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The driver paradox


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Poll: The driver paradox (127 member(s) have cast votes)

Making a difference...

  1. Driver used to make more of a difference (74 votes [58.27%])

    Percentage of vote: 58.27%

  2. Drivers can make the same difference in a different way (36 votes [28.35%])

    Percentage of vote: 28.35%

  3. Drivers can make more of difference now (10 votes [7.87%])

    Percentage of vote: 7.87%

  4. Don't know (7 votes [5.51%])

    Percentage of vote: 5.51%

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#1 H2H

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 16:51

I read the great Schumi interview in which he talked about the developments in the sport both from a technical and driver side. I could not help myself but to ponder about a paradox.

1) Schumi did rightly point out that in the days of less refined cars the driver could make more of a difference in lap time. The cars were overall less aerodynamically and mechanically stable and progressive and coupled with a different rule set and vastly different tyres a driver able to push the car to the limit lap after lap after lap was rewarded richly. I think all can remember quite some races in which the performance gaps between teammates were huge.

2) On the other hand Schumi also remarked how close the field was. He could win with the aerodynamically very inefficient Ferrari of 1995 but with a performance wise much closer Mercedes he had little chance to so over the arc of three years. Vast strides in reliability and team infrastructure have made it much more difficult to outlast or outwit another team. If we look at the last seasons we have far less of a gap in laptime between teammates and teams but often a huge difference in points. Even a slight errors or problems by the team or the driver will reflect heavily on the scoreboard. Alonos vs Massa, Vettel vs Webber are just examples at the top.

So to sum it up we have this potential paradox. Exactly in a time when the driver can make no longer a big difference he seems to make a very big one.

Edited by H2H, 03 January 2013 - 16:52.


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#2 mnmracer

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 17:00

'back in the days', there was often a gap of multiple seconds between one car and the next-best.
Now you have cars that are much closer to each other in performance and drivers that are able to extract much more out of the car.

For Senna/Prost/Mansell it is much more impossible to make up a 2 second gap, to make the difference as a driver, then Vettel/Hamilton/Alonso have to make up 0.4s.

#3 F1ultimate

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 17:11

Pirelli cheese tires have eroded driver talent even further, if not car speed as well. With the exception of the US GP we barely had an Grand Prix last year during which drivers would unconditionally drive as they please without worrying about tire performance.

#4 Metronazol

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 21:20

Austin almost made me pine for the days of the the everlasting Bridgestone, watching Hamilton and Vettel go at it like that with the tiniest of incidents cause all the difference was exhilerating.


I say almost, because a season of waiting for the leader to be held up by traffic to cause an overtake is precisely what we had before, and the entire reason we have the Pirelli's in the first place. It'd be nice to strike a perfect balance between the two; Races where the tyres shred to pieces on all the cars in a short period of time and other races where they went the distance (manipulating the races that dont promote overtaking naturally with the lesser lifed tyres would probably the way, but one cannot overlook how artificial this would lead F1 to be) but given that it would probably lessen the driver input even more, you cant really argue for it.

Ban the front and rear wings and then we will see who really has car control.

#5 Skinnyguy

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 21:33

Back then drivers made more difference if we talk about laptimes: two teammates could lap half a second appart, but still have no one between them due to huge gaps between teams.

Nowadays drivers make a lot of difference if we talk about race results: two teammates 3 tenths appart can end 2nd and 7th.

So I voted they make more of a difference now. Throw a weak driver (5 tenths slower than a star) in a current F1 midfield car and he´ll only beat the 3 bottom teams, and will look awful. Throw a weak driver back then and the gaps between teams will allow him not to look that bad. It was more about the huge gaps between cars back then, it´s more about the small gaps between teammates now.

Edited by Skinnyguy, 03 January 2013 - 21:39.


#6 Kingshark

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 21:40

Back in 1985, for example, it was common for the race winner to lap the driver in 2nd. That is something which is unheard of today. Both Vettel in Japan and Rosberg in China won by a 20 second margin, and it was considered to be utter domination.

#7 Anderis

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 21:43

I think driver can make quite a difference in today's F1. When was the last time when two drivers from the same team finshed 1-2 in WDC? Was it at Schumacher/Barrichello times?

I think with such a close field and >90% of car's reliability, consistency is rewarded now more than ever.

Edited by Anderis, 03 January 2013 - 21:46.


#8 Kingshark

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 21:45

2004 was the last time, then again, even a monkey could've won in that Ferrari.

#9 MrFondue

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 21:46

Pirelli cheese tires have eroded driver talent even further, if not car speed as well. With the exception of the US GP we barely had an Grand Prix last year during which drivers would unconditionally drive as they please without worrying about tire performance.

Tyre management has always been a part of motorsport.

#10 1Devil1

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 21:50

I think driver can make quite a difference in today's F1. When was the last time when two drivers from the same team finshed 1-2 in WDC? Was it at Schumacher/Barrichello times?

I think with such a close field and >90% of car's reliability, consistency is rewarded now more than ever.


I think in a top car you can easily make a different because as mentioned three tenth can mean first place or eight in a race. But on the other-side if you stuck in a crap car that is less efficient aerowise you can't overcome a deficit because the drivers are separated by tenth and car which is more than 1 sec off the pace puts you on your back foot.

Edited by 1Devil1, 03 January 2013 - 21:50.


#11 Afterburner

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 01:03

Ban the front and rear wings and then we will see who really has car control.

Or you could prevent a return to primitive-looking cars by simply increasing the power of the engines to Bugatti Veyron levels. I know which I'd rather see.

Not that I have anything against the cars of earlier days, but cars without wings in this day and age fly directly in the face of F1's position as the pinnacle of motorsport technology, a role I feel it should continue to pursue.

#12 prty

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 01:28

http://www-personal....kSkillGames.pdf

(Essentially, the more skill there is involved by the players of a game, the more similar their performance is, and the more weight luck has in deciding the outcome. The paradox luck-skill)

Edited by prty, 04 January 2013 - 12:14.


#13 Risil

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 16:15

http://www-personal....kSkillGames.pdf

(Essentially, the more skill there is involved by the players of a game, the more similar their performance is, and the more weight luck has in deciding the outcome. The paradox luck-skill)


That paper only talks about skill differences, doesn't it? It has interesting things to say about the last F1 season when it talks about how medium differences in skill level causes extreme strategies to be deployed by both sides, to minimise or maximise the role luck plays. Consider Sauber, who never competed with the big teams when on conventional strategies, but pulled off some great results by trying their luck with tyre conservation.

Formula One does not behave very much like the classical "game" at all, of course. It's mostly about engineering know-how, not balancing risk and payoff.

Edited by Risil, 04 January 2013 - 16:15.


#14 Skinnyguy

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 16:23

http://www-personal....kSkillGames.pdf

(Essentially, the more skill there is involved by the players of a game, the more similar their performance is, and the more weight luck has in deciding the outcome. The paradox luck-skill)


Don´t think that fits too well in modern F1 frankly.

From a driver POV, main "luck" factor is being in the right team (and that´s not even fully down to luck at all), that´s hundreds of times more relevant than actual racing events "luck". 9/12 teams are amazingly close now, and the small difference you can make as a driver is rewarded with points and positions much more now with mega small gaps between teams than in previous eras when "your" extra 2 tenths wouldn´t make any difference in your race result. I think skill plays a bigger role now than anytime before in F1. Of course, there´s handicaps that no level of skill will overcome, but that´s always been like this.

#15 mnmracer

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 17:01

Ban the front and rear wings and then we will see who really has car control.

Posted Image

Edited by mnmracer, 04 January 2013 - 17:01.


#16 noikeee

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 17:24

Voted for "same difference in a different way". The differences are smaller between drivers in terms of tenths per lap, but in terms of places on the grid and the pecking order the differences are equal or maybe even bigger than the past. And ultimately the later is what matters the most isn't it.

#17 H2H

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 17:39

I would like to throw that model into the fray when it comes to F1 from a performance point of view.

Posted Image

It is a model about product development and costumer satisfaction, but it goes well with performance development and the relative return on it. In the extremely competitive world of F1 every little 'delightful' innovations which gives an advantage causes a stir in the paddock, if not in front of the cameras and becomes very often a must-have and a basic need to compete. An area where teams have become incredibly good in a very short time is pit-stops, despite some effort by the FIA to curb the related technology. Pit-stops which would have been hailed as amazing two years ago can arguably considered to be sloppy today. On could go on and on from team infrastructure, car development, manufacturing, driver training, pit-wall work, testing rigs, F-ducts, DD, tyre blankets and so forth.

In short every little error counts and this puts huge pressure on the driver and many team members. So a little lack of fuel or a broken roll-bar can spell disaster and a bad alternator means almost doom. This season has shown us how much a 'nut-job' and 'cucumber' can cost you. So in this sense 'luck' plays IMHO indeed a bigger role today as most many 'chance' areas have been made smaller and smaller by the progress of the sport.

Edited by H2H, 04 January 2013 - 17:39.


#18 Metronazol

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 18:08

Or you could prevent a return to primitive-looking cars by simply increasing the power of the engines to Bugatti Veyron levels. I know which I'd rather see.

Not that I have anything against the cars of earlier days, but cars without wings in this day and age fly directly in the face of F1's position as the pinnacle of motorsport technology, a role I feel it should continue to pursue.


Unfortunately, ramping up the engine size pisses in the face of the cost cutting measures and supposed 'green' F1 of today. Not that doing away with the wings would exactly be cheap either mind. As for how the cars would like, I guess its entirely subjective; I know i'm not alone in thinking that a lot of the older, wingless cars are far superior aesthetically to most of todays offerings.

#19 Skinnyguy

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 18:14

So in this sense 'luck' plays IMHO indeed a bigger role today as most many 'chance' areas have been made smaller and smaller by the progress of the sport.


:confused: :confused: Surely a marginal chance of a mechanical failure instead of a likely one makes luck less of a factor.

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#20 Craven Morehead

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 20:13

The driver still makes a difference, just in a different way. In Schumacher's first career he rose to the top by racing three flat out sprints separated by pitstops. Now the driver has to 'manage' the tires and race using a different approach. But you still have to be the fastest; I think it may actually be more challenging this way, frankly; and closer to what the likes of Lauda, Prost, et all had to do.

Edited by Craven Morehead, 04 January 2013 - 21:08.


#21 Afterburner

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 20:15

Unfortunately, ramping up the engine size pisses in the face of the cost cutting measures and supposed 'green' F1 of today. Not that doing away with the wings would exactly be cheap either mind. As for how the cars would like, I guess its entirely subjective; I know i'm not alone in thinking that a lot of the older, wingless cars are far superior aesthetically to most of todays offerings.

I wonder if it's ever crossed their mind that doing away with the cost-cutting measures and offering up faster and more aggressive cars again could perhaps serve to draw in larger crowds and in turn generate more media and spectator attention and as a result more money... :p

And perception of beauty in the cars is mostly subjective, yes. Each decade of F1 cars is unique in its own way, and to be honest, I do very much like all of them--but I would prefer it if, going forward, F1 would continue to evolve and change so that it can maintain its position as the representative of future automotive technology. After all, it's the pursuit of that goal which gave us previous decades of beautiful cars, no? ;)

#22 prty

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 23:21

Don´t think that fits too well in modern F1 frankly.

From a driver POV, main "luck" factor is being in the right team (and that´s not even fully down to luck at all), that´s hundreds of times more relevant than actual racing events "luck". 9/12 teams are amazingly close now, and the small difference you can make as a driver is rewarded with points and positions much more now with mega small gaps between teams than in previous eras when "your" extra 2 tenths wouldn´t make any difference in your race result. I think skill plays a bigger role now than anytime before in F1. Of course, there´s handicaps that no level of skill will overcome, but that´s always been like this.


It doesn't mean that at all.
Forget about the cars, if a driver laps with exactly the same conditions again and again, his time will oscillate around a mean time, with a given standard deviation (so called luck). The higher the skill of the field, the bigger effect in results that deviation will have. We see often grid positions being separated by 0.050 secs or even less. That is not skill difference, but luck, which wouldn't have any effect if for example a driver was 1 second quicker than the rest.

Edited by prty, 04 January 2013 - 23:22.


#23 BigCHrome

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 23:35

Before, when the cars were difficult to drive, drivers made a big difference.

Not anymore.

#24 Skinnyguy

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 23:39

It doesn't mean that at all.
Forget about the cars, if a driver laps with exactly the same conditions again and again, his time will oscillate around a mean time, with a given standard deviation (so called luck). The higher the skill of the field, the bigger effect in results that deviation will have. We see often grid positions being separated by 0.050 secs or even less. That is not skill difference, but luck, which wouldn't have any effect if for example a driver was 1 second quicker than the rest.


Totally wrong perspective for me. I understand that principle and agree that it can apply to lots of sterile lab kind of competitions, but certainly not to this one. The 0.050 difference between a good and a very good lap is:

1) Totally irrelevant and the last thing that´ll come into play to decide a result. That´s certainly not the "luck factor" if we talk about F1.
2) Not down to luck but to consistency, skill, car control, execution, or whatever you want to call it. Laptime is a measurement of performance in a certain period, not a luck indicator. If someone outqualifies you by 0.050 is not "luck", it´s just that his combo performed better that day, that time, that lap. Whoever performs better most times will be considered most skilled, and rightly so. Not luckier (unless it´s Vettel :lol: ).

Let´s agree to disagree. I think that principle doesn´t apply at all, I think some stuff can follow that pattern (shooting competitions, very matched chess matches...), but F1 would need a much more controlled and less random environment for that stuff to be even remotely relevant. If someone beats constantly another guy but less than a tenth, that´s not luck ;) I agree with that principle existing and it makes perfect sense, but for me it´s totally irrelevant when considering the difference the drivers make. They´re all really good, but there´s still plenty to chose between them even nowadays.

#25 Skinnyguy

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 23:44

Before, when the cars were difficult to drive, drivers made a big difference.
Not anymore.


A series with twitchy overpowered cars and teams all spread over a 7 seconds per lap gap will not separate the best from the rest, it´ll just order the cars performance wise. A fully Spec series with easy cars to drive will most likely do just that: tell you who´s best (for that series anyway).

#26 prty

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Posted 05 January 2013 - 13:42

If someone outqualifies you by 0.050 is not "luck", it´s just that his combo performed better that day, that time, that lap.


But that's the thing, it is. If if were possible to replicate drivers driving exactly the same lap, with the same skill, they would randomly qualify ahead of each other on each go. Things like if a slight air breeze was there in a small portion of a lap, or if a cloud passed by a corner, can make those differences, and that fall into the luck category. Otherwise it's like saying that lottery numbers are not down to luck because physics will dictate the ball that will come out after a given number of turns of the urn. It's strictly true, but in practice it isn't.

This is the reason of why consistency is so important. You get an example of that during the first part of the season, Alonso/Ferrari performance variance was a bit smaller than the others, even though the mean performance wasn't high, as the narrow tyre window magnified those variances, that resulted in really making a difference and ending up with the WDC lead.

Let´s agree to disagree.


Edited by prty, 05 January 2013 - 13:47.


#27 Risil

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Posted 05 January 2013 - 13:50

But that's the thing, it is. If if were possible to replicate drivers driving exactly the same lap, with the same skill, they would randomly qualify ahead of each other. Things like if a slight air breeze was there in a small portion of a lap, can make those differences, and that fall into the luck category. Otherwise it's like saying that lottery numbers are not down to luck because physics will dictate the ball that will come out after a given number of turns of the urn. It's strictly true, but in practice it isn't.


Not just luck. The size of the standard deviation for each individual case would also be due to things like the circuit, the way the car/engine/tyres handle, the driver's style of getting the maximum from his car, possibly the weather...

And, of course, how hard a driver is pushing. When the driver behind is going really hard (harder than he could possibly drive for the whole race without wrecking his equipment or crashing), and forces the driver in front to respond or risk being overtaken, they mutually increase the chance they'll make mistakes and spin off or crash in lapped traffic. Remember Rossi and Stoner at Laguna Seca? You could probably analyse that with game theory quite successfully.

Edited by Risil, 05 January 2013 - 13:51.


#28 spacekid

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Posted 05 January 2013 - 14:00

One thing I haven't seen mentioned is the effect of the banks of computers running race simulations and the constant coaching drivers get over the radio. I understand that the point is to operate the car to its optimum race speed, but when I hear drivers being told to use this gear in this corner, slow down here, turn in differently here during a race, and then find out they are driving to a specific lap delta that the computer has determined as optimal I think - what would be the point in being Prost in 2012?

And before anyone brings up Jenson as an example, yes he has made a couple of good calls with tyres in the rain, but that isn't the same as the driver judging how hard to push and when, thats now all determined by the computer simulations. In that respect the role of the driver appears to be greatly diminished. It really bugs me when people defend the Pirellis by saying it means the drivers have to nurse their tyres like they used to in the 80s because they aren't nursing their tyres like they had to in the 80s, the team are managing them.

There are other areas where the driver has less impact too. It used to be that if you could run on the limit without making a mistake you could gain ground on rivals who slipped up when they went into the gravel trap. Now that most tracks have acres of run off space whats the point? Everyone is driving to their delta, if a driver slips up he'll almost certainly get away with it. Instantly disqualify anyone who goes outside the white lines, then we'll see who has the balls to push :cool:

#29 boldhakka

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 02:52

One thing I haven't seen mentioned is the effect of the banks of computers running race simulations and the constant coaching drivers get over the radio. I understand that the point is to operate the car to its optimum race speed, but when I hear drivers being told to use this gear in this corner, slow down here, turn in differently here during a race, and then find out they are driving to a specific lap delta that the computer has determined as optimal I think - what would be the point in being Prost in 2012?

And before anyone brings up Jenson as an example, yes he has made a couple of good calls with tyres in the rain, but that isn't the same as the driver judging how hard to push and when, thats now all determined by the computer simulations. In that respect the role of the driver appears to be greatly diminished. It really bugs me when people defend the Pirellis by saying it means the drivers have to nurse their tyres like they used to in the 80s because they aren't nursing their tyres like they had to in the 80s, the team are managing them.

There are other areas where the driver has less impact too. It used to be that if you could run on the limit without making amistake you could gain ground on rivals who slipped up when they went into the gravel trap. Now that most tracks have acres of run off space whats the point? Everyone is driving to their delta, if a driver slips up he'll almost certainly get away with it. Instantly disqualify anyone who goes outside the white lines, then we'll see who has the balls to push :cool:


It's extremely rare for drivers to be told which gear to do a corner with, or to slow down or turn in differently. Maybe for a few rookies or Massa once in a while.

Delta time is a myth - they're mostly going as quickly as possible while minimizing slip and wheel spin. Slip and wheel spin now have a higher impact than they used to, that's the problem, not driving to a "delta".

#30 Sakae

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 07:08

In the past Schumacher printed laps almost flawlessly, however when he was exploring where the edge is, occassionally he went off, yet due to gap his car developed to next competitor, he could absorb most of time any abborance without slipping in position. This is not possible today as normalization of products brought field closer together, and tires do not allow pull-away. Mistakes are deadly, thus I think Vettel ought to get a lot of credit for his skills keeping it at the front.

Driver is more important than ever.

#31 prty

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 12:13

In the past Schumacher printed laps almost flawlessly, however when he was exploring where the edge is, occassionally he went off, yet due to gap his car developed to next competitor, he could absorb most of time any abborance without slipping in position. This is not possible today as normalization of products brought field closer together, and tires do not allow pull-away. Mistakes are deadly, thus I think Vettel ought to get a lot of credit for his skills keeping it at the front.


Actually Vettel is another perfect example that would fall into the Schumacher situation you describe:

I think lots of people in the paddock wish they could have Adrian [Newey’s] car so they could show that they’re just as competitive as Sebastian. Fernando, for me, is more accurate. He hits all the apexes. Sebastian misses four apexes on a single lap and still goes quickest. He goes off and he still goes quickest. And I think ‘Holy crap, I couldn’t do that lap even if I was on the limit’. His car is just that far ahead of everyone else’s


http://www.f1fanatic...c-roundup-0311/

#32 Sakae

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 13:12

Actually Vettel is another perfect example that would fall into the Schumacher situation you describe:



http://www.f1fanatic...c-roundup-0311/

Actualy the subject has been explained by AN last year elsewhere. This is a bit of OT, but Vettel did need to print a perfect quali, and pull away quickly in self defense (out of reach DRS), because RBR did not have top speed. We have seen in Texas 2012 how McLaren has done a job on him with DRS deployed. Without it Hamilton would have difficulty to get on top of him.

#33 LiJu914

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 13:35

A series with twitchy overpowered cars and teams all spread over a 7 seconds per lap gap will not separate the best from the rest, it´ll just order the cars performance wise. A fully Spec series with easy cars to drive will most likely do just that: tell you who´s best (for that series anyway).


..and a fully spec-series with cars that are difficult to drive, will do that even more. So his point still stands.

#34 ali_M

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 14:39

IMO, driver input in overall performance is still very important despite the cars being a lot closer together, despite there being better safety, allowing drivers to feel confident driving on the limit, and despite tire management making the driving less [aggressive/on the edge] over the last 2yrs.

The teams that excel in car performance will always admit when asked what their secret is, that there's no magic bullet to performance. A lot of performance is gained by looking at ALL aspects of the car's performance and making tiny gains in many areas. It adds up in the end to a very significant advantage over other teams.

I've been noting a similar phenomenon with a driver's race weekend. Drivers, with their engineers have to set their cars up for qualifying and race, creating an optimum balance. They have to put their qualifying laps and sessions together. A slip up anywhere could be very costly. A 0.3 sec difference in performance with your teammate in qualifying could mean that you're out of Q1 while your teammate makes it to Q3!!!!

In the race, it's the same thing with critical overtaking opportunities, tire management, the in and out laps for pitstops etc. Small errors in several places can add up to being very costly. For example, Hamilton's over-shadoweding of Button for a lot of the races this season, on many occasions had a lot to do with their performance in qualifying. During the race, they'd often have similar pace, but Button being down the order would be held up by slower cars. The same for Schumacher and Rosberg. Rosberg got his qualifying sessions better sorted than Michael and in the races, Michael made costly errors/fibs that earned him penalties. The drivers need to be very consistent and on the ball during the entire weekend. In 2008, we saw Kimi struggle with qualifying and he couldn't always make up for the deficit in the races.

So all in all, IMO, the driver is still very important, but we can't expect to see marked differences in results being down to ONE factor, i.e., obviously different lap times in the race that make one driver finish a minute or more down on the other despite starting 1-2 and running trouble free races.

#35 Skinnyguy

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 15:30

..and a fully spec-series with cars that are difficult to drive, will do that even more. So his point still stands.


Sure, I agree, that point stands.

But we were talking about modern F1 (close to spec cars easy to drive) VS 80´s F1 (cars on different planets pace wise harder to drive). And he said drivers could make more of a difference before. And that´s quite not right.

#36 Skinnyguy

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 15:33

Delta time is a myth - they're mostly going as quickly as possible while minimizing slip and wheel spin. Slip and wheel spin now have a higher impact than they used to, that's the problem, not driving to a "delta".


:up: So true. I´m sick of reading that crap. :rolleyes:

#37 LiJu914

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 16:35

But we were talking about modern F1 (close to spec cars easy to drive)


Modern F1 is still far away from being a spec series. E.g. Just one season ago the majority of teams were nowhere compared to Red Bull.

VS 80´s F1 (cars on different planets pace wise harder to drive). And he said drivers could make more of a difference before. And that´s quite not right.


Gaps between the teams were larger in the 80s than today...but the same is true for the drivers. So we have a kind of trade-off here and the general situation isn´t all too different compared to today, if you look at the standings at the end of the season.

However, at least it still remains, that the drivers could produce bigger gaps between themselves and their teammates than today.

#38 HP

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 17:08

When one considers that most engineers can't drive their creations competitively at the speed a real racers does, then it should be obvious that the driver is still a very important part of the equation.

#39 HP

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 17:29

However, at least it still remains, that the drivers could produce bigger gaps between themselves and their teammates than today.

Just compare a steering wheel from the 80's and one of today. Add to it the constant updates from the pits about the different settings, and it should be obvious why gaps were much larger back then.

Today there are still places where a driver can make a huge difference. Last year was about getting the most out of the tyres. With constant rules and quicker engineering processes, gaps will become even more narrow. And that means small mistakes are more costly then ever. Nothing really changed, except maybe that drivers don't look as impressive as in years begone. The dangerous conclusion IMO is that it looks like earlier generations where better racers, when racers had to manage their own races much more than they have to do it today.

However it would be enlightening to see what happens if pit to driver communication would be disallowed. Because suddenly drivers have to rely mostly on themselves when doing their laps. I suspect the gaps would grow bigger again, although not unto 80's level again.


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#40 Skinnyguy

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 17:45

Modern F1 is still far away from being a spec series. E.g. Just one season ago the majority of teams were nowhere compared to Red Bull.


It´s closer than it has ever been right now. 9/12 teams are 7 tenths away and switching their order from place to place. Sure it´s not spec, but it´s closer than ever to that, and certainly much closer than in the other era we talk about.

Gaps between the teams were larger in the 80s than today...but the same is true for the drivers. So we have a kind of trade-off here and the general situation isn´t all too different compared to today, if you look at the standings at the end of the season.


Can´t agree. It´s not the same. Throw a superstar and a good driver in a top car in the 80´s and they´ll make a 1-2. Throw a superstar and a good driver in a top car today and they´ll end something like 1st-4th/5th, because it´s all so close that the good driver will be beaten by other rival superstars. It´s been nearly 10 years from the last WDC 1-2, despite some teams having build dominating cars sometimes between back then and now.

We´ll disagree there.

#41 Skinnyguy

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 17:55

The dangerous conclusion IMO is that it looks like earlier generations where better racers, when racers had to manage their own races much more than they have to do it today.


Not in any of the meanings of the word. Now they´re smarter, they cope with multitask better, they´re much much more fit, and certainly their wheel to wheel racing is better -and that´s what I call being a "better racer". The difference in start/racing incidents between when I started watching (2000) and now is huge. The field´s overall is much higher too.

Every sport evolves. The best guys today are way better than the best guys 20 years ago, and the guys in 20 years will be even better. There´s no way to check in motorsport, but check any sport measured with objective data, and you´ll see it. That´s just nostalgia what you wrote there. Sure it can happen than a generation is worse than the previous, but over big periods everything goes forward. And big time too.


#42 LiJu914

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 18:33

Can´t agree. It´s not the same. Throw a superstar and a good driver in a top car in the 80´s and they´ll make a 1-2. Throw a superstar and a good driver in a top car today and they´ll end something like 1st-4th/5th, because it´s all so close that the good driver will be beaten by other rival superstars. It´s been nearly 10 years from the last WDC 1-2, despite some teams having build dominating cars sometimes between back then and now.

We´ll disagree there.


Bolded part: Show me one example of this in the 80s. Hint: You can´t. The only 1-2s in the 80s were Prost-Lauda, Piquet-Mansell and
Prost-Senna. All of them are (multiple) WDCs and therefore certainly to rate higher than just "good".


Edited by LiJu914, 07 January 2013 - 18:36.


#43 Kyo

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 22:01

Bolded part: Show me one example of this in the 80s. Hint: You can´t. The only 1-2s in the 80s were Prost-Lauda, Piquet-Mansell and
Prost-Senna. All of them are (multiple) WDCs and therefore certainly to rate higher than just "good".

Starting from the 80's I believe only in 92, 2002 and 2004 we saw a pair consisted of a superstar and a good driver resulting in 1-2. And in 92 Patrese was only 3 points ahead of Schumi, so it could very well have not happened in 92.

#44 HP

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 00:40

Not in any of the meanings of the word. Now they´re smarter, they cope with multitask better, they´re much much more fit, and certainly their wheel to wheel racing is better -and that´s what I call being a "better racer". The difference in start/racing incidents between when I started watching (2000) and now is huge. The field´s overall is much higher too.

Every sport evolves. The best guys today are way better than the best guys 20 years ago, and the guys in 20 years will be even better. There´s no way to check in motorsport, but check any sport measured with objective data, and you´ll see it. That´s just nostalgia what you wrote there. Sure it can happen than a generation is worse than the previous, but over big periods everything goes forward. And big time too.

Actually I wrote that it's a dangerous conclusion to make that earlier racers were better, so..

Your point on multitasking however. Do current drivers better multitask? Maybe, but is it helpful for them? Google for: study shows people multitask often bad and you'll find studies that it's not a quality that makes anyone more efficient. Research into that topic suggests the opposite. Would be interesting to find out on the effects on drivers. For there is a good reason that I stopped multitasking even before I read about these researches, although I loved to do it so much.

And what do you mean with objective data? F1 cars have been slowed down for decades now. That's an admission that these guys were at their respective limits, all the while they have become more fitter. Something doesn't quite match here.

What do mean with start/racing incidents? Last season wasn't exactly a good example of improved driver quality in that regards.

The most meaningful advance in the sports is to be found on the part of safety. That has the effect of drivers of taking more risks, with all it's good and bad effects.

#45 HP

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 00:45

Starting from the 80's I believe only in 92, 2002 and 2004 we saw a pair consisted of a superstar and a good driver resulting in 1-2. And in 92 Patrese was only 3 points ahead of Schumi, so it could very well have not happened in 92.

2002 and 2004 were also a good part because of tyre war.

That means driver input is still making a big difference today.

#46 Juan Kerr

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 00:46

I read the great Schumi interview in which he talked about the developments in the sport both from a technical and driver side. I could not help myself but to ponder about a paradox.

1) Schumi did rightly point out that in the days of less refined cars the driver could make more of a difference in lap time. The cars were overall less aerodynamically and mechanically stable and progressive and coupled with a different rule set and vastly different tyres a driver able to push the car to the limit lap after lap after lap was rewarded richly. I think all can remember quite some races in which the performance gaps between teammates were huge.

2) On the other hand Schumi also remarked how close the field was. He could win with the aerodynamically very inefficient Ferrari of 1995 but with a performance wise much closer Mercedes he had little chance to so over the arc of three years. Vast strides in reliability and team infrastructure have made it much more difficult to outlast or outwit another team. If we look at the last seasons we have far less of a gap in laptime between teammates and teams but often a huge difference in points. Even a slight errors or problems by the team or the driver will reflect heavily on the scoreboard. Alonos vs Massa, Vettel vs Webber are just examples at the top.

So to sum it up we have this potential paradox. Exactly in a time when the driver can make no longer a big difference he seems to make a very big one.

What Schumacher said was a fact not an estimate, the whole field covered by such a small amount of time any difference the driver now makes is half tenths not seconds!

#47 Mauseri

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 09:53

What Schumacher said was a fact not an estimate, the whole field covered by such a small amount of time any difference the driver now makes is half tenths not seconds!

Well at least in qualifying, we still see half seconds between drivers. A safe lap will not be as fast as a brilliant one, and a mistake may slow you down as well. Vettel's qualifying alone seems to vary in the range of a full second, but over the course of season averaged driver influence in qualifying is only few tenths. And race pace differences in individual races are usually a few tenths only too.

#48 KnucklesAgain

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 10:10

Starting from the 80's I believe only in 92, 2002 and 2004 we saw a pair consisted of a superstar and a good driver resulting in 1-2. And in 92 Patrese was only 3 points ahead of Schumi, so it could very well have not happened in 92.


Senna - Berger 1990-92, most of the time (except the first half of 91)

#49 LiJu914

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 10:16

Senna - Berger 1990-92, most of the time (except the first half of 91)


We were talking about the season´s end results, not individual races (in which we see also still enough 1-2s today) - and even in that case i can´t remember any 1-2s of them in 1992.

Edited by LiJu914, 08 January 2013 - 10:18.


#50 Skinnyguy

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 14:53

And what do you mean with objective data?



Athletics. Swimming. :wave: Same effort repeated again and again over the years. New top guys being constantly better and better in every single aspect. Same applies to any other sport, just there´s no way to check.


F1 cars have been slowed down for decades now. That's an admission that these guys were at their respective limits, all the while they have become more fitter. Something doesn't quite match here.


No. First of all, 8 seasons have gone by since the speed peak of F1, not "decades". Drivers fitness was not a factor to slow down cars. F1 was more physical in 2004-2005 than now, but fitness was far from being a decissive factor for the changes. Safety and looking to get more racing happening were the reasons behind the chances. In the most physical F1 ever there were still chubby drivers, and they ended the race distances very far from their limit excluding exceptional events (no water avalaible etc). Add cost saving. That bold part is just stupid and desperate, and you know it. Fitness had nothing to do with it, safety, money, and improving the show caused the slow down. Current drivers would perfectly stand races 5 seconds per lap faster than the 2004-2005 races.

What do mean with start/racing incidents? Last season wasn't exactly a good example of improved driver quality in that regards.


I started watching in 2000. I can see a trend of the wheel to wheel getting safer and safer, and drivers being safer and safer. Less and less crashes happening. Drivers tend to give more and more room to people when they get someone alongside, and they turn on other people less and less. Surely if you started 20 years before me you´ll see it too.

The most meaningful advance in the sports is to be found on the part of safety. That has the effect of drivers of taking more risks, with all it's good and bad effects.


Much safer cars (less risk involved), more and more obstacles to wheel to wheel (smaller and worse placed mirrors and higher headrests) and still less and less crashes and generally improved etiquette. Says a lot.

Edited by Skinnyguy, 08 January 2013 - 15:12.