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Red Bull, McLaren & Ferrari – Q1 & Q3 Analysis

By saltire | 10 Jan 2012 | 2 Comments | 4,934 views

The final part of the 2011 season qualifying analysis looks back at the performance of Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari. In the previous posts I’ve looked exclusively at Q1 performance as, in general, the teams have not consistently been able to set times in Q3 at every race. In this post rather than compare performance over the last two years I’ve taken a closer look at how each of the three top teams have got on both in the initial session and during the pole shoot-out. Since the method used to calculate the data has been explained in previous posts there’s little point in reiterating that again here, instead I’ll just launch straight into the results.

Red Bull
If you’d have asked me prior to starting this analysis which team had been the fastest across the season I would have instantly said it would have been the Milton Keynes based outfit. So imagine my surprise to discover that this was not the case, of the 19 races, Red Bull was fastest during Q1 time in just three of races with McLaren and Ferrari each setting the benchmark on 6 occasions. The remaining 4 races saw one of the other nine teams set the fastest Q1 time.
who was fastest
McLaren were fastest of the three teams during Q1 with an average time 0.368% slower than the maximum possible, Red Bull was second, a further 0.081% behind McLaren on 0.449% with Ferrari bringing up the rear, 0.145% behind McLaren, 0.064% behind Red Bull and 0.513% slower than the maximum possible time.

Red Bull
Looking at Q1 it’s clear that Red Bull’s performance was variable, the regression line was virtually horizontal but slightly positive indicating a 0.006% loss of performance at each event; the R2 value shows a very poor correlation at 0.006. During Q3 the situation is reversed, with 18 out of 19 pole positions the average is only 0.012% slower than the maximum possible with the regression line indicating a 0.002% drop of performance at each event across the season, the R2 value was 0.002.

McLaren, fastest of the three teams during Q1 started the first couple of races just behind the Q1 leader; however, an inconsistent period between Canada and Germany spoiled their overall average, 0.368% slower than the fastest time. The team recovered after Hungary to end the season with an overall gain in performance of 0.028% per race, emphasising their continued improvement as the season progressed. The R2 value for the regression line in Q1 was 0.101.

During Q3, the average lag behind the leading team increased to 0.502% but this was mainly due to the performance gains made by Red Bull rather than a dip in performance by the Woking team. This fact is emphasised by the negative going regression line of -0.035% per race indicating that the team improved as the season progressed. The R2 value for this line was 0.209.

Last but not least we turn our attention to Ferrari, the slowest of the three teams in both sessions. The simple statement that the team were slowest hides the fact that they did make gains as the season progressed (at least in Q3), even if those gains did not convert to race podiums. In Q1, the regression line is positive, indication a performance loss with each event, Ferrari set their most productive times during the period between Canada and the end of the European campaign but this was not enough and they were to lose 0.049% per event to the fastest team.


Like McLaren, Ferrari were also to set comparatively slower Q3 times than they’d done in Q1; their lag increased to 0.830% behind Red Bull, but this apparent deficit was due to the faster times posted by Red Bull rather than a loss of performance per se. Indeed the Q3 regression line is negative, at -0.037% (R2 value, 0.178) indicating the team improved as the season progressed.

In the previous teams’ analysis, those teams towards the back of the grid were most likely running on option tyres during qualifying whilst those at the front were running prime tyres in an effort to make it through to later sessions. In the case of the leading teams, at least one of each teams’ drivers would always make Q3 and invariably, they would all be setting their Q3 times on a similar compound of rubber, meaning that the comparisons of lap times are more reliable since one variable has been removed. That said, the difference between Red Bull’s Q1 and Q3 performances are striking. I’ll leave it to you to decide if the results indicate that Red Bull were just “laid back” in Q1 and were great at maximising their potential in the Q3 shoot-out or if there is something else at play. I guess the conspiracy theorists will point the finger at something else; some advantage Red Bull could turn to on demand. Whatever the reason, it’s intriguing that they could gain 0.436% on their average Q1 time.

Credit: Red Bull Racing|Paul Gilham/Getty Images

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