What a season 2020 has been. With 17 races cramped into a tight schedule as a result of a global pandemic, I think if I’ll say that nobody could have predicted it to be like that - is a fair statement. We’ve witnessed some amazing races over the course of time from May till December, some memorable moments that will be remembered for a long time. We’ve seen some new and old venues hosting our favourite motorsport spectacle, and we’ve observed an immense stir over at the drivers market, leaving us all waiting for 2021 as we didn’t wait for some of the previous seasons before. Now that we’ll have some time of waiting, I wanted to investigate the crazy 2020 season in some more detail. Namely, I wanted to look at some numbers related to certain parts of the race weekend - in the case of this piece an analysis of the Pit Stop times as well as the Fastest lap (per driver) times collected from all of the races that happened this year.
Please remember, that although it’s nice to look at the numbers and they’re facts - they alone are not necessarily representative as such. Driver’s performance, the preparation for the weekend, synergy with the car, the conditions on track and so many other things are contributing factors to someone winning/losing/being higher on the leaderboard/being lower on the leaderboard. I’ll surely address certain things along the way, as these numbers also don’t tell ALL of the truth - and you’ll soon see what I mean by that.
Okay, in this article we’ll be looking at the BEST times when it comes to pitstops and lap times. What that means that only the best score (time) per driver has been chosen - not the worst, to which I will surely relate along my points I’ll try to make. They are each colour coordinated - best time has green background; second best has yellow; third best has blue and the worst time out of all has black background with white font. Obviously, what I’m showing here is just data, data accessible to anybody. I will include my own opinions and statements here, which I try to base off of the data, but with which you might not always fully agree, and I’m aware of that. But without further a do, let’s get into the numbers.
PIT STOP TIMES
So, to begin the analysis with something everybody watching F1 knows - especially this season, Red Bull Racing has been on another level when it comes to their pitstop times. They had 6 best times with Max Verstappen and 5 best times with Alexander Albon. Additionally, 8 times they had the second best time and once third best. Red Bull received the DHL Fastest Pitstop award, and 9 out of top 10 times belong to them (with the 10th being Williams). They have absolutely stepped the game and put it out of the reach of any other team. It is not a secret that the mechanics put a lot of importance on the training for pitstops, and surely this year it’s visible, as no other team was able to challenge them in that. Nevertheless it’s an amazing achievement for the team and it surely put the drivers at an advantage compared others. Congratulations.
Looking at the data, we can see a couple of different things. Compared to other teams, McLaren and Williams have been the two other teams that were able to put up good efforts for decent pit stop times. Williams was the fastest once; twice they had the best time and once third best. When it comes to McLaren, they were 5 times third best and once the best time. Alfa Romeo definitely deserves an honourable mention here as well, as they were also able to put some good pit stop results. No other team was able to come with a consistency (positive that is) like those three, so a round of applause for the mechanics of those teams as their performance definitely (at least for McLaren who was fighting closer to the front) helped their drivers during the races.
Another interesting thing is that despite having the best car on the gird and the best driver in one of them, Mercedes was actually very average when it came to their pitstops. Only twice they were able to get the third best time and only once second best time, which is very little to expect from a team that works like a perfect machine most of the time.Their pit stop times were sometimes in the slower realm than up there with Red Bull, McLaren, Williams and Alfa Romeo, which is quite surprising. Let's also not forget two things: the worst time of them all during the Belgian GP for Bottas (25.548!) as well as the absolute disaster that was the Sakhir GP for Mercedes. The only other time when Mercedes performed this badly in the recent years was last year’s German GP. And this year we had an even more disastrous pitstop, that completely crossed out the chance for George Russell to not only win behind the wheel of W11, but also in the end to get at least a podium or any good points. A big ouch Mercedes, a big ouch.
Arguably, if we look at the data, the worst team when it comes to pitstops has been Haas. The crews for for Magnussen and Grosjean collectively gathered 8 worst times this season. There is one but. Do you remember the before mentioned “numbers don’t tell all of the truth”? Well, what I meant by that is that when creating this spreadsheet, only the BEST times for the driver were inserted. That does not on a general level mean that the team that collected the “worst” times on the spreadsheet is actually the worse. They say you should not kick a man when he’s down, but the title for the possibly worst performance during the season when it comes to pitstops goes to Ferrari. The Imola pitstop of Vettel for over 13 seconds, as well as the Sakhir GP pitstops of 4.5 and 6.5 seconds for the German driver among other ones are definitely what contributed to the extremely difficult season for Ferrari. Not only the engine was slow and the car was draggy, but the pit crews were also not able to perform as they’re supposed to. In an interview after Sakhir, Vettel said: “It’s tough enough for the guys, so I feel sorry for them. [The equipment] probably needs an overhaul on the design because it’s not the guys’ fault.”
The team couldn’t possibly put itself in a worse position, hence only 6th place in the constructors championship for a team that not only used to dominate back in the day, but in the recent years was a regular top 3 team.
As anybody and their mother know, Mercedes, this season like a couple of the previous ones is absolutely unbeatable when it comes to the fastest lap times throughout the season. Hamilton was able to score the best lap time 6 times; 3 times his lap time was 2nd best and 4 times his times were 3rd best.It doesn’t look as amazing for Bottas, but still great results: 7 times he was 2nd fastest; he had the best lap time 2 times and once he had the 3rd best time. The sheer performance of the Mercedes cars teamed up with incredible skill provided these results. It does not only take the best machinery on the grid to be able to be on the top. To dominate the top of the leaderboard like Hamilton and Bottas did is an amazing achievement for them and for their team.
Now that we got the obvious out of the way, we will begin with a honourable mention for the “king” of last lap Lando Norris, who was able to get the fastest lap time twice this season, as well as the third best time once. He received the name of “the king of last lap” after the first couple of races where he was able to gather the most out of his car during those last laps and provide some spectacle. His 1st fastest time was already in Austria, and it came only on the 71st lap of Austrian GP. Carlos Sainz himself was also able to produce good lap times in certain races, being fastest once and once second fastest. Although McLaren is definitely not the fastest car on the track (Renault engines, but it gets worse than those…), their drivers were able to put together an amazing season and eventually end up 6th and 9th in the championship, which meant McLaren as a team was able to secure 3rd place in constructors championship.
Looking back at the data, we can see that at times Alexander Albon was able to gather some speed, unfortunately not to the level of his teammate, Max Verstappen. Albon was once 2nd best and 3 times with the 3rd best lap time. Compared to Verstappen, who was 3 times fastest, 3 times 2nd fastest and and twice 3rd best, it is not the performance one would expect, but nevertheless a good effort from Albon. Unfortunately in the end of the day his performance during this season and the fact he was not able to match up the speed of Verstappen cost him his seat in Red Bull Racing, but that is a completely different discussion and definitely not the only factor in that story. Here we look only at the data gathered from the weekends, and those, although they show the effort of Albon, they are not what one would expect from the team that was supposed to be the biggest threat to Mercedes. Verstappen was arguably the closest in terms of speed. If you compare the lap times throughout the season you can see that Verstappen was not that off the pace of Mercedes, but that it is of course if we only focus on the singular best lap times per driver, not on the actual race performance (the pace during the race) and the events that happen (such as dnf’s, damage to the car etc).
When it comes to the worst lap times, unfortunately the crown belongs once again to Haas. Magnussen was able to get the worst lap time 4 times during the season, but if we would actually dig a little bit deeper and put it int perspective we uncover a much sadder reality. If you look closely at the data on the spreadsheet, you can see that cars that are supplied with engines by Ferrari got the worst lap time over 9 times during the season. 9. times. Considering we only had 17 races this season, it’s in more than HALF of the races during the season. Of course, the engine is not the only thing that has an impact on the performance of the car and it’s speed. But that numbers are very alarming, considering the horrific season for Ferrari. Fun fact is that in those 9 times Ferrari-engined cars got the worst lap time, 1/3 of them was actually BY the Ferrari drivers (Vettel twice and Leclerc once). That does not only not seem promising for the Maranello team, but for their customers, who are riddled with their own issues outside of the engines.
In the end, this analysis does not state anything entirely new, but it gives some background to the information we already had after this years season. It is interesting to see the different grounds of performance and how much it differs from team to team, for example with the simple fact that Mercedes has the fastest car and fastest drivers, but their garage is not on the same level at them. After all this is just a fun thing to look at the stats in that way, because as I mentioned before not one thing is decisive to the performance of the team/driver and if somebody is gonna be lower or higher in the championship after all. You certainly might not agree with my take on what we could identify from the actual data, but everybody is entitled to an opinion and I’d love (we would!) to hear more from you and your own takes.
If you would like to have a better access to the spreadsheet that I compiled together for the sake of this article, you can find it [HERE] in the Google docs format so you can easily have a look.