2019 Bahrain GP: Fastest of the day

Wow, what a great 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix we had. Action, drama, crashes. It had everything. Ferrari was denied of a victory by incredible circumstances, but as Charles Leclerc himself said, that is motorsport. But what do the numbers say about the drivers? Who was the fastest driver of the day? Was Leclerc as dominant as we all think he as? Let’s take a look at the data.

Fastest 40 laps

 As we know, Charles Leclerc took the fastest lap of the day at lap 38. He did a fantastic lap time of 1:33.411. While that was indeed a fantastic lap, Lewis Hamilton was not too far behind the Monegasque, doing a 1:33.528 in lap 36.

Neither Bottas nor Vettel did any laps closer to the ones done by their teammates. Bottas’ best lap was a 1:34.209 done in lap 42. A respectable number, however still almost 8 tenths of a second away from the fastest lap of the race. Vettel’s fastest lap lags behind and was registered only as the 15th fastest lap of the race. His 1:34.894 done in lap 43, is almost a full 1.5 seconds behind Leclerc’s fastest lap. The 4 times World Champion must be wondering what is going on.

The fastest time done by a non Ferrari or Mercedes driver came surprisingly from the Russian driver Daniil Kvyat. His 1:34.934 done in lap 40, was the 17th fastest lap of the race. He also did another great lap time of 1:35.200 in lap 41. Encouraging numbers for the Russian, who must be relishing a chance to prove to Red Bull’s management that he deserves a second chance in the main team.

Interestingly, both Nico Hulkenberg and Antonio Giovinazzi did faster laps than either Pierre Gasly or Max Verstappen. The German did a 1:35.215 in lap 14, while the Italian driver posted a 1:35.236 in lap 42. Gasly’s fastest lap done in lap 42, a 1:35.290, was only the 27th fastest lap of the race, while Max’s fastest lap, a 1:35.311 done in lap 47 ranks as the 30th fastest lap of the race. Red Bull stated in Australia that maybe they went with a low downforce setup, and that they would increase it for the Bahrain GP. Maybe the increased downforce was a little bit counter productive and they are still to find the right balance. 

Fastest drivers by average lap time

Key points about the following graphs:

  1. The graphs shows all lap times done by a driver during the entire race, minus laps where the safety car was deployed or laps where they went in or came out of the pits.
  2. The graphs are ordered by the mean or median, from lowest to highest, depending on the graph.
  3. The horizontal line represents the mean or median depending on the graph.
  4. The box represent the interquartile range, from 25% to 75%.
  5. The top labels show the mean or median for each driver for the entire race.

Finding the fastest driver of the day was not an easy task. In fact, it was so hard that I could not actually decide who was the fastest.

Analyzing the average lap time done by drivers during the race, of course after removing the final laps of the race when the safety car came out, shows that Hamilton was the fastest driver of the day. His 1:36.481 was faster than Vettel’s 1:36.509, Bottas’ 1:36.825, Verstappen’s 1:36.891, and Leclerc’s 1:36.905.

Of course that we all know what happened with Charles, and we can clearly see that problem by just taking a look at the clump of data points at the top of his data. His 7 laps with times above 1:39.500 effectively increase his average lap time, but unfortunately I can not remove them from the data if we want to get a meaningful comparison of all times over the course of the entire race. At the end of the day he was very unlucky, but showed great spirit and fantastic racing craft.

Fastest drivers by median lap time

Here comes the part where I explain why I could not determine conclusively the fastest driver of the day. If we analyze the data by sorting by median instead of mean (or average, it’s the same), then we get a very different picture. While both of our graphs show more or less the same information, the way it is analyzed shows some important differences. Since the median is not as sensible to outliers as the average is, it completely changes our results. 

In this case, Vettel comes on top with a median of 1:36.353. His race was extremely consistent. Apart from his battle with Lewis where he spun out and damaged his tyres and front wing, he had very few laps that could be consider as outliers.

The next 4 drivers are separated only by a minuscule 61 thousands of a second. Leclerc‘s is the most benefited from this analysis since his median of 1:36.720 puts him as the second fastest driver of the day. Even though he had many outliers, in this case all the slow laps after his car failure, his median time is not as compromised as his mean time is.

Verstappen ranked as the third fastest driver with a mean of 1:36.729, only 9 thousands of a second slower than Leclerc’s. While he and Red Bull will be disappointing with not getting on the podium, they still had a fast car, and will definitely be challenging for the win in some other tracks that suit them better.

Hamilton and Bottas were separated by only 1 thousand of a second. That’s right, divide a second in a thousand parts and that is the difference of median time between the Mercedes’ drivers. The distribution of data points shows that Lewis did several laps that were faster than Bottas’ laps, and that is the only reason that he was slightly faster when sorting by the mean of the data. An analysis of their race will be out soon. 

What if…

What would have happened if Charles had not had a power unit failure? I do not know, and that is the reason that I do not give too much emphasis to this analysis. I focus more on informative data than on predictive data, at least for now.

However, this is the graph sorted by mean until lap 43 when Leclerc started to slow down. You can check it out and draw your own conclusions from it.


I know I already said it, but what a great race we had. A bittersweet ending for Charles. His victory was almost guaranteed and taken away by a problem with the power unit. Mercedes was extremely lucky with their first and second position, but at the end of the day they took home the maximum points they could have taken.

Regarding the analyses that we just saw, the average and mean times between the top 5 drivers of the race were incredibly tight. Which analysis is the most representative? The one with the mean, or the one with the median? Well, there is no right or wrong answer here. In this case, the median better represents Charles‘ race, since it is not as affected by the poor lap times done after his power unit failure. However, the analysis done with the mean represents better the race executed by the British man Lewis Hamilton. His great consistency and several of the fastest laps of the race contribute to his fantastic average lap time.

Even though Ferrari looked dominating during quali and in some parts of the race, the data shows that the race for the World Championship will most likely very close. The difference between Ferrari, Mercedes, and even Red Bull is very small, and minor differences, such as mistakes and problems with reliability, may decide who ends up as the best of the season.

Finally, it is important to give attention to the fast lap times done by Kvyat, Giovinazzi and Hulkenberg. Their average lap times were far slower than the ones from the top 5, but they still managed to do some very fast laps that will be encouraging for them and their teams.

Hopefully you have found this article to be interesting. Stay tuned for more articles that will be coming out in the following days.


  1. Ben

    These graphs are wonderful! What did you produce them in?

    • admin

      Thank you for the nice comment Ben. I use R to produce my graphs.


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