Saturday, November 17, 2012

F1 2012 United States Qualifying Summary

A quick summary of qualifying at the 2012 Formula One US Grand Prix.

Here's how the practice and qualifying sessions went:

Does that table need to have the y-axis reversed so that first is at the top? I think it does, doesn't it?

How about progress through the actual qualifying sessions?

How close to ultimate lap times did each driver get?

In response to a comment from MartinB, here's that same chart with the laptime axes reversed so the fastet laps are top right:

Does that work? Convention is to read axes as increasing value, so we break that here... but maybe the chart does make more sense? If anything, I guess it shows how you really would need to take care when reading axis titles and labels... Below the line is now slower than ultimate lap. Would it be more useful if Ultimate and personal best axes were flipped? Or maybe we should just focus on deltas between personal bests and personal ultimates?

How about this - looking at deltas vs the personal best time?
The different axis scales really make a big difference here - VET was "way off" his ultimate laptime compared to HAM. But a problem with this chart is that we can't easily tell whether HAM would have beaten VET if HAM had driven his ultimate lap compared to VET's personal best lap?

How about with flipped x-axis so fastest is to the right:

Any good?

If drivers had driven ultimate laps during qualifying, would the qualification classification have been any different? RAI would have moved up a place, it seems...

Here's how the best sector time deltas stacked up - drivers are ordered by qualifying classification, so it should be easy enough to spot anyone who drove good sectors on different laps, but didn't hook them up in a single qualifying lap:

Are the drivers performing particularly well or badly in any particular sector?  MAL and ALO are making up ground in sector 1 compared to their overall classification, but MSC is losing places. In sector 2, HUL does well but WEB is down. In sector 3, MAS is up, GRO and HUL are down.

We can also look at deltas to the fastest time in each sector, again arranged by overall classification (rather than rank in sector). WEB and GRO both lose time in sector 2.
How do the session times vary from the ultimate laptime (and did anyone fare better in an earlier session than a later one?)? Seems like BUT did better in Q1 than Q2... and ALO did better in Q2 than Q3:

How did speeds compare?
How slow are the Red Bulls?!

Any obvious (to the eye) relationship between speed and ultimate laptime?

I guess the next thing to do is to start trying to tie these data views into session reports, such as this one form f1fanatic: Vettel takes pole as Alonso struggles to fourth row. What we really need to support session write-ups of that form is the timing data for each qualifying lap. This is available from the FIA media centre, but I've been laying off the PDF scraping for the second half of this season...


  1. Speaking as someone who is not a data junkie but appreciates having the basic info presented graphically, I found three graphs useful:

    1) The second one, "Quali - session classifications". Shows clearly that Kimi and Schumi improved a lot, and WTF happened to Massa and Maldonado?

    2) The "Personal Best vs Personal Ultimate" chart. I'm not so much interested in whether the driver put it all together on his flying lap; I'm looking at the gaps to see how fast the teams are relative to each other. I'd prefer fastest at the top right, though.

    3) "Ultimate Laptime vs Speed". I'm not sure what it shows, except Red Bull is very different to the others, and the six tail-enders have a long way to go.

    It's an impressive set of graphs you've put together. My only suggestion is change the axes so faster is top and to the right. It feels more natural.

    1. @Martin Thanks for the comment

      Re: Quali-session classifications: I think this chart has potential too. The presentation needs cleaning up a bit because there are too many colours, I think (even reducing the colours to 12 - one per team - would still be pushing it I think?). The line thickness, text size and positioning also need addressing. One way the chart might work best would be when highlighting one or two drivers in particular (as for example in the red and blue charts here: ) - that way we could really focus on one or two drivers (maybe ones whose position changes dramatically? So eg I could light grey line any drivers who have the same position, dark grey a change of one, and use a full colour for greater position changes?

      Re: personal best vs ultimate, I think this is probably quite hard for many people to read (does your perception lock-in on horizontal or vertical displacement, or perpendicular distance from the x=y line etc), which is where I think I need to experiment with colouring a little more to highlight things that may be interesting. These charts can get quite cluttered too - in I used a zoom to try to figure out where BUT actually was. Regarding the axes, that's interesting... in some charts I flip rank so that first is at the top and rank/classification decreases down the page, but I don't think I've ever done that with laptime... Hmmm... Will try that...

      Re: ultimate laptime vs speed , I'm not convinced the speed v X charts show anything either... what I need to do is generate charts for every circuit and place them side by side, and then see if there are particular circuits or sectors that do stand out for any particular reason.

      Thanks muchly for your comments... the charts are unlikely to move on very usefully without such constructive feedback:-)

    2. @Martin Riffing on your suggestions, I added a couple more charts - a flipped axis version of personal best vs. ultimate, and a couple of new takes on personal best vs ultimate deltas against personal best laptime (with natural and flipped x-axis). Are these any use to you?

  2. Good job but i didn't understand all the graphics. It would be nice to have a "help button" where you can find information about the graphic and its meaning.

    1. Thant's on the to do list over the close season ready for next year...

  3. According to the BBC (and from the top of my memory) the Red Bulls really are that slow. Basically, the Renault engine has a poor top straight line speed, and then Red Bull down-tune it even more (~15 km/h) so they can corner better. The idea being that over one lap the lack of top speed doesn't show in the time, but the better cornering does, and it's easier to stay in the lead from pole than to overtake.

  4. @kpfssport I remember the first thing I was ever told by someone who raced was that the fastest car doesn't (in terms of straight line speed) doesn't always win, and the Red Bulls show that to great perfect. What might be more interesting would be a speed trap on a corner, or a trap at the slowest part of the track, so we could rank the how fast the cars were at there slowest. Of course, for different set-ups, how cars rank speedwise at different parts of the circuit may well change. SO what we really need is for all the teams to publish at least coarse grained telemetry data, as McLaren do.... eg ;-)


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