2019 Chinese GP: Fastest of the day

The 2019 Chinese Grand Prix certainly was not as exciting as the last race we just saw. Mercedes took the 1-2 and dominated througout the whole weekend. How dominant were they, and how far, or not so far, were Ferrari and Red Bull? Let’s take a look at the data.

Fastest 20 laps

Pierre Gasly has had a bad start in his new team, but on the bright side he was able to claim the fastest lap of the race, a 1:34.742. As we know, Gasly stopped during lap 53 for new tires just to try to claim the desired extra point. He was able to beat Sebastian Vettel’s time of 1:34.835 done in lap 37 by less than a tenth of a second (0.093 seconds to be more exact). Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas were not too far behind, with Leclerc doing a 1:34.859 in lap 45, and Bottas posting a 1:34.871 in lap 38.

As we can see, the fastest 20 laps were dominated by Ferrari and Mercedes. Yes, Gasly took the fastest lap, but only because he was in no man’s land at the end of the race and was able to get a free stop to put on the soft tires. The rest of the graph shows that Ferrari took 10 of the 20 fastest laps, with Mercedes taking 8, and Red Bull managing just 2.

An interesting discovery was finding out that Leclerc took 8 out of the 10 fastest laps done by Ferrari. We all saw what when Ferrari instructed to Leclerc to make way for his teammate, but was he really that slow? A more in depth analysis is required to get to the bottom of it. For now, we can see that he managed to do 8 of the 20 fastest laps of the race.

Both Lewis Hamilton and Bottas did 4 of the fastest laps of the race, with Hamilton not trying to go for the fastest lap this time. Mercedes was dominant in one lap pace during the quali session and once again showed their pace during the race.

Max Verstappen only managed to do the 20th fastest lap of the race, a 1:36.142 done in lap 45. His fastest time was 1.401 seconds slower than the fastest lap of the race done by Pierre. A more meaningful comparison would be his time compared to Vettel’s fastest time since they both were on used, medium tires. In this case, Max’s lap was 1.307 slower than Vettel’s. Red Bull have shown some great race pace, but it seems like their one lap pace is still not there yet.

Fastest drivers by average (mean) lap time

Key points about the following graph:

  1. The graph 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, from lowest to highest.
  3. The horizontal line represents the mean.
  4. The box represent the interquartile range, from 25% to 75%.
  5. The top labels show the mean for each driver for the entire race.
  6. The border of the points shows the tire that was used for that particular lap.

This time I decided to show just the mean, or average, just because there are not many outliers present in the data for the fastest top 6 drivers.

Ordering the data by average, we see that both Mercedes drivers were the fastest of the day by average pace. Lewis Hamilton had an average pace of 1:37.467, beating his teammate’s 1:37.595 by just 128 thousands of a second. Both drivers were very even for the entire weekend, with Bottas taking pole from Lewis by a tiny margin, and with Lewis taking the race victory on Sunday.¬†

Vettel took the third spot in this ranking, with a time of 1:37.650. His mean time was slower than Bottas’ by only 55 thousands of a second. Sebastian struggled with the tires during the first stint, locking up several times, and was behind Charles Leclerc for a few laps before the team allowed him to go through. If we consider all that, then we have to accept that Ferrari is not out of the title race by any stretch of the imagination.

Max Verstappen took the 4th place with an average time of 1:37.895. The Red Bull driver was on average almost half a second slower than the fastest Mercedes driver. The Austrian team is usually very good at setting up the car for the race, but this time they were not able to threaten the eventual race winner.

Charles Leclerc was affected by the controversial decision made by Ferrari of allowing Vettel to overtake him. His pit stops were severely compromised and he had to go to “plan B”. His average pace of 1:37.944 may not be as representative of his performance during the race, especially since his first stint was slower than expected. A frustrating night for the Monegasque.

Finally, we have Pierre Gasly. He took the fastest lap of the race, but his race pace is still behind what would be considered as optimal. He was 0.672 seconds slower than the fifth place, Charles Leclerc, and 0.721 seconds slower than his teammate, Max Verstappen. On the bright side, he was just as consistent as the rest of the top drivers, and if he manages to find that extra speed that he is missing right now, he should be able to fight for better positions in the near future.

Conclusion

Mercedes showed once again that they are the team to beat. Ferrari was really strong in Bahrain, but at the end of the day, Mercedes have taken first and second place in two races in a row.

Lewis Hamilton keeps showing his talent. In an otherwise troubled weekend, he managed to overtake Valtteri at the beginning of the race and managed to claim victory. Bottas himself did a good job and looks like a new man. He will be no doubt challenging his teammate more often than not during this season.

Ferrari decided to sacrifice Leclerc in order to give Sebastian a chance for victory. They only managed to take the 3rd position, but their race pace shows that they are very strong and should expect to take victory in some other races. They will be strong in Baku, the race with the longest straight of the season.

Finally we have Red Bull. They keep showing good race pace, but their one lap pace keeps hurting them during the quali session. As we can see, they manage to consistently do fast laps, but they cannot match Mercedes or Ferrari in terms of pure one lap pace. If they manage to improve in that area and are able to qualify in the top 3 positions, they will be able to challenge for victories. Max keeps showing that he has matured and is looking better than ever, while Pierre still needs to find the raw pace in order to become a challenger for the top positions.

I hope that  you have enjoyed this article, let me know what do you think in the comments below.

2 Comments

  1. Fabian

    Great analysis as always, but you mustn’t forget, that Mercedes and especially Hamilton went into power saving mode at the end of the race. That should compromise the mean value noticeable.

    Reply
    • admin

      You are correct, however we have to assume that in current F1 most teams run engine saving modes several times during a race. This is one of the main problems with current F1. Drivers end up in no man’s land more often than not. Not close enough to the driver ahead to overtake him, but also not close enough to be overtaken by the driver behind. Because of this, I believe that the overall data that we get is enough to make a more or less fair comparison between drivers.

      Reply

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