The INCREDIBLE Evolution of Formula 1 Lap Times

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Formula 1 has come a long way in the past 70 years of racing, with massive breakthroughs in technology and safety. Over this time, the performance of the cars has improved at a rate that is honestly astonishing.

So today I’m going to show just how the speed of Formula 1 has evolved, show you the key breakthroughs and the constant battle between the FIA and the teams over the performance of the cars.

Raw data here –
Thanks so much to User gg2443 for collating the data!

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This is it, the Driver61 F1 Lap Time Evolution-o-meter, but let me first explain how we got to this point.

We’ve broken down the data of every fastest lap, of every race in Formula 1 history. All to understand the relative pace difference between each year – and I’m then going to show you when the key rule changes came in and how they affected things.

So, how have we done this? Well, a lot of the raw data was collected by a member of the F1 community on Reddit, we’ve linked this below. And then I’ve analysed the data for us and come out with some real insights.

It’s as simple as researching every fastest lap, from every race ever. Then comparing these to each other, to get a percentage difference compared to the previous car at the same circuit a year ago. So if the fastest lap at Spa in 1950 was 4:34.1 and then the next year was 4:22.0. This comes to a difference of 4.51%.

Now, on it’s own this isn’t that valuable. But when you do this for every track on the calendar and average it out, you can begin to see the relative difference between one years car and the next. Sometimes the progression in engineering and technology means the cars get quicker, and sometimes the rule changes mean the cars get slower. Then all you have to do is do this for every year – and we’re done.

Except, it’s not that simple. For example, Spa is very different now to how it was back then. The same goes for Silverstone, Monza, and well, every other track on the calendar.

So to solve that issue, each time the track is changed – it’s treated as an entirely different track and then isn’t counted unless there is a time from the previous year to compare it to. But what’s handy, is that the tracks change quite infrequently – so you can use ones that haven’t changed to work out the rough time difference. So on the year Spa changed, both Monaco and Monza didn’t – so we can use these as a baseline to compare to.

Now, this is by no means perfect. Despite there being a decent sample of data, and lots of track types and conditions to average out. There are some things that will effect times – like the tyres being used. Can they change them in the race? Are the cars using a brand new engine every race, and so can burn it out? Is there a tyre war pushing tyre performance on? Are the cars allowed to refuel? Are drivers stopping deliberately to fit new tyres and get the fastest lap?

Yes, all of these things matter. But it gives us the best picture possible, let me explain.

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