Mercedes quickest over one lap but need race pace

2013 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

After the first four races of 2013, here’s how the performance of each of the teams’ cars compare.

Teams performance in the first four races of 2013

This table compares the fastest lap time set by each team at each race weekend in 2013 (in any session) and shows how far each team was off the quickest last time as a percent.

Australia Malaysia China Bahrain
Red Bull 0 0.25 0.91 0.28
Ferrari 0.98 0.49 0.32 0.36
McLaren 2.78 0.66 1.38 1.49
Lotus 0.53 0.39 0.29 0.88
Mercedes 0.48 0 0 0
Sauber 2.65 1.55 1.88 1.72
Force India 1.78 0.41 1.91 0.98
Williams 3.43 1.22 2.81 1.92
Toro Rosso 2.26 1.59 1.6 1.78
Caterham 4.96 2.92 4.59 3.2
Marussia 4.41 2.33 4.25 4.17

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2013Mercedes have had the best one-lap pace of any team over the last three races and took pole position in the last two. But translating that into race pace is their concern at the moment.

Team principal Ross Brawn said their lack of race pace in Bahrain had been a particular concern: “We have made progress in the latter area and will evaluate some developments over the upcoming race weekends to help improve the situation.”

“We’re not there yet but we are making progress and of course, performing in the race is what really counts.”

Behind Mercedes the balance of power is much as it was last season: Red Bull fractionally ahead of Lotus and Ferrari, with little to separate the latter pair.

The early sign is that qualifying pace is less important this year compared to being able to make the fragile tyres last. Only one of the first four races was won by the pole sitter.

But that may change in the next two races at tracks where passing is famed for being difficult: the Circuit de Catalunya and Monaco.

However rain-hit qualifying sessions and the encroachment of race strategy into qualifying has had an effect on the data. Drivers choosing to set Q3 times on the harder of the two available types of tyre means we don’t always see the best each car is capable of.

Change in performance since last year

Here’s how the teams’ average performance deficits so far this year compare to last year:

Team Average deficit (2013) Average deficit (2012) Change
Mercedes 0.12 0.87 -0.75
Red Bull 0.36 0.38 -0.02
Lotus 0.52 0.68 -0.16
Ferrari 0.54 0.75 -0.21
Force India 1.27 1.16 +0.11
McLaren 1.57 0.18 +1.39
Toro Rosso 1.81 1.82 -0.01
Sauber 1.95 1.15 +0.8
Williams 2.34 0.96 +1.38
Marussia 3.78 4.83 -1.05
Caterham 3.91 3.49 +0.42

Jenson Button, McLaren, Melbourne, 2013McLaren and Williams have made the biggest steps backwards since last year. Both teams are planning major upgrades for the next race in Spain as they attempt to salvage their seasons.

In McLaren’s case they’ve gone from having the quickest car of 2012 to languishing in sixth behind Force India. Williams have gone from being at the sharp end of the midfield to looking over their should at Caterham and Marussia in qualifying.

Marussia are the team who’ve made the greatest gain so far. But Caterham came out fighting in Bahrain and put one over their rivals as the battle at the back remains as fiercely fought as ever.

Another teams which has had a difficult start to 2013 is Sauber. Their eighth place in the performance rankings is reflected in the points standings at the moment.

Over to you

Can McLaren, Williams and Sauber turn their poor starts to the season around? Or is it time to cut their losses and concentrate on the major rules change in 2014?

Have your say in the comments.

2013 F1 season

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Image ?? Daimler/Hoch Zwei, McLaren/Hoch Zwei

23 comments on “Mercedes quickest over one lap but need race pace”

  1. Or do they have the quickest drivers over 1 lap?

    1. I agree with you

    2. There is something to say for that. If you’d ask me for the top qualifiers on the grid, they’re the Red Bull and Mercedes drivers.

      1. I agree @mnmracer . RBR’s average is also a bit skewed by the odd strategy taken not to run in Chinese Q3 (and the decision in Malaysian qualifying to run Q1 and Q2 on the same tyres, before rain in Q3). Other than Vettel, Hamilton and Rosberg have done very well in qualifying this year (Hamilton in Sepang was the fastest of the drivers who didn’t change tyres in the middle of Q3, if I recall correctly)..

    3. Well, Kimi was able to put Lotus on 2nd in Shanghai because he attack turn 1 by delaying DRS effect while others couldn’t. He suffered on sector 2 and sector 3 later when it was rely heavily on downforce in which E21 seriously lacking compare to Merc, redbull and ferrari.

      Still he brought the car back in P2. That showed his ability as a strong qualifier.

      However, no doubt Lewis, Rosberg, Vettel, Alonso and Massa were incredibly good in qualifying as far as 2013 is concern. They also has the cars in their disposal to do just that.

      1. Lewis would have put any car in the top 4 teams on pole. He is that good. It’s the rest of the weekend that usually falls apart, and recently it’s been the tire muncher that he now drives.

        1. Lewis is as good as Rosberg, who also put the mercedes on pole.

        2. Well hallelujah, Hamilton is the best on Saturday!

          Where does he pick up his trophy for that at the end of the year?

        3. That was his problem at McLaren too.

  2. Michael Brown (@)
    3rd May 2013, 14:33

    Behind Mercedes the balance of power is much as it was last season: Red Bull fractionally ahead of Lotus and Ferrari, with little to celebrate the latter pair.

    Surely you mean separate, @keithcollantine ?

    Very interesting article, by the way.

    1. @lite992 Changed it, thanks.

  3. I cannot understand where the myth that Mercedes have fastest single lap pace came from, or what data it is based on. Merc have had 2 poles – same as Red Bull, and one of those came where Red Bull decided to sit out Q3 for Vettel. If their single lap pace is so good, how come the Mercs are always in trouble, and under pressure from when the lights go out, and lose places well before DRS come into play?

    What Merc has are 2 drivers that are maximising the car’s single lap pace. It is by no means the fastest. The Lotus drivers are certainly not putting the car where it belongs, and neither are Ferrari duo.
    Red Bull have the fastest car over a single lap, and over the race. The problem are the tyres. they mask the true pace of the cars by introducing lottery element. Cars behave different, even on different sets of the same tyre, talks less of on different tracks.Eventually though, normal order is always restored, which means we will see RBR at the front more often.

    1. @kbdavies Mercedes set the quickest individual lap in the last three race weekends, not just the last two. The other, Australia, was the most badly affected by rain.

      The fact that Vettel did not set a time on the softer times in China has not been overlooked but you can’t draw a conclusion from non-existent data. And I see no reason to assume Red Bull would have been faster than Mercedes in Q3 on the same tyres having been slower than then in all three practice sessions.

    2. it is not a myth. mercedes are genuinely fast over a single lap, fast on low fuel and fresh tyres, but they have work to do to finish a race in first place.
      what i dont believe is your myth that the mercedes drivers are maximising the cars single lap pace, as if the other 20 drivers on the grid are not trying to do this too :p
      the tyres do not bring a lottery element into the equation, each team has the same tyres to work with, the ones that work them the best will win. Mercedes has a history of being hard on their tyres, and this year it is continueing. they also have a history of starting fast and falling behind as the year goes on, will it be the same this year? after the last race, it seems yes. they should go well at Barcelona (where they were fast in pre season testing) and monaco (where schumacher nearly had pole last year). With their fast single lap pace, they should qualify high on both tracks, and not fall too far back during the race because of the overtaking difficulty of both the tracks. the tracks after canada (where hamilton is always fast), will be hardest for mercedes i believe. time will tell

    3. Can someone please tell me how or why single lap pace is even relevant in F1? Last time I checked F1 GP’s were usually longer than 1 lap.

      YAY! Mercedes are the fastest over 1 lap but only 3rd or 4th best during the race – you know, on Sunday when the points are awarded!

    4. Red Bull didn’t go out in Q3 of Shanghai because they didn’t have the pace of the top cars. They went for an alternate strategy.

  4. I’m surprised Force India hasn’t improved.

    1. I think they have, but a big gap to Vettel in Australia may have skewed the results. They were really fast in Malaysia, in the dry, and in Bahrain as well. Only in China they did not look that impressive.

  5. To answer the last question, if I were the technical director of Mclaren, Williams or Sauber I would wait 3 or 4 races after Spain and if the team is still struggling then focus 100% on next year’s car, even use fridays to test the new parts.

  6. With the Mclaren running so terrible, and doubtful that any upgrade will put them at the top again, why dont they run the 2012 car???? i am sure the 2012 car would be getting better results, lap times of both cars show this, and even if they dont develop it that much, they can focus their efforts more on their 2014 car then the dog of a car they have at the moment.

  7. I always wonder how much of qualifying pace is setup and how much is locked in the car.

    When they set up the car to run well on low fuel it will do great in qualifying, but will also be bad for the whole race. Alternatively they could set up the car to do well in the race and sacrifice single lap speed.

    Pretty much like Alonso did all through the previous season and this season again it seems. Just give a little in qualifying and make it up during the race. Raikkonen seems to be doing that also. The Red Bull doesn’t seem to need a compromise since it’s both fast on a single lap and during the whole race. Well probably they compromise somewhere, but the car is just so much faster that no one notices where they compromise on.

    Sometimes the drivers themselves allude to this by saying they set the car up for the race (when “explaining” a poor qualifying result).

    Remember a driver in Indycar (Bobby Rahal?) who didn’t bother with a qualifying setup. He spend all his practice laps on race setup. Went on to win many races that way and I think even the championship.

    What if Mercedes know they won’t be able to win the race even if they set up their car for it and then decide to at least show some good result in qualifying? Or perhaps it’s just Lewis’ nature to drive the car flat out where he sets the car up for max speed on low fuel setup.

    1. I think everyone more or less sets up for the race. It’s just that guys like Vettel, Rosberg and Hamilton are really good qualifiers, whereas Alonso and Kimi are not so good qualifiers. Passing is so easy now that track position has little relevance unlike 10-15 years ago.

      Drivers always have an excuse when they don’t perform up to expectation, so I wouldn’t read too much into their setup excuses.

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