Why Lewis Hamilton’s qualifying form isn’t a major concern: The F1 stat that proves he shouldn’t be worried… yet

The seven-time world champion trails his head-to-head 7-1 but the gap has been very close…


On paper, Lewis Hamilton is being substantially beaten by George Russell at Mercedes, losing the qualifying head-to-head 7-1 but he shouldn’t be too worried just yet because analysis makes it clear his one lap pace has not gone anywhere ahead of his switch to Ferrari.

At the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix, the man with 104 career poles explained that he doesn’t anticipate beating his younger colleague regularly throughout qualifying in this mammoth, record-breaking, Formula 1 season in what is his final year with the Silver Arrows.

So far, that is manifesting in a very one-sided rivalry which would sounds worrying considering Hamilton’s about to go to Ferrari and go up against someone regarded as one of the best qualifiers in the history of the sport in Charles Leclerc, who recently took his third pole at Monaco in seven seasons.

Well, it’s a lot scarier in “head-to-head” form than the actual pace difference shows compared to say, Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen, or Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu as Hamilton and Russell remain almost inseparable from each other on Saturdays.

Lewis Hamilton at the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix | Mercedes / LAT Images
Lewis Hamilton at the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix | Mercedes / LAT Images

Analysing the median shows us that the gap between the pair is 0.113 in favour of Hamilton, excluding Sprint Qualifying, whilst using the fastest lap the set across any of Q1, Q2 or Q3.

What is the median? The median is a statistical measure that represents the middle value of a dataset which accounts for outliers that can skew data compared to looking at the mean. So, in summary, the median gives us a sense of the “middle” value in a dataset which avoids the influence of very high or very low values.

What does it mean?

It indicates the 39-year-old hasn’t lost his taste for one-lap speed, considering Russell is a very talented qualifier, but he is likely struggling to execute his laps on their final runs in Q3 translating to a poor head-to-head record overall.

The context between the pair could be key too. Hamilton has seemingly suggested Mercedes will not give him priority for the remainder of the season, whilst the Brit also hurt himself earlier in the season by gambling on set-ups to try to get himself close to the front which is something he only stopped doing after the 2024 Chinese GP.

There is even a small detail of Russell choosing to run a new rear-wing in Monaco, it appears If those things are absolutely true then for a gap of just over a tenth of a second would suggest Hamilton does still have the edge needed to fight Leclerc.

How does the Hamilton-Russell median compare to similar records?

There are three records out there that are very similar to Hamilton and Russell on paper in the form of Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo (7-1), Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly (6-2) and Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu (7-0), but how do their medians hold up against the Mercedes battle?

Firstly, we still start with the RB pair as they continue to battle it out for a spot to drive next to Max Verstappen at Red Bull from 2025 or beyond. Tsunoda’s median gap over the Australian is 0.464 tenths, meaning it’s been a very strong season from the 24-year-old Japanese racer as he continues to soundly beat Ricciardo.

Then if we head over to Alpine, their head-to-head really doesn’t show the true picture. Ocon holds a 6-2 lead over Gasly, suggesting he’s been much quicker but in actual fact, it’s a 0.115 advantage in favor of Gasly.

Esteban Ocon leads Alpine teammate Pierre Gasly in qualifying ahead of the 2024 Bahrain GP | Alpine F1 Team
Esteban Ocon leads Alpine teammate Pierre Gasly in qualifying ahead of the 2024 Bahrain GP | Alpine F1 Team

It indicates that the ex-AlphaTauri man is faster, but hasn’t managed to get his qualifying game quite together for whatever reason, much like Hamilton at Mercedes.

Finally, if we take the Sauber pair of Bottas and Zhou, their gap is a median of 0.361 in favour of the Finnish driver, who raced for Mercedes between 2017-2021.

This also highlights how being at the back of the grid makes it nigh on impossible to make an impression because despite the overwhelming gap in qualifying, Bottas hasn’t managed to score a single point.

In Monaco, the 10-time Grand Prix race winner was half a second faster than his Chinese colleague, but it meant virtually nothing since they lined up 17th and 18th on race day…

So, the cross analysis goes to show how deceiving statistics can actually be, how “one-sided” rivalries may not actually be as “one-sided” as the paper makes them look, and this is why Hamilton shouldn’t be too bothered by their head-to-head record yet.

Brandon Sutton
Brandon Sutton
Brandon is an alumni of an NCTJ and BJTC Liverpool John Moores University course, and has been with Total-Motorsport.com for over a year now. He enjoys covering all forms of motorsport but particularly focuses on Formula 1, and Brandon loves to debate various topics of the sport and other interests, especially if that topic doesn't have an open/shut answer such as the GOAT debate.
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