Saturdays have brought different scales of emotions this year in Formula 1 with unpredictable moments such as Fernando Alonso going to the top at Silverstone in Q1 for the only time in the season, or sometimes dull as Mercedes trying to dominate on a Ferrari off-day.
But this has produced more interesting sessions due to the reduction of numbers on the grid to 20 and the closeness of the midfield. On four occasions, five different teams have had racers eliminated in the initial stage.
For the only time since 2013, four drivers have taken pole positions at halfway. Lewis Hamilton has six and needs just two more to break Michael Schumacher’s 11-year record of 68. Valtteri Bottas had two in Bahrain and Austria, while Sebastian Vettel posted fastest times in Russia and Hungary. Kimi Raikkonen broke his pole drought of 128 races in Monaco.
Whoever goes on to be crowned champion in November will be expected to have consistency on a Saturday, which makes it intriguing to look at the statistics of the first 11 races to read how competitors have got on so far.
2016’s first-half was dominated by eventual championship winner Nico Rosberg, having an average of 1.6 in qualifying and 2.1 on the grid, finishing on the front row in every session.
So far that theme is continuing as current leader Vettel has the best consistency, at 2.2, 0.4 ahead of Bottas, who is another 0.4 clear of Hamilton.
Raikkonen is a full place behind his teammate, but miles ahead of the nearest challengers. Red Bull has been in a world of its own on Saturdays, with Verstappen and Ricciardo only averaging good enough to just get on the outside of row three – 6.5 and 7.5.
McLaren’s Jenson Button is high on the list because he’s only appeared once in Monaco when filling in for Alonso.
Sergio Perez leads the contest for positions seventh to 10th with a total of 9.5, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg’s 9.7 and Felipe Massa’s 9.9.
The notable differences between drivers are at Williams and Haas. Massa’s amount is over five places better than Lance Stroll, and Romain Grosjean is 2.6 ahead of Kevin Magnussen after making Q3 five times.
Despite not being too far away on a Sunday and in the points, Ocon is 2.2 adrift of the Mexican in the other side of the Force India garage. Veteran Alonso has an average 2.4 places better than Stoffel Vandoorne in the Belgian’s rookie season for McLaren.
Vettel also leads this category with a figure of 2.2 as he has avoided penalties so far, 0.9 ahead of both Finnish drivers.
Hamilton is on 3.4. Both Red Bull drivers have benefitted and struggled through penalties, with Verstappen improving by 0.4 and Ricciardo falling by 0.2.
Perez’s 9.1 keeps him ahead of Massa’s 9.7 and Hulkenberg’s 9.8, while his teammate Ocon places next with an 11.1.
Button’s drops to 20 after starting from the back on Sunday at Monaco.
Qualifying Averages Compared to 2016’s 11
Unsurprisingly after his big break at Mercedes emerged, Bottas has made the best progress in this part of the event since 2016.
The Finn is almost five positions above his previous best as he became a polesitter and race winner. His other main title rivals only improved by 1.8.
Button’s went up because of racing at a favorable track for
the McLaren at Monaco, one place better than Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer.
Despite not reaching Q3 for Haas with a season-best of 11th at Spain – Magnussen has been consistent in finishing with Q2 six times. Only Alonso, Daniil Kvyat, and Carlos Sainz also did this after 11 races.
Palmer’s form has also picked up, placing in Q3 when qualifying 10th at Bahrain, but he has fallen out at Q1 seven times in the first nine races.
Both McLaren drivers and Ricciardo’s numbers have gone backward
s due to grid penalties/unreliability, and the fact that Stoffel Vandoorne only did one 2016 event.
Grid Averages Compared to 2016’s 11
Bottas again leads the positive changes from 2016, with Vettel improving by almost three positions after having three grid penalties in the first half of last season.
Magnussen is level with the German, while Raikkonen also improves after avoiding any grid drops after one in 2016.
Wehrlein’s position increases after making Q2 on three occasions rather than his one appearance for Manor in 2016.
Hamilton’s total is slightly weaker after a five-place penalty in Austria for a gearbox change.
Sainz’s drops due to worse Saturday results, making Q3 four times instead of 2016’s six, and even falling victim of Q1 at Bahrain, while again the McLaren drivers and Ricciardo are at the bottom of the list.
The battle at Renault is the most one-sided so far, with Hulkenberg beating Palmer 11-0 in the first half. Other dominant displays were at Force India, Williams and McLaren, where Perez, Massa, and Alonso are ahead of their teammates 10-1 and 9-1 as Alonso missed Monaco and Massa skipped Hungary.
Vettel leads Raikkonen by 8-3, while Grosjean, Verstappen, and Wehrlein have all been ahead of their nearest rivals seven times.
Hamilton and Sainz narrowly lead Bottas and Kvyat 6-5. Marcus Ericsson beat Antonio Giovinazzi twice in Australia and Malaysia, Button beat Vandoorne in Monaco, and Stroll was ahead of stand-in Paul di Resta in Hungary.
EMAIL CAMERON AT @firstname.lastname@example.org
FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @PatersonCameron
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.