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The analysis of impact of Free practices on 2017 F1 GP weekend results

Zvonimir Martinčević

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I believe that many Formula1 fans are following the whole GP Weekend, not just the Sunday race. If that is the case, then it will be very interesting to read the analysis which 2017 F1 driver was the fastest in a given Free practice and what impact did this have on the Qualifying, the Sunday’s race and the Fastest race lap. The chart, which I compiled for the 2017 season, I have named the “2017 F1 GP WEEKEND RESULTS” and it very accurately and visually shows who were the fastest drivers this season. We will also see how the constructors have come together, which will give us even more precise picture of who were this year the best.

.pdf document (click to download)

At the end of each F1 season we can read a lot of statistics on the previous season, but to me, who together with my collegue Ante, comment Free practices during the whole F1 season (for the Croatian Arena Sport sports television channel), this chart will also come in handy. It will show us who did, not only physically took the flight to the GP weekend, but how hard it was to finish the Sunday’s race first, or to be the fastest on individual sessions, of a three-day F1 GP event. Recently, Ross Brawn, the Formula One Managing Director of Motorsports, said it would have to change the F1 GP weekend format due to the predicted increase in the number of Formula1 races in the F1 calendar. I hope this analysis will ultimately show the justification for keeping the existing form of the GP Weekend. I am quite sure that smart people like Ross Brawn have this sort of analysis when they think about such radical changes trying to make the sport bigger and more attractive. If not, here’s a chance to see what it’s all about.

This year, F1 season had 20 races during full 7 months, from end of March till the end of November. Each GP Weekend we had three Free practice sessions, FP’s. The first two – FP1 and FP2 run on Fridays, except in Monaco traditionally on Thursday, and FP3 on Saturdays. The first two sessions always last 90 minutes, regardless of what’s happening on the track, even if the practice hasn’t started or has been red flagged due to the track accident, or heavy rains, or smog (like this year in China), time is runnig out. After 90 minutes the practice is over, so whoever drove – it’s over! Even worse, regular drivers are often replaced by one of the team’s junior or test driver in their own cars usually during the first practice session, or their car has mounted on an “air rake” that measures the pressure difference (aerodynamics) on the particular part of the car or, for example, the HALO system (it will become mandatory starting 2018 season, so each driver will have this safety device). Regular drivers are not happy when their precious free practice is „waisted“ because every mile prior the race is worth like “pure gold”, needless to say that until the last second of the first training they are on the verge of a nervous breakdown waiting on their car to end safely in the pit laine. There are only two and a half hours between the first and the second practice sessions on Friday, and in case of serious car damage, there is a great chance that the second training will be missed, as well. As far as FP3 is concerned, when it finishes, we have only two hours till qualifying session. Well, this year, we have had 59 free practice sessions during all GP weekends, if you are wondering where the 60th was, then it should be said that the FP2 in China was canceled due to low clouds, rain or high air pollution (smog). The visibility around the track in Shanghai was questionable, it was impossible for medical helicopter to fly in case there was a serious injury on the track. While the ambulance van needed too much time in case of an accident to reach by road the nearest authorized medical center, because Shanghai traffic with its over 24 million population (if not more!) is heavily congested. Anyway, no FP2 this year! One more interesting fact is that even „now freshly retired“ Felipe Massa in Williams was the fastest at FP3 at the Italian GP. It’s not to be wondered, since that only 60 minutes long session lasted for only last 16 minutes due to heavy rain during the first part of FP3, but the fastest time was 19 seconds slower than the time achieved on the first two free practice sessions. But, Massa however finished the fastest. And that counts, of course! It is also interesting that he was the only driver from a team other than Mercedes, or Ferrari, or Red Bull, who were absolutely the fastest this year during all free practices! There were more even rainy episodes on free training this year, like FP1 in China, FP1 in Malaysia or FP2 in Japan.

Let me explain firstly how to read the chart I called “2017 F1 GP WEEKEND RESULTS”. Let’s start from the first column to the left, there are the idioms like; GP or Grand Prix (Race), date when it was held, configuration or track layout, length of track in km, FP1, FP2, FP3, Qualifying, Race, Fastest lap in the race, Fastest time in qualifying or Best pole position. Further below there is record lap time set during the race. At the bottom there are also graphs (pies) showing which drivers were the fastest on eg FP1 throughout the season. So these graphs horizontally show a particular session for a particular GP Weekend. Vertically by GP, one can see how many drivers were „in the mood“ that weekend. Analogously to all of this, I have compiled graphs (“pies”) for the constructors as well, but I will tell about them later. Going to the right in the chart we can see that the event of GP Australia is marked in gray color (at the very top), followed by three races in pink color. This means that only one race was held in March and next three in April. I wanted just to point out or to make it clearer, perhaps, how the drivers were in their form during the season.

For example, take another column in the table: the GP Australia, was held between March 24 and 26, track lenght is 5,303 km (or 5.303 m), Lewis Hamilton in Mercedes was the fastest at the first free practice with time 1:24.220. If we go down (vertically) to the Qualifying, we can see that Lewis Hamilton was the fastest with 1:22.188, but the race itself was won by Sebastian Vettel in Ferrari at 1h24:11.672 and the fastest lap in the race was set by Kimi Raikkonen in Ferrari 1:26.538. Below there is a row showing that Lewis Hamilton set in 2017 the fastest time ever in the Qualifying on this track configuration, and this data is marked with green color with 2017. If we look horizontally in the Pole time record, only at Monza this year is still a record set in the year 2004 and it was set by Rubens Barrichello in Ferrari. I will not go into the reasons why it is so. The last three rows are the fastest lap record set during the race (on the identical track configuration), we see that on 9 tracks the fastest lap ever was set in the race held 2004, 2005 or 2009, despite of this year’s fast and furious cars.

I hope everything is quite clear. But it is more than a mere mention of “who was when” what interest me – can it be find out, based on these data, the impact of free practices sessions won by particular driver to the final outcome of Qualifying, Sunday’s race or the fastest lap in the race?

FP1 or 1st free practice

This season, the most successful FP1 driver was Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) with 8 fastest results, with a whopping 40% of all 20 FP1s, followed by Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) and Max Verstappen (Red Bull) each with 3 (or 15%) fastest times at FP1, and so on. Well, here is the graph for the FP1 this season:

Drivers

Constructors

Their segments of “pie” are painted in the colors of their teams, so we can see that in 2017 season only six drivers were dominating the FP1s (Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo and Verstappen) from only three teams; Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull. I’m just talking about the fastest at the FP1 sessions, meaning “the second is only the first loser!”.

FP2 or 2nd free practice

As far as the FP2 is concerned, this year we had only 19 FP2 sessions (no China’s FP2 for the reasons I mentioned above in the text). The situation is the following;

Drivers

Constructors

Hamilton again was the best with 8 fastest times, but the percentage was higher (42%) because there was less free practices. The second was again Vettel with 4 or 21% and there were also only six fastest drivers (the same as in FP1s) on the FP2, of course, from the same three top teams.

FP3 or 3rd free practice

Among the fastest drivers at the third free practice we had an outsider; Felipe Massa in Williams, due to the rainy 3rd training in Italy. This year in FP3s, the best was Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 7 times or 35%. What’s interesting this year, except for Massa, is the fact that Daniel Ricciardo was never the fastest at FP3! Why? We do not know that, but it would be interesting to know what was the reason!

Drivers

Constructors

Q or qualifying

As far as qualifying is concerned, this year only four drivers in only two teams were the fastest; Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel and Raikkonen in Mercedes and Ferrari. Clearly, only these two engine manufacturers obviously have the “magic button” during the qualifying sessions. Renault or Honda set the target to do the same for 2018 season, because without that there is no chance, unless by chance it rains heavily during the Quallifying session. Only then would Verstappen in Red Bull or any other brave rain-driver, perhaps, just have the chance to do something more.

Drivers

Constructors

What’s even more scarier is the fact that Mercedes won 15 of 20 pole positions this year, or a huge 75% compared to Ferrari’s 5 or 25%.

R or the Race

Here we have this season “more colorful” situation; five different drivers won the races, as it follows: Hamilton 9 or 45% of all races, followed by Vettel with 5 wins or 25%. There are also Bottas with 3, and the two Red Bull drivers with 3 wins total. But no Kimi! Has Iceman reconciled with the role of second driver within the team? Everyone says it looks like, let’s remember what happened at GP Monaco or GP Hungary. Anyway, the contract with Ferrari for 2018 has been extended.

Drivers

Constructors

FL or the fastest laps in the race

This year, we had six “majestic” drivers and two “outsiders”; Sergio Perez in Force India at GP Monaco, and Fernando Alonso at McLaren-Honda at GP Hungary. But, the first is certainly this year’s best driver now four time World Champion Lewis Hamilton; 7 times or 35% followed by Sebastian Vettel with 5 fastest laps or 25%, etc.

Drivers

Constructors

If we look at the constructor’s part, the first is the Mercedes with 9 fastest laps or 45%, followed by Ferrari with 7 or 35%, etc.

In 20 races, only six times the race winner took the fastest laps in the race, five times Hamilton, and only once Bottas. Both in Mercedes. Later, I’ll „play“ with the data of the impact of individual sessions on the overall results.

LRR or lap record in the race

I’ve already written about this topic, but we just have to say that we all expected that these eternal records this year would be overthrown. But here’s how we stand here:

Drivers

Constructors

Vettel holds them the most, six of them, five in Ferrari this year, and one on the track in Abu Dhabi with Red Bull-Renault in 2009. Kimi Raikkonen interestingly, has one record this year with Ferrari, one record with Ferrari in 2008, and another one in 2005 when he was driving for McLaren-Mercedes. Ferrari still holds 12 on this year’s 20 tracks, which is 60% of all records. Next year with the HYPER SOFT tyre, these records may eventually fall.

Impact of free practice sessions wins on the results of the weekend

In the last part of this analysis I played with numbers from free practice sessions and how they influenced the qualifying, race or the fastest lap in the race. Here’s how it looks:

At 5 FP1s, the one who was the first – he was 1st at the pole position in qualifying too (25%), at the race the same driver was the first 6 out of 20 times or 30%. Of course, don’t take it literally, even if the whole weekend one driver was fastest on free practices – not everything during the race goes as planned. If we only consider a certain FP, then the highest probability is that you will be the first in qualifying (32%), first in the race (32%) and have the fastest lap (16%) if you were first on FP2. But overall the chances are still slim, so I’ll look at the impact of what happens if you’ve won one FP, two or all three on the final results.

In 30 cases, only one FP has been won on a GP weekend, if we take all the drivers who have won the first places in free practice. In 13 cases one of the drivers won 2 FPs, and Hamilton alone had this year’s first place in all three training sessions at the GP USA. He then took the pole position and won the Sunday’s race, but did not set the fastest lap in the race.

The 7Y (23N) / 30 mark in teh row 1xFP means that in 7 cases one who took 1st place at one FP won Pole position as well, but 23 times this wasn’t the case. This is 23% of those 30 cases.

As far as Sunday’s race is concerned, with one of first place in the FP in 9 cases this meant winning the race, and in 21 cases NO. The percentage is 30% here. When we talk about the fastest lap in the race, the biggest chance is that one of the drivers who won only one FP. So, in 5 cases, the outcome is positive, and in 25 cases negative, the percentage is 17%. Accordingly, it is quite clear that the best chance (100%) to win the Pole position in qualifying as well as win the race has the one who has won first places at all 3 FPs.

Let’s go further, only two drivers this year had the pole positions, won the race and drove the fastest lap. Hamilton in 4 out of 20 races (20%) as it follows: in China, Spain, Canada and the UK. Do not confuse this with the GRAND SLAM! A Grand Chelem or Grand Slam is a rare achievement scored in motor racing if a driver scores pole position in qualifying, the fastest lap in the race and then winning while leading every lap of the race in the same GP weekend. To date, only 24 drivers have secured a Grand Chelem in the whole F1 history since 1950. There have only been 61 Grand Slams in total. And, Hamilton this year did that 3 times; in China, Canada and the UK. The other driver who had the pole, won the race and set the fastest lap was Bottas in Abu Dhabi, but he did not make GRAND SLAM because, of course, he did not lead every race lap. His „beloved“ team mate Lewis stole him this honor.

Let’s see the impact of the pole position on the race victory. There, this year Lewis was again the best with 8 pole positions turned into victory (40%) in all races (TOTAL), but it should also be said that in 3 cases he did not manage to do so, therefore, his ratio of Pole positions turned to wins is 72.7% and it means on total of 11 GP weekends (8 x yes, and 3 x no).

The other two drivers who did this were 2 times Bottas (10%) and once Vettel (5%). Kimi Raikkonen had one pole position, but failed to turn it into a win in Monaco.

Two drivers did this this year; Hamilton at 5 races, and Bottas at one race in Abu Dhabi.

Let’s see how many times the one who won the race also set the fastest lap. Two drivers did this year; Hamilton in 5 races, and in 4 cases he failed (55.5%), and Bottas at one race in Abu Dhabi. The Finn failed to do so in 2 cases. Hamilton has TOTAL 40%, which means that it refers to the total number of races (20). Vettel (0 out of 5), Vertappen (0 of 2) and Ricciardo 0 of 1) have never succeeded to set the fastest lap.

And finally, let’s see which drivers and the constructors have won free practices in total this year.

Drivers

Constructors

From all these data, it is quite evident that the driver which was the most constant this year is Lewis Hamilton who won 19 of 59 free practice sessions (32%). Among the teams the best was Mercedes with 26 wins in 59 trainings (44%). He had 6 wins on only one FP during a GP weekend, then 5 double wins at the FPs and the only once this year he was the driver who won all three training sessions. Of the teams there is the best Mercedes with 26 wins in 59 free practices (44%).

Within this analysis, I did’t mention that these results would ultimately be even more precise if some of the drivers who worked hard throughout the whole GP weekend didn’t have some of the technical failures or crached during the race. It normally happens quite often.

And yes, did you notice that, let’s use my own term „SUPER GRAND SLAM“ (fastest in all three FPs, qualifying, won the race with the fastest lap and lead all laps during the Sunday’s race) this year nobody won. And I’m sure that this never happened, but I may be mistaken because we have to dig in the 68-year-long F1 archive and find out. However, Lewis Hamilton in Spain (he wasn’t the fastest on FP3) and the United States (he didn’t set the fastest lap) was the closest to that ultimate goal this year. On those GPs he has won 5 sessions, but wasn’t in the lead all the laps in the race.

Finally, can we then say undoubtedly that Lewis Hamilton, who had the most first places at free practices this season, eventually became a deserved World Champion? Of course, the facts tell us so!

Sincerely yours,
Z

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Zvonimir Martinčević
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