Posted on March 13, 2012
Screen shot 2012-03-12 at 23.22.51

How will the teams approach the first race of the season? What difference will the new Pirelli tyres make to the racing? Will there be more stops or less? What is the likelihood of a safety car in Melbourne? You will find the answers here.

The new season kicks off this week ‘Down Under at Melbourne’s Albert Park and we welcome back the JA on F1 Race Strategy content strand, in partnership with UBS, which was so popular last season.

For each race we will produce a pre-race briefing and a post race analysis. The content is prepared by JA on F1 with data and insight from a variety of race strategists currently working for F1 teams, who are helping to give fans an insight into this fascinating and important area of the sport.

Australian Grand Prix – the Key Race Strategy considerations

• Track characteristics
• Form guide
• Weather forecast
• Likely tyre performance
• Number and likely timing of pit stops
• Chances of a safety car
• Recent start performance of drivers and teams
* Pit stop league table of teams

Track characteristics

Albert Park Circuit; 5.303 kilometres. Race distance: 58 laps = 307.574 kilometres 16 corners in total, none particularly high energy.

Aerodynamic setup – Medium/high downforce. Top speed 318km/h (with Drag Reduction System on rear wing) – 308km/h without.

Full throttle – 65% of the lap. Total fuel needed for race distance: 152 kilos.

Time spent braking: 13% of the lap. 8 braking zones. Brake wear: High.

Loss time for a Pit stop = 20 seconds

Total time needed for pit stop: 25 seconds.

Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.34 seconds

Form Guide

The Australian Grand Prix is not always a reliable guide to the season ahead as it is a unique circuit, based in a park, with a very low grip track surface and corners which are not typical of F1 circuits around the world.

Red Bull won the race last season and based on performances over the winter testing season, are expected to be the front runners at the first race, with McLaren also looking competitive.

Mercedes look more competitive than in 2011 as do Lotus, while Ferrari have had a difficult winter of testing and their competitiveness is a question mark going into the new season. The midfield battle looks very close and results are likely to be dependent on good race strategy planning and execution.

McLaren has won the Australian Grand Prix five times and Ferrari has won six times.

McLaren has won two of the last four Australian Grands Prix and Jenson Button is a two time winner. Of the current drivers Michael Schumacher has won the race four times, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso once.


Likely tyre performance

Pirelli tyre choice for Melbourne: Soft and Medium.

This is Pirelli’s second season of F1 since returning as sole tyre supplier and the aim for 2012 is to get the tyre compounds closer together in performance than in 2011. Last year the gap was too large, with the result being that at many events teams ran the faster tyre for most of the race and then put on the slower, usually harder, tyre right at the end.

For 2012 Pirelli is aiming for around 0.8s per lap difference between compounds, which would give the teams a number of different strategy options and would mix things up.

The signs from testing are that the soft and medium tyres at this stage are a little too close in performance, probably around 0.3 seconds per lap at Albert Park.

The soft is likely to have a range of around 20-23 laps while the life of the medium will be 22-25 laps. This will be less for the opening stint of the race when the cars are full of fuel.

The new Pirellis offer more rear grip relative to the front tyres than was the case in 2011. The 2012 Pirelli tyres are designed to last longer than last year’s and the drop off in performance isn’t as sudden. The tyre warm-up isn’t quite as fast as last year because of the wider contact patch of the new tyres.

The tyres often experience graining at Albert Park. Graining is where the rubber shears away from the top surface, caused by a high level of sliding at high loads, both lateral and longitudinal. Lateral comes from sliding in corners, longitudinal comes from acceleration and braking.

Temperature has a lot to do with it, probably more than any other factor. If the tyres are being used below their operating range the rubber will be less compliant and will shear off more easily.

The track surface at Albert Park is quite old and has low micro and macro roughness, which basically means that the stones in it are small. The result of its age and smoothness is that the surface is very low grip and this means that the tyres grain laterally here because the car slides in the corners.

Number and likely timing of pit stops

Based on all the above considerations, plus tyre performance data from testing, the expectation, before any practice running has been done, is that the teams will intend to make two pit stops in the race. Last year we saw a range of strategies; among the top seven finishers we had one car which stopped just once, two cars stopped three times while the three podium finishers all stopped twice.

There are some advantages for a fast car qualifying outside the top ten to start the race on the harder tyre and do one stop less than the others, as Sauber’s Sergio Perez did last year, moving from 13th on the grid to 7th at the chequered flag.

Chance of a safety car

The chance of a safety car at Albert Park is 57% . The average number of safety car interventions for the race is 1.7 (in 2006 there were four)

Recent start performance of drivers and teams

Starts are a critical part of the race and strategy can be badly compromised by a poor start, while good starts can make strategists change their plans in the hope of a good result.

As this is the first race of the 2012 season – no start data has been established yet.

Pit Stop League Table

Good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics; last season we saw tyre stops carried out in less than two and a half seconds this year.

The league table below shows the order of the pit crews in 2011, based on their average time for a stop, taking out anomalies.

1= Red Bull Best
1= Mercedes Best
3 McLaren + 0.3s
4 Force India + 0.4s
5 Ferrari + 0.5s
6 Renault + 0.9s
7 Williams + 1.1s
8= Lotus + 1.3s
8= Sauber + 1.3s
8= Toro Rosso + 1.3s
11 Virgin + 1.6s
12 HRT + 3.2s

The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is prepared by JA on F1, with input and data from several F1 teams.

How the teams will tackle the first Grand Prix of the season
94 Responses

  1.   1. Posted By: Jen
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 10:34 am 

    Kimi’s also won the Australian GP once, with Ferrari in 2007…

    [Reply]


  2.   2. Posted By: Paul
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 10:37 am 

    @James

    Why do think there is such a sliding scale in pit performances between the teams?

    Is it resources? (both in personnel and funding)

    [Reply]

    James Allen Reply:

    Procedure and practice!

    [Reply]

    Doug Johnson Reply:

    Hi James,
    Any news on the usage of DRS zones?

    [Reply]

    Alex W Reply:

    Resources also, for example the top teams were using Helium in their rattle guns for extra speed, but the cost was too high for smaller teams to consider.

    [Reply]


  3.   3. Posted By: CarlH
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 10:40 am 

    Looking at their pit stop timings, are HRT aware that they are part of a race?

    Not a very big part, admittedly, but still…

    [Reply]

    Justin Bieber Reply:

    HRT is an embarrassment for F1, I dont understand why the FIA let them race.

    [Reply]

    James Clayton Reply:

    Mu money is on Marussia overtaking HRT as the biggest embarrasment in F1 so this year.

    In other news; F1 (aside from the few years leading up to 2010) has ALWAYS had slow teams. Deal with it.

    [Reply]

    Landon Reply:

    Justin Bieber is an embarrassment for music, I don’t understand why the RIAA lets him sing.

    :P

    Hopefully they will bring more of their A-game this year.

    [Reply]

    brandon Reply:

    compared to some teams that have never managed to field a car or complete full seasons they are not that bad at all…

    [Reply]

    Dominic J Reply:

    The Brawn team were abysmal at pitstops during their first few races. Several stops where fuel and tyres seemed to be done one after the other, before they upped their game as the season went on.

    Frankly HRT have bigger worries and would sooner find 0.1s per lap than 1.6 secs (to match Marussia) per pitstop. Not that every little doesn’t help.

    [Reply]

    CarlH Reply:

    I agree they have bigger worries, but trundling around at pit stops does little to improve the image they have of a team with little direction.

    If they are serious about making a go of it in F1, then all aspects of a race weekend should be approached professionally. For instance, who would want to sponsor a team that was so much slower than even their nearest competitor just in the pit stop phase?

    You could understand it if they were 1.5s behind Red Bull / Mercedes at a pit stop, but an AVERAGE of 3.2s is alarming.

    [Reply]

    Jaled Larbi Reply:

    I would say that Marussia (Former Virgin) is a bigger embarrasment, with a greater budget, better logistics and “faster pit stops” and they still finished last over the past 2 seasons. HRT is improving everyday, marussia going backwards with their CFD based trucktor!!!

    [Reply]


  4.   4. Posted By: Kevin Green
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 10:43 am 

    Great/interesting article very very informing :)

    [Reply]

    Grayzee (Australia) Reply:

    I’ll second that!

    [Reply]

    kenny5 Reply:

    James,

    you mention that 2012 rear tyres offer more grip relative to the fronts — compaired to last year… how is this achieved, given the reduction in rear downforce due to the removal of the blown diffusers….
    I thought that the compounds were the sasme front & rear…. Is it achieved through a stiffer sidewall or oother tricks??

    also, do you expect rear tyre to suffer from overheating from exaust gases as ferrari had in testing??

    [Reply]

    James Allen Reply:

    THe tyres give more grip, not the car

    [Reply]

    kenny5 Reply:

    this is the sort of answer i would expect from james allen the commentator — not james allen from JAonF1.com!!

    Thanks. – k5


  5.   5. Posted By: Marcin
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 10:44 am 

    “(..)One factor of the tyre compounds being close together on performance is that the top teams may no longer be able to get through the Qualifying 1 session on a set of hard tyres. They may need to use a set of softs to be certain of getting through to the next stage. (…)”

    Isn’t the opposite? It should be more true for wider gap between different compounds performance. If the gap is smaller, it’s easier for the fastest teams to qualify on the slower tyre.

    [Reply]

    SP Reply:

    My thoughts too. Unless we’re missing something??? :s

    [Reply]

    WiLL Reply:

    Agreed!

    [Reply]

    Nicky Santoro Reply:

    Exactly as I was thinking… An error?

    [Reply]

    shane Reply:

    I would assume that as the field is likely to be tighter the faster teams haven’t got the same margins to play with.

    [Reply]

    jay jacob Reply:

    Drivers have a limited number of tyres to use over a weekend; only 6 sets for both qualifying and the race; so, the main thinking is to conserve soft tyres for Q2 & Q3.

    In Q1, mid-field and bottom teams will use softs while top teams will use hard tyres. But, if the performance differential between compounds is less, mid-field teams using softs have better chance to get into Q2; so, the top teams may resort to using soft tyres in Q1 just to make sure they’re not kicked-out.

    This is a critical point because it affects strategy & performance in the race. Ideally, drivers want new/fresh tyres for the race, but if more sets of softs are used in qualifying then they’ll have to re-use the same sets for the race. So, in the race, a driver on a two-stop strategy with soft-soft-hard tyre combo won’t run as fast because his soft tyres are used sets.

    [Reply]

    J_Damper Reply:

    I think there is a mistake…

    If the softs and hard are closer together in laptime (e.g 0.5 seconds) then the top team only has to be greater than 0.5 seconds faster to be able to qualify on the hards.

    If the softs and hard are further apart in laptime (e.g. 2 seconds), then the top team would have to be much faster….

    So if the compounds are closer together it should be much easier for the top teams to get through Q1 on hards..

    [Reply]


  6.   6. Posted By: David Mansell
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 10:46 am 

    I don’t understand the comment about top teams needing to use a set of options in Q1.

    Surely if the performance gap is now smaller than it was, they are even more likely to be OK with the prime tyres?

    [Reply]


  7.   7. Posted By: Jan
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 10:49 am 

    “Of the current drivers Michael Schumacher has won the race four times, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso once.”

    And Kimi won in Australia in 2007.

    [Reply]


  8.   8. Posted By: Spenny
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 10:49 am 

    Just to nitpick – if the tyre performance is close then it is highly likely that the top teams will be able to get through on the hard tyres, unlike your article suggests.

    What happened last year was that the bottom teams could often gain a second or so which could be enough to make up the performance deficit of the car and put them into the midfield. Ferrari & Mercedes who were under-performing in qualifying were getting sucked down into the midfield. Take away the large difference in tyre performance then the top teams will be safe on the harder tyres.

    What does put them at risk is if the general performance of the cars is closer. With Virgin and HRT guaranteed to be out in the first qualifying, the question is whether the deficit on Caterham is small enough that the performance gain on the soft tyres exceeds the deficit in the overall car performance. With a narrower difference, Caterham, or 2012′s new booby team, will have to be closer in performance to the rest of the grid to force other teams onto softs.

    With the closer car performance that has been predicted, the top teams will not be able to sit back and relax like last year, but the tyres might actually detract by taking away the ability for the bottom teams to punch above their weight.

    [Reply]

    Erik Reply:

    +1

    [Reply]

    Rob Newman Reply:

    Are you expecting HRT and Marussia to be within 107% in Australia? I will be surprised …

    [Reply]


  9.   9. Posted By: Andy
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 10:54 am 

    I believe Kimi has won the race too, at least once (2007).

    [Reply]


  10.   10. Posted By: Haris
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 10:57 am 

    Thanks James for the first strategy report of the year. One question re: tyres in Q1; now that the different compounds are closer in performace, I believe that would make it easier for the leading teams to go though using the harder tyre, not more difficult. However, the midfield teams look to have closed the gap to the leading teams and that may force the leading teams to choose the option tyre in Q1.

    Oh, and best of luck with BBC R5!

    [Reply]


  11.   11. Posted By: Thomas
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 11:00 am 

    “One factor of the tyre compounds being close together on performance is that the top teams may no longer be able to get through the Qualifying 1 session on a set of hard tyres. They may need to use a set of softs to be certain of getting through to the next stage. This will have a knock on effect on their tyre choices for the race.”

    Wouldnt this make it easier for the top teams to get thru on hards..?

    [Reply]


  12.   12. Posted By: [MISTER]
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 11:00 am 

    I missed these reports on before each race.
    I am so excited to see the cars taking to the tracks again.

    Does anyone know if there will be any websites who will show the quali and race live for free?
    I’m one of the many in UK which don’t have Sky and to be honest I cannot wait until the highlights.
    The problem with the highlight is that by the time they will be on BBC, I will see on the news who’s the winner.

    [Reply]

    Tina Reply:

    If you know anyone with Sky ask if you can use their Sky Go account – we have set me son up to do this as he can’t afford Sky and he can watch the live stream at his home through our account.

    [Reply]

    Jack Reply:

    only if you insist on watching the news on Sunday morning. You could just, not…

    [Reply]

    AH Jordan Reply:

    Agreed.

    I was planning my Saturday night so that I’d still be up and awake for the race as I do every year for thre Oz GP…

    …then I realised there was no point as I won’t be able to watch it since I cannot get Sky as I won’t be living in my flat for long enough to make a contract viable.

    Desperately trying to track down someone to let me use their Sky Go login, but no luck so far…

    [Reply]

    XH1UNDA Reply:

    Keep tab on the autosport forums and the discussions on F1Fanatic – guys share live streaming links generously on those two sites so you are bound to get yourself some online viewing.

    [Reply]

    dolf Reply:

    one.com.au

    [Reply]


  13.   13. Posted By: Wayne
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 11:35 am 

    Stunning article, thank you.

    [Reply]


  14.   14. Posted By: Just A View
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 11:44 am 

    21-22 degrees is a warm day???!! Fairly cool day down here in Oz even for early autumn

    [Reply]


  15.   15. Posted By: Paul H
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 11:44 am 

    Great info!

    Question though – you say that the teams may have to use up some soft tyres to get through Q1 as the compounds are so close. Will this have a knock on effect with regards the 107% time for the lower teams in the early rounds on the longer circuits?

    This week can’t go fast enough!

    [Reply]


  16.   16. Posted By: gondokmg
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 11:52 am 

    James I do not agree with you that the Melbourne circuit “is not always a reliable guide to the season ahead “. If one looks at the pole position statistics in the last 5 seasons, they have been fairly reliable indicators of which teams have the pace and which ones are struggling:

    2007 – Raikkonen (Ferrari), 2008 – Hamilton (Mclaren), 2009 – Button (Brawn GP), 2010 – Vettel (Red Bull) and 2011 – Vettel (Red Bull).

    On all occasions the teams that got pole here were competitive for the rest of the season and in fact went on to win the world championship. That’s fairly representative to me.

    [Reply]

    David Mansell Reply:

    This suggests that the BBC have really dropped the ball by not getting Australia, or more specifically Australia qualifying, live. It looks like you only have to watch the 10 minutes of Q3 to know how the whole season will unfold…

    [Reply]


  17.   17. Posted By: Ben
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 12:32 pm 

    Kimi has won around Albert Park too.

    [Reply]


  18.   18. Posted By: Jam79
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 12:32 pm 

    Thanks for the info James….

    I will be listening to you in the early hours

    [Reply]


  19.   19. Posted By: Ben
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 12:35 pm 

    The pitstop league table is of last year’s team names, so the team listed as Lotus is Caterham and the team listed as Renault is Lotus.

    [Reply]


  20.   20. Posted By: Craig
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 12:46 pm 

    As the two compounds of tyre are closer together in performance I would of thought it easier for the top teams to get through Q1 only using the harder tyre, not more difficult as stated in the article, they may even take a chance in Q2 if they have enough of a car advantage.

    [Reply]


  21.   21. Posted By: Andrew Cumbria
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 1:17 pm 

    Lets face it, if this season provides as close a racing as the predictions with 6 world champions in the field, this could be the best season of F1 ever (yeah I know enough of the hype). Hurry up its like being a kid waiting for Christmas.

    I have to say though anyone but Vettel to win the first race would be great…..

    I just hope we get to test the wunderkid on his racing in the field this year and see if he is a real good racer, or if as I suspect he’s just a bully when he has had the fastest car, and a little ordinary without. However I must admit to fearing another Vettel dominated season with Newey’s latest designed masterpiece.

    Come on Jenson or Kimi take the win and get the season off to a flying start.

    [Reply]


  22.   22. Posted By: John
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 1:31 pm 

    another great in depth strategy report again James, definitely the best feature you do.

    [Reply]


  23.   23. Posted By: zoidy84
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 1:45 pm 

    Off topic a little, i’m sorry. But, regarding BBC’s coverage, i believe they have said they have 2 hour extended highlight programs for far eastern races.

    Austrailia therefore is included in the 2 hour bracket however i notice that the program is on between 14:00 and 16:00 GMT. I assume there will be some introduction and then analysis afterwards, so do you know roughly how many minutes will be dedicated to actual footage of the race?

    I had been hoping that the allowance of “2 hour extended highlights” referred directly to actual race footage but appears to limit the total program length. If so, this may greatly affect the European races which have been limited to “90 minutes”. This could result in only 50-60 minutes worth of actual racing?

    [Reply]

    MISTER Reply:

    Well, 2 hours is the actuall race. And BBC said it will show highlights and not full races. Therefore, 2 hours will include possible interviews and analysis in my opinion.

    [Reply]

    WiLL Reply:

    Your probably right there. I cant imgaine on a 90 minute race that they would give us much more than 60 minutes. Maybe 70 mins if we are very lucky. I will be timing it to find out.

    I would imgaine a min 30 mins pre race build up and 20-30 mins post race coverage at a guess.

    I would prefer it if they gave us 15 mins pre coverage, the full race and then 15 mins post to include the press conference and podium celebrations.

    Everything else we can look up online.

    [Reply]

    David Mansell Reply:

    Most races there aren’t 2 hours of race footage to be had – in fact 2 hours is the upper limit on how long the race can go on for.

    Since the nominal race length is set based on distance and the average speed varies, the typical race duration therefore varies too. Last year Monza lasted 80 minutes, so a 50-60 minutes extended highlights would be a good portion of the race.

    Monaco is therefore usually the longest race – but the BBC has got that one live so no need to worry about highlights.

    I do however share your concern about the length. It’s typical for there to be 30 minutes preamble on most sports programmes, and for F1 they need to cover at least a summary of qualifying, breaking news stories, grid overview etc. so I doubt there will be time for as much as 50 minutes of racing action in a 90 minute programme.

    I’m going out to lunch with my Mum on Sunday so I guess I’ll miss the programme anyway…

    [Reply]


  24.   24. Posted By: Søren Kühle
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 1:46 pm 

    Can’t wait.. :)

    [Reply]


  25.   25. Posted By: PT
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 1:48 pm 

    Super write up, thank-you very much. Thanks again for an outstanding information & analysis service.

    [Reply]

    PT Reply:

    I’ll not post again just to say good luck with the R5 commentary. I will be listening to you for half of the races because I’d rather burn money than give it to Murdoch.

    [Reply]

    James Allen Reply:

    Thanks

    [Reply]


  26.   26. Posted By: Luca
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 1:48 pm 

    F$£% me i cant wait for the racing!

    [Reply]


  27.   27. Posted By: Arnie S
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 1:54 pm 

    Very interesting and exciting:
    - I believe that Pirelli will be closer, i.e. slightly more different pit-stop strategies. However, soft in the first stint is a no-brainer.
    - Temperature is a key issue and heating the tyres: Can Ferrari perform better 2012 to heat the tyres than 2011 (it can’t be much worse).
    - Who has shown their real speed at testing? Lotus was fast, but did the others show anything? Merc, RB and McL will be the natural favourites.
    - Who can perform from day 1? RB sure, but whatabout the others?

    I’m so excited – even without Pointer Sisters!

    [Reply]


  28.   28. Posted By: Dan
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 2:06 pm 

    You missed Kimi winning in ’07 :-)

    [Reply]

    Dan Reply:

    Scrap that. Just saw you said the last 4 years. :-(

    [Reply]


  29.   29. Posted By: MALLI
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 2:12 pm 

    nice post thanks james

    [Reply]


  30.   30. Posted By: Paul
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 2:13 pm 

    Why were HRT’s stops so poor last year? Was it because they weren’t really racing anyone? An average of 3.2 seconds slower is a huge difference!

    [Reply]


  31.   31. Posted By: Sri
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 2:30 pm 

    “Of the current drivers Michael Schumacher has won the race four times, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso once.” — Kimi won it in 2007 also. Thanks for the whole info about this race. It would be nice if you give similar info about every race (at least track characteristics) for every race. Many of us are not aware of such details.

    [Reply]

    Graham Reply:

    Ahem…..

    “The new season kicks off this week ‘Down Under at Melbourne’s Albert Park and we welcome back the JA on F1 Race Strategy content strand, in partnership with UBS, which was so popular last season.”

    [Reply]


  32.   32. Posted By: Erik
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 2:33 pm 

    “One factor of the tyre compounds being close together on performance is that the top teams may no longer be able to get through the Qualifying 1 session on a set of hard tyres. They may need to use a set of softs to be certain of getting through to the next stage.”

    James, I would argue against this point by saying that a Red Bull or McLaren may do just that, use their hards to get through because they know a Ferrari or Merc can’t challenge them on pace. If as you say the difference in performance of the tyres is about 0.5secs, and you know that your car is at least that much faster mechanically, you would naturally use the hards and keep the performance advantage of the softs for Q3 or even for the race… I think having the compounds so close together in pace and durability has been a bad move by Pirelli and reeks of pressure from the teams. It has virtually negated the necessity for different compounds when we’re talking about 0.5secs difference and 20laps to 22laps durability difference. Who cares what tyres you run and when if there is virtually no difference between them?.. As long as your car is 0.5secs faster than everyone elses you’re golden.

    If a team like Red Bull has a slight edge in pace (and it will ultimately prove that one team or anther WILL have a slight edge – after all there has to be a leader, second, etc), I am sure that that fastest team will then have the freedom to position their softs to the prime phase in the race because they qualified on pole with the only slightly slower harder tyre. And because the compounds are so close together the other teams will have no opportunity to challenge the fastest team by boldly running a different tyre strategy(again because the softer compound will not make up the car’s speed deficit).

    A hypthetical example: Let’s say McLarens’s car is 0.7secs faster than Merc’s, even if the Mercs start the race on softs while McLaren starts on hards, McLaren would pull away by 0.2secs per lap because the soft tyre is only giving Merc an extra 0.5secs. Now if the speed difference was larger between the two compounds – say 1.2secs, Schumacher might actually have a chance of challenging Button/Hamilton early instead of falling away. He may/may not lose out at the end of the race when the compounds are reversed but at least we would see a fight between champions at two different periods in the reace, and not just a precession all the way through.

    I think we all agree that at the begining of the last season we saw some of the best races ever in F1. To me at least the obvious speed difference between the tyre compounds was exactly why we saw such great racing then.

    This year, I have a bad feeling we’re about to witness a precession. I truly hope I’m wrong…

    [Reply]


  33.   33. Posted By: Graham
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 3:19 pm 

    I think the point about Q1 and strategy is that because the window between the 2 tyre compounds is less than last year, some of the mid-rear pack will be more likely to try and get through on the faster tyre, potentially threatening a faster team on the slower tyre

    G

    [Reply]

    Glennb Reply:

    I still reckon the top teams will use the prime in Q1. The large performance difference of the cars vs the small performance difference between the tyres makes it a no brainer. Then again, I’m not known for my brains…
    Go Webber!!!

    [Reply]


  34.   34. Posted By: surya kumar
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 3:38 pm 

    This week seems to be going terribly slow and just cannot wait for Sunday. Also Sunday is the day when Mclaren would know if their design is right or they need to make overnight changes!.

    [Reply]


  35.   35. Posted By: jpinx
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 4:18 pm 

    Good briefing – thanks James! It’s going to be a cracker of a season. Slightly off-topic, but — is there any move towards more “normal” wheels and tyres? F1 runs on massive tyres so the car’s suspension has to cope with a relatively high unpsrung weight and considerable “bounce” in the tyre. A move to really low-profile tyres would make a big reduction in change the unsprung weight and give designers a chance to do much more with the car’s suspension.

    [Reply]

    Grayzee (Australia) Reply:

    Interesting idea, but I would imagine the amount of downforce these cars generate would overheat and crush the low profile tyres….

    [Reply]


  36.   36. Posted By: S2K
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 4:34 pm 

    Great article, cheers for that. I can’t wait for the season to start… I’ve ordered Sky F1 yesterday (£10.25 pm with HD package, not that expensive)… so I’m starting my engine :D

    [Reply]


  37.   37. Posted By: Kay
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 5:21 pm 

    I don’t give a cr*p who wins this race as long as it’s not Vettel sprinting to the front and win from first corner. All the better if several of them fighting it out other than Vettel.

    [Reply]

    JohnBt Reply:

    LOL! Can’t take it anymore right. Anyone but Vettel, I like Sebastian though.

    [Reply]

    Kay Reply:

    Yer I like him too, especially when he lose races or crashes out.
    I.e. Canada 2011; Turkey 2010.

    :D

    [Reply]


  38.   38. Posted By: Rohan
        Date: March 13th, 2012 @ 5:22 pm 

    Great article James. Had a few off-topic questions for you – What is your assessment of Force India’s testing form and where they may end up? And over the course of the season, who of Di Resta or Hulkenberg are you backing to come good? I’m very excited to see these young guys go at each other!

    [Reply]

    James Allen Reply:

    I think they’ll start the season strongly. Both cars in Top 10 then we’ll see if they have the budget and development ideas to stay there. It’ll be a good year for them, both drivers are pushing hard, there won’t be much between them

    [Reply]

    JohnBt Reply:

    Am really looking forward to your commentary at 5 Live. All the best to you.

    [Reply]


  39.   39. Posted By: Grayzee (Australia)
        Date: March 14th, 2012 @ 1:40 pm 

    A question for you and your readers:
    Does anyone know if there is much difference in the fuel consumption between teams/engines, and are there different strategies?
    With .34 sec for every 10 kg and a race requirement of 152 kgs, would there be teams trying to run with, say, 140kgs, in order to gain time?
    Seems there would be quite a lot of time to be gained…….

    [Reply]


  40.   40. Posted By: Enzo
        Date: March 14th, 2012 @ 6:11 pm 

    Hi James,
    how long do think it will take other teams to copy the new Mercedes f duct system ?
    thanks for your great articles
    Enzo

    [Reply]


  41.   41. Posted By: Thabang
        Date: March 14th, 2012 @ 6:52 pm 

    Hi James, with the 2012 tires lasting longer and offering more grip at the rear – does this mean that Lewis Hamilton will have a better season as such?

    Thanks

    [Reply]


  42.   42. Posted By: Fred
        Date: March 14th, 2012 @ 7:25 pm 

    I hope Mercedes can come out of the gate strong in Melbourne, and stay there all season.

    At the time of writing most of our voters think Schumi will win the title this year. Do you agree? Vote now … http://www.f1predictions.net/polls/results/index.php?pollnum=17

    [Reply]


  43.   43. Posted By: Nick4
        Date: March 14th, 2012 @ 7:52 pm 

    Thanks James. As always you have provided us with excellent insight. All the indicators point to it being a very close season, so it will be vital that the teams and drivers score from the very first race, and keep scoring..! If any of the big names don’t score at Melbourne and Sepang, then drawing comfort from the number of races still to come in which to recover a season, will assign that team to an also-ran position. Ferrari in particular cannot afford to fall into this category. This is a totally different season to 2010. Gentlemen, let the racing begin!

    [Reply]


  44.   44. Posted By: Methusalem
        Date: March 15th, 2012 @ 3:39 am 

    It would be an interesting season to watch if Red Bull doesn’t win any of the first five races. Besides, the year has begun with bad news for the company:

    Red Bull said Wednesday it has dropped an advertisement in South Africa after an outcry from both Christians and Muslims for its portrayal of Jesus Christ walking on water.

    South Africa’s Roman Catholic bishops urged Christians not to drink Red Bull in traditional fasting for Lent ahead of Easter celebrations next month, stopping short of calling for a full commercial boycott.

    [Reply]

    Webbo Reply:

    Those religious people are an enigma. In the past, they didn’t have a problem that black people were ‘apartheided’ in their own country, on the other hand they do have a problem with a drinks ad?

    [Reply]


  45.   45. Posted By: Porter
        Date: March 15th, 2012 @ 6:33 am 

    I’ve admired your insight and enthusiasm as a commentator James, and now enjoy your site. While this isn’t directed at you, but rather at media in general, and may seem punctilious to the F1 crowd, I thought that I might defend the language (something of a hobby / burden) and establish that each team is a group, and groups are singular in status; thereby demanding that each be referenced as subjects of one, not many.
    ex:
    Ferrari is (not “are”) struggling out of the gate.
    Ferrari, and any team would be referenced as “it”, not “they”, given its singular nature. Once one begins to pay attention to such things, you can’t help but recognize how widely this is incorrectly used. I enjoy F1 and the language, and each is at its most pleasurable when done well.

    [Reply]


  46.   46. Posted By: Michael
        Date: March 15th, 2012 @ 10:38 am 

    james will bbc stream practice sessions online with your commentary ?

    [Reply]


  47.   47. Posted By: Heinzman
        Date: March 15th, 2012 @ 10:56 am 

    As a Melburnian, just thought I’d let you guys know it is thunder storming here and has been for a few hours (current time is 20:52 Thursday evening), and tomorrow looks patchy along with early Saturday, but all looks clear of water from then.

    The Albert Park track always evolves big time with rubber going down and they are going to be so much quicker each session, going to have to wait for 0.00 of q3 to see what the haps is.

    [Reply]


  48.   48. Posted By: Edouard Valentine
        Date: March 15th, 2012 @ 12:33 pm 

    It will be interesting to see which of the drivers who qualify outside the top 10 will score points in Australia. I would really love to see how tyre management plays out. Hopefuly there will be no safety car conditions to skew the results.

    [Reply]


  49.   49. Posted By: Glennb
        Date: March 15th, 2012 @ 1:14 pm 

    So how are you finding the weather James?
    I bet Jenson is rubbing his hands together at the thought of rain & safety cars.

    [Reply]


  50.   50. Posted By: Dan
        Date: March 15th, 2012 @ 7:05 pm 

    Why would my comment about where the posts are on the site get deleted by mods? :p

    [Reply]


  51.   51. Posted By: Max Nalborczyk
        Date: June 2nd, 2012 @ 12:29 pm 

    Hi James,

    Where do you get the values for the fuel needed for the total race? Do you have this information for the remaining races of the season?
    I am writing an extended essay on Formula One being carbon neutral and this information would be incredibly useful to me.

    Many thanks,
    Max

    [Reply]

    James Allen Reply:

    Check the pre race strategy briefings for each GP – it’s all there

    [Reply]

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