The 2013 season in stats: Comparing the cars

2013 F1 season review

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Red Bull have usually been the team to beat since the last major change in the regulations at the beginning of 2009.

However they have not enjoyed uninterrupted supremacy: Brawn (now Mercedes), Ferrari and McLaren were able to disrupt Red Bull’s supremacy, if only temporarily. And the reliability of Adrian Newey’s car’s has only ever been sufficient at best.

On top of that at various points in 2013 Red Bull’s performance was further constrained by the fragility of the latest generation of F1 tyres produced by Pirelli.

Even after a mid-season change which moved the tyres closer to those used in 2012 there were still occasions where Red Bull’s drivers were having to operate well within what the car was capable of.

Behind them there were several major changes in the competitive order this year. But the overall picture altered little during the course of the season, which was most likely due to teams being more concerned with turning their attentions to 2014 than trying to make the best of a bad job this year.

Car performance

This graph shows how far each car’s best lap time was away from the quickest lap of the weekend, as a percentage.

AustraliaMalaysiaChinaBahrainSpainMonacoCanadaBritainGermanyHungaryBelgiumItalySingaporeKoreaJapanIndiaAbu DhabiUnited StatesBrazil
Red Bull00.250.910.280.420.140.530.670.120.05000000000
Force India1.780.411.910.981.612.040.771.261.451.491.681.412.
Toro Rosso2.261.591.61.781.752.4711.280.921.432.070.541.521.251.731.660.91.841.79

McLaren had the fastest car over a single lap on average last year but conspicuously failed to reach anywhere near that level of performance this season. Relative to the opposite they were over 1% slower, the biggest loss of any team bar Williams.

Mercedes had the quickest car over a single lap in the first half of the season. After the Hungarian Grand Prix, the first race run on the revised tyre compounds, they had set the quickest lap of the weekend in eight of the ten races.

From then on, however, Red Bull led the way. They turned up with the quickest car over a single lap at every race and Sebastian Vettel wielded it to devastating effect, winning all nine of the remaining rounds.

Another defining feature of the 2013 season was that the cars were not as evenly matched. Last year less than 1% of lap time covered the top eight teams on average. Half as many teams were separated by the same amount this year.

And with a major change in the rules coming for 2014 it would not be a surprise to see this trend continue.

Average % deficit to
fastest car (2013)
Average % deficit to
fastest car (2012)
Red Bull0.180.38-0.2
Force India1.411.160.25
Toro Rosso1.551.82-0.27

Tyre use

This year more than ever, having a car which was quick over a single lap mattered little if it destroyed its tyres. Some teams made a virtue of being able to finish races using one fewer pit stop than their rivals, particularly in the first half of the season when the rubber was especially delicate.

This table reveals which drivers were best able to do that – it shows whether a driver made the same number of pit stops as most other drivers in the race, fewer (a negative number) or more (a positive number), and their total difference across the season.

Vettel, interestingly, made the same number of pit stops as most of his rivals in every race. Lotus and McLaren were often able to extend their stints and reduce their number of pit stops, as did Force India, though Paul di Resta enjoyed better success with that tactic than team mate Adrian Sutil did.

However with moves afoot to impose two mandatory pit stops for competitors in every race next year, this kind of strategic variation could soon be a thing of the past.

Sebastian Vettel0000000000000000000
Mark Webber20000001000001000
Fernando Alonso3001000100000001000
Felipe Massa500010020001000010
Jenson Button-30-1-11-10-10-1-1000011000
Sergio Perez-300-100000-1-1-100010000
Kimi Raikkonen-4-1-10-1-11-100-110000
Romain Grosjean-20-1000100-1000-100
Nico Rosberg301-101100000010000
Lewis Hamilton1000000000001000000
Nico Hulkenberg20001010-1000001000
Esteban Gutierrez4-10101020000000010
Paul di Resta-3-10-100-11-10000-110
Adrian Sutil0-100000000110-1-11
Pastor Maldonado000000-10001000000
Valtteri Bottas-20-100-1000-100100000
Jean-Eric Vergne30-1000001110001
Daniel Ricciardo-2-1000000-100000000
Charles Pic-1-1000-1000-1110000
Giedo van der Garde7000221000110000
Jules Bianchi200010-10000200000
Max Chilton30001-11-1010001000001
Heikki Kovalainen110


Last year’s McLaren’s biggest weaknesses was reliability. They clearly solved that problem this year and became the first team to get both their cars to the finish in every round.

Ferrari also completed the season without any race-ending technical problems. But Jean-Eric Vergne bore the brunt of Toro Rosso’s unreliability, accounting for five of their six failures.

This graph shows hw many ties each teams’ car was not classified in the race and breaks down the causes into technical failures and other problems.

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NB. Nico Hulkenberg also failed to start one race for Sauber.

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Images © Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, Lotus/LAT

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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56 comments on “The 2013 season in stats: Comparing the cars”

  1. A great what-if of this year is if the tyres had never been changed. Judging from the first graph, I reckon Mercedes would have mounted a great challenge for WCC/WDC

    1. David Livingstone
      5th December 2013, 12:15

      That’s a stupid what-if. The tyres were patently unsafe. They were exploding most race weekends and Alonso himself admitted he feared for his life when the shrapnel filled carcass of a tyre nearly hit him.

      1. It’s called what if for a reason.

      2. For goodness sake I wasn’t saying ‘what if Pirelli and the FIA weren’t such safety freaks and took a bit of a risk’. Exactly why it’s a what if!

    2. maarten.f1 (@)
      5th December 2013, 12:51

      @cornflakes Even after the tyre changes (the new (old) tyres were used in Germany, while Pirelli introduced a different tyre again in Hungary) Mercedes was still the quickest car. Only after the summer break they started going backwards. So that tells me it’s not really the tyres that screwed them over, but something they did (or rather didn’t do) during the summer break.

      It’s going to be impossible to tell what impact exactly the tyre change had on the various cars, as so many other variables changed along with them. But it’s too easy to call the tyre change the sole reason why Mercedes was left behind in the second half of the season.

      1. @maarten-f1

        @cornflakes Even after the tyre changes (the new (old) tyres were used in Germany, while Pirelli introduced a different tyre again in Hungary) Mercedes was still the quickest car. Only after the summer break they started going backwards. So that tells me it’s not really the tyres that screwed them over, but something they did (or rather didn’t do) during the summer break.

        Mercedes quit developing their car over the summer break and shift their focus on 2014.

        1. Exactly.

    3. @cornflakes even before the change, Red Bull held the upper hand, despite being slower over a single lap, or even during the race. Seb led the WDC all year…

      it’s impossible to tell, but I reckon Mercedes wouldn’t have had a chance… maybe it’d have been closer (or… less open).

      1. @fer-no65 no, kimi led the WDC after Austrailia :P

        1. @major-dev you’re right ! tho it didn’t last long…

    4. I doubt it @cornflakes. Red Bull clearly had a much more productive summer break than any other team, as they weren’t that impressive in Hungary and Germany on different tyres to the primary 2013 tyres but catergorically decimated everyone after the break.

    5. David not Coulthard (@)
      5th December 2013, 18:47

      @cornflakes here’s a much better what if: what if the summer break didn’t take place?

      1. The teams would be very tired and Bernie would be a bit richer :)

    6. @cornflakes, the Mercs were impressively fast during the 1st 1/2 but were also melting their tyres much faster than anybody else so I don’t think your “what-if” would really have made that much difference.

      1. Exactly. I own Patrick O’Brien’s “Grand Prix Rating System” books, in which he analyses timing data to evaluate the average deficit to the fastest package for each car/driver combo (where a value of 100.1 represents a 0.1% deficit, 100.2 = 0.2% deficit etc.).

        The Mercedes were rated at 100.3 in qualifying (practically equivalent to the 0.32% deficit calculated here) but over a race distance they dropped down to 100.7 (a 0.7% deficit per lap) due to their extreme tyre wear.
        Other packages, such as Alonso/Ferrari and Raikkonen/Lotus, were relatively quicker in race trim than in qualifying trim, resulting in the Mercs falling down the pack in the races.

  2. With regards to McLaren’s reliability, it’s worth noting that Button and Perez each had one classified retirement (Button at Malaysia and Perez at Monaco). Thus, a pedant might say that they didn’t quite get both cars to the finish every round. Still, it’s an impressive turnaround from last year, that leaves one wondering what might have been if they had had better reliability in 2012.

    1. @andrew81

      what might have been if they had had better reliability in 2012.

      Then Hamilton would have been World Champion, no doubt.

      1. @gdewilde I’m not too sure, as you’d therefore have to apply the same standards to Vettel.

        1. I’ve seen that someone, somewhere counted the point differences that the lack of reliability caused for both, and the two would’ve been very close.

        2. @vettel1

          Without reliability and misfortunes, the final 2012 season standings would likely have been:

          Lewis Hamilton 342pts
          Sebastian Vettel 318pts
          Fernando Alonso 250pts
          Mark Webber 226pts
          Jenson Button 197pts
          Kimi Räikkönen 150pts

          1. @kingshark that’s closer to what I was expecting. Thanks for that.

          2. @vettel1
            It’s worth nothing that without misfortunes in 2012, Hamilton would have had 8 wins compared to only 5 for Vettel. Lewis lost Spain, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Brazil due events out of his control. Vettel lost Valencia because of a misfortune, but gained Singapore. 8 wins versus 5 is relatively hefty difference.

            In Vettel’s defense, the RB8 was slightly slower than the MP4-27 throughout the 2012 season as a whole. McLaren had a faster car than Red Bull in 11 races (Australia, Malaysia, China, Spain, Canada, Hungary, Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, and Brazil) while Red Bull only had a faster car than McLaren in 7 races (Bahrain, Monaco, Valencia, Great Britain, Japan, Korea, and India). They were too close to call in Germany and USA.

          3. Very interesting article, which I unfortunately only read now.

            I generally agree with the conclusions but in the last race, it seems wrong to put Hamilton into P1. Clearly, the safety car badly hurt Button and Hulkenberg, who would have been P1 and P2 otherwise.

            Also, in some other races, Hamilton was given P1 where he clearly would have had to fight for it (e.g. Abu Dhabi, Singapore), and the fights would not have always turned out in his favour.

            So overall, I think it would have been even closer between Hamilton and Vettel.

      2. +1 I agree with that @gdewilde

      3. Vettel won in 2010 despite loosing almost as much points due to mechanical failures than all other top drivers combined. Proper champs don’t need excuses.

        1. His car was also 0.3-0.4s faster in qualifying than all the others, Red Bull drivers took 16 of 19 poles in 2010. This comparison shows the aerodynamic advantage the Red Bull had over the McLaren. While Vettel was a very good driver by 2010, I don’t think he was really a top-tier driver yet (he was from 2011 onwards though). Mathematical models such as the one F1Metrics and Patrick O’Brien’s “Grand Prix Rating System” have rated Vettel’s performance in 2010 as being similar to or below Button’s performance. Alonso and Hamilton were 4 and 16 pts (respectively) away from taking the championship from him in inferior cars.

          Not that he was a bad driver in 2010 by any means, he was still very good (just as Button is), just not on Alonso/Hamilton’s level in 2010. Remember, Mark Webber ended up only 10 points behind Alonso in 2010, and scored 2 more points than Hamilton. Unless you think that Webber is only 10 points worse than Alonso and is 2 points better than Hamilton, that means the Red Bull was clearly superior to the Ferrari and McLaren. Past teammate comparisons show that Webber was on a similar level to Coulthard – a driver who was dominated by Raikkonen.

          I will give you that Vettel lost more points to mechanical failures though:
          >Vettel lost 2 race wins to mechanical failures (Australia and Korea, 50 pts)
          >Alonso lost some points in Malaysia (without his gearbox and engine problems he would have been at least 7th, 6 pts).
          >Webber had no race-ending mechanical failures
          >Hamilton lost a 2nd place and a 4th place to mechanical problems (Spain and Hungary, 30 pts)
          >Button lost 8th in Monaco to an overheating engine (4 pts)

          However, the difference compared to Hamilton in 2012 is that in 2010 Vettel had a car with a large performance advantage. Vettel could afford to lose 50 points and still win, while asking Hamilton to win the 2012 championship in a non-dominant car, having lost a staggering 150 points to bad luck, is ridiculous.

    2. They actually both retired, but were classified because both retirements were moments before the end of the race (Button due to an apparent exhaust failure (?) and Perez pulled off at Virage due to collision damage).

    3. Actually BUTTON retired in Malaysia because the team FAILED to correctly fit his wheel at his last pit stop. He had to be rolled back into the pits.
      This whole debacle took so much time that he was LAPS behind the LAST car after coming out of the pits… Mind you he pitted FROM THE FRONT….. Therefore he retired on the last lap so the team could change his gearbox for the nest race(s) without a penalty..

      That was McLaren’s best chance for a podium this year and the team fumbled it up…

  3. It’s truly astonishing to compare the pace of Mercedes and Red Bull, and see how the Brackley guys lost a great deal of edge in just two races! Specifically, the two halves of the season. Meanwhile, RBR slowly improved until they were ultrasonic missiles, heh.
    Furthermore, if you now analyse Ferrari, it’s obvious that this was a really irregular season. Whether that is due to the drivers or the F138, it’s hard to say, since neither of them was as firm a candidate to win as the Mercedes or RBRs.
    But if Mercedes manages to mantain this pace throughout next season, and of course Ferrari builds a quick machine, then we are in for a nice season starting in March.

    1. Whether that is due to the drivers or the F138, it’s hard to say, since neither of them was as firm a candidate to win as the Mercedes or RBRs

      It’s very easy to say it was due to the F138, the car has never been quick but it had a great race pace which let Fernando win 2 races but since Silverstone Ferrari themselves admitted that they lost ground to Mercedes/Lotus in the development race which was going in the wrong direction, after the summer break the team corrected what was wrong with the car but it was too late

  4. Interesting to see percentage times as it gives a better indication of trends in overall team performance over the years (assuming qualifying pace is a good gauge). It looks like Marussia took a big step forward this year, although that wasn’t obvious from the races. If they could continue closing at that rate it would take around 4 more years before they’re competing with the mid-field.

    Obviously the regulation changes make this slightly unrepresentative so we will have to wait and see how that affects things. Perhaps worryingly for Caterham they lost pace compared to every team apart from Williams.

    1. It also shows how close F1 really is – a fraction of a percent decides between winning or losing. And RBR managed to maintain this tiny margin for quite some time – hats off.

    2. The clown tyres also affected the cars fastest lap ability, I am fairly sure that Alonso could have set up the car to do better in qualifying but to do so would have decreased the life of his tyres to a tactically unacceptable degree, much like the mercs suffered early on.

    3. @keithedin I also found the Marussia data interesting. While 2013 (especially the second half) will be remembered for Red Bull’s domination, it was really Marussia’s year. They made the biggest gains of any team and they took 10th place from their rivals – all with the Cosworth engine. Hopefully, their relationship with Ferrari will help them continue to make progress with the new regs next year.

  5. If nothing else this shows how much Pastor Maldonado threw away in 2012.

  6. Brilliant. Nothing to add, but thanks F1Fanatics.

  7. Beautiful stats keith. Though as all stats, they can be skewed if you have your mind into it : I love the fact that from the last entry, a Kovalainen run Lotus is the same pace as a Marussia. Meaning Grosjean and Kimi dragged a Marussia worthy car to a win and many podiums. Big kuddos to them.

    (Before anybody jumps on me, this post contains jokes).

    1. @tango I must admit I was completely thrown when I first saw that in the data, before I remembered all of practice and qualifying in Brazil was wet, so there was only the race data to go off. And with Grosjean retiring early on then, as you say, it doesn’t cast Kovalainen’s efforts in a very positive light.

      1. Mr win or lose
        6th December 2013, 15:42

        It’s always a little tricky to interpret these figures when one has to rely on race data alone, as during the the drivers cannot extract all performance of the car (due to fuel load, tyre wear, or fighting for position). Kovalainen’s pace was not really flattered by his strategy (his last pitstop was even before mid-distance), while Chilton pitted only a few laps before the checkered flag, so he was basically doing some qualifying laps. So the figures tell that the performance difference between Lotus and Marussia was compensated by 30 laps fresher tyres.

  8. The Blade Runner (@)
    5th December 2013, 16:30

    Absolutely fascinating stats. I’ll take my anorak off now!

  9. OmarR-Pepper (@)
    5th December 2013, 18:01

    What is incredible is that the test-gate coincided with the best moment of Mclaren. i’m not saying that the best was due to the test, but at that time it didn’t help to know they had a test after Barcelona ans then saw them winning Mexico and Silverstone (because if you “ommit” the blowouts problems, it was Hamilton who was leading that day). I was suspicious then, not so much now.

  10. For the first half of the season, Merc had the fastest car, and still Vet was leading the standings, I think that says quite a lot regarding one of the most under-appreciated world champion (4 times now…)

    1. Remember a race has over 60 laps. The merc was faster only over a single lap, not race distance…

    2. It says more about the tyres than it does about the drivers.

    3. @johnmilk
      Mercedes had the fastest car over 1 lap, not 60 laps. Take Bahrain, Spain, or Germany for example – Merc were fantastic in qualifying, but nowhere to be seen in the race.

  11. “The 2013 season in stats: Comparing the cars”

    That’s not what you’re doing here.

    1. Agree. This concept of declaring a certain car the quickest based on it’s fastest lap of a weekend seems flawed to me.
      Firstly, it necessarily assumes that the driver setting the team’s quickest lap of a weekend extracts the absolute maximum from his car, which is obviously not always, or even often, the case (not to mention anything about set-up and any performance compromises a team may have had to make).
      And secondly, it fails to provide a true representation of absolute performace. Just look at Singapore. Red Bull were miles ahead, but looking at this graph you’d think they barely had their noses in front.

      1. @eamon What do you think is more representative of absolute performance?

      2. @eamon The car’s as quick as the driver drives it – that’s the only data and proof there is. There’s no number on absolute speed of a car.
        And fastest lap of the weekend is the fairest way to look at it, and closest to the truth. Tyres, strategy, traffic and other things make it very hard to compare anything in the race. For example, Vettel was a lot faster than anyone else at some point because Rosberg had front wing damage (or rubber stuck in it) and was holding everybody up.

  12. Interesting how Mercedes had the fastest car over one lap for pretty much every race from Malaysia till Hungary. Not to mention that by mid-season, they were finally coming to grips with the tyres.

    I wonder how different this season would have been if Mercedes did not give up on 2013 so soon and decide to switch focus to 2014 midway the year.

  13. @keithcollantine Average % deficit with respect to qualifying or race day. If qualifying, can a chart be compiled for race pace.

    1. @kiransripathy I don’t understand what you’re asking.

      1. I think instead of fastest lap of the weekend (typically qualifying) he would like to use fastest lap of the race. Which has its flaws as well given the timing of the last pit stop, or retirements.

        @keithcollantine @kiransripathy

        1. Yeah, by using fastest race lap, Mercedes would not be that close to Red Bull’s pace.

  14. McLaren wasn’t the quickest car in 2012 regardless of the poles and missed chances, over 1 stint McLaren were not on par with RedBull… It’s the same as saying that Mercedes was quicker than Red Bull.

    1. Mclaren were the quickest car in 2012. That’s why they won the equal most races and pole positions, in spite of all the issues that occurred.

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