It’s been clear for some time, but qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix cemented Sauber’s position as the most-improved Formula 1 team of 2018.
But the team has made developments in other areas too – without which they surely wouldn’t have lured Kimi Raikkonen to drive for them next year.
Fellow Ferrari customer team Haas made the second-biggest step of any team this year. Averaging almost 1.9 seconds faster than they were last year, the team has consistently been at the front of the midfield group. However its failure to capitalise on that potential is why it is likely to miss out on fourth place in the championship to Renault.
The French manufacturer squad was last year’s most-improved team. This year was more middling: As well as Sauber and Haas, Red Bull and Force India also made greater gains.
Pulling further away from the opposition when you’re already setting the pace is never easy. Nonetheless Mercedes knocked 1.12 seconds off their lap times on average this year. Ferrari only did slightly better, managing a 1.19s improvement.
At the bottom of the pile are two former great teams, multiple champions both, who made the least progress this year. But there was a significant difference in scale between the plights of McLaren and Williams.
McLaren’s switch from Honda to Renault did not pay off as they produced a draggy, aerodynamically poor chassis. Nonetheless it was nearly a second per lap faster than the last of the McLaren-Hondas. Williams, however, were on average just 0.3 seconds quicker than last year. Indeed, across the 19 tracks F1 raced at in 2017 and 2018, Williams actually turned up with a slower car on eight occasions this year.
The lap time changes at Yas Marina were very typical of what we saw over the entire season. Sauber once again made the biggest gain while Williams couldn’t beat their best lap time from last year:
On average the fastest 2018 car at each circuit was 1.1 seconds quicker than it had been last year. The lap time gain at Yas Marina was slightly higher:
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Lewis Hamilton set a new track record in qualifying for the 10th grand prix to be held at Yas Marina. He also took pole at the circuit’s first race in 2009, since when lap times at the track have fallen by 4.901 seconds.
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8 comments on “Sauber is F1’s most-improved team of 2018”
24th November 2018, 21:39
This season’s pole time was almost 1.5 faster than the equivalent lap twelve months ago, and nearly 4 seconds faster than 2016, approximately 5.4 faster than 2015, and 5.6 than the pole time four years ago in the first season of the hybrid era.
24th November 2018, 22:11
Stroll’s qualifying time was ~1 second quicker than last year. Some of that is due to the additional experience, but the rest is due to a faster car. Take Massa out of the equation and the car is faster. Where would Williams be this year with decent drivers?
24th November 2018, 23:36
And similarly Sauber’s improvement is a bit more flattering as Leclerc was on average 0.5s faster than Ericsson.
25th November 2018, 3:40
And compared to last year ericson was not that much slower compared to his then team mate pascal wehrlein:
I’m a bit disappointed with the quality of these comparison articles. It is not a useful comparison if you do not take driver skill into consideration at all. Or even the tires. This year in abu dhabi the softest tire was hypersoft which I think is faster than the ultrasoft which was the softest tire last year for example.
25th November 2018, 7:39
@socksolid, Wehrlein was less than 0.05s ahead of Ericsson.
I agree that driver changes should be taken into account. Tyre changes and weather are the same for all, and still allows you to compare 1 team with the next.
PS Stroll was 0.6s behind Massa and less than 0.1s behind Sirotkin. Thus William’s pain is overstated by 0.5s.
24th November 2018, 22:57
Who had the most-improved PU over the course of the year?
25th November 2018, 4:07
On the surface, it looks like Ferrari has the best.
However a shout out should go to Honda. Too bad we can’t see how much it improved on the same chassis from year to year, but Torro Rosso got a lot better than last year which should say a lot.
25th November 2018, 5:17
Toro rosso this year has been worse than last year. You say 2018 is “a lot better” but I don’t see any proof for that statement. Last year toro rosso had renault engines where renault did their best to do just the bare minimum for toro rosso. Towards the end of season toro rosso had to build their engines from used worn parts from older engines. This year str has had honda manufacturer support with tons more money and resources and better drivers. The result? Last year str had 53 points. This year they have had 33 so far.
What has exactly improved for toro rosso this year with honda? Everything else is better except the engine which is still unreliable and slow. So slow str went backwards this year and had worse 2018 than their 2017 season.
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