So Mercedes won again. Balance has been restored. Red Bull is starting to rise. Ferrari is in trouble. Yada yada. But what about the other teams? How do the midfield teams, the ones that are part of the so called F1.5 championship fare against the big teams? Let’s take a look.
I decided to take a look at the driver who performed the worst from the big 3 teams (Merc, Ferrari and Red Bull) in the Australian GP, and compare his performance to the driver who performed the best from the midfield teams.
In this case, I compared the driver from the big who had the worst average lap time compared to the leader, Sebastian Vettel, against the driver from a midfield team with the best average lap time, that is Kevin Magnussen.
As you can see, most of the teams are represented by someone in the midfield. The only teams to failed to have a driver with a delta average of less than 2 seconds per lap compared to the leader, are McLaren and Williams. Most importantly, the times between the midfield teams are incredibly close, with Raikkonen, Kvyat, Stroll and Hulkenberg all having an average time separated by less than a tenth of a second. We may once again have a great midfield battle in our hands.
Straight to the raw pace. Both drivers started in the top 10. Both drivers stopped for new tires at lap 14. Both drivers went from the soft compound to the medium compound. Therefore, all the data in this chart can be fairly compared between drivers.
We can see that Vettel was faster than KMag for most of the race. It was not until lap 50 than Magnussen started doing faster laps than the German driver. By that time, there was no point for Vettel to keep trying to keep up though, since his teammate was ordered to stay back and he had the chance to safely cruise towards a 4th position.
Delta per Lap
The delta per lap figure shows how superior was Vettel to KMag for most of the race. During the first 20 laps, KMag did lap times that were on average 1.28 seconds slower than Vettel’s. It was not until the last 8 laps of the race that Magnussen was able to post faster laps than Vettel, and even then, he was only faster than him by an average of 0.89 seconds per lap.
Average pace distribution
Finally, the average pace distribution chart. Here, each dot represents a lap, while the horizontal line represents the average lap time over the entire race.
KMag was faster than Vettel in just 21.1% of the laps. That means that out of the 58 laps of the race, KMag was faster only on 12 of them.
Interestingly, KMag’s data shows a bimodal distribution, meaning that his lap times are distributed around 2 means instead of just one. The left peak is distributed around time 1:28.800, and that is from laps 23 until lap 58. Those times were fast and consistent. The right peak is however distributed around time 1:30.500. This is from his first 22 laps, where his times were somewhat erratic and slow.
How did KMag, the best driver in Australia from a non top-3 team fare against the worst driver from a top-3 team, the 4 times World Champion Sebastian Vettel?
I would say not great, but to be fair this is not a great comparison. Unfortunately, my personal take home message from this analysis is that a driver from a team like Mercedes, Ferrari, or Red Bull, even on a terrible day, is still going to be faster than a driver from a team like Haas on a good day.
Yes, Haas and Alfa Romeo have taken great steps forward, and Racing Point has always been competitive in spite of their low budget. However, the top 3 teams are still far faster in terms of pace per lap. The fact that KMag was faster than Vettel, who had what we most consider a terrible terrible race, only on 12 laps out of the entire race, supports my belief.
Do you think that the midfield teams may be able to challenge for the top in the near or medium future? Do you take home a different messge than I do? Let me know in the messages below.