#F1 Forensics: Japan Qualifying, 2014 vs 2015

Brought to you by TheJudge13 Technical Analyst Tourdog

It would have been nice to have multiple sessions to compare lap times of the drivers across two different years. Unfortunately, It rained last year during the race, and this year during FP1 and FP2. I cannot find Tyre info for FP3 in 2014, and this year the teams had to run an alternate fuel test plan during FP3 because of their limited running on Friday. So the only good comparison of lap times we have across 2014-15 is qualifying. But even qualifying screwed us this year, as Kvyat’s cringeworthy crash kept all of the drivers from putting in their final high speed run in Q3.

Nonetheless, there are things to be learned.

Kimi improved this year, knocking 1.2sec of last years Qualifying time. That is a marked improvement for Ferrari, though it was still nowhere near enough to pressure Mercedes.

Both Force India Drivers improved as well. Perez knocked 0.915 sec of last year, and the Hulk knocked 0.709 sec off.

Let’s contrast this with Williams, Filipe only improved by 0.19, and Bottas by 0.104.

FI has made major gains in 12 months, whereas Williams were barely a tenth quicker.

Both Lotus drivers improved as well. Keep in mind that last year the Lotus’s were running Renault Power Units, and this year they have Mercedes.  Maldonado improved by 1.42 seconds, and Romain improved his time  by a staggering 2.547 sec. Seeing as Lotus’s financial situation has prevented them from doing hardly any aero development, we can infer that the Power unit change was good for at least 1.5 seconds a lap, possibly as much as 2.5 seconds, though I am willing to speculate that part of Romain’s improved time is down to an improved driver.

Daniel Ricciardo was able to improve his lap time by 0.5 sec. As to how much of this improvement is Renault, how much is Newey, and how much is Ricciardo, is anyones guess. Over a single lap on heavily aero influenced tracks, the Renault looks good, they can’t seem to keep the pace up over a race distance however.

Poor Jenson was not able to put in a real qualifying lap this year. A “miscommunication” with the pits left Button with no charge in his Battery by half way round Suzuka, so his time is not really reflective of the true one lap pace of his car. He was 1.347 sec slower this year in Q1, compared to his best Q3 lap of last year.

Finally we have Mercedes. Matt caught something I had initially missed during quail. If you look at Lewis and Nico’s Qualifying lap times in Q1 this year on the Hard Tyre, these times were good enough to lock out the front row the last 2 years. That’s on the HARD TYRE folks, which should be 1-1.5 sec a lap slower than the Medium, and Nico’s lap time this year was actually SLOWER than last year by 0.078 sec.

Whatever happened last week in Singapore, it seems Merc has corrected it, because their cars were once again untouchable.

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