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Outside Line: F1 pecking order after ten Qualifying sessions

Outside Line: F1 pecking order after ten Qualifying sessions

Outside Line: F1 pecking order after ten Qualifying sessions

I am not a mathematician but I do enjoy statistics, Formula 1 stats in particular, thus after ten rounds and in the wake of Qualifying for the 2024 Spanish Grand Prix here’s a formula I used to establish the pecking order of teams.

Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is arguably the best-known circuit for F1 teams and drivers. Teams because it used to be the hotbed of the testing not too long ago; drivers because the venue in Montmelo is a mainstay of the junior series. Most have raced and tested there a great deal over their years in racing.

Hence, I figured Barcelona Qualifying – when all teams turn up the cars the most they can and drivers dig deeper than they have to all weekend to extract the maximum – the tenth Qualy session of the year, in almost ideal conditions, barring some cross winds that affected all.

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Q1 provided the most meaningful numbers to crunch:

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The methodology used was my simple maths to determine the pecking order and worked as follows:

Lewis Hamilton with the best lap of 1:12.143 in Q1 aboard the #44 Mercedes is the benchmark time and this ‘ground-zero’ at the top of the pile. Teammate George Russell was -0.313s down on the benchmark time. Thus Mercedes’s average time for the session was -0.156s and topped the first session pecking order.

  1. Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton 0.000s and George Russell -0.313s. Average -0.156s
  2. Red Bull: Max Verstappen -0.163s and Sergio Perez -0.334s. Average -0.171s
  3. Ferrari: Charles Leclerc -0.114s and Carlos Sainz -0.260s. Average -0.187s
  4. McLaren: Lando Norris -0.243s and Oscar Piastri -0.317s. Average -0.280s
  5. Alpine: Pierre Gasly -0.508s and Esteban Ocon -0.548s. Average -0.528s
  6. Aston Martin: Fernando Alonso -0.362s and Lance Stroll -0.738s. Average -0.550s
  7. Stake F1 Sauber: Valtteri Bottas -0.615s and Zhou Guanyu -0.737s. Average -0.676s
  8. Haas: Nico Hulkenberg -0.565s and Kevin Magnussen -o.794s. Average -0.679s
  9. VCARB: Yuki Tsunoda -0.842s and Daniel Ricciardo -0.932s. Average -0.887s
  10. Williams: Alex Albon -1.010s and Logan Sargeant -1.366s. Average -1.233s.

Notably, in Q1 the average times are within one second, except for Williams whose drivers were both one second off the pace in the first stanza of Qualifying in Barcelona. The gap between them and their closest competitors is about the same as the deficit between the top four teams.

The bottom of the pecking order was thus established, with the Williams last by quite a margin, VCARB next worst and Haas ahead of them and very close to Sauber. Those are the backmarkers.

Moving to Qualifying Q2, with the bottom three teams established. More pecking order information emerged with Verstappen topping the session with a best lap of 1.11.653s, the benchmark time for this pecking order.

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  1. Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton -0.139s and George Russell -0.159. Average -0.149s
  2. Ferrari: Charles Leclerc -0.114s and Carlos Sainz -0.260s. Average -0.187s
  3. Red Bull: Max Verstappen 0.000s and Sergio Perez -0.401s. Average -0.200s
  4. McLaren: Lando Norris -0.219s and Oscar Piastri -0.358s. Average -0.288s
  5. Alpine: Pierre Gasly -0.426s and Esteban Ocon -0.456s. Average -0.441s
  6. Aston Martin: Fernando Alonso -0.475s and Lance Stroll -0.719s. Average -0.597s
  7. Stake F1 Sauber: Valtteri Bottas -0.574s and Zhou Guanyu -1.085s. Average -0.829s

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Oscar Piastri let the pecking order analysis down by not recording a time in Q3, which would have been ideal. However, the McLaren driver’s average in the previous two sessions was -0.337. For the sake of this piece, we will assume that would’ve been his deficit in the final.

No Aston Martin or Stake F1 Sauber driver means the final stanza gave us numbers to crunch on five teams with cars in Q3. Norris’s excellent pole-winning lap of 1.11.383s was the benchmark.

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This is how the pecking order panned out in Q3:

  1. McLaren: Lando Norris 0.000s and Oscar Piastri -0.337s (calculated). Average -0.168s
  2. Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton -0.318s and George Russell -0.320. Average -0.319s
  3. Red Bull: Max Verstappen -0.020s and Sergio Perez -0.679s. Average -0.349s
  4. Ferrari: Charles Leclerc -0.348s and Carlos Sainz -0.353s. Average -0.350s
  5. Alpine: Pierre Gasly -0.474s and Esteban Ocon -0.742s. Average -0.608s

Unfortunately, the McLaren figure is subject to appeal. Had Piastri not fluffed his lines in Qualifying he too might’ve found some magic and been closer to Norris.

The McLaren is a very fast car, and when fully blown for the final effort in Q3 coupled to the “perfect lap” he delivered when it mattered, suggests they are the combo to beat at the moment.

What about Red Bull you might ask? There the Verstappen factor makes the difference as on Saturday, the RB20 was only just the third fastest car on average when things are at their most serious, in terms of horsepower and setup to deliver the final shot for the top ten places on the grid.

McLaren, Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes are the frontrunners, with very little to separate the cars. Norris and Verstappen made the difference on Saturday for their teams.

With two cars into Q3, Alpine head the midfield ahead of Aston Martin. There the stopwatch makes it clear that Alonso props up a bad car or Stroll is the handbrake that does not do it justice. A mix of the two is probably the right assessment for the team that has disappointed me the most this season.

Williams have the worst car by a full second to the fastest one. Their cause is not helped by Sargeant who is no match for Albon and is unlikely to keep his seat beyond this season for obvious reasons.

On that front, the Q1 standings were uncompromising, as the best driver in F1 – Verstappen – topped the timing screens at the end of it while you know who was last. A far too common sight in the past two seasons.

Big Question: What’s the real Formula 1 team pecking order ten Qualy sessions into the 2024 season?