Sergey Sirotkin, Lance Stroll, Williams, Spa-Francorchamps, 2018

Gap between top three and midfield is “upsetting” – Lowe

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In the round-up: Williams chief technical officer Paddy Lowe says the gap between the top three Formula 1 teams and the rest is “upsetting”.

What they say

Lowe predicted Sergio Perez’s podium finish for Force India in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix will be the only time this year a driver from outside Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull finishes in the top three:

Unfortunately there are only six cars that can potentially win races. We’re seeing again a second year running where there’s only one podium outside the top six [cars], which again was Baku. I suspect we’ll go through the remainder of the year with that statistic maintained.

If you were Fernando [Alonso], if you are not in one of those six cars, then you are literally making up the numbers in the sport as it’s currently structured. I’ve worked in the sport a long time, I find that quite an upsetting situation and something that needs to change.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Comment of the day

Is it meaningless to compared Sebastian Vettel’s 52 wins with Alain Prost’s 51?

I’m increasingly frustrated with statistics like this. Nothing against Vettel and Hamilton for achieving them. They honestly only make sense when compared to a driver’s peers since things like number of races per year, average career lengths, and reliability are all worlds apart from even 15 years ago.
Sean (@Seanloh)

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On this day in F1

  • 20 years ago today Damon Hill scored his final F1 win by giving Jordan their first grand prix victory, at Spa

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  • 45 comments on “Gap between top three and midfield is “upsetting” – Lowe”

    1. I’m surprised the Silverstone situation wasn’t mentioned on the site until now. It’s a good follow up story on what happened at the British GP when all the drivers complained. A track like Silverstone now has to be resurfaced again after such a bad job.

      It also bears the question, had it happened elsewhere, would motogp drop the date for next year? I think they would have…

    2. So, Paddy, how’s that Williams coming along?

      I get his sentiment and agree with it to a good extent, but when you drop the ball so hard it flattens a few toes, maybe save the criticism for another day.

      1. He forgot to factor the difference between the midfield teams and Williams.

        Jokes apart, Paddy is an experienced chap, and he had admitted at the beginning of the year that he didn’t have very high expectations for 2018 as he moved them from their dependence on the PU for performance. Hopefully he’s developing a car that can keep up with the midfield next year.

        1. Fingers crossed for their 2019, @sundark – it’s no fun to have one team trailing with no competition, just as it’s no fun having one team dominating.

          They’re going to have a triple whammy of losing Stroll’s sponsorship*, the Martini sponsorship, and reduced income due to their (most likely) 10th place in 2018. I hope they’re using some the money they do have this year to build a better 2019 challenger.

          He forgot to factor the difference between the midfield teams and Williams.

          LOL :-)

          * and losing Lance’s driving talents, as people keep telling me to give the boy a chance to replicate his junior formulae successes.

          1. @phylyp

            it’s no fun to have one team trailing with no competition, just as it’s no fun having one team dominating.

            Its OK, they’ve got McLaren to keep them company! :P

      2. Exactly. Lowe repeats the buzz phrase,

        the sport as it’s currently structured

        as though the ‘structure’ were nothing to do with the fact that Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull have simply done a better job over recent years. Teams like McLaren in particular have zero to complain about.

        On the other hand, the championship is being keenly contested by two teams, with no clear favourite, maybe Ferrari slightly, with a third team heavily affecting the results, including occasional wins. That seems reasonably healthy. The real problem continues to be the same, and it can be reduced to just one single problem in my view: the inability of slightly faster drivers to drive close to the car in front, pressing the front driver and looking for a pass. Removing that possibility (for more than a couple of laps) because of dirty air, tyre wear, engine overheating etc. means dulls races with safe DRS and pit passes instead.

    3. It’ll be interesting to see how electrics fare in Rally Raid. Although IMO it would have been better to test the waters for this concept by introducing a new class in the existing Raids, rather than trying to make an independent series out of it. Besides, how many manufacturers are even making electric SUVs right now? Off the top of my head, just 2 – Jaguar and Tesla – which is not enough to support an independent series, unless its a spec Jaguar one, because IMO Musk doesn’t seem to keen on sports.

    4. Chris (@tophercheese21)
      30th August 2018, 3:46

      Top 3?!
      The gap between the top 2 and Red Bull is depressing, let alone the gap to the rest.

      1. @tophercheese21 Absolutely Chris. You could fit an entire BTCC field in that gap at some races!

      2. True that. Red Bull was around 1.2 to 1.5s slower than the Ferrari in Q1 and Q2. F1 is a tier championship to be honest. Red Bull is in a tier of it’s own.

          1. @todfod – It’s tempting to argue for a fourth and bottom tier, which is currently filled by one team. There are usually one or two no-hope teams bumping around at the bottom, racing each other and realistically no-one else. Just a bit lonely for Williams this year. But I wouldn’t argue the point too hard, I just feel that Williams is in “a class of it’s own” this season.

        1. I think you’re too harsh on red bulls: we know they’re not on average at the level of the other 2 teams, but qualifying is their weakest spot, and this was also a very fast track, other weak spot.

          If you look at race pace, verstappen was I think only 22 sec behind hamilton who was 11 sec behind vettel, we’re saying mercedes and ferrari are quite close, no? Then red bull are only at double their quite small gap, by contrast the other teams are veeeeeery far away.

          And tracks like singapore, messico and japan should have a closer red bull.

          Not to mention even in spain verstappen was pulling away from vettel and in france he only stockpiled 7 sec gap from hamilton at the end of the race, they’re not that slow unless it’s a power track and even then not as bad as in qualifying.

    5. So Zak Brown is chasing Indy car, Gil De Ferran chasing formula E, Alonso chasing the WEC. McLaren’s top 3 decision makers clearly have their priorities sorted then

      1. Must admit I was amused.

        Must be part of Zak’s “I have a plan”

        And they wonder why their F1 team is such a mess.

      2. I wonder if they have any full time employees, or are they all doing their side thing

        1. @johnmilk McLaren F1 is the side thing.

          1. Can’t help but agree, especially for that level of management. Fair enough if your a corporate business person and a member of a couple of boards, but this is a sporting team, it needs the people who are in charge giving it their full attention. I’m amazed that they’re allowed to pursue outside interests while the team is suffering so badly.

            Bring back Ron.

            1. The McLaren F1 happened on his watch, and apparently Senna vetoed an Indycar foray because he thought it would be a distraction, and that’s also Ron.

    6. It keeps surprising me how they are complaining how bad the gaps are now between top en midfield teams, like it is something new.
      It has (almost) always been this was and even to a bigger extend.
      Sure it would be nice to have the gaps closed and have more cars winning, but it’s the dna of f1 that some teams just perform on a higher level.

      1. Paddy surely didn’t mind the gap when he was at Mercedes. Not once have i heard him say that the rules should be changed in order for the smaller teams to be able to compete.

        1. Not sure whether Lowe has said it or not, but many team principals have, including on top teams, and they seem quite on board with Liberty’s proposed changes.

      2. Pre 2014, there was a gap but nowhere near the size of the one there is now (or post 2013)

        Yes there were still teams that dominated (or 1 driver from a team) but the competition for the other two places on the podium was pretty fierce and there were a lot more teams represented on the podiums.

        Something’s not quite right – even teams that use the same PU’s as the top two teams can’t get close so either they all suck as aero (Williams does) or the regulation no ensuring “equal pu’s” isn’t working.

        1. @dbradock But don’t forget the need to be a factory works team these days. Customers don’t just have worse aero, and they likely have the same Pu…they just don’t get to design and build the two together under one roof and integrate them as well.

          For me Lowe’s comment is a bit benign, since we all know what he is saying, as does Liberty, and it’s why all the talk is about the future, particularly 2021, and the changes Liberty has proposed to address many of the problems in F1. If the current situation wasn’t upsetting, there wouldn’t be all the talk of change. He’s pointing out the obvious.

    7. If we lined up the grid in reverse order of championship (meaning Sirotkin and Hartley on the front row while Seb and Lewis start from 10th row) I think one of top six drivers would still win the race with Monaco being the only exception. That’s how big the gap is.

      1. In fact they would easily get the top 6 positions on most tracks. We see that when one of them has to start from the back due to a penalty: it’s always smooth sailing past the 14 other cars.

        Differences have been as big or bigger in the past, but we’ve never had two clearly separated categories of cars within F1 I think.

        1. Yes, true, would be a thing to try in monaco, australia and bad overtaking tracks cause apart from that you’re basically guaranteed to get past all other teams when you just start from the back (no puncture that sends you 1 lap back), you usually have a margin of over 1 min in a race distance over all other cars.

          Even when you have a very bad race like raikkonen in japan 2017, you still end up in front of every B series car, just 30 sec behind bottas and 50 behind verstappen.

          1. Ah, sorry, the race is correct but gaps are wrong, they’re mexico gaps, but he was 5th and still by far in front of every B series car with an abysmal race.

    8. What’s that Paddy, drivers outside the top 6 are just making up the numbers? No wonder Williams has such a talented duo

      1. I really want to see someone decent go to Williams mid-season, just to see how bad that car is / how bad the current Williams drivers are.

        1. @tonyyeb why? Why would you inflict that car on a driver?

          Jokes apart, didn’t Kubica give his verdict in the mid season test at Spain, that it was a poor car?

          1. @phylyp Ha, yeah currently I think it is a case as the car is as bad as the drivers.

            He did but in all fairness to Kubica in terms of the his current pace it is a bit like the Williams car and driver situation. We don’t know how good either really are until we can compare against someone who is a known quantity with current form. If Ocon went in place of Stroll for a few races, we’d get a nice benchmark of him vs Sirotkin, then Kubica swap with Sirotkin and get a nice benchmark of him. All in the meantime comparing Ocon in a Williams to Perez in the RPFI.

    9. Maybe just focus on beating any other team – even one – for now, before worrying about the top 3, Paddy.

    10. What did Paddy do wrong at Mercedes to get relegated to tier 3 ?

    11. Of course, he wouldn’t be saying that if he were in one of the top-3 teams like was the case when he was at Mercedes.
      – An interesting COTD.

    12. The COTD is an interesting one. Indeed is it very difficult to just compare absolute stats like number of wins or podiums between drivers from different eras and sets of regulations. Maybe some new stats are in order to properly make some comparisons. It made me think about the advanced stats that the NBA uses to try and assess a bit better the intangibles that constitute the contributions the players make on the court beyond points scored, rebounds and assists.

      Maybe we should start looking into things like lap time deficit as a percentage to a drivers team mate and the rest of the grid over the season or on average over a career (we could have a feel for how much a car was dominant or not, or if it was the driver making the difference). Percentage of retirements for instance also come to mind, and how many were caused by technical retirements or by accidents – especially relevant when we say “oh driver x has surpassed driver y for number of wins, albeit by z fewer/more races”. And these are just a few that I just thought about. With this sort of thinking a fairer picture would be painted regarding the comparisons between drivers and particularly among the champions.

    13. The gap between the top teams & the rest is no worse now than it’s been in the past & having 3 teams contending for podiums & the occasional win is actually better than it’s been at times in the not too distant past.

      The field was on the whole closer around 2012/13 but those seasons were the exceptions & it was somewhat artificial in that engine development had been frozen since 2007 & the tyres in those years were so difficult to figure out that the top teams were rarely able to unleash there full performance. Additionally focus was been shifted to 2014 so teams weren’t bringing the mid-season upgrades as frequently as they otherwise would have been which also helped the field bunch up.

      The performance gaps we see now are pretty much the norm for F1 throughout history. Yes you get the odd exception where things are closer for a year or 2 but for the most part what we have now is the way it’s been & the only way that is ever going to be changed on a more permanent basis is if they make it a spec series.

    14. The gap between top two and Red Bull is the most upsetting for me especially when you have Hamilton looking upset that he no longer has the dominant car. How must Max and Dan feel who can and have beaten the Merc and Ferrari drivers..

      1. Well, verstappen was never in the same team as a current ferrari driver, I’m positive both would beat raikkonen, despite 2014 I think ricciardo would hold his own vs vettel (as in 2014 vettel was worse than usual but still ricciardo should be even with him), and verstappen might be even faster performance wise, but on average makes more mistakes.

        Looking at the gap in spa, seems like on a race distance ferrari is 250 thousands ahead of mercedes and 750 ahead of red bull, so whatever the gap between merc and ferrari, it’s double between merc and red bull on a power track, should be better in a few of the next races.

    15. Completely agree with COTD. Vettel’s 52 wins to Prost’s 51 is not really comparable- Prost raced during a time where reliability was unpredictable at best and there were only 14-16 races a year- and of all the drivers during his time, Prost was easiest on the car and was likeliest to finish.

      1. Well, they are almost comparable, he has slightly more gps than prost, he had heavy competition as well, true reliability was worse during prost era, and both had decent cars but not dominant for too many years, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say they’re similar in most categories, think prost made less mistakes though.

    16. Re COTD, Jacky Stewart’s 27 wins and three WDC are more impressive, in my view, than any of the records since, given when he achieved these results.

      1. 99 gp only, with as many gps as vettel he would have slightly more than him or prost, not bad considering the dangerous era he drove in.

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