This post is aimed at analysing the performance of the 2017 F1 cars across this year’s championship. It does so by using the so-called ‘supertime’ method, whereby the fastest lap time from each car in each qualifying session is converted into a percentage relative to the quickest time of that particular weekend. This was done purely for clean, dry qualifying sessions, so if a session was wet or there was an inconsistent track condition, race weekends were discounted. Using practice times to overcome this is highly unreliable due to differing engine modes, for instance.
The first comparison can be drawn between the overall performance of each team, averaging it over the season. Unsurprisingly, Mercedes was the quickest of all, with Ferrari posing much more of a threat in the race. The standout differences between this measure and the championship standings are Renault and McLaren.
Renault finished sixth in the championship, but had the fourth quickest car. There a number of reasons for this. Firstly, unreliability plagued the team throughout the year, preventing significant points scores – take Hülkenberg’s guaranteed fourth place in Singapore as an example. In addition, Palmer underperformed in his stint, while the car was quick in qualifying, but poor on the tyres in race trim early in the year. From McLaren’s side, unreliability also played a key role, especially at the start of the season, when there are generally more opportunities as teams are still learning about optimising their new cars.
This overall comparison also draws attention to the substantial gap between the top three and the midfield (over 1.2%), the very tight midfield (0.65% spread across 6 teams), and the gap which Sauber must make up over the winter to reach this group (1.2%).
Now, it is also possible to look at the consistency of teams across the season by averaging their three best and three worst races in percentage terms, and finding the difference between them. Unsurprisingly, Mercedes and Ferrari were the best in this area, with each team having no major weaknesses to the extent of Red Bull and their power unit, or Sauber and their chassis.
Toro Rosso is the surprise package, with the third best consistency, but this is perhaps explained by the fact that the power unit and chassis are more equally culpable for the gap to the leading teams, compared to, say, Red Bull. This consistency measure is, however, skewed by in-season development. For instance, McLaren have benefitted hugely from an increasingly reliable and therefore more powerful Honda engine as the season has gone on, and it is not surprising that they had the best in-season development (measured by comparing the percentage average from the first ten races to the average from the second half of the season).
As well as this, the MCL32’s chassis undoubtedly improved through the year, with a significant upgrade package in Spain, and a major front wing upgrade for the USA. Renault also displayed a strong improvement throughout the season, as would be expected as the new team of people gel, and maximise their resources. A new diffuser in Silverstone was the catalyst for a strong second half of the year for the Enstone team. Red Bull’s vast upgrade programme on the chassis side is also clear.
Williams’ in-season development was lacking until its rear wing upgrade in Japan, proposed by this author, improved prospects significantly for the final few races. Toro Rosso and Haas both suffered in the 2017 upgrade race, with the former’s major Malaysia upgrade not bringing what was simulated, while the latter switched focus to 2018 early in a bid to make significant changes to its car.
Note: exclusions from the data set were Monza, Silverstone Q1 and Q2, and Singapore Q1.