The averages of qualifying

By on Saturday, November 26, 2011

A certain finger has appeared several times...

Unsurprisingly, Sebastian Vettel has been the qualifying king of 2011, taking fifteen pole positions in just a single season and breaking Nigel Mansell's 1992 record. He now has thirty pole positions to his name after just four and a half seasons in Formula One. Mark Webber claimed three pole positions, while Lewis Hamilton started from the front of the field in Korea.

Vettel outqualified Webber 16-3, with Vettel starting an average of 1.26 on the grid. Webber on the other hand started an average of 3.84. It was something of a disappointing season for Webber, both in qualifying and the race. Webber’s average was somewhat skewed by a poor performance in China, where he started 18th.

Lewis Hamilton beat Jenson Button 13-6 despite finishing behind in the championship. Hamilton’s recent strong qualifying saw him claim an average starting position of 3.42, ahead of Button’s 4.53.

Fernando Alonso was just behind Button with 4.63, significantly ahead of Felipe Massa’s 5.79. Massa qualified in the top three just once, in Canada, and out qualified Alonso just four times.

Nico Rosberg has shone on Saturdays

Nico Rosberg’s strong Saturday performances showed with an average qualifying of 7.53, placing him best of the rest. He was beaten just three times by Schumacher, who finds himself at 10.37, having failed to make Q3 on a number of occasions. Improving qualifying should be one major target for Schumacher next season.

Over at Renault, Vitaly Petrov’s strong early season form saw him as the 8th best qualifier, with an average of 10.26. Bruno Senna starred in Spa, which helped him to 11.75. Nick Heidfeld on the other hand could only record 13.45, 13th best. Heidfeld did however start last in Spain after an engine failure in practice.

Force India’s pairing was closely matched all season. Sutil edged di Resta 10-9, although the Scot starred at Silverstone by lining up 6th. Sutil’s average of 11.63 just eclipsed di Resta’s 11.84, as both moved closer to the front of the grid as the team improved significantly throughout the year.

Photo credit: Sauber Motorsport AG

At Sauber, rookie Sergio Perez beat Kamui Kobayashi more often than not. The Mexican was 14th best with 13.61, ahead of his Japanese team mate who was an average of 14.00. Perez made Q3 in Monaco, only to suffer a horrendous accident. Pedro de La Rosa started 17th for his only race of 2011.

Despite seemingly being evenly matched, Sebastien Buemi outqualified Jaime Alguersuari 13-6 and 13.95 compared to 14.42.

Williams’s dire season saw them occasionally fail to make Q2, with their cars even making up the back row in Abu Dhabi. Rubens Barrichello failed to make Q3 all year, although he beat Pastor Maldonado 11-8. Despite that, Maldonado’s inconsistency in qualifying means his average is actually higher than Barrichello’s, at 14.05 compared to 14.95.

At the back of the grid, Heikki Kovalainen annihilated Jarno Trulli 16-2 (Trulli didn’t start in Germany) and made Q2 a few times. Kovalainen’s average of 18.47 against Trulli’s 19.56 flattered the Italian, for the car was frequently incapable of anything better than 18th, but very rarely bad enough to be beaten by Virgin or HRT. Karun Chandhok started 21st in Germany.

Virgin didn't make it out of Q1 all season.

Timo Glock saw off Jerome d’Ambrosio, but was given a greater challenge than the one posed by Lucas di Grassi in 2010. The Belgian started ahead five times and his average of 22.11 wasn’t too shabby against Glock’s 21.21.

HRT’s trio unsurprisingly make up the bottom three places, with Liuzzi’s 22.61, Ricciardo’s 22.73 and Karthikeyan’s 23.22 meaning that they frequently made up the back row.

An interesting comparison is converting qualifying positions into championship points. Sebastian Vettel would have ended up with 444 out of a possible 475, miles ahead of Mark Webber with 284. He’d have 6 more points than Lewis Hamilton. Webber’s average qualifying was lower than Hamilton’s, although the Brit’s lack of consistency saw him with lower positions than the Australian.

Here’s how ‘qualifying points’ would look:

1 Sebastian Vettel 444
2 Mark Webber 284
3 Lewis Hamilton 278
4 Jenson Button 226
5 Fernando Alonso 207
6 Felipe Massa 162
7 Nico Rosberg 121
8 Michael Schumacher 43
9 Vitaly Petrov 42
10 Adrian Sutil 22
11 Paul di Resta 16
12 Jaime Alguersuari 15
13 Nick Heidfeld 14
14 Kamui Kobayashi 13
15 Pastor Maldonado 12
16 Bruno Senna 11
17 Sebastien Buemi 5
18 Sergio Perez 4

It’s astonishing to think that another strong qualifying season in 2012 could see Vettel on 45 poles, barely into his mid-20s. For the sake of the sanity of fans, here’s hoping Q3 will be more entertaining next year.

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