Max Verstappen thumped the competition in an incredibly dramatic qualifying session ahead of the 2021 Formula 1 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Before we jump into the trenches, please check your emotions at the door. Let’s crunch the numbers and figure out what’s really going on here.
Year on year battles
- +1.319  | Red Bull Racing
- +1.361  | Scuderia AlphaTauri
- +1.385  | McLaren
- +1.686  | Alfa Romeo Racing (+1.217 )
- +1.812  | Scuderia Ferrari (+0.541 )
- +1.832  | Alpine F1
- +2.022  | Williams Racing
- +2.121  | Mercedes F1
- +2.279 [2020} | Aston Martin F1
- +3.692  | Haas F1 (+2.338 )
Red Bull have managed to lose the least performance against their competitors, the net result of the 2021 rule changes made to date. While Lewis Hamilton was still capable of delivering a fight for pole position, the unspoken and ultimate reality is that they’ve lost 0.8 seconds per lap in qualifying trim to Red Bull. More worryingly for the Black Arrows, Mercedes are eighth best on development numbers, which includes comparing Alfa Romeo and Ferrari to their 2019 lap times.
Aston Martin have come out the absolute worst of the nine newly developed cars for 2021, nearly a full second of lap time lost to Red Bull having started already behind them to begin with. Haas had the worst Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying session in their history by qualifying significantly slower than their 2016 debut.
Of the Ferrari powered teams, it was the Scuderia themselves have shown the most improvement with a supreme lap from Charles Leclerc. Ferrari averaged a loss in qualifying performance in 2020 of approximately 1.2 seconds per lap from their very fast 2019 challenger. Ferrari managed to claw back 0.8 seconds per lap today recovering 66% of their 2020 performance drop. Admittedly 66% recovery is a loose and fast number and as such, it’s still too early to appropriately approximate where Ferrari truly stand. It’ll be a point in future post-qualifying breakdowns to keep an eye on and measure.
No real surprises with McLaren and AlphaTauri towards the sharp end of development progress as they have both been on par with each other’s impressive development now for the third year running. Not to discount their progress on the basis of some level of expected continuity, both McLaren and AlphaTauri look exceptional on the track. Let’s hope it translates into race pace as it hasn’t always been the case.
- -1.662 | Verstappen DEF. Perez
- -1.475 | Alonso DEF. Ocon
- -1.455 | Stroll DEF. Vettel
- -0.824 | Schumacher DEF. Mazepin
- -0.798 | Gasly DEF. Tsunoda
- -0.620 | Russell DEF. Latifi
- -0.530 | Giovinazzi DEF. Raikkonen
- -0.331 | Leclerc DEF. Sainz
- -0.201 | Hamilton DEF. Bottas
- -0.047 | Ricciardo DEF. Norris
For Sergio Perez and Sebastian Vettel it’s bad. While for Perez it can be dulled by the fact that the +1.662 delta to Verstappen represents Perez on medium tires against Verstappen on softs, the end reality is that it’s unacceptable that this comparison could even be made. For Vettel, he lost his last flying lap to a yellow flag. Both Perez and Vettel were supposed to wow today in qualifying but found reasons not to. Therefore, it was not a good enough effort and must quickly rebound with high quality execution tomorrow.
Esteban Ocon +1.475 to returning two-time world champion Fernando Alonso is the most devastating driver comparison coming out of qualifying today. One would hope there was an issue with Ocon’s car as this delta simply defies logic.
Mick Schumacher and Antonio Giovinazzi also look good on their respectful delta’s to their teammates. Carlos Sainz ran significantly slower in Q3 than Q2, perhaps there was an issue there as +0.331 is a touch much in comparison to new teammate Leclerc.
- +0.000 | Red Bull Racing
- +0.388 | Mercedes F1
- +0.681 | Scuderia Ferrari
- +0.812 | Scuderia AlphaTauri
- +0.930 | McLaren
- +1.252 | Alpine F1
- +1.604 | Aston Martin F1
- +1.711 | Alfa Romeo Racing
- +2.319 | Williams Racing
- + 3.452 | Haas F1
Who was expecting this order of qualifying pace? Nobody is the answer.