We’ve had a great response to our post about the mythical “Perfect Lap” in F1 and some fascinating thoughts and observations made.
Several readers have sent in examples of laps that they consider to be perfect, including Ayrton Senna at Monaco in 1988, Juan Montoya at Spa in 2001, Michael Schumacher at Suzuka in 2006, Fernando Alonso at Monza 2006.
Meanwhile from this season, it’s been suggested that Sebastian Vettel’s pole lap in Malaysia on intermediate tyres was close to perfect.
What do you think? What was the best lap you’ve seen? Please send in your suggestions of laps that really stuck in the mind. We will pick one of the posts at random and send the poster a copy of the new Codemasters F1 Game, Classic Edition, featuring cars from the 1970s and 1980s, many of which performed some legendary laps.
In the meantime, from the current F1 driver crop, here are some more reflections on the notion of a “Perfect Lap” – the Grosjean one is fascinating.
With just 22 poles from 212 Grands Prix Fernando Alonso has not always had the car to compete over a single lap, “You always want to have another set of tyres and try to do something better but I think I’m always close to perfect,” he says.
“It sometimes doesn’t look like that because, take Korea, the car in front of us was four tenths ahead. I could put 100 sets of tyres on and would not improve by four tenths. That’s the way it is and we know we have this weak point in the team. For us, the one lap pace is that weakness, but we know on Sunday that we can do things to maximise points. With this kind of performance for four years, I have fought for the world championship three times, so that’s something good, but it’s also true that we are too slow at the moment. You can sometimes feel you have taken everything from what you have but you are not satisfied if that is not good enough.”
In form Romain Grosjean said, “A perfect lap… there are certain times when you go out and think, ‘That’s the best I could have done today.’ If you look at data there is always a thousandth here or there. It’s probably happened two or three times in my career when I’ve climbed out of the car and known that was the best I could have done.
“You need to trust the car, be confident and be in a good mood. To me it’s not about being on another plane, like sometimes Senna talked about, but sometimes you just feel that you can do whatever you want and it’s going to be fine. When the car is not so easy to drive it’s obviously harder but you just have to cope with it and you can’t go for the perfect lap, but sometimes 98% is good enough. It’s harder in the simulator because you have less feeling.
2009 world champion Jenson Button is the most experienced driver on the F1 grid today. He has eight pole positions from 244 starts and has had some very special laps, “The one that stands out is Monaco in 2009,” he says. “Also Spa last year. You have some laps where you feel you got everything out of yourself and out of the car, but is that perfection? No. I don’t think any of us have ever done the perfect lap and we never will. Because we are human. We’re not robots. You make mistakes and you are never quite perfect. And there are so many variables in a racing car with the suspension and aerodynamics, the temperatures, with the wind. So the perfect lap doesn’t exist as such. The feeling that we have got the maximum out of the car and ourselves is what we aim for.
“I’ve even had laps this year where I got the maximum out of it!
“A simulator is strange because it’s close enough to reality that it feels real. So when you get on a circuit the first few laps are a bit scary because you have to pinch yourself that it’s real.”
Lewis Hamilton has 31 poles from 126 Grands Prix and has done some memorable laps, “When I say a perfect lap’s not possible it’s because I feel that even if you do an awesome lap, you always go back and look at data to compare it to your previous time” he said. “You might see that you’ve gained a little on the way into a corner but lost on exit. There’s always bits you can take and add. So if you could get several different laps and take all the best bits together, then that’s your perfect lap. It’s very difficult to do it but it’s about having a good balance that allows you to put the car where you want it, then you’ve got to have your mind in the best place possible. If the car is not working as you want it, you have to drive around issues and then you won’t get the perfect lap.
“The simulators are pretty accurate, they have such things as wind affecting the car, but it’s a lot easier in the simulator. I’m sure most people find it easier on a Playstation and a simulator is like a big Playstation.”