Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2017

Six charts which reveal the best and worst team performances of 2017

2017 F1 season review: Car performance

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Mercedes have been the team to beat since the current V6 hybrid turbo power unit regulations arrived in 2014. But the 2017 season was the toughest fight they’ve had so far.

Ferrari began the year as a strong threat and faded only slightly in terms of outright performance as the year went on. And Red Bull, after a disappointing start to the season, ended the year in much better shape, vying for victories.

But as expected the overhaul in the aerodynamic regulations meant the smaller teams were left further behind, as this analysis of the performance data from the 2017 F1 season shows.

Teams performance in 2017

Scroll to zoom, right-click to reset

Outright one-lap pace remained the strongest part of Mercedes’ game in the fourth season of the current engine regulations. Their reputed ability to extract more power from their engine for individual bursts propelled them to 15 pole positions from 20 rounds.

But even this excellent record represented a significant softening of their previous dominance. In the 59 prior race from 2014 to 2016 they’d only been beaten on pure performance on three occasions (and one of those was because their drivers slipped up in qualifying).

Ferrari was the only team to beat Mercedes to pole position this year, doing so five times. And despite the growing threat from Red Bull in the second half of the season, they were never beaten on outright one-lap pace by the RB13s.

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Race pace was often a different matter, particularly in the early races, when Mercedes fell prey to Ferrari’s superior tyre management over a stint. As the silver team got to grips with the W08, Ferrari became less of a threat in this regard. But even as they strengthened their position in the latter stages of the year there were still occasional races where they were simply outdone by their rivals in qualifying, notably in Mexico.

This trio monopolised the top three places in terms of outright performance all year long. As was widely expected, the new aerodynamic regulations helped the best-funded teams pull further ahead of the midfield.

Teams progress since 2016

Only one team made more progress than Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull in 2017. This was Renault, who posted the biggest year-on-year reduction in lap time at 14 of the 20 race weekends this year.

In the second full season of Renault’s return to Formula One as a full works effort the progress made by Renault’s strengthened and substantially enlarged team was obvious. However that progress wasn’t matched in another crucial area.

Teams reliability in 2017

Technical failures, rather than driver errors, were the biggest cause of retirements for most teams. This was most obviously true of the Renault and Honda-powered outfits. Renault has targeted improved reliability as one of its key goals for 2018.

Note the data above refers only to occasions where drivers were not classified (completed less than 90% of a race distance) due to a car failure and can therefore under-represent the true extent of reliability problems.

It does not reflect reliability problems in qualifying, such as Sebastian Vettel’s in Malaysia. The ‘other’ retirements also include occasions where drivers did not start races, such as Kimi Raikkonen’s failure on the grid at the same round.

Teams performance and reliability in 2017

Bringing the data on reliability and performance together gives a good overview of the teams’ strengths and weaknesses. The more competitive each team was, the closer it appears to the bottom-left of the graph.

McLaren, who endured a third and final dismal year with Honda, should expect a significant gain in performance next year with Renault power. They will expect to move clear ahead of Renault and much closer to Red Bull. And if all three deliver on Renault’s anticipated reliability gains, the prospect of an even more competitive season will be good.

Teams performance trends in the new turbo era

Use the control above to hide and show the data for different teams.

The four-year trend in team performance gives another illustration of how the ‘big three’ teams moved further clear of the midfield this year. This is a trend Formula One’s new owners are keen to reverse by reshaping the financial and technical regulations to level what is, at present, a very uneven playing field.

Sauber’s drift from the midfield pack in 2017 with its year-old Ferrari engines is also easy to appreciate. Reverting to current-specification Ferrari power (branded by Alfa Romeo) should help propel them back into the fight for points next year.

NB. Renault was Lotus in 2014-15

The car to beat, 2010-17

For the fourth year running Mercedes had the car to beat. But at long last this was a closer fight and the drivers in silver had to worry about their rivals from other teams much more often than before.

2017 F1 season review

Browse all 2017 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...

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  • 31 comments on “Six charts which reveal the best and worst team performances of 2017”

    1. Interesting that the lap time advantage RB6 had over the next quickest car was greater than RB9’s equivalent despite the latter being more dominant results-wise.

        1. @jerejj, 2013 was a season of two halves. I’ll bet that the 2nd half RB9 stats are much more impressive.

      1. The RB9 loses some stats due to Mercedes finding some qualifying form in 2013, in race pace though, other than the occasional challenge from Lotus it was typically a very dominant car.

        1. RB6 was also unreliable such as Bahrain and Korea were Vettel was deprived of a sure win

          1. @siegfreyco Yes, along with a thrown away 1-2 in Turkey. Without that and with better reliability RB6 could very well have been as dominant as RB7 and RB9 results-wise.

      2. @jerejj

        Interesting that the lap time advantage RB6 had over the next quickest car was greater than RB9’s equivalent despite the latter being more dominant results-wise.

        That’s because the stat is a bit flawed. 2013 was the season when Mercedes had a car that was absolutely stellar in qualifying but often useless in the races due to tyre management issues (avg. starting position: 3.86, avg. finishing position: 5.57). They managed to finish 2nd in the WDC barely ahead of Ferrari (360 to 354).
        If we look at Ferrari’s qualifying pace, the gap rises drastically, to 0.86%, i.e. their handicap was larger than Red Bull’s in 2014 or Ferrari’s in 2016. Ferrari’s average grid position was 6.97, their average finishing position 5.57 (identical to Mercedes’s).

        Long story short: The 2013 season is misrepresented in this chart, because the statistical approach used in it is extremely susceptible to fluctuating performances. In this case, Mercedes’s pace fluctuated enormously between qualifying and race, but since only the single quickest lap of a team during a weekend is taken into consideration, the true dominance of the RB6 in the races (which is beyond any doubt) is almost completely masked.

    2. Pardon my ignorance; how are average lap times calculated and in terms of deficits to fastest lap, how is the percentage reached? Thanks.

    3. If you want to see a really interesting view of team performance, turn off all but Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, and McLaren.

      This chart is precisely why I never bought into the idea that McLaren had to switch to Honda instead of sticking with Mercedes.

        1. Hmm…I don’t think I can be convinced McLaren would have been able to challenge for the Championships as a customer of Mercedes, against works Mercedes. I think they felt they needed Honda so they could be a works team in this era where that is a necessary first ingredient to even hoping for the Championships.

          1. @robbie
            Maybe true, but they would have been several spots higher in the WCC standings each year, with the attendant increase in prize money. Plus they likely wouldn’t have lost as many sponsors.

            Going forward, even if the “you can’t win as a customer team” argument is true, it’s hard to see how they are going to be better off as a Renault customer than they would have been as a Mercedes customer.

            Things might have been different if Honda had been able to get their act together, but as it stands this whole project has been an extremely expensive disaster with no upside for either party.

      1. @k-l-waster I see where you’re coming from but I wouldn’t assume Mercedes would have let McLaren become a rival for the championship with their engines. That’s not why Mercedes went ahead with setting their own team up, and that’s why McLaren are using Renaults next year instead of Mercedes.

        1. And @k-l-waster you make a good point about them using a Renault pu next, which still does not make them a works team, which is still not ideal, but they couldn’t stay with Honda, and one wonders if with Mercedes it’s a case of been there done that with Mac/Merc as well as what Keith points out. Obviously the ideal scenario for Mac was for the Honda pu to be worthy. Nobody could have possibly predicted the actual outcome that did occur for the McHonda pairing.

      2. The benefit of 20-20 hindsight. I am quite sure McLaren didn’t envisage how poorly the Honda engine was going to perform for them. I am not really a McLaren or a Ron Dennis fan, but strategically I think it was the right move, gutsy but right. Partial vindication can be found in the fact that none of the Mercedes customers could offer any championship struggle these past few years.

        1. *championship challenge* (the problem with rewriting a sentence, but not updating all of the original wording)

        2. +1

          Unfortunately, based on the observed reliability of all the Renault-engined teams above, McLaren may be a bit quicker next year, but it looks like they will still be quite familiar with race retirements next year.

    4. Outright one-lap pace remained the strongest part of Mercedes’ game in the fourth season of the current engine regulations. Their reputed ability to extract more power from their engine for individual bursts propelled them to 15 pole positions from 20 rounds.

      I cannot see any evidence of this “outright one lap pace” being the strongest part of Mercedes’s game – except on one side of the garage. Sebastian Vettel qualified as many times as Bottas did.

      So is it Lewis making the difference? Is it Seb dragging the SF70H to pole positions it doesn’t deserve? Or is Bottas simply useless at qualifying.

      .

      1. I would say it is LH engrained in the team with a car that fits him like a glove, but gave small headaches to solve early on wrt to tires, VB who was always going to be on his hind foot as the newbie at Mercedes, and SV in a Ferrari that although much improved over 2016’s car is still not nearly the WCC car, nor does it have that extra kick that the Mercedes has that the commentators spoke about all season, that Wolff never seemed to deny, and that seemed to be present for quali but less so for races.

        Even forgetting about that extra bit of something they seem to have access to for quali, was it any surprise LH would get the lion’s share of the poles, given the things I’ve mentioned? Even with the diva aspect early on, had Nico been there Mercedes would probably have shut SV out quite a bit on Saturday’s even with a stronger Ferrari than they had in 2016. I think your last sentence is quite unfair to Bottas, or you don’t think very highly of LH if VB was just supposed to swoop in and replicate Nico’s performance and take poles off him.

        1. ou don’t think very highly of LH if VB was just supposed to swoop in and replicate Nico’s performance and take poles off him.

          Well, Lewis Hamilton “swooped” in and and not only replicated Rosberg’s performance, he actually beat him. In 2013, Lewis outqualified Rosberg in his first season at Mercedes – Rosberg had been “engrained” with the car and team for the past 3 years – almost the same time difference between Lewis and Bottas starting at Mercedes.

          Point is, Bottas is not as good as Rosberg at qualifying, and neither is as as good as Lewis. So the original question remains – Is it merely the car? Is it Lewis making up the difference? Or is it Seb dragging the Ferrari to poles it doesn’t deserve?

        2. @robbie, whilst there might have been a number of races where Mercedes were on pole, there were a number of races where that advantage was extremely small and could very easily have tipped in Vettel’s favour instead.

          In Spain the gap between Hamilton and Vettel was 0.051s, and in Austria the gap between Bottas and Vettel was 0.042s. In Malaysia, meanwhile, Raikkonen was just 0.045s off Hamilton with a car that was on the brink of failing (letting go on the warm up lap for the race) and in Brazil Vettel was just 0.038s behind Bottas.

          If those small margins had gone in Ferrari’s favour instead, you’d have had a rather different picture given that, instead of being 15-5 in Mercedes’s favour in terms of pole positions, we could easily have been talking about a season where the split was only 11-9 in Mercedes’s favour. Instead of Hamilton being on 11 poles to 4 for Vettel, it could easily have been only 9 for Hamilton and 7 for Vettel – and if it had gone that way, would we necessarily be saying that the W08 was that dominant over a single lap?

          1. @anon Perfect spot to answer with the proverbial ‘if my mother had balls she’d be my father’ as in IF is the biggest word in the dictionary. The fact is it didn’t go down as you have suggested it could have if only this and that, and where does it end in all of us just putting ifs in wherever we choose, and recreating history?

            How about aside from looking at the number of poles Mercedes actually got, including from a guy new to the team who had never gotten a pole or a win until he was in the 2017 Mercedes, let’s also look at the margin by which they won the WCC. Mercedes had the dominant car no matter how you may want to make it like it was only by tiny margins here and there. Tiny margins is what F1 is all about with that last tenth or so the hardest to achieve.

      2. So is it Lewis making the difference? Is it Seb dragging the SF70H to pole positions it doesn’t deserve? Or is Bottas simply useless at qualifying.

        It was a mix of these aspects, for sure.

    5. nor does it have that extra kick that the Mercedes has that the commentators spoke about all season, that Wolff never seemed to deny, and that seemed to be present for quali but less so for races.

      This is untrue. ALL the manufacturer engines have a Q3 “qualifying mode”. In fact, both Mercedes and Ferrari utilize something called “free flow system” in qualifying. This opens the wastegate to bypass the turbine which is then run solely off the MGU-H. This in turn reduces back pressure and results in gains somewhere in the region of 20bhp for qualifying.

      The Ferrari system is reported to be a mere 5-6bhp down on the Merc unit.

      1. @kbdavies Sounds like you aren’t genuinely asking questions for the sake of discussion but rather are just looking to elevate your man on a pedestal. You seem to be the only one that thinks Mercedes didn’t have a pu advantage in quali, because that fact makes LH’s poles less about him and more about the car I’m guessing. I think it is a no-brainer that VB was never likely going to out qualify LH on average. And Seb was in a much improved Ferrari that was there for him when the Mercedes was still a diva. LH had by far the WCC winning car, with the vast majority except you understanding they have a little extra for quali, so why don’t you just answer your own questions for us then? Then we can have a real discussion/debate instead of this game playing and baiting you seem to be on about.

    6. McLaren’s 2 second lap time gain is all the more remarkable considering their engine became worse compared to 2016.

      1. I know there are a lot of doubters of Mclaren’s chassis out here, and everyone’s waiting to see how McLaren matches up against a Red Bull with a Renault engine next year.

        I think that they actually did have a chassis comparable to the likes of Red Bull this year. The tracks that were dependant on good chassis balance and aero are the one you saw McLaren with a fighting chance of strong points finishes despite really low power. Of their 2.51% performance deficit, I’m pretty sure that 1.5% is power unit related, and the 1% can be clawed back if they didn’t have to constantly focus around reducing drag to increase straight line speed.

    7. Nice analysis; the only thing I see is that you say Mercedes were never beaten on pure pace by RBR, yet in Singapore and Meixco they did exactly that, with the leading RBR (and, in the case of Singapore, both RBRs) out-qualifying both Mercedes cars.

      1. It might be a wrong wording and that he meant that FERRARI was never beaten by red bull, despite the latter becoming more competitive later on.

        I agree it’s not the right wording for that and I thought it might be a mistake as well if he meant mercedes.

      2. Its a five race average so the other races cancel out the one / two race advantage.

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