Who will have the best car for the final races? Top teams’ performance analysed

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Singapore, 2010

Red Bull did not have the size of performance advantage the were expected to in Singapore.

They still look like the team to beat over the final four races but Ferrari are coming on strong and McLaren can’t be ruled out yet either.

Their performance data for the past 15 races is analysed below to predict about how they will fare in the final rounds Suzuka, Korea, Interlagos and Yas Marina.

The top three

McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari's best lap times compared (%)

McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari's best lap times compared (%)

Since we last looked at the performance of the top teams Ferrari have come on strong. The exhaust-blown diffuser added to the F10 in Valencia clearly worked and the team have cut the deficit to Red Bull significantly since then.

McLaren took longer to get to grips with their exhaust-blown diffuser, which arrived at Silverstone but wasn’t raced. They were off the pace in Germany and Hungary, but came back after the four-week break in a stronger position.

These general trends are skewed by swings in performance at some specialist tracks. The RB6s were enormously quick at the Hungaroring, prompting speculation about flexing front wings and floors which led to a tightening of the stress tests in these areas of the cars.

Monza was the opposite – the RB6’s weakest track this year, where an F10 or an MP4-25 was the thing to have.

The performance traits of McLaren’s and Red Bull’s cars are unmissable: the Red Bull thrives in medium-to-high speed corners but is exposed on long straights, the McLaren is lightning in a straight line but not fond of bumps. But what are the F10’s strengths and weaknesses?

This car seems to work best at circuits where low-speed traction and braking are a priority. It favours the softer tyre compounds – Felipe Massa in particular has had problems with the harder tyres.

Predictions for the next four tracks

The first sector at Suzuka (where soft and hard tyres will be used) was made for the RB6, but the MP4-25 could be the second-fastest car here. Jenson Button believes the team’s new front wing will be a particular boost on faster circuits.

If the teams make it to Korea (also soft/hard), its middle sector looks like another happy hunting ground for Red Bull (fire it up in “F1 2010″ and compare it to the middle sector in Hungary, where their cars were rampant).

The long uphill drag at Interlagos (medium/super-soft) look like McLaren’s best chance of a strong result over the last four Grands Prix. Abu Dhabi (medium/super-soft) shares those traits, but this braking-heavy circuit with many slow, fiddly corners should suit the F10 better.

Best of the rest

Mercedes, Williams, Renault and Force India's best lap times compared to overall best (%)

Mercedes, Williams, Renault and Force India's best lap times compared to overall best (%)

The battle behind the big three is being fought just as hard and has seen just as many swings in performance.

The advantage Mercedes enjoyed in the opening races has been completely obliterated and they’re now fighting hard with Williams, Renault and Force India for every last points.

Williams didn’t start the season very strongly and early development didn’t seem to go too well. But since the middle of the season they’ve made progress.

One of the most impressive teams this year in terms of development are Renault, who recently enjoyed an especially strong showing at Belgium. This is the team that is most likely to trouble the championship contenders over the final races.

However Force India had a dreadful weekend in Singapore culminating in their worst qualifying performance of the year (where crashes and penalties weren’t involved).

Their difficulties getting the most out of their tyres at Singapore exaggerate their performance deficit on the graph above but even so their position compared to the other midfield teams is getting weaker. That’s no great surprise considering their technical team has lost Mark Smith to Lotus and James Key to Sauber within the last seven months.

All the teams

Best lap time compared to average for all teams (%)

Best lap time compared to average for all teams (%)

Sauber and Toro Rosso appear to be falling back from the bulk of the midfield, which goes some way towards explaining why Toro Rosso haven’t scored since the European Grand Prix.

There are limitations to the data above which are important to bear in mind. It mainly reflects single-lap important which is very important – it basically decides the starting grid – but it not the whole picture.

McLaren may have been 0.181s slower than Red Bull in qualifying at Singapore but by lap 16 they were over a second a lap off the pace.

The data can also be skewed by weather and driver error. For example, a wet track in FP1 and FP3 at Singapore combined with Alonso’s mistake in FP2 and Vettel’s in Q3 means Red Bull’s performance advantage there is slightly underestimated.

What’s your view of which teams have the strongest cars ahead of the final four races? Have your say in the comments.

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66 comments on Who will have the best car for the final races? Top teams’ performance analysed

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  1. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 30th September 2010, 11:24

    I’m predicting that it’s going to come down to Red Bull vs. Ferrari for the title. McLaren would be in witha shot if we could combine Hamilton’s raw speed with Button’s ability to make unorthodox strategies work. If the championship is still alive in Abu Dhabi, then I’m predicting that it’s going to come down to Webber and Vettel only, with Webber ahead on points.

    • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 30th September 2010, 15:14

      But Ferrari seems to be the dark horse that comes up with the pace out of no-where at some races.

      The performance traits of McLaren’s and Red Bull’s cars are unmissable: the Red Bull thrives in medium-to-high speed corners but is exposed on long straights, the McLaren is lightning in a straight line but not fond of bumps. But what are the F10′s strengths and weaknesses?

      Couldn’t agree more. Does anyone really know what kind of circuit favours the Ferrari? I think it is just a good all-round car and I can see them still being competitive at a few more circuits yet. But I suspect the high speed sweeping corners of Suzuka will favour Red Bull.

  2. Ferrari and Mclaren through all the season so far had ups and downs. Red Bull were much more consistent than their rivals, so I think Red Bull still has an advantage. Besides, it is quite clear, that in the second half of the season were working more on their race performance. So i think that’s why it looks as if their performance is reduced so much. For example, in Singapore Alonso was a bit faster in qualifying, but Vettel was faster in race trim. In Hungary Red Bull had 1,3 seconds advantage over Ferrari in qualifying, but in race they were 2 seconds faster. So i asume that if Red Bull can manage to be in front in qualifying in the remaining races, they will be unbeatable in race. I would put my money on Weber taking the title.

  3. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 30th September 2010, 11:49

    I think realistically we will head to Brazil with Red Bull and Alonso neck-and-neck with Hamilton requiring a win and a specifically-composed podium to be champion. But if Suzuka doesn’t produce a Red Bull winner, it’ll throw everything out of the window.

    • Agree with this essentialy. Hamiltons essentially needs a Mark Webber DNF, and seeing as Mark Webber has only retired once this year, the man has had rock solid reliability) that does seem unlikley.

      I don’t think McLaren will be too far behind the Redbull in Suzuka, and I think Intergalos (where Spa levels of downforce are run) will be where they hope to make hay.

      I think the combination tracks of South Korea and Abu Dhabi are Ferrari tracks.

  4. Brendan said on 30th September 2010, 12:01

    I’ve already posted this in a previous post and I hope … oh I hope I’m wrong but …
    maybe, just maybe the Red Bull’s now not the best car on the track. With the evolution of the Ferrari during the year and with Alonso at the wheel, the Ferrari might just have made up the difference. Lets stack them up.

    FERRARI:
    The Pros: They have blistering starting speed; A powerful Ferrari engine with good acceleration and good top speed; They have good stability under braking, great brakes and good traction out of corners; Their handling and areo packages are now working well. The F-duct is working fully. Their full blown defuser seems to give them excellent downforce and speed on slow and medium tracks as well as the high speed tracks. Importantly, Ferrari also seem to have come out of the “flexible wing/floor fiasco a little better than Red Bull. Their package appeared to be less reliant on the benefits of the more extreme areo-package. Finally, Ferrari have Alonso as a clear No.1 driver, in contention for the Championship and a fully committed team behind him and a compliant team mate.

    The Cons: Ferrari continue to have some reliability issues with their engines but this will only manifest itself if Alosno (or the team) use all of their 8 engines each (I’m not sure if there is any possibility of engines being swapped between team mates??). In the past they do seem to have been heavy on their tyres, but this is only an issue on very abrasive tracks such as Canada.

    RED BULL:
    The Pros: Red Bull have had by far the fastest car of the year. However, as the year has worn on, their advantage has been chipped away. The Red Bulls rely heavily upon the cutting edge areo designes of Newy. With the recent load testing, some of the advantage their areo package had does appear to have been lost; The Renault engine, although under powered compared to the Ferrari and McLaren engines does appear to show good reliability; The F-duct appears to have been working well for the team, but it’s questionable whether it will be required at any of the existing circuits (apart from maybe Korea); Two good drivers with good pace.

    The Cons: The under powered Renault engine (although perhaps not a major issue at the remaining circuits); Some reliability issues with the car, although this could possibly be due to driving styles; Their greatest weapon, their areo package appears to have been severely compromised by the more stringent testing (one could assume that these developments have been in the works for some time. Having to abandon their upgrades because of the new testing rules could have severely compromised the whole Red Bull development program); Having two drivers fighting for the Championship, each as demanding as the other in their own ways, is unlikely to be to Red Bull’s advantage in the Championship.

    McLAREN:
    The Pros: A strong, fast engine and reliable engine; Good starting speed and acceleration and good top speed; As the F-duct inventors, they had a big head start over everyone else; Two accomplished drivers, both capable of winning championships as proven by their past successes.

    The Cons: The McLaren appears to be a little fragile in accidents; Handling/stability problems when the track is not smooth; Lack of fully developed areo package.

    I’m a Webber fan so hope he can take the bit between his teeth and drive like he did in Monaco and Silverstone.

  5. Electrolite said on 30th September 2010, 12:14

    Mclaren seem to succeed in wet weather conditions – this is probably down to the drivers, with Lewis squeezing every last drop of performance whatever the weather and how well Jenson can read conditions.

    Ferrari have shown the F60 is a solid all rounder, so provided Alonso has momentum he is a huge threat at the front. They aren’t going to go to any grands prix like Red Bull and be told their car ‘won’t be strong’ around there.

    And Red Bull, well we say tracks like Istanbul and Silverstone (and everyone said Singapore!) will be walked by them in qualifying and race, but Hungaroring and Monaco proved to us all they pull some real surprises out of the bag.

    Game on :D

  6. Splint3r said on 30th September 2010, 12:20

    I think this championship is too close to be decided purely on their performance. The team with the most ‘luck’ will win it at the end.

    Ferrari seems to be having a bit of good luck the last couple of races. If things continue in their favour I believe they may win it this year.

    • vodka and orange said on 30th September 2010, 19:14

      if it all comes down to “luck” why bother with all the racing?? just get all the drivers together and let them play poker!! Whoever wins the most hands can then be declared the “luckiest”, and we can then call him the Worlds Drivers Champion!! #:)

  7. Kenneth said on 30th September 2010, 12:23

    am giving up on predicting, because each prediction I make, just doesn’t come through.

  8. We would not be forgetting which Alonso is already using his eighth engine for the second time, while his rivals has a new at least still?

    I think that it is a small detail to be taken into account, or does not it do difference?

    Hmmm…

  9. Hmmmm, given how flat that blue line is in the first graph one would expect a Red Bull 1-2 in the points standings.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 30th September 2010, 13:00

      There’s an interesting hypothetical. Based on these figures, assuming perfect reliability and perfect drivers, the constructors’ championship would read:

      Red Bull 562
      Ferrari 374
      McLaren 319

      Worth remembering the data reflects one-lap pace better than stint pace, of course.

      Still, for comparison, here’s the actual points standings:

      Red Bull 383
      McLaren 359
      Ferrari 319

      • Thats’s very telling.

        Mclaren have overperformed (or their race speed is better) and Red Bull especially has left a lot of points on the table.

        If the trend is the same, than McLaren might have the best chances to win it this year ;-)

        • Mclaren lost itz lead because of Lewis’s haste. In Monza and in Singapore. In singapore, itz understood as webber was in his blind spot. But Monza it was obvious. his haste to pass the ferraris were not necessary as he was the fastest in the straights.
          As long as Lewis is calm n composed, he has a chance…

  10. The engine problem will come back to haunt Ferrari. If it wasn’t for the engine situation, I’m pretty convinced that Fernando would take the WDC this year.

    • hawkfist said on 30th September 2010, 14:28

      Aye, whether the Korea race goes ahead or not could have a massive effect on Alonso’s title tilt. If it goes ahead, extra engine wear, if not, bonus!

      • gpfan said on 2nd October 2010, 4:01

        However, Hawkfist, twenty-five less points available for the followers to make up on the leader.

        Every contender should enjoy the season to go on: “for one more race.”.

        How many years have we seen a team, car and driver on an upswing towards the end of a season only to fall short of points at the last race?

  11. Kenneth said on 30th September 2010, 13:02

    PLEASE don’t forget…
    Ironically Hamilton DNF might be an advantage, in a sense….
    Remember they are a good forced rest to the much needed engines….

    ESP the Monza engine that went only one lap…..

  12. curedcat said on 30th September 2010, 13:23

    “the McLaren is lightning in a straight line but not fond of bumps.”

    Really !, from the evidence of what we saw at singapore, the mclaren car has improved its bump riding capabilities. Truth is , the pace of the mclaren was not evident in singapore because of car properties like traction . The stop-slow-start nature of singapore just like monaco is not for the mclaren . Even before either mclaren or ferrari brought the blown diffuser , ferrari was closest to redbull at monaco . But the sweeping nature of Barcelona and malaysia , with fast corners and no bumps , the mclaren was close to redbull and faster than ferrari. Traction is the difference at this stage , when on slow tracks , but at tracks like Suzuka ,most people will be shocked to find mclaren suddenly on the pace .

    I had the live timing last weekend , and comparing the times , the McLaren was on the pace until about ten laps in when they started to suffer tyre degradation . It was a problem for them that weekend , even “smooth” Jenson suffered degradation . You cannot qualify within 2/10 and suddenly be 2 seconds slower during the race . And guess what , when Hamilton put on fresh tyres he was at least 1.5s-1.7s per lap faster than webber. After lewis pitted , he cut the gap to webber from , 8.3s , within 4 laps to 4.4s , but then the safety car was deployed and we could not see hamilton actually close down webber on pace , and the overtake might have been different from what we saw.

    You can say webber was on old tyres , and that was why lewis was 1.7s per lap faster . But you can say the same for hamilton loosing 1.5 secs a lap to the ferrari and redbull because of rapid tyre degradation on a circuit that required a lot of traction ! .

    To stress the importance of traction , you can see that webber overtook lots of cars in that turn three , because he could get on the power quicker . He got the run on Schumacher especially with superior traction . Same for kubica , fresher tyre gave him better traction and he was able to take those number of cars .

    Suzuka , similar to barcelona and malaysia in terms of smoothness and lesser requirement of tractive force will play to mclaren’s strenghts . With high downforce and higher speed unlike singapore with high downforce ,slow speed ,high traction . Mclaren should fly at suzuka.

    • Soumya Banerjee said on 30th September 2010, 13:44

      Maybe they will be quicker than Ferrari there,but RedBull will be quickest. They are unbelievable at fast corners. Also after Monza,Im not really sure whether we can still call the MP4-25 “the fastest in a straight line” car any more. No circuit requires top speed more than Monza and they were about 1-2/10ths off Ferrari’s pace there.

    • Its Hammer time said on 30th September 2010, 13:54

      I really hope your right…

    • I agree, Hamilton will be going FTW at Suzuka. Also I think Alonso will win at Interlagos, Red Bull at Korea (if it happens) and I think a final showdown between Hamilton and Alonso will be on the cards at Abu Dhabi.

    • To me the McLaren looked the worst out of the top three through that ghastly chicane but i think they have made some improvements regarding their cars performance over bumps…

      but i dont think comparing Hamilton and Webber gives an accurate picture of McLarens and RedBulls performance. Hamilton was almost bang on the pace of the leaders all weekend, while Webber was never really on it.

  13. As a german, I hope Vettel will win the championship :D
    And as we know, he is on the best way :D
    Nevertheless, I wish good luck to Button and Hamilton.

  14. antonyob said on 30th September 2010, 13:59

    Crash kid dummy (Lewis) to win for me

  15. Victor. said on 30th September 2010, 14:21

    I really hope McLaren grabs the WCC – I have come not to like Red Bull, partly due to the Webber v. Vettel situation this year. Webber deserves the WDC, because he has been driving very well this year and because he has withstood the negativity surrounding him in the team. I just cannot stand Red Bull patting Vettel on the back every time he is too full of himself – Turkey, Hungary and Belgium.

    I have come to dislike Ferrari, too, after rooting for Massa in 2008. Alonso, whom I used to prefer to Hamilton has disappointed me a tad with his obsession with winning by any mean. Whilst I think that whatever Massa can do Alonso can do better, I was sad to see that Alonso was no.1 from the word go. He has exerted his dominance so much that we saw the consequences in Germany.

    McLaren on the other hand has been brilliant. Not only is Dennis gone (which might have been the reason for disliking Hamilton at first as well), I think that Hamilton has matured a lot. I love the new Whitmarsh era. Button has integrated himself with the team and I have started to respect Lewis for other reasons than his talent. Unlike Alonso he did not execute Button when he joined the team, and with Dennis gone I think that the better side of his personality has shown through.

    In short – go McLaren, boo Ferrari and Red Bull, except Webber. Because Webber will not have many other opportunities to win the title, and because he has shown Vettel his place whilst in my opinion not being one of the best drivers on the grid, I hope he wins this year.

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