This Is The Difference Between A Good Lap And An OK Lap In Formula One

As you can imagine, it's all a game of infinitesimal margins

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

While I was watching a race with one of my non-motorsport friends, I was asked how commentators can tell the difference between a good lap and a bad lap — and how they’re able to tell when a driver is compromised on just one corner. At the time, I didn’t have this great Formula One video comparing the laps of Red Bull Racing drivers Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen to help illustrate my point. But you, my kind friends, do have this video.

Of course, Formula One Management doesn’t like people embedding its videos in non-F1 posts, so you’ll have to click this link to see what I’m talking about. The travesty.

Anyway, some context. F1 has put a video of Perez alongside a video of Verstappen from qualifying for the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix to illustrate the difference between a good lap and a great lap. These videos are from the second qualifying round. Verstappen went on to nab pole position while Perez just missed out on moving into the final round of qualifying.


The video breaks down not just the speed of each driver but also when each driver is on the throttle or on the brakes. You also get a nice little animated graphic of the time differential between Verstappen and Perez. And, since they’re onboard videos, you can also watch the lines that each driver is taking. (There’s also some commentary by Martin Brundle, but you’d be forgiven for muting it; I personally feel it is too early in the season to hear that man’s voice.)

One of the more interesting bits of the video comes right at the start of the lap: For whatever reason, he has more speed to start it off. Brundle theorizes that it could be due to some energy or downforce strategy.

It could also just be illustrating the one key factor of performance driving that I’ve learned in the various driving schools I’ve attended: The quality of your lap is dependent on every single corner. If your previous lap was great, you’re in a good position to start your next lap because your car is ideally positioned. If Verstappen’s previous lap was a great one, he’s better set up to make the next lap great, too. If Perez had to deviate from his racing line on the previous lap, he wouldn’t have had that perfect positioning and could still struggle on his next lap.

Whatever the case, it’s a fascinating watch. At the end of the video, Perez is 0.341 seconds behind his teammate — something that’s almost imperceptible to the naked eye but a difference drastic enough that you’re able to see it illustrated on the video.