Why F1 cars are only at the limit 3.1% of the time

Why F1 cars are only at the limit 3.1% of the time

By crunching the numbers from the last 12 seasons, it's possible to calculate how often Formula 1 drivers take their cars to the ultimate limit. The conclusions are startling and show where F1 should be working to fix the issues laid bare

How often do you see a Formula 1 car on the limit in modern grand prix racing? It's a difficult question to answer, because the limit varies according to conditions, fuel load, tyres and myriad other factors. But in its simplest form, it's a car lapping at close to its optimum lap time.

F1 changed dramatically at the start of the decade with the refuelling ban, then the introduction of high-degradation Pirelli tyres a year later. The 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix, the first of this latest no-fuel-stops era, was met by a complaining chorus both inside and outside the F1 paddock about 'the show' that soon became a steady drumbeat, a cacophonous background noise that is the manifestation of F1's existential crisis that can't be tuned out.

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