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Barcelona lap time comparison

May 15th, 2009

Robert Kubica, Spain, 2009Back in March, Oliver White at BlogF1 posted an interesting comparison of pre-season testing times from 2008 versus those of 2009.

In those numbers was a hint of the dominance to come from Brawn GP and the relatively poor performance of McLaren’s MP4-24.  But they were also a bit misleading in that the second best improved team was BMW followed by Ferrari, neither of which have impressed much this year.  Red Bull, currently second in the Constructors’ Championship, did only marginally better in the comparison table.

Last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix marked the start of the European F1 season which is traditionally the time when teams introduce upgrades to their cars.  In fact, in previous years, many teams would only release their new car when they got to Europe, choosing to run the previous season’s car for the opening flyaway races.

So with most of the teams bringing updated cars to Spain there was a lot of talk of improvements in lap times.  BMW’s upgrade was the most radical, attaching a new rear wing, front wing and a completely redesigned nose.  BMW team boss, Mario Theissen, said they were hoping for a half second per lap improvement.

But are the cars significantly faster now than they were at the beginning of the year?  As the teams all tested at the Circuit de Catalunya in the winter we can compare their times set in testing with their times set during the Spanish Grand Prix weekend.

Below is a table comparing the fastest time set by each team at the Barcelona test in February to their fastest time set during the Spanish Grand Prix weekend.

Team Driver (Test) Best Time (Test) Driver (GP) Best Time (GP) Difference
Williams Rosberg 01:19.744 Rosberg 01:21.588 +00:01.844
Brawn Barrichello 01:18.926 Button 01:20.527 +00:01.601
Toyota Glock 01:20.091 Glock 01:21.247 +00:01.156
BMW Kubica 01:20.214 Kubica 01:21.239 +00:01.025
Renault Alonso 01:20.664 Alonso 01:21.392 +00:00.728
Force India Fisichella 01:21.045 Sutil 01:21.742 +00:00.697
Ferrari Massa 01:20.168 Massa 01:20.553 +00:00.385
Red Bull Vettel 01:20.576 Vettel 01:20.660 +00:00.084
Toro Rosso Buemi 01:21.013 Buemi 01:21.067 +00:00.054
McLaren Hamilton 01:20.869 Hamilton 01:20.805 -00:00.064

Barcelona lap time comparison, 2009

To be honest, I’m a bit confused by the results.  It shows that all the teams except McLaren posted slower lap times at the Spanish Grand Prix than they did in testing.  In fact Brawn GP were the second biggest losers in the comparison despite dominating the race last weekend.

Perhaps this kind of comparison is not really valid but if BMW claim their car is now half a second a lap faster shouldn’t they have been able to at least match the time they set in testing?

If anyone has any ideas about how to interpret these results, I’d love to hear it in the comments.

Image: BMW AG

Categories: 2009 Season Tags: , , ,
  1. Andrew Hill
    May 15th, 2009 at 17:04 | #1

    I wonder if the best lap time during a race will always be slower than in practice, as the cars will be lightest at the point when the tyres have done the most laps?

    What does a comparison of winter testing times vs. free practice best times show?

  2. May 15th, 2009 at 17:59 | #2

    @Andrew Hill
    You’re right, but the times in the table above are the fastest times set over the whole race weekend including practice, qualifying and race.

    Of the times above, all were set in qualifying except for Rosberg, who set his in P2, and Massa and Kubica, who were fastest in P3.

  3. Andrew Hill
    May 16th, 2009 at 10:06 | #3

    Ah, okay. In that case, I have no idea what’s going on then 🙂

    Testing with non-09 spec cars, perhaps?

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