F1 Winter Break
Is there such a thing as a “Perfect Lap”?
Posted By: James Allen  |  29 Oct 2013   |  7:17 pm GMT  |  166 comments

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of a “Perfect lap” – the lap in which the driver takes the absolute maximum from the car and leaves no time on the table, not even a hundredth of a second.

F1 is all about the quest for perfection. At the highest level of driving there is a purity to it; the combination of man and machine, looking to achieve the ultimate around a ribbon of tarmac that makes up the circuit.

So is it possible to do a perfect lap? And do the simulation tools, which all teams have these days, help drivers in that quest or do they merely highlight the limitations of the human being behind the wheel?

We’ve asked a few of the top names from F1 and we’d love to hear your views too.

When we asked Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, he was pretty honest about it: “I’ve never done a perfect lap. But Singapore this year was pretty good!” he said. (He qualified second)

“It’s not possible to do a perfect lap. There’s always something where you think you could have done it slightly better and I don’t really believe you can do the perfect lap. You can get very close, and I did in Singapore, but there’s always a couple of hundredths that you leave on the table.

“You don’t do it in the simulator either but that’s more laboratory conditions. You always have a better chance of getting things right than in the real outdoor world. Drivers, of course, also have competition in the simulator but the problem is that it’s always a moving target with different tyre models and so forth. From time to time we do get in one after the other but it’s quite rare.”

“Probably not,” said Mark Webber, when asked if he has ever done a perfect lap. “It’s very difficult to do the absolute perfect, perfect lap. I’ve been close. But if a drivers says he’s done the perfect lap, I’m not it’s possible.

“The simulators give us a perspective on what is possible, but even so, the most important factor is the real driver in the car understanding what the limit actually is. Even when we do downforce wing comparisons in simulation, looking at what happens with different wing levels, there are certain things that the simulator still can’t take into account that the driver actually does in the car. So thankfully that’s why it’s still a bit of a black art for us in the car and we get to do the job we do!”

However Williams driver Valtteri Bottas disagrees and thinks a perfect laps is attainable. He did a stunning lap in qualifying in Canada to put the Williams third on the grid.

“A perfect lap is possible,” he says,”And it’s always what I’m aiming for but sometimes it’s more difficult. When the car is better balanced it’s easier but then it’s our job to get all the data on Friday and work with the car set-up to get it as strong as it can be so that you can drive it on the limit with a good balance. Every car is a bit different though, and maybe with some it’s easier.

“In Canada, where I qualified third, everything came together for us. There was the weather and that track is quite special was good for us: no high-speed corners, big brakes and chicanes and every corner is quite short. And, for us, normally the shorter the corner the better for us. I think the conditions, the track, my lap, everything just came together.

“I think it is probably easier in the simulator because there are less variables. For example wind speed and temperature. In the simulator those things are a bit behind reality and at a real track there are more variables. For example, a single little gust of wind can change things.”

So what do you think? Is a perfect lap possible? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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I work on handling ships and have a saying *there is a fine dividing line between panache and crash" and I am sure that applies to F1 as well.

A great lap is on that line and everyone knows going over it will lead to a crash so therefore there never is the perfect lap, the drivers are human after all and know the consequences.


I suggested the Google F1 car. Obviously the powers that be would never allow it as there is way more to lose than gain. But watch out, Formula E may allow it.

I wonder what an F1 car fully automated what a fine tuned computer system directly linked to all sensors could do. I am convinced that with sufficient reasearch and development it would beat human drivers.

It would be a fascinating, but likely very expensive experiment. I have to say, if I was running this experiment, the first thing I would do however is take the human data and have the machine setup try to simulate that. 🙂


Bring on Google cars, Microsoft cars, Android cars and Apple cars for the next generation of F1 fans. Lets have perfect robots simulate Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and have a battle between corporations rather than humans. We could also have them simulate certain personalities- oh wait lets resurrect a Muhammad Ali robot and give em the "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee" expressions to appease the masses. Yeah, lets do that!!!

But who knows, it may actually bring more excitement than the sport is offering today, coz it is clear that Horner and Marko are Vettel's lap dog. At least this quote today from Marko would imply that they are doing everything to appease him for 2014 as well:

"There is a good friendly relationship, and I think that will be good for the whole team that there is no tension any more and that the two drivers - at least as long as Sebastian as winning and Daniel is not beating him - I think their relationship will be very good."


LOL- I think we know now the reasons why Hamilton, Alonso, Kimi, Hulkenberg were not recruited as number 2 drivers, coz maybe they aren't and Ricciardo is?


All of this will be reality when PS5 comes out. At that time production and logistic costs FOM currently has will be completely reduced by having a GP weekend run on a farm of 300 PS5 systems. Also coming, 1/6th gravity GP on the new Moon F1 track facility.

BONUS: Hand to Hand combat after on track contact between drivers will have no real consequences, and will happen with stunning frequency. Helmets off!


Not possible.

And unfortunately Senna is no longer here to prove me wrong.


I agree, not possible, especially when measuring to the thousandth of a second.

Hang on, maybe possible at The Brickyard in qually for the Indy 500...


Even there and ovals in general there is plenty potential. At Indy it is a four lap average, so 16 turns to get the perfect line on. Run a tight line and you scrub off more speed. Run a high line and the distance is longer. Through 16 corners the tyres change in grip levels and change in fuel load varies what you can do on each lap as the aero effect changes.

In Clark's time it would have been a little easier to do as the fuel effect was less significant so it was more a case of four corners four times.


If you stick to the pure definition of perfection then yes, it's unattainable. But Bottas's point is absolutely valid.


Theoretically, it's not possible. They can always brake later, have the better steering angle and get earlier/more lineair on the throttle.

The difference can be very small: cm's for braking, a few degrees steering lock and ms for acceleration. But it's not perfect in the physics-sense. Only a simulator can do that more or less (depending on the simulation quality).

Alanis Morrisette

1) Theoretically, by the sheer definition of the word, of course the perfect lap is possible. In Practice, it is just very, very, very difficult to achieve

2) Now think about what you're saying a bit more - 'They can always brake later'. No, they can't. There is obviously a limit!


Exactly right. Would have posted myself had you not beaten me to it.

Also, presumably teams can 'cut and paste' together perfect sections of a lap done in a simulator . If they do this, how do the lap times compare with the fastest laps we have seen in practice (and I mean reality not practice). What is there really out there to be saved by doing the perfect lap, and is the risk/reward worth it.

[Though I suppose being the perfect lap the risk is minimised, but I think we're all talking about the perfect lap in terms of lap time]


I recall on a number of times whene Michael said he got the 'maximum' out of the car during qualifying. So, I think you can attain the perfect lap.


Michael used to subdivide sectors into multiple subsectors and then work upon them during the weekend. Unfortunately his Ferrari in the 90s and until 2001 was not the fastest car, so Williams and Mclarens had a better chance of getting P1. Else Michael could have easily ended up with more than 90+ pole positions.


Furthermore some certain Ferrari poles were given up by carrying more fuel to start the race when rules not allowed refuelling between qualifying a race (from 2003).


I see where you're coming from but getting the maximum out of the car is not necessarily getting the perfect lap - if the car is a dog to handle then there's always something that could have been better. I suspect that even as a driver if you know that you couldn't have done any better, unless you're on the front row of the grid you're probably not going to consider it perfect.

And there have been cases where drivers have said they've got the maximum out of the car, whilst their team-mate has gone on to do a little bit better with the same machinery. Of course, that can be down to weight differences, which would equate to about quarter of a second lap time difference for a 7kg or 8kg difference in driver weight. Die-hard critics of Button (against Hamilton) and Webber (against Vettel) would do well to remember that fact when making their comparisons... :o)

rob in victoria bc

Indeed. I can't remember the race, but I remember one where Prost had a shower and put on civilian clothes, even though Senna still had a run left. His engineer asked what Prost thought he was doing? Prost's reply was along the lines of, 'I drove the perfect lap. Don't worry, I'll be on pole.', and I believe he was proved correct.


If I remember correctly, Senna got well within the best time possible according to McLaren's computers at Monaco one year and still felt he could go faster. However, he stopped, scared that he would kill himself if he carried on.

According to those computers, he had beaten the perfect lap, even though he felt it could still be improved on.


I read about it in Motorsport magazine several years ago, but several years after the event. So someone must've spoken about it.


Senna/Mclaren - Unfortunately we will never know as I doubt Mclaren will admit, even though it was Senna, that someone went quicker than their computers said was possible, unless you think you can get an answer on this one james!?


Although it isn't F1, I seem to recall that over in the Japanese Super GT series, Daisuke Ito once went faster than a simulated time, and in doing so smashed the record for a GT car at Suzuka - at 1:49.842 (which remains to this day).


That was more mind games than actually thinking that he did a perfect lap, those 2 were constantly playing mind games on eachother


Yeah I agree. If a perfect lap is getting everything out of a car and track then it's possible, you just have to maintain perfection and string it together for a sequence of corners that lasts one whole lap, that's the trick because humans are analogue, they ebb and flow, we are flawed by nature. You need to be in tune with your car 100% and know the track intimately, subconciously. I reckon Senna (Monaco), Schumacher, Hakkinen, Alonso (in his Renault days), Raikkonen (at McLaren) and now Vettel have all done it.


I think a perfect lap does exist - but I don't think it's possible to do. I guess it all depends on perfect, to me even being 0.00000000000001 seconds off a "perfect" lap is not "perfect". However, I'm sure to the drivers anything within 0.010 of the theoretical perfect lap is good enough to consider "perfect".

The trouble is that in the real world there are too many unpredictable performance variables to get things absolutely perfect. I'm not just talking about obvious things like tires and bumps (although they're both notoriously hard to simulate with a computer, much less a human) - but subtle things like gusts of wind.

Not to mention that you add another whole layer of complexity if you try and time a perfect tow from another car down the straight, yet avoid having loss of downforce in the corners. Now you're getting into the game where you need an uncontrollable variable (another driver) to be timed perfectly as well.


A 'near perfect lap' is certainly possible but a perfect lap to the nearest thousandth of a second? I don't think so, but that's something that we will never know.

I have seen some tremendous laps over the years though in which I couldn't believe the lap times and questioned whether that was perfect. Schumacher in particular did an incredible sub-90 second lap at Suzuka in 2006 which prompted Martin to go 'what!?' when he saw the time. Was it perfect? Who knows, but that's the closest I've seen to one.


I remember that well... 1:28.954 - which I'm somewhat ashamed to admit I know without having to look it up - is miles faster than any other season before or since. Annoyingly we only saw the very end of the lap.

I don't think a perfect lap exists, although I suspect Vettel, Hamilton and Rosberg could get close when they really hook it up (indeed, some of Vettel's laps in 2011 were simply brilliant; Australia, China, Turkey, Monaco, Singapore and Suzuka being the best examples of this)

I would be more interested myself in what people feel has been the best lap of this current season (or in recent seasons). IMO nothing tops Vettel's Malaysia pole lap - a second clear of the pack (and 2.5 s ahead of Webber) - back when the front running cars were all very closely matched. Rosberg's Singapore effort was pretty sweet too.


Those in the UK can find the laps I mentioned on the BBC Sport website if you search for them, but only UK users...

So I found some of them on Youtube instead.

Monaco '11

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fdkqtx1RwKc (top clip)

Singapore '11


Rosberg @ Singapore '13 is on F1.com


My view:

The question James is how would one know the driver has left time on the table. One has to compare with something (like a simulator time or something else) which itself is not on real life (track) situation i.e. benchmark is not perfect either.

A driver can do the fastest possible lap based on unique real life situation in qualifying. There is just no way to find out if it was a perfect lap as there is no 100% perfect benchmark.


The other factor to consider is the car and setup. Theoretically you could achieve the same lap time at some tracks with two different cars/setups - with one faster down the straights and one in the corners. Who is to say which is perfect?

Also, you could unknowingly achieve the theoretical perfect lap in a Marussia and still be a second slower than a scruffy lap in a Red Bull.

It's an excellent pub debate though!


This actually happened in the 1997 European Grand Prix:


Villeneuve, Schumacher and Frentzen all had the same qualifying time!


I was there I remember it well!


"Also, you could unknowingly achieve the theoretical perfect lap in a Marussia and still be a second slower than a scruffy lap in a Red Bull."

Just because it's slower doesn't stop it being a perfect lap.

You could possibly achieve a perfect lap in every car imaginable, they wouldn't all be the same time, would they?


True. The perfect lap could be setting the best time possible given the car, tyres, conditions etc. But also the perfect lap could be the fastest sector times added together and seeing how far the fastest driver was away from that. Motogp do that in qualifying.

Tom Haythornthwaite

I think this is the crux of it - so we'll never know.


My take on the topic is yes, it's possible for some pilots to achieve the perfect lap.

Why I say this is because I have heard a couple of drivers namely Lewis, Alonso, Kimi say after qualifying that they felt they did the perfect lap or in other words got the absolute maximum out of the car so much so that if they would repeat the lap, wouldn't achieve the same time.

But of course, this is difficult to do and almost happens by chance were all conditions just work perfectly in your favour on that given day.

Now for the drivers such as Webber and Rosberg who say the perfect lap can't be achieved, I think this is just a case of being a perfectionist.

As you know perfectionists are people that want things 100% perfect and so can never be satisfied with anything and that's the reason why perfectionists usually focus more on their mistakes than positives.


Perfection may also be variable or conditional depending on the situation-- wind speed and direction, temperature, rain/wet level, track temperature, all can change lap to lap. Maybe thats why guys use "maxiumum" rather than "perfect" to describe a lap.


it's not surprising the least experienced is also the least humble.


can you do me a favour and ask Valtteri the same question in 10 years time? (if he is still around...)

I would be curious to see his answer.

btw. one aspect to consider in the replies is the matter of personal motives.

Mark is leaving, Nico is in top team, both can afford to be honest.

Valtteri needs to establish himself and at all time will try to put himself in best possible light....

On the other hand one could argue that this is the right mental attitude for future champion... which is missing for Mark and Nico then?

In the light of that what would be answer to the that question from 2 particular Germans with 11 WDC's?


But he did put Williams at the 3rd place on the grid. So in that car he might want to feel he did a perfect lap in Williams. I guess the answer in 10 years time from now will be the same.


Ayrton Senna - Pole Position Monaco 1988. Perfection.


Concur it was perfect.


yep or first lap Donington 1993.


Can't be a perfect lap as he lost a place to Wendlinger off the line. 😉

Perfect from then on...dispatching Schumacher, Wendlinger, Hill and Prost with ease.


It depends he you are quantifying the perfect lap.

Vettel for example said he couldn't find anymore time than his first qualifying run in Singapore. Could another driver have found more time over that same lap? Perhaps, but for Vettel everything was squeezed out.

The same could be asked of his second Q3 run in Suzuka that had the paddock abuzz. Could another driver have found more time in the sane conditions? Perhaps, yet his fellow drivers were gobsmacked by what he managed.


Vettel in Singapore from memory, when asked if he could find any more time said something like, "Maybe one or two tenths."

Two tenths in F1 is no small thing, but for whatever reason they decided he'd done enough.


Seb lost quite a lot at the hairpin in Suzuka. If not for that mistake, it would be really an amazing lap without KERS

Vet-Web comparison:



I would love to get an answer to this question as a follow up.

"Have you ever beaten the theoretical quickest possible lap time?"

As good as computer models and simulation are, and I admit they are very good and only getting better, I wonder if the engineers are ever left wondering "How did he do that?". Can the driver still be better than the programmer?


Alonso, 2006 Italian GP:


Not exactly an example against a simulator, but still an example where the driver performed better than the calculations said possible.


Ah yes, that was a good lap. Shame what happened afterwards..


Of course it is possible just very very unlikely.

And the other problem is how you would know. The driver's opinion is going to be very subjective and who's to say a driver with a different style wouldn't get it round faster.

Oddly it seems that drivers are more likely to claim a perfect lap in a bad car, how many times have we heard "That's as fast as it would go"?


Very good discussion James and I'm interested to see what others say (I think it would be interesting to ask some race engineers too). It's been way too long since my last post on this site, I'm sorry. Here's my take on the matter:

There's never going to be a simple answer to the question. In theory a perfect lap is possible, but given how many variables there are it is impossible to predict how fast that perfect lap will be using a computer model.

The important thing to note is that it is all relatively speaking. Does the perfect lap have to be the fastest lap (of the weekend for example)? No. Every single lap is different- fuel levels, tyre wear, wind speed (which can affect engine power), temperature-the slightest change in these can have a huge affect on a car, and affects each car differently. Drivers may have their best lap of the race as an in-lap. Is it their fastest? No. Do they have the best grip on their tyres? No, but it can still be close to a perfect lap relative to the conditions!

In short, there is always a perfect lap out there. Unfortunately we may never truly know if it one has ever achieved a perfect lap.


I'm quite with you there Sean. I would even go a little further and ask: what is a perfect lap?

On the basis that a perfect lap is to take the car at the fastest possible time under a given circumstance and that a car has a certain engineering spec to its engineered limits and all the loads that it can take etc, I'd even say that they do better than perfect! I'm sure a great driver eventually takes the car beyond its limits and faster than one would say possible.

I think that this, pushing beyond the limits, this is going the extra mile and pushing 110% that we hear so much.


I think we are entering into the realms of "going to 11" to paraphrase N. Tufnell of Spinal Tap. It is impossible by definition to take a car beyond its limits or to put 110% effort into something, they're just media soundbites.

I dont think the perfect lap has ever or can ever be achieved objectively by a (assuming times to the nearest thousandth of a second and a human pilot!). Subjectively, a driver may feel that he has got the most out of a particular lap that he is capable of, but we do not know how far off the car's capability it was on any given lap as there are too many variables that cannot be taken into account using existing simulation technology. But maybe this will be possible in the future...


"I’m sure a great driver eventually takes the car beyond its limits and faster than one would say possible."

Not possible.


I undesrtand that it all comes down to: Perfect as compared to what? "Perfect" is something too subjective to be precisely determined. One could talk precisely about the "ideal", or "optimal".

Please refer to comment no. 72. Posted By: F1S.

This is what I meant, but perhaps I couldn't express myself properly and I didn't have the inside information as F1S seems to have.



First of all, this question should be purely about driver skill in maximising the potential of the car; not about favourably changing wind conditions etc to achieve the absolute minimum lap time.

With that out of the way, of course, there is a perfect lab, the ontological argument proofs it. The real question is, how close can you get to the perfect lab in reality, and perhaps more specifically, has any driver ever come close to a perfect lab to within 1/10th, 1/100th or 1/1000th of a second?

I think that 1/10th is very rare, but likely to have happened, 1/100th is extremely rare and very unlikely to have happened, and 1/1000th is so rare that it is extremely unlikely to ever have happened.


I imagine that the engineers pouring over the cars telemetry would be in a better position to answer this question than the drivers. But even they might not know for sure, it's probably an insolvable problem. There are just too many variables involved (air temp, humidity, wind speed and direction, track temperature, etc etc) to allow us to say "A lap time on this track of 124 seconds in the XF11 car would be 100% perfection". It is possible to say if it's an exceptionally good lap though.


I would say that Vettel is as close to achieving the perfect lap that can be possible, he has a stunning car and he is extracting everything from it.


I don't think it is humanly possible to achieve the perfect lap on track. It's a moving target from lap to lap in most forms of racing. Things such as grip levels, tire wear, vehicle weight, track temp, wind direction/speed, etc, change from lap to lap. This makes the degree of 'perfection' tremendously difficult to judge. I have driven quali laps in the past that felt 'perfect', but always wondered that if I had taken a little less curb here, or opened up my line a little more there I may have squeezed a few hundredths more out of my time. Given all the variables contributing to a lap time and the virtual impossibility of measuring your time against these variables with 100% certainty, the perfect lap must be impossible to achieve. At very least, it's impossible to measure.


Alain Prost was alwqys trying to do the perfect lap. I seem to remember he himself said he got close to it a couple of times. If a 4 time, 50 plus gp winner, and one of the smoothest drivers ever felt he never quite did one, then I think the perfect lap may be impossible.


When you smash your team mate by the margins Sebastian Vettel has these last 5 years - that is a perfect lap.

the kitchen cynic

I recall Mansell said somewhere he did maybe 10 'perfect laps' in his entire career.


Yes and I believe they were all done in Silverstone in 1987.


Then he woke up and went racing 😉


Yeah, but they were all on the Top Gear track and even then he was beaten by almost everyone else 😉


In absolute terms there is no such thing as a perfect lap, but most drivers know when they've done a good one. It's nothing to do with relative lap time, but to do with reaching the limits of the car involved on a particular circuit. The best drivers are highly skilled at getting the most out of their cars so when they say they've done a good one any improvement would be marginal. Beyond that it is only technical improvement of the car itself that is likely to be significant.


The perfect lap is going to be different on every lap. Lets assume the driver is perfect and he brakes the minimum amount, turns in at the exact point, takes the ideal line, hits the exit point, has his wheels on the white line, drives dead straight on the straights, in other words does everything that is theoretically correct to have a perfect lap.

Ok, then the next lap the tyre temperatures are slightly different they are slightly more worn, the wind may be different, which affects downforce and braking and cooling. There are hundreds of combinations of factors that make every lap different. The driver is compensating for the changes automatically, probably unconsciously, on every lap. When he turns in five laps of the exact same time, he must have driven slightly differently on each because the conditions and his car were slightly different on each lap.

Yes the perfect lap is possible on rare occasions but it will be the perfect lap for that car in those conditions.

Then you get Senna "in the zone" when it all just flows and there's no effort and every lap is perfect its almost an out of body experience. I had it once, on one corner, at Brands out of hundreds of laps in an XR3i at the school. (35 or so years ago now, but I've never forgotten how it felt)


I think there is yes. It's difficult to happen but it can happen.


A perfect lap can probably be pulled out of a computer, optimizing in theory all entries for maximum speed, to the perfect time, down to a thousandth of a second, when the driver should step on the gas, etc., but a human being could never do something like that.

I think it was Fangio who said that a perfect lap was different from lap to lap, and that putting the wheels within an inch of the barriers every time wasn't important as the car will always carry a different momentum, angle and so on, and that makes sense.

I think the question is rather meaningless.


Depends on whether you use the word as an adjective (having all the required or desirable elements), or a verb (free from faults or defects). If you mean perfect as an adjective then any lap which achieves your aim for it is perfect. For example, a quali lap that sees you on Pole is perfect, a formation lap where you execute the programme set by your engineer is perfect, or if you're Pastor Maldonado getting round without hitting anyone.


I don't think this article is about a lap that succeeds in getting you in a "perfect" position (i.e. pole), but rather about a lap that cannot be beat because every variable was optimally achieved.

Or using your definition, perfect as a verb.


Kimi: "There is not a perfect lap, only in dreams. You can get a great lap without any mistakes, but you can always improve it, believe me!"


The only guy who says it exactly as it is.The only F1 racer I will ever believe.


Did Kimi bump his head or something before he was quoted here. Never heard him utter so many words before, a veritable poet there!


lol, enjoyed that Clarks4WheelDrift. So if Kimi says it's so, so it is!!!!


Interesting that the article opens with a picture of Button who always seems to be in search of a balanced set up in order to achieve the perfect lap rather than drive around any handling issues like Lewis. Button's 2012 pole lap at Spa seemed like being close to the perfect lap


What do I think?From my own personal experience on Gran Turismo Five, yes it is possible, however, in a Formula One car in the real world? Doubt it.


Are you the GT5 world record holder? If not - you are wrong.


Since lap records get broken the 'perfect' lap can only be described as the best that is humanly possible with that driver in that particular car. So I'd say given those limitations yes some drivers have very infrequently achieved perfection.

There has to be a large element of luck though - even the bravest driver doesn't make every corner on pure talent sometimes fate just smiles on them and the car doesn't slide out in ignominious failure (let's face it the closer to perfection you get the closer you risk a massive accident!)


"Since lap records get broken the ‘perfect’ lap can only be described as the best that is humanly possible with that driver in that particular car."

A perfect lap has nothing to do with time, you can do a perfect lap in 2 different F1 cars, why would they be the same time?


Yes that's what I said? Some comments seemed to suggest otherwise that's why I was saying I wouldn't define the perfect lap purely on time.


I'm unsure if you define "perfect lap" just as "perfect effort in this particular car" or is there more in it, i.e. "perfect effort in perfectly set car".


A perfect lap is a lap that given the circumstances on a specific moment (weather, car, tyres, physical state of the driver, etc) can't be improved within human limitations.

Three problems arise:

- All these circumstances have effect on the lap time and on eachother (the weather has influence on the tyres for example)

- Circumstances can't be singled out to assess their influence on a lap time

- Circumstances change continuously

These three problems make it impossible to compare two very quick laps and say one is perfect and one is not, solely based on lap times. It is therefore impossible to know if a perfect lap has been driven, since there is no other way of measurement, though the concept of a perfect lap time probably exists. It's simply unverifiable and possibly unreachable. However, the perfect lap may well have been driven in a midfield car on heavily worn tyres: given those circumstances, the lap couldn't be improved. Unfortunately, since it's not a spectacular lap time, the lap is unlikely to be even considered as perfect.


I think the phrase 'perfect lap' is unattainable as it implies that it is always the fastest time of all competitors at that moment in time on a given day. However, change it to 'best possible lap' brings in a much wider consideration: can a driver achieve the best possible lap time that the car can achieve when it matters most?

To me, this means the driver applying the correct amount of brake pressure at the right point of time through the braking phase, to pass through the corner at the optimum grip level / speed, to apply power correctly to get maximum drive to the next corner.

To string this together across the entire lap achieves the 'best possible lap' for the car at that time.

I guess the conflict here is that a driver will always think 'I could have braked a fraction later at turn x'. And of course, 5 minutes later conditions change and the target of what the car 'could' achieve also changes.

And that's why we love the sport - it's that continual pursuit of perfection!


It all depends on how you define 'perfect'.

Today the drivers get 10 minutes in Q3 to set as fast a time as possible - but under significant constraints. They have a limited number of laps due to tyres/fuel considerations, they know they have to use the tyres again in the race, they don't want to bend the car as it could impact the race, plus a whole host of other variables as other commenters have listed.

Give them an unlimited amount of identical tyres, an unlimited amount of identical cars (in case they bend them), constant weather/track conditions, unlimited time etc (i.e. remove all the constraints) - you can be certain every driver sooner or later would set a faster time.

So if you define 'Perfect' as the best possible lap given the circumstances (constraints), then yes I imagine drivers are able to say they couldn't have gone any quicker.

But take away those constraints, and a faster lap is always possible.


I did it once. GranTurismo2. Laguna Seca. After a week or so, and hundreds of laps between 1.23,1 and 1.23,2 seconds, I pulled a 1.21,7s lap out of nowhere. My roommate was starring at the screen until finally muttering - Where did that come from? We never found out, and never again I drove it under 1.23.


My answer will probably sound daft to some of the F1 geeks here, but I don't think it is even remotely possible to achieve a perfect lap. It would only be possible if someone could drive the whole lap at the maximum possible speed of the car. But as they have to brake to negotiate the various turns, the search for perfection disappears because for any speed around a corner, someone else can (theoretically) always improve on it, however minutely. So to me it's obvious there is no perfect lap.

The Spanish Inquisitor

perfect lap alonso

1.390.000 googles

perfect lap vettel

532.000 googles

perfect lap hamilton

6.110.000 googles


So you have to perform more seaches to find a perfect lap by Hamilton?


hahaha interesting!

Alberto Martínez

Spanish GP 2011. This is what Alonso said after Q3:

"I did a perfect lap: I reckon that if I tried to repeat it twenty times, I could not do better! When you do a lap like that it's hard to put into words what one feels: always being on the limit, in every corner is a really special feeling for a driver."

Alonso: 1’21.964

Massa: 1’22.888


I have just picked that lap as the second best I have had the pleasure to watch! The post is further down. Very good example of an amazing lap!


From own limited experience of go karting, I'd say so, I remember once stringing a beautiful lap together, I couldn't of done it any better. These guys are pro, and do many more laps than me, so I reckon they ace it every now and then, that's when you see a sauber or a Jordan out of place on the grid.


All the variables are inter-related: the track condition and the qualities of the car, the car and the preferences of the driver, and the driver and his feel for and liking of the track. Then you build in fitness, confidence, weather, other drivers on track and good old Sods Law - what do you think are the chances of aligning all the above perfectly? And then how do you measure it?


The perfect lap requires the driver to be the perfect weight.

They've got to start the lap with the perfect amount of fuel, keep within a mm of the perfect line, keep on the very cusp of what's the car's physically capable of for the entire lap.

Tyres have to be perfectly mananged too.

Absolute perfection is then, in my opinion at least, not possible.

A great driver will get close in much the same way that a great artist might draw something close to a perfect circle. It will never be perfect though, it can't be done.


Perfect lap??

Keke Rosberg



well, from a spectators point of view anyway...


I remember wondering at the time, how is it possible to AVERAGE 160mph on a race track when you have to turn left and right?


Yes, I was there!...remember the sparks flying from the Titanium skid plates as he approached Woodcote


Ah yes a great lap that one!


It is about ideal. While driver needs to be better than the rest of the field. Especially with those limited tires that they must reuse in the race.

May be Senna did it in Monaco when he was forced to slow down and as result he crashed.


Since there are so many variables that change from lap to lap or even corner to corner (wind, air temp, track temp, tire condition, track debris etc etc,) "perfection" is a moving target. IMO the only thing that would meet the definition of perfection would be a lap time of 0.000 seconds. Obviously unattainable.

However I do believe that a great driver on a great lap can make the car outperform what would be considered an optimum time by the engineers. They would accomplish this by working with the inherent, subtle nuances and rhythms of a car and finessing it on the track the way a musician finesses an instrument to achieve superb tones that lesser musicians could not.


As an engineer perfection is the desired outcome iwth mimimum expenditure (cash, energy, effort, danger or whatever).

Therefore in my book the perfect lap is the lap driven at the minimum performance level to beat all of your rivals...

What is being talked about here is the fastest possible lap, and even if someone did it they would never know or be able to prove it


These are the best laps I have had the pleassure to watch on modern F1(on dry conditions), in decreasing order:

1)Alonso. 2011 Singapore.

2)Alonso. 2011 Montmelo.

3)Hamilton. 2012 EEUU.

4)Schumacher. 2006 San Marino*.

5)Trulli. 2004 Monaco.

6)Hamilton. 2008 Canada.

7)Vettel. 2011 Monza.

8)Rosberg. 2012 China.

Except Trulli 2004, Schumacher 2006 and Hamilton 2008 all are from the modern non refueling era, as they are easier to quantify. Previous to 2006 it is even harder to know which was the best lap, as the qualifying format meant last drivers to put a time had a hudge advantage. *That's why I chose San Marino 2006 as Schumacher best lap. For sure he did better laps than that (still San Marino 2006 was really impressive)in the late 90s early 2000s, but it's difficult for me to remember and compare them to those of the opposition.


Of course! Aryton Senna is laying down perfect laps on the regular in heaven right now!


And maybe even doing a few celebratory donuts without having to worry about penalties 🙂


I believe its possible to get close, extremely close to a perfect lap. But maybe not quite the absolute perfect lap. They are human after all.

When people mention stunning laps, many come to mind. But this duel stands out for me:


James' commentary was great. Kimi's lap was brilliant... and applauded by Flavio too! Hair-raising stuff!


Yeah one of my favourites Absolutely staggering!. Alonso 4/10 up on everyone thought he had in the bag!. To be blown away by even more at Monaco of all places is about as good as it gets ( in all sectors too !!)


Glad to hear theres more with fond memories of that lap. Kimi had some mega qualy laps in the past... in the Sauber days too! He was amazing at Imola in the Newey-designed Mclarens.

Hes going to need that spark back against Alonso next year!


Indeed that was an absolutely amazing lap! I remember it perfectly. A very nice duel.


Mathematically it is possible. yes. Practically, no. You may get to 99.998% But never to 100%.

That's the short easy answer.


- For any given car that is. It is impossible to calculate the perfect lap without knowing every variable, including the car.


"For any given car that is."



Theoretically, a perfect lap is impossible to achieve.

In economics it is described as the "law of diminishing returns".

Ie. the closer one gets to the theoretical perfect lap, the more difficult it becomes to extract the last little bit of performance.


The law of diminishing returns would not state exactly that. It would state that every new lap you try, the improved time you find is less and less.

On the other hand this law is, in fact, not a law, as much as economists would like it to be.


Aaahh, The Line and the Time..

Racing the clock is my favourite thing about racing.

I've spent a while in my simulator(PS1-2-3)over the years and if a Schmo like me can keep improving..

A race track is littered with hidden thousandths of seconds.

Great drivers will find most of them, but even the likes of Senna,Prost,Schumacher,Vettel and Hamilton will never find them all.

9.999 recurring is the best we can hope for.


True mate great drivers can say to themselves that a 10th here and there is achievable and they do it. Look at Vettel breaks the lap record when everything on the car, track is way passed its use by date.


apart from perhaps India has vettel broken any lap records?

I think you are referring to the fastest lap in a race - which is rarely if ever as fast as the pole position lap time...


It's possible. Senna did them.


At lot of you seem to believe it's not possible to do a perfect lap and considering the various reasons that have been given for this I tend to agree. All the drivers are human, so by definition none of them are perfect, so therefore it's impossible for any of them to do the perfect lap.

Simple enough, but then consider this:

To do a perfect lap means taking the perfect line into and out of every single corner, driving the car at the maximum speed and keeping the braking or off throttle time to an absolute minimum.

To do this would require an AI processing everything including the car, the track, the weather, wind speed, temperatures, g-forces, downforce levels and a thousand other things and it would need to do that millions or even billions of times per second.

If that could be done, then maybe we would see a technically perfect lap.

But I guarantee you, any lap that could be done by even the most advanced AI in the world could still be beaten by the best F1 drivers, because only a human could go beyond the limits and make some magic happen.

Perfection is overrated.


Perfect doesn't exist! Fact of life!


There is a perfect lap that can't get defined in he real track and environment, and is impossible to get there, yes as close to but there will be some more time left either because the driver is not going quickly enough at any given turn or too fast and then losing time sliding and not sticking to the perfect driving line.

What it counts is how close consistently a driver can get as close as humanly possible, that's what defines greatness !

We have a few there... Senna, Vettel, Clark, Fangio, Ascari, and probably a few more..


Speaking as a purely amateur competitor, the perfect lap to me, and, I suspect to a lot of other drivers, is when you know that you couldn't have driven a car any quicker, given whatever circumstances existed at that particular moment in time. In many respects, this is purely subjective, as top level motorsport is dissected in a near clinical manner and even the most basic data logging packages can show you where you have theoretically lost time i.e. you didn't do the "perfect" lap.

I think when you see at certain F1 races qualifying times within a few hundredths' of a second separating the top times, then that is a pretty good indication that the drivers are driving those cars all within a fraction of 1% of the absolute "perfect" lap.


Very interesting discussion, James. My personal take on it, is that people who push for perfection generally tend to think it is impossible to attain. I'm somewhat of a perfectionist myself and my work demands me to be. I've learnt through experience that you can always make something better, no matter how small the increment. This must surely apply to a single lap, especially given the uncontrollable variables, but also rings true throughout Formula 1 as a whole. Teams and drivers develop their cars and driving techniques to edge closer towards perfection and go ever faster, but the moment you think you have achieved perfection is the moment you lose because you no longer have the impetus to improve.


Absolutely impossible to obtain a perfect lap. Too many variables, the main one being human error. I guess we would have to define what we mean by "perfect lap." Is it running purple in all sectors? Is it running a lap so fast it can never be beaten? We all know track records get broken all the time. Is the perfect lap running the fastest time possible given the machinery's limitations? Nothing is perfect in the natural world. Therefore man is incapable perfecting anything. There is always room for improvement.


"We all know track records get broken all the time."

Because the cars are different, what's that got to do with a perfect lap?


If you cant measure it then there's no such thing as a perfect lap.


ayrton senna 1993 donington first lap


A perfect lap is a theoretical concept. Simulations are definitely a marker, but given the variables, these top class drivers can even better that reference 🙂


I listened to an interview with Lindsay Vonn a couple months back and she was asked about a perfect downhill run. She said you can have perfect runs, but they aren't the fastest runs possible.

I figure she knows a bit about speed.


At the limit, Heisenberg proved that there is absolutely, positively no such thing as perfection when it comes to the measurement physical systems.

He was probably right 😀


That is a very good point, if you can't even measure it accurately (or to perfection) you have no way of quantifying what perfection is. I believe when ever you try to measure something you change it (is this what Heisenberg said?). Which comes back to what everyone has been debating above about philosophically what is perfection? Is this in the eye of the beholder? Now we are going very deep


Ben, you're getting the uncertainty principle mixed up with the observer effect - not really the same thing. Wikipedia does an OK job at explaining the two.

I'd say that perfection *is* in the eye of the beholder and if does indeed exist then explaining it immediately destroys it.

You could say in your own mind "I couldn't do any more, it was perfect" and if you believe it to be true then it is. If you think any more on it than that or try to articulate it then its gone.

Having said all that, the *struggle* towards a goal is far more important that its attainment. It's the journey, man...


Perfect lap = perfect car setup combined with perfect track conditions and perfect timing.

This is totally different to getting the "maximum" out of the car (with all things considered).


Interesting article.

Of course it's 'possible'...anything is 'possible'.

Can it be done in the real world? 100% perfection on every millimetre of the lap? I would put the odds at about a billion to one against.

But it's definitely possible, IMO.


I think this is more a philosophical question than one from the physical world.

In a physical sense there is a perfect lap. Given the maximum grip that the tyres can provide, the maximum power the engine can deliver, the best torque it has, a certain amount of tyre slip that a driver could use in order to extend the boundaries of corner speed there is a minimum laptime that he could theoretically achieve.

But I don't think a driver has ever met absolute perfection. And never will.


There is no such thing as a "perfect lap", in the sense that nobody has ever achieved it. In any case if there was a "perfect lap" it most certainly would not be achieved by the driver in the article's accompanying photograph.


I don't know about perfect, but the example that came to my mind when I was reading this was Jerez 1997.

To me, 3 different guys setting identical times says anything more wasn't possible, therefore that was as close to the perfect lap as you can get.


some interesting viewpoints - do we measure a"perfect lap" empirically, ie, best setup, best track conditions, best driver = best time or do we rate it as a particular driver getting the absolute best out of his car and being unable to improve further...

to me, the best i've seen (following F1 since 1982-3!) was Senna at Monaco '88. Considering that everything was analogue - manual gearchanges, 3 pedals, nothing like the downforce of today...it was mesmeric watching him drive that MP4/4 through the streets. Prost in the same car (and he was no slouch either) couldn't get close...

Senna himslef described it as an out of body experience...

I think all the greats, Senna, Prost, Lauda, Mansell, Clark, Schumacher and yes, Vettel...have, if not done a perfect lap, come mighty mighty close.

It was always good to see Senna or Mansell Whringing a car's neck and making it dance in qualifying to get the best from it...compare to Prost's smooth style, neatly just touching the lines or kerbs...looking boring but being blindingly quick...

James, what's the best lap you've seen in F1 to your mind?


Didn't Prost do a perfect lap once? he did a flying lap and then got out of the car to go home before the session was over saying something like ' if senna can beat it then he deserves it' Senna went out for another lap but could not beat it.

can someone tell us the full story of this?


There is such a thing as a perfect lap, but I'm not sure it's in the sense that you're thinking about it, James.

From the point of view of a controlled environment, if you put a driver in a simulator, they will tool around for days on end, and during each session they will gradually improve, before tailing off later in the session as they start to mentally tire and lose focus. However, you would imagine that this rate of improvement and subsequent degradation would lead them to the same "ultimate" performance in the middle of the session each day, but that isn't really the case. Even over the course of 3 or 4 sessions of 3 days spread over a number of months, you still occasionally see the odd "outlier" lap, where they manage to hook up a higher proportion of all turns in a single lap.

This is also what drivers mean at the circuit when they say "it was a perfect lap"...they don't mean "I achieved the ultimate performance of the car in every turn". They mean "I achieved my best performance of the weekend in every turn on that lap". So although they don't meant to, what they are really talking about is what they have got from themselves, rather than what they have got from the car.

But there is a caveat to all of this. There are (very occasionally) laps that don't make any sense, come from nowhere, and defy logical explanation. You'd think that this wouldn't happen in F1 any more, and that even if it did, there would be enough data to figure out how what caused it. But I'm pleased to say that sometimes, there is no explanation. The usual response on the engineering side when it happens is to blame a "rogue" set of tyres. For most teams you don't run a full set of instrumentation in Quali (to reduce weight and complexity, and because you don't have to logging bandwidth to look at it through the race anyway), so you can't QUITE see enough info on the tyre to rule it out. Which makes it quite a comforting get out clause for the unexplained; engineers don't tend to have the sort of brains that deal well with the inexplicable.

If you want a good example, have a look at Robert Kubica's 2010 Suzuka Quali 3 lap. He found -0.5s on the "perfect sectors" performance of the car from the rest of the weekend, out of nowhere. He was P4, but it trumped the lap he did to be ont he front row at Monaco that year because you just didn't see it coming. The car was only good for P9.

I'm not saying there is any "magic" at work here, or that the driver somehow transcended the car (no matter how much Mark Hughes likes to suggest that there is somehow some misty, doe-eyed wonder to it all). But I am saying I can't explain where it came from. And neither could the driver!


I see your point there. That is exactly what I meant on my reply to comment 15 by Séan Craddock above. Thanks for making my point easier to prove!


Didn't Senna himself say "we are always chasing the perfect lap and it doesn't exist"? I doubt very much if a human can be perfect in the true true sense of the word, the best of the best can get pretty close though.


Um.No. It is not possible for a human being to produce a perfect lap. Driving is a combination of feedback and feed forward responses. Feedback is correcting against input, feed forward is predicting it. Using feedback introduces the delay of processing and reaction time. Even "fingertip" drivers use a light quick reaction but REACT none the less.

A perfect lap would have to be executed entirely with feed forward I.e prediction. No correction, no response.

Given that minute variations exist in road surface, tyres and suspension components, and more so wind and air pressure, the movement of the car is not 100% predictable. Even a computer with perfect recall and precision must react and adjust to these variations to some extent.

So no. Not achievable. Not in real world conditions, not with human biomechanics.


Its not about achieving the perfect lap but in my view its about getting the laps within a range to create a perfect lap in the drivers mind. We are trying to do this with my driver. In Karting like F1 or other forms of the sport the field can be separated by the smallest of margins, that shaved 10th, 100th or even 1000th can mean 1 or 10 grid spots. Was told years ago smooth is fast, consistency is the goal.


It depends how you define it I suppose. For me the perfect lap would be for a driver that feels he has absolutely hooked everything up on a given occasion and feels that he couldn't improve no matter how much he tried.

I can think of a fair few instances where I feel a driver has done the perfect lap, although they may well disagree.


I remember Panis in the Toyota beating the computer's predicted fastest possible lap-time during qualifying for the French GP in his last season. Would definitely call that a beyond-perfect lap.


I find it interesting to note that two experienced "senior" drivers say no, where a younger up-and-coming driver says yes.

Is this a sign of more experienced senior drivers who are comfortable with where they are being able to be open, whereas a newer driver who's still trying to prove himself is keen not to appear "flawed" (too crude a word but can't think of a better one).

Would be interested to know if this carried on if more drivers were asked.


Mansell always said his Silverstone 1992 lap was perfect.

2 seconds faster than Patrese (2nd) and 3 seconds faster than Senna (3rd) it's hard to argue!

I've heard after qualifying that day Patrese also grabbed him by the gentlemans area to "see how big they really were" haha


I think Kimi's 2005 Monza Lap was pretty awesome...........Ron Dennis at that time said its the Lap of the decade !


The problem is not can you do it.... but how would you know you have done it?


I think the question itself is incomplete. How would you define a 'Perfect' lap. A simulator can't give you the perfect lap considering the infinite temperature, wind, tyre conditions and the rubbering in of the track variations. Combine all these with trying to find out the perfect line , the exact braking and accelerating points and selecting the best driving style (Yes this is also a parameter)

which would give you the best time through a single as well as a sequence of corners.

What you need is a super computer that measure all the aformentioned and many other parameters every 100th of a second and that uses magic algorithms to find the 'perfect' laptime and then uses ABS, ESP and an accurate throttle-brake control to get the lap. This is simply not possible at the time being.

For me the 'perfect lap' is when the driver, who is already comfortable in a given car feels that the car was at 99.9% through out the lap and the extra 0.1% would mean going into the barriers. It is all about the Human feel rather than what the computers spew out. Humans still have more processing power than most computers, it is just that the computers are better at some tasks(number calculation) and Humans at others (Balancing).


Schumacher Monaco 2012 Q3.


That was a good one. There was his Monza lap as well - fastest ever in F1 at the time.


1988 French GP qualy, Prost's lap was great, a mighty 0.478 s better than Senna's.

I think James mentioned it back in 2010 in an article about Button and Hamilton


The truth is, nobody knows what the perfect lap is. In simulations you can calculate a theoretical fastest lap, but it is only in the imperfect model of reality where all parameters are known. In the real world neither the driver nor the technicians know where the real limit is. The driver might think they were at the limit, but it's just what they think they felt.


.."leaves no time on the table, not even a hundredth of a second"

The question is: in comparison to what?

In comparison to the computer software guided car, in comparison to "wunderkind" guided car or senna or schumi or who?

This's like math equation 1/x, as -x- goes to infinity 1/x goes to infinitesimal, but never achieves 0.

From this point the perfect lap never could be achieved as like ideal, but in real world it could be considered as: the comment of the BEST relevant driver, who is fully fit at that very moment, arguing that "I'm fully satisfied with my lap and I feel there could not be any improvement".

Most of drivers often complain they made some minor mistakes and lost time somewhere, even Vettel (the BEST relevant driver) does so. But rarely you can hear - I did perfect lap.

The proof of such perfect lap is satisfied and smiling pit wall, as long as they know what the car's treshold range is.

But the best answer to that can give A Newey.


Another "I was there" at the cafe on Sainte Devote.

Button Monaco 2009 qualifying.


The perfect lap is pole, anything else is just extra risk.


No one can achieve a perfect lap and anyone that insists they got 100% out of whichever car they drive and the circuit is someone I do not like because if your an honest person- you know noone is perfect .If you say you delivered all you could at that time- that's a different story.

Vettel and Hamilton exchanged some beauties last year that were right up there. Kimi Raikkonen as early as his first Sauber qualis- Aust 2001 were very special. He had a host of them in 2005 also that Mclaren was on the limits of adhesion in every single corner and every exit ( Imola, Monaco) He was a remarkable qualifier.The modern era with limited tyres and car/ engine/ strategy set up requires a far more balanced approach and the guy regularly ending up on the podium from 6-9 place is doing the best job balancing all these variables especially if he's not in the fastest single lap car.

Prost in my book was an extraordinary technician and the very few times he was quicker than Senna ,were as close to perfection as you will find. By default that meant most of Sennas were somewhat unique.What blew me away was Prosts incredibly close to perfect race laps also.i think with race / quali engines in the past and special quali tyres - we saw far more of these spectacular laps because drivers did not have to think about tyres, engines etc.


What was wrong with Kimi's pole lap in 2004?


silverstone that is


Driver's do their "best" lap and this becomes the benchmark (personal best, which may be the best of everybody) for their next best lap. This becomes the new benchmark; there is a process of continuous improvement.

In trying to put together a "perfect" lap there are just far too many variables: every millimetre of the way forward, sideways(left or right), up or down, all the weather related issues, etc., etc...... make absolute perfection almost impossible. It is a bit like the lottery.


Possible in theory, virtually impossible in practice.


there was a driver who danced with perfection and that driver was Senna. I sow the full feature of The Right to Win (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hb_d9JeafJM) and Prost said that Senna in Monaco 1988 drover the perfec lap.

Surreal experience for Ayrton in Monaco 1988:

"The last qualifying session. I was already on pole and I was going faster and faster. One lap after the other, quicker, and quicker, and quicker. I was at one stage just on pole, then by half a second, and then one second... and I kept going. Suddenly, I was nearly two seconds faster than anybody else, including my teammate with the same car. And I suddenly realized that I was no longer driving the car consciously.

"I was kind of driving it by instinct, only I was in a different dimension. It was like I was in a tunnel, not only the tunnel under the hotel, but the whole circuit for me was a tunnel. I was just going, going - more, and more, and more, and more. I was way over the limit, but still able to find even more. Then, suddenly, something just kicked me. I kind of woke up and I realized that I was in a different atmosphere than you normally are. Immediately my reaction was to back off, slow down. I drove slowly to the pits and I didn't want to go out any more that day.

"It frightened me because I realized I was well beyond my conscious understanding. It happens rarely, but I keep these experiences very much alive in me because it is something that is important for self-preservation."


Beating the computer calculated time has been done a few times- I remember Hakkinen dit it once at Barcelona. Much to the surprise of Norbert Haug.

The perfect lap.. All cars have the delta timing on it, which compares current laps to previous best laps (or other benchmarks). If a driver over the entire lap makes positive gains on the delta, he'll look at the lap as being perfect.

Ofcourse if they then analyse it to his teammate/earlier laps in qualifying you can be sure that they'll find room for improvement.

So in theory it's possible, in reality near the impossible but some of drivers go damn near it (Senna, Hamilton, Vettel, Hakkinen, Schumacher).


Hi James,

I'll throw a few thoughts in late.

In many cases we tyres that do not give their best for an entire lap, so making best use of the available resources can mean that a driver who conserves tyres slightly in the early part of the lap can make massive gains in traction zones at the end. A good example is the Mercedes in Spain. It was not low speed traction that made the car quick in sector three but tyre preservation earlier in the lap. Perez did the same thing in Spain.

Anticipating track evolution is a key part of modern qualifying. Being last over the line is part of it, but if a driver goes to where the track was on the previous lap then time will be left on the table. Every corner is a progressive estimation of where the grip levels will be. The driver is going to have to use instinctive process to minimise the delay between feeling the grip level and adapting to it. The brain doesn't work much faster than 0.1 of second, so even at the most instinctive level, the there is that 0.1 of second when the driver should have been doing something very slightly different if the initial estimation is wrong. In 15 to 20 corners, to get that initial estimation perfect is improbable.

Wind and track temperature conditions regularly vary, so adapting to these is an extension of the track evolution problem, except these can be less predictable.

A further consideration is the data the drivers have to consider how good a lap was. Friction ellipse data will show how good a use of the tyres a driver has made in a corner, but not whether the driver has taken the optimal line.



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