2011 F1 statistics part one: car performance

2011 F1 season review

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Red Bull's performance advantage was greatest at the Circuit de Catalunya

Red Bull’s performance advantage in 2011 was never as large as it was last year.

But the RB7 kept them ahead of their rivals more consistently than its predecessor.

Compare the performance of all the teams’ cars, plus their reliability and how quick their pit crews were.


This chart compares the fastest lap time set by each team at each race weekend, expressed as a percentage. The fastest team at each weekend is shown at zero percent, and the other teams’ lap times are shown as a percentage of their time.

As usual you can hover over each data point to see the value and toggle different lines on and off using the control below:


Red Bull 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.23 0 0.05 0
McLaren 0.93 0.11 0.76 0.64 1.21 0.6 0.75 0.42 1.66 0.06 0.2 0.4 0.55 0.41 0.01 0 0.35 0 0.51
Ferrari 1.73 0.98 1.51 0.94 1.21 1.26 0.25 0.49 0.13 0.4 0.56 1.81 0.69 0.47 0.37 1.06 0.41 0.63 0.94
Mercedes 2.27 1.6 1.03 0.62 1.96 1.53 1.1 1.3 2 1.31 1.61 2.08 1.29 1.56 1.82 2.02 1.51 1 0.91
Renault 2.06 1.32 1.54 1.47 1.84 3.07 1.44 1.86 2.58 2.12 3.09 2.61 1.53 4.1 1.97 2.4 2.39 2.52 1.92
Williams 3.28 2.77 2.35 2.02 2.31 2.7 2.78 2.59 1.7 2.84 3.59 1.96 2.88 3.53 2.89 3.52 2.8 3.38 2.62
Force India 3.25 2.64 2.13 2.33 4.14 3.48 2.38 2.12 1.69 1.92 2.04 3.96 2.29 2.6 2.21 2.5 2.33 1.8 1.87
Sauber 2.25 1.92 2.5 2.58 2.95 2.62 3.11 2.6 1.91 3.44 2.93 2.84 3.12 3.1 2.12 3.08 3.65 2.48 3.07
Toro Rosso 2.82 2.41 1.91 2.59 2.78 3.73 3.18 2.79 5.36 3.85 3.96 2.29 3.23 4.07 2.87 2.6 2.36 2.62 2.62
Lotus 6.85 3.98 4.47 4.39 5.46 5.15 5.11 4.84 4.89 6.13 5.7 5.31 5.31 6.29 5.51 4.91 5.21 4.62 4.38
HRT 11.31 7.04 6.94 6.63 8.43 10.89 7.41 6.82 7.84 7.7 8.15 9.01 7.02 7.69 8.16 8.28 7.17 6.31 6.55
Virgin 7.58 6.09 5.78 6.34 7.82 5.92 7.56 5.75 6.42 7.02 8.12 7.41 6.46 7.45 6.6 6.54 7.95 6.18 7.09

A few clear trends are visible in the data:

  • Red Bull set the fastest lap time at every weekend with two exceptions: Korea and Abu Dhabi
  • Although they were never as far ahead as they had been in Hungary last year, Red Bull were the fastest team even more regularly than they had been in 2010
  • McLaren cut Red Bull’s advantage over the final races of the year
  • Ferrari improved their performance over the first half of the season before dropping back again, presumably as they diverted more resources to their 2012 campaign
  • At the beginning of the season Renault were the fourth-quickest team but they dropped back over the course of the year
  • Whereas Force India made clear progress throughout the season
  • HRT and, to a lesser extent, Virgin, were regularly more than 7% slower than the fastest runners. So why did they not fall victim to the 107% rule more often? This was usually because the quicker teams used hard, slower tyres in Q1.
  • See last year’s chart to compare the team’s performance this year and last

Performance: 2011 vs 2010

Team Average %
deficit to
fastest car
Average %
deficit to
fastest car
Red Bull 0.01 0.05 -0.04
McLaren 0.5 0.58 -0.08
Ferrari 0.83 0.48 +0.35
Mercedes 1.5 1.15 +0.35
Renault 2.2 1.18 +1.02
Williams 2.76 1.53 +1.23
Force India 2.51 1.81 +0.7
Sauber 2.75 2.04 +0.71
Toro Rosso 3.06 2.28 +0.78
Lotus 5.18 4.82 +0.36
HRT 7.86 6.68 +1.18
Virgin 6.85 5.31 +1.54

This table compares each teams’ performance this year and last year.

This reinforces the view that the front-running teams are pulling further away from the midfield. In particular Renault and Williams were more than one percentage point slower than the fastest car this year than they were last year.

Even teams that finished higher in the championship than last year, such as Force India and Sauber, had fallen further back from the front runners.

Lotus reduced the gap between them and the midfield. Here a word of warning about the data: because Lotus rarely progressed to Q2 they will generally have set their lap times in less favourable track conditions. Therefore, the gap between them in the midfield is likely to be slightly exaggerated.

And of course keep in mind this reflects performance over a single flying lap better than it does race stint performance. In Spain, where Red Bull enjoyed their greatest margin of superiority all year, Sebastian Vettel ended the race under pressure from Lewis Hamilton.


2011 retirements by team

Formula 1 continues to see exceptional levels of reliability. This year’s European Grand Prix set a new record as all 24 starters were classified.

Some teams have made considerable strides in this area: last year Virgin saw 13 retirements due to car failures, which they cut to five this year.

Had it not been for Sebastian Vettel’s tyre failure in Abu Dhabi, Red Bull might have gone the season without a single retirement due to a technical fault. However they were not without other problems during the year, such as numerous KERS failures during the races, and Vettel’s gearbox problem in Brazil.

Pit stops

This chart shows how each team’s quickest pit stop in each race (in seconds) compared to the quickest pit stop of all in the same race:


Red Bull 0 0 0.569 0 0.353 1.599 0 0.183 0 0.18 0 0.633 0 0.606 0.794 0 0.347 0.175 0.256
McLaren 0.161 0.507 0.011 0.721 0.227 0 1.187 0.076 0.155 0.473 0.382 1.487 0.282 0.459 0.138 0.599 0.199 0 0
Ferrari 0.731 0.648 0.646 1.196 0.704 0.682 0.158 0 0.101 0.045 0.272 0.841 0.443 0.555 0.156 0.654 0.862 0.685 0.268
Mercedes 1.196 0.334 0 0.196 0 0.446 0.3 0.76 1.262 0 0.275 0 0.636 0 0 0.106 0 0.31 0.262
Renault 0.474 0.709 1.299 0.76 1.262 1.181 0.711 0.969 1.035 0.642 1.689 1.242 1.068 0.257 1.493 1.626 0.618 0.773
Williams 1.123 2.609 0.959 1.575 1.103 1.005 0.657 1.027 0.732 1.127 0.916 1.268 1.236 0.77 0.437 1.584 1.446 0.851 1.141
Force India 1.351 0.153 0.467 0.663 0.536 0.3 0.077 0.15 0.94 0.909 0.925 0.83 0.492 0.347 0.762 1.075 0.091 0.866 0.349
Sauber 0.918 1.387 0.951 1.603 0.966 3.972 1.285 0.409 2.249 0.952 0.906 1.116 1.561 1.047 1.08 1.24 1.783 0.483 0.835
Toro Rosso 0.58 0.995 1.406 1.657 1.207 0.375 0.936 0.324 0.958 1.024 0.696 0.61 1.531 1.217 2.007 1.686 2.013 1.459
Lotus 2.328 1.443 1.368 1.521 1.273 0.925 0.93 0.99 1.245 1.326 1.331 1.233 1.631 0.837 1.966 1.108 1.302 1.082
HRT 4.661 2.977 4.362 3.623 3.628 4.8 2.099 2.368 2.118 2.794 1.613 2.27 2.056 2.107 2.712 1.897 2.27
Virgin 1.272 2.523 1.386 2.667 1.636 1.794 1.741 1.764 1.822 0.832 0.949 1.568 1.406 2.175 1.151 2.427 1.579 1.211 1.463

Red Bull and Mercedes were consistently the two quickest teams in the pits. The world champions were fastest in eight of this year’s races, while Mercedes were quickest seven times.

Of the rest, McLaren turned around the quickest pit stops three times, including the last two races, and Ferrari did so just once.

HRT were conspicuously weak in this area: they were only quicker than another team once all year.

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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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42 comments on “2011 F1 statistics part one: car performance”

  1. Wow. most of teams couldn’t close the gap with Red Bull at all! Only Mclaren did slightly…I just hope other teams’ early effort would pay back this time.

  2. Two things I noticed at first glance:
    Ferrari had a strong trend towards the front in all areas until the middle of the season. It is clear that they found the championships lost by then and so they sort of abandoned the development but I’m surprised even their team performance dropped (if you take pitstops as an indicator for the team performance at a weekend – looks like morale/motivation was really down once they saw there was nothing to win this year unlike 2010). T
    The second thing is the confirmation that Mercedes were simply in the middle of nowhere but seems their motivation is high (I still think they are this good at pitstops because of the years of experience amd developmemt in that area in DTM, where they frequently introduced improvements and pitstops are handled at a similar speed).

    Oh amd one more thing: While most people agreed that small teams would fall back over the course of a season because they can’t keep up with the big teams development, I don’t really see that here. Maybe it is simply the effect of learning more about everything, especially their cars and setups and tyres but if we consider how fast the big teams use to improve their cars, the small ones kept up quite well. Especially Team Lotus’ developments late in the season (the ones they thought would bring them into midfield) look like they were strong. Really looking forward to their car next season.

    1. Interesting point. Ferrari’s pit crew performance was also dropped since GB/German…Perhaps it’s due to mental side? Impressive.

    2. smaller teams like Lotus with a very basic car can make quite significant improvements. (for example if they bolted on KERS they would gain an immediate performance improvement) Its when you get to the top teams where it gets more tricky to add pace. You have to spend much more to improve the pace of the McLaren or Red Bull by 0.1 of a second. Its much cheaper and easier to improve an HRT or Virgin by the same amount. The problem the smaller teams have is a much more limited budget. The larger teams have money to spend, but the limiting factor is probably talent or time. think of it as learning to play darts. you can learn pretty quickly from the outset, but its the last few millimeters that makes a world champion. And that last millimeter is the hardest to achieve (substitute darts with golf, snooker or frankly other sport)

      this might explain why the smaller teams are not falling behind in the development race as much as would be expected.

      1. Good analysis Vjanik. I think that the top teams start out with cars that are on the cutting edge of technology as they know it. The smaller teams probably start out with a more conservative approach.
        To me the most interesting part is the progress, or lack of it, that teams like Williams and Caterham make. It must be an amazing challenge to work on the engineering side of one of these teams.

  3. HRT and, to a lesser extent, Virgin, were regularly more than 7% slower than the fastest runners. So why did they not fall victim to the 107% rule more often?

    At the start of the year, I maintained that the 107% rule was only ever re-introduced to appease certain front-running teams who whinged about being held up by the new teams in 2010, apparently because they don’t teach their drivers how to pass lapped traffic. Now, after nineteen races, I still suspect the rule was introduced to satisfy the team(s) who were complaining about it, but I’ve had a chance to evaluate qualifying results, and I’ve found some stuff that might explain why cars were allowed to race, even when they were outside the 107% time.

    The 107% rule was only really re-introduced to keep slow teams out of the race, rather than slow drivers. Melbourne was the only time that any drivers were consistently behind the pole time – Vettel’s Q1 time was a 1:25.296 (making the 107% time 1:31.267), while Liuzzi set a 1:32.978 and Karthikeyan a 1:34.293; both were over a second short of the minimum qualifying time. This was mostly because the F111’s front wing failed its crash test, and the team were forced to run with the F110-spec wing until the new wing passed; the team were able to introduce it for Sepang.

    Barring technical failures (Kobayashi in Turkey), driver mistakes (both HRTs were damaged in Monaco before qualifying) and variable weather during qualifying (which happened at Spa) – all three of which were recognised by the stewards as valid reasons for failing to set the appropriate time – everyone qualified within 107% on merit until Canada, when Jerome d’Ambrosio was half a second off the time (and he was using a brand-new chassis when he set that time). And the second instance of this happening did not come until India, when Timo Glock missed the cut-off by nearly two seconds (though he developed an early gearbox problem and never set another time). The HRTs in Melbourne, d’Ambrosio in Montreal and Glock in India were the only three occasions in the 2011 season when a driver failed to qualify inside 107% on mert. And although Glock and d’Ambrosio were allowed into those races, two things stand out: a) they had previously set times within 107% of the fastest laptime in free practice, and b) their team-mate qualified for the race on merit, demonstrating that the car was capable of setting the required time.

    The only other instance of two cars from the same team being allowed to race despite failing to set a time within 107% of Q1 was in Monaco, when both Karthikeyan and Liuzzi damaged their cars in the final practice session. However, the stewards allowed them to take part because they had set the appropriate times in free practice, demonstrating that the car was capable.

  4. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    29th December 2011, 9:31

    The reason Red Bull were consistently but sometimes only marginally ahead was the blown diffuser.

    It worked exceptionally well but at the cost of extra fuel. Essentially they could ‘buy’ down force with fuel when required.

    This is why Vettel opened a 2-3 second gap in the opening few laps but never pulled out a massive lead. If he had used the off throttle blowing for the whole race he would have run out of fuel. Hence the need to use it fully at starts and restarts.

    1. i doubt they only used the full effect of the blown diffuser in the first few laps. the benefit of extra downforce greatly outweighs the cost of carrying extra fuel. Red Bull used the blown diffuser throughout the race, you can bet on that.

      a more logical explanation is that Vettel pulled out a gap at the start and then just maintained it and managed it. He could have gone quicker but there was no reason to do so. Someone once said, the aim is to win the race in the slowest time possible. I think thats what we saw throughout 2011. We will never know what the full potential of the RB7 was.

      (of course some races were closer than others but you get my point)

    2. Adrian & Christian have said on many occasions that the RB only uses cold blowing in the off throttle situations & there fore does not use or burn fuel during these situations.
      Because of this it is possible they start with a smaller fuel load than the others hence the ability to build an early lead & then try to eke out tyre life.
      As the race progresses the difference between the fuel loads would become smaller as the others are using it more rapidly.

  5. i’m still not convinced red bull had the best car

    1. @stevie – Red Bull had eight pole positions, twelve wins, fifteen podiums, eight fastest laps, and won the World Constructors’ Championship by 153 points. So if they didn’t have the best car … who did?

      1. 18 poles

        Anyhow, RBR definitely had the fastest car, but not by as big a margin as they did in 2010.

    2. As PM writes, the evidence clearly shows Red Bull did have clearly the fastest car this year (although, just like last year, their advantage was fairly often bigger in qualifying than in the races)

    3. @stevie They most certainly did. It’s very difficult to convince us otherwise! Heck, even Ferrari admitted they couldn’t get the tyres working much of the time and that’s pretty integral!

  6. outstanding article! thanks :)

    1. i’d like to request a minor change:

      performance: 2011 – 2010 table
      could columns be added for best race laps as well as qualifying?

  7. Wow! Renault’s 6 retirements for accidents! It shows how Petrov and Heidfeld were, how can I say…. I forgot…
    And 5 for Merdedes! Wow Schumi did a great job!

    1. It shows how Petrov and Heidfeld were, how can I say…. I forgot…

      Only if you assume that all four were the drivers’ faults. Petrov crashed out in Monaco, Italy and Korea. Of those three, Korea was the only one he was responsible for; he was hit by Liuzzi at Monza and Alguersuari collected him in Monaco. Nick Heidfeld crashed out in Canada and Germany, be he was only responsible for hitting Kobayashi in Montreal – Sebastien Buemi pushed him off at the Nurburgring. I’m guessing the sixth accient was Petrov’s adventues in rallying in Malaysia, although he was classified as a finisher (their only other retirement was Heidfeld blowing up in Hungary). That was also Petrov’s fault.

      So while Renaults did crash out of six races, only half those accidents were actually caused by Renault drivers.

      1. Only if you assume that all four were the drivers’ faults.

        Sorry, that should read “only if you assume that all six were the drivers’ faults.”

        1. Got your point. But I understand that is always possible to minimize an accident. We have to admit that both drivers were unpredictable, as so as Mr.Boulier decided to fire Heidfeld, of course, he would not do the same thing to Petrov.
          Most of people now are very confident to have Kimi on the team, as I am too. And for sure Grosjean will have his second chance, In my eyes he will do much better than Petrov and Heidfeld.

      2. I suppose the sixth was Senna trying to take la Source flat ou.

        1. But Senna didn’t retire from the race. That’s the statistic we’re debating: race retirements due to accidents.

          1. Oh right, now that you say it I’m remembering him having good pace later in the race. Impressive for the car to be that sturdy.

            Heidfeld was on fire in Hungary so maybe its considered his fault the car burned down :-P But I guess you are right about Petrov trying to break his spine and not seeing the finish line and therefore being counted as terminating the race that way.

  8. @keith-collantine In that final chart it shows HRT being faster in the pitsto[s on 2 occasions, sauber once and virgin once. So Is that a typo underneath it where it says they only did it once?

    great article tho keith, keeps my f1 juices flowing over these drab winter months ready for testing to begin!

    1. @keithcollantine sorry i’m not sure how to tag you. I dont understand twitter at all or its tagging ways.

      1. @mike-e – The blog isn’t actually connected to Twitter, though it uses a similar system of tagging. If you want to tag someone, hold the cursor over the post. If should come up with the URL of their profile in the bottom corner of the screen; for example, mine shows https://www.racefans.net/members/prisoner-monkeys/. The person’s username is between the last two slashes. So, while I post as “Prisoner Monkeys”, if you want to tag me in a post, you have to put “@prisoner-monkeys” (without the quotation marks). It’s just the way the blog software works.

        1. If you want to tag someone, hold the cursor over the post.

          Sorry, that should read “if you want to tag someone, hold the cursor over their username in the post header.”

          1. @prisoner-monkeys

            I use a similar method, except I actually copy the link you’ve referenced, paste it into my reply, delete the last slash and replace everything up to the last remaining slash with an @ symbol.

            That way you can’t mess up someone’s tag, either due to misreading or misspelling.

    2. @mike-e @keithcollantine Yea, I noticed that too. They were faster than Sauber in Monaco (they only had one car to deal with!), Virgin in Korea and Toro Rosso in Abu Dhabi.

      Are we not reading something correctly?

      1. I’ve just noticed they were also quicker than torro rosso at abu dhabi too…. so not twice, but thrice.

  9. And of course keep in mind this reflects performance over a single flying lap better than it does race stint performance. In Spain, where Red Bull enjoyed their greatest margin of superiority all year, Sebastian Vettel ended the race under pressure from Lewis Hamilton.

    On the flip side I would say Ferrari looks weaker in the data than they actually were, their race pace was generally closer to the front than their quali pace.

  10. If you look at the deficit between red bull and mclaren the gap was minimal, i bet if the season was to end after six more races, mclaren was capable of wining the WDC , they where cutting red bulls advantage all season.

    1. The gap was minimal because of the regulations. in 2011 it’s more advantageous for the leading car to save fuel and pace the rest of the pack than to go all out, unnecessarily increasing the gap to second because you have to conserve engine and tyre life (not to mention fuel). So I was hoping for Kieth to mention that.

    2. i bet if the season was to end after six more races, mclaren was capable of wining the WDC

      With 150 extra points available, Lewis Hamilton still would have been mathematically out of contention. Jenson Button would have needed to close the gap by an average of 21 points a race.

      They most likely wouldn’t have won 2011 even if it stretched into 2013.

      1. themagicofspeed (@)
        29th December 2011, 21:13

        Vettel just outsmarted everyone this year. He caught everybody else napping and ran away with it. I don’t think even RBR expected to be so strong. Rest assured next year McLaren and probably to a lesser extent Ferrari will be closer to them from the get-go. I say Ferrari lesser because they seem to be incapable of building a car quick from the off, in the way McLaren did in ’08, Brawn did in ’09 etc. At the start of those respective seasons, those cars were mighty quick from the off. The last Ferrari to be quick at the start of a season was the F2007. RBR are a master at it, so they can easily ‘do a Brawn’ and win every one of the first 6-7 races, build a massive points lead and then slack off and be a load of crap until the end of the season and still win both titles (in theory, anyway).

        Hate to say it, but i expect 2012 will be the third straight year of RBR dominance.

  11. I had no idea Force India was doing so well with retirements!

  12. sid_prasher (@)
    29th December 2011, 21:12

    Not sure how feasible it is – but a break up of gap in terms of tyres would have made for an interesting reading/analysis.

  13. One factor that was the opposite of last year was that RBR had a relatively quicker package at the low downforce circuits compared to McLaren. A 1-2 in Belgium, and 1st in Monza, they struggled there in the 2 years previous.

  14. The first table shows something that i have contemplated very often this season that with due respect to Barrichello, Williams probably had the weakest driver lineup(excluding HRT) among the manufacturers. Williams were quicker than Sauber, Toro Rosso, Force India at many of the races this year but yet were unable to get into lower point scoring positions. Their car hasn’t been great in years but i am sure this year’s car isn’t as pathetic as their results show.
    They do need to revamp their lineup like Renault did.

  15. That’s the healthiest flat-line I’ve ever seen from Red Bull!

    Looking at Ferrari’s performance between Canada and Germany they looked really good. From a technical point of view that’s their four best races. Two of those four races (Canada and Europe) featured the super-soft compound which Ferrari managed to get to work with a better degree of success than any other.

    A bit ironic, considering the super-softs were a vibrant red colour.

  16. Amazing. Red Bull’s vulnerability in previous years was reliability of the car or steadiness of the drivers. Not this year. Hence total dominance.

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