Latest cars likely to show a step forward in Spain

2014 F1 season

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On the face of it, the new generation of F1 cars were further off the 2013 pace than ever before at the last grand prix in China.

However for the third time this year a rain-hit Saturday meant we didn’t get a realistic picture of just how quick the current cars are around the Shanghai International Circuit.

If this weekend’s race in Spain stays dry we should get a more accurate impression – and there’s another reason we are likely to see lap times get closer to the 2014 standard this weekend.

The Spanish Grand Prix normally sees teams bring their first significant upgrades of the season. McLaren have promised an “interesting upgrade” while Lotus and Sauber have also confirmed they will have major packages of new parts planned for this weekend.

So far the cars have been 2.7s slower on average than they were last year. However tyre selection can influence that difference, as was the case in Bahrain.

The result is the cars have been at their slowest for several years at each of the four venues so far. This graph shows the difference between the fastest laps recorded at every race weekend at each of the first four venues (negative is faster, positive is slower):

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The lap times at Shanghai and Bahrain were the slowest seen at these tracks since they held their first F1 races ten years ago (excluding Bahrain’s one-off race on a longer configuration in 2010, which is not shown).

There’s another reason to expect this year’s cars are capable of lapping quicker than the pure laps times have shown so far.

China was the first time the cars have completed a full race distance without a Safety Car interruption this year on a dry track at the same was also true last year. It took Lewis Hamilton took just 25.9s longer to complete the same distance as last year’s winner Fernando Alonso (when counting the two laps which were deleted from the official race distance due to an error with the chequered flag).

Here’s how Hamilton’s lap times at this year’s Chinese Grand Prix compare with Alonso’s from 2013. Note Alonso made one more pit stop last year:

Fernando Alonso106.002104.566104.314105.573104.939110.122118.755103.04103.12102.914103.117103.721104.509103.785103.504103.399103.396104.518104.116104.558103.12102.651106.689118.344101.09101.379100.973101.715102.761101.947101.829102102.345102.758101.902101.31101.319101.421101.205101.193105.948116.876100.274100.19199.69299.50699.55299.999.781100.32100.494100.705101.575100.0399.87102.312
Lewis Hamilton104.671102.553103.16103.168103.239103.144103.166103.376103.816103.832103.948104.252104.293104.003104.259104.56111.929122.317102.777102.839103.322102.951102.601102.804102.323102.696102.809102.934103.419103.824103.293103.116103.179103.314102.935102.782102.925108.144122.762101.817101.681101.196102.135101.585101.979102.094101.908102.292101.893101.879101.706101.342101.583101.813101.413103.059

Hamilton was just 0.4% slower over a race distance despite the fact the cars are now using one third less fuel than they did last year – a significant achievement. And there’s good cause to believe Hamilton could have gone quite a bit quicker, but didn’t need to risk pushing his Mercedes any harder.

The second in-season test will be held following this weekend’s race, giving teams further opportunity to develop their cars. Some, such has Lotus, have already made rapid progress in their own right. It remains to be seen how quickly the front runners, particularly Mercedes, will regain the performance lost with this year’s dramatic rules change.

2014 F1 season

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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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54 comments on “Latest cars likely to show a step forward in Spain”

  1. Hamilton was just 0.4% slower over a race distance despite the fact the cars are now using one third less fuel than they did last year

    That, my friends, is impressive.

    1. This, combined with the latest WEC hybrids, show definitively less fuel != less speed.

    2. My thoughts exactly. When you couple that with how early in their development these cars are and the harder tyre compounds it makes it even more impressive.

      1. @geemac
        I don’t think that the harder compound tyres are worse over a race distance at all. They last significantly longer, and require a lot less tyre saving.

        1. That is a fair shout, they are only really relevant in respect of ultimate lap time.

          1. Not necessarily. Softer tires would theoretically give better grip in high speed corners.

        2. Over a race, perhaps. But in sheer lap time, softer should be faster.

    3. Mr win or lose
      5th May 2014, 16:35

      The difference in fuel consumption is clearly visible (Alonso’s laptimes were improving much more during the race than Hamilton’s.) So I think the higher fuel load and the chewing gum tyres explain why the 2013 car’s performance was only slightly better in China. But perhaps, at some point during the season, the 2014 cars may be faster in race-trim than the 2013 cars.

      1. Renault are certainly of the firm belief that the cars will be faster in race trim by the end of the season.
        On full tanks, the evidence from the opening few races suggests that the front running cars in the 2014 race would be on a similar pace to their 2013 counterparts on full tanks, with the difference gradually opening up as the race goes on.
        Given that the teams are likely to further develop both the bodywork and the powertrain packages over the season, Renault could well be proven right towards the end of the season.

    4. @dc – Quite impressive really at this early stage of development in actual F1 racing.

      The technology and efficiency certainly are valid for the track and evidently for the road too. Was just reading the new Ferrari LaFerrari XX will be produced with a “Formula 1-derived V-6 turbo hybrid”.

    5. Not sure if it truly is impressive. The same distance, yeah, but the tyres defined the game last year. It’s like comparing V8 Supercars with DTM really…

    6. @dc 0.4% is a small number but it is a lot! Regardless it all doesn’t matter, I like F1 better this season, the cars are heavier because of the batteries but direct injection and turbo massively improve efficiency and thus balancing the act on the time-sheet, being decently fast on the straights is enough improvement for me.
      I should warn that despite the 2014 compounds being harder the 2013 “metal” tyres are flattering the statistic, later in the season things can look stale because of the improvement in tyres that happened last season.
      McLaren was not the only one promising radical updates, Ferrari also promised earlier in the season an aggressive development strategy. Let’s hope Sauber can pull 2 secs this weekend.

    7. These cars are too slow now look at last years qualifying spain 1:21 where its 1:26 AT BEST this is 5 seconds slower wtf they arent getting faster so stop saying that. They are SLOW

  2. I think it should also be pointed out that lewis was told to back off in the late stages in the case of a late saftey car. He also finished the race with just over 90kg of fuel. Impressive stuff. That Mercedes is bloody fast. I dont think they have shown their hands yet. But I believe they will as the chasing pack (Redbull, Ferrari etc..) draws closer.

    1. I think the W05 has plenty more to come. I don’t believe they have ever driven the car to it full.

    2. thatscienceguy
      5th May 2014, 15:11

      Somehow I doubt it had 90kg of fuel at the end, it means it only used 10kg in the race. Finishing with 9kg maybe, but not finishing with 90kg.

      1. In fairness to FADA I doubt he is implying that…the fact is LH finished the race with just over 90kg of fuel…or perhaps ‘using’ just over 90 kg of fuel is a bit more clear, but one could also say, ‘with just over 90 kg of fuel, LH won the race…’

      2. Yeah I did a double-take on that one, I’m sure it’s meant to say just over 90kg used over the race distance. Otherwise, Mercedes has been really, really holding back their true power.

        1. Correction guys, I meant to say used just over 90kg of fuel for the full race distance.

  3. Yeah you have to wonder if indeed the rest of the field will get closer to Mercedes this year when you consider they may not have yet really pushed what they have, let alone they will also have upgrades and will not be sitting on their hands. Some team is going to have to make a big leap in performance, not just similar improvement to the rest, in order to do anything about Mercedes. And let’s not forget it is two Mercedes that someone is going to have to leapfrog, not one.

    1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
      5th May 2014, 16:18

      @robbie – Red Bull will win races this year; of that I am certain. But probably not before the starting pistol for Red Bull domination that is Singapore, and by then it will be too late. Between then and now they have just four higher downforce tracks (Spain, Monaco, Silverstone and Hungary) to hit back at Mercedes, and frankly, without an on form Sebastian Vettel (they are hardly his best tracks anyway), it will be impossible. Mercedes, as is the opinion in the more pessimistic if realistic corners of the paddock, can start uncorking the champagne. Do we care? No, because we have an amazing Hamilton versus Rosberg battle in store…

      1. @william-brierty Well if you are right and Red Bull will win races this year, meaning at least one of them is going to get by both Mercs, that will be one heck of an achievement and will make for a hugely exciting addition to the season, not to mention a foreshadowing for next year. I say next year because I agree that by the time any team gets strong enough this year it will be too late to eclipse the Mercs.

        1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
          5th May 2014, 20:31

          @robbie – Having said that Red Bull will win races this year, which I stand by (in fact I think the fact Vettel tends to be in a class of one around the streets of Singapore will put them in particularly good stead for that race), the gap Mercedes have might take a number of seasons to recover fully. For Red Bull especially it’s tricky, because almost the entirety of their performance deficit lies outside their control and in the hands of Renault. A couple of years of Mercedes domination down the line and could a desperate engine manufacturer change be the only thing stopping a disinterested Red Bull withdrawing from F1?

          1. @william-brierty Let’s see what Honda will bring for Mac next year, and assuming it’s something special and the deal isn’t an exclusive, perhaps RBR will have Honda’s in them for 2016. I must say I don’t envision RBR leaving F1 out of disinterest. Rather I see them striving for a comeback. Let’s start with seeing if Renault has indeed stepped things up for Spain this weekend. And/or if Mercedes is now about to start cake leaping away from everyone, instead of the more common cake walking.

          2. Vettel tends to be in a class of one around the streets of Singapore

            I don’t know. Hamilton has often been very strong there too, and Rosberg doesn’t seem too shabby.

          3. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
            5th May 2014, 22:56

            @robbie – Owing to the fact that Dietrich Mateschitz said only a matter of weeks ago that a Red Bull withdrawal would not be ruled out, I don’t think we can be sure that Red Bull will remain in F1 if it is not consistently in the winning circle. As for a Red Bull-Honda link, I think that is virtually an impossibility, owing to the fact that Honda have committed themselves to McLaren as their flagship team, so I would imagine there is some contractual clause preventing a large “manufacturer-ish” team from having Honda engines. As for Mercedes, “cake-leaping” might best describe their inevitable form at Barcelona, Canada and Spielberg.

            @matt90 – True, and Vettel’s advantage derived from a now defunct driving style; with the immense torque and lower rear grip preventing him from throttling up so early.

          4. @william-brierty Yeah I won’t profess to know what Red Bull will do but to me they’ve only just come off of the best 4 years possible, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Mateschitz was just expressing frustration at them not retaining number 1 status with this new formula. Considering that they thought the clamping down on exhaust work to hamper the EBD effect was meant to stop them from dominating, they probably think the same of this whole new formula.

            You are probably right about Honda and Mac having an exclusive, and who knows…Renault may well up their game sufficiently well ahead of Honda coming anyway. If it’s money Renault needs, Mateschitz has no shortage of that.

      2. That’s a bold statement to say that RBR will certainly win a race. The way this season has gone the only way they would win one would be if there was rampant dnf’s. I would love to say that their 2nd half development will be good enough, but we dont know. Lets say they can find that 2-2.5s to get to the Mercedes, where is everyone else? Additionally what has Mercedes done, or Ferrari, or McLaren, Williams, and Force India?

        They will certainly try their hardest to win, but their past success has no bearing in this season. At this point if they win it will not be on merit. Of course that could change, but Mercedes is too far out front.

        1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
          6th May 2014, 8:27

          @rybo – You forget that Vettel was a mere 6/100ths off of Hamilton’s Malaysia pole in the rain, and on a slippery track surface like Singapore, a track where straight line speed accounts for nothing and Vettel is simply superb, Red Bull could be right there. I agree that we will arrive at Brazil with the W05 as still the comfortably fastest car in F1, but at higher downforce tracks, on evidence seen so far, Red Bull may have a chance.

  4. So when will people start booing Hamilton?

    1. Give it three years @jcost ;)

      1. lol, yeah hopefully we are not in for a cakewalk from LH for the next 4 years, especially after the excitement he and NR gave us in Bahrain.

    2. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
      5th May 2014, 15:58

      @jcost – It will happen, have no doubt. We can observe a similar situation to F1 a few years ago, the start of Vettel dominance, in MotoGP at the moment with Marquez. The “wow” factor is beginning to wear off and be replaced with the “yawn” factor, and when a bad weekend for a rider/driver translates into better race prospects, that all to easily becomes apathy towards the rider/driver in question. However Marquez and Hamilton have strongly established fanbases due to their impressive styles, whereas Vettel didn’t have that, but that will still not protect Lewis from the inevitable tifosi jeers.

      1. FerrariNut91
        5th May 2014, 16:25

        I think it’s a bit unfair to assume the tifosi will boo Lewis if he happens to dominate the rest of the season.

        Remember it was also the British fans who cheered vettels retirement last season.

        It’s not the winning that people get tired of so much as the manner in which the driver/team win.

        If we have a season of Bahrain 2014 style races between Lewis and Rosberg it will be much easier for the casual observer to watch than if its a one-sided processional affair like majority of the Schuey and Vettel years have been.

      2. I am mindful too though that SV may have been booed not just for making it look like a cakewalk, again and again, but he may have represented to some of those booers that the bad tires and the resultent delta time running, and DRS, and the removal of much of the exhaust blown diffuser effect, didn’t really close up the field and give SV a challenger…ie. they may have also been booing the product with it’s incessant but ineffective changes, not just SV or Red Bull personally.

        Currently, the totally new regs have not prevented a runaway team nor have closed up the field, but it is early days. If races remain fairly uneventful and LH regularly dominates the field, then he may get booed by the end of this year (ie. may not take 4 years) as a carry over from the last 4 years, and again it may be that the booers are booing the product not necessarily the man. The quietness and the double points finale may put some on the edge of needing far more excitement than a runaway provides, or the booing will commence.

        1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
          5th May 2014, 20:20

          @robbie – I think you are over-complicating the process of booing. Vettel was making F1 boring, and prevented the success of Ferrari in Italy, and Hamilton at Silverstone, and therefore got booed. The same is the case with Yamaha fans in MotoGP at the moment, and soon too Hamilton will be booed, probably at Monza. And yet Vettel’s booing was arguably more inevitable owing to the fact that by comparison, Vettel’s fanbase is dwarfed by those of Marquez and Hamilton due to his unspectacular style; although the informed onlooker sees a young man running rings around the very finest in the world and finds it pretty spectacular. The German Grand Prix will be fascinated this year, not because I imagine we’ll have a particularly enthralling race (the Hockenheim layout neatly plays to all of the W05’s strengths), but to see the distribution of the fans’ support. Will the four-pointed star start to encroach upon the Red Bull cap dominance? Will the likable Nicos draw on the incredibly understated German response to Vettel’s home win last year?

          Regarding your comment immediately above, I think we will see a “cakewalk” on Hamilton’s side of the garage in coming years. Not only do Mercedes have a performance gap that may take several seasons to reduce, but Hamilton has comprehensively demonstrated that some of his below par performances versus Nico in 2013 were not remotely representative of his true ranking against Rosberg. Hamilton, having shown Nico his true form, and that he is more than capable of beating him at his very best tracks, could win several more races consecutively from now, and if we factor in the effect of Rosberg getting brow-beaten we might enter a scenario similar to that at Red Bull in the later races of 2010 and the start of 2011, where the gulf between the teammates continually keeps growing. From where I’m sat, Hamilton’s are a particularly comfy pair of shoes to be wearing right now…

          1. @william-brierty Fair comment all around. As to Rosberg, it already feels to me like he is closer to LH than MW was to SV, so I’m not convinced NR will be brow-beaten, but certainly he is new to the game of having the necessary equipment, so we having nothing to go by and I am expecting to see him raise his game if he truly is WDC material. And if he can’t do that this year then perhaps next, once he has more experience competing at the top. You can’t really show all of your stuff until you have the car, so it’s going to be fun seeing where this goes.

          2. Seb was booed in Singapore as well, do you remember Brundle trying to stop the boos on the podium? In sports, when people don’t like a player for wherever reason and have questionable class levels they boo them. It has happened to Cristiano Ronanldo, Messi, LeBron James and many others… Lewis has a fair amount of detractors ready to unleash their anger when the opportunity comes.

          3. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
            6th May 2014, 14:10

            @robbie – In F1, and in sport more widely, pressure is cumulative, and as long as Hamilton keeps winning, with further consecutive wins highly likely, Rosberg will keep taking the pressure. This weekend will be one the most crucial in their partnership. Hamilton has the opportunity to symbolically retake the golden snitch that is the championship lead at a track where Nico comprehensively beat him last year, and it is now critical for Rosberg’s championship hopes that he beats back at Lewis.

            @jcost – I think Singapore was nothing more sinister than simply copying the Italian fans – and a lot of British fans attended last year of whom Vettel is an enemy to Hamilton/Button’s chances. Every now and then sport needs characters to brighten the show, and the fans appear to have dubbed Vettel the villain and Hamilton, Alonso and Raikkonen as the heroes, saving F1 from Teutonic domination. I thought the hero was traditionally meant to win? Yes Hamilton has critics, although I would argue substantially fewer than a couple of years ago, but his flamboyant and exciting style means he is hardly a suitable cast for F1’s steely-browed villain of boredom. That doesn’t mean however, as I argue above, that the Spanish and Italian fans won’t boo…

    3. @jcost, well, didn’t he already get booed by the tifosi after winning Monza 2012? How is his popularity in Spain, btw? After partnering Alonso in 2007 he was mot much loved there, I think, and although Alonso and Hamilton have long since reconciled, have the fans forgiven him yet?

      Anyway, I hope last year’s consistent booing was a one-off never to return to Formula 1.

      1. @adrianmorse the first time Hamilton raced in Spain as an F1 driver I was there and people liked him, but then things turned sour with Alonso and he became public enemy, I remember two years ago (I guess) Pedro de La Rosa on a tv talk show saying something like “Lewis is not the bad person painted by Spanish media” but the public reaction was “meh” :)

        However, Alonso has a legion of “local haters” whose best way to show their dislike towards Alonso is expressing sound support to Lewis Hamilton… but I’d put my money on boos overshadowing cheers for Lewis in Spain

      2. I’ll go ahead and answer your questions.

        Fans never forgive, and fans never forget.

        Thats usually the case.

    4. @jcost It’s all relative really. He could win the next four WDCs and never be booed. Vettel was booed last year (and a bit the year before) because he almost never had a challenger in the races. It just became ridiculously underwhelming tuning into, or going to a race with the victor an almost foregone conclusion. While Vettel is fast, I also chalk the lack of competition up to Webber being old and slow, to be blunt. Speed and reactions sadly don’t have a linear drop-off with age. I can’t remember which ex-driver said it, but it happens in massive chunks and almost overnight.
      If Hamilton, or his fans don’t want him to be booed then his best hope is to produce more races like Bahrain. Or at least some sort of regular race-lead challenge in most races – something to keep the race and season interesting to appease the fans. Happy and interested fans = less boos.

      1. It probably didn’t help that Red Bull Racing have angered the fans over the years as well. I think that Brundle asked some fans in Canada why they booed Vettel after that race, and they told Brundle that it was mainly the team, rather than the driver, that they hated – Vettel, as the public face of the team, was also the natural target for those angry at the team.

    5. @jcost – “So when will people start booing Hamilton?”
      Ans: This weekend. It’s Spain.

      1. That could happen but now Lewis is Fernando’s BFF and things are not as bad anymore.

  5. I’m 100% sure that this years Mercedes could be faster than last years brilliant Red Bull.

    1. I am 100% sure it already is. We are statistically watching the most dominant car in Formula One history (thus far).

      1. Better or faster =/= quicker. RB6 was infinitely quicker than the supposedly ballistic RB9, yet wasn’t as good or as fast. If you took RB6 and raced it in 2013/2014 it could probably lap entire field.

      2. Are you sure about that? Weren’t the McLarens and Williams more dominant at various times?

        1. In 88 Mclaren won 15/16 races. In 92 and 93 Williams won 10/16. In 94 Benetton won 11/17. In 96 Williams won 12/16. In 2002 Ferrari won 15/17. In 2013 Red Bull won 13/19.

          Statistically, @vettel1 is correct, since Mercedes have won 100% of races. Keep in mind these are some dominant seasons that came to mind. In 88 Mclaren won 93.75% races, to beat that Mercedes could only lose a single race the whole season. And right now it doesnt look very unlikely.

  6. My friend @jonathanproc calculated that to be an average speed of 26342mph. I knew Red Bull had a top speed deficit, but that’s just ridiculous.

  7. Interesting to see the long-run comparison. I know for certain that I was astonished by Vettel’s 2011 Australian Pole time, that was the first time in a long time I’d seen such speed from an F1 car (in this case purely corner exit acceleration – EBD made it look on rails), even more impressive than in 2010. So it’s interesting to see that might be the fastest we see the cars for a while, like after 2004/5. It also shows how impressive Villeneuve’s Melbourne pole time was in 1997. What was the significant jump forwards from 2001 attributed to? Engine development?

  8. The Blade Runner (@)
    6th May 2014, 11:16

    There are some rumours of McLaren racing with a “twin tusk” nose this weekend, Lotus-style

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