Part 1 – Qualifying Check
The driver for the Red Bull seat alongside Max Verstappen was heavily discussed at the end of the 2020 season. Eventually, Sergio Perez (PER) got the seat and Alex Albon (ALB) was degraded to RB F1 reserve driver and DTM AlphaTauri Driver. After 17 rounds in 2021 and right bevore Checo is starting his Home GP in Mexico on this weekend it might be the right time to make a summary of the performances so far and compare both drivers to surely one of the best drivers on the grid: Max Verstappen (VER).
As the Mercedes looked super strong last year and Red Bull lacked some pace over the whole season, in 2021 the whole picture looks a bit different: The Red Bull seemed to be – at least at some occasions – the fastest car on the grid while the Mercs were heavily affected by the regulation change (High Rake vs. Low Rake). So the expectations towards Checo Perez should be slightly higher than to Alex Albon last year. But did Sergio match expectations? We’ll find out…
Qualifying Performance Comparison
One of the best ways to judge a driver’s abilities is the Qualifying performance. Of course, there are many factors which are not in the drivers hands e.g. rapidly changing weather conditions, traffic, engine penalties, etc. – but in the end, and over the time, there should be a trend of who was closer to Max during Qualifying Performances and who was able to pull the maximum out of the car.
Q3 appearances and Qualifying Position (after round 17):
|ALB 2020||PER 2021|
|Q3 Appearances||14/17 (82%)||15/17 (88%)|
|Average final Position in Qualifying||7.2||6.6|
|Median final Position in Qualifying||6.0||7.0|
|Standard Deviation of final Position in Q||3.0||3.5|
|VER 2020||VER 2021|
|Q3 Appearances||17/17 (100%)||16/17 (94%)|
|Average final Position in Qualifying||3.1||3.0|
|Median final Position in Qualifying||3.0||2.0|
|Standard Deviation of final Position in Q||1.3||4.5|
Checo has a better Q3 Appearance rate and also better positions in average after the Qualifying while Albon seemed on the Median with better results and a better consistency.
Fastest Laptime Comparison: The data we are looking at are the best qualifying times achieved by each of the drivers during Q1, Q2 and Q3. So if a driver was able to put a faster lap in Q1 than in Q3, the Q1 time will be taken. This has definitely some inaccuracy when e.g. there were worse weather conditions in Q3 than in Q1. Furthermore, we do not consider the tyre choice for the best lap time.
Overall, we can see, that Albon was in average over 7 tenth behind Max whereas Sergio managed to maintain an average gap in Qualifying of approx. 5 tenth, which is still quite a lot. Remembering Red Bull stating last year, that they are looking for a driver who can consistantly manage to challenge Max by only 3 tenth, there is quite a way to go for Sergio. But recent performances of Checo show, that he is quite capable to achieve such results.
As the average alone gives not enough information to judge a driver, we can look at the following chart showing the median of the deltas. Here we can see, that the median is for both drivers lower than the average, but it also shows that Perez had better moments this year than Albon last year. Hint: Both drivers do have one outlier which is not shown in this graph
Taking into account that Sergio had to cope with a new engine, a new team environment and such a high pressure, he performed still better in Qualifying than Alex Albon, who had a quite familiar environment when he started at Red Bull. Furthermore, Sergio is well known for his great race pace and ability to maintain the tyres, which will help Max during the final rounds of this year’s championship. Looking at the data available to the public we can assume, that it was the right decision to hire Sergio and give Alex Albon the chance to develop elsewhere. And it is exciting to see, that Alex is now coming back to F1 next year in a Williams!