When you get to the top, say Formula One, the car is a huge factor. There is very little difference between the fastest and the 18th fastest guy, because these are the 18 fastest guys in the world. Nico Rosberg in a Caterham Renault isn’t going to be much faster than Will Stevens in a Caterham Renault, and Will won’t be a whole lot slower than Nico in a Mercedes. Stevens probably laps faster than Rosberg if they swap cars.
But racing is about more than just speed. It’s about, well, racing. Strategy, car management, decision making.
You know how you often see the guy in front pull away, but the guy in second can’t get away from the guy in third? These things are not unrelated. The guy in third is being an idiot, costing both himself and the guy in second a chance at the win, by making the guy in second race the guy behind him instead of the guy in front of him. This kind of stuff determines the outcome of top tier races at least as often as the car does.
But when you look at the lower classes, where not everyone is among the best in the world, it gets harder to have enough car to make up for shortcomings in talent. Rosberg is going to be faster than most SCCA club racers no matter what car you put him in. He’d be faster than them if he was driving a rental car.
Thanks Matt Wasserman