Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Albert Park, 2014

New cars three seconds off 2013 pace on first day

2014 Australian Grand Prix Friday practice analysisPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Albert Park, 2014How quick the new generation of F1 cars will be compared to last year has been a major talking point of the off-season. Last year there were claims the new cars could be as much as three seconds per lap slower than the old ones.

Until today the clearest indicator of the new cars’ performance came during test in Bahrain. The fastest time of that test – Felipe Massa’s 1’33.258 – was within a second of last year’s pole position time by Nico Rosberg.

Today’s first official practice sessions of 2014 provided a new opportunity for comparison. Here’s how this year’s fastest time compared with last:

Year Best Friday lap Driver Difference
2013 1’25.908 Sebastian Vettel
2014 1’29.625 Lewis Hamilton +3.717s

That may be the most useful comparison we get in terms of single lap time performance this weekend, as Saturday’s running was disrupted by rain last year.

Although the gap between the two is wide – much wider than the Bahrain lap times led us to expect – there’s good cause to believe the teams were being particularly conservative today given reliability concerns.

Mercedes’ motorsport boss Toto Wolff expects to see rapid improvement in lap times. During today’s press conference he predicted the new cars will “go quicker than the old ones in a couple of races”.

In terms of straight-line speed, they’re already there – though of course these figures will owe a lot to set-up:

Year Best Friday speed trap Driver Difference
2013 313 kph Lewis Hamilton
2014 317.8 kph Valtteri Bottas +4.8

Longest stint comparison

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
Sebastian Vettel 95.173 94.294 93.9 94.043 94.545 93.986 94.726 95.997 96.918 95.109 94.504 94.426 94.397 96.417
Daniel Ricciardo 95.753 95.033 95.292 95.227 94.937 95.083 95.242 95.745 95.295 95.558 94.705 95.387 95.541
Lewis Hamilton 94.194 93.597 99.786 94.251 94.304 104.533 93.993 93.936 95.805 95.386 93.91 93.606 93.6
Nico Rosberg 94.825 94.192 94.227 93.489 93.619 93.739 93.441 93.576 94.542 94.171 99.748 94.58
Fernando Alonso 94.632 94.594 94.786 95.225 94.63 95.572 95.638 95.375 95.271 95.441 102.404
Kimi Raikkonen 96.94 96.226 96.7 97.44 98.396 96.079 97.635 96.695 95.915 96.979 98.241 97.196 103.566 113.501
Romain Grosjean 94.419 94.187 97.479 93.646
Jenson Button 95.222 94.304 94.794 94.625 95.047 95.128 95.495 94.94 94.939 95.138 95.382 95.842 97.594
Kevin Magnussen 95.774 95.699 95.926 95.693 95.883 95.681 95.759 95.18 95.51 96.238 96.015 96.418 96.316 96.532
Nico Hulkenberg 95.724 95.332 95.467 95.48 96.159 95.305 96.22 95.406 94.965 95.339 95.083 95.15 95.282 95.503 95.679 95.145 94.934
Sergio Perez 94.868 94.703 94.961 95.201 94.885 95.116 94.798 94.879 95.162 95.183 96.069 95.956 95.438 95.441 101.975 96.582
Adrian Sutil 97.583 98.278 98.351 116.669 96.98 98.851 98.249 97.276
Esteban Gutierrez 94.63 95.659 95.024 100.572 95.524 114.404 94.479
Jean-Eric Vergne 97.489 96.678 96.566 96.562 96.245 96.461 96.396 96.234 96.654
Daniil Kvyat 103.892 97.693 97.91 97.376 96.339 102.773 105.411 96.206 96.229 99.665 99.161 96.47 95.618 97.632
Felipe Massa 96.43 95.991 96.1 95.545 95.483 95.55 95.68 95.381 95.606 96.064 95.771 95.682 96.187 95.963 96.33 96.364 96.167 96.286 97.625
Valtteri Bottas 98.836 95.257 94.815 94.508 94.492 94.467 94.502 96.45 94.645 94.649 94.62 95.795 95.017 95.072 95.143 95.333
Jules Bianchi 99.165 100.806 100.341 99.09 99.561 98.855 106.153 102.42 100.959
Max Chilton 100.198 101.779 100.173 100.22 100.473 102.628 99.991 101.083

Fuel preservation is going to play a major role in races this year and the longer stints in the latter part of second practice gave the drivers chance to experiment with hitting their targets.

Drivers will be given targets for fuel consumption by the teams during the race. Each team will have their own terminologies for this.

Force India, for example, told Nico Hulkenberg to “lift and coast 25” – this refers to the practice of lifting the throttle just before the braking zone for a corner and coasting until the brake point is reached, this being one of the most effective ways of saving fuel without compromising lap time.

Similarly a message to Valtteri Bottas during the session said “Practice fuel save for the next few laps. Target to stay at 400 on the dash.” Expect to hear similar messages like this during the race, much as the teams already use for managing tyre degradation.

The Mercedes drivers were running at the quickest pace during their race stints. If that is representative of the speed they can run at while hitting their fuel consumption targets, it’s another indication they are the team to beat this weekend.

Sector times and ultimate lap times

Pos No. Driver Car S1 S2 S3 Ultimate Gap Deficit to best
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 29.890 (2) 23.897 (3) 35.838 (1) 1’29.625 0.000
2 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 29.894 (3) 23.843 (2) 36.045 (2) 1’29.782 0.157 0.000
3 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 29.825 (1) 24.113 (10) 36.194 (4) 1’30.132 0.507 0.000
4 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 30.051 (5) 23.983 (5) 36.205 (5) 1’30.239 0.614 0.142
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 30.212 (8) 24.111 (9) 36.155 (3) 1’30.478 0.853 0.060
6 22 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 29.947 (4) 23.835 (1) 36.728 (10) 1’30.510 0.885 0.000
7 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 30.124 (6) 24.021 (6) 36.640 (9) 1’30.785 1.160 0.113
8 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 30.278 (11) 24.038 (7) 36.604 (8) 1’30.920 1.295 0.000
9 25 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Renault 30.346 (12) 24.152 (13) 36.507 (6) 1’31.005 1.380 0.055
10 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 30.500 (13) 23.979 (4) 36.552 (7) 1’31.031 1.406 0.000
11 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 30.191 (7) 24.094 (8) 36.769 (11) 1’31.054 1.429 0.000
12 19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 30.235 (9) 24.113 (10) 36.771 (12) 1’31.119 1.494 0.000
13 11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 30.277 (10) 24.113 (10) 36.893 (13) 1’31.283 1.658 0.000
14 26 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 30.855 (15) 24.346 (14) 37.020 (16) 1’32.221 2.596 0.274
15 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 30.763 (14) 24.602 (16) 36.990 (15) 1’32.355 2.730 0.000
16 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 30.998 (16) 24.506 (15) 36.916 (14) 1’32.420 2.795 0.048
17 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 30.999 (17) 24.945 (18) 37.519 (17) 1’33.463 3.838 0.183
18 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 31.138 (18) 24.708 (17) 37.640 (18) 1’33.486 3.861 0.000
19 4 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 31.649 (20) 25.060 (19) 38.048 (19) 1’34.757 5.132 0.000

Sebastian Vettel’s lap in second practice gave Red Bull some encouragement about how close they are to the front runners. A look at the sector times showed he had more than a tenth of a second in hand, further demonstrating that the RB10 is quick – reliability is the priority for the world champions.

Complete practice times

Pos Driver Car FP1 FP2 Total laps
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’29.625 38
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’32.604 1’29.782 48
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’31.840 1’30.132 48
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’32.793 1’30.381 51
5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’32.357 1’30.510 56
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1’32.599 1’30.538 64
7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’32.977 1’30.898 51
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1’32.403 1’30.920 65
9 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1’32.847 1’31.031 62
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1’33.533 1’31.054 56
11 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Renault 1’33.446 1’31.060 65
12 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1’32.431 1’31.119 50
13 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1’33.855 1’31.283 60
14 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1’36.445 1’32.355 49
15 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1’35.578 1’32.468 33
16 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 1’34.272 1’32.495 65
17 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1’40.859 1’33.486 35
18 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1’33.646 12
19 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1’46.922 1’34.757 33

Pastor Maldonado and both Caterham drivers failed to set a lap time.

Speed trap – second practice

# Driver Car Engine Max speed (kph) Gap
1 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 317.8
2 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren Mercedes 316.9 0.9
3 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 316.8 1
4 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 315.5 2.3
5 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Mercedes 315.2 2.6
6 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 315.2 2.6
7 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari 315.1 2.7
8 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 314.8 3
9 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 311.8 6
10 22 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes 310.7 7.1
11 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault 310.5 7.3
12 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Renault 310.4 7.4
13 25 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso Renault 309.1 8.7
14 26 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Renault 308.2 9.6
15 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber Ferrari 304.8 13
16 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber Ferrari 304.7 13.1
17 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault 302.3 15.5
18 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia Ferrari 302 15.8
19 4 Max Chilton Marussia Ferrari 298.8 19
20 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham Renault 169.3 148.5

Eight drivers were quicker through the speed trap than last year’s highest speed.

2014 Australian Grand Prix

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Image © Daimler/Hoch Zwei

39 comments on “New cars three seconds off 2013 pace on first day”

  1. For further reference, Hamilton’s 1’29.625 was:

    – Faster than the Pole position time in 1996, ’98, ’99 and 2000
    – Faster than the quickest race lap in 1996, ’97, ’98, ’99 and 2000
    – Four tenths off Raikkonen’s fastest race lap of 2013

    And as we know, they’re certain to get quicker on Saturday.

    1. Yes, but they’re also certain to be slower on Sunday.

    2. @magnificent-geoffery – I wouldn’t say certain. Not if the predicted rain decides to intervene. Apparently we’re currently at 86% chance of rain and 92% chance of a thunderstorm for Qualifying…

      1. I like that :)

        1. Do you not want to find out how fast they actually are over one lap?

          1. @matt90 I’d rather see who the new rain masters are in these 4 times more torque driven machines. If yesterdays driving was any example of how tough they are with many guys going off or just outright spinning, then a rain soaked track will be far worse and show us the driver’s driver.

      2. Paul (@frankjaeger)
        14th March 2014, 23:29

        Thunderstorm?! My quid bet on Kamui qualifying top @ 3500-1 has just become a little more realistic…Only a little though ; )

    3. All well and good to compare Hamilton’s 1’29.625 to selected past times, but what about the unselected past times? I think it is better to compare what this year’s pole time will be to other pole times…quickest race lap this Sunday to quickest race laps…etc etc.

      And who knows…I’m sure there’s some people out there that think by this time the cars should be 8 seconds faster than they were in the 90’s.

    4. It doesn’t faze me at all, the cars looked ragged even when tyre or fuel saving something that was missing last 4 years. The increase in top speed in melbourne seems to be very small perhaps as small has the advantage of a wider DRS and shallower rear wing profile, but maybe teams were not going at full power, we know that Renault were keen to use full power but for the sake of their opponents that’s all the new turbo solution Renault brought has to deliver because otherwise Red Bull are very comfortable in terms of downforce.

    5. Yeah and Vettel’s pole in 2011 was a 1:23.5, and Schumacher did a low 1:24 with race fuel in 2004 and a 1:24 during the race, that’s 6 seconds over 1 lap! Ridiculous.

  2. @keithcollantine I think you overlooked the FP1 speed traps, Bottas was even faster there.

  3. Paul (@frankjaeger)
    14th March 2014, 15:49

    I wouldn’t stress that the cars are 3 seconds off the pace of last years. After all, this is the first practice session-of the first grand prix-of the first year of a brand new regulations overhaul.

    Last years times were set with cars that have had 3 or 4 years since a previous large regulation change and had become fine tuned to their engines and energy recovery systems. Give it some time and I think these cars will be matching and beats the laps of the last generations. I doubt we have even seen half of the cars out there fully pushing in 100% racing mode

  4. Amazingly, looking at the long run pace it looks like it’s only Red Bull (particularly Vettel) who can hold a candle to Mercedes. Riccardo, Ferrari, McLaren, Force India (Perez) and Williams all looking like they’ll be fighting it out for the rest of the points. Usual fuel level disclaimers of course. Should be exciting qualifying tomorrow!

    1. Bottas looks like he’s right in there with Vettel. If reliability weren’t a concern and these times were all indicative of their true pace, you’d have to pick the Mercs to fight for the win, with Vettel and Bottas fighting for the final podium spot.

      That said, who knows what fuel loads everyone was running, and who knows what reliability will be. In years past Red Bull has often run pretty heavy in free practice so as not to give away their true pace. As for reliability that has to be a concern for all teams, even Mercedes. I think the gremlins will strike on Sunday, but who they strike will probably be somewhat random. I doubt we’ll see all the Mercedes engined cars finish while all the Renault engined cars retire for example. Some drivers/teams will be blessed with considerable luck while others will not. That said with the shape Caterham and Lotus are in it definitely looks like Renault engined cars will probably suffer the most overall.

  5. What was the difference between the lap times on the last major engine switch? Maybe from 2005 to 2006? Does anybody know?

    1. Michael Brown
      14th March 2014, 17:30

      Approximately 1-1.5 seconds slower. Keep in mind that there are more significant changes this year as opposed to 2005-2006

  6. Only Bottas with 65 laps equalled the 65 laps of both STR Renaults exceeding by 1 lap only the 64 laps of Ricciardo’s RBR Renault.

    1. @hohum Renault has done a remarkable job. Let’s see how they fare tomorrow and after tomorrow.

      1. @jcost, yep the potential is there, but as Lewis proved in FP1, even the best of the new engines can have hidden weaknesses that can show up at any time.

        1. @hohum I expect a lot of electronic gremlins to appear for awhile, especially in the Renault cars due to their lack of running at “full power” if indeed they were not there in all of the testing.

  7. Good gracious all this negative focus. New rules/engines/etc. there are bound to be growing pains. I for one am excited by the big shakeup. Sure beats watching Seb run off at a trot 9 straight times……I hope.

    1. your onto it BABILLBA,
      watching these cars slid around with out degrading the tyres and going off track by even the best of them has been more exciting than ever before,
      we will see guys loose positions because they can not keep it on the track while fighting for places, isn’t this what F1 is more about than all the nit picking going on in here?
      pick on something like the nose of these cars as that is the most disgusting thing in F1 i have ever seen.

  8. It’s even harder to read these long runs this year than previous years. Not only don’t we know how much fuel they were carrying, we also don’t know how much fuel were saving. What strikes me though is that many drivers were able to put in pretty consistent runs, so at least they manage to keep the tyres alive.

    The biggest surprise for me today is Red Bull. Pre-season testing suggested they would fail spectacularly, but today’s running does not suggest either a deficit in pace (in lap time or straight-line speed) or any problems with reliability, as they completed as many laps as anybody – and this is just the first day of the season. I think I will have to start preparing mentally for title number five…

  9. Looking at the laptimes between Bottas, Alonso, Hamilton, Massa they all seem to be around the same laptimes.
    Massa about a sec down but he drove the harder tires during the long stint.

    Quali and the Race will be fun! And unpredictable.

  10. Scepticism and the fear of unknown are in the human nature of course, but when you think how big of a changes has happened in F1 2014 rules, than you realize that you have to give a credit to the engineers, and give time for things to fall into their places. Especially when you consider the fact that the time and resources required for developing such a radical new formula, parallel to the actual (2013 season), then one has to admire F1 as a championship/sport/business…. I think that we all have to give a break to F1 changes we are witnessing right now.
    And yes I don’t like the sound of this engines, not to mention double points Abu Dhabi charade. Regarding the sound I could give a break if they manage, in a reality, to finish the race with 2 thirds of last years fuel while racing on the edge not on the fumes, but there is no excuse for double points finale, especially when taking into account the fact that FIA didn’t give a damn about what F1 fans think about it or what F1 drivers and teams think about it!!!

  11. Just catching up with events today and I’m reminded of a quote I read here back in 2012. This was in regards to th battle between Vettel and Alonso. It went something like, “if Alonso is to have a shot at winning the WDC , he had better put a very big gap between himself and Vettel by Hungary. This is because the RBR will come back like Bull seeing red.” Alonso seemed to have achieved that but RBR were simply too good that 2nd half.
    The same quote appeared last year, but it tool a more resigned tone,it went like “the championship is over already, if they let Vettel be on the lead after hungary, they might as well give him the title there.” We all know how it played out after that, he went on to just run rings around everyone for the 2nd hald of the season.
    I’m just wondering if people are still thinking along the same lines, I.e it’s not looking good seeing RBR so close to the top.

  12. And yet again what Maldonado think’s of his switch to Lotus?

  13. I always forget this, but how is “Deficit to best” calculated?

    1. @jimbo The sector times you see in that table are not the sector times of the driver’s best lap, they are individial best sector times from possibly different laps. The ultimte lap time is the sum of these sector times and the deficit to best is the difference between this ultimate lap and the best lap.
      So for example in Vettel’s case, his best lap of the day was 1’30.381. But that lap did not contain all of his personal best sectors. He could in theory go in 1’30.239. I hope that makes sense.

    2. If you add the best times for each sector together, you get the “ultimate” time, i.e. the lap time the driver is theoretically capable of if he puts together the perfect lap.

      Compare with the best time actually achieved in the next table, and any difference is the “deficit to best”. In other words, the driver didn’t get his three best sectors all on the same lap. Maybe he made little mistakes here and there. But if he puts in a perfect lap, he should get the “ultimate” time.

  14. I think i read that Rosberg mentioned that he had been above target fuel usage for almost every lap in FP today though, so it might be that their pace is really about the maximum available for the given amount of fuel. Off course when it rains that will be quite a different matter, as that is likely going to bring with it several laps behind the SC, which help them reach the line.

    1. @bascb Not to mention the fact that with so much torque and so little grip this year they likely won’t be able to run the engines at full power in the rain which will further conserve fuel.

  15. I’m predicting pole will be a 1m 26.

  16. Disappointed to see no one referred to the fact last year’s times were set on Super Softs, and this year they were on Softs…

    I’d say ~1.2 seconds can be accounted for by that, alone… Which makes the difference far more palatable.

    1. I think that’s a good point but I wouldn’t be confident of putting an exact figure to it. Last year Pirelli said the performance difference between the medium and super-soft was around a second. While you would expect the difference between medium and soft this year to be smaller than that, as the compounds are more conservative we can’t really directly compare the two mediums year-on-year. That opens up a pretty big margin of error for how much slower these tyres are. I don’t doubt they will be accounting for some of the gap though.

      Like I said in the article, this is just one more data point, we’re still building up a full picture. The next two days will tell us more and Malaysia – which is much more representative of typical F1 tracks – should be far more useful.

      1. Very true. I think I picked up 1.2 seconds from VDGs commentary, but there really is no sure fire way to compare.

        I wonder how much more of a picture the teams have on relative performance, or whether they’re speculating just as much as we are.

  17. Well firstly thanks to @keithcollantine for the analysis as his charts helps me a lot to have a more precise picture. 2014 Australia would be the trickiest race to predict in a long time due to countless variables. However I tried to analyse the laptimes of the top drivers. The method goes as follows,

    Drivers selected:
    p.s. Kimi and Kevin were not really in the picture


    Took the first 11 laps of the drivers (since they were the least no. of laps in a stint of all).
    Removed the unrepresentative time spike from some drivers (eg. Lewis) since they must have incurred traffic and in that case added the 12th lap and so on.
    Calculated the avg lap time
    Calculated the standard deviation
    Assigned ranks to the best avg lap time and the least standard deviation
    Averaged both the ranks of each driver

    And this is the result

    Nico Rosberg has been the best driver in terms of speed as well as consistency compared to others.

    However on Sunday, rain might be the biggest variable and fuel saving will play a crucial role as well. At this stage, Nico Rosberg has been the best with the average rank of 3 while others are ranking in between 4 and 5.

    I am uploading the actual analysis file if anyone is interested to check out. Hope it helps.

  18. Last sector is the best indicator for downforce where Mercedes and Redbull are looking fast.

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