Who had the fastest car? Performance data analysed

2012 F1 season review

Posted on

| Written by

McLaren overtook Red Bull as the quickest team on the track in 2012. Ferrari were quicker than in 2011 – but Lotus were ahead of them. Here’s all the data.

Teams performance throughout 2012

This table compares the fastest lap time set by each team at each race weekend in 2012 (in any session) and shows how far each team was off the quickest last time as a percent.

One point leaps out immediately when comparing this graph with the same data for last year: Red Bull got slower.

It was said from the beginning of the season that the restrictions on exhaust-blowing would hit Adrian Newey’s cars hardest, and here is the proof. Last year they were the quickest team at 18 out of 19 race weekends (94.7%), this year that fell to 7 out of 20 (35%).

While Red Bull felt the effect of the changes most strongly, it had consequences for every team in the pit lane. The field closed up dramatically. Throughout the season there were often six teams covered by 1% on lap time – last year there was usually only three.

The cars at the tail of the field were generally closer to the pace this year. Eight races in it looked as though Caterham were finally going to catch the midfield. Instead they fell back into the clutches of Marussia, who they were involved in a fight for tenth in the championship with until the final race.

Change in performance since last year

TeamAverage %
deficit to
fastest car
Average %
deficit to
fastest car
Red Bull0.380.01+0.37
Force India1.162.51-1.35
Toro Rosso1.823.06-1.24

*Renault in 2011
**Lotus in 2011
***Virgin in 2011

If we average out the teams’ performance across the entire season McLaren emerge as the quickest team ahead of Red Bull (see table).

The pole positions statistics back this up as the two teams took eight each, though McLaren lost one due to a penalty in Spain and Red Bull picked one up for the same reason in Monaco.

Red Bull exhibited crushing pace in the European Grand Prix which prompted speculation they were about to return to their dominance of 2011. However they were later required to make a change to their engine maps which appeared to set them back again. In the latter part of the season they hit the front once more, but McLaren beat them in the final two rounds.

Ferrari’s performance in 2012 was closely scrutinised and the data tells an interesting story.

Having struggled in the first four races, the upgrades introduced in Spain after the Mugello test allowed them to slash their deficit by more than half – progress they built on in the remainder of the year. Over the first four races where they were a dismal 1.26% off, but from Spain the figure was half that: 0.63%.

It might come as a surprise to learn Ferrari were closer to the pace on average in 2012 compared to 2011. They were 0.75% off the ultimate pace throughout 2012 and 0.57% off the quickest car (McLaren) – the corresponding figures for 2011 are 0.83% and 0.78%.

Even so, Lotus were closer to the pace than Ferrari on average, yet scored only one win to the Scuderia’s three. This serves as a reminder that this data reflects single-lap qualifying pace better than race pace.


Performance is meaningless if a car doesn’t get to the end of the race, of course. Ferrari did very well in this respect, with neither car breaking down in a race all year long – in Fernando Alonso’s case, for the second year in a row.

McLaren did conspicuously worse with four non-classifications due to technical problems. Lewis Hamilton broke down while leading in Singapore and Abu Dhabi and Jenson Button did likewise while holding second in Italy.

Those lost points would certainly have been enough to beat Ferrari to second in the constructors’ championship and perhaps overhaul Red Bull too. The adage “to finish first, first you must finish” remains true as ever.

Red Bull also suffered with unreliability, clocking up three race-ending failures. Mercedes had five – all for Michael Schumacher.

As well as exhibiting similar performance to Ferrari, Lotus had similarly good reliability too. Their only race-ending technical failure was suffered by Romain Grosjean while he was running second in Valencia.

Over to you

Which team do you think had the best blend of performance and reliability in their car in 2012? And who under-performed and over-performed with the machinery they built?

Have your say in the comments.

2012 F1 season review

Browse all 2012 F1 season review articles

Author information

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

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

140 comments on “Who had the fastest car? Performance data analysed”

  1. Sankalp Sharma
    3rd December 2012, 15:20

    So on the balance, Alonso and Massa were driving the fourth fastest car.

    Yes, I do have a “whole new level of respect” for Alonso.

    1. Good for you :-)
      But read the whole article
      I quote “This serves as a reminder that this data reflects single-lap qualifying pace better than race pace.”

    2. 4th fastest, but on balance of reliability – probably somewhere near 2nd or 3rd best.

      1. In terms of pace, 3rd at best, and no where near the top two.

        1. @mike in terms of qualifying pace – yes.

          1. @raymondu999

            Ignoring reliability, you’d be grasping a bit to say the Ferrari, was, over the season as competitive as the other two. Qualifying or not.

          2. @mike Even when it often could produce faster (or only slightly slower) race laps?

          3. @mike Also – note that my original comment specifically states “on balance of reliability” – ie “if we don’t ignore reliability”

          4. I don’t think the Ferrari was as competitive a car as either the Mclaren or the Red Bull over the course of the season.

          5. @mike over the season, probably not. But there was the odd moment when it was equal on race pace.

    3. The fourth fastest in qualifying. Not to mention that a significant amount of that deficit comes from the beginning of the season, where the Ferrari indeed wasn’t anywhere near the top, but where Alonso gained a lot of his advantage because his competitors dropped the ball on several occasions.

      I’m not saying that Alonso didn’t drive fantastically this season, but there are sidenotes.

    4. As Keith indicated the analysis speaks to single lap speed. The Ferrari was the 3rd fastest car overall but one aspect that is so often overlooked is while Alonso typically put it on the 3rd row the Ferrari launch system is by far the best when compared to the top end teams. Massa and Alonso typically gained at least one row after the start. Which put him right behind the leaders after lap one. Nonetheless, he drove sublimely this season. I could live without his constant self promotion at the expense of his team and Vettel. Furthermore, if McLaren didn’t continually shoot itslef in the foot Alonso would likely have finished 3rd overall and Vettel 2nd overall.

    5. They were fourth fastest, but did have an car advantage in that it was better at reaching the finish without technical defects.

      I would say that did prove a critical advantage in this highly unpredictable year Sankalp

    6. Alonso did well due to car relaibility, atart launch pad, good car race pace and Massa’s help (subodination + gearbox tampering etc). If you put all these factors together, no other drivers came close. If Mclaren showed better relaibilty and not giving away points to Alonso then it would have been a straight fight between Hamilton and Vettel.
      Alonso should consider himself a lucky boy to have been in the hunt for WDC

      1. He’s pretty much said that, no?

        “Fernando Alonso believes it will be “nearly impossible” to repeat the 2012 season he has just had” (12/13).

  2. Keith, an excellent analysis as always. Data wins arguments, and I am glad this site continues to present this data, adding value to the F1 viewing community head and shoulders above any other F1 outlet I have ever found.

    We knew RBR had slowed since last year, and it was clear to see a reduction in their dominance, but I didnt suspect the reduction was so extreme. For me, this further proves SV as having “the right stuff” He is able to win with superior car, and one that is less than perfect. He has (IMHO) good racecraft, and all the other pieces required to be one of the greats when his career ends years from now.

    Further, this data also supports the idea that FA was able to extract much more performance from his livery than it seemed capable of. Many in this forum will scream “LUCK”. I would like to remind them that SV and FA had exactly the name number of DNFs (3) this year, that SV won by 3 points, but the RBR chassis was 37% faster based on the data above. Mclaren should be ashamed, as should Lotus, but perhaps a bit less so…

    All in all, I feel this was a fantastic season. We saw many great moves, much overcoming of odds, and truly great drivers performing super-human feats of skill and bravery. Thank you F1, Thank you SV and FA, and finally, Thank You Keith for presenting the most cogent and informative F1 content in the world, and bringing it to we mear mortals.

    1. @javlinsharp Thanks very much. I’d like to expand on this and go into the differences between qualifying and race pace in more detail but that will have to wait for a later article.

      Above all I think it shows that what really helped make this season great was that the field was so close.

      1. @keithcollantine Yes – massively interesting that everyone gained, but Red Bull lost. Very interesting indeed.

      2. The chart here is primarily about qualifying pace, so to a fairly large extent, we’re comparing the results of qualifying to the race (which makes the results understandable, as RB & Ferrari commonly had a good race car – while even discounting the endless mistakes, McL were notorious for heading backwards during the early races).

        I’d welcome a more structured analysis of pace – early on especially, managing tyres made a huge difference. Race and Qualifying were very different beasts.

        It might also be interesting to try and filter out the effects of errors / misfortunes too, and see if we can get an impression of what the results would have looked like. The idea is to come up with the best guess for a race outcome without crashes, pit errors or breakdowns. Without trying to apportion blame it would hopefully not be overly controversial, but would remain an exercise in guesswork: its just to give an impression of how things might have panned out if there were no incidents to shuffle things up.

      3. I think people put too much into the race pace versus qualifying pace issue. It seems to met that the engineers and designers build the fastest possible car in raw speed, and then figure out how to help it manage the tires. Now, with standard weight distribution, I think it is mostly a matter of set-up anyway—camber, dif, anti-roll. It would be very odd to give up anything in raw pace by design, given that a few tenths can be the difference between pole and starting 3-5 rows deep and having almost no chance to win the race. In any case, we will see the data, but I don’t recall there being much difference between who had the strong heavy fuel long run pace in P2 and who was up front on Satruday.

    2. Just a small correction Red Bull was 0.37% faster than Ferrari – not 37%

      1. Actually, neither. Its. .37 points. Speaking of percentages of percentages masks differences underlying rates. Looking at the numbers, relative to the fastest car, Ferrari was three times slower than RBR. 20 points versus almost 60 points off. There was a huge gap between RBR and McLaren up front versus between Lotus and Ferrari trailing. Looking at these data, it is aboslutely shocking that McLaren finished 4th and 5th, including behind a Lotus and a Ferrari, in the WDC and 3rd in the WCC. I don’t care much about the debate on whether Alonso is a Genius driving an oxcart to the WDC runner up, but it is clear that McLaren was raining free points down on Ferrari and Lotus.

        1. Yes, there are for me two main points to be seen from this data: the rule change did what was intended: close up the field and reign in Red Bull a bit; And McLaren really need to fix their reliability and track operations, even more so than last year already seemed clear.

          1. Oh, forgot another point: Williams definitely underperformed. At least they know where their lack of points for the pace is, and it did get them a win, so they’ll not be too unhappy with this.

  3. So presumably now all those people who said in 2011 that they’d only consider Vettel a worthy champion once he wins a championship in an inferior car, can finally rest sound in the knowledge that this year he did just that. I assume this means we won’t see anyone else moaning that Vettel only wins because he has the fastest car, and that he can’t overtake, since both of those statements have been comprehensively disproven this year.

    1. I think that’s just about as likely as all those people who were saying Vettel cheated by overtaking under yellow flag conditions admitting they were mistaken now that the FIA has clarified the situation and Ferrari has declared the matter closed. In other words, not remotely likely. ;-)

      1. Well most people have, it was a confusing issue. So no doubt people will have lots of varied opinions.

    2. @mazdachris When people were doubting Vettel in 2009 or 2010, I understood them (and slightly doubted him myself). But he’s done so much since and he’s been fantastic in the last two seasons, it’s just no longer justified. I think everyone looking at things objectively can say that Vettel is one of the very best drivers on the grid and a worthy multiple world champion.

    3. @mazdachris – if only! People will always come up with new arguments, as last year have been disproven this year as you said, but sadly I find it unlikely that we will ever see Vettel gaining the respect of everyone. That’s just how the world works though…

      1. Well…not so fast (pardon the pun)…

        Don’t get me wrong. I fully agree that SV is one of the very best drivers on the grid and a worthy multiple WDC. Of that there is no question. Can’t say I’m a fan. I’m indifferent. He earned the WDC. I thought FA winning would have been the better story, but I’m also not a fan of the one rooster rule. So I would have been fine with either one this year.

        But I think it is splitting hairs to use this fine article and it’s grasciously received data to make it sound like SV had such an inferior car and therefore is capable of doing, for example, what FA did this year. And I think it is a bit of an insult to Adrian Newey as well, given how their season saw them placed in the end.

        SV still had the WCC winning car. It seems it just started off ‘slow’ as indicated in the article stating Red Bull suffered the most from the diffuser restrictions. Then they start adapting and getting stronger but then seem to lose their way again, perhaps when, as prisoner-monkeys bemoans, they tried borderline changes to the car that were allowed/disallowed in the same breath yet didn’t affect their points in terms of any penalties…just, don’t use it in the next race they were told.

        And then, after a more erratic first half of the season, and when it counted the most, Adrian Newey’s car was there in the end…more sorted out with no doubt the most effective form of EBD on the grid, even if still not nearly at the level of last year’s potency for SV.

        And let’s not forget the lottery that was the tires and their effect in affecting the multiple race winners to start off the season. It was a very unique first half of the year, if not full season. Drivers complained of being limited by the tires. Tires had a lot of influence on this year’s results.

        Anyway, all I’m saying is that imho the question of SV’s ability in an inferior car is not something that I think can be answered by looking at his 2012 season, coming off an utterly dominant 2011 with all the momentum that came from that, nor just by the stats provided in this article. I’m not convinced SV has shown his true measure in a truly inferior car with the pressure at it’s greatest. Let’s see how he would do, doing what LH is embarking on. Given the outbursts he has been capable of in the WCC winning car, I wonder how together his mental state would be in a an Adrian-free zone like Mercedes.

        1. @robbie – what we are talking of is the arguments against Vettel: people attempting to detriment his driving. Those arguments used to be “he can’t overtake” or “he can’t win without a dominant car”. I think those statements can no longer apply: yes he had a great car but by nowhere near the margin that he had last year.

          I’m referring to the few with that comment just to clarify: I am of a similar stance to you on Alonso: I acknowledge that he is a great driver and I have an immense amount of respect for him – that doesn’t mean I like him though (which is quite natural really, everyone has their favourites)!

          I don’t think Vettel needs Adrian though: sure they have formed a potent alliance which has reaped many rewards and records over the last 4 years but if you gave Vettel a car good enough, be it with RBR or Ferrari or Mercedes etc., then I think he could definetly win the title. He’s the same as Hamilton or Alonso in that respect: if the car’s up there he can win with it.

    4. Sadly, some people would still come up with claims such as of how Vettel’s romp of over 4 wins (Singapore-India) meant that the Red Bull was still vastly ‘dominant’ and much more ‘superior’, thus trying to once again give full disregard of Vettel’s championship.

      Or they could try to drag up the yellow flags incident at Brazil, the list could go on and on. These type of one-sided criticism from such shallow fans would be near impossible to satisfy sadly.

      Not until they decide to acknowledge that both Alonso and Vettel are both actually great legends of the era, in their own unique ways. Just like how it has been for Senna and Prost etc.

  4. Ohh boy, Williams was faster than force india in 16 races and yet they were 33 points behind in the table, thats massive under performance.

    1. I am really sad that Rubens wasn’t in that car this year, I think he’d have done very well in it.

  5. Brilliant information… so in conclusion Mclarean lost both titles because of reability and team mistakes… Poor Jenson and Lewis…

    1. Well, the figures above are simply the fastest laps set over the weekend; there were times when the single lap pace of some cars belied a car which was hard on its tyres and failed to translate single lap pace into race pace. It’s possible that the fastest car over a single lap may have set pole position, then extracted the maximum from the car through the race, but still not have won.

      But yes, overall it does seem pretty clear that McLaren had a car which, on pace, should have delivered both championships this year. It’s bittersweet, because on the one hand they did underperform, and they can say they missed an opportunity, but I suspect their primary thought now will be that they are going into 2013 with a car which is capable of winning the championship. That, of course, is their objective. Barring any inexplicable mid-season slump, I would say that Button has to be one of the favourites for next year’s championship.

    2. The drivers are to blame also. the teams dnfs just give the drivers fans an easy argument on who is to blame.
      Hamilton was consistently much weaker in race pace then in qualifying pace, usually because of his tyre usage.
      and Jenson was hardly ever up their matching the cars potential in race pace.
      I think Vettel and Alonso would have scored more points in the Mclaren then Button and Hamilton easily. Both are better on race day.

      1. Yeah they may have reason for encouragement for next year, but I think they need to get a handle on tire useage and obviously they need to not sacrifice the pace they have shown, for needed improved reliability next year. ie. They had pace, but they didn’t get away with it. They perhaps needed to beef some things up, which might have cost them some pace but been worth it in the end. Is it safe to say the tires won’t be throwing the teams nearly the curve-balls that they did last year? Do we know that yet? Mac, and others of course, really need to get a handle on that.

  6. I wonder if – as a statistical exercise – it would be possible to do some correction, based on reliability. By that I mean – for example, Vettel’s car in Valencia and Monza broke down on reliability – as such, any lap done by Car #1 should be eliminated from this analysis, because ultimately, it had no speed, if you get what I’m saying. If Webber’s car did it – fair play, because it lasted, on reliability grounds.

    @keithcollantine Perhaps? Or if not – do you have this data on an Excel sheet I can download somewhere? I’m just curious to see how the Lotus and Ferrari (2 supremely bulletproof cars) would stack up then, after this “reliability correction”

    1. As it’s based on the fastest lap, often done in qually, the data is quite safe from being affected from reliability.

      However, if qually was wet, and then the race dry, it would be different.

      1. @mike Correct me if I’m wrong – but we’ve never had rain in FP1, 2, 3 AND quali on a single race weekend. As such – it’s safe to say that all these laptimes come from FP quali runs, OR from quali itself.

        1. I believe so from memory.

    2. You mean, would it be possible to make it look like Vettel achieved more then this data shows, while also showing Alonso did less? :)

      1. @brace No – I mean it would be an interesting statistical exercise.

  7. So now we have evidence to dispel the notion that the Ferrari was “a dog of a car”! Of course, these statistics only apply to single-lap qualifying pace, so of course race-pace isn’t factored in – one of the F2012’s strong points.

    1. @vettel1 or reliability.

    2. Based on the graph above, it appears to be a high midfeild car for much of the season.

      So I’m not sure, when we are talking about contending for a championship against much stronger rivals, that it does dispel it at all.

      1. @mike
        I think what differentiated it from the high midfielders was that it was always there. The midfielders, Merc, Lotus even McLaren and Red Bull shuffled places. Therefore Ferrari would be slower in comparison to different people, which means while Alonso would score points consistently while the people around, and specially behind, would not.
        Compare it to the championship winning car, and it looks somewhat different.

        1. Ferrari was also on occasions not even 4th fastest so it took more then that to be consistent.

          1. And in Spain, RBR wwere 1.4 seconds off the pace.

        2. @mads

          This +1

          What I’ve been trying to say the whole while really. The F2012 isn’t as bad as some people seem to think really…

    3. Ferrari isn’t Force India, so having car that is at best 2nd, at worst 5th, and most of the time around 3rd or 4th is “a dog of a car” by the standards that apply to anyone who manages to nearly win a title, even after being knocked out of the race two times.

    4. @vettel1 Maybe not over the whole season, but Ferrari did start the season with what was possibly the 7th fastest car in terms of all kinds of pace. They were ahead of Force India, Toro Rosso and the back three.

      1. @chicanef1 – I agree but what I am disputing is the season as a whole. Credit to Alonso for great “damage limitation” in the first four races; even managing to get a win by capitalising on the F2012’s tendency to be good in the wet.

        The remainder of the season though the Ferrari was always up there in the top 3/4 best cars, so “dog of a car” no longer applied.

        1. @vettel1 By Ferrari’s and F1’s standards, any Ferrari that cant get onto the two front rows during qualifying is a dog of a car.

          Ferrari’s race pace was generally slower than Lewis’s and Vettels. If it were not for the Mclarens and Redbulls having incident (reliability problems, slow starts, kers issues, accidents, etc) packed races, I doubt the Ferrari would have finished on the podium as much as it did.

          @vettel1 you can keep trying to downplay Alonso and Ferrari’s teamwork this season (which you seem to be repeating at every opportunity), but just keep in mind you are fooling no one :P

          1. @infy – By Ferrari’s standards? The same team who from 1983 – 1999 didn’t win a championship? I’d hardly call 3rd best “a dog of a car”, which is misleading to the fans and giving false impressions of how Alonso has magically dragged out non-existent pace from the car, which quite simply isn’t possible. You can’t break the laws of physics so the Ferrari’s ultimate pace was comparable to what Alonso was achieving from it.

            I’m not denying that Alonso drove fantasctically well this season, as I’d be a fool to do so, but Alonso’s season I feel has been greatly exaggerated by many.

          2. @vettel1

            The same team who from 1983 – 1999 didn’t win a championship

            Still the greatest F1 & super car maker on the earth

          3. you can keep trying to downplay Alonso and Ferrari’s teamwork this season (which you seem to be repeating at every opportunity), but just keep in mind you are fooling no one :P


          4. @tifonso1989
            I disagree; Lamborghini are the greatest supercar manufacturer on Earth; the Reventon, Murcielago, Miura, Countach, Diablo, and now Aventador.

          5. @xjr15jaaag
            i respect your opinion but i have also mine
            (Reventon+Murcielago+Miura+Countach+Diablo+Aventador)< Ferrari 250 GTO

          6. @tifoso1989

            Still the greatest F1 & super car maker on the earth

            I reckon McLaren could give them a run for their money in both categories now with the P1 and their record of having had the most victories since their inception in 1966.


            You keep trying to downplay Alonso and Ferrari’s teamwork

            I have not once downplayed Alonso & Ferrari’s teamwork. I have criticised their team ethics and their insistence on kidding themselves into thinking Alonso worked wonders with a bad car (when realistically he did what the car was capable of – no mean feat but hardly what it is being made out to be).

            You’ve also missed the last part of my comment: “I’m not denying Alonso drove fantastically well this season, as I’d be a fool to do so”. I stand by that; Alonso was undoubtably worthy of his 2nd in the drivers championship (and definitely would’ve been worthy of the crown).

          7. @vettel1

            reckon McLaren could give them a run for their money in both categories now with the P1 and their record of having had the most victories since their inception in 1966.

            Where did you learn the count ?? Formula 1 starts from 1950 According to you Juan Manuel Fangio,Phill Hill and John Surtees didn’t won WDC with Ferrari??
            What other category please did you mean Super Car ?????? i didn’t know that your hate to Ferrari would let you forget (selective memory) all the sports car that they made and comparing them with the 2 Mclarens (F1&MP4-12c)
            By the way i thought you’re a fan of Red Bull ???
            Next time tell me your favorite team in advance please I hope that it woudn’t be Williams or Mercedes or Lotus !!!!! LOL

          8. @tifoso1989

            Next time tell me your favorite team in advance

            You could just look at his profile:


          9. @vettel1 I would compare Alonso’s performance this season to Michael Schumacher in 1996. Granted that the Williams then was faster than either McLaren or RBR this year, and the Ferrari this year was more reliable than the one in 1996, but Alonso fought for the championship this year, whereas Schumacher could only be best of the rest, so it pretty much evens out. Also both Vettel(RBR) and Hamilton(McLaren) are certainly far better drivers than Damon Hill or Jacques Villeneuve. The similarity is that in both seasons at some point of time Ferrari had a poor-handling car, but both Schumi then and Alonso now were able to pretty much drive around those problems, certainly as compared to their teammates. That is where true talent comes out. Vettel is a great driver but like we saw in early 2008 and in some races of 2009 as well as the first half of this year, he tends to stuggle with respect to his teammate on certain tracks and when the car is not handling according t his needs. Those have rarely happened to Alonso or Schumi of old. When given a good car that works to his liking though, he can absolutely dominate, again a la Schumi. Unfortunately, Alonso never had the fastest car underneath him so we cannot say how he would perform, whether he would dominate or choke.

          10. @tifonso1989
            One car doesn’t make up for such atrocities as the 400 Superamerica, or the Testarossa, or the Mondial

          11. @tifoso1989 Notice that I said since McLaren’s inception, which was in 1966 and not 1950. Sure, Ferrari have a greater wealth of history in the road car business but as of late McLaren appear to be mounting a challenge in the supercar business with the MP4-12C (McLaren’s answer to the 458 Italia – which both of by the way I think are great cars) and now the P1. It rather depends on opinion in that respect: I happen to value statistics but some may value the history – either way both could be right.

            @chicanef1 – I agree but Vettel hasn’t really had the chance to prove himself over the course of a season in a less-than-perfect car. Sure, he started out this season fairly well in car that wasn’t brilliant but of course Webber wasn’t miles behind (although crucially he was behind, maybe not in qualifying but on points scored). Schumacher and Alonso are both very good at adjusting to a car that is ill-handling and I’m sure that if Vettel gained experience in that respect then he’d be able to perform about as well.

            Maybe we will get to see this fairly soon though: if we draw the national comparison then Schumacher had his period of championships with Benetton and then was left without a great car for several seasons (until 1999). So perhaps we may see the same happening in 2014 with the rule changes?

          12. Also, +1 to Keith!

          13. @chicanef1 Of course in 96 MS et al would have had much much more testing and engines and trannies, more consistant tires etc, and the quali format and points structure was different, than for FA now. Of course it is likely that this ‘one rooster’ still has somewhat of a designer car, and maybe SV does too, but certainly the tires, the lack of testing, DRS, have changed the face of F1, and I think it safe to say FA has done more with less that MS/96. And without the bullying tactics.

            I disagree that SV and LH are better than JV. For the two years JV had a competitive WCC winning car, pretty much always the necessary ingredient of any WDC, he nearly won it in his rookie season, and he won it in his second. He never had a competitive car again. And it took until the last half of 97 before JV was finally to get a say in his own setups, such was the structure at Williams where they had computers and engineers telling the drivers what setup was the fastest. The treatment MS, FA, SV, and LH have enjoyed on their respective teams has been exactly the opposite. Their treatment on their multi-season top level teams has been all about them.

          14. @vettel1 – Nope, sorry mate. Webber wasn’t behind. He was ahead of Vettel going into the summer break!

  8. William Brierty
    3rd December 2012, 16:05

    I think this article flatters Williams and McLaren because they have qualifying specialists in Maldonado and Hamilton, so if you’re judging a car based on its fastest lap, you’re judging it based on what their drivers can get out of it. This handicaps teams like Force India and Sauber, who don’t really have a “qualifying driver”. And because of Maldonado, Williams appear ahead of Sauber; but if you look at the season as a whole the only conclusion is that Sauber had the 5th fastest car. Somewhat misleading from where I’m sat.

    1. I wonder what the data would look like if instead we take the fastest lap from the slowest driver (that weekend). Williams would be much closer to Toro Rosso, and I think McLaren would no longer be the fastest.

    2. Red Bull has two qualifying specialists.

      1. William Brierty
        4th December 2012, 8:48

        I know what you mean about Vettel, even though I don’t think he’s quite as fast as the aforementioned Hamilton and Maldonado, but Webber? He was a qualifying specialist between Spain ’10 and Turkey ’10; but this year he has been a liability in qualifying. Saying that though, Webber’s PB lap in Brazil a few weeks ago was stunning.

    3. Mr. Brierty brings up an interesting point, one I was considering more with Ferrari than the others, but Maldonado and Lewis are also excellent examples.

      I would like to see data of this sort that has been generated by averaging the fastest lap of each driver. To @mnmracer‘s point, if you average the two driver’s fastest laps at each circuit would Red Bull then be fastest as Webber and Vettel are consistently of more similar pace than Button & Hamilton or Alonso & Massa?

      This would perhaps balance for driver performance and more accurately reflect the relative abilities of each chassis.

      1. @jmwalley – I think that would be a good way to represent how the team performed as a constructor on average but it may also have the effect of skewing the driver’s performances: as you and others have alluded to, RBR have two qualifying specialists. Although one could also argue that since Hamilton & Maldonado are also qualifying specialists then perhaps they have bolstered their teams results? Either way, there will always be room for interpretation – precisely why it is always difficult to give a 100% accurate representation of who had the fastest car.

    4. Cool article, Although I agree I would like to see the results if the car performance was based on the average of the best time for both team mates. Individual results may vary based on so-called ‘qualifying specialist’ drivers, or on other factors such as driver preference or aptitude at specific circuits or weather conditions, or even situations of differing part combinations. As such I think averaging the results might give a more accurate idea of the overall general performance of the car, the current analysis may have the data skewed slightly due to so many changing variables and may show the potential of the team rather than the car ( if you split drivers who are great at different types of circuits it might make the team better but not the car if that makes sense? )

  9. Since you didn’t include it in the article and I reckon it’s quite important and interesting – here’s the car performance vs. ranking in the constructors championship.

    1. Red Bull (2nd fastest car)
    2. Ferrari (4th)
    3. McLaren (1st)
    4. Lotus (3rd)
    5. Mercedes (5th)
    6. Sauber (7th)
    7. Force India (8th)
    8. Williams (6th)
    9. Toro Rosso (9th)
    10. Caterham (10th)
    11. Marussia (11th)
    12. HRT (12th)

    So, Red Bull won the constructors’ despite not having the fastest car, and McLaren only finished third despite being the fastest. Ferrari second with only 4th fastest car and Lotus a place down on their speed.

    Mercedes finished where they should have with their car, and Williams clearly didn’t extract the potential from the car. Sauber and Force India are each a place up because of that.

    Toro Rosso duly finished where the car belonged, as did Caterham, Marussia and HRT.

    1. Nice, so we can say that 3 teams surpassed the limitation of their cars: Red Bull, Ferrari and Sauber. Interesting I remember at the middle of the season, Helmut Marko and other said that Sauber has the best car, but it seem that numbers don´t back this up…

      1. @celeste C31 was definitely much better in the races than it was in qualifying, probably the car with the biggest difference in that respect. And the drivers aren’t as reliable to get everything out of the car as is the case at Red Bull and McLaren perhaps. Very difficult to compare.

        1. @Enigma I’m not so sure… Sauber had (with Kobayashi) a few top 3 starts this year, and in those races he seemed to drift away. Sauber had two strong racers in Kobayashi and Perez, though the latter just seemed to storm through the field because he was on a different strategy.

  10. So McLaren messed up really bad. They had the fastest car, 2 world champions of which one is the best driver on the grid at his top form and still managed to end up third to Ferrari whose second driver Massa had a very bad year for almost 2/3 of the season. To top it all the Mclaren machinery was very good starting with Winter testing to the first race of the season season which they won to the last race which also was won.

    if someone told one in March after Australian GP that Mclaren will not win the drivers and constructors championship i would have said “Are you Crazy ?”. But now at the end of the season it looks like it took a lot of hard work, dedication, determination and innovative thinking to end up third in constructors championship and then 4th/5th in Drivers championship . unbelievable !!!!

    what is wrong with Mclaren ? They had managed to develop a car that suited both the drivers equally well, no small feat considering their extreme driving characteristics.

    1. I don’t think that’s quite right. Button said in an interview it wasn’t an easy car for him to drive and he was enjoying it the least out of any of the cars which McLaren had given him. He also suffered an unexplained slump in form through the mid season, where it appears he wasn’t able to make the tyres work for him. This harmed McLaren quite badly in the constructors’ as it not only deprived them of points, it allowed their rivals to score better than they did.

      Their biggest problem was unreliability, which put Hamilton out of several races which he looked like winning. It’s hard to say how he would have finished with any certainly had he not suffered those reliability problems, but they did appear to hinder him a lot more than anything which happened in the pitlane. In many respects McLaren’s pit work was some of the best this season, but since they failed to win this year it’s going to be the slow stops which stick in the mind rather than the record breaking ones.

      1. @mazdachris Fast pitstops are the order of the day. The advantage gained by making a fast pitstop will probably one position or enough to hold station, but a slow pitstop might cost two or three positions. So, McLaren probably broke both records- fastest pitstop as well as an extraordinary, unenviable, consistent run of consecutive poor pitstops. That is a very poor representation of the sport.

      2. McLaren was unbelievable this year: they threw away many points by botching up pitstops. Only when they’d slipped behind Red Bull on pace they decided to improve their pitstops and they succeeded. One can only wonder why they took action when it was already too late.
        Hamilton retired two times when leading the race and the team’s mistake in the qualify of the Spanish GP was unforgivable. So was his idea to share telemetry data with the rest of the world. Button was horrible in many races. Even though the Red Bulls were faster in the race, McLaren should have performed much better than they did. Something’s got to change, or else McLaren will be an acronym for something like Mismanagement causes lazy amateur racing ending nowhere.

    2. And the most beautiful car at that!

  11. 2012 was one of those years where it was impossible to properly rank the cars, the competitive order seemed to change from session to session never mind from race to race. Iv seen comments refering to the RB8 as being dominant yet in the first half of the season the red of ferrari, white of mclaren and black of lotus had all made more appearences on the podium than the blue of redbull, given that in those 11 races the team had only 1 retirement it bares no hallmarks of a dominant car.

    The same can be said of ferrari, often described as a dog the f2012 has been heavily critisied but again the results say otherwise, yes it was difficult for the first few races and alonso did wonders in australia and maylasia but from spain onwards it was a frontrunning car, a few interesting nuggets that highlight the f2012 competitiveness

    From spain, after the mugello upgrade to brazil ferrari scored 356 points, only 3 less than redbull and nearly 70 more than mclaren.

    after the summer break, belgium to brazil ferrair scored 12 top 4 results from a potential 16, more than either redbull or mclaren managed, of course both mclaren and redbull took 4 wins each whilst ferrari had none during this period but this highlights the consitent and reliably competitiveness of the ferrari compared to the somewhat errartic form the other 2 showed in the second half of the season.

    Lastly and quite interestingly the second half of the 2012 season, hungary to brazil was in terms of points the most productive 10 race run that massa has had since alonso joined the team

  12. I’m alarmed about the pace of the Mercedes, one lap pace was this cars specialy. And yet this graph makes even that look decidedly middle ground.

  13. The improvement of the Ferrari between Australia and Britain is phenomenal.

    1. yes true.
      but what is also phenomenal is the unimprovement of Ferrari between Germany and Brasil

      1. haha very true!

  14. Interesting article.

    It would be interesting to look at race pace somehow. Maybe on an absolute level, and an average level per race. One fast lap isn’t going to be very representative. Yet, race pace and tire deg are obviously key performance indicators.

    1. It could be done but it would require a hell of a work. For example to get a car’s average pace between two drivers, but only counting their laps where they were driving in the open air and not making mistakes/being in accidents etc. That would require some epic research. :)

      1. Yeah… is there complete fastest lap data? You could maybe take the top “n” fastest laps from each driver per race… maybe 10-20? Of course a lot of times somebody is just stuck in traffic or just managing their tires. Vettel really uncorked it when he was charging from the back of the field… to me that confirms that most of the time these guys are not really pushing it in the race.

        I still have mixed feelings about that. Tire deg does mix up the races and is strategic, but in a way it is just a crutch to mask the fundamental problem of overtaking.

        Maybe somebody could do a subjective race pace judgement on a race-by-race basis, factoring in whatever information seems relevant to rank each car’s race-day performance (a lot depends on the “tire window”).

  15. So. The car with the fastest car was beaten by the car with the 4th fastest car in both the drivers and constructors championships.

    1. I assume you mean team as appose to the first “car”! It just goes to show how badly botched pit-stops and mechanical failures have hurt McLaren and also how well Ferrari was able to capitalise on it.

      1. Ferrari didn’t capitalize on anything. They were better as a race team operation, they were better in terms of producing reliable car, which is 2 areas where McLaren was worse.

        Only one who capitalize on anything is Vettel who needed Grosjean trimming Alonso’s beard in order to catch him in the championship.

        Vettel was 13 points ahead in the moment when he had the biggest lead in the championship. The points loss in Spa that Alonso suffered towards Vettel was likely in range from 15 (if Vettel finished 2nd and Alonso 3rd) to over 20 (if Alonso finished in front of him, which would have been more likely).

        So only one who capitalized on other’s misery this year is Vettel. As you put it, reliability is part of the package too.
        He needed that bad luck for Alonso because he would have never get a nose ahead if it weren’t for that.

        But that’s also part of the racing. Next year, better luck hopefully. Just don’t tell me it’s Alonso who was lucky, because Vettel was by far the luckiest driver this year.

        He not only never got DNF due to some factor outside of the team control, but actually never even got a DNF from the accidents he caused himself, which ruined others’ race.

        1. So they capitalized on the weak points on other teams, just as @vettel1 suggested.

          1. @vettel1

            I assume you mean team as appose to the first “car”! It just goes to show how badly botched pit-stops and mechanical failures have hurt McLaren and also how well Ferrari was able to capitalise on it.

            Yes and yes! Thanks for the correction too.

            I did mean:

            So. The car with the fastest car was beaten by the car with the 4th fastest car in both the drivers and constructors championships.

          2. So. The team with the fastest car was beaten by the car with the 4th fastest car in both the drivers and constructors championships.

            At last I make the correct edit!

        2. Ferrari only fielded one defacto driver (Alonso)for the WDC whilst Mclaren and RedBull fielded 2 drivers each all competing for the WDC. Therefore Alonso had an undue advantadge and it was not purely due to him driving the wheels off the car, in the latter part of the season Massa was the faster driver.

        3. So @brace by your logic Valencia doesn’t count as “capitalising on others”, or even Monza & Brazil (in which he gained from a faster cars retirement – in the first case none other than Sebastian Vettel). It wasn’t intended as a negative comment, rather a positive in that he was able to capitalise upon others misfortunes – I was praising him.

          1. @brace – Personally also I don’t believe in luck: I think you manufacture your own luck. There is a difference between things falling into place well and being “lucky”, as luck implies you had nothing to do in the matter. I think both Alonso and Vettel have been “lucky” this year (by my definition of what “luck” actually is) in that they were both able to get as close to the maximum they could hope for from this season. They both suffered setbacks (Alonso with his first lap collisions, personally one of which I think he was blameless for) and Vettel with his alternator failures/Karthikeyan/qualifying in Abu Dhabi/first lap in Brazil.

            Just to add another perspective in the whole “who was luckiest” situation, had Alonso been a bit higher up on the grid with a faster car, maybe he wouldn’t have been involved in either of those first lap incidents. After all, when Vettel dropped down the pack in Brazil he was on the receiving end of a collision, so it is entirely possible that may be a factor in that Ferrari had a car which wasn’t terribly good in qualifying and was then consequently at a higher risk at the start.

        4. “Ferrari didn’t capitalize on anything. They were better as a race team operation, they were better in terms of producing reliable car, which is 2 areas where McLaren was worse.”
          Can we say now that Alonso blaming the car was wrong thing to do?

  16. I like McLaren but they haven’t put a good/dominant championship year together since the early 90’s.

    1. They could have walked 2007 if it weren’t for bad managing of things (like this year).
      Also, in 2008 they would have won easily, both titles again if they had Alonso instead of Heikki. Both Hamilton and Alonso would find it much easier to win in 2008 since they’d be taking Massa’s points together. Heikki was nowhere. He even finished a season behind Alonso who was driving Renault.

      1. @brace – I think 2007 will always be left in obscurity though because simply we don’t know how much that Ferrari data affected the McLaren’s performance. 2008 for sure though should’ve been a year in which they got their act together and won the titles but with a poorly performing 2nd driver and a resurgent Ferrari meant that wasn’t the reality (in a way it reminds me of this year)!

    2. I think the 1998 season would be dominated by the Mclaren had not for the skill and dedication of the peak state Michael Schumacher

  17. I don’t think this table shows the true potential of the car. Some cars, like Ferrari or Sauber had very good tyre management over a race distance, which made them much better overall packages than this analysis shows.

    Also if you look at 2011, Williams was supposed to be pretty much on par with the rest of the midfield but it was obviously not true when it came to the capability of scoring points.

    1. Keith has mentioned this in the article:

      “this serves as a reminder that this data reflects single-lap qualifying pace better than race pace”

      1. @dev ^ (with reference to your comment). Of course this isn’t reflective of the whole package but it does give a general indication of form (but anything other than the results will never be 100% accurate).

  18. So Ferrari didn’t have a dog of a car, but based on the evidence being 3rd or 4th fastest still means it was a fantastic achievement to have been in the hunt for the Championship for so long. Alonso did exceptionally well to maximise every opportunity in a car that was never faster than a McLaren or Red Bull, and sometimes slower than a Lotus.

    1. “never faster than a McLaren or Red Bull” the graph disagrees with you

      1. Yup. Got that entirely wrong! Still, looking at the overall picture it was only ever faster than both twice – in the wet at Britain and Germany. Otherwise there was a pretty big gap in most races between the fastest car and the Ferrari.

  19. I’d say Lotus have been one of most consistent during the year as Kimi Raikkonen’s 19/20 points finishes indicate. Wasn’t necessarily the quickest during qualifying/1-lap but they certainly did have some blistering race pace

    1. And IMO they “suffer” a lot from the conservative tyre choices in the last rounds as they usually benefited from the softer tyres on race day.

  20. Vindication of Hamilton’s move? McLaren unable to provide reliability when needed – needs a team who can deliver it all – not just speed. Mercy need to raise their game though.

  21. I don’t think it’s fair to nominate the car which didi the fastest weekend lap as the fastest car of the GP

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      4th December 2012, 13:09

      Yes, others have said that too but I’m curious how would one do it? Take of sampling of lap times every 10 laps or so? Tire condiitons will skew the results. Also tire strategies affect lap times so the lap time doesn’t necessarily reflect the truth.

  22. Not sure how Mercedes can be 5th fastest. Yes, they were fast in first couple races, but for most of the season they were a road block for most of the mid field. Every one was trying to avoid running behind them due to their high speed on straights and donky-slow pace during the rest of the lap.

  23. I dont agree on this Qualy/Race pace differentiation…. Most of the time race pace is the result of a compromise the teams do in setup over Qualy pace..

    Meaning that if a car has the single lap pace the team has a lot less to compromise for the race.. it seems that ferrari always went for more race pace becauase they already knew the front rows where impossible.. but STILL a fast car is a fast car and both qualy and race pace are a reflection of that.. teams just to try to maximise what they have..

  24. What stands out most for me is how the whole field closed up from 2011. It would be great to credit HRT, Marussia and Caterham with dramatic improvements, but I suspect a large part of the change is due to the loss of certain aerodynamic advantages that were predominantly found in the leading teams in 2011 and prior years. Nevertheless, it’s a shame that in HRT’s case the trend could not continue, I guess we’ll see in a few weeks time if the other two teams can continue the overall positive trend.

  25. If you overlay Redbull with Mercedes, there is an interesting similarity between the 2. The main difference however is that Red Bull has a few moments, similar to mercedes where the gap to the fastest car grows, but instead of bouncing back for the next race, Mercedes seems to ride the slippery slope upwards.

  26. i think this analysis does not give the clear picture about true pace of the car on Sunday. One lap pace of Ferrari was very weak compared to RBR & McLaren.

  27. This just show that McLaren and Red Bull should demolish the field. But at the same time Alonso was at one point 40 pts clear on the top. So one can say that Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel had their chances to win the WDC but there can be only one.

  28. So 150mio Lotus gained 1.5s faster and 300mio Ferrari only gained 0.2s…or it was just Kimi+Romain combination?

  29. Riddle me this: Ferrari were 57 points behind McLaren in pace and contended for wins and the titles. Mercedes was only 12 points behind Ferrari and were nowhere near Ferrari. They had their moment(s), but it was a shambles at all other times.

  30. So I ask again as I did a few days ago https://www.racefans.net/2012/12/02/alonso-feels-level-respect/comment-page-1/#comment-1115065 here, was the Ferrari really THAT bad?

  31. Looking forward we have a have a chance to put the driver into the equation in 2013, because the line-up for the top 3 was stable for the past two years.

    According to Keith’s driver stats (the bounty never ends here) Hamilton brought .275s over Button in qualifying this year, that is about a difference of .0030 or .30 percent on a 90 second lap. According to these data, .30 points is more than the difference between Ferrari and Williams this year. In a more relevant example, it was quite a bit more than the difference between McLaren and RBR. Hamilton was the McLaren advantage this year. RBR’s qualifying was not so lop-sided—Vettel had .11s on Webber and we assume that Vettel is a top driver in raw pace, which further supports the Hamilton-effect at McLaren.

    Next year, assuming that Rosberg is “benchmark” driver like Button, if Hamilton can bring .30 percent to Mercedes, they might be on par with Lotus in raw pace.

  32. This article begins with “McLaren overtook Red Bull as the quickest team on the track in 2012.” I would like to emphasize the word “team” here. Somehow people in the forums tend to separate the team and contribute the achievements/failings of the team to ether the car or the driver. While we can safely use the statistics from this article to conclude that McLaren and Red Bull have one of the best cars on the grid and the Ferrari wasn’t far behind, we can never know which was actually the best car. if there is such thing. Even if the lap time depends 90% on the speed of the car the remaining 10% of driver’s skill cannot be underestimated especially in a season where the top few teams were so closely matched. How do we know that it wasn’t Webber and Vettel the ones that were “driving the wheels off” the Red Bull and Alonso had a really bad year in the best car?
    I believe that every driver gives his best but someone’s best is a bit better than the others and unfortunately there is no exact measure for that but there is where the fun starts. F1 is exciting because it’s not only a race between drivers in a same cars. It’s a race between engineers too trying to make a car that is best for their driver.
    That’s why I’m disappointed by people, especially Alonso, putting all the blame on the car while contributing Vettel’s WDC on only one man – Newey like he’s the only one working at Red Bull.

  33. Great data Keith. Your analysis clearly reveals the difference between what people think as opposed to the hard core truth. Also, does anyone have stats or could anyone compile some statistics related to drivers benefiting from other car failures be it mechanical failures or other failures?

  34. Here is some data on Overtakes this season. I got this data from http://www.f1technical.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=14360&sid=30cff0dff66b406db1e9dd5786bc4606

    All overtakes, without backmarkers, with equal tires
    Disgarding the overtakes on the teams of HRT, Marussia and Caterham
    Disgarding overtakes on cars with more than 5 lap older tires
    1. Sebastian Vettel – 29 on-track overtakes
    2. Jenson Button – 26
    3. Mark Webber – 24
    4. Kimi Räikkönen – 23
    4. Felipe Massa – 23

    All overtakes, only on 5 top teams
    Counting only overtakes on the teams of Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Lotus and Mercedes
    1. Sebastian Vettel – 28 on-track overtakes
    2. Lewis Hamilton – 25
    3. Jenson Button – 22
    4. Kimi Räikkönen – 21
    5. Felipe Massa – 16

    All overtakes, only on 5 top teams, with equal tires
    Counting only overtakes on the teams of Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Lotus and Mercedes
    Disgarding overtakes on cars with more than 5 lap older tires
    1. Sebastian Vettel – 17 on-track overtakes
    2. Kimi Räikkönen – 16
    3. Jenson Button – 14
    4. Lewis Hamilton – 13
    5. Felipe Massa – 12

  35. Best Team: Ferrari

    Best Performance: Red Bull

    Best Car: McLaren

    That’s the way I see it as an average over the course of the season. Ferrari really are a force to be reckoned with it they can produce a better car next year and I’m hoping they do. Hopefully making use of the wind tunnel in Cologne will help them out as well as having their own correlated.

    It’s a shame to see HRT lose their way a little bit towards the very end but given the circumstances I think they still performed well.

    Caterham had a pretty dismal end to the season performance wise so I’m sure they will be feeling a little nervous at the prospect of the next Marussia car having KERS and not having to contend with HRT.

  36. You would think that determining which car was fastest would be a straight-forward exercise, but it’s actually close to impossible. If Hamilton is quicker in qualifying than Alonso in the same car (as their time at McLaren together suggests) then the fact that Hamilton cut quicker qualifying laps than Alonso in 2012 can’t automatically mean that the 2012 McLaren is that much quicker than the F2012.

    I strongly suspect that Vettel would likewise beat Alonso in qualifying on a regular basis even in the exact same car. Maybe it would be better to look at fastest lap times recorded in the actual races. Of course that is subject to error as well.

    The tyres played a huge role this season, especially in qualifying and especially at the start of the season. I think it was the tyres rather than the cars proper which led to some of the freakish early results we saw – wins for Rosberg and Maldonado while the likes of Alonso and Vettel started races on the third, fourth, fifth or sixth row of the grid.

  37. Qualifying performance has obviously become a setup choice. Some teams/drivers will choose to lose race pace just to get track position by a quicker qualifying lap. Look how much Vettel’s car changed in Abu Dhabi after their failed qualifying.

    Who is to say that Alonso didn’t just choose to lose half a second of qualifying lap pace in return for a better race performance. Whilst at the same time allowing him to play the role of the poor underdog with a slow car that miraculously did show good pace during the races.

    Simply looking at raw numbers really says nothing anymore. It’s like when we didn’t know the fuel levels before the start. 10kg extra fuel could mean a few laps extra and a lot slower qualifying.

  38. Could someone give me or compile a list of stats that show which driver profited the most from other driver retirements/failures ?


  39. Why put 800 billion decimals when times are only measured to rhe nearest milisecond?

Comments are closed.