Alonso versus Massa, Hamilton versus Button, Schumacher versus Rosberg, Vettel versus Webber: we have some truly exciting inter-team battles to savour in 2010.
And thanks to certain changes in the rules it should be easier than ever to keep track of which driver has the upper hand on his team mate.
For the past three seasons ‘race fuel qualifying’ has impaired our ability to tell which drivers do the best job of squeezing the ultimate one-lap pace out of their cars.
This year, every driver will qualify their cars on the least amount of fuel they can get away with, heralding the return of the true one-lap flier.
Well, almost. Unfortunately the teams and the FIA have decided the top ten qualifiers will have to start the race on the tyres they set their best lap time on. This will lead some drivers to sacrifice the best possible lap time in qualifying by using harder tyres which are more suitable for the race.
So we’ll have to keep a close eye on who set their best lap time on which tyres. But we’ll still be able to compare team mates who set their best times on the same compounds and see which drivers reach the later stages of qualifying more regularly than their team mates. That will give us plenty of opportunity to tell which drivers are excelling on Saturdays.
The refuelling ban will also give us a clearer picture of which driver is better at managing their car to get the best possible pace over a full race distance.
How consistently do their lap times improve as the fuel load comes down? Which drivers can manage their tyre wear best so they’re not out of grip late in the race? And who can pull off that all-important pass for position when it matters?
With a bigger field of competitors than last year there’ll be more going on during the races and TV broadcasters will find it harder to keep track of everything. We’ll pore over all the data to see which drivers are doing the best.
Comparing the drivers
Last year our post-race analysis articles proved very popular and started some interesting debates. Like when Rubens Barrichello was unhappy with his race strategy or Nico Rosberg was investigated by the stewards for going too quickly during a safety car period.
This year we’ll continue those articles and introduce a new series specifically to look at how all the team mates compare over the year. We’ll examine all the information described above to see who’s doing well, who’s struggling and who’s improving.
As always your suggestions can help make these articles even better. If you’ve got any thoughts on how best to compare team mates please post them in the comments, and we’ll see if we can incorporate those into the team mates analysis as well.