Long-time TheJudge13 reader Iestyn Davies has been investigating the effect that powertrains are having on qualifying this year and has come up with this new post. As TJ13 reported prior to this season, 2014 would be an engine-dominant formula, where the strongest works package would be the most competitive – as we have seen with Mercedes. Qualifying times have been adjusted, to compensate for this engine disadvantage, to highlight better or worse driver + car performances.
Summary: Overall package = driver + car + engine + tyres; Below: Package = driver + car.
Example: Hamilton/McLaren-Mercedes was the fastest package in 2012 overall. He didn’t convert that speed into the title though as team errors and reliability issues mounted up through the season.
Hungary 2014: *The engine-corrected grid*
With fewer straights here, I used 2/3rds correction strength. Massa was still 10 mph faster than Raikkonen (196 vs. 186 mph), the fastest and slowest cars, while all Mercedes engines were faster, apart from Button who ran more wing. Williams and Mercedes were also a little faster than Force India and McLaren for top speed, except for Hamilton, who also went with more downforce.
(Force India, McLaren -0.15, Ferrari -0.5, Renault -0.6)
|2||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1:22.601 (+0.1)|
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-Renault||1:22.791|
|3||Valtteri Bottas||Williams-Mercedes||1:23.354 (+0.8)|
|5||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||1:23.409 (+0.9)|
|8||Jean-Éric Vergne||Toro Rosso-Renault||1:24.037 (+1.5)|
|11||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso-Renault||1:24.106|
|7||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||1:24.144 (+1.6)|
|9||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:24.497 (+2.0)|
|12||Adrian Sutil||Sauber-Ferrari||1:24.636 (+2.1)|
|15||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||1:24.737 (+2.2)|
|13||Sergio Pérez||Force India-Mercedes||1:25.061|
|16||Jules Bianchi||Marussia-Ferrari||1:26.228 (+3.7)|
|18||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham-Renault||1:26.539 (+4.0)|
Track improvement was only a few tenths in each session, as seen by Vergne’s soft tyre times, with only the faster cars improving their times in the drying Q3. The increased gaps here point to the influence of aerodynamics coming back in at Hungary – practice gaps were much the same.
Lewis Hamilton was, on average, almost 2 tenths faster than Rosberg in practice here, his favourite track, where we would expect the difference to be more than the usual 0.1. Pole was thus likely, with a 1:22.5, leading to a Hamilton/Vettel front row. Bottas/Alonso, on row 3, can be considered the ‘best of the rest’, ahead of the midfield.
Maldonado’s time is also a composite of his deficit to his team-mate in practice. But, it is likely that he probably would have been pretty close to Grosjean’s time, and likely ahead of Perez at least on this grid. Perez and Massa were the furthest behind their team-mates, although not by as much as ‘Super-Max’ Chilton and Ericsson. Williams said Massa had to clear four cars on his fast lap.
*Conservative estimates for Hamilton and Maldonado could also be just the FP3 gaps – which would be 1:22.65 for Hamilton and 1:24.70 for Maldonado. In this case, we would have had a Vettel pole position instead, but still a Vettel/Hamilton front row. However, it is also likely that Hamilton was holding back in FP3, saving something for qualifying, as noted by Bruno Senna at the time.
It looks like Vettel is coming back into form, now that FRIC is off the car, despite his worst finish of the year (3 early car-failures aside). Red Bull should really be challenging Mercedes next year, especially if the Silver Arrows continue to be poor on strategy efficiency.
The Williams car really is close to the Ferrari, and their developments are making them faster. They must really fancy beating Ferrari, with Kimi not totally on form, and being held back by various issues, e.g. the team’s quali mix-up, as his lead engineer was at home with his wife, having a baby.
McLaren has undoubtedly been helped by the loss of FRIC, as apparently they were not always running it early in the year. Magnussen’s error hid their pace here, although the race result backs up the qualifying result. They’ll be desperate to challenge Ferrari and Williams next year at least.
Toro Rosso look like they could soon challenge for the 6th place on the Strategy Group, the only ‘open’ one, after Bob “The builder of fast cars” Fernley perhaps gets to ‘have a say’ in 2015 (unless BE built in a ‘multi-year’ provision!), as the Force India is falling back, while the Toro Rosso is getting stronger.
Ferrari’s mix-up is all the more galling, as Marussia looked slower than Caterham here, for the first time in a while, due to the lack of FRIC, so Bianchi’s lap really was ‘the perfect lap’. Again, he looks ready for a step up the grid, like Ricciardo/Bottas did last year and Hulkenberg has for some time.