2010 in stats part three: car performance

2010 F1 season review

Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso, Montreal, 2010

Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso, Montreal, 2010

There’s no question which team had the fastest car of 2010. With 15 pole positions in 19 races Red Bull were clearly the team to beat.

But which was the second-fastest car of 2010? McLaren recently argued it was their MP4-25 but a look at the data suggests a Ferrari F10 was the thing to have if you couldn’t get your hands on an RB6.

Car performance

Here’s how McLaren made the case in a blog post two weeks ago that the MP4-25 was the second-fastest car of 2010:

Over the course of the 2010 season, said Tim [Goss, chief engineer of the MP4-25], our qualifying pace was just 0.001s per lap slower than third-placed Ferrari ?ǣ negligible. On race pace alone, he asserted, the MP4-25 was actually 0.136s per lap quicker than the Ferrari.

Overall, then, this means our car was 0.074s per lap faster than the Ferrari.

McLaren haven’t shown how they worked this out so pulling their numbers apart is a little tricky.

To get a clear picture of the relative differences between all the cars, the chart below compares the fastest lap time of every car at every race weekend – including practice, qualifying and the Grand Prix.

That is converted into a percentage to give a simple and reasonable accurate view of who had the quickest car at each stage of the season:


Bahrain Australia Malaysia China Spain Monaco Turkey Canada Europe Britain Germany Hungary Belgium Italy Singapore Japan Korea Brazil Abu Dhabi
McLaren 0.79 0.9 0.02 0.45 1.08 0.82 0.16 0 0.39 1.05 0.86 2.19 0.08 0.15 0.17 0.42 0.5 0.96 0.03
Mercedes 0.24 1.15 0.48 0.39 0.99 0.97 0.65 1.29 1.07 1.13 1.67 2.93 1.81 1.2 1 0.78 0.99 1.9 1.13
Red Bull 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.36 0 0 0 0 0 0.57 0.06 0 0 0 0
Ferrari 0 0.23 0.22 0.38 1.07 0.62 0.91 0.44 0.5 0.9 0 1.54 0.51 0 0 0.62 0.19 0.5 0.4
Williams 1.08 1.55 1.07 1.26 2.71 1.46 2.43 1.77 0.86 1.74 1.79 3.25 0.78 1.31 0.8 0.83 1.48 2.16 0.81
Renault 1.08 1.73 1.08 0.85 1.55 0.4 0.86 0.81 0.56 1.59 1.75 2.91 0.3 1.31 1.14 0.49 1.3 1.27 1.39
Force India 1.17 1.91 1.16 1.49 1.94 1.82 1.43 0.72 0.94 1.99 2.27 3.48 0.83 1.51 3.33 2.06 2.3 2.46 1.53
Toro Rosso 1.9 2.05 1.21 1.57 2.77 2.15 2.29 2.43 1.02 2.67 2.44 3.97 2.01 2.09 2.16 2.52 2.37 3.25 2.36
Lotus 4.99 5.81 4.09 5.12 5.31 4.43 4.57 4.17 3.15 5.27 5.14 6.79 4.56 4.37 5.24 5.02 5.16 4.19 4.15
HRT 8.01 7.87 6.76 6.09 7.51 6.34 5.76 5.83 5.14 7.44 6.51 9.67 5.06 5.96 7.17 7.14 7.18 5.7 5.73
Sauber 1.72 2.18 2.07 1.97 2.13 2.53 1.84 3.03 1.72 1.85 1.75 3.35 1.44 2.07 2.37 1.54 2.15 1.74 1.4
Virgin 4.45 6.76 4.02 4.99 6.38 4.81 5.16 5.11 4.48 5.76 5.99 6.7 5.43 4.85 5.06 6.04 5.4 4.81 4.73

Some trends are easy to spot (use the select none/all and teams buttons to compare different lines). For example, Force India and Toro Rosso gradually lost ground to the leaders whereas Williams generally reduced their deficit.

As for Ferrari and McLaren, the pendulum swung back and forth between the two all year. But, more often than not, it was Ferrari who were ahead.

This simple graph shows the difference in the best lap times set by the two cars at each race weekend:

Gap between Ferrari and McLaren's fastest laps in 2010

Gap between Ferrari and McLaren's fastest laps in 2010

To illustrate how dominant Red Bull were, here’s how many laps each team led in 2010:

Laps led by team, 2010

Laps led by team, 2010

Car reliability

A car’s performance is only one part of the story. And when it comes to reliability, Ferrari were the best of all the teams.

Had it not been for Fernando Alonso’s crash at Spa and Massa’s at Suzuka, Ferrari would have had both cars classified in every race this year.

Alonso’s engine failure in Sepang was the only instance of a Ferrari breaking down during a Grand Prix, but he was still a classified finisher.

Here are all the teams’ non-classifications, broken down into mechanical failures and other problems:

Reliability: race finishes by team, 2010

Reliability: race finishes by team, 2010

This data can’t tell us about occasions where drivers nursed a car problem to the end of a race. This happened to Red Bull on several occasions – Sebastian Vettel was hampered by such problems at Bahrain, Spain and Canada to name a few.

Sauber struggled with reliability the most and completed the fewest racing laps of any team:

Laps completed by team, 2010

Laps completed by team, 2010

Got any observations on the performance of the different cars in 2010? Any other data you’d like to see? Have your say in the comments.

2010 F1 season review

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62 comments on 2010 in stats part three: car performance

  1. Alonso’s Ferrari was at times faster than both McLarens. Massa was nearly always behind all 3.

  2. Very interesting data and analysis Keith. It goes to show, how much the teams want to take something positive from not winning it.
    Second fastest, right.
    If you take the right data and ignore what does not fit, then the McLaren was the fastest car.

    • bosyber said on 13th December 2010, 19:24

      Since Button mainly lacked qualy pace compared to Hamilton, rather than race pace, while Massa was behind Alonso for most of the season, but especially after Germany both in races and in qualy, I suppose averaging the drivers would be saying something like: well, we have the 2nd best team – but for that they could also have just pointed to the WCC …

      I hope the McLaren people who are so offended at having the 3rd quickest car do know they failed to integrate the EBD well enough, and take the lessons into next year so they can also give their overall better team a fast enough car to just go and prove it with race wins for the whole season.

      • Yes, they need to face facts about the hash they made of the EBD. Ferrari came clean about the trouble they had with the F-Duct, and they got back on the right path with both the F-Duct and generally. You have to give it to Domenicali, he eats his crow, and gets on with it. McLaren kept blowing sunshine about how their new floor upgrades were going to rock, but every race it was just more flailing around, flying in last minute parts, flow-vis, etc.

  3. Younger Hamilton said on 13th December 2010, 19:46

    I think we know why McLaren couldnt maximise their package which was claimed and backed up with evidence to be the 2nd fastest.Ferrari had a much easier and good setup system which enabled them to maximise it more than McLaren who on the other hand had a tough/hard setup system and both Lewis and Jenson wasnt able to maximise the package.

  4. Younger Hamilton said on 13th December 2010, 19:48

    I have to say in terms of Reliablity McLaren were the best not Ferrari.

    • IN ur view Mclaren was the fastest car and it had all the poles and fastest laps and race wins coz ur name says so

    • bosyber said on 14th December 2010, 7:04

      Apart from some trouble for Hamilton, like the wheel rim failure in Spain, and Hungary gearbox issues?

  5. A crazy crazy thing about graph 1 are the Hungary data. Or, more to the point, what happened afterward. Hungary emphasizes downforce, but so do Spain, Monaco, Singapore, and others. How did Ferrari and McLaren suddenly go to 1.5 to 2.5 seconds off the pace and then back again? You can look at Mercedes and Renault’s relative recession to see that this was not a McLaren/Ferrari one-race swoon. The new FIA testing that came in for Italy and later and the disappearance of that ridiculous advantage can’t have been a coincidence.

    Newey/Horner will deny their front-diffuser wings to the end but I put as much credence behind their denials as I do their whinging about the Renault motor. That wing was literally dragging on the ground in Hungary. I won’t forget the image of the RBR mechanic on his knees and elbows checking the wear underneath the endplate in the garage in Hungary. Those images stopped after Hungary.

    • Alistair said on 14th December 2010, 0:14

      RBR apparently don’t check the legality of their innovations before they race them: they wait for others to point them out. This means that they maximise the potential of their car, perhaps even getting race wins, whilst the others play it safe.

      I suppose McLaren might have a reason to play it safe, given their run-ins with the FIA…

  6. Madman said on 13th December 2010, 22:48

    Why is the “Laps led by team” chart saying Redbull led 699.62% of of all laps?

    • Alistair said on 14th December 2010, 0:21

      Sounds about right from my memory of the season…

      That RBR nearly lost both titles, with that car, is amazing. The RBR must have been one of the best cars in F1 history, relative to the opposition.

      People heap praise on Vettel for winning the title. But that’s a little daft when you consider that Vettel SHOULD have won the title; in fact, there would have been something very wrong if he hadn’t. After all, he had the best car by miles, an average team-mate who felt completely out of love in the team, in a team where the love for Vettel even stretched to taking Mark’s new wing OFF his car and giving it to Vettel…

      Even so, it went down to the wire. That says a lot about Vettel.

  7. BrownyNSW said on 13th December 2010, 22:59

    Great article again Keith, you might be working on it already but I would like to see a statisical review of team-mate comparisions for 2010. Would be interesting to see the data. Thanks

  8. Alistair said on 14th December 2010, 0:07

    These observations, like the McLaren claims, are interesting to look at. However, there’s one fundamental flaw: the data can’t distinguish between the driver and the car he drove. So a lap-time may suggest that car X is better than car Y; but it might just be that driver A in car X is better than driver Y in car B; but that car Y is better than car X. This is especially so when the gap between times of different drivers in different cars is so close, as it sometimes was last season.

    It should be obvious that Ferrari had a better car than McLaren. It was clear in the first race and in the last. Mclaren went through a short period of being faster than the Ferrari; but as soon as the exhaust-blow difusser came in, McLaren couldn’t adapt it to their highly sensitive car. The Ferrari had better overall downforce and accepted updates much better.

    McLaren, once more, had the third best car, poor strategy and pitstops on the whole, not great reliability, etc. However, they did have the best drivers. That was their only saving grace. People go on, unfairly, about Lewis’s mistakes. The simple fact, though, is that for him to be in contention for the title in the last race, with the third best car, means that he must have made very few mistakes compared with the three drivers against whom he was competing but in far better cars.

    Lewis made one mistake all year: monza. Because his car, etc., were far from the best, that mistake cost him the title. Whereas, Vettel and Alonso, who had much better cars, were able to make half a dozen mistakes and still finish ahead. Besides, we know how Alonso and Lewis compare in equal machinery: if Alonso is ahead, he has a better car.

    • sumedh said on 14th December 2010, 5:35

      Mmmm.. Mclaren – 3rd best car in the final race? Are you sure..

      I think this debate of the 2nd placed car is pointless. Ferrari fans are gonna say that Massa’s pace is the true potential of their car, in order to claim that Fernando was best of all drivers. Mclaren fans are gonna claim that Jenson’s pace is the true potential of the car and that Hamilton outperformed the car.
      One must only look at what Mclaren themselves said. 0.136s/lap faster in race conditions. That should settle the debate.

      • bosyber said on 14th December 2010, 7:14

        But one problem is that not only race conditions count – and qualy is where Button lagged the most behind Hamilton – averaging those as well might still have worked out for McLaren, but then only because Massa fell back so far in the 2nd half of the season.

        As I also said above, Button was much closer on race pace, so yes, I can believe the McLaren team beat the Ferrari on track, if not in the pit stops …

        I personally found the MP4/25 a very interesting car, but it also clearly was rather sensitive, which is probably why adopting a EBD gave them trouble. The F10 seemed much more conservative, but that did allow them seemingly better adaptability to new things.

        Ferrari managed (needed?) a special Monza F-duct, McLaren didn’t even try that seemingly. Arrogance or inflexibility – eventually they changed their F-duct after inspiration from Renault etc., but it took until the last race to get it properly working. I think McLaren were outdeveloped.

  9. interesting, but what if we take the slower of the two cars & see how they did in the rankings when compared to this.

  10. spa not in the charts ?!?

  11. oops there it is ! sorry

  12. Tassilo Stiebe said on 14th December 2010, 17:12

    As Mclarens 1-2 Finish in SPA was supported by failures of Sebastian Vettel and Ferraris 1-2 in Hockenheim was due to the raw pace of the F10 (also because of Vettels bad start, but that hasn’t to Be taken that much into Account, because Vettel only gaind the pole by beeing 0:00.001 faster than Alonso) it seems as if the Ferraris F10 is the faster car, but as the Mclarens mainly ruled Massa (except Germany) I think it also depends on the driver. So if Alonso would have driven together with Hamilton at Mclaren, the Mclaren might Look as the faster Car.
    I’m sure it depends to 50percent on the driver which Team Looks faster – do you agree?

  13. I completely agree with Keith’s rankings. Hamilton overcame an inferior car with poorer reliability and greater misfortune to stay in the title hunt to the very end.

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