A few days ago I saw on Reddit a post about how Lance Stroll was much faster than Sergio Perez during the first 17 laps of the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix. The original poster stated that “I want to make sure that Stroll was not even in clean air, Stroll was 1.8 sec behind Norris, And Perez was 1.5sec behind Sainz in this stint.” Was the statement accurate at all? Let’s take a look at the numbers.
The post contained a screenshot from a site that allows you to do the lap comparison between two different drivers. Take a look at it. Looks pretty conclusive right? A lot of red on the right side, and a lot of green on the left one. Surely Stroll was much better, right? Right? Riiiiiiight?
Sure, Stroll was actually faster than Sergio. The numbers don’t lie. What matters here is how you interpret them. The OP said, and I quote: “I want to make sure that Stroll was not even in clean air, Stroll was 1.8 sec behind Norris, And Perez was 1.5sec behind Sainz in this stint. But some people don’t want to belive this, I suggest watch the first 17 laps for yourself. I think it’s so hard for people to belive stroll was good.”
Wait a minute, I though that Stroll was 1.8 seconds behind Lando Norris and Checo 1.5 behind Carlos Sainz? Yeah, that’s not accurate. Sergio was, in fact, 1.112 seconds on average behind the closest driver, while Lance was 1.764 seconds behind Norris. This means that Checo was on average 0.652 seconds closer to the opponent than Lance. In current Formula 1, where dirty air creates a massive disadvantage for drivers, this number matters a lot.
Take a look at Checo’s laps 2 to 9. Not a single lap with a delta of more than 1 second. It’s clear that the Mexican was pushing hard trying to overtake a strong Sainz. Stroll, on the other hand, was more than a second behind Norris in 14 out of the 15 laps analyzed here.
The detailed comparison shows that Lance had more breathing room than Checo in 14 out of the 15 laps shown here. Just take a look at laps 4 and 8. In lap 4, Checo overtook Daniel Ricciardo, so the delta of 0.797 seconds compared to Lance Stroll is understandable. In lap 8, Checo mounted a final attack on Sainz before deciding to fall back. Once again, the big delta against Stroll makes sense.
As soon as Checo stopped the attack on the Spaniard (lap 9), the race pace between both Racing Point drivers was pretty much on par. That is considering that Stroll’s average delta to the driver ahead from lap 9 onward was of 2.03 seconds. Checo’s average delta to the driver ahead over the same period of time? 1.48 seconds. That’s a lot more dirty air.
From laps 9 to lap 16, Sergio was actually faster on average than Stroll. Sergio’s average lap time was of 1:15.158, while Stroll’s time was 1:15.180.
Was Stroll actually much faster than Checo? That is up to you to judge. Over the laps analyzed, Stroll’s average time was of 1:15.338 per lap, while Checo’s time was of 1:15.500.
In my opinion, yes, it is accurate to say that Stroll was faster. I mean, the numbers do not lie. Was he 1.5 seconds behind Sainz and Stroll 1.8 behind Norris? No, that is inaccurate. Checo was 1.112 seconds behind the driver ahead, and Stroll 1.764 seconds behind Norris in this case.
Was Lance good then? I would call that debatable. He was ok. 3.6 roentgens. Not great, not terrible. He had quite more breathing room than Checo over the first 16 laps, and was still outpaced during laps 9 to 16.
My point here is that it’s important to be careful about how the data is analyzed. Dirty air is massive in F1 nowadays, and in order to accurately compare the performance between 2 drivers, we need to take it into consideration.
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