2019 F1 Season: Is Russell using a better PU than Kubica?

Much has been said about the difference in speed between Robert Kubica and George Russell. Recently, an article by Franco Nugnes, written for it.Motorsport.com, came out, saying that perhaps George had a better power unit than Robert. He gave a couple of examples, citing the speed trap numbers from Canada and France. Were his arguments valid? Is Robert being sabotaged by his own team? What do the stats say? Let’s take a look at the numbers.

Delta at speed trap between teammates

Note: I do not think that the numbers obtained at the speed trap are necessarily an indicator of power unit performance. F1 cars are very complex, and changes in downforce will massively affect drag, which in return may slow down or speed up cars in the straights. Remember that teams do not care about being the fastest at the speed trap, they care about having the fastest possible lap time.

I complied the maximum speeds recorded at the speed traps in all 8 races that we have had so far. I divided the data by team, and obtained the average speed delta between teammates recorded at the mentioned speed trap. Since speeds tend to increase as the race goes on, I removed from each team’s analysis all the races in which a driver had to retire. For example, in the Chinese GP, Nico Hulkenberg retired at the beginning of the race (lap 16), so I removed that race from Renault’s analysis.

The biggest average difference in speed seen at the speed trap, is a meager 4.56 km/h. In the 5 races that were analyzed for McLaren, Norris has had a top speed that was on average 4.56 km/h higher than Carlos. That is it, that is the biggest average delta between teammates.

In Williams, the difference has been on average of 3.07 km/h, benefiting George Russell. That is not much isn’t it? It is right at the middle of the pack. Four teams so far have had a higher delta at the speed trap during the race, but the difference, as expected, is not abysmal. At the end of the day, both drivers from each time are using more or less identical power units.

Williams – Delta at speed trap during races

Over the season so far, Russell has had faster maximum speeds than Kubica on 6 occasions, while the Pole has been faster in 2 races, Spain and Monaco.

As you can see from the chart, there was indeed a pretty big difference in top speeds in France. The delta of 18.7 km/h looks, however, as an anomaly, when compared against all the other races. When you take a look at all the other races, nothing really stands out. Most of the top speed deltas have been quite small, with the largest one being a 6.59 km/h difference in China, favoring Russell.

If you remove France from the equation, then the average difference at the speed trap is of only 0.84 km/h, favouring George Russell. That is correct, less than 1 km/h between both drivers.

Williams – Delta at speed trap during quali

In quali, the delta in top speed is reduced. Russell has posted speeds that have been on average 1.91 km/h faster than Kubica’s. The biggest delta was seen in Azerbaijan, when Russell was 6 km/h faster than Kubica at the speed trap.

In France, where we saw the 18.7 km/h anomaly, we see a very minor difference during the quali session. In fact, Robert was faster than George, if only by 1.8 km/h.

Final remarks

The data does not support the theory that George is using a better power unit than Kubica. In general, both drivers have been pretty even in top speed, with the only anomaly being the race in France. During the same weekend, Kubica posted a higher top speed than George during the quali session, implying that perhaps something went wrong for Robert during the race that prevented him from reaching maximum speed in the straights.

As I mentioned before, I do not agree with using speed traps as a measure of power. Is Mercedes’ power unit worse because they do not top the speed charts? No, they sacrifice top speed for speed in the corners by adding more aerodynamic downforce. Downforce levels massively affect drag, which is one of the main factors that affect top speed. F1 cars are not dragsters, they don’t go just for a quarter of a mile. Teams do not care if they are 1 or 2 km/h faster in the straights, they want to be the fastest around the lap.

Whenever I read articles like that, it always surprises me that people just take a look at a couple of numbers, and say “Hey, this is good evidence of X or Y”. No, usually that is not the case. I do understand, however, that their job is not necessarily to be accurate, but to generate clicks for their website.

I hope you have enjoyed this article. If you did, please share it with your friends. Let me know what you think about it in the comments below.


  1. Stefano Alonso

    A human walks with a speed of 2.5 km/h. Speed Trap is always located at longest straight, so let’s say that time for an F1 car to go for whole this straight is 20 sec. Now – go on your foot for 20 sec, with half of the speed you usually walk and take a look at the distance. Isn’t it the space that Kubica is always behind Russel in Quali? If I remember correctly 0.100 sec at straight is about 9 meters.

    • admin

      Hi Stefano

      This depends on the track. Let’s take the Circuit of the Americas as an example. During quali, Russell did a time of 1:35.372, while Kubica did a time of 1:35.889. Over the course of the lap, Russell had an average speed of 57.8 meters per second, while Kubica had an average speed of 57.5 meters per second. Over the course of Russell’s time (1:35.372 or 95.372 seconds), Russell covered 5513 meters, which is the track length. Kubica, on the other hand, managed only 5483 meters, meaning that by the time Russell crossed the finish line, Kubica would have been 29.7 meters behind.

      If we transform this data to distance delta per tenth of a second, this shows that Kubica was losing around 5.75 meters for every tenth he was behind Russell.


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