Hello again and welcome to Part B of our analysis which, in my view, is the most interesting one, because we will be looking into the performances of the drivers.
Sebastian Vettel’s dominance does not need to be put into numbers, but just for the sake of it, let us see the following statistics:
He won 11 races, started from pole 15 times, scored an average 20.6 points per race (out of a maximum possible of 25, i.e. 82.5% of the available points) and led 760 laps (i.e. 67.08% of the total laps of the season). His average starting position was 1.3 and his average finish position was 1.6. His score in the races he was classified was 21.8 points per race, which is mind blowing, to say the least.
In terms of raw speed he had the comfortable edge over Webber, being an average of 4 tenths faster than him throughout the year. This number comes from comparing all of their quali laps, in all sessions of all races, so it’s a very accurate indicator of the extra speed that Vettel could get from the car. Now, let’s take a look at this very interesting table below (please click on it to get a better view):
An interesting, initial conclusion that can be drawn is that Vettel was able to dig very deep in the latest stages of qualifying, which gave him the edge over his rivals and the incredible 15 pole positions. As you can see, his average improvement from Q1 to Q2 was 1.319 seconds, higher than any other driver on the field. It’s the same story in Q3 – even though the top teams tended to run the softest tyre option in both Q2 and Q3, Vettel was able to find an extra 0.751 seconds from Q2 to Q3, and usually in his last run.
By comparison, from Q2 to Q3 Webber improved (on average) by 0.660 seconds, Hamilton by 0.533 seconds, Alonso by 0.460 seconds, Button by 0.428 seconds and Massa by only 0.382 seconds. The above figures account for what we actually saw during the qualifying sessions, i.e. McLaren often finishing first in Q2 and then missing out on pole, by small margins (especially after the mid point of the season). Webber’s improvement is less spectacular than it appears, because his Q2 laps were, on average, slower than Vettel’s. Even so, it shows a tendency that Red Bull could, in general, get more speed out of the car in Q3 mode than their rivals, which could be an indication of slight sand-bagging in the previous sessions (2-3 extra kgs of fuel?).
Going further down the list, always on the subject of improvements from Q1 to Q2 to Q3, it’s interesting to note both Mercedes’ drivers inability to improve at all (on average) from Q2 to Q3, and that’s probably because they were using everything they had to get through to the last stage of qualifying. Schumacher was often there or thereabouts Rosberg’s pace in Q1, but he fell behind invariably in Q2 (often failing to make the cut). His average improvement from Q1 to Q2 was 8 tenths, whereas Rosberg could find 1.1 seconds on average. In terms, therefore, of raw pace Schumacher was 5 tenths off Rosberg throughout the season, which is a very big gap, whichever way you want to look at it. Moreover, as you can see in the figure below, it wasn’t a case of Michael starting slow and gradually closing the gap (one would hope that Michael would gradually find his speed as the season progresses), but he only closed the gap for the short European leg (Barcelona, Monaco, Canada and Valencia) and then fell behind again – he only really matched Rosberg’s pace in Singapore for the remainder of the season. In fact, towards the end, Rosberg extended the gap and delivered some crushing blows in India (gap 0.886 seconds), Abu Dhabi (1.134 seconds) and Brasil (1.002 seconds in such a short lap) to indicate that 2012 looks to be another cringeworthy season for Michael, at least in qualifying.
All the above reflected on the grid, where Michael’s average starting position was 10.3 (i.e. on average, he was outside the top 10) and Nico’s was 7.5, more accurately reflecting the potential of the car. We won’t find such big gaps in starting positions elsewhere on the grid, with the exception of Red Bull (Vettel 1.3 – Webber 3.8). After the half point of the season, Michael started qualifying more regularly in the top 10, but that was only due to Renault’s demise and the distance that was created between Mercedes and the midfield.
Continuing on the subject of qualifying, we saw that Vettel had 4 tenths on Webber and Rosberg half a second on Schumacher. In Ferrari, Alonso had 3 tenths on Massa and was generally faster than Felipe, but towards the end of the season Massa got a few blows to register in Suzuka and South Korea; it will be interesting to see if Massa can keep this upward trend in 2012. Hamilton was faster (on average) by a mere 0.150 seconds than Jenson, which shows that either Button has improved his quali significantly or Lewis wasn’t always on it; I tend to go for the latter option. In my opinion, during the 2nd half of the season McLaren would have been a Red Bull beater in the hands of Alonso.
Further down the order, Senna acquitted himself very well in qualifying, being on average 0.118 seconds faster than Petrov. That is impressive considering his very limited running and the fact that Petrov was on average 0.449 seconds than Heidfeld in the first part of the season. True, some of Bruno’s performances in the races left a lot to be desired, but there is no doubt that the talent is there and it simply needs nourishing and race mileage. Williams, if you read this (fat chance!), please give this kid a chance.
Maldonado had a very good rookie year in qualifying, being on average 2 tenths faster than his much more experienced team mate. His race perfomances ranged from indifferent to WTF (a highlight being his attempt to ram Hamilton off the road), but it seems that the baseline speed is there. Will he be able to hone his race craft in 2012 to justify his position on the grid without the help of his sponsors? If he doesn’t do it in 2012, he will never do it (because he won’t get another decent chance).
Adrian Sutil had pretty much comfortably the edge on Di Resta after he solved his initial problems of understanding the new tyre characteristics and ended up 2.5 tenths faster than the Scot on average, throughout the season. Di Resta’s performances were not bad at all – in fact, he displayed a safe pair of hands, having run the longest distance of all (5358.17 kms). It is unfortunate that Sutil will not be part of the Force India roster in 2012, if only because we will not be able to accurately gauge Di Resta’s improvement from this year. The Hulkenberg – Di Resta pairing is, however, an exciting one and I am looking forward to who comes out on top. Given that both are regarded in the F1 circle as potential future stars, whoever comes out on top will, sooner rather than later, get his chance with a big team.
Further down, Perez was able to match Kobayashi’s performance in qualifying – and he showed some very mature and consistant performances in the races before his unfortunate accident in Monaco. He’s definitely one to watch in 2012. Buemi had 2.5 tenths on Alguersuari throughout the season, and it’s hard to argue (after 2 full seasons) that Jaime has shown the kind of raw speed necessary to take it to the next level. I believe that Toro Rosso were right (if a little harsh) to show them both the exit door. If they are in the business of preparing future world champions for the Red Bull team, then neither Jaime nor Sebastian seemed to fit the bill.
Further down, Heikki dominated Trulli (an average half a second faster through the year) – Jarno, isn’t it time to go growing vines with Fisico and let a younger kid get a break? Heikki needs Caterham to get to the midfield soon, or his promising career will stagnate. Perhaps his McLaren chance came far too early, and he was too starry-eyed to grab the chance; the fact that after 2 seasons of demolishing his team-mate his name isn’t being mentioned in relation to any of the bigger teams seats is, arguably, a testament that your chance in F1 only comes once.
At the very bottom, Ricciardo took some time to get acclimatised and was 0.150 seconds slower than Liuzzi on average, but it was a decent showing from the young rookie. He has stated that he needs to be more aggressive in 2012, and I couldn’t agree more with that. Finally, Glock thrashed D’ Ambrosio comfortably. He enjoyed the biggest margin in terms of raw pace (an average of 6 tenths) and it was only towards the end of the season when, arguably, Timo got a bit demotivated, that D’ Ambrosio came closer to him. Let’s see if Charles Pic can justify the hype. 2012 will be a difficult season for Marussia since they will fall further back in relation to Caterham and the other midfield runners.
In the diagram that follows we compare the raw speed of the drivers of the 4 big teams throughout the season.
As you can see, the most comprehensive thrashing was delivered by Vettel and Rosberg to their respective team-mates, whereas Alonso was also consistantly faster than Massa. Things in McLaren look more or less evenly matched.
Now that we have the question of raw pace answered, let’s look at what happened during the races, starting off with Mercedes:
Although in the final table Rosberg got more points than Schumacher, Michael actually outscored Nico, since in the races that he was classified he scored an average of 5.4 points. Rosberg, in contrast, scored 5.2 points in the races he was classified. The reason why Michael finished behind in the points table was his 5 retirements (as opposed to Nico’s 2). It’s true that Michael tended to qualify much lower than he should be and had a lot of scope for improvement during the races, but this doesn’t take anything out from the fact that he raced very well throughout the season. I wouldn’t go as far as claiming that the old magic was there (the old magic of Michael was a sight to behold and will never return), but he definitely justified his seat. If, however, he doesn’t improve his qualifying performances 2012 will be an extremely tough season for him. And it’s hard to see him improving (at the age of 44) unless something dramatic happens.
Other than that, not many conclusions can be drawn from our statistical analysis. Some interesting facts are that Heidfeld recorded the biggest average improvement in position (finishing position in comparison to starting grid), at +4.9. With the exception of the back markers, other noticable drivers who improved a lot during the races were Schumacher (+2.0), Sutil (+1.7), Kobayashi (+3.3), Perez (+2.3), Buemi (+3.4) and Alguersuari (+2.8). At the front Massa was disappointing in the races (-0.6) as opposed to Alonso who started from higher up and further improved (+1.1) and the same goes for Hamilton (-0.2) Vs Button (+1.4).
In the graph below we are showing you, based on the average quali position and average race finish position of each driver, the virtual grid of the 2011 season and the finishing order. We think it’s a good visual indication of the pecking order throughout the year:
So, I guess this is the end of our statistical analysis. Thanks for dropping by to have a look – I welcome any comments you have, especially if there is something additional that you feel warrants further analysis.