Analysis: Did Hamilton or Verstappen have the quickest car for their title fight?

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After one of their most dominant seasons in 2020, in which they delivered another pair of titles, Mercedes’ domination of the V6 hybrid turbo era faced its greatest challenge yet in the shape of Red Bull last year.

Not only did Red Bull catch them, but other teams from the chasing pack occasionally took the fight to them in qualifying, notably Ferrari and McLaren.

Normally that would have been surprising, given how much of the 2021 cars were simply adapted versions of their predecessors to suit the transitional nature of the new regulations before a major shift to the radical new aero package for 2022. However, the few technical rules that did change for 2021 around the rear of the car had a striking impact on those teams that ran with a low rake aero philosophy – Mercedes and Aston Martin.

That effect was clear from the very first race. Red Bull beat Mercedes to pole position, but Lewis Hamilton won the season-opener thanks to clever strategy by his team and Max Verstappen failing to make a late passing attempt stick when he ran off-track.

Red Bull were too quick for Mercedes to contain in France
But within a few races Red Bull clearly had the fastest car on the grid for the first time since the adoption of the V6 turbos back in 2014. Mercedes unable to match the ultimate pace of the Red Bull in the hands of Verstappen from the Monaco Grand Prix of round five through to the Austrian Grand Prix.

This stretch saw Red Bull take five consecutive victories and, with it, inflict Mercedes’ longest win-less streak since 2013. Two surprise poles for Ferrari and Charles Leclerc – benefiting in no small part from red flag interventions – arguably were the only thing that prevented Verstappen from a six-race pole streak, meaning he had to settle for four on the bounce instead. A clear demonstration of the potency of the Verstappen, Red Bull and Honda package over a single lap.

This wasn’t the first time during the hybrid era that Mercedes were challenged by a rival. But the combined gains made by Red Bull and Honda presented a more serious threat than ever before, and Mercedes had to react.

Silverstone upgraded boosted Mercedes
They responded with their final major upgrade package of the season at the British Grand Prix just before the summer break. The impact was clear with Hamilton taking the win at Silverstone, albeit after clashing with Verstappen. But then a series of highly eventful races with unconventional outcomes obscured the true potential of both cars at the front of the field.

Rain in Hungary, Russia, Turkey and a complete wash-out in Belgium saw the focus fall on the midfield. And it was a truly tumultuous year for performance among the pack.

Ferrari appeared to have bounced back from their woeful 2020 season with some solid, consistent points throughout the early phase of the year. Then, in France, their inability to get their tyres working around the Paul Ricard circuit left Ferrari falling down the order, swallowed up by the field as they dropped out of the points.

This one poor race allowed McLaren to gain significant ground in the constructors’ championship and jump up to third place. But they were not the only midfield team to enjoy success around the summer break.

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The mid part of the season saw a convergence of a group of teams, with McLaren, Ferrari, AlphaTauri – predominately through the efforts of Pierre Gasly – and even Alpine and Aston Martin seeing their relative pace fluctuating on an almost race-to-race basis. While McLaren were undoubtedly assisted in Monza by Verstappen’s slow pit stop and the eventual collision between the two title rivals that saw both retire, Daniel Ricciardo’s Italian Grand Prix race pace was genuinely strong enough to give him a realistic chance at victory even if Verstappen and Hamilton had not collided.

By the end of the year, the trio of Ferrari, McLaren and AlphaTauri – aided by improved results from Yuki Tsunoda – established themselves as the clear ‘B-tier’ of the grid. Ferrari, now consistently quicker than McLaren once more, gradually overtook their long-time rivals in the standings and pulled away, taking a comfortable third place by season’s end.

Needless to say, the one team that the most consistent performance throughout the season was Haas – only because of how much slower they were than the rest of their rivals.

NB. 2021 data excludes Belgian and Russian GPs

Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi, 2021
The title contenders were closely matched at the finale
By the end of the season, Mercedes appeared to have fully transformed their deficit to Red Bull into an advantage at most venues, with some exceptions. Aided by the extra grunt offered by a fresh power unit, the way Hamilton scythed through the field in Brazil both on Saturday and then Sunday was a visceral demonstration of how strong Mercedes now were. Despite this, Verstappen was still able to beat Hamilton to the victory in the United States and Mexico, which proved to be the final time that Red Bull held the upper hand on race pace over the end of the season.

Hamilton followed up his heroics in Brazil with a controlling victory in Qatar and won in Saudi Arabia to make it three in a row, after a messy race-long battle with Verstappen. Heading into the final race of the season and championship deciding round in Abu Dhabi, Verstappen’s pole position only meant that he spent the first hundred metres or so of the race ahead of Hamilton and could not get close enough beyond an aggressive lunge on the opening lap to reclaim the championship-clinching position from his rival.

That is, until the final lap, and the moment which decided the destiny of the title.

Based on these figures, the overall conclusion is that Mercedes were a minuscule 0.058% quicker than Red Bull on average over the course of the season. Over a typical 90-second lap, that’s an advantage of just five-hundredths of a second.

Ferrari took a pair of pole positions
By the standards of past seasons that’s tremendously close. Arguably, it was even closer than that raw figure indicates.

For example, the figures don’t always adequately reflect how competitive Red Bull were in qualifying. In Portugal Verstappen lost his fastest time in Q3 due to exceeding track limits – a lap that would have seen him on pole. Verstappen was furious in Monaco when Charles Leclerc’s crash secured the Ferrari driver pole when he was halfway around his fastest lap of the weekend. Then there was Mexico City, where both Red Bull drivers were compromised in Q3 when seemingly quicker than Mercedes. And in Saudi Arabia, what could have been Verstappen’s most impressive lap of the season ended in the wall on the 24th and last turn.

Adjusting for these by reinstating Verstappen’s lost lap in Portugal and putting Red Bull on a par with Mercedes in Mexico (though they were probably faster) would leave Mercedes faster by just 0.017% on average – or just 0.015s over a 90 second lap. It is important to note, however, that the two tracks we omitted due to weather conditions – Spa and Russia – were venues which likely played to Mercedes strengths.

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Mercedes’ overall advantage did enable them to secure their eighth consecutive constructors’ championship, but it was with their slimmest performance advantage of any season since their dominance began in 2014. Crucially, it was one which often brought the title contenders within the margin of error of each other, meaning there were days when whichever of them did the better job won the race.

The impact of the 2021 regulations on Mercedes and Aston Martin can be seen in how the only teams who lost relative performance compared to last season – other than Haas – were the two chassis adapted from a low rake aerodynamic concept.

Lando Norris, McLaren, Yas Marina, 2021
Will a different team lead the way in 2022?
During a typical off-season, this data would typically provide some insight into what we may expect to see from teams in the upcoming season. That is not the case heading into 2022, however.

The magnitude of the comprehensive changes to bodywork aerodynamics and weight along with the scaled restrictions on aero testing depending on championship position would be enough on their own. But add to them the fact that many teams abandoned development on their 2021 cars far earlier than in a typical season and we are left with a complex cocktail of circumstances that makes speculating over who will arrive in Bahrain as the benchmark team a guessing game.

But after years of convergence in car performance between the ten teams resulting in one of the most competitive and enthralling seasons for many years, whether 2022 will prove just as close is unknown.

2021 F1 season

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
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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113 comments on “Analysis: Did Hamilton or Verstappen have the quickest car for their title fight?”

  1. Good read. Here come the armchair critics….

    1. “ For example, the figures don’t always adequately reflect how competitive Red Bull were in qualifying. ”

      The angle of looking at qualifying performance though is misleading this season. The Merc was better on the long runs, particularly on the mediums. Also early in the season: 4th race Spain was a striking example.
      But even analysing 2th race Imola lap by lap (seeing beyond the redflag situation), you see that Merc had better race pace.

      1. But Redbull came close to winning more than 15 races.
        The first 5 races were almost all Redbull dominated until some errors creeped in.
        On balance over the whole season Redbull was the faster and most consistent car.

        1. So Williams was the 2nd quickest car in Spa because Russell ended 2nd?

          Just looking at final result and make conclusions is not wrong (as you miss all context) but lazy too.

          In 3 of the first 5 races, Merc was the better racecar ( Portugal, imola and Spain)

          1. I watched all the races and I never spoke about Williams.

            I don’t base my conclusions on the outcome of a race and other feel good statistics, I look at actual driver and car performance, race strategies etc. The early season Redbull performed better. It rewards a driver who trusts the car with even more performance. The faster you drive the Redbull round a corner, the faster it gets. The early Mercedes had inconsistent downforce that resulted in their drivers lacking confidence.

          2. No, oliver, verstappen seemed like a hero for staying ahead majority of the spain race, I think in spain and portugal mercedes was far superior and only the difference in driver quality allowed verstappen to overtake bottas in portugal; in imola that’s what I thought as well: hamilton was lucky with the red flag but threw away winning chances with his mistake, since merc looked faster before his mistake.

      2. I agree.

        Another ways to look at it is how many races did each car have an ‘opportunity to win on merit’ if each race was theoretically a straight fight (ignoring grid penalties, incidents, etc).

        Ignoring SIL, HUN & SPA where it’s difficult to assess comparative race pace, I count 14 out of 19 races Merc were competitive enough to claim a win, discounting the following where IMO Red Bull had a clear, sustained race pace advantage: AZB, AUT(x2), NED & MEX.

        I count 10 out of 19 for Red Bull, discounting the following where IMO Merc had a clear, sustained race pace advantage: POR, ESP, ITA, RUS, TUR, BRA, QAT, SAU, ABE.

        Max won 8 out of Red Bull’s 10 opportunities in addition to two outliers, SPA (non race) and ABE (ending controversy).

        Hamilton won 7 out of 14 of Merc’s opportunities in addition to one outlier, SIL (difficult to assess comparative race pace).

        As noted elsewhere, any comparison is typically based on Verstappen v Hamilton. Comparing Bottas and Perez clearly has Merc as the quicker car over the season.

        I also pose a theoretical question: if the 2021 season were to be re-run using the same cars again, and all 20 drivers had a free choice of car, which would they all chose, the Merc or the Red Bull ? I don’t know the answer of course, but I suspect nearly all would chose the Merc (including Max).

        1. Agree, good arguments..

          btw the statement

          Mercedes unable to match the ultimate pace of the Red Bull in the hands of Verstappen from the Monaco Grand Prix

          form the article totally missed out on Bottas in Monaco. Doing great until the team messed up big time.
          Ham had a fast car but damaged the car during quali and missed out by his own mistakes.

        2. I’d choose the merc for sure.

        3. BW (@deliberator)
          18th January 2022, 2:30

          I think you have hit the nail on the head and your analysis is spot on. Essentially Max made the most of his opportunities while Hamilton floundered too often. That’s why Max ultimately won in in the slower car (season overall) and with less overall luck.

    2. Unlike you of course !

    3. There’s enough to debate on this…. apart from the car’s potential pce it’s the drivers that have to get the maximum performance out of it and there’s the catch….

      Imola, Mercedes ahead, but caught out at the start and ruined cause of a crash
      Baku, Mercedes ahead, but caught our by a poor pitstop and ruined by flipping a switch
      Monaco, how can the author overlook Bottas, usually the slower driver of the team was just 0.025 sec off pole
      France, with both Mercedes driver in DRS for 12 laps in a row, it doesn’t suggest they had the slower car
      Belgium, Mercedes beaten by Williams…says it all
      Zandvoort, issues in FP, poor preparation, but just 0.038 off Max pole

      We could go on, in so many sessions and races the driver made the difference, not the car….surely Mercedes and RBR where far ahead of the rest, though while Verstappen put the car in P1 or 2 in every single race, Hamilton didn’t…he did have terrible weekends…Imola P2 by luck, Baku last, Monaco P7..with two DNF’s ahead, Austria P4, Turkey P5.

      Finally… how often did the best two driver get beaten by other’s, in ‘slower’ cars
      Verstappen was beaten by his team mate once…not so much cause of better pace, but track limit…Bottas and Hamilton have been quicker as well. Leclerc had pole once in Bahrain….as for Monaco, Max had the purple sectord when the session was red flagged.
      Hamilton was beaten by his team mate 5 times plus Verstappen, Perez, Leclerc, Sainz, Norris, Russell and Gasly…all part from Gasly more than once.

      It’s about getting the absolute maximum out of the car and it needs no debate Max performance was far better than Lewis’… Although Mercedes had the potential both Hamilton and Bottas often failed to get in the results.

      Things appeared to be very close, however was it really…?

    4. Here’s another way looking at it, but instead of percentages I used their real times. Let me know what you think.

  2. Alpha Tauri were really quick!

  3. If I am a team principal, Red Bull for qualifying, Mercedes for the race. Give me a balance in between those two cars and I’ll be confident in every race. W12 in the last 4 races was just too much in race pace over the majority of the season. Hamilton even went 2018 form on the last 4 races with this car. RB16B for qualifying all the way, quick and good tyre temperature generation.

    1. Simply put for the constructors title was just undrivable
      But for the drivers champion we can only say that fortune favored the brave hungrier driver

    2. For qualifying you need Max Verstappen exclusively – not the Red Bull.

      1. Amen…..Verstappen is on another level

  4. For me, the cars were over the whole season approximately equal. One track suited one car better, another track suited the other better.

    It would be interesting too not just look at the fastest driver, but also look at the second driver.
    I have a feeling the RB is more tricky to drive, less stable, and requires a driver to cope with that.
    But that is just my feeling, nothing substantiated. So feel free to ignore. :-)

    I think the paragraphs about qualifying times were not needed. To me, they indicate the writers bias.

    What I hope will not be permitted next season are the shenanigans Mercedes played with their engine replacements. They sacrificed Bottas to see how far they could push the engine to give Hamilton an advantage. And replacing engines and just taking 5 places penalty is plain silly and of low sportsmanship. (Please no whataboutism reactions)

    1. The way mercedes used the engine penalties was pretty smart. It’s not like they changed the rules mid-season. Red bull could have done the same. Whether or not it’s in the “spirit” of the rules is moot.

      I agree that it would be interesting if the analysis compensated for driver ability (hard to quantify perhaps, but an average of the two drivers’ lap times would be a good start). The conclusion that Merc were 0.05 seconds quicker per lap makes this doubly important given how far apart verstappen and Perez, and Hamilton and bottas were at times throughout the year.

      Overall, decent article (the five race average is excellent) but I wonder if there are more insights to be had.

    2. I have a feeling the RB is more tricky to drive, less stable, and requires a driver to cope with that.

      I have read quite a few articles which suggest that the Red Bull is not necessarily tricky to drive, but it has been developed specifically for Max, and he likes his cars set up a very different way to most. That makes it easier for Max to drive than another car would be, but more difficult for pretty much any other driver to set up and drive.

      (Before I get jumped on, this isn’t anti-Max, just relaying stuff I’ve heard and read elsewhere. There is nothing wrong with having a car designed around you, and nothing wrong with wanting the car to be different to the way most other drivers would want it.)

      1. Each car is set-up to get the very maximum performance out of it…..the fastest lap is the optimal set-up.

        People love to turn things around, not team will follow the path of the slower of the two drivers…the cars are set-up to perform at the very limits of grip and straight line pace. The slower driver, simply isn’t on the car’s limit.

        What we often see is cars spinning at low speed, fe during safety car….the cars simply have no grip at low speeds, they need to be driver on the limit. The RBR got quite tricky on high speed tracks due to their extremely thin rear wings….

  5. Good read. Seeing how a lot of the lower-tier teams dropped off through the second half of 2021 really shows the scale of Merc’s and Red Bull’s continued development.

    It’s always tough to compare F1 teams when so many factors – track layout, tyre choices, weather, etc – inherently result in certain races skewing towards certain types of car. But I think it’s clear that both Merc and Red Bull were very close over the season. We were fortunate to see this era of F1 come to a close in such a competitive fashion!

    1. Although Haas seem to buck the trend a bit. Schumacher or did they find set up sweet spot.

  6. Interesting article, and based on the data it shows the cars were about as equal as you can get! Which is borne out by the number of very close races between them and points being level going into the final race. Fingers crossed we see similar performance comparisons next season.

  7. buT neWeY saId reD buLl haD thE QuiCkeSt caR!!! Tainted champion! F1 is fixed! This site is fixed!

    1. The cereal guy
      17th January 2022, 15:59

      They did, during the first half of the season in race pace, and pretty much throughout the season in qualifying. Also remember that Redbull didn’t play the engine card. Meanwhile Mercedes compromised starting position for outright speed. Had they stuck with the normal PU lifetime, I’m not sure they’d have ended up marginally faster on average. They would have lost both the constructors and the drivers’ titles, I think. If the performance of the current era’s cars weren’t limited by the tyres, I’d argue that Redbull would have been able to use their one-lap qualifying pace more consistently in the race, and disappear in the horizon. Their chassis was inherently better, from day one in pre-season testing.

      1. From testing we knew Mercedes had better long run pace and performed better on the medium and hard compounds.
        RBR was the ‘winner’ in testing, they had the fastest laps…..over one lap, with red tyres….

        Once the season started the red tyres stayed at home on Sunday, not used in Bahrain, not used in Imola, the advantage RBR had lasted one lap in Bahrain. RBR and all other team complied with ‘all team compete within the right spirit of the racing rules’…. All teams uses a maximum of 8 ICE’s, two teams 6, Mercedes 11. RBR didn;t significant power gains from changing ICE’s, Mercedes power gains over a single race where quite immense. No team in 2021 did have reliability issues, hence all needed a maximim of 4 ICE’s per car…. Hamilton 5, Bottas 6, for no other eason than strategic gains.

    2. Noframingplease (@)
      17th January 2022, 17:45

      This site is fixed? No, most fans here are more like you, lewis fans. That’s not a problem. The real problem is that most of them try to keep an argument based discussion instead of you. What is fixed? Unless you have arguments, please next time when you have an opinion but no clue, do a twitter

  8. So Merc faster than Red bull in quali that was their strong part of the weekend.
    So I imagine the deficit on race pace that was the strong part of Merc was even bigger.

    1. Much bigger and basically for the most of the season.

    2. Yes, indeed, red bull was faster in quali for most of the season and were it not for the crazy engines mercedes got in the end I’m sure would’ve come ahead on the average quali battle, but merc was faster in race pace far earlier into the season, and more so than red bull in quali.

  9. Red Bull were faster at the start of the year, Mercedes were faster at the end and the article’s belief that when the cars were evenly matched it largely came down to the driver that did the better job on the day feels accurate. Sometimes that was Verstappen, other days it was Hamilton.

    It’s still quite fascinating to think that it was a Honda powered car that pushed Mercedes hard enough that they had to keep swapping units out for new parts. Seeing where Honda was a few years ago I don’t think anyone could have forseen that. Surely big questions to ask of Renault & Ferrari?

    1. Red Bull were faster at the start of the year only in qualy on Softs tyres. But they’ve never ever raced on soft tyres on Sunday. If you actually look closely on some on Q2 times (on medium tyres) – Mercedes had clear advantage even in qualy mode on mediums most times, even if Max was later faster in Q3 – Bahrain, Imola, Portimao, France – Mercedes faster in Q2, sometimes with both drivers. On Sundays, on harder tyres Mercedes was the fastest car all year, except for Austria, Baku and Mexico. 3 race tracks and 4 grand prix in total – in all cases Mercedes struggled with worse rear deg.

      1. Stan, you’re quite correct apart from Baku… Mercedes was ahead on the grid, but lost position due to a slow pitstop, after that Hamilton was in DRS from Perez in near every lap. Mercedes was not the slower car in Baku.

        1. Well, it looked like Lewis had worse rear tyre deg, at least from the start on the 1st sting on mediums. Both Max and Checo stayed comfortably behind him and made an overcut work, even though it is true that Lewis had a very slow pit stop and we can never know how the race would be after that had Lewis kept the lead. The harder the tyres, the better they’ve been suited for Mercedes on most tracks and weekends. Actually the 2nd Austrian weekend has been quite telling, since Mercedes became slower (both in qualy and in race, no progress whatsoever) after Pirelli provided all teams with 1 step softer compounds compared to 1st Austria.

  10. Good read, but could you please add the overall pecking order of all the 2021 cars in a graph as well. We know Merc was faster than Red Bull by just 0.058%, but who was 3rd / 4th / 5th, and how far behind were they?

    I find it curious that Mclaren improved more than Ferrari from 2020 to 2021. If that is the case, was Ferrari really the 3rd fastest car? If not, Norris finishing just 1 point ahead of the 2nd Ferrari driver in what effectively was the 3rd fastest car of the season doesn’t feel all that awesome. And just how fast was Alpha Tauri? Did Gasly under-perform too?

    Would be helpful to get a full 2021 pecking order for the season in this article.

    1. I think its pretty clear had Ricciardo performed as he should have then Mclaren would have easily taken 3rd. Also Norris had some rotten luck that cost probably 25+ points. I think Mclaren had the faster car on the whole than the Ferrari but they threw away loads of points and Ricciardo underperformed.

      1. I agree, although Ferrari did lose out badly with Leclerc’s Monte Carlo DNS.

  11. When comparing the two cars I often look at the performance of their second drivers.
    Bottas beat Perez 17-5 in qualifying with a mean variance of more than 0.5sec.
    Also in the races (in which both finished) Bottas came out on top more than 3/4 of the races.
    And it wasn’t so much of Perez getting used to the car as the differences were quite similar for both halves of the season.

    Based on these two drivers (and assuming similar performance levels) one would say that overall the Mercedes was still the better car, and by more than 0.05s.

    1. Indeed.

      But that point doesn’t fit the narrative.

    2. Bottas is almost as good qualifier as Lewis, very close, occasionally he can even beat him. while Perez is worse driver than Max also his first year in the team and the car.

      1. Most people rate Bottas’ and Perez’ performance as quite similar; this site ranked them side by side in both the mid-season as in the final tally (also last year, but in reverse order).

        And I agree that Bottas is a better qualifier than Perez, and some say (I’m noot that sure after 2021) that Perez is better on Sunday, but the gap between them was quite consistent on both days of the weekend and as the season developed.

      2. Before he came to Mercedes, Bottas never had a noticable performance or result. I doubt his special qualities as a qualifier. It is all up to the car he is driving and I think all top 10 drivers would be equally good in this car.
        Comparing the Mercedes car to the Redd Bull car based on the results of Lewis and Max is completely neglecting the driver quality. Therefore the second car of both teams should also be considered and there we see that a mediocre driver as Bottas is, has been able to achieve many poles, front row starts, and podiums over the last years (also last year), whereas this has always has been much less for the second car driver at Red Bull. It is therefore logicall to the assume that the Mercedes car is by far the better car sinds 2014 until today and that the reason why Red Bull claimed the driver world championship is fully credited to the driving abilities of Max and not to the car.

    3. @jff agreed

    4. Perez didn’t know the Redbull very well and how to driver these Newey cars.
      Coupled with the fact Perez now had an extremely good driver to measure up against it is no surprise he seemed to panic a lot when he saw the time deficit. The moment he accepted that he needed to take things at his own pace, he began to get better qualifying results.

  12. Survey the drivers. Knowing what they know now, which car would they have preferred to start with at the start of 2021?

    I suspect it’d be the Merc.

    1. I would think it would be the RBR car, as Max would have had the WDC sewn up earlier and RBR would have had the WCC if it weren’t for Baku, Silverstone, and Hungary which were bad luck for Max and nothing to do with anything such as an inferior car. Oh I’m not trying to conveniently change circumstances with the perfection of hindsight for everything that happened as it did is what constitutes the season, but you’re speaking in terms of the car itself, as am I. To me RBR started stronger, Mercedes finished stronger, but that strength in the end was only enough due to all the points Max lost through no fault of his own and nor for lack of car on those days.

      1. I think most drivers would look at Perez’s results and veer pretty sharpish towards the Merc. Verstappen was ahead because Lewis made errors and him being driving very very well. It wasn’t that the RBR was down the road. Monaco cost Hamilton and that wasn’t the car’s performance level.

        Most of the grid understand Verstappen is something a bit different. Given the choice I think almost the entire grid would choose the Merc If they had a time machine back to the start of the year. Very few would choose the RbR in my view

        1. Agree with this, it’s also true about the points lost through bad luck, but mercedes was indeed the stronger car at the majority of races, especially in race pace, which is more important with drs.

          1. Fair comments. I think the other drivers would have understood SP’s performance as the newbie on the team, and would assume they themselves would do better, because that’s how they have to think. Of course in general the other 16 drivers not at Merc or RBR would leap at a chance to race either car and let each session and each day be as they may, resolved that they would take that ‘gold’ and run with it. Lol I think particularly after seeing VB and what he didn’t do with his opportunity with the WCC car 5 years straight.

  13. Mercs had two drivers comfortable with the package, Rbr had one. If, the length of time for both Rbr drivers was identical to Mercs I reckon Red bull would’ve won the constructors. Rbr car was fantastic this year but when Mercs sorted things out it was a complete monster. On balance, about right the difference was hardly noticeable, save for some races (Rbr Mexico, Mercs Brazil).

    1. @icarby

      The question is whether the RB is inherently more difficult to drive than the Merc. The contrast is rather stark between Russell jumping into the car and doing very well, versus Gasly, Albon and Perez not significantly improving over their season, which you would expect if it was just familiarity.

      1. @aapje – I hear you, however Russell has test driven several of the Merc cars before, I think including the one he raced with that one time, so he had some knowledge not quite the same for Perez.

        1. @icarby

          That doesn’t explain why Gasly, Albon and Perez didn’t do much better once they got a dozen races under their belt, when they had way more experience with the RB than Russell had with the Merc.

          And you can’t argue that Gasly and Albon lacked experience with the Honda engine quirks, which Perez pointed at, because they were using the Honda at TorroTauri.

          Finally, if you look at the qualifying footage, you regularly saw Max dealing with snaps that Lewis didn’t seem to suffer from, suggesting that the RB becomes very unstable at high speeds, much more so than the Merc.

  14. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    17th January 2022, 15:24

    Quick question: How are the advantages calculated?

    Qualifying times? (driver differences will skew this with Mercedes beating Red Bull)
    Average race lap time? (teammate driver differences will skew this)
    Difference between average time and fastest race lap time? (tire strategies will skew this)

    1. From memory it’s fastest time in any session (typically Q3 for the faster teams), and based on the footnote above it excludes very wet quali sessions (Belgium/Russia).
      I assume it’s the average of the percentage gaps (‘median’ would be better than ‘mean’ I’d say) for the season which then determines the percentages. This means that even the quickest car normally still has a ‘gap’.

  15. The problem is that data doesn’t tell the whole story. It doesn’t take weather, driver error, mechanical issues etc into consideration. Max was 0.5 up in Saudi Arabia for example, but I’d guess the data shows Mercedes being the faster car that weekend due to a Verstappen mistake. There’s probably countless arguments you could make for RedBull or Mercedes but as someone who watched the season I’d rather be in the RedBull.

    1. That was addressed in the article.

  16. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    17th January 2022, 15:42

    Speed is one thing – stability is another. The Red Bull belonged in a different race category in terms of cornering stability.

    From a technical standpoint, the Red Bull deserved the WDC and WCC and I would say they should have won both with about 100 points to spare.

    For the WCC, it was a combination of bad luck and struggles for Perez that denied them the WCC along with an incredible season by Lewis.

    I think Max did what he could and he’s definitely on the faster side of drivers (top 3 for sure on the grid) but he looked like a rookie next to Lewis as Lewis exposed all of Max’s weaknesses and strengths over the season. In the end, it took horrible refereeing over an entire season to help Max win the championship.

    I’d say Red Bull should have cleared Mercedes by 100 points in the WCC and Max should have cleared the WDC by 75+ points.

    1. Wow. I have no idea what I just read. Max looked like a rookie? Lewis exposed Max’s weaknesses? How so?
      Lewis failed to make a package work in Monaco that was worth second place (as Bottas was on course for that). Lewis failed to win in Baku when it was on offer, instead scoring nothing. Lewis went off in Imola.

      Max pretty much maximized his points haul everywhere. All season long. The only place where he arguably (and arguably should be in font size 100 or something) was Silverstone, but that was Lewis at fault (well, “predominantly”) but in that case the same goes for Lewis in Monza (where Max was “predominantly” at fault).

      Max did make some questionable moves particularly towards the end of the season, but that had nothing to do with “weaknesses being exposed” or “acting like a rookie” – most of them were last-resort types of moves against a faster package, and in those races he STILL maximized his points haul.

      Instead, turn it around. Lewis did feel the pressure of going up against a faster package in the first half of the season, and uncharacteristic mistakes or performances were among its consequences.

      1. freelittlebirds still thinks max is a “hype” so this already cost him a lot.
        He lives in a different dimension in a different reality so be nice to him. This world is very strange for him.

        1. Erikje You may not agree with Michael, a lot of the time I don’t either, but there’s no need to make a mockery of him. He can have an opinion, he’s entitled to it. You’re entitled to your opinion, I’m entitled to an opinion. We don’t have to be at everyone’s throats all of the time. It just gets tiring.

        2. BW (@deliberator)
          18th January 2022, 2:24

          Indeed. Must be in the same dimension which doesn’t see things like Hamilton going off at Imola and hitting the pit wall in Sochi. The “hype” outdrove Hamilton comprehensively over 22 races, winning despite less luck and the slower car. If Hamilton’s season was “brilliant” – Max’s must really be from another dimension altogether.

      2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        17th January 2022, 23:28

        @mattds sorry, Max looked bad to me and I now understand why he drives the way he does. I thought he chose to drive that way.

        It’s not a style, it’s a handicap.

        Anyway, if you can’t see it, it’s just a matter of not seeing the details with the same clarity. Damon Hill can see it, Brundle can’t.

        1. @freelittlebirds feel free to use arguments to support your opinion, as I have done. “If you can’t see it it’s a matter of not seeing the details” is not a valid way of discussing. What I clearly saw is what I wrote down above. Now it’s up to you to do better than you have and add arguments as well.

          1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            18th January 2022, 13:14

            They sound like opinions to me more than arguments. I think the general consensus is that Max didn’t maximize the points in that car and as for arguments, you only need to look at the way they drove to see Max’s wheel-to-wheel weakness or handicap. It’s not like we weren’t aware of it – Verstappen has garnered the most nicknames of any driver in the history of the sport for good reason.

            Lewis just made Max look like a fool on track. I haven’t seen such a display of superior skill in any sport. It’d be akin to the 2 of us taking on Messi or Federer or Usain Bolt. I’m assuming that neither of us would look great in any of those situations and they’d expose all our weaknesses.

            The fact that Lewis could do it against a top driver is quite remarkable but he did that with Rosberg. I don’t think Nico was able to make a single pass stick on track against Lewis and ended up looking like a carbon copy of Max in 2016 smashing into things. Coincidentally it was also a season where Nico won by smashing into his teammate in Spain. Guess the name of a driver who kept smashing into another driver all season long or attempting and failing?

            Hint (to assist erikje)it starts with Max and ends with Tappen.

          2. @freelittlebirds the points about Hamilton (Monaco, Baku, Imola, maybe even Austria if you attribute the car damage to him handling the curbs) are not opinions.

            Moreover, how can you say my post is more opinion than argument when you present zero arguments at all and present 100% opinion? I ask you for arguments, and instead you basically just repeat what you said before, only now with even more hyperbole.

            As for the nicknames: they are given to any and all drivers regardless of how good or bad they’re driving. Who says he has garnered “the most nicknames”? Is there a list somewhere of F1 driver nicknames? If you (or any of his detractors) invent 20 of them, is that a sign of him having “wheel to wheel weaknesses”, or just a fact you (and his detractors) don’t like him?

            So again I will ask you – in what way did Lewis make Max look like a fool on track? What are your arguments? Hamilton fans spent most of the year complaining about Max racing Lewis too hard, with Lewis “having to” back out as a result. Is that “being made to look like a fool”?

            Rosberg has nothing to do with it. This is about Max and Lewis in 2021. I have brought forward arguments – not opinions, arguments – about Lewis having thrown away quite some points when the car wasn’t the clear best. Now it’s up to you, again. Arguments please, and not a precooked opinion.

          3. @freelittlebirds I forgot to say something. Please don’t confuse “general consensus” with “opinion among a portion of Hamilton fans and/or British press”. There is no “general consensus” at all that Max didn’t maximize his points, unless part of that is bad luck. In that case it is true, bad luck made him not maximize the points on offer.

        2. @freelittlebirds
          I feel sorry for you.

      3. If you had been following this site for a while you wouldn’t be surprised any more by how biased certain users are, the one in question is a really big hamilton fan, think he defended him even in monaco, which should say enough.

        1. @esploratore1 well that’s the thing – I have been following this site for a LONG time (like, from shortly after F1F was founded), but I’ve not followed as closely as I used to precisely because of this kind of behaviour.

          I’m not really surprised that there are some biased fans around, but it can still strike me when posts are made that seem SO much out of touch with reality like the one above. Baffling really.

          1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            18th January 2022, 13:51

            @mattds Well, my point was that the Red Bull was extremely stable. It’s just not speed that matters.

            The other point was that the Red Bull should have won both championships this season. Mercedes nabbed one and nearly nabbed the other championship from them.

            It’s a bit ironic that the most dominant team in the hybrid era had to fight to win a single championship and probably deserved the 2nd one.

            Your point has been that Lewis made mistakes. I don’t disagree. Still he managed to score 387.5 points and Red Bull needed 90,000 sets of tyres and a ref call and a 2nd wingman to assist in a sacrificial mode for them to have a chance at victory.

            As Horner said, we need a miracle and they got a miracle that shook the sport worse than Spygate and Crashgate ever have.

            I totally understand that from your perspective a driver races at 100% all the time making no mistakes. But competition doesn’t go that way. If you’re being pushed, you’ll make mistakes. You also don’t get to win 100 races and 7 championships (or could have easily won 10 or 11) by just making mistakes. It’s knowing how and when to make the mistakes and for the average person, that’s impossible to understand. For a F1 driver, they all wish they knew when to make the mistakes and how to bounce back from them. That’s what champions do. When it matters, they do incredible things and I think we’re both in agreement that Lewis did incredible things this season.

          2. @freelittlebirds AD was not “worse than Spygate and Crashgate”. That’s just not true. Nobody thought Spygate and Crashgate were even nearly excusable – literally, no one. While there are even drivers and ex-drivers that think Masi made the right call. So please drop the hyperbole – it does not help your case.

            Yeah, Max needed a safety car and a fresh tyre set to beat Lewis in the last race. But then what did Lewis need? He needed his teammate to bump out Max in Hungary, a blown tyre for Max in Baku, and himself to bump out Max in Silverstone, to even be in the title fight. Given how many points Max lost on those accounts, Lewis should have even won the title before going into AD. That he didn’t was on him.

            And of course drivers will make mistakes. And of course Lewis did great things this season. I have never stated otherwise. You win 7 titles by being all-round great. But that doesn’t negate the fact that drivers can and will make mistakes, even drivers with 7 titles.
            And when comparing their performances against each other, then Max threw away less than Lewis did. Going by when Lewis made mistakes (or couldn’t make it work), in what position he was and what the car situation at those times was, I’m going to argue Lewis was more impacted by the pressure weighing on him than Max was.
            Like I said, Max chose to race hard all season long. Even after Silverstone, when most Lewis fans were saying “he had it coming and he’ll surely tone it down now”, that never transpired. It had nothing to do with “being made like a rookie”. It had everything to do with trying to do battle against a driver in a car that had took over as the fastest of the field well by mid season.

          3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            18th January 2022, 15:29

            @MattDS I respect your opinion and I think you’re a good fan and a good contributor to the forum. That doesn’t mean that you’re not wrong. I offered my opinion and I don’t need to prove you wrong. That’s my opinion and I believe it’s a sensible person’s opinion who’s watched the season. You disagree and that’s fine – where would the fun be if everyone had my opinion or everyone drove like Lewis? He and I would appear ordinary :-)

          4. No offence but @freelittlebirds is absolutely correct on his statement that the Abu Dhabi mess is the most damaging thing to happen. You only have to look at long form forums like Autosport to realise that. Until that is repaired and the officiating better, no one can be certain of any win. Further I wonder what you would feel if it had happened to MV?

            While he may be a LH fan, what happened there was a mess and under no circumstances did MV deserve to win that race irrespective of what went before. Regardless of how worthy he is as a world champion, he simply was being firmly beaten and showing many debatable moves that should really been officiated better. The Jedda brake test penalty was a farce as was Brazil. Those moves should and would have lost him the championship in any other year.

            It is quite evident the cars were quite equal with RB having an advantage in qualifying and they came to the final round equal on points regardless of the incidents in the year.

    2. @freelittlebirds. Grtz for the most ridiculous post of the year…..and it’s early 2022 LMAO

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        17th January 2022, 23:16

        That says more about you than about me:)

      2. You read my mind!

    3. I must have taken different drugs than you prior to the races. Max and Lewis both drove like champions throughout the season in my opinion.

    4. Speed is one thing – stability is another. The Red Bull belonged in a different race category in terms of cornering stability.

      Mercedes is very easy to drive. That is why George Russell can jump into a Mercedes without any practice and immediately dominate in Sakhir (while being too large for his seat and unable to properly apply brake pressure).

      Red Bull is a much harder, trickier car to drive. That is why even excellent drivers like Perez struggle in it.

      2021 was a battle between the best car (Mercedes) and the best driver (Verstappen). In the end, the best driver won.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        18th January 2022, 6:16

        @kingshark Really?

        I recall that Perez looked like Pacman eating up the entire field and even joking “who’s next?”. In fact, the Mercedes had a very hard time overtaking the slower Red Bull.

        I also remember Albon looking like a racing god overtaking the entire field in the Red Bull last year.

        On the other hand, I cannot believe how terrible Nico and Valtteri were… They seemed to have such a hard time overtaking cars in the Mercedes. Why on earth would Mercedes hire the worst 2 drivers on the planet to drive the easiest car to drive in the world? My guess would be that they weren’t that bad and the car just wasn’t as easy to overtake with.

        Even Lewis had trouble overtaking this season and the way he set up some overtakes was really impressive but the effort and skill he puts in the overtakes is clear to everyone.

        As for Verstappen, if he’s the best driver, why does he have all those strange nicknames and run into folks all the time? Surely, a driver of his caliber with the most stable car known to mankind should be able to mount a clean overtake. Perez can do it so Max has no excuse. It’s not like Verstappen doesn’t have access to a good racer to learn from – he clearly hasn’t learned one thing from Lewis over the past 6 years.

        1. As for Verstappen, if he’s the best driver, why does he have all those strange nicknames

          that’s because fools like you only think in nicknames. Its telling you are the one asking this..
          But heee… Verstappen is still a “hype” to you ;)

        2. In fact, the Mercedes had a very hard time overtaking the slower Red Bull.

          So, you agree the Merc was the faster car.. good to know.
          ( at last…)

        3. @freelittlebirds

          I recall that Perez looked like Pacman eating up the entire field and even joking “who’s next?”.

          Perez scored a total of 5 podiums in the entire season. That is 5 podiums in 22 races, not very convincing is it?

          On the other hand, I cannot believe how terrible Nico and Valtteri were

          Bottas had more than double the podiums of Perez this season, and also scored 36 more points?

          As for Rosberg, that guy won a world title in a Mercedes so not sure what your point is there.

          In fact, the Mercedes had a very hard time overtaking the slower Red Bull.

          Actually, overtaking for Mercedes tends to be very easy because they are significantly faster on the straights.

          Even Lewis had trouble overtaking this season and the way he set up some overtakes was really impressive but the effort and skill he puts in the overtakes is clear to everyone.

          Almost all of Hamilton’s overtakes are DRS assisted, he very rarely shows any real bravery on the brakes, or any true skill when overtaking.

          As for Verstappen, if he’s the best driver, why does he have all those strange nicknames and run into folks all the time?

          Because the average F1 fan isn’t very intelligent, as is rather evident by this comment of yours.

          “Hamilcar” is also a frequently used nickname by the way.

          It’s not like Verstappen doesn’t have access to a good racer to learn from – he clearly hasn’t learned one thing from Lewis over the past 6 years.

          Why would he bother learning from a driver who he’s just beaten with an inferior car? There’s nothing to learn from someone with less ability than you.

          Anyway, I’m not even sure why I bothered taking your comment seriously, but I hope this helps.

          1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            18th January 2022, 15:14

            @kingshark This is the funniest post ever written. Did you consider ending it by saying

            Ergo, Federer is the worst tennis player of all time and Harry Potter the best Quidditch player of all time.

            That would be a pretty fitting summary to your comment ;-)

          2. @freelittlebirds This doesn’t happen very often but I do somewhat agree with you here. Far from fully, but far enough to agree that the comment you’re replying to is a bit extreme. I think it’s fair to say almost all overtakes in F1 now are DRS assisted, so singling out Lewis for that is a bit harsh, but also that Lewis can make some excellent overtakes (Norris in the Brazil sprint for example, or his overtake on Tsunoda in Turkey). I also will add that the ridiculous name-calling from both sides (Crashtappen, Hamilcar, etc.) is exactly that: ridiculous. And I would add that as I say in my comment below, I don’t think either car was necessarily inferior, but they were very closely matched imo (particularly in the second half of the season after Merc’s Silverstone upgrades).

            However, I disagree that Lewis “schooled” Max. They both had very good seasons, in my opinion. Both made mistakes; Lewis generally earlier in the season, Max generally later in the year, but both were very close across the whole year. I will say that Lewis has actually come out of this season looking slightly better than Max (in my opinion), but I still rate them very closely, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. I won’t go into the whole GOAT argument again (I think I mentioned my dislike for the term in a comment a few weeks ago) but I think both are very much generational talents.

  17. I’d be on the side of calling the cars essentially equal. Had the Red Bull down as the superior package at the start, and at mid-season, but Mercedes pulled it back towards the end of the year.

    The only way I’d split them would be on certain characteristics… eg, I think the RB was marginally the better qualifying car, but the Mercedes was a little kinder to its tyres.

    1. Max made the difference in qualifying, not the car.

  18. Say what? The quickest car is the one that is fastest over the weekend, in my opinion.
    No idea how you would calculate the lap time deficit over the weekend, but saying the Mercedes was slower in Brasil renders this statistic as a total failure. That one needs to use more than one tire compound makes it extra hard to calculate a margin. With statistics like this I can prove that Elvis is still alive :)

    1. I’m actually shocked at the statistic that said Merc had the fastest car in 17, 18 and 19! I was sure that it was Ferrari.

  19. Adrian Newey and James Allison said the RedBull was the faster car. I need no more convincing than that!

    What we saw skew the race performances were bad luck for RedBull, Perez’s poor qualifyings, and finally, Lewis Hamilton’s moments of brilliance.

    If those three factors were suppressed we would have seen Max win the championship with three races remaining.

    1. James Alison said they had the fastest car from Silverstone onwards (10th weekend out of 22). He said after that massive upgrade they put on the car they knew they had the car to win the championship with. Watch his Turkish GP debrief.

    2. @david-beau

      James Allison said that Mercedes had the best car from Silverstone onwards. That means Red Bull was the fastest car in 9 races compared to 13 for Mercedes. In other words, Allison thinks that Mercedes was the best car.

      Both Newey and Allison’s opinions are unreliable because they were involved in building the car and will therefore be biased.

      I like to read objective analysis from The-Race, Racefans, etc… they all come to the correct conclusion that Mercedes was marginally ahead.

    3. @david-beau

      James Allison said that Mercedes had the best car from Silverstone onwards. That means Red Bull was the fastest car in 9 races compared to 13 for Mercedes. In other words, Allison thinks that Mercedes was the best car.

      Both Newey and Allison’s opinions are unreliable because they were involved in building the car and will therefore be biased.

      Any objective analysis on the entire 2021 season will come to the conclusion that Mercedes was inevitably ahead by a slight margin.

  20. As others have pointed out, I think the key takeaway is the cars were, over the course of the season, very equal. The Red Bull was definitely stronger earlier in the season, but I highlight Silverstone as the turning point of the championship. Not because of the crash, but because of the Mercedes upgrade. From then onwards, they were much more competitive, for example I think many people expected RB to do well in Hungary, and Merc took one of the most emphatic front row lockouts of the season imo.

    One of the things I loved about the final rounds of the season in particular was going into a weekend with absolutely no idea who would be faster, and then how it would change throughout the weekend. Prime examples being the USA (RB successful at what was expected by many to be a Merc track), Mexico (Merc got the quali pace/RB failed to maximise quali, but RB seemed faster in the race), and Brazil (RB expected to do quite well, but Lewis and Merc got what seemed to be a perfect car to fight back and take the win), and to a lesser extent Jeddah and Qatar.

    Over the course of the season, I would argue neither car was better or worse than the other. Both cars were absolutely incredible and masterpieces of engineering. Kudos to all the engineers, designers and factory staff at both Mercedes and Red Bull.

  21. Quite drunk and haven’t read everything but what baffles me is why no one else can drive the Red Bull like Max does.
    Bottas was at least capable of getting close to Lewis yet it seems like only Max can be consistently quick in that car whilst his team mates are lucky to just lead the mid-field.

    It seems to me that the Mercs and the Bulls are close enough for genuine racing.
    It seems to be the drivers that need working on.

    1. @nullapax Bottas wasn’t really close to Hamilton, was he? Especially race pace and overtaking, hhe had nothing on Hamilton, and as such he was demolished. Yes, the eventual gap between Perez and Verstappen was even bigger, but then again Bottas did have the advantage of being in his fifth season racing the Mercedes, and although a car doesn’t remain the exact same over the years, there would probably be quite some things you can take on from one year to the next, meaning you never start quite from zero like Perez did this year.

      So it’s quite simple why only Max can be so fast in that car: because he’s just too good. And the same very much goes for Hamilton and Bottas.

  22. I can recall several times where the speed of Lewis’ Mercedes was down to him having DRS while Max was out front.

  23. Always had the feeling Merc were ahead, and by some margin from Silverstone onwards. I don’t think it was RB fluctuations that led to the perceived performance variations but rather Mercedes ability to extract their pace from the car and PU that caused some ups and downs, that coupled with RB and Max excelling at a couple venues made the season close even though by tge last strech of the championship it looked like merc had .3 or more over RB

  24. You also have to look at the two-number-2s comparison. You can’t ignore that verstappen and Hamilton were just way ahead of their known, competent teammates. They were getting performance from the cars others likely could not. You will never isolate the car vs driver coefficients of performance. But this season the drivers mattered more than others.

  25. So basically what this all means is this:
    1. The best Car won the Manufacturer’s Championship
    2. The best Driver won the Driver’s Championship
    Perfect season of F1.

  26. My take (I updated this after every race):

    RBR 41 48 Mercedes
    Bahrain 1 3 2 0
    Imola 1 2 3 1
    Portimao 1 1 3 2
    Barcelona 1 2 3 3
    Monaco 2 3 1 3
    Baku 3 3 1 3
    France 4 3 1 3
    Styria 5 3 0 3
    RB Ring 6 3 0 3
    Silverstone 6 2 3 4
    Hungary 6 1 3 5
    Spa 6 1 3 6
    Zandvoort 7 3 1 6
    Monza 7 1 3 7
    Sochi 7 1 3 8
    Istanbul 7 1 3 9
    COTA 8 3 2 9
    Mexico 9 3 1 9
    Interlagos 9 0 3 10
    Qatar 9 1 3 11
    Jeddah 9 1 3 12
    Abu Dhabi 9 0 3 13

    1. First number total Red Bull Racing ahead, second number RBR in that particular race (out of 3), third number Mercedes in that particular race (out of 3), last number Mercedes in total ahead (up to that point).
      Sundays are more weighted than Saturdays.

      At the end, I’ve got RBR 9×13 Mercedes and, in detail, RBR 41×48 Mercedes.

      This is also evidenced by the fact that, over the season, Max had more bad luck than Lewis on one hand, but maximized the potential of the car in most occasions.

      Lewis would have been a fair champion, no doubt. But this season, even though the end of Abu Dhabi was a shambles, the slightly more deserving driver got the title at the end.

  27. Could the editor provide some explanation on the data points? fastest race weekend lap time = qualifying time ?

  28. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    18th January 2022, 10:40

    Over the whole season Mercedes for sure had the faster car, in qualifying it was really tight but come race day the Mercedes was faster as soon as the harder tires were on the car.

    Also most races were colder than usual, this tended to favor Mercedes as well.
    Obviously there were races were Red Bull was faster but then again the last races certainly since Brazil the Mercedes had a few tenths of extra speed on the Red Bull.

  29. It was clear that the Mercedes was ultimately the fastest car on pace, and every calculation by every website shows that.
    The Red Bull was rarely ever third fastest, maybe at Monaco in qualifying, maybe at Hungary, maybe at Monza. But Verstappen never really had to worry about finishing anything other than second. Whereas Hamilton did in Monaco, did in Austria, did in Turkey. Even if you feel that the races where the Mercedes was the strongest were generally races where it was even more dominant than the Red Bull was in its strongest races, the Red Bull was always second best at worst, and either the Mercedes or Hamilton-as-part-of-the-Mercedes-package was not necessarily that.
    So it’s not a question of the ‘fastest’ car. Which is why I understand Adrian Newey’s frustrations. His car was not the fastest. And the Mercedes perhaps should have won the season because of outright pace. But as a balanced, all-season car, the Red Bull was better. Which is why, if you take away the luck/bad luck of Imola, Baku, Silverstone and Hungary, Verstappen would have been world champion after Qatar.

    1. That Hamilton had to worry in Monaco was down to him, not the car. Turkey was bc. of the penalty and muddy track and Austria he had damage. Verstappen had to worry in Sochi and then had luck/the right call to pit.

    2. I enjoy your very balanced and informative posts generally. This one is uncharacteristically quite off the mark this time.

      Turkey: Bottas had an easy drive and Max could never threaten him. Clearly the Merc had the best car that weekend.
      Monaco: Bottas qualified 0.1s from pole. Surely the qualifying goat can beat any teammate by 0.1s ? Particularly on a tricky track like Monaco? The package had the potential but Lewis had an offweekend
      Austria: Lewis damaged his car. Similarly Max ended 9th in Hungary with damage (significantly more btw).

      It’s a creative narrative but looking forward to a better post next time ;-)

  30. Going through a broad number of sources, interviews and websites the consensus is that Mercedes again had the faster car in 2021 and has closed off the V6 Hybrid era unbeaten on overall package and speed. An achievement never seen before. I do like and appreciate some sources trying to underplay Mercedes in 2021 to raise Lewis’ performance and therefore create something that wasn’t there. That’s what fans do and so be it. The fact is we will never know what Lewis would have achieved without this Mercedes dominance all those years. He is welcome to it as far as I am concerned but feel he could vent some more perspective and gratitude towards the situation from time to time. And this fuels all this debate around him and his own red mist towards Verstappen. He always feared a Max would turn up and beat him despite not having a car that Lewis can always rely on. He knows he is good, but no where near as good as all his record make you believe. It took its toll in Lewis head at Silverstone, fueled by the sprint race proving there was no way he would be able to keep up with Max… and Lewis lost it, made a very dangerous fault and in the end lost the championship right in that moment as the consequences of his move would linger throughout the season.

  31. So am I looking at this right, it seems to suggest Red Bull were quickest in Brazil and Mercedes in Mexico?

  32. Lap time, even fastest average lap time, simply cannot give you this measurement. Many factors go into a fast lap, including driver performance, tyres, and track position.

    Producing this figure as being somehow able to establish which car is quickest is disingenuous and, honestly, out of step with what we’ve come to expect from analysis on this site.

    There are a number of moments where this unreliability is shown up, Brazil and Mercedes for eg, but none more so than the last race at Abu Dhabi. The calculation you’re using would be interpreted that “the red bull car max drove had a significant advantage at Abu Dhabi”, which is massively out of step with what was observed.

    Everyone who watched the race could see how much pace lewis had in hand, and bottas was massively down on pace in a low engine mode crawling towards the line… so averaging the two fastest of these guys puts red bull ahead. Is that really representative of what we saw, in terms of who had the quicker car on the day?

    Look at the trouble that AWS, who have access to all of the data, have in establishing ‘driver performance’, as a percentage of car limit:

    Simply put, we cannot establish this in any reliable way with the limited data we have. The best indicator we have as fans is our eyes, because we get to see how much adjustment is needed mid corner, we can see when cars pull away or fall back, see how they do at different phases of the race, how they do in traffic etc.

    Less aware fans will use this post as a hammer to try to win arguments.

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