2017 British GP Qualifying Telemetry Analysis

This years British Grand Prix was dominated by Hamilton as he took his 67th pole position, and matched Jim Clark with four consecutive British GP wins. The race ended in a thrilling final few laps as both Ferrari suffered problems with the front left tyres and having to pit. Räikkönen managed to hold onto P3, but Vettel dropped back to P7 which resulted in his championship lead cut down to just one point.

Qualifying was effectively the Lewis Hamilton show as neither Bottas or Ferrari has an answer to his pace. Red Bull’s Verstappen took P5 as his teammate had technical difficulties.  Nico Hülkenberg in the upgraded Renault showed impressive pace to qualify P6, as well as Vandoorne getting McLaren into Q3 again.

Just like in Austria, the Silverstone circuit offers a unique challenge to the drivers and teams. With its long straights and sweeping corners the teams have to find the best compromise for their car to maximise their laptime. Sector 1 is dominated by a straight and two high speed corners where drivers want the straight line speed, but then you have sector 2 with it’s sweeping sequence of high to medium speed corners where drivers want the downforce and grip, which comes at the cost of drag. Sector 3 is a mix of the previous two, demonstrating the importance of finding the compromise between finding time in the corners without losing out on the straight.

Using telemetry charts, I’m going to go through and analyse six different cases to investigate the differences between the teams and drivers:

  1. Hamilton vs Räikkönen
  2. Hamilton vs Bottas
  3. Räikkönen vs Vettel
  4. Hamilton vs Verstappen
  5. Hamilton vs Vandoorne
  6. Hamilton 2017 vs Hamilton 2016

All laps are Q3 unless stated otherwise. The charts are fairly simple. Each driver has the velocity plotted against distance. Sadly besides the last chart there are no throttle and brake traces this time as I was unable to obtain onboard videos with this data. The time delta is also plotted comparing the first driver in the legend against the second. In the first chart below, the time delta is comparing Hamilton’s lap against Räikkönen, so if the value is positive Vettel is slower and behind Bottas.

Please see the introduction of this post for an insight into telemetry and the limitations of the charts presented here. The code and data files are available on github.

Hamilton vs Räikkönen

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Neither Ferrari had an answer to the blistering pace of Hamilton and his Mercedes around the classic British circuit, with Kimi Räikkönen getting closest at just over half a second behind. Here’s how the lap unfolded.

Turns 1 and 2 are fairly straight forward for an F1 car, but still vital to not scrub off too much speed before braking for turn 3. The relative speed reductions through turn 1 are about the same for both drivers, so for now it appears as if Räikkönens lower speed may be down to a lack of grunt from the power unit, more drag, or a combination of both. Hamilton is almost already a tenth up before both cars arrive at turn 3. Turn 3 is all about getting setting up turn 4 to get a good exit out on the the Wellington Straight. Both cars are fairly even under braking for 3, but Hamilton gets on the power better during corner exit. The two drivers attack turn 4 differently, with Kimi taking a higher apex speed trying to maximise the strength of the Ferrari’s low speed traction. Hamilton, however, has a lower apex speed as he focused on getting the car straightened as early as possible to utilise the power of the Mercedes PU. It pays off as he gains a further tenth on Räikkönen through the first DRS zone; the Ferrari is ~5kph down here even with DRS. So, time lost in sector 1 to Hamilton totals to 0.2s due to straight line speed, and 0.05s through cornering.

On to long and sweeping low-medium speed Brooklands and Luffield (6 & 7), where Räikkönen brakes a touch later and carries more speed into and at the apex of 6 than Hamilton, allowing him to claw back a tenth on Hamilton. This is quickly negated by Hamilton as he is a massive 0.2-0.25s faster than Räikkönen though 7 alone. This was all Hamilton as you’ll see when the two Mercedes are compared. On the curving straight to Copse (9) both are evenly matched, with the Mercedes pulling ahead at the ~300kph mark as the drag really begins to make life significantly harder for the engine.

Copse. Such a sublime corner to watch the cars as they dart right with an apex speed of more than ~280kph, and a lot of drivers were excited to see if they could take it flat. Hamilton himself said he didn’t, and unfortunately I don’t have the throttle trace for either Ferrari or Red Bull to check if they did. Nonetheless, Räikkönen was clearly a tenth faster through Copse, and judging from the trace he might have taken it flat because his apex speed occurs 100m later as he tries to maintain momentum through the corner. Hamilton’s approach was different. Instead of trying to keep momentum through the apex, he slows down earlier and powers through the apex. Due to Räikkönens higher apex speed it may seem as if the Ferrari was running more downforce, and with the contrasting approaches to Copse it’s still inconclusive, but it does give an indication that the Ferrari’s lack of straight line speed may not be simply due to less power.

Turns 10-12, Maggots and Becketts, whatever you call it, these corners are designed for an F1 car, and the drivers are enjoying the sequence even more this year. Throughout the entire complex, Hamilton carries more speed and brakes later than Räikkönen, and is almost 5kph faster through 13, while still being able to get onto the power and accelerate onto the Hangar Straight perfectly. He ends up a tenth faster through the entire sequence. However, it looks like Räikkönen may have made an error or not committed to the corners enough, as his trace isn’t as smooth as Hamilton’s and also different to Vettel’s – more on this when comparing the two Ferraris.

Ferrari’s lower straight line speed once again causes Räikkönen to lose a further tenth before Stowe (15). Interestingly, the difference between their top end speeds is greater with DRS, which could be a result of the extra power of the Mercedes PU able to further enhance its advantage with the drag is reduced. It could also be caused by Ferrari running more front end than the Mercedes – in the race we saw that Ferrari struggled with front tyre wear more than Mercedes – and this would corroborate that. Running more front end results in less drag lost via DRS because with DRS you’re mainly reducing rear wing drag, so any extra drag on the front wing will constantly affect you in the DRS zones.

Through Stowe, Räikkönen was faster at the apex by more than 5kph (another sign that Ferrari were running more downforce), giving him just over half a tenth on Hamilton. The Brit then gets a strong exit to counter half the time gained by Kimi through Stowe. To finish the lap through Club and Vale (16 & 17), both cars are fairly even. Hamilton was faster through 16, with Räikkönen faster through 17. Hamilton gets the better exit to the finish line though to gain half a tenth, and finishes more than half a second ahead of Räikkönen.

Half a second is huge in F1, so have Mercedes made a significant step ahead, or was it just a bad weekend for Ferrari? Like a lot of these questions, it’s a bit of both. Mercedes have the straight line speed advantage over Ferrari likely due to a combination of Ferrari running more downforce and having less power, and Ferrari just aren’t gaining enough time in the corners to compensate. Having lost ~0.3s on the straights around Silverstone, it’s looking more and more like the oil burning technical directive released in Azerbaijan has really hurt Ferrari, and so far they haven’t found an optimal way to counter it. It’ll be fascinating to see how the two teams approach the higher downforce demanding Hungaroring as if Ferrari are not fast enough through the high speed corners, then they’ve got a lot of work to do to get back into the championship fight.

Hamilton vs Bottas

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Bottas was almost eight tenths slower than Hamilton on the Saturday, as he had no answer to Hamilton’s pace. Let’s have a look at where he lost time.

Both are neck and neck through 1 and 2, and brake at the same point for turn 3. This is where Bottas locked up which is evident in the later and slower apex speed. Compromised into turn 4, he carries good speed through the apex of 4, but loses out on corner exit traction, to end up just over two tenths down on his teammate at the Sector 1 mark. No significant differences in straight line speed on the Wellington straight imply that both drivers are running very similar downforce/drag levels.

Through 6 and 7, Bottas was simply slower. He has less speed through the entry, apex, and exit of 6, costing him a tenth. He really lost a huge chunk through 7 though, losing almost 0.3s on entry. It looks like Hamilton was just too good through here and somehow found a way to carry so much speed in to the corner, maintain it, and get a good exit. Bottas does getter a marginally better exit, but on the run down to Copse, he is already half a second down.

Things are now looking better for Bottas. He has the same approach as Hamilton to Copse, where unlike the Ferraris he slows down first and powers through the corner, but is faster at the apex than Hamilton and enjoys this additional extra speed advantage until turn 10. Bottas has clawed back a tenth.

If commitment was finite and a driver only had a certain amount to use per lap, Bottas had used it all through Copse. Hamilton had saved it for turns 10-13. Initially they’re both even, but when it comes to turn 13, at the apex Hamilton is a massive 10kph and overall two tenths faster than Bottas through the corner. It’s almost as they’re driving completely different cars through 13. Note that Bottas was also slower than both Ferrari’s, Verstappen, and Vandoorne through 13, so he may have made a mistake here.

Through Stowe, they’re pretty much even stevens, but when it comes to the end of the lap, Hamilton stretches his legs even further. He carries more speed into and at the apex of 16, and sets up 17 to get a much better exit than Bottas to the finish line to go through turns 16-18 two tenths faster, and finish the lap 0.8s ahead. It was Hamilton at his frightening best, with turns 7 and 13 standing out as where he was just too quick for Bottas and either Ferrari to get close.

Räikkönen vs Vettel

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What was an awful qualifying for Bottas relative to his teammate, was just as bad for Vettel who finished a couple tenths down on Räikkönen. It was a much closer fight than the two Mercedes drivers, and here’s how it all played out.

Not much to say at the start besides each driver having slightly different methods in attacking turns 1 and 2, with Kimi just marginally faster before braking for turn 3. Vettel loses ~0.15s via a slower apex speed for 3, but a likely result of this is that he was able to position his car better for turn 4 to get a good exit. He is faster at the apex and does get a good exit, but so does Räikkönen, meaning Vettel ends up half a tenth behind at the sector 1 mark, with the time lost through 3 and 4.

Vettel loses a further two tenths through the next couple of corners of 6 and 7. Vettel was slower than Räikkönen through 6 losing about a tenth, but unlike Hamilton who countered it through 7, Vettel and Räikkönen were fairly even there, and once again both get good exits with Räikkönens slightly better. The result is that Vettel is just over two tenths down before Copse.

Like Bottas, Vettel was also faster than his teammate through Copse, but only by ~0.025s. However, unlike Bottas, Vettel isn’t able to maintain that advantage down to Maggots and Becketts as by turning in later Vettel’s car isn’t able to accelerate as early as his teammate. Vettel is much faster through 10-12 (even faster than both Mercedes too) and brakes much later than Räikkönen for turn 13. He only gains half a tenth from this however, and loses out a little on the exit too which costs him in straight line speed at the end of the Hangar Straight. Earlier I wrote that Räikkönen may have made an error through turns 10-12, and it originated from the basis that the two traces are so different in shape.

Through Stowe corner, Vettel is little slower at the apex costing him half a tenth. For the final part of the lap it is as if Vettel has realised he’s on a poor lap and has to pull something out of the bag. He does so, going much faster than his teammate through 16, and gets a strong exit to go 0.15s faster than Räikkönen through turns 16-18. However, the damage had already been done, and Vettel crossed the finish line 0.2s behind.

From comparing both Ferraris, it does look like neither Ferrari had a great lap, which begs the question: how much faster could the Ferrari have gone with a perfect lap, and could it have contested Hamilton? Vettel was a tenth faster through turns 10-12, half a tenth through 9, and 0.15s through 16-18, totalling 0.25s. So, if he matched Räikkönen everywhere else, this produces a laptime of ~1:26.9xxs. Still some 0.3s off Hamilton, and not as far off as it initially seemed, but still a hefty margin to hunt down.

Hamilton vs Verstappen

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Red Bull were expected to be competitive around Silverstone with their strong chassis, but with the Renault engine, it was always going to be difficult, and in qualifying they ended up unable to threaten Ferrari/Mercedes while not really being threatened from behind. Let’s have a look and see how much time the Renault engine cost them, and how their chassis performed.

The speed deficit throughout the turns 1 and 2 is obvious, but the interesting thing is that Verstappen loses more speed (~8kph) through turn 1 than Hamilton (~6kph). This is perhaps due to the Red Bull having less downforce at this stage due to its lower speed, so Verstappen has to put more steering input than Hamilton which scrubs off a little more speed. Verstappen is slower through turn 3 as Hamilton carries more speed into the corner, but in contrast he is much faster through turn 4. Whereas Hamilton has to slow down more to rotate the car quickly for a good exit, Verstappen and his Red Bull are much happier maintaining a higher apex speed, gradually rotating the car, and still getting a good exit. Low speed corners definitely look like a key strength of the Red Bull when compared to the Mercedes. Through sector 1, Verstappen loses ~0.3s due to his PU, and ~0.1s through turns 3 and 4.

For turn 6, Verstappen brakes around the same point, but carries less speed into and at the apex than Hamilton. Both traces look very similar in shape, so it looks like they both took similar racing lines. Further, Verstappen gets closest to matching Hamilton through 7, faster than both Ferraris and Bottas. Once again it looks like Red Bull have a strong package in low to medium speed corners. Verstappen also gets a better exit than Hamilton as he gets on the power earlier.

Through Copse, it appears as if Red Bull and Verstappen took the same approach as Mercedes and didn’t take it flat, which Ferrari might have done. For turns 10-13, the shape of the traces are similar, with Verstappen just marginally slower than Hamilton at all times. Throughout the entire sequence from Copse to Chapel to Stowe, Verstappen is consistently at lower speeds than Hamilton. Part of this is due to the weaker power unit, but part of it may also be due to Red Bull running a little less downforce/drag than they’d prefer to to compensate.

Through Stowe, Verstappen looks to take a different approach to Hamilton by taking an earlier apex and getting on the power earlier, indicating that the Red Bull is happily compliant on traction during corner exit. The two cars are fairly even through Stowe, neither driver gains or loses. At the final part of the lap, both drivers are almost identical through 16, but the Red Bull’s strength on low speed traction shows itself again as Verstappen accelerates to a greater speed. Further, he doesn’t drop as much speed through 17 and is actually marginally faster than Hamilton through 16 & 17. However, he has to get on the power later for the drive to the finish line than Hamilton, and so the final part of the lap ends up fairly even between the two.

It’s clear that Red Bull lost a lot of time around Silverstone due to their power unit, but stick a Mercedes unit in the back and they would still be ~0.3s off Hamilton if we look at the time lost in the lower speed corners. This would definitely fast enough to mix it up with the Ferraris on pure pace and not track position.

Hamilton vs Vandoorne

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McLaren and Vandoorne were almost 3s off the pace, with Alonso seemingly a further half second off his teammate. Their engine troubles are well known, but how much of the 2.8s gap to Mercedes does it account for?

Turns 9-13 are a good place to look to get an idea of how much downforce a team is running. Through turn 9 Vandoorne is marginally faster, and with a more gradual reduction in speed it appears as if McLaren, like Ferrari, may have taken Copse flat. Vandoorne is consistently slower through turns 10-12, and the apex of 13, so overall this indicates that McLaren were likely running less downforce than Mercedes in combination with not being able to gain the additional downforce from simply being at a higher speed. Vandoorne’s apex speed at turn 15 is also only ~2kph lower which isn’t power dependent since it follows a braking zone.

Moving on to the low speed corners (3,4,16,17), the McLaren loses time here at a lower rate than the straights (~0.3s total). Vandoorne, like Verstappen, was even marginally faster than Hamilton through 17 so the McLaren chassis definitely looks competitive at low speed.

Further evidence of this is found in turns 6 and 7. Vandoorne is slower through 6 than the top 3 teams, so McLaren may be lacking some medium speed downforce. However, through turn 7 they’re just as fast as Bottas and both Ferrari’s, with only Verstappen and Hamilton going quicker than Vandoorne through Luffield.

Totalling time lost through the corners comes to ~1s which is just under a third of the total time lost, so there’s a long road ahead for McLaren and Honda before they can start dreaming of fighting for a championship.

Hamilton 2017 vs Hamilton 2016

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I was able to find onboard telemetry for Hamilton’s pole lap only thanks to a youtube channel (Juzh123), so I decided to do a comparison of the 2016 and 2017 Mercedes around Silverstone with throttle and brake traces. It’s a great example of how much of an impact downforce has on laptime and why F1 cars are so fast.

A lot of the chart speaks for itself, but there are a few interesting tidbits. The significantly higher drag on the 2017 car is abundantly clear as the 2016 car reaches higher top speeds even after a slower apex speed – see turn 13. The straight line speed is far less valuable than the extra downforce that the 2017 car has which gains significantly more time in the corners than it loses on the straights.

Thanks to additional downforce and extra tyre grip, the 2017 car is consistently able to brake noticeably later and for less time, and get on the power much earlier on corner exit. Notice that a lot of the time is made up in the slower corners due to this.

Finally, at 3000m, this isn’t an error in the trace, the 2017 car doesn’t need to brake at all and Hamilton just has to lift a little (also less than the 2016 car). The 2017 car also doesn’t need to brake for turn 12, with Hamilton again just needing to lift.

Thanks for reading!


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