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Paging Adrian Newey

Like most right-thinking people at the moment, I’m desperate for anything resembling Formula 1 news.  While making my usual hopeful web-surfing rounds last night, I came across a story in which Adrian Newey, in the words of the headline writer, “slams” stuff.  Well, if Adrian Newey’s going to “slam” something, I — again, like most right-thinking people — immediately feel like I might want to join him. If Adrian Newey slams X, X probably deserves a righteous slamming.

In this case, Adrian Newey was slamming petty complaints about his masterful work of engineering excellence and awesomeness, the RB6.  This part, in particular, caught my attention:

But the rumblings persisted; including a common claim in the pitlane and media centre that the RB6’s drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were oddly able to up their pace by as much as three tenths in the crucial ‘Q3’ qualifying segment.

“It’s a myth!” insisted Newey.

“I’m not sure our Q3 performance has been particularly different to our Q1 and Q2 performance, to be honest.

Okay, yeah.  This is easy enough to take a look at, right?

You can click that for a larger version, if you’re so inclined.  While I was putting that table together, I was able to confirm (anecdotally, anyway) what I first thought when I read the article: “Uh, don’t drivers’ times often improve in Q3 relative to Q1 and Q2?”  Er, yes, they do.  This seemed to be especially common among Red Bull, McLaren, and Ferrari — that is, among the usual top qualifiers.  So yes, Vettel’s and Webber’s Q3 times usually improved, as well, as the preponderance of negative numbers in the “Q3 − Q2” (Q3 time minus Q2 time) column indicates.  Of course, this is also true of Q2 times relative to Q1 times (see the “Q2 − Q1” column).  In fact, when Q2 time improved relative to Q1 time (n = 37), the average margin was 1.409 s.  When Q3 time improved relative to Q2 time (n = 32), the average margin was 0.671 s.

I’m forced to assume I’m misunderstanding these “rumblings” in the pit lane and media center.  Webber and Vettel did often find three-tenths of a second (or more, or less) in Q3 during the course of the season; however, so did other drivers in the top cars.  If I had all day, I could probably make one big megachart that would illustrate this.  Also, they tended to find even more time than that in Q2 relative to Q3.  So this whole issue must be about something I’m not quite getting.  Maybe what people are actually talking about is some three-tenths of a second Red Bull is “oddly” able to find between the penultimate and ultimate laps of Q3. . .or something?  Well, that’s a question I’m not sure I could locate the data to address.  And what illegal naughtiness would Red Bull allegedly be perpetrating during that couple of minutes, anyway?  Or is it the margin between their Q3 pace and the Q3 pace of the other cars that strikes people as being suspicious?  Color me clueless — about all of it!

Consider this a stern warning, though: if I can wield the awesome power of Excel in the service of addressing any further issues vexing Adrian Newey, I will not hesitate to do so.


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