Real vs virtual lap times in Spanish GP practice

In the wacky world of data now available, the teams and drivers have a plethora of information to scale through. Fortunately or unfortunately we do not have access to this—we get fed a very limited amount of data and have to make our best assumptions as to why, where and how the speed, or lack of, is gained & lost.

One of the parameters the teams can look at is what is called a” theoretical best lap time” which basically puts together every meter a car/driver ran over a given session or sessions and splices them together with the best speed from each said meter to form this theoretical lap—a lap which should be the ultimate that car and driver have showed capabilities of so far in the weekend.

I remember a while back when I was helping a Formula Atlantic team and the driver was nearly 1.5 seconds off of this time. The theoretical lap time was a good way to show inconsistent driving that wouldn’t show up by just clicking the stop watches every lap. And in the pursuit of more speed, the theoretical lap time method can find a driver pushing in the wrong places.

Now there are some parameters that can skew things a bit. The old notion of “slower into, faster out of” the corner we hold so dear at racing school is a matter of balance and managing speed for what can give you an overall better lap time. If a driver comes in too fast and has to gather up that monkey on the exit this will show up but wouldn’t really be an advantageous entry speed, but would show up on the Theoretical time as a max speed possible.

With this in mind I thought I’d take a look at the F1 practice today and see with the limited access to info we have, how good these guys are to achieving maximum over one lap. I was hoping to find perhaps a few sandbaggers in the bunch but due to the P1 driving conditions I think there probably wasn’t a ton of card holding going on and overall it looks like these F1 boys aren’t to bad at this driving thing .

Looking at the stats I’d say the mean difference was 0.2. Some drivers were exact or very, very close to getting it all out on 1 lap, and a couple look to have fumbled a little. For you RoGro fans all is not lost as even though he lined up P18 if you tie his best 3 sectors together he should have been around the P10 area, also Esteban Gutierrez should take heart as his theoretical lap would have slotted him right on the McLaren’s heels.

So just an interesting look at where these guys are, and maybe something to keep your eyes on in the future, also you may be able to see who’s going to be quick in the right places to move up the order. Or perhaps delve through your favourite driving Sim and see where it’ s all going wrong!


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