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Mid-Grid Teams Qualifying Analysis

By saltire | 18 Dec 2011 | 3 Comments | 1,496 views

I’ve taken a look at the qualifying performance of the three newest teams to grace the grid and based on suggestions in the comments, I’ve decided to continue with a look at three of the teams occupying mid-field positions, Williams, Toro Rosso and Force India. Has their development rate kept pace with the front runners as Team Lotus seems to have done, or are they falling further behind?

The method used to quantify performance gains and losses is the same as that described in the earlier New Teams Progress post. As mentioned before, there are flaws with direct comparisons to the lead running team, not least because the tyre compounds used in Q1 are not necessarily the same across the grid. Some choose to run the faster option compound to try to get through to later qualifying sessions, something the front running team has probably avoided. That said, I hope the statistics will give an indication or flavour of each teams’ development rate across the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

Williams
I’ll start with Williams who started 2010 in 7th place gaining a place in the constructors standings to finish 6th, however, by the end of 2011 they were trailing in 9th place, finishing just ahead of Team Lotus and losing 3 places in the standings. Can the statistics shed any light on where it started to go wrong in 2011?

Williams

On average, the team were 1.185% slower than the leading team during 2010 and that lag increased to 1.301% during 2011, a loss of 0.116% over the period. This doesn’t sound much but the fact that 3 teams performed better than Williams during 2011 emphasises the importance of small gains and just how tough it is for mid-field teams to move forward in the standings. More worrying for the team is that the 2010 performance gain (measured by linear regression) of -0.04% per event became positive during 2011 with the team recording a 0.049% deficit at each event. However, this isn’t the full story. During the early part of 2011 Williams put in competetive Q1 performances, especially at Silverstone where Pastor Maldonado was just 0.177 seconds (0.035%) slower than the fastest man in Q1. It seems to me that the British GP marked the turning point for Williams 2011 season, presumably some of the European upgrade packages failed to live up to expectations. Little wonder that the team have decided to start afresh with new technical staff for 2012.

Toro Rosso
Toro Rosso has also had a mixed couple of seasons: they ended their 2009 campaign in 10th, the last placed constructor of the field and finished 2010 in 9th. Although this is an overall gain of 1 position in the standings they were effectively, still last with only the new teams behind them. The team did better in 2011 finishing 8th, one place ahead of Williams.

STR

In 2010, STR were on average 1.617% slower than the fastest Q1 qualifying team and 0.432% slower than Williams, but by this end of the current season they’d gained ground to within 1.53% of the fastest Q1 time, a year on year improvement of 0.087%. Compared to Williams, their average deficit reduced to 0.229% measured across both seasons. So an improvement year on year but how had they got on as each season developed?

An indication of development rate can be had from the regression line showing the season long performance. Interestingly the line is positive in both cases, showing that the team were losing ground compared to the fastest Q1 team as each season progressed. The figures show that in 2010 STR lost ground by 0.011% per event whilst in 2011 it had fallen by a further 0.004% to slower 0.015% at each event. These figures may seem counter-intuitive as STR put in some stronger performances in the latter stages of the season. Can we identify any point in their season where it went wrong? STR started the season strongly, finishing their sessions at less than 1% of the lead runners’ time in Australia, Malaysia and China but there followed a period where development fell behind and they didn’t catch up again until Japan and India. It’s this mid 2011 mid season dip in performance that’s led to the overall positive regression line. If they can maintain their early season rate of development throughout next year they should be able to make improvements in the constructors standings so in some respects it’s a shame that they will have two new drivers next season.

Force India
Force India, the final of the three teams were in ninth position in the standings at the end of the 2009 season, they moved up to 7th following year and finished this season in 6th, a remarkable improvement in just two years, but how have they compared to the fastest Q1 time setting team?

Force India

On average, FIF1 were 1.421% behind the lead Q1 qualifying team in 2010; this was 0.236% slower than the Williams average and 0.196 faster than Toro Rosso that year. In 2011 the figures are 1.057% behind the leading qualifiers but 0.243% ahead of Williams and 0.472% ahead of STR. That’s a year on year gain towards the leader of 0.364% which equates to an improvement of 34.4%.

In terms of across season development, FIF1 went from losing ground at the rate of 0.034% per race during 2010 to an improvement of 0.022% this year. To put that in context, the negative going line indicates that Force India didn’t just keep up with the likes of Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari, they actually improved or developed their car over the season at a faster rate than the front runners’. It seems that consistency is the key here, if you look at the figures over the year there were no large mid-season dips or gains in performance like those seen with Williams and Toro Rosso, instead the trend was generally downwards. I wonder why they don’t seem to like Belgium! In both years they had their largest difference to the leaders at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

Credit: Sahara Force India/Sutton Images

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3 Comments »

  • Mav

    Very interesting, especially Force India’s improvement. Curious that they’re so bad in Belgium after getting their pole position there.

    Would be nice to see where Renault went down the pan.

    Do you have the R2 errors for the lines by the way?

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  • saltire (author)

    Would be nice to see where Renault went down the pan.

    I’ll see if I can find the time before Christmas, otherwise it will be next week.

    Do you have the R2 errors for the lines by the way?

    Just dug them out, turns out they’re not very convincing but here you go:

    Williams 2010 R2 0.146
    Williams 2011 R2 0.158

    STR 2010 R2 0.014
    STR 2011 R2 0.015

    Force India 2010 R2 0.074
    Force India 2011 R2 0.029

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  • Mav

    I suppose the question with Williams is how much of it is actually a graph of Barrichello

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