In Pocast 449, Todd and I discussed the comparative lap times between the end of the V8 era (2013) and the start of this new era with hybrid Power Units. There have been a lot of comments about how mch slower and less challenging this new breed of F1 car is when compared to the earlier (louder) V8s.
First of all if we examine the outright pace of the cars in qualifying trim, the only time we really get to see this is during qualifying itself, although hints can be given during free practice 3 when teams perform some simulations. However as the track evolves over the race weekend, qualifying itself is normally quicker. What I have done is looked at the fastes individual laptime of each team over the race weekend, this is normally during qualifying, but on occasions when it rains on Saturday this may be on the Firday, or on occasion even during the race.
It is possible to compare the qualifying laps for some race for the past three seasons:
All these races show that the times dropped off dramatically during the first year of the new regulations, and while they have not fully recovered back to the V8 outright pace at all locations, they are nearly there.
So the outright single lap pace probably needs until 2016 until it will be as quick or quicker than the V8s everywhere. Next we will look at overall race pace. Here I looked at the overall race time for the winning car and divided that by the number of laps to get an average pace. This is only going o be a fair comparison in races uninterrupted by a safety car (or rain). The table below shows the times:
There are only six races that have been uninterrupted in both 2013 and 2015 (Bahrain, Spain, Canada, Italy, Japan and Brazil). As mentioned in the podcast, Brazil has been resurfaced since 2013, and new kerbs were added this year, so this is probably not a fair comparison.
Bahrain, Canada and Italy ended up being faster overall this year than when the V8s were running, while Spain and Japan were slower. As the Spanish race was also uninterrupted in 2014, it is also possible to compare those times, and despite the development of the cars over the preceding 12 months, the 2015 race was slower than the 2014 race, so something odd was happening there. I can’t recall any changes being made to the circuit so maybe it was #justthewind ?
Overall, it looks to me that the current generation of F1 cars are very close to the pace of the last of the V8 era.