F1's Greatest Lie -The Cars are Closer than ever


Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
I may be pointing out the obvious here but Martin Brundle keeps banging on about how this season "the grid is covered by only a couple of seconds” and it’s starting to wind me up. Although this is correct if you look at the time sheet (Spain - Button 1m 20.527 compared to Fisichella 1m 22.204) it's factually incorrect.

Given that the first 10 cars are running on race fuel it means the gap between front and back is much larger. I'm not sure if the starting weights have been published yet but it would be interesting for those more statistically minded to work out what the real gap is between front and back and whether the old 107% rule would have pushed the Force India's and poor old Heikki back into the garage for race day.

I’m sorry to repeat myself but “worst season ever”...
As and when the FIA get around to publishing the weights (does the delay mean there's a problem, I wonder?) then I'll do a post trying to equalise the performance.

Q2 is a pretty good indicator though. Force India would have nothing to fear from the 107% rule whatsoever.
Years ending with 9 in F1 (race 5) last 30 years

2009: 1 - RB - 1:19.954*, 20 - GF - 1:22.204 - Barcelona
1999: 1 - MH - 1:22.088, 20 - TT - 1:25.280 - Barcelona
1989: 1 - AS - 1:30.108, 20 - LPS - 1:33.724 - Pheonix
1979: 1 - JL - 1:14.50, 20 - PT - 1:17.45 - Jarama

RB - Rubens Barrichello
GF - Giancarlo Fisichella
MH - Mika Hakkinen
TT - Tora Takagi (Crash hazard...)
AS - Ayrton Senna
LPS - Luis Perez-Sala
JL - Jacques Laffite
PT - Patrick Tambay

*Q2 not pole

Make your own conclusions, but it seems to me that 1st to 20th has remained pretty consistent, albeit with a snapshot of 4 seasons. Maybe Brundle is on about first to last, which was, of course, not 20th before!

For example, Luis Perez-Sala in 1989 managed to outqualify Jonathon Palmer, Nelson Piquet, Satoru Nakajima (like fathers like sons...), Garbriele Tarquini, Jonny Herbert, Christian Danner, Olivier Grouillard, Roberto Moreno, Réne Arnoux and Yannick Dalmas, whilst Piercarlo Ghinzani, Pierre-Henri Raphael, Gregor Foitek, Nicola Larini, Joachim Winkelhock, Volker Weidler, "Super" Aguri Suzuki, Bernd Schnieder (I thought he was a footballer) and Bertrand Gachot all failed to make it that far!

Whilst there are similarities to today, there is nowt as slow as Gachot's Onyx out there, it set a 1:44.530! Second-last Schnieder set a 1:37.776! Maybe midfield was further away from pole but only due to the fact midfield was slightly further back positions-wise!

It seems to me that whilst there were teams like Coloni, Pacific and Andrea Moda pottering around at the back, then the back was always going to seem further away. But 20th and 1st has been about the same distance, at this stage of the season, for the last 30 years (by that snapshot). Fat Bloke, you find yourself vindicated!
Cheers TBY - this isn't the only thing that winds me up about Brundle but maybe that's for another topic. :( Time for my Prozac! :D
Thanks tby, interesting stuff. I suppose in my memory it always seems that there were a lot more backmarkers in those days but your figures show, it's just a lot more cars full stop.

I think the spread between the top 5, say, would be closer these days though...famous last words perhaps...
I've posted up my qualifying weights calculation. Vettel comes out on top there.

If you add an extra lap of fuel to get back to the pits, Vettel's fuel adjusted time for Q3 was 1:18.966.
Cheers GM, so more than 3 seconds taking into account the "handicap". Nothing much changes , perhaps the gap is even a little bigger?

Any takers for a 1 hour qualie session with the average of the best 5 laps being taken for the grid placings? That would guarantee cars on track for much of the session and would more accurately reflect the real performance of the cars when you look at the grid placings.
Ooh, I don't know - what are the chances of getting a clear lap for five laps? Would be penalties a-go-go I should think.

I'm happy with the way things are, but they shouldn't publish the weights (at least, not until after the race).
Sorry, mistake earlier, Barrichello pole...

2009 Barcelona - 1 RB 1:19.954
5 SV 1:20.220

1999 Barcelona - 1 MH 1:22.088
5 JA 1:22.338

1989 Pheonix - 1 AS 1:30.108
5 MB 1:31.960 (this is extremely interesting baring in mind the driver)

1979 Jarama - 1 JL 1:14.50
5 JS* 1:15.10

*Jody Scheckter - I know JS aren't exactly F1's most unpopular initials!

I'd also like to consider race 5 of a season of dominance ie. 1992!

1992 Imola - 1 NM 1:21.842
5 MS 1:23.701
20 OG 1:26.404

This shows that Williams were out front by a long chalk, but if we remove the two Williams'

1992 Imola - 3 AS 1:23.086
7 JA 1:23.970
22 GT 1:26.765

which is more or less the spread we found for other years... (although Perry McCarthy set a 1:37.537 in PQ for the wonderful Andrea Moda team; he, as usual, finished last)

You'll also notice Mansell was 2 whole seconds in front of Senna in 3rd, which gives you a good idea of the Williams.

It is also true that Senna was on pole by a second and a half in Pheonix in 1989, if we went from 2nd to 6th we'd have:

1989 Pheonix - 2 AP 1:31.517
6 AC 1:32.160

Again, excluding the qualifying nous of Ayrton Senna, we're more like all the other data!

I'll let you draw your own conclusions elsewhere...

Except to say Andrea Moda were bl**dy useless!
i agree with FB

its odd though, at first the season started on a high note but by now its really more of the same. if its the worst season ever, i dont know yet, but so far the disappointment is getting bigger per race.

actually, GM, i thought about that too, is my memory playing tricks with me cos i feel we had more racing in earlier years. maybe, but not too sure, i am confused with the race itself. we had so many more differences per team, different tyre supplier, different engine and so on and so on. but thats the race, what about the starting grid?

honestly, thats a big blank in my memory. and thanks to data like TBY presents, this hole gets filled :) when you think about it, it makes sense though. although quali formats have changed the ultimate objective has remained the same. teams have and always will optimize their car in quali to get a good starting position as part of a racing strategy. and logically, the time when teams are closest will be at the start.

but back to the original point: so far the excitement of this season is more in the position of certain drivers and teams on the grid then about the racing itself. and the sloppiness we noticed last year just goes on, drivers make momentous mistakes.
Thanks tby.

Or to put it another way...if we take Senna and the Williamses out of the equation, the top-5 spread is only a little closer today than it used to be...?
I'm just making the point that nothing much has changed! If you've got a car that's 2 seconds faster on a qualifying lap like the Williams at certain points in 1992, that is going to mess up the statistics. This, I suppose, will be what does the memory, looking at 1992 Mansell was 5 seconds ahead of the first non-Williams at Silverstone!

My point is with the exception of cars that dominate to the point of boredom like the FW14 and quali specialists like Ayrton Senna around (65 poles ? 41 wins isn't that great) there wasn't too much between the vast majority of the teams, ie. McLaren ? Venturi or Minardi 1992 = Red Bull ? Force India 2009...

I agree with you though GM, the top 5 spread is now closer, whilst the top 20 spread isn't too different. It seems the front has moved back towards the rest rather than vice-versa!
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