Mercedes’ dominance outstripped Red Bull’s of 2010-3

2014 F1 season statistics: Car performance

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Average % deficit
to fastest car (2014)
2014 championship
Mercedes 0.02 1
Williams 0.85 3
Red Bull 0.96 2
Ferrari 1.14 4
McLaren 1.44 5
Toro Rosso 1.87 7
Force India 1.99 6
Sauber 2.62 10
Lotus 2.69 8
Marussia 4.33 9
Caterham 4.86 11

Mercedes moved the goalposts a long way in 2014. Having crafted by far the best solution to Formula One’s complex new engine regulations, the W05s were capable of cruising to victory at every race weekend – when they didn’t break down.

Rare were the days when a Mercedes finished behind anything that wasn’t another Mercedes. Aside from Nico Rosberg’s 14th place in Abu Dhabi due to an ERS fault, it only happened on five occasions throughout the year. Daniel Ricciardo managed it three times, and Fernando Alonso and Valtteri Bottas once each. And it probably never would have happened without misfortune or errors on Mercedes’ part.

Over the course of the season the W05s were on average 0.83% quicker than the next-best car. To put that into perspective, around a typical F1 lap lasting one minute 30 seconds, that translates to a performance advantage of almost three-quarters of a second (0.747s).

What was the ‘next best car’? In terms of raw pace it was the Mercedes-powered Williams FW36. However, for various reasons, Red Bull beat them to second place in the constructors’ championship. While the FW36 was often the quickest car on the straights, the superior downforce of their RB10 made it far more effective in wet conditions. Rain affected many practice and qualifying sessions this year, particularly in the early part of the season.

Williams, however, were the team which kept Mercedes from a clean sweep of pole positions by locking out the front row of the grid in Austria. They had a little help from Lewis Hamilton, who not only made mistakes on both of his flying laps in Q3, but also inadvertently compromised Rosberg’s qualifying effort by doing so.

Race-by-race car performance

Mercedes’ rivals got closest to them at tracks where the benefit of their power unit was marginalised, such as Singapore. Williams gradually emerged from the front of the midfield to become regularly Mercedes’ closest challengers over the final five races.

Lotus began the season with a lot of catching up to do, and made impressive progress over the first five races. However the last of those, in Spain, proved their high watermark in terms of competitiveness. The limitations of the Renault Energy F1 power unit and the banning of Front Rear Inter-Connected suspension ahead of the German Grand Prix held them back.

Australia Malaysia Bahrain China Spain Monaco Canada Austria Britain Germany Hungary Belgium Italy Singapore Japan Russia USA Brazil Abu Dhabi
Red Bull 1.13 0.97 0.93 0.5 1.24 0.52 0.9 1.03 1.06 0.96 0.59 0.5 1.58 0.16 1.7 1.32 1.23 1.31 0.78
Mercedes 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.27 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ferrari 0.85 0.95 1.27 0.14 2.2 0.92 1.26 0.76 0.78 1.45 1.44 0.58 1.57 0.21 1.26 1.39 1.61 1.36 1.45
Lotus 4.78 3.56 2.92 1.24 2.03 2.9 2.42 1.72 2.7 3.08 3.17 2.12 4.06 2.02 3.69 3.11 2.5 2.88 2.28
McLaren 1.27 1.64 1.29 1.2 2.47 2.06 1.75 1.04 1.82 0.88 1.91 0.93 1.43 0.54 1.86 0.7 1.65 1.3 1.39
Force India 1.79 1.53 1.25 1.45 2.88 2.28 1.9 1.26 2.76 1.93 2.34 1.28 2.09 1.54 2.7 1.75 2.59 2.61 1.75
Sauber 3.33 2.27 2.9 2.08 3.58 3.43 3.26 3 2.58 2.87 2.93 1.62 2.95 1.56 3.03 2.24 2.41 2.14 2.26
Toro Rosso 1.89 1.79 2.1 1.36 3.29 2.04 1.72 1.06 2.2 1.86 2.32 0.64 2.33 1.18 2.68 0.95 2.74 2 1.42
Williams 1.73 1.12 1.14 0.82 1.64 2.75 0.9 0 1.6 0.29 0.77 0.25 0.7 0.3 0.67 0.59 0.87 0.32 0.54
Marussia 4.6 4.68 4.43 4.08 5.11 3.79 4.64 3.86 4.39 4.1 4.85 2.99 4.31 3.56 4.8 5.4
Caterham 5.48 5.5 4.19 5.09 5.96 5.45 5.88 4.24 4.82 5.05 5.35 4.45 4.23 4.47 4.66 4.38 4.04

How big was Mercedes’ advantage?

While Red Bull were usually the team to beat over the previous four seasons, in 2014 Mercedes’ average performance advantage was almost twice as great as Red Bull’s was in its peak. Small wonder their Renault and Ferrari-powered rivals having been lobbying hard for changes to the rules to help them catch up.

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Car performance trends

Ferrari’s drift away from competitiveness was another talking point during 2014. After five years with the team Alonso headed for the exit at the end of 2014. As the data below shows, the most competitive Ferrari he enjoyed was in his first season with the team, and from then on they tended to drift further away from the sharp end of the grid.

As was finally announced yesterday, Alonso will drive for McLaren next year. Having produced the quickest car of 2012 but failed to capitalise on it, McLaren slumped badly in the next two seasons.

However there were signs towards the end of this year they had begun to make progress with their car. After the news of Alonso’s appointment was announced yesterday Dennis said the team had found “true north” in terms of aerodynamic development, following the return of designer Peter Prodromou from Red Bull. But a lot will rest on their all-new Honda power plant.

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Mercedes 1.15 1.5 0.87 0.32 0.02
Red Bull 0.05 0.01 0.38 0.18 0.96
Williams 1.53 2.76 0.96 2.19 0.85
Ferrari 0.48 0.83 0.75 0.73 1.14
McLaren 0.58 0.5 0.18 1.33 1.44
Force India 1.81 2.51 1.16 1.41 1.99
Toro Rosso 2.28 3.06 1.82 1.55 1.87
Lotus 1.18 2.2 0.68 0.78 2.69
Marussia 5.31 6.85 4.83 4.19 4.33
Sauber 2.04 2.75 1.15 1.6 2.62
Caterham 4.82 5.18 3.49 4.03 4.86
HRT 6.68 7.86 5.73

NB. Lotus was Renault 2010-11, Marussia was Virgin 2010-11, Caterham was Lotus 2010-11.

Who were the most reliable?

Although the direst predictions of mass car failures at the start of the season were not realised, the complex new power units did see a significant increase in breakdowns during races in 2014.

There were 61 non-classifications which could be directly attributed to a technical failure during 2014, more than twice the 28 seen last year. And this was despite two teams – Marussia and Caterham – missing five races between them.

There’s no mistaking how much higher the retirement rate was among Renault-powered cars compared to Mercedes: the latter had 13 breakdowns, the former 37.

But most impressive was how few failures some teams experienced, particularly Mercedes customers Williams and McLaren along with Ferrari.

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Notes on the data

The above performance data is produced by analysing the fastest lap time set by a car at each race weekend in any session.

2014 F1 season review

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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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62 comments on “Mercedes’ dominance outstripped Red Bull’s of 2010-3”

  1. More proof that Sauber should have scored some points and beat at least Marussia, probably Lotus as well.

  2. I’m not 100% certain that Force India only had one accident during the year. I remember both cars crashing out at Hungary, unless there was a technical problem which I was unaware of during that race.

    1. Seems to be a mistake. Force India only had one technical failure, which was engine failure for Hulkenberg in Unites States. They had five accident related retirements, four for Perez in Monaco, Canada, Hungary and United States and one for hulkenberg in Hungary. Perez also failed to start Malaysian GP due to a gearbox proble.

    2. @craig-o Good spot – Perez’s DNS had gone into the wrong column. Fixed it.

  3. What about LH in Spa for Merc? How is that a tech fail? Surely should be accident?

    1. @zippyone These are always tricky to judge. The criteria I applied was that the accident didn’t cause his immediate or prompt retirement. He didn’t stop there and then or limp straight back to the pits with a car which was obviously going no further. He stopped much later because the decision was taken that the risk of leaving him out on track and suffering further deterioration of his car outweighed any potential gain of him scoring points. Of course you can always make the argument that had the car been more robust it would have incurred less damage in the accident and could have kept going.

      1. But it doesn’t say “accident”, it says “Other” and since it wasn’t really a technical failure, shouldn’t it be in the “other” category?

    2. You could also say that had the car been less robust he would have retired there and then instead of limping around.

      Really can’t see how this is a tech fail.

  4. I’m just gonna say that for the Force India cars to be slower than McLaren by 0.5 and Toro Rosso too by like 0.1 or something like that and manage to hold onto 5th in the WCC for the majority of the season is pretty impressive. More proof as to why The Hulk should never be overlooked and also why Checo should be given a 2nd chance at a top tier team

    1. Yeah, that’s basically because this chart is looking at ultimate – ie, qualifying – performance. The Force Indias tended to run faster in race trim.

    2. A top tier team needs a driver who can perform on all tracks and not just on a select few where going for longer stints can help you win some places. So Perez is useless to them

      Especially since tricks like starting on the harder compound only work if you don’t make it into Q3 and with a top tier team that shouldn’t happen anyway.

    3. Qualifying performance doesn’t give the full picture. Some cars are much better in the race than in qualifying, due to factors such as being kind on their tyres (e.g. 2014 Force India, 2012/2013 Lotus, etc.).

      Equally some cars can be very fast in qualifying but bad in the races (e.g. the 2013 tyre-shredding Mercedes which always went backwards in the races, showing why the graph doesn’t give the full picture – it reduced Red Bull’s % advantage in qualifying shown on the graph, but Red Bull were still extremely dominant in the races in the second half of the season).

      There are more factors such as fuel consumption, how easily it can overtake or defend from other cars (e.g. straight line speed, how badly it suffers in turbulent air, good traction (Renaults in Abu Dhabi 2010, Sauber in India 2013), etc.), aerodynamic consistency, etc.

      1. And now with the 2014 cars there is the new factor of how energy efficient its engine is (the Ferrari couldn’t harvest enough energy to keep its ERS and electrical systems at full power for consective laps, which is why according to Allison they were better in quali trim than race trim).

  5. So can we say, as in previous years, that it was “the car” and not the driver?

    1. Of course, although the difference here would be that Mercedes actually had 2 drivers competing for the WDC as opposed to a race driver and a “number two”.

      1. @patrickl The amount of wins and lost points say otherwise in my opinion. Rosberg put up a bigger challenge than Webber ever did but I wouldn’t call it miles ahead of for example 2010.

        1. Well 2010 was before Webber was demoted by the team to No 2 driver status.

          Which was my point really. Indeed 2009 and 2010 was still pretty close, but after that it was over for Webber.

          Actually you could see Webber drop back already during the second half of 2010. Also the way they completely destroyed any chance Webber had of becoming WDC by stopping him so ridiculously early to help neutralize Alonso for Vettel.

          Which worked wonders BTW. So I guess it makes sense to do it the “Ferrari way” and have such a clear distinction between support for the two drivers.

        2. Bigger challenge than Webber ever did? I don’t think you remember how close Webber was to winning the title in 2010 and lead the championship for the majority of the season and for the second half of the season. He lost the championship because he choked in Korea. Even though he did choke, he was still favourite to win the title in Abu Dhabi.

          Totally different circumstances to this year. Rosberg was the underdog for most of the season and needed a minor miracle to win the title in Abu Dhabi.

      2. no, only one more driver was most dominant in redbull. in Mercedes, they were closely matched. if vettel and webber had the Mercedes car, vettel would have had 480 points, and webber 220.

        1. With the Merc level of dominance it would be 1st and 2nd for any decent driver combination. So a maximum difference of 500 points to 360 for a 20 race season, barring failures.
          As to whether Vettel would have that level of dominance in the Mercedes? Well, we’ve seen how good Vettel is with this generation of cars. Vettel dislikes a car that doesn’t have massive rear downforce, Webber prefered oversteer. Apart from the height/weight penalty, these cars may well have been a chance for Webber to get on top. Unfortunately we’ll never know.

    2. To be fair, the last time a driver won the championship without the best car was in 2008, so it doesn’t really happen very often (and that was the same guy that won with the best car this year). And even then the McLaren was pretty close to the Ferrari. Before that you have to look back to 2000 when a driver won without the best car.
      Alonso and Hamilton came close to doing it in 2010 though (4 and 16 points off respectively) and Alonso came close again in 2012 (3 points off)

      1. Aaron Noronha
        17th March 2015, 20:38

        The McClaren in 2012 was faster than the Redbull. So the answer to the last time a driver won the WDC in the 2nd best car is 2012

        1. Fastest doesn’t mean best, The 2012 Mclaren was unreliable. F1 is about the complete package, having a the fastest car is no good if it breaks down alot.

          1. If that’s the case, then maybe we should say 2010 Ferrari was the best car. So is the answer 2010?

          2. There were more operational mistakes then mechanical I think. It wasn’t as bad as 2005 McLaren. Decent enough to win the title.

  6. Luckily, Rosberg finishes 2 races when he have ERS failures. Mercedes have poor reliability this season

    1. Mercedes have had good reliability this season (so far), Did you mean last season?

  7. For me it seems premature to compare them to RB their dominance over ’10-’13. Mercedes had the most dominant season but now let’s see for the coming year whether they can emulate Red Bull and do it four years in a row.

    1. redbull were not dominant in 2010, and also not in 2012 or the start of 2013. Mercedes were the most dominant, but their achievement is miniscule compared to Redbulls. redbull did it with an inferior engine.

      1. that’s a misconception. Red bull had an engine with a bit of less power, but much more flexible in terms of engine map and much more integrated with the blowing diffuser than any other team. All Red Bull dominance was based in the Renault creativity.

        1. Exactly, and this is why it should have been banned in mid-2011. That and the tyre change in 2013 both lost a lot of competition from the grids. But, on the current scale, it looks like 2016 before Mercedes can be challenged, even if other teams close in at more than 0.25% a year.

      2. That depends how you judge an engine to be inferior, Renault was down slightly on power but they were ahead in the mapping and how the engine integrated with the design of the Red Bull car in order to maximise the pace gain from a blown diffuser, among other things. Mercedes got the blown diffuser working well with Mclaren later on but it never really matched watch Renault & Red Bull managed, so to say Red Bull had an inferior engine is a little skewed depending on perspective and what the role the engine played in a given generation of F1.

  8. Williams being the second best car ahead of Red Bull is the biggest surprise to me. I count more races where RBR was Merc’s closest challenger than where Williams were Merc’s closest challenger.

    1. Red Bulls competitiveness would depend on how many springs they had hidden in their wings.

  9. I think statistics like this are skewed heavily by how competitive the team mates at a team are. If for whatever reason you have one team mate much faster than the other in the fastest car (eg RB & Vettel) then they only need to do as much as necessary to stay ahead rather than exploit the maximum performance of the car. When you have two closely matched team mates such as 2014 then they are going to both push as much as possible and so the maximum performance of the car is shown.

    For Merc it would have been better this year if one driver was much slower so that they could turn down the performance and not appear to have such an advantage. This would help assuage all the arguments about engine performance etc.

    1. @jimbo

      I think statistics like this are skewed heavily by how competitive the team mates at a team are

      I don’t see how. It only takes one driver to set the fastest time in the car, what his team mate does is irrelevant.

      1. @jimbo @keithcollantine – Do you disagree, Keith, or just not see what Jimbo is saying? I think Jimbo is saying that because Vettel was so dominant—of both the field as well as Webber—all he had to do was be comfortable and then shut it down. Vettel didn’t have to pursue the ultimate performance of the car because as long as he was faster than the field he was fine because the only other person in the same car (Webber) was generally not a threat.

        With Mercedes, however, both drivers did have to pursue the ultimate performance more often because they knew that if they didn’t that their teammate would.

        So, assuming both points (and they are just assumptions) the RB cars may have had a similar ultimate laptime advantage to the W05, we just never/rarely saw it.

        1. @hobo @keithcollantine – Yes hobo that’s exactly what I meant. Vettel only had to use say 80% of the performance he and the car could achieve to comfortably beat Webber and everyone else. With Hamilton and Rosberg they had to use close to 100% because they were so close to each other. As you say assumptions, but I think a valid point. One example of when Vettel had to use a lot more of the potential performance was at Singapore 2013 after the safety car. otherwise he would get a comfortable gap and manage it. With Hamilton and Roseberg they were always pushing each other and so couldn’t pull out a reasonable gap and relax.

          Vettel would also not need to push so much at the end of the race when cars are faster with lighter fuel loads whilst other cars are still racing and pushing hard and again skewing fastest lap comparisons. Again Ham & Ros usually are still pushing each other at this point so can’t back off. Add in the need to be kind to the engine whenever possible and you have another reason why Vettel and RBR would not be pushing as hard when they have a good gap.

          1. I’m sure everyone here can be flexible when talking about the Red Bulls :)

          2. @jimbo @hobo Qualy? How can your arguments be valid in qualies (which is when the fastest times tend to be set)?

          3. @davidnotcoulthard @jimbo – It’s the exact same scenario. Again, assuming @jimbo ‘s premise, Vettel could keep some in reserve and not push to the absolute limit because he knew that, once he had cleared the field, he was likely safe as no one else in the best car would challenge him.

          4. @hobo I’m sorry but I doubt that the scenario holds true during qualies (considering Webber beat VET to pole quite a few times, and fails to at the same time put the car head and shoulders above everyone else)

        2. @hobo @jimbo I don’t agree because – as others have pointed out – the fastest laps during race weekends tend not to be set during races (see “notes on the data” at the foot of the article).

          1. @keithcollantine The same applies to qualifying as well. If you have a considerable advantage over the rest of the field you are going to turn your engine down for reliability reasons and have a more race-centric setup for the car. The regulations changed this year too; in the previous 4 years drivers had to start on the same tyres they set their fastest lap on in Q3 meaning they had to preserve the tyres for the race. This year they get an extra set for Q3 and only have to start the race on tyres from Q2 so they can push much harder in Q3 than previous years extracting the maximum from the tyres. This again skews the statistics between 210-13 and 2014.

          2. @jimbo You argument doesn’t make sense.

    2. Drivers don’t hold back or keep something in reserve in qualifying, the Red Bull car needed clear air to be able to exploit its strengths so starting at the front of the grid was very important to their race strategy.

      There is no incentive not to go as quickly as possible in qualifying, which is why qualifying is always used to judge a car’s ultimate pace. In contrast in the race, especially since the introduction of the pirelli tyres, there is an incentive to pace performance to that of rival competitors rather than to go flat out and build a large lead.

    3. Well… We know Webber was on par with Rosberg actually. You think Hamilton-Rosberg is closer than Vettel-Webber was?

  10. The dominance chart showing the MP4-27 should bring tears to McLaren’s eyes. Only car on there without a WCC. I still gnash my teeth when I think of how they lost the titles that year with that car.

    1. Well that’s probably a major part of Hamilton’s decision for leaving. Finally they had a winning car and then it kept breaking or the team messed up the pit stops.

    2. @dmw: Lewis could’ve been WC, but that didn’t happen due to technical failures and bad luck. He lost tons of points in: Spain (DQ after setting pole), Germany (puncture), Belgium (Grosjean), Singapore (gearbox), Korea (anti-roll bar), Abu Dhabi (fuel pressure), Brazil (Hülkenberg). The only incident he was partly to blame for was the clash with Maldonado in Valencia, a lap or so before the end of the race. In this case it’s clear: Poor reliability and two unfortunate accidents spoiled his chances.

      Jenson, on the other hand, didn’t have a chance because he was extremely inconsistent, far slower than Lewis, and hardly scored any points in the six races from Bahrain to Silverstone, mostly through no other fault but his own. He was already trailing 90 points behind Alonso after less than half the season. In his case, it wasn’t the car, it was the driver.

  11. Looking at this year’s race-by-race car performance, it is pretty staggering how Codemasters (F1 2014) managed to put Ferrari in the same group as Mercedes and Red Bull, while Williams are in the same group as McLaren and Force India. After Monaco, Williams had the 2nd fastest car for most of the races. Ferrari often had the 4th or 5th fastest car.

  12. I have a point somewhat similar to the one @jimbo makes above. Or at least tangential. That is, I still feel like the Red Bull years were more dominant than this year was for the Merc. Even though it doesn’t seem to be the case, based on stats.

    I think that I have that perception because it was so one-sided at RBR. It wasn’t just that you knew they were probably going to win, it’s that you knew Vettel was probably going to win. I assume that is how people felt during the Ferrari-MSC half-decade.

    Even though I watched those Ferrari dominant seasons, my perception was skewed because I was/am an MSC fan and I was a Ferrari fan at the time as well, so I didn’t view it in the same way as McLaren or Williams fans probably did. Whereas with Mercedes this year or the Senna-Prost McLaren years, at least the teammates had each other to compete with. So even though those are some of the most dominant cars and seasons for teams, to me they don’t feel as dominant or boring as the RBR years or the Ferrari years for everyone else.

    1. It’s your skewed fan perception.

  13. Would be interesting to see how the Brawn BGP-01 fared on the same graphs, especially over the first half of the season.

    1. And McLaren did over the next half of the same season.

  14. It must be very hard to make so easy to read tables from such not so simple data. :S Well done!

  15. @KeithCollantine do you know the average (time or percent) speed dominance the mp4/4 had over the field in 1988?

  16. @KeithCollantine I know it would probably be a lot of work, it would be fascinating to see the ‘Performance advantage of the fastest F1 car’ table include a few more ‘key’ F1 years, e.g. 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1994 etc. as I suspect that the MP-4/4 had way more advantage in ’88 than the W05 did last year.

  17. I truly believe that the Red Bull had more in hand if they really needed more pace from it.
    If I remember correctly, there were a few qualifying sessions where they were 1.2-1.5s faster than the closest rival.

    1. You remember wrong. Not to mention that at those times drivers made a bigger difference then they do now.

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