Vettel and Mansell’s 14 pole positions in a season compared

F1 statistics

Nigel Mansell, Williams, Monaco, 1992

Nigel Mansell, Williams, Monaco, 1992

Sebastian Vettel equalled Nigel Mansell’s record of 14 pole positions in a single season in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

But while Mansell exerted a crushing superiority over his rivals at the wheel of his Williams, Vettel’s advantage has been far smaller.

And, as this data shows, Vettel’s rivals have got closer throughout the season.

14 pole positions in one season

This graph shows how far ahead of second place each driver was (in second) for each of their 14 pole positions:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
Sebastian Vettel 0.778 0.104 0.715 0.405 0.441 0.185 0.188 0.163 0.432 0.45 0.351 0.009 0.33 0.141
Nigel Mansell 0.741 0.016 1.191 1.005 1.053 0.873 0.468 1.919 0.55 2.198 0.601 0.631 0.859 0.47

Clearly Mansell’s advantage over his rival’s was usually larger than Vettel’s. On average he was 0.9s faster than second place. Vettel’s advantage was a much smaller 0.3s.

Mansell’s margin of superiority ballooned to daunting proportions at times. At Silverstone he was nearly two seconds quicker than his team mate and 2.7s faster than the next quickest car, the McLaren of Ayrton Senna.

At Spa Mansell took pole by the greatest margin of the season – 2.198s. Vettel’s largest advantage in real terms was much smaller – 0.778s, less than Mansell’s average margin as a pole sitter.

That high-water mark for Vettel came in the first race of the season at Melbourne. Since then his superiority in qualifying has been gradually eroded. Some of his most recent pole positions have been achieved by very slim margins – 0.141s in Abu Dhabi and 0.009s in Japan.

In Korea Red Bull were beaten to pole position for the first time the year and, as was the case for Mansell, it was a McLaren that spoiled the streak – this time one driven by Lewis Hamilton.

The cars: FW14B vs RB7

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2011

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2011

Both drivers had Renault-powered, Adrian Newey-designed cars at their disposal. As you’d expect for creations of the wizard of downforce, both cars excelled in medium-to-high speed corners.

The Williams-Renault FW14B used advanced active suspension to maintain perfect aerodynamic balance.

The fearless Mansell was a supreme exponent of the FW14B’s capabilities, tackling F1’s fastest corners at speeds team mate Riccardo Patrese often couldn’t match. It wasn’t unusual to see the pair separated by a full second in qualifying – with Patrese still second on the grid with a comfortable gap to their pursuers.

Created with almost two decades’ more experience, Newey’s RB7 is a refined package which conjures maximum downforce out of F1’s increasingly stringent regulations, thanks in part to the effective design of its exhaust-blown diffuser.

But it has not enjoyed anything like the margin of superiority the FW14B had in 1992. The Williams was on average 1.1s faster than the next best car in qualifying in 1992 – the Red Bull’s average advantage has been 0.3s.

This gap shows the difference (in seconds) between the fastest RB7 and FW14B in qualifying and the quickest other car:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
Red Bull-Renault RB7 0.778 0.104 0.715 0.525 0.98 0.441 0.185 0.405 0.117 0.055 0.163 0.432 0.45 0.423 0.009 -0.222 0.296 0.141
Williams-Renault FW14B 0.741 0.946 2.199 1.005 1.244 1.113 -0.097 1.335 2.741 1.146 0.791 2.198 0.601 1.217 1.015 0.47

Many of the tracks that were on the calendar in 1992 have been dropped and replaced by other venues. Of those held at the same tracks, the circuits themselves have been altered, making it hard to do a like-for-like performance comparison between these two F1 supercars.

Suzuka offers perhaps the best basis for comparison – the chicane and 130R were altered in 2003, producing a slightly shorter lap, but it is otherwise much the same as it was in 1992.

That year Mansell lapped Suzuka in 1’37.360. When Vettel took pole position 19 years later, he was 6.894s faster, lapping the track in 1’30.466.

In Brazil next week Vettel will have the chance to set a new record. Though he’s the first one to admit he’s had the luxury of more races in which to beat it:

“Everyone ?ǣ not us ?ǣ talks about it, you are aware of it. [Mansell] obviously took two races less to achieve the same but still, it?s something very special. It?s a great feeling, for sure.”

Mansell and Vettel’s results side-by-side

Here are the drivers’ qualifying results from the two seasons, plus the gap between them and the next-fastest qualifier or, where they weren’t on pole position, the pole sitter.

Nigel Mansell, 1992

Track Pos Time Gap
Kyalami 1 1’15.486 -0.741
Mexico City 1 1’16.346 -0.016
Interlagos 1 1’15.703 -1.573
Circuit de Catalunya 1 1’20.190 -1.253
Imola 1 1’21.842 -1.287
Monte-Carlo 1 1’19.495 -0.873
Montreal 3 1’19.948 +0.217
Magny-Cours 1 1’13.864 -0.468
Silverstone 1 1’18.965 -1.919
Hockenheimring 1 1’37.960 -0.550
Hungaroring 2 1’15.643 +0.167
Spa-Francorchamps 1 1’50.545 -2.198
Monza 1 1’22.221 -0.601
Estoril 1 1’13.041 -0.631
Suzuka 1 1’37.360 -0.859
Adelaide 1 1’13.732 0.470
Sebastian Vettel, 2011

Track Pos Time Gap
Melbourne 1 1’23.529 -0.778
Sepang 1 1’34.870 -0.104
Shanghai 1 1’33.706 -0.715
Istanbul 1 1’25.049 -0.405
Circuit de Catalunya 2 1’21.181 +0.200
Monte-Carlo 1 1’13.556 -0.441
Montreal 1 1’13.014 -0.185
Valencia 1 1’36.975 -0.188
Silverstone 2 1’30.431 +0.032
Nurburgring 3 1’30.216 +0.137
Hungaroring 1 1’19.815 -0.163
Spa-Francorchamps 1 1’48.298 -0.432
Monza 1 1’22.275 -0.450
Singapore 1 1’44.381 -0.351
Suzuka 1 1’30.466 -0.009
Korea 2 1’36.042 +0.222
Buddh 1 1’24.178 -0.33
Yas Marina 1 1’38.481 -0.141

2011 F1 season

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Images ?? Williams/LAT, Red Bull/Getty images

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145 comments on Vettel and Mansell’s 14 pole positions in a season compared

  1. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 18th November 2011, 13:29

    Great article, thanks @keithcollantine

    This does make for interesting reading and some of the times from Mansell are absolutely staggering.

    It is a little funny how even if Vettel hits 15, his % will actually still be lower than Mansell. It’s certainly not the kind of stat you can repeat with ease so he ought to be extremely proud.

  2. raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 18th November 2011, 13:37

    what I think will be more interesting is the debate that will ensue if Vettel grabs pole at Interlagos. In terms of strike rate; Vettel would be lower on 15/19, compared to Mansell’s 14/16.

    But then there’s another way of seeing it too – if 3 races were added to 1992, there’s no guarantee that Mansell would have gotten another pole position.

    • STSCM (@stscm) said on 18th November 2011, 23:48

      So true. But, which 3 races would you subtract from Vettels pole’s to bring the ‘score’ back down to Mansells? There’s no guarantee that Vettel would be equal to Mansells total either, dependent of course on which 3 were arbitrarily thrown out….:). A wicked web…

      • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 19th November 2011, 3:05

        @STSCM Nah I think it’s a lot fairer to add to Mansell’s rather than subtract from Seb’s – because all races have equal standing (no pole is more than another) You subtract from Seb’s total means that some of his qualifyings were somehow “lesser.”

    • F1fanNL (@) said on 19th November 2011, 10:17

      I think, with the advantage Mansell had, adding 3 more races in ’92 would have resulted in about 3 more poles for Mansell.

      I don’t think the other teams would have caught up to Williams if they had 3 races more.

  3. ducatiusa (@ducatiusa) said on 18th November 2011, 14:02

    monza, spa and montecarlo are the same track if i’m correct, those show more accurate informations to compare the 2 cars. Red bull is faster by a lot in montecarlo but almost same at monza. anyone know why??

    • Dan Thorn (@dan-thorn) said on 18th November 2011, 14:34

      The first chicane at Monza is now totally different and there were some other minor changes following the death of Senna. Monaco has also been slightly reprofiled at La Rascasse and the barriers on the inside of the Swimming Pool and Ste Devote have since been removed. At Spa the Bus Stop has been changed.

  4. Mr.Zing Zang said on 18th November 2011, 14:30

    A very face twisting article for me Kieth. I did not expect this kind of gushing journalism, but alas we know you are a Vettel fan – nothing wrong with that.


    It’s obvious that 20 years ago information and technology was not as evenly distributed nor affordable as it is today; so it is a matter of fact that the relative gaps between cars were much larger than they are today. 0.5 seconds is a lifetime in today’s F1…even Jenson Button was able to make good work of getting poles from gaps as low as 0.3 seconds to the next car. The gap is not really important if you have a fast consistent driver in the best car because he will always put the fastest car on pole if he has done his job.

    What you should do is at least use the pole to second place gap as a percentage of the gap from pole to the 10th driver’s time. And then lets see how interesting it is. That was satisfy the curiosity of us engineers.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 18th November 2011, 16:04

      I wonder what article you read @Mr.Zing-Zang

      I did not expect this kind of gushing journalism, but alas we know you are a Vettel fan

      , I rather got the impression from the article that Mansell was in quite another league with that Williams, while Vettel in the RBR7 was closely followed by his teammate but also by other cars all year.

      Just the fact it took almost 20 years to equal that, and a calendar with more races in it, shows how big an achievement it was from Mansell and now from Vettel to get the same amount of poles.

    • Although it is generous of you to concede that there is nothing wrong with being a Vettel fan, I don’t see how this article indicates that Keith is one! “Gushing journalism,” seriously? To me this reads as a balanced consideration of both drivers’ achievements.

    • John H (@john-h) said on 18th November 2011, 21:58

      …to the 10th driver’s time

      Where did you pluck that one out from?!!

      • Mr.Zing Zang said on 18th November 2011, 22:45

        Because the tenth driver is the last in Q3 in 2011. In Mansel’s time Quali was a bit different, but the point is choosing the 2nd placed driver to decide the quali gap is not a proper way to compare, because the range of lap time from slowest to fastest car was much bigger in Mansel’s day.

        Vettel’s gap might actually be bigger than Mansel’s – you never know.

      • Mr.Zing Zang said on 18th November 2011, 22:53

        So, I propose a “percentage gap” to Kieth, to make the article more interesting. That is the gap from first to second divided by the gap from 1st to tenth. (in qualifying).

        Give it a shot for the engineers in here Kieth. I wish I could do those calculations but I don’t have the data.

    • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 19th November 2011, 3:13

      It would only mean Vettel has a smaller relative gap. But 2 seconds is still a larger margin than 8 tenths; no matter how you put it.

      What would be a fairer comparison is the 2nd placed time as a percentage of the pole time. Any chances of that @keithcollantine ?

  5. STSCM (@stscm) said on 18th November 2011, 14:56

    Yet another very interesting technical analysis. While it is indeed an ‘apples to oranges’ comparison, different times, tracks and cars, it’s a fun comparison nevertheless. I, for one, hope that many more similar to this are forthcoming. I understand this is time consuming, but I truly appreciate it. Thank you Sir.

  6. UKFan (@) said on 18th November 2011, 16:39

    Great arcticle. Amazing to see that the RB7 and Vettel had a bigger margin than the Williams FW14B on the first two rounds and poles of the season, This shows how good the RB7 is, probably more dominant than the F2002. F1 standards evolved therefore such gaps arent logical it just proves how good was the RB7 in the early part of the season, F1 development rate is much faster this days and that allowed Mclaren to bridge the gap and win some races despite in my view of never being faster than the RedBull.

    • 91jb12 (@91jb12) said on 18th November 2011, 18:08

      not sure about the RB7 being up there with the F2002. Ferrari (2 races with MS and 3 for RB in the F2001) 221 points, the rest of the field combined 221 points.
      9 1-2 finishes, 5 in a row at the end of the year. Had Barrichello not been struck by hideous reliability and Ralf punting him off in Oz, they may have had 250 points by the end of the year… and that’s in the 10-6-4-3-2-1 system (probably 700-800 today)

      • UKFan (@) said on 19th November 2011, 5:23

        I was comparing qually performances, but now accounting what you’ve said, its preatty impossible to beat the F2002 all-round.

        • 91jb12 (@91jb12) said on 19th November 2011, 23:11

          in qualy that year Williams had BMW engines that were amazingly powerful. Montoya hit 19000rpm at Monza that year and took pole, he had 5 in a row mid season but their car kept breaking down in the race and couldn’t live with the F2002 in races when it was running.
          So that backs up your point a bout the F2002 in qualy.

  7. TED BELL said on 18th November 2011, 17:29

    Todays talent are much better prepared and have benefited from better early career training paths with regards to the becoming top of the line drivers. Mansells generation simply can’t be compared to Vettels. The cars today are so much more advanced and that gap between the top and bottom will reflect smaller differences. Even though they share a similar number of poles there is no conclusive evidence that one driver may have been better than the other because the method of judgement isn’t equal. I think Vettels competition is greater than Mansells was, thus making Vettle rate higher even though the number of poles is the same.

  8. Its a useful analysis but while the numbers suggest that Mansell was more of a monster in qualifying, the reality for those who watched 2011 is that Vettel showed ultimate grit to get his numbers. Many times he produced his margins after being behind others, typically Hamilton, through the previous sessions. It was almost like a Lucy and Charlie Brown football routine with those two. The fact that other cars usually came between him and his teammate, unlike with Mansell, shows how much the driver was a factor in his poles. Also, unlike Mansell, Vettel does not have a fundamental design distinction in his car, i.e., active suspension. In fact, none of the rumors of a one-lap performance advantage, from ride-height trickery to special engine maps, ever panned out as an explantion for this Q3 magic. So while he will not top Mansell’s strike rate, history will show his work this season as a superior testament to raw talent.

    • 91jb12 (@91jb12) said on 18th November 2011, 18:13

      I think Hamilton has lead Vettel until the last lap in Q3 6 times (Malaysia, Hungary,Spa,Suzuka,Korea,Abu Dhabi) and I can’t recall Vettel making a complete hash of a lap in Q3 this year, so its not as if Hamilton was up there after the first runs by chance.
      Only in Korea did he hold on to pole and only once (Germany 3rd to 2nd) did he jump Vettel himself on the last runs.
      Hamilton has put himself in the mix enough times but when it comes down to finiding the extra time when it counts, Vettel has been superb this season.

      • Mr.Zing Zang said on 18th November 2011, 23:00

        Maybe Vettel does really turn one something in the car (or himself). Hamilton is actually a very consistent qualifier apart from mistakes from Mclaren. It has only been once this season that he didn’t improve his Q3 time. So it’s not like made the mistakes of not maximising his car (watch the German GP lap and India Lap). It’s simply Vettel holding back until the 2nd run in Q3. It’s more down to Hamilton running at max and falling off and Vettel running at 95% and going to the max.

        So yeah, it is not fair to assume that the other drivers (like Alonso, Hamilton, Rosberg) are not maximising their cars in Q3.

        • uan (@uan) said on 19th November 2011, 1:49

          then you get a pole like in Monza where Lewis was genuinely gobsmacked by the lap Vettel put in. Separate from the apples to oranges comparison, that’s a heady compliment coming from the a supreme qualifier like Hamilton.

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 19th November 2011, 2:04

          In addition to what @uan said, I remember that in Monza, Vettel was 0.2 ahead after his first run, and improved after his first run, while Hamilton made an error and failed to improve.

          Sebastian was the one to grab pole with his best lap last weekend, while Lewis lost 0.2 when it mattered. The others have been trying hard, but Vettel has still been the best qualifier.

          • Mr.Zing Zang said on 19th November 2011, 2:57

            Maybe because Lewis was on the limit as I said above? The Mclaren has a much narrower peak than the mighty redbull. check Abu dhabi.

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 19th November 2011, 3:29

            The track got faster as the session went on in Monza, so there was room for all times to improve (as they largely did), including the Mclarens. Hamilton was pretty impressed with Vettel’s achievement there, which says something about how well Vettel has used his car on Saturdays.

        • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 19th November 2011, 3:15

          Hamilton is a good qualifier because he is fast. Plain and simple. But in the pressure of a last-gasp qualifying attempt he makes driving mistakes. He locks up; He gets power on oversteer; etc.

          Are there times he doesn’t? Yes. Korea is a fine example of that.

          But has he been consistently pulling out those laps? No.

          • Mr.Zing Zang said on 19th November 2011, 18:19

            How do you know that faster would have been even possible in the Mac? How do you not know that it was already on the limit and could not go faster while the RB7 can?

            The RB has 17 out of 18 poles..on all manner of tracks .it’s pretty telling.

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 19th November 2011, 18:54

            We don’t know wither way, Mr. Zing Zang. Sure the Red Bull has had 17 poles. but with the gap decreasing throughout the season, how are we to know that Mclaren shouldn’t have had more than 1 pole?

          • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 20th November 2011, 6:55

            Mr. Zing Zang, if you would have read my comment you would’ve known why. It’s not quite what @David-A said, though I agree with him as well.

            Ok, say Hamilton’s first Monza lap was on the limit. Fair enough. But then with track evolution, traction would increase, you can get on the power earlier, you can brake later, you can carry more speed through the corners… even if Hamilton’s first lap was on the limit, the 2nd lap time could still be faster, not because of the car or driver (as they were already on the limit) but the track getting faster

        • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 19th November 2011, 3:17

          Also a large part of that you would have to consider is that (weather notwithstanding) tracks on the whole improve towards the end of the session. Even if Hamilton is on the limit on his first run; if he reached that same limit on the second run he should improve. But he doesn’t.

          • Skett (@skett) said on 19th November 2011, 12:33

            I suspect the reason for that is because he’s overdriving his car, brought about because its simply not as fast as the red bull.

            Not to take anything away from Vettel, but I can’t see someone beating Hamilton in qualifying that consistently without a car advantage (at least in quali).

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 20th November 2011, 0:00

            @skett – Fair enough, it would be close between Hamilton and Vettel in the same car, who convincingly have had the better of their teammates.

          • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 20th November 2011, 7:00

            @Skett – To be honest we don’t know that. Hamilton and Vettel don’t share any common teammates which would make a common comparison easier.

            However I think it’s too easy to dismiss it as Hamilton overdriving the car.If he WAS overdriving the car; either
            a) he’s not smart enough to realize that being on the limit is quicker than overdriving
            b) He doesn’t have a confident feel for the limit so keeps mistakenly going over it (“I know I can take the car through here at 152kph… but let’s try 153, in case my feel is wrong”)

            If he WAS overdriving the car, we would see him cutting a lot of corners, using a lot of exit kerb, etc. We don’t see that. Take for example Vettel’s Suzuka pole. He was playing dare with the astro turf on key corners such as the dengners, he was shortcutting corners where he could, he was using a bit of grass on the exit of corners like Dunlop… etc.

  9. crooky369 (@crooky369) said on 18th November 2011, 19:49

    I love how Mansell’s time was quicker than Ricciardo’s from this year.

    Ricciardo: 1:37.846
    Mansell: 1’37.360

  10. Trix (@) said on 19th November 2011, 0:37

    *Happiness-is-easy-sometimes hat on*

    Who impresses me the most? Both, but not for the reasons one may suspect. Both because Mansell wrote a personal note to Vettel after the most laps led record, and because Vettel took this with great gratitude bordering fanboy-ism.

    It’s the human story I’m after. That’s what I appreciate in human feats. I smiled when I found out about the note. I smiled when the teamradio had a Mansell message. It was just another wink between both champions (see TopGear earlier this year with the knuckles-around-the-wheel joke) I like it when I smile. Simple as that.

    *Happiness-is-easy-sometimes hat stays on*

  11. ob1kenobi.23 (@ob1kenobi23) said on 19th November 2011, 2:25

    Another slight variance is that Nigel had the best car/engine combination whereas Seb only has the car.
    Having said that, McLaren claimed that their active suspension & traction control was superior to the Williams.
    As for Ricardo, the following year he was completely blown away by Michael, actually being lapped in some of the races. Whether he went off the boil in the interim or was never that good is hard to know.
    If memory serves correctly, Williams & McLaren were the only teams with active suspension & TA that year.
    The quali. format back then was different, you could put a grenade of an engine in, tyres made of gorilla snot, wafer thin discs etc. & then revert the car back to race trim.
    In latter years you had to qualify with the fuel load you were starting the race with, the tyres you were starting the race with, the tyres you were doing the whole race with, the engine you had to do the next few races with & so on, so race set up was probably more important than quali. position.
    In view of this I feel Seb’s performance is more impressive.
    In fact I believe if Quali. format had stayed unchanged, Michael would have had nearer 100 poles.

  12. Alex W said on 19th November 2011, 7:12

    Also note Vettel only missed out on catalunya pole because of KERS failure…

    • 91jb12 (@91jb12) said on 19th November 2011, 9:39

      well its debatable as he lost out by 0.200s. The RB KERS is smaller and was only worth 0.2-0.3 but given how Seb was still neck and neck until the drag to the line out of the final chicane, its possible he would have got it.
      Shame as without it he’d have got 9 poles in a row (I think an outright record, beating Senna’s 8)

      • 91jb12 (@91jb12) said on 19th November 2011, 9:41

        oops. I mean Senna’s 8
        But to be fair, Webber has had more pronblems than Seb

      • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 20th November 2011, 7:03

        @91jb12 I’m not entirely convinced the RB system would give less lap time. Cooling would be compromised, but not lap time, I don’t think.

        Having said that we need to remember that in qualifying the gain from KERS is more (because in qualifying KERS is deployed already from the exit from the last corner – until you cross the line to start your flier, the KERS you use, even off the last corner, is counted as your previous lap)

    • this picture reminds me of Jenson’s comment on the BBC post-race last week, as he was watching a helicopter shot of the start of the race, “wow, look at the lead he (Vettel) has”.

      That was a monster start by Vettel (not known as the greatest starter).

  13. Carl Craven said on 19th November 2011, 11:18

    I think on huge difference that is aside from the on track activity was that to stay in the sport Mansell had to basically mortgage his house to finance himself, and had to prove himself through sheer talent. Displayed great prowess to work his way to the top and lost out the previous time to a triple world champion by the worst of luck ever, whereas Vettel has been gifted his career from the start and has only recently been allowed to cross the road on his own without having to hold christian’s hand (just teasing, but you get my point)

    On a personal level, I am sure that Vettel (outside of racing) would be more my kind of person due to his character and intellect than Mansell would, yet I can’t warm to him. While he’s displayed the ability to get things done, I think we have to redefine what it means to be a great.

    In testing recently it was not hard to note the dominance of the RBR which made the tester look like he was the next best thing.

    Kudos to Vettel for his achievements but it’s like boyzone or Take That having a #1 hit for a year but still selling less records (units) in one year than The Beatles managed in a week. (I exaggerate to make the point) Times have changed.

  14. bearforce1 (@bearforce1) said on 19th November 2011, 13:48

    Yep brilliant article Keith.

    For me both seasons are impressive. Newey is the man seriously. The comparison also definitely evidences Vettels skills and how hard he has worked this year.

    I am not against total domination as I think pushing the limits, striving for it is exciting in itself. I wish we had all the goodies back, active suspension et al. I love tech side even if it means there may sometimes is a dominant team/driver.

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