Renault and Ferrari cut gap to Brawn (Spanish Grand Prix analysis)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Ferrari's new parts gave them a boost
Ferrari's new parts gave them a boost

Brawn may have scored a one-two in the Spanish Grand Prix but did the chasing pack reduce their advantage? F1 Fanatic guest writer James Bolton takes a look at the qualifying data.

Many F1 teams brought upgrades for the Spanish Grand Prix with the intention of closing the gap between themselves and champinoship leaders Brawn.

Which teams were successful? An analysis of the low-fuel Q2 lap times shows who moved closer to the Brawn cars – and who dropped further back.

The world championship tables show which driver and team are doing the best all round job, they don’t illustrate which team has the fastest car. This is even harder to find out these days because the F1 teams have to run race fuel in their cars in the final part of qualifying (this will change next year).

Using Q2 times

However, in Q2 the remaining drivers may run as light as they choose. Therefore, the lap times from Q2 give us a solid idea of who’s fast and who’s off the pace.

The method used to analyse the Q2 lap times below is simple. The fastest time is converted into seconds and this is designated as the 100% time. Every other car will be slightly slower than this time, for example in Bahrain Jarno Trulli’s Q2 time of 1m 32.671 equates to 92.671 seconds. Nelson Piquet’s time was 1m 33.941, or 93.941 seconds. Therefore, we can state Piquet’s time as 101.37% of Trulli’s.

The perfect score would be to average 100% across a range of races. Where a driver fails to make it into Q2, they register no time for that race, so as Lewis Hamilton failed to set a Q2 time in Australia, the score for his season so far is his average for Malaysia, China, Bahrain and Spain.

Going into Spanish Grand Prix, Red Bull were the fastest in Q2, only fractionally quicker than Brawn. Red Bull?s two drivers averaged 100.29% of the fastest Q2 times from Australia to Bahrain – very close to this perfect 100% score.

The second fastest car was Brawn’s, with a score of 100.295%, just 0.005% slower than the RBR team. In third place was Toyota who were averaging 100.44% of the fastest Q2 time, with a big gap back to fourth fastest Ferrari, who registered 100.68%.

Most teams improve at Barcelona

This picture changed slightly at the Spanish Grand Prix. After Q2, I re-ran the analysis and the fastest team was still Red Bull, but by only 0.001%. This is an astonishingly small margin and shows just how close the two cars have performed as the season has progressed. Toyota still held third but had slipped back by 0.02%.

The headline is that nearly every team improved. The team that improved by the greatest margin was Renault, but this can be party put down to Piquet?s much improved form and the fact that he has now competed in two Q2 sessions, giving him a more reliable average score. In the graph below, only Alonso?s time has been included to avoid Piquet?s adversely affecting the data.

The second biggest improvers were Ferrari and Williams, who gained 0.06% on the average Q2 time, but this was offset by Red Bull and Brawn gaining 0.025% and 0.029% respectively.

Two teams dropped further back from the magic 100% average ?ǣ McLaren lost 0.038% and Toro Rosso lost 0.129%. But like Renault, Toro Rosso?s performance is slightly masked by the fact that this was only their third appearance in Q2 this season.

This graph shows the performance of the teams before and after Barcelona. The taller the column, the farther the team is from the average 100% time from Q2 sessions we have had so far. As you can see, McLaren and Toro Rosso?s columns grow in height as they drop further away from the perfect score of 100%:

Relative Q2 times before and after the Spanish Grand Prix (click to enlarge)
Relative Q2 times before and after the Spanish Grand Prix (click to enlarge)

Of course, no method for analysing lap times is perfect, but this gives us some indication of what the chasing pack are doing to reel in those BGP001s.

This is a guest article by James Bolton. If you want to write a guest article for F1 Fanatic you can find all the information you need here.