I believe that the most important goal a driver should have is to score as many points as possible. Does that mean that the qualification session is not important? Not at all. A good quali session is always helpful to help a driver achieve a good result during the race. How are the drivers faring against their teammates so far in the 2019 season? Let’s take a look at the numbers.
Average delta per Quali session
First let’s take a look at the overall delta between teammates for each qualifying session. This analysis takes into consideration only the best qualifying session in which both drivers were present. For example, in Australia, Max Verstappen advanced into Q2 and Q3, but Pierre Gasly was only able to take part in Q1. In this case, the delta was obtained by getting the difference between Gasly’s best time in Q1 and Max’s best time, also from Q1. This is the only way we can actually compare the driver’s data, since clearly Q2 and Q3 times are significantly faster than Q1 times due to track evolution. For the above graph, this was done for each of the 3 races that we have had so far, and then the total time difference was added and divided by 3. This way we obtain the average difference for each quali session.
The drivers on the left side have a negative delta, and therefore are winning the qualifying battle against their teammates, while the drivers on the right side have a positive delta and are losing the quali battle.
The numbers tell us that so far the biggest winner so far is George Russell. On average, he is beating Robert Kubica by over half a second per quali session. However, as we will see in the next section, the average times can be misleading sometimes.
Max Verstappen has a delta of almost half a second over his teammate in quali sessions. Here, the numbers unfortunately do not tell us the whole story either. While half a second is a commanding lead, the most important difference is that for Australia and Bahrain, Max has been able to take part in Q3 and has been able to start at the front of the grid, while Gasly has had to settle for a start in 17th and 13th place respectively. This clearly has direct implications in race pace and final position in that respective race.
Checo Perez, Alex Albon, and Kimi Raikkonen, have a lead of over 2 tenths respective to their teammates, with Checo being the only one from the previously mentioned drivers who has defeated his teammate in all three quali sessions so far. Both Kimi is undefeated against his teammate, but only in 2 ocassions since Antonio Giovinazzi was not able to take part in Q1 in China. Albon is also undefeated against Daniil Kvyat, but he crashed his car during the FP3 session in China and was not able to take part in the Q1 session either.
Finally we have Carlos Sainz , Daniel Ricciardo , Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, and Romain Grosjean, beating their teammates in quali by an average of less than 1 tenth. As we will see in the next section, none of them are undefeated against their teammates and instead have split victories so far.
Delta per Quali session
If we take a look at each individual race, we get a less generic and more accurate picture of the quali battles. On the left side we have the drivers that were faster than their teammates on each particular race. On the right side, we basically have a split version of the same information, with the positive delta showing that they were slower than their teammates during the quali session.
As I was telling you before, sometimes the average delta can be misleading. With this graph, we can see that George Russell was faster than Robert Kubica by 1.706 seconds in Australia, but only 4 hundredths of a second faster in Bahrain, and only 27 thousands of a second faster in China. The average delta of 0.591 seconds is heavily skewed due to the massive difference between both drivers in Australia, but after that, both drivers have been extremely even in Q1 sessions.
Max Verstappen was faster than Pierre Gasly by only 0.144 seconds in Australia, but that number was the difference between advancing to Q2 and starting the race at the bottom of the grid. In Bahrain, and especially in China, Verstappen was much faster than his counterpart. The difference of 0.842 seconds seen during Q3 in China is particularly worrying for the young Frenchman.
Carlos Sainz is winning the quali battle 2 vs 1 against the rookie Lando Norris. The Britishman beat Sainz by almost 4 tenths at the opener in Australia, with the Spaniard taking the victory in Bahrain and China by 0.23 seconds and 0.444 seconds respectively.
Daniel Ricciardo is leading the quali battle 2 vs 1 against Nico Hulkenberg. The Aussie was defeated less than one hundredth of a second in his home country, but took the victory in Bahrain by 0.174 hundredths of a second. In China, the difference was again incredibly small, of 0.004 seconds.
Charles Leclerc is winning the quali battle against the more experienced Sebastian Vettel, but only by an average difference of less than 1 hundredth of a second. Vettel has taken the win in Australia and lately in China, but Leclerc was untouchable in Bahrain, when he outpaced Sebastian by 295 thousands of a second.
Regarding Hamilton vs Bottas, we also have a good battle in our hands. Bottas was thoroughly beaten last season by Lewis, but this year it seems like it will not be so easy for the 5 times World Champion. Lewis was faster than Bottas for the first 2 quali seasons in Australia and Bahrain, but for a difference of no more than 0.111 seconds, and was then outpaced by Bottas in China by 0.023 seconds.
The closest battle on average so far is the one between the Haas drivers. Grosjean was faster than Magnussen during the quali session of Australia, beating him by almost 3 tenths (0.272 seconds), but then was defeated by almost the same margin in Bahrain (0.259 seconds). In China, the difference was of only 0.004 seconds, showing that both drivers are extremely even in one lap pace.
There are some great battles happening between teammates during the current season. Out of the 10 possible battles, 5 are separated by less than a tenth of a second, with 2 of them being defined at the moment by less than a hundredth of a second.
While the Russell-Kubica difference is the largest of the current season, I would argue that the difference seen between Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly is more significative. Robert has had a terrible start to the season and was thoroughly beaten by Russell in Australia, but the difference during the next 2 quali sessions have been of less than half of a hundredth of a second. Gasly, however, has been beaten by at least a tenth of a second in every quali session, with the last 2 sessions being outpaced by over 4 tenths of a second.
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