Calculating field spread


Bookies drive nice cars because of people like me
This is a great site for a statto like me..

I came across it looking for an analysis of how the field spread has changed with the introduction of 2009 regs. While you provide an answer of sorts in looking at how many passes, I was really trying to find someone who had looked at how closely cars were able to follow each other.

Muddly Talker (my Dad's name for Murray Walker) always used to say "catching is one thing but passing is another" but it seems to me now that cars are not even able to catch each other. I don't remember it always being this way - even when cars couldn't get past, they could get close enough to have a look - Villenueve at Jarama (I was there!), Rosberg and DeAngelis in Austria, Mansell and Senna at Jerez etc. "Climbing all over the back" of the car in front was a common sight which we do not see any more.

So, my specific question - have you ever looked at field spread times after (eg) 10 laps and compared that to qualifying pace? For example, the gap between 1st and 5th was 0.5 seconds / lap in quali but by lap 10 of the race, 1st was 20 seconds down the road from the 5th placed car (ie 2 seconds per lap slower because of the concertina effect).

Another way to do this might be to look at how often two cars (racing for position) cross the line less than a) 2 second, b) 1 second and c) 0.5 seconds apart at the end of a lap? The data is all in the FIA outputs... I just don't have the time to enter it all into excel!!

It feels more like "passing is one thing but catching is another" these days. Maybe that's what Muddly meant to say all along?
Welcome to the site jez101 :thumbsup:

Getting data on how closesly cars follow each other is very difficult as it's not something that is measured or recorded as such and would require quite a bit of manual input as you say.

What I would say though is that compared to last year, cars are able to follow much more closely, usually to within about 1 second.
It's then that the usual problems with "dirty air" start to affect downforce and grip.

The problem with doing it after an arbitrary lap (e.g. lap 10) is all the cars are on different fuel strategies so we wouldn't be comparing like for like.
What may be some indication is comparing qualifying times with fastest laps.
The fastest lap times are recorded here but I'm not sure that will give you the answer you're after either: F1 Fastest Laps 2009

I don't know if GordonMurray or Brian have done anything on this?
I'm not going to volunteer, I've got too much to keep up with as it is :D
With race fuel also in quali, looking at lap 10 should not be a problem - if car 1 is 10 kg lighter at the start than car 2, it is likely to still be 10 kg lighter than the same car after 10 laps (ie before a fuel stop). Right? What you are looking for is the delta between what a car is capable of in clean air (quali) and what they have to do when stuck behind someone else.
Although the fuel will be used up at a similar rate, the heavier cars will lap slower so over a 10 lap window the field spread will be completely different if you had 20 cars fuelled the same compared to 20 cars on different weights.
If you have a car that is 0.5s slower over 1 lap because it is carrying more fuel in quali, then surely you would expect it to be 5 seconds slower over 10 laps.

What I am saying is that you look at what the difference actually is after 10 laps, take away what it should be based on the raw pace of the cars (the difference in 1 lap time x 10) and you have an additional spread, caused by something. The hypothesis is that thgis is caused by having to follow 1 or more cars.

eg. Lewis is 0.5 seconds up on Massa who is 5th on the grid in quali.

After 10 laps, Massa is 15 seconds behind. He should be 10 secs behind Lewis, but he's got traffic which has cost him 5 more secs. That is what I am trying to find out - how much is this traffic costing him?

It's probably too complicated and as you said earlier, the data is not readily available
I think there would be too many variables so it would be extremely difficult to get any sort of accurate results.

For example, how would you know the 5 seconds lost were due to traffic and not due to Massa going wide at a particular corner?

I think qualifying times and lap times are about the only way you've got of comparing race pace as you can then factor out all the fastest laps which are outside the mean +/- a few %.
That coupled with the race time less pit stops should give you an overall delta I would have thought?
Hi there jez.

It's a tough one, as you say there probably is some merit in it but I think like Brogan, probably too many other variables influencing it overall.

I could do a comparison between this year and last for the circuits that have been used in both seasons? Say the spread from 1st to 12th on lap 10?

Then if we end up with a jumble we can probably conclude there's nothing to be gained by going further? I'll have a look over the weekend.
Great! Looking forward to some numbers!!!

If you have the data, have a look and see how many times cars crossed the line less than a second apart at the end of each lap too? what is the average gap between p1 & p2; p2 & p3; p3 & p4 at the end of lap 1, 2, 3 etc?

My feeling is that cars are not following each other closely enough to be able to overtake and if you look at old footage of races, it certainly seems to be a lot closer then, even though we keep hearing about how closely matched today's teams are.


Hi all,

I'm afraid I don't think we're going to have a lot of luck with this line of enquiry - once you take out races that were affected by Safety Cars in the first ten laps, and then exclude wet races, there's only a sample of four to compare.

For what it's worth, these are the figures for the gap (in seconds) from 1st to 12th at the end of lap 10:

There's such a variation in those figures that I don't think there are many conclusions to be drawn. Probably the field is slightly closer on pace this year than last, but the gap between the average spreads looks far too big for me. It comes down to individual cars' fuel loads as much as anything I fear.

The evidence of my eyes suggests cars can follow each other a little more closely than in 2008, but not much - not enough to make a big difference without a KERS boost or a mistake from the man in front.
Thanks for looking at this GM. See what you mean about the data...

Did anything come up when looking at gaps between position at the end of each lap?
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