renault RB70.7780.1040.7150.5250.980.4410.1850.4050.1170.0550.1630.4320.450.4230.009-0.2220.2960.141
Williams-Renault FW14B0.7410.9462.1991.0051.2441.113-0.0971.3352.7411.1460.7912.1980.6011.2171.0150.47

Many of the tracks that were on the calendar in 1992 have been dropped and replaced by other venues. Of those held at the same tracks, the circuits themselves have been altered, making it hard to do a like-for-like performance comparison between these two F1 supercars.

Suzuka offers perhaps the best basis for comparison – the chicane and 130R were altered in 2003, producing a slightly shorter lap, but it is otherwise much the same as it was in 1992.

That year Mansell lapped Suzuka in 1’37.360. When Vettel took pole position 19 years later, he was 6.894s faster, lapping the track in 1’30.466.

In Brazil next week Vettel will have the chance to set a new record. Though he’s the first one to admit he’s had the luxury of more races in which to beat it:

“Everyone – not us – talks about it, you are aware of it. [Mansell] obviously took two races less to achieve the same but still, it’s something very special. It’s a great feeling, for sure.”

Mansell and Vettel’s results side-by-side

Here are the drivers’ qualifying results from the two seasons, plus the gap between them and the next-fastest qualifier or, where they weren’t on pole position, the pole sitter.

Nigel Mansell, 1992

Mexico City11’16.346-0.016
Circuit de Catalunya11’20.190-1.253
Sebastian Vettel, 2011

Circuit de Catalunya21’21.181+0.200
Yas Marina11’38.481-0.141

2011 F1 season

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Images © Williams/LAT, Red Bull/Getty images

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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145 comments on “Vettel and Mansell’s 14 pole positions in a season compared”

  1. Not really fair to say that the record has been equalled, there are more races this season than when Mansell set the record.

    1. @jsmith944 I didn’t say he’d equalled Mansell’s strike rate, I said he’d equalled Mansell’s total.

      Vettel himself has said as much, as quoted in the article, which leads me to wonder whether you’ve read beyond the first sentence.

      1. Jsmith is right. Even if Vettel makes it 15, Mansel’s 14/16 is still a bigger number than 15/19.

        1. @JCost Again, you’re referring to strike rate, I’m referring to total.

          Let’s give it a rest with the nit-picking and hair-splitting, eh? There’s a more interesting discussion to be had here, as several commenters below have already discovered.

          1. But the total is almost completely useless and is brandied about by fanboys quite a lot with these ‘articles’ being the main cause.

            Fact: Senna scored 614 points throughout his career. Vettel has scored 630 from this year (with one racing to go) and last year combined.

            Surely we should count that as much of an achievment. Senna won 3 WDC’s with that and nearly 4.

          2. I don’t give a toss what “fanboys” think and neither should you.

            If they do misuse stats in some way by all means put them right on it. But don’t try to blame me for it, because I’ve never said achieving 14 pole positions in 18 races is the same as 14 pole positions in 16 races.

            As for the thing about comparing points, surely you’re joking? A win today is worth two-and-a-half times as many points as it was when Senna won his third title.

      2. I wasn’t commenting on strike rate either just saying its not a fair comparison.

        1. Keith isn’t comparing the number of poles and the number of races, he’s comparing the gap between the pole-sitter and second. Which you’d see if you read the article…

          1. And even if he wasn’t doing that comparison it would still be valid- they have equalled the total number of poles, so it IS a fair comparison, assuming you note the difference in number of races, which Keith did. If he’d Vettel to a driver in a poor car who never qualified higher that 13th then it wouldn’t be fair.

          2. *If he’d compared Vettel

          3. I have read the article and its very interesting and well written, and what I said is no way a criticism of the article. I think this is the best F1 site on the net. If people got the impression I was criticizing the article that is not what I was getting at, perhaps I didn’t explain what I meant properly. Apologies.

  2. It really shows that what is considered ‘dominance’ now is much less than back in those days. Vettel’s dominance has been in a car that sometimes isn’t the quickest out there and if so by a very small margin.

    It’d be also interesting to see where their team mates Qualified during their pole positions because for me the FW14B was a far more dominant car then this years RB7.

    1. I totally agree. Mansell’s record is phenomenal but having such a dominant car was a big help. How many times this year has Vettel shocked us with a blinding lap right at the death when it looked certain for another driver to take pole?

      Webber has, throughout his career, been known as a qualifying master. In their time as team mates, Vettel has trounced him, which in itself is a feat. If the RB7 was really that dominant, we’d have had more Red Bull front rows than we’ve had. Seb has made the difference this year.

      1. Couldn’t agree more. 42-12 is my tally of the qualifying battle at RBR, and Mark is the man who dragged both a Jaguar and a Williams-Cosworth to the front row.

      2. “Some say” the RB6 was much more dominant than the RB7. It took Vettel a WDC title and a proper off season of getting his mind straight to fight back this season.

        Abu Dhabi qualification is just one of those examples when you couldn’t help but gasp when he snatched the pole.

        Kinky Kylie suits him. But she’s not a complete knock-out.
        Easy relationship analogy here: you can have the kindest supermodel with brains out there (if she exists), but that does not guarantee you a happy life together. Sometimes, you just need to make it work with someone you really like but isn’t perfect.

        Ugh, that was too much cheese to handle this late at night, I admit.

    2. When this year we talk about Vettel’s dominance, most of us are saying it is spoiling the show. But when we think of 1992 we remember it as a great year when a true champion always won. Strange?

      1. I’d certainly agree that Mansell had a more dominant car, but both Vettel and Mansell had team-mates, both of whom were very good, but not champions.

        And, within that, Mansell frequently obliterated his team-mate by over a second, and by more than two seconds on one occasion. I’d hesitate to say that shows Mansell was better, but what it does show is that Mansell was quite a bit more special than the hard grafter he’s often made out to be. He had some serious drive and determination, and a lot of talent to go with it. If only he’d not wrecked his car so much…

        Oh, and the point about Vettel being “boring”, but ’92 being a “great year” – it’s almost always more interesting when a driver from your own country is winning. On top of that, Mansell’s rise to the top was a lot harder than Vettel’s, and he’d been so close so many times before, he’s was a character too.

        And let’s remember, for those of us in Britain at the time, there was a lot of Mansell Mania. The Sun lived off their Mansell wallchart for weeks, with people like me making sure we got the next cut-out of Mansell with his fist in the air, celebrating victory, to stick to our poster!

        Oh, sorry, you just had me remembering back to when I was six for a few minutes there…

        1. Here speaks a true Fan @noelhino!

        2. “(Mansell) was a character too.”

          I think Vettel is somewhat of a character, too. His interview with Lee McKenzie after the race in India was classic and pretty cheeky. Vettel certainly wasn’t boring on Top Gear earlier this year either.

          1. Yes, he, is, but in a more understated way – that’s more what I was meaning with that comment.

      2. I don’t. I was glad Mansell finally won the championship but I was bored to tears by that year.

  3. Great article Keith, I never realised the gaps were so large in 1992! It makes the RB7 dominance we saw at certain tracks look like nothing.

    1. It does. Makes me wonder which feat is more impressive. Vettel sticking it on pole without wringing unnecessary power from the car or Mansell for all out domination?

      Hell, I guess they’re equally as impressive.

    2. In regard of speed it has in qualifying, the Red Bull was more of an extreme animal last year where they were sometimes over a second clear of the 3rd car, but not at all tracks. And its reliability was worse.

    3. I cant decide what impresses me more, the dominace of Mansell’s car, and all the excellent engineering behind it, or the sheer will and skill from Mansell himself to tar his teammate so badly.

      In my opinion this is a prime example of the watered down nature for F1 today, RuleBooks, and other non-racing pressures have taken their toll on the purity of engineering and driving perfection.

      The #1 car is a warm example that even today, these high ideals can shine through, (Newey’s work is supreme, and Vettle extracted the maximum from it), but the days are gone when some engineer’s genius can be allowed to operate so freely.

      Ah well, welcome to the kinder, gentler world where everyone is OK, at the cost of the exemplary.

      1. I like your post…

  4. With regard to comparing laptimes, have the Hungaroring and Monaco been altered (and Interlagos, though of course Vettel hasn’t driven the RB7 there yet)?

    Another interesting comparison might be the difference in laptime between the FW14B and the RB7 with DRS removed…

    1. have the Hungaroring and Monaco been altered

      Yes, quite significantly:

      Changing tracks: Hungaroring
      Changing tracks: Monte-Carlo

      Interlagos offers another good basis for comparison – Ferradura has been reprofiled and the track’s been resurfaced since then but that’s about it – but as you say we’ll have to wait until next week to see how quick the RB7 goes around it.

      1. Ah thanks. I should have remembered, though, I drove plenty of laps of the 1991 season, in Formula One Grand Prix…

      2. Only the hairpin has been changed at Canada, though, hasn’t it? That would make a pretty similar comparison.

        1. No, in Canada there used to be several sweeping curves on the same side of the track as the pitlane, which was located closer to the hairpin. This was changed due to safety after 1994.

          1. Ah, I knew of those, I just wasn’t aware it wasn’t altered until after 92.

      3. What about Monza? Those pole times look quite similar!

        1. The first chicane at Monza was reconfigured in 1998 and the Lesmos may also have been tightened since 1992.

      4. Here is a quote from the link you gave on Monaco:

        Several revisions were made to the circuit in 2003, mostly moving barriers to create limited run-off space. The entry to the swimming pool complex had this treatment in 1997, and six years later the exit also had its barriers moved, making the exit slightly quicker.

        These are the only changes you noted to Monaco since 1993. Most of them are to the pit lane, or give extra run-off, I wouldn’t call the remainder significant for lap time!

        Also in 2003 Rascasse was altered to give the cars a faster, straighter run into a less tight corner. Not that it made it any easy for Michael Schumacher to get around it in 2006…

        The pit lane exit was also changed. Although cars still have to negotiate the tricky switch onto the start/finish straight, the actual exit now extends past the first corner, giving them a safer passage onto the circuit.

        The current pit complex was used for the first time in 2004. Unusually, it faces away from the start/finish straight, towards the harbour and the final sequence of bends.

        1. This is missing the rest of my comment I typed in!

          The above are all the changes mentioned in the article that have occurred since 1993. Most are changes to the pit lane and run-off, it doesn’t sound like there have been “quite significant” changes to the track that would affect the lap time at all.

          1. That should say 1992.

        2. They did make quite a difference; qualifying times can’t be compared due to race fuel qualifying, but in 2002 the fastest lap of the race was 1:18.023, in 2003 it was 1:14.545. That’s 3.5 seconds faster!

          1. What other changes were there between 2002 and 2003? and how did times change at other tracks between those two years?

    2. Why remove DRS from the equation? Should we remove the FW14B’s active suspension, traction control, or ABS?

      1. +1

        though lap times in comparisons to other cars at the same time is useful. Clearly the RB7 isn’t as dominant as the FW14B. Regardless of ultimate lap times, I’m sure each was living on the edge to wring the maximum times possible.

  5. Back in those days, as a very young F1 fan, Mansell was my hero. But that car (today I understand better) was too far ahead of competition. NM managed a 2,1 second faster than P2! It just makes me more impressed by Sebastian’s record. :)

    Adrien Newey deserves a Nobel Prize.

    1. Maybe not a Nobel, but certainly a Knighthood…!!

    2. Mansell had a teammate with the same car.

      1. Meaning? So does Vettel…

        1. The point is, Mansell smashed his team-mate into the ground even further than Vettel. That said, I’d say Webber > Patrese.

          1. I dunno, Patrese was a very competitive driver on his day.

          2. But was it still “his day” in 1993?

    3. Looking at the 1992 British GP results and all of the following drivers out-qualified their team-mate by 0.5s: Mansell, Senna, Schumacher, Hakkinen, Alesi, Comas, Gachot, Alboreto, Wendlinger and Modena. That wouldn’t even happen it wet sessions with today’s F1 cars.

      The point is that time gaps aren’t a good indicator, it’s the consistency that’s impressive and both have been consistently fantastic, it would be unfair on either of them to say one’s better than the other.

  6. I know Patrese got a pole in Hungary but how on earth did Senna get a pole in the Mclaren in Canada. Very interesting comparison, I think Vettel’s is more impressive considering that Mansell’s car was so dominant and Webber is a stronger teammate than Patrese.

    1. If my memory serves me correctly, McLaren got a new upgrade for that race (can’t remember was it just engine or engine and aero) while Mansell struggled.

    2. I think you should go back and take a closer look at Riccardo’s performance over the total time he was Mansell’s teamate . I am a great fan of Nigels but on his day Riccardo proved a very strong competitor remembering that he was up against Mansell, Prost, Senna, Piquet et all, winnig 6 Grand Prix in that era was quite something.

      1. Agreed, to call facing up against Mansell, Senna and Prost an “uphill battle” would not do justice to the task. In fact, I’d say now is the only time since then we’ve had the same depth of quality at the front we’ve had since then. The question is, if you take Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso, and Mansell, Prost and Senna, which triplet is the better? That’s a race you’d want a ringside seat for!

        1. In my opinion, I would say Mansell, Senna and Alonso would win over Vettel Hamilton and Prost.

          Mansell takes Vettel
          Alonso destroys Hamilton
          (and who from this list doesnt)
          Senna beats Prost.

          I know its not your original lineup, but i dont give much to Hamilton and even Vettel. Yes, I know the kid is impressive, but Im not yet convinced. Even the recent memory of Hamilton’s original “wunderkind” tells me that, though promising, Vettel still has to prove his stamina before he truely joins the ranks of the uber-elite

          1. Absolutely. We’ve seen Vettel be a qualifying lap specialist and then race off into the distance, but we’ve still not seen much actual racing from him.

            Saying that, he wasn’t that much of a match for Hamilton in the lower formulas … F3 I think … and they did spar at least once. HAM won that one.

          2. Hmm, well, 1) you’ve altered my original list and 2) “Alonso destroys Hamilton” – well, the one season they were in equal cars, one was a double world champion, the other a rookie… and Hamilton won.

            I’d take the older generation, no question, but it’d be interesting to see, huh?

          3. I seriously doubt the old generation would be capable of beating the new generation.

            Just look at any other sport for proof. Records are broken almost every year in sports that put a lot more emphasis on the athletes performance than F1 does.

            I can’t see how on the one hand you could have athletes breaking records of their predecessors every generation while suggesting in F1 the old generation would still beat the new generation. That doesn’t make sense.

            “Saying that, he wasn’t that much of a match for Hamilton in the lower formulas … F3 I think … and they did spar at least once. HAM won that one.”

            Hamilton was with the team that (comfortably) won the F3 championship before and after Hamilton drove for them. Contrary to popular believe F3 doesn’t mean everybody has the same car.

            In 2008 Vettel was capable of fighting with the McLaren of Kovalainen (and Hamilton in Brazil), Renault and BMW. That’s more telling than him losing to Hamilton in F3.

          4. What criteria are you putting on your old gen vs new gen race? Are you going to give them the same training and access to technical info? If so I don’t see why new drivers would be any better than the old ones. It’s not live evolution is set up to breed better race car drivers.

          5. Think people are taking my comment to seriously/scientifically…

          6. Hey javlinsharp! Prost DESTROYED Mansell!

          7. @F1fanNL – So you’re saying that F3 IS NOT a spec formula then? I must disagree: the cars and engines and tyres are identical. The skill of the teams mechanics in set up is not.

          8. @ Franton,

            No, it’s not. Aero, suspension, brakes, etc, etc are (well, were anyways) all team dependent. The more money the team had the faster they could make the car. Why do you think ASM, the team with the biggest budget has won every F3 Euro season since it started in 2003? Because their engineers can work wonders in setup and the rest of the field are idiots?
            Comparing Vettel and Hamilton by their shared time in F3 is as good as comparing them now. Different teams, different times, different cars.

            @ DVC,

            I’m comparing them as they were/are. There’s no telling what the old generation would do if they were born 20 years later. You can’t measure talent.
            I just find the statement that the old generation would grind the new ones into the ground absolute horsepoopoo.

          9. @Franton eh? F3 isn’t a spec series. There ARE different chassises in the category….

          10. @Franton I believe the engines and tyres are spec, but not the chassises

    3. Mansell was ‘troubled’ that weekend, there had been strong rumours regarding Prost joining Williams

  7. Never been a fan of comparing drivers over several decades, but the analysis is quite interesting I think.
    But to those who doesn´t think the numbers add up, because as one say Mansells 14/16 is a bigger number than Vettels 15/19, if he makes it one more, he will still be the driver with the most poles in one season, regardless of how many races there are. 15 is more than 14.

    1. what a specious argument …so if I got 11 poles out of 20 races I would be more dominant to someone who got 10 out of 10 ?

      1. You would have a higher total, but a lower percentage. Dominance doesnt come into it. Never in the article does Keith say that Vettel is more dominant, or that he has a higher percentage. Fact is, Mansell got 14 poles in a season, regardless of how many races there were, and now so has vettel.

  8. Fantastic article Keith.

    There is certainly a gap in the relative “dominance” between the two cars/drivers aswell as 2 decades worth of developments but the Williams was a engineering marvel which is synonymous with Adrian Newey.

    Didn’t they ban the “active suspension” from 93 season, (Newey design) now this year with RBR’s superior EBD design the FIA are simply going to ban that too, its like a cat and mouse game between Newey and the FIA!! Its like a dictator trying to clip the wings of the supreme creatives in the industry! I wonder what he’e planning for 2012? Surely your pretty limited with the manadated perisope exhaust layout?

    Its been borderline boring this season with Vettel nailing everyone almost every single race weekend, but that said its made qualifying incredible to watch in particular in Abu Dhabi 3 cars crossing the line within 20 seconds of each other all getting pole as they cross the line only for Vettel (last man across the line) to beat them all….Very exciting

    1. @JK – active suspension was banned for the 1994 season, along with traction control, ABS, CVT and four wheel steering (the latter two were tested by Williams and Benetton respectively but never raced). If anything, the 1993 Williams FW15C was even more advanced than the FW14B but by then the opposition had started to catch up.

      Remarkably, Williams didn’t intend to run the FW14B for the whole season because it was simply a development of the previous year’s car. But FW14B was so fast they didn’t need to take the risk.

      The other big development for 1992 was the “fly by wire” throttle, which I think was introduced by McLaren. The MP4/7 dispensed with a conventional throttle cable and went for an electronic solution.

    2. All this banning of technology and innovation really turns my stomach. Why punish the innovators, simply because others didnt think of the same idea at the same time. There has to be room for the ebb and flow of change. In my opinion, it is exactly these tight restrictions of engines, aero, tires, suspension, gizmos(mass damper) that are flattening the field, and soon, the varience between cars will be so small as to make no difference. They have another name for this, its call INDY CAR.

      Unless there is a saftey issue… LEAVE IT ALONE; the other teams will adapt, overcome, and parity will remain on average.

      1. That was the issue! The cars were too quick, hence the banning of items. Various rumors stated the CVT gearbox on the Williams made the car a further 3 to 7 seconds a lap quicker!

        1. And besides, a lot of those banned things were driver aids which I don’t mind being banned at all.

  9. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    18th November 2011, 10:41

    In my opinion above article only emphasizes how impressive Vettel’s total of 14 poles is – sometimes not having the fastest car he does manage to get pole position like last race at Yas Marina.

    Nigel Mansell season was impressive and well earned but for instance like MSC it was achieved in a much more dominant car and a less qualified teammate in comparison to Vettel’s dominence in 2011

  10. You can’t fail but be impressed by Mansell’s performance over his team mate – not so much because Patrese was as good as Webber is (my opinion is that he was ‘solid’), but what the difference in time showed about his driving and his mentality. At Silverstone in 1992 Mansell was brave enough to put his trust in the Active Suspension and take corners at greater speeds compared to anyone else, knowing that if the system had a glitch at the wrong moment he would be flying off the track into a massive accident, that he was over 2 seconds faster than anyone else!

    1. Mansell has also said that it required a lot of upper body strength to drive the FW14B around corners at high speed, and that he was much stronger than Patrese – and that was one of the reasons for his gap over Patrese that season. (not only reason :)

  11. similar position to schu and rosberg then

    schu clearly slower in qualifying which is why he is now said to be optimising for the race …but because there is a big gap back to 9th he can be just one place behind rosberg

  12. Interesting to see Keith what you think is the most impressive of the 2.
    I’d say despite the lower strike rate, Vettels is more impressive. He had a tougher teammate to beat, a car advantage nowhere near that of the FW14B, 4 other world champins on the grid (and 2 of them in the next best car). And what makes itmore impressive is that a strong qualifier in Webber is not lining up regularly 2nd, as Patrese was.
    Whether or not Vettels is better than Sennas 2 years when he had 13 each is a seperate debate but I think its more impressive than Mansells. No disrespect to Nigel, he could only beat what was in front of him but Vettels lower strike rate is far outweighed by how much harder it was for him

    1. I completely agree with this assessment of Vettel’s being more impressive, but I’m sure ‘our Nige’ disagrees!

  13. The effects of the post-qualifying parc fermé should be mentioned as well. Mansell could use a car specifically set-up for qualifying and change everything he wanted afterwards. This makes the comparison between Mansell and Vettel even more difficult, assuming such a comparison is possible at all.

    1. Add to that the fact that Mansell could have as many engines as he wanted throughout the year whereas Vettel has been limited to just eight.

    2. It’s the same for all the teams in the respective seasons

  14. Very interesting article!
    It’s a nice in-your-face to Vettel haters with the argument of a faaar superior car being the only thing that puts him up there.

  15. Montreal is pretty much the same isnt it? Apart from the straight before the chicane, but the curves were flat out anyway werent they?

  16. Great article, thanks @keithcollantine

    This does make for interesting reading and some of the times from Mansell are absolutely staggering.

    It is a little funny how even if Vettel hits 15, his % will actually still be lower than Mansell. It’s certainly not the kind of stat you can repeat with ease so he ought to be extremely proud.

  17. what I think will be more interesting is the debate that will ensue if Vettel grabs pole at Interlagos. In terms of strike rate; Vettel would be lower on 15/19, compared to Mansell’s 14/16.

    But then there’s another way of seeing it too – if 3 races were added to 1992, there’s no guarantee that Mansell would have gotten another pole position.

    1. So true. But, which 3 races would you subtract from Vettels pole’s to bring the ‘score’ back down to Mansells? There’s no guarantee that Vettel would be equal to Mansells total either, dependent of course on which 3 were arbitrarily thrown out….:). A wicked web…

      1. @STSCM Nah I think it’s a lot fairer to add to Mansell’s rather than subtract from Seb’s – because all races have equal standing (no pole is more than another) You subtract from Seb’s total means that some of his qualifyings were somehow “lesser.”

    2. I think, with the advantage Mansell had, adding 3 more races in ’92 would have resulted in about 3 more poles for Mansell.

      I don’t think the other teams would have caught up to Williams if they had 3 races more.

      1. Yes; but there is no guarantee.

        1. True, no guarantees, so I’ll be generous and give ole Nige 2 more poles out of 3 extra races.

        2. That’s why I said ‘about’ . :)

          I would have bet serious money on it though.

          1. @STSCM @F1fanNL I would too – but what I’m saying is, lower strike rate doesn’t immediately make it lesser. If you had an equal number of poles and lower strike rate, or equal number of races and lower strike rate, then that would be lesser.

  18. monza, spa and montecarlo are the same track if i’m correct, those show more accurate informations to compare the 2 cars. Red bull is faster by a lot in montecarlo but almost same at monza. anyone know why??

    1. The first chicane at Monza is now totally different and there were some other minor changes following the death of Senna. Monaco has also been slightly reprofiled at La Rascasse and the barriers on the inside of the Swimming Pool and Ste Devote have since been removed. At Spa the Bus Stop has been changed.

  19. A very face twisting article for me Kieth. I did not expect this kind of gushing journalism, but alas we know you are a Vettel fan – nothing wrong with that.


    It’s obvious that 20 years ago information and technology was not as evenly distributed nor affordable as it is today; so it is a matter of fact that the relative gaps between cars were much larger than they are today. 0.5 seconds is a lifetime in today’s F1…even Jenson Button was able to make good work of getting poles from gaps as low as 0.3 seconds to the next car. The gap is not really important if you have a fast consistent driver in the best car because he will always put the fastest car on pole if he has done his job.

    What you should do is at least use the pole to second place gap as a percentage of the gap from pole to the 10th driver’s time. And then lets see how interesting it is. That was satisfy the curiosity of us engineers.

    1. I wonder what article you read @Mr.Zing-Zang

      I did not expect this kind of gushing journalism, but alas we know you are a Vettel fan

      , I rather got the impression from the article that Mansell was in quite another league with that Williams, while Vettel in the RBR7 was closely followed by his teammate but also by other cars all year.

      Just the fact it took almost 20 years to equal that, and a calendar with more races in it, shows how big an achievement it was from Mansell and now from Vettel to get the same amount of poles.

    2. Although it is generous of you to concede that there is nothing wrong with being a Vettel fan, I don’t see how this article indicates that Keith is one! “Gushing journalism,” seriously? To me this reads as a balanced consideration of both drivers’ achievements.

    3. …to the 10th driver’s time

      Where did you pluck that one out from?!!

      1. Because the tenth driver is the last in Q3 in 2011. In Mansel’s time Quali was a bit different, but the point is choosing the 2nd placed driver to decide the quali gap is not a proper way to compare, because the range of lap time from slowest to fastest car was much bigger in Mansel’s day.

        Vettel’s gap might actually be bigger than Mansel’s – you never know.

      2. So, I propose a “percentage gap” to Kieth, to make the article more interesting. That is the gap from first to second divided by the gap from 1st to tenth. (in qualifying).

        Give it a shot for the engineers in here Kieth. I wish I could do those calculations but I don’t have the data.

    4. It would only mean Vettel has a smaller relative gap. But 2 seconds is still a larger margin than 8 tenths; no matter how you put it.

      What would be a fairer comparison is the 2nd placed time as a percentage of the pole time. Any chances of that @keithcollantine ?

  20. Yet another very interesting technical analysis. While it is indeed an ‘apples to oranges’ comparison, different times, tracks and cars, it’s a fun comparison nevertheless. I, for one, hope that many more similar to this are forthcoming. I understand this is time consuming, but I truly appreciate it. Thank you Sir.

  21. Great arcticle. Amazing to see that the RB7 and Vettel had a bigger margin than the Williams FW14B on the first two rounds and poles of the season, This shows how good the RB7 is, probably more dominant than the F2002. F1 standards evolved therefore such gaps arent logical it just proves how good was the RB7 in the early part of the season, F1 development rate is much faster this days and that allowed Mclaren to bridge the gap and win some races despite in my view of never being faster than the RedBull.

    1. not sure about the RB7 being up there with the F2002. Ferrari (2 races with MS and 3 for RB in the F2001) 221 points, the rest of the field combined 221 points.
      9 1-2 finishes, 5 in a row at the end of the year. Had Barrichello not been struck by hideous reliability and Ralf punting him off in Oz, they may have had 250 points by the end of the year… and that’s in the 10-6-4-3-2-1 system (probably 700-800 today)

      1. I was comparing qually performances, but now accounting what you’ve said, its preatty impossible to beat the F2002 all-round.

        1. in qualy that year Williams had BMW engines that were amazingly powerful. Montoya hit 19000rpm at Monza that year and took pole, he had 5 in a row mid season but their car kept breaking down in the race and couldn’t live with the F2002 in races when it was running.
          So that backs up your point a bout the F2002 in qualy.

  22. Todays talent are much better prepared and have benefited from better early career training paths with regards to the becoming top of the line drivers. Mansells generation simply can’t be compared to Vettels. The cars today are so much more advanced and that gap between the top and bottom will reflect smaller differences. Even though they share a similar number of poles there is no conclusive evidence that one driver may have been better than the other because the method of judgement isn’t equal. I think Vettels competition is greater than Mansells was, thus making Vettle rate higher even though the number of poles is the same.

  23. Its a useful analysis but while the numbers suggest that Mansell was more of a monster in qualifying, the reality for those who watched 2011 is that Vettel showed ultimate grit to get his numbers. Many times he produced his margins after being behind others, typically Hamilton, through the previous sessions. It was almost like a Lucy and Charlie Brown football routine with those two. The fact that other cars usually came between him and his teammate, unlike with Mansell, shows how much the driver was a factor in his poles. Also, unlike Mansell, Vettel does not have a fundamental design distinction in his car, i.e., active suspension. In fact, none of the rumors of a one-lap performance advantage, from ride-height trickery to special engine maps, ever panned out as an explantion for this Q3 magic. So while he will not top Mansell’s strike rate, history will show his work this season as a superior testament to raw talent.

    1. I think Hamilton has lead Vettel until the last lap in Q3 6 times (Malaysia, Hungary,Spa,Suzuka,Korea,Abu Dhabi) and I can’t recall Vettel making a complete hash of a lap in Q3 this year, so its not as if Hamilton was up there after the first runs by chance.
      Only in Korea did he hold on to pole and only once (Germany 3rd to 2nd) did he jump Vettel himself on the last runs.
      Hamilton has put himself in the mix enough times but when it comes down to finiding the extra time when it counts, Vettel has been superb this season.

      1. Maybe Vettel does really turn one something in the car (or himself). Hamilton is actually a very consistent qualifier apart from mistakes from Mclaren. It has only been once this season that he didn’t improve his Q3 time. So it’s not like made the mistakes of not maximising his car (watch the German GP lap and India Lap). It’s simply Vettel holding back until the 2nd run in Q3. It’s more down to Hamilton running at max and falling off and Vettel running at 95% and going to the max.

        So yeah, it is not fair to assume that the other drivers (like Alonso, Hamilton, Rosberg) are not maximising their cars in Q3.

        1. then you get a pole like in Monza where Lewis was genuinely gobsmacked by the lap Vettel put in. Separate from the apples to oranges comparison, that’s a heady compliment coming from the a supreme qualifier like Hamilton.

        2. In addition to what @uan said, I remember that in Monza, Vettel was 0.2 ahead after his first run, and improved after his first run, while Hamilton made an error and failed to improve.

          Sebastian was the one to grab pole with his best lap last weekend, while Lewis lost 0.2 when it mattered. The others have been trying hard, but Vettel has still been the best qualifier.

          1. Maybe because Lewis was on the limit as I said above? The Mclaren has a much narrower peak than the mighty redbull. check Abu dhabi.

          2. The track got faster as the session went on in Monza, so there was room for all times to improve (as they largely did), including the Mclarens. Hamilton was pretty impressed with Vettel’s achievement there, which says something about how well Vettel has used his car on Saturdays.

        3. Hamilton is a good qualifier because he is fast. Plain and simple. But in the pressure of a last-gasp qualifying attempt he makes driving mistakes. He locks up; He gets power on oversteer; etc.

          Are there times he doesn’t? Yes. Korea is a fine example of that.

          But has he been consistently pulling out those laps? No.

          1. How do you know that faster would have been even possible in the Mac? How do you not know that it was already on the limit and could not go faster while the RB7 can?

            The RB has 17 out of 18 poles..on all manner of tracks .it’s pretty telling.

          2. We don’t know wither way, Mr. Zing Zang. Sure the Red Bull has had 17 poles. but with the gap decreasing throughout the season, how are we to know that Mclaren shouldn’t have had more than 1 pole?

          3. Mr. Zing Zang, if you would have read my comment you would’ve known why. It’s not quite what @David-A said, though I agree with him as well.

            Ok, say Hamilton’s first Monza lap was on the limit. Fair enough. But then with track evolution, traction would increase, you can get on the power earlier, you can brake later, you can carry more speed through the corners… even if Hamilton’s first lap was on the limit, the 2nd lap time could still be faster, not because of the car or driver (as they were already on the limit) but the track getting faster

        4. Also a large part of that you would have to consider is that (weather notwithstanding) tracks on the whole improve towards the end of the session. Even if Hamilton is on the limit on his first run; if he reached that same limit on the second run he should improve. But he doesn’t.

          1. I suspect the reason for that is because he’s overdriving his car, brought about because its simply not as fast as the red bull.

            Not to take anything away from Vettel, but I can’t see someone beating Hamilton in qualifying that consistently without a car advantage (at least in quali).

          2. @skett – Fair enough, it would be close between Hamilton and Vettel in the same car, who convincingly have had the better of their teammates.

          3. @Skett – To be honest we don’t know that. Hamilton and Vettel don’t share any common teammates which would make a common comparison easier.

            However I think it’s too easy to dismiss it as Hamilton overdriving the car.If he WAS overdriving the car; either
            a) he’s not smart enough to realize that being on the limit is quicker than overdriving
            b) He doesn’t have a confident feel for the limit so keeps mistakenly going over it (“I know I can take the car through here at 152kph… but let’s try 153, in case my feel is wrong”)

            If he WAS overdriving the car, we would see him cutting a lot of corners, using a lot of exit kerb, etc. We don’t see that. Take for example Vettel’s Suzuka pole. He was playing dare with the astro turf on key corners such as the dengners, he was shortcutting corners where he could, he was using a bit of grass on the exit of corners like Dunlop… etc.

  24. I love how Mansell’s time was quicker than Ricciardo’s from this year.

    Ricciardo: 1:37.846
    Mansell: 1’37.360

    1. We already know the HRT is slower than a Williams!

  25. *Happiness-is-easy-sometimes hat on*

    Who impresses me the most? Both, but not for the reasons one may suspect. Both because Mansell wrote a personal note to Vettel after the most laps led record, and because Vettel took this with great gratitude bordering fanboy-ism.

    It’s the human story I’m after. That’s what I appreciate in human feats. I smiled when I found out about the note. I smiled when the teamradio had a Mansell message. It was just another wink between both champions (see TopGear earlier this year with the knuckles-around-the-wheel joke) I like it when I smile. Simple as that.

    *Happiness-is-easy-sometimes hat stays on*

  26. Another slight variance is that Nigel had the best car/engine combination whereas Seb only has the car.
    Having said that, McLaren claimed that their active suspension & traction control was superior to the Williams.
    As for Ricardo, the following year he was completely blown away by Michael, actually being lapped in some of the races. Whether he went off the boil in the interim or was never that good is hard to know.
    If memory serves correctly, Williams & McLaren were the only teams with active suspension & TA that year.
    The quali. format back then was different, you could put a grenade of an engine in, tyres made of gorilla snot, wafer thin discs etc. & then revert the car back to race trim.
    In latter years you had to qualify with the fuel load you were starting the race with, the tyres you were starting the race with, the tyres you were doing the whole race with, the engine you had to do the next few races with & so on, so race set up was probably more important than quali. position.
    In view of this I feel Seb’s performance is more impressive.
    In fact I believe if Quali. format had stayed unchanged, Michael would have had nearer 100 poles.

    1. I’m not sure tbh. One thing williams always seemed to do a good job with was their qualifying spec

  27. Also note Vettel only missed out on catalunya pole because of KERS failure…

    1. well its debatable as he lost out by 0.200s. The RB KERS is smaller and was only worth 0.2-0.3 but given how Seb was still neck and neck until the drag to the line out of the final chicane, its possible he would have got it.
      Shame as without it he’d have got 9 poles in a row (I think an outright record, beating Senna’s 8)

      1. oops. I mean Senna’s 8
        But to be fair, Webber has had more pronblems than Seb

      2. @91jb12 I’m not entirely convinced the RB system would give less lap time. Cooling would be compromised, but not lap time, I don’t think.

        Having said that we need to remember that in qualifying the gain from KERS is more (because in qualifying KERS is deployed already from the exit from the last corner – until you cross the line to start your flier, the KERS you use, even off the last corner, is counted as your previous lap)

    1. this picture reminds me of Jenson’s comment on the BBC post-race last week, as he was watching a helicopter shot of the start of the race, “wow, look at the lead he (Vettel) has”.

      That was a monster start by Vettel (not known as the greatest starter).

      1. spot on. It was better even than the one in the damp at Silverstone and that was a blinder.

  28. I think on huge difference that is aside from the on track activity was that to stay in the sport Mansell had to basically mortgage his house to finance himself, and had to prove himself through sheer talent. Displayed great prowess to work his way to the top and lost out the previous time to a triple world champion by the worst of luck ever, whereas Vettel has been gifted his career from the start and has only recently been allowed to cross the road on his own without having to hold christian’s hand (just teasing, but you get my point)

    On a personal level, I am sure that Vettel (outside of racing) would be more my kind of person due to his character and intellect than Mansell would, yet I can’t warm to him. While he’s displayed the ability to get things done, I think we have to redefine what it means to be a great.

    In testing recently it was not hard to note the dominance of the RBR which made the tester look like he was the next best thing.

    Kudos to Vettel for his achievements but it’s like boyzone or Take That having a #1 hit for a year but still selling less records (units) in one year than The Beatles managed in a week. (I exaggerate to make the point) Times have changed.

  29. Yep brilliant article Keith.

    For me both seasons are impressive. Newey is the man seriously. The comparison also definitely evidences Vettels skills and how hard he has worked this year.

    I am not against total domination as I think pushing the limits, striving for it is exciting in itself. I wish we had all the goodies back, active suspension et al. I love tech side even if it means there may sometimes is a dominant team/driver.

  30. I thought Vettel finished 4th at Nurburgring this year? not 3rd

    1. Soz my mistake

  31. Another 1992 Mansell record that Vettel can break in Brazil is the percentage of laps led. He already passed the # of laps led, but the percentage is of course the real benchmark, since the total # of races has increased.

    By my rough math, he needs to led 44 laps in Brazil to get to 66.8%, which would just pip Mansell’s rate in 1992.

    1. good, but sadly Clarks record will remain intact. Seb needs to lead 96 of the 71 laps in Brazil. The Abu Dhabi early DNF ruined that record and the hopes for most percent points in a year (403 needed- max now is 399)

      1. My stats didn’t go back that far! I figured someone in the shorter seasons had Mansell beat though.

  32. But what’s about Monza ? Pole times look really similar …
    I really don’t know!

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