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How hard will the F1 drivers be able to push at Barcelona?
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Darren Heath
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 May 2012   |  7:03 pm GMT  |  114 comments

[Updated] Last year’s Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona was widely heralded as one of the most exciting race finishes of the season, largely due to the way race strategies played out, with an intense battle for the lead in the final laps of the race between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. Vettel managed to hold on to take the win.

However tyre degradation was very severe last year and after the recent Bahrain Grand Prix there were complaints from Michael Schumacher, as well as from many fans, that the racing is suffering from drivers not been able to push to the limit. Schumacher told CNN this week that it’s “like driving on raw eggs”.

So how will this weekend’s race pan out and what will the team strategists do to ensure that their drivers are able to get the maximum out of their package?

Pirelli have made the same tyre selection as last year with the hard and soft compounds, but this year’s specifications are a step softer than last year. They are also much closer to each other in performance than last year, which means that the strategies will not be as polarized as they were, with multiple stops. The soft tyre looks on the edge, but here’s how we see the situation this weekend.

Once you’ve read up about the situation, remember to have a go on out Race Strategy Calculator and see if you can find the fastest strategy to do the race. You can try it here at Race Strategy Calculator

Track characteristics

Circuit de Catalunya; 4.65 kilometres. Race distance: 66 laps = 307 kilometres, 16 corners in total, considered the best test of an F1 car’s aerodynamic efficiency due to combination of medium and high speed corners.

Aerodynamic setup – High downforce. Top speed 317km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 305km/h without.

Full throttle – 60% of the lap. Total fuel needed for race distance: 154kg (quite high). Fuel consumption: 2.34 kg per lap.

Time spent braking: 12% of the lap (quite low). 8 braking zones. Brake wear: Medium/low.

Loss time for a Pit stop = 19 seconds
Total time needed for pit stop: 24 seconds.

Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.40 seconds (high)
Circuit de Catalunya is the track on which the F1 teams and the tyre supplier have the most data as they test there at least once before the start of each season.


Form Guide

The Spanish Grand Prix is the fifth round of the 2012 FIA F1 World Championship.

Qualifying has historically been critical in Barcelona; 10 of the last 11 races on this track have been won from pole position while overtakes have been rare, although the DRS and the tyres contributed to there being 90 overtakes last season, whereas in three of the previous four races there were less than five overtakes in 66 laps of racing.

This season we have seen four different race winning cars and drivers in four races, the first time this has happened for 30 years and there have been three different polesitters.

Barcelona is likely to see many teams bring through some major car developments, largely around the exhaust area, but also there are aerodynamic updates to most cars in the field. Force India and Ferrari are two teams hoping to make significant steps forward.

As far as drivers’ form is concerned at Barcelona, Felipe Massa, Jenson Button, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Mark Webber are all previous winners. Lewis Hamilton has never won the event.

Weather Forecast

The forecast looks good up to Saturday with temperatures around 20 degrees and a low chance of rain. However on race day there is a 60% chance of rain, with lower temperatures forecast, so this could play into the hands of Mercedes in particular.

The wind is usually a significant factor at this track, sudden crosswinds at the higher points on the circuit can upset the balance of the cars.


Likely tyre performance and other considerations

Pirelli tyre choice for Spain: Hard and Soft.

Catalunya is a tough track on tyres, with the long Turn 3 the most difficult corner. It is taken at 240km/h and the corner lasts for four seconds, which puts a heavy load on the left front tyre. The surface is also quite abrasive.

Last year the soft tyre showed a degradation rate of 0.1625sec per lap in the first stint, which is quite high. This year the soft tyre is again expected to be a little bit on the edge for this track, so Friday practice will be vital in establishing how long a set of tyres will last in the first stint in particular. The drop off will come quite quickly.

On paper the difference between the soft and hard tyre will be 0.5s to 0.8s per lap depending on the car. In the race this will reduce to 0.2s per lap.

In the winter testing at Barcelona, the hard tyre performed pretty well so the picture is quite different from last year’s race when the teams wanted to avoid the hard tyre which was 2 seconds per lap slower than the soft.

A new set of soft tyres should last up to 20 laps, with a set of hards lasting between 24 and 27 laps..

With some high energy right hand corners, the limitation will be with the tyres on the left side of the car when their performance starts to drop off it will be time to pit.

Track conditions in Barcelona are notoriously changeable from morning to afternoon due to changes in temperature and wind conditions. This will make it particularly tricky to set the cars up for qualifying and the race.

Number and likely timing of pit stops

Going into the 2011 race if a driver had new tyres available after qualifying to use in the race, a three-stop strategy was four seconds quicker than a four-stop on paper. We also saw that new tyres carried a premium in Bahrain this year for example with Kimi Raikkonen, so teams will be assessing the value of saving at least one set of new soft tyres and a new set of hards.

This year the degradation will again be decisive in picking the moment to stop. Three stops is likely to be the preferred route, the plan that Jenson Button followed last year. The key is to keep the tyre alive until around lap 14, for the first stop, which few drivers could manage last year.

As the performance gap between the soft and hard is likely to be as low as 0.2s in the race, teams will not be trying to avoid using the hard tyre and this will mean fewer stops than last year, as they will be able to run the hard tyre competitively, rather than attempt to spend as little time as possible on it. In fact the hard tyre’s performance in Malaysia shows that it was a popular race tyre and we should again see a mixture of strategies.

Chance of a safety car

There have been 5 Safety Car periods in this race since 2003, and 4 of those were for first lap incidents.


Recent start performance

The 700 metre run from the grid to the first corner at Barcelona is the second longest of the season after Sepang, Malaysia. So a fully functioning KERS is vital.

Starts are crucial in race strategy and can make or compromise a race.
Glock, Massa and Alonso are consistently good starters who gain places off the line at most races.
As far as 2012 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season, on aggregate, as follows –

Gained:


+16 Massa
+12 Alonso, Kovalainen
+11 Glock 

+10 Raikkonen
+9 Maldonado
+8 Perez
+6 Kobayashi, Senna
+5 Schumacher*
+3 Pic 

+2 Di Resta, Karthikeyan, Vergne
+1 Button, Hamilton, 
Grosjean**, Petrov

Held position: None
Lost:
-1 Rosberg , Vettel,
-3 De la Rosa
-4 Hulkenberg
- 6 Webber
-13 Ricciardo
* Senna, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg were all involved in accidents on 1st lap in Australia
** Schumacher and Grosjean collided on Lap 1 in Malaysia, Senna and Perez pitted for wet tyres on opening lap

Pit Stop League Table

Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and we have seen tyre stops carried out in less than two and a half seconds by F1 teams. It is clear that the field has significantly closed up in this area, as well as on track performance, with 7 teams within 1 seconds of the fastest pit stop by Mercedes. This is much closer than last season and shows how much work has gone on in this area.

The league table below shows the order of the pit crews based on their fastest time in the Bahrain Grand Prix, from the car entering the pit lane to leaving it. The 2011 league table positions are in brackets.

Worth noting is that Force India continues to perform above its championship table position and within 0.2s of the best team showing that they’ve done a lot of work in this area. Also worth noting is that HRT did a faster stop than Marussia for the first time.

1. Red Bull 21.705 (1=)
2. Mercedes 21.888s (1=)

3. Ferrari 21.963s (5)

4. Force India 22.069 (4)

5. McLaren 22.270 (3)
6 Toro Rosso 22.295s (8=)
7. Williams 22.310 (7)
8. Lotus 22.362 (6)
9. Sauber 22.758 (8=)
10. Caterham 23.323 (8=)
11. HRT 23.420 (12)
12. Marussia 23.423 (11)

THe UBS Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from several of the F1 teams strategists and from Pirelli.

Now you’ve read up about the situation, remember to have a go on our Race Strategy Calculator and see if you can find the fastest strategy to do the race. You can try it here at Race Strategy Calculator

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114 Comments
  1. MarkedOne8 says:

    Kimi for the win!

    1. DanWilliams says:

      +1

  2. Richard says:

    Well the short answer on Pirelli tyres is not to the limit of the car for sure, and I can well understand Schumacher’s comment this week. I remember the comment that came from Lewis Hamilton the first time he tried high deg. tyres in 2011. He said something like “this isn’t racing.” I’ve no doubt it’s a feeling that many drivers can emphasize with.
    The reality is we have tyres that are two steps apart in terms of speed, and degradation so I expect the lap time differential to be quite wide certainly nearer one second, although that’s for new tyres as I expect the soft tyre to fall away rapidly.

  3. Michael Grievson says:

    I’m
    Hoping for a Kimi win

  4. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    “How hard will the F1 drivers be able to push at Barcelona?”

    It is a very sad day in that that we have to ask this question.

    Tip-toers like Rosberg and Button seem to love this format. Old school hard core racers such as Schumacher and Hamilton are being shackled by these ridiculous tyres.

    We no longer talk about engine performance, and even aero is barely getting a mention. It’s all about the tyres now.

    Very interesting to hear Ross Brawn’s comments on race results essentially being determined by lucking out in terms of initial set up.

    1. leeshleeash says:

      exactly…

      these tires suit the buttons, the rosbergs and the prost type of pilots…

      whereas they hurt the TRUE racers like hamilton, schumacher and would have hurt senna…

      ..a sad and slightly pathetic time in f1 indeed when the softly/softly, turtle like pilots are supported and the racers (i.e. the exciting racers) are thrown aside.

      1. Nick James says:

        And what tyres did Button win the championship on?

      2. elie says:

        To say prost is a turtle like driver is very dumb. He is a 3 or 4 time world champion. Driving turbo beasts with more than 1000 hp. He was absolutely poetry in motion and lightening quick. Check out how many fastest lap times he set one day.

        Gotta say though I agree about all the tyre talk. Said it before –go back to refuelling, tyres that last a race distance. We’ve got DRS (even ddrs), KERS,. in _2014 we will have ERS and other stuff, thats enough to make it exiting! . I hate seeing an F1 car being 75% driven, and I hate drivers ‘saving’ tyres in Quali.Thats not what F1 is about !.

    2. MISTER says:

      Very good point Mike that we no longer speak about aero. About engines..we never in recent years talked about, but the tyres is the only topic and Schumacher is right when criticising the tyres. He’s tasting it first hand and obviously doesn’t like it.

      Drivers like Perez who always try 1 stop strategies prefer these tyres. Their strong point is not the speed, but being light on tyres and working another strategy.

      F1 is not what it used to be.

    3. KGBVD says:

      [mod]We need another soundbyte in F1…

      F1 needs tires, and Pirelli provides them. If there was rain at every race would people be complaining about the “artificiality” of the racing?

      No, because racing is about doing the best with what you have been given, be it a 24 hour time limit, KERS, 1000s of kms of sand, a 1/4 mile of blacktop, rain, push-to-pass or quickly degrading tires.

      Ppl compare Button and Hamilton? They won their championships on the same tires. Vettel won one championship on each.

      Maybe the Pirellis aren’t Schumi’s problem, but are rather just providing an appropriate scapegoat.

      1. jeff says:

        It galls me to say this, because I was never a fan, but I agree with Michael. The tyres should at least allow the drivers to go to the limits of adhesion without crippling them within two laps. Pirelli have delivered what they were asked to, so I don’t entirely blame them, but the tyres need a rethink. This is closer to roulette than racing, and the driver skill component has been significantly reduced. Might as well watch Nascar.

      2. MCGARL says:

        Fully agree, its about doing the best with what you have and everyone is in the same boat. I much prefer the racing now than the days when it was just a procession with generally no overtaking…I say good job Pirelli and keep it up…just my opinion though…

  5. Andy says:

    I don’t really understand all of the criticism that is being aimed at Pirelli. The teams have yet to get the best out of the tyres following the loss of the blown diffuser, something which hasn’t been helped by the climatic conditions at the races so far.
    As for Schuey saying he isn’t able to push to the limit, what is the limit? The limit is surely dependant upon the grip level available, aerodynanic and tyres. If you developed a tyre with ‘infinite’ grip it would then become farcical.
    Is he really talking about the longevity of the grip of the tyre? If this is the case, how does Perez go from 22nd to 8th in Melbourne on one stop.
    Whilst the regulations allow for multi element front wings, barge boards and winglets everywhere, overtaking is always going to difficult. Hence DRS and Pirelli.
    There is an argument that maybe overtaking is too easy now or artificial, but I would rather that than some of the borefests we have seen in recent years.
    Perhaps Schuey is venting his frustration that he can’t get his own way with Pirelli, as he did with Bridgestone/Ferrari.

    1. Richard says:

      It’s not about grip, but durability. Push hard on these tyres they go into thermal overload, and degrade, and therefore drivers have to drive at a level that preserves them.
      Perez is known for being gentle on his tyres, but he was able to get forward by only doing one stop, and thereby saving the time taken for more pitstops which other drivers did. Schumacher knows exactly what he’s talking about, and I daresay so do many more. It is unsatisfactory to say the least.

      1. Grayzee (Australia) says:

        + 1

      2. KGBVD says:

        Schumi’s comments on Pirelli being like racing on broken eggs were about grip, not durability.

        I get your point, about the dissatisfaction of Schumi in not being able to pull a Hungary ’96 of he wanted. But part of racing is about conservation (of fuel, gearbox, etc.) Pirelli just reminded us that tires need to be conserved too.

        But I found the later Bridgestone years to produce incredible tedious racing (e.g. NO racing, 4-5 passes at Barcelona yearly). If what we have now is fake, so be it, I prefer to watch it regardless (90 Pirelli passes at Barca last year).

    2. Anil says:

      Perez was able to do that due to set up and track conditions. The set up window is incredibly small and the cars are tyre limited.

      I see the point you’re trying to make regarding the ‘limit’, but he’s complaining that even if you drive slowly to match you delta, the tyres are still falling apart. If you want a different strategy that involves a quick stint, you can’t because if you push the tyres too hard after 1 lap, you need a fresh set.

      Also, remember schumacher’s relationship with bridgestone wss in his later years (2002-2006); his best years from 92-2000 had nothing to do with bridgestone. Hell, his Goodyear performance was way beyond what he achieved with BS.

      1. Richard says:

        Yes set up is very important to get the best out of these tyres in general, but as you say the window is small, and really too small for F1 racing as it then becomes about something else entirely.

      2. KGBVD says:

        I’m sure Schumi would consider his “best” years to be the ones where he won all of those championships… on Bridgestones.

        He didn’t look too happy off the track at Suzuka when the last set of Goodyears he’d ever own exploded on him.

    3. Paul L says:

      I think ‘the limit’ is the pace one could drive at relative to the car’s handling capabilities given aero and mechanical grip. Clearly before tyre degradation takes place the drivers are well within their upper limits on the Pirellis.

    4. eric weinraub says:

      get the ‘best’ out of the tires, really? You apparently aren’t watching the same race the rest of us are. I feel like I’m watching open wheel NASCAR the way the FIA is taking over.

    5. MISTER says:

      Perez isn’t going 8th because he’s fast and overtakes everybody on track..he does that by stoping less than others and being gentle on his tyres.
      Are we even watching the same races?

    6. KGBVD says:

      Agreed,
      I feel like Schumi wouldn’t be happy with the tires even if he could take and entire lap on full throttle. Why? Because he isn’t winning.

  6. Robert N says:

    In qualifying, what percentage of a lap at Barcelona can the DRS be used? This information would help to estimate where the Mercedes are likely to qualify.

    1. Mitchel says:

      +1

    2. Phill says:

      It all depends on the driver and the car they have under them. Obviously you can look at the course guide and work it out yourself, bust some drivers will feel comfortable getting the DRS open 10, even 20 metres earlier than those without the confidence for it. Also, we will see if anyone else has adapted the double DRS system over the weeks, tomorrow will be interesting

  7. mazda3237 says:

    I get annoyed with drivers who complain about something which is the same for all of them. The drivers are all on the same tyres, therefore the limit of those tyres is when the driver loses control surely. If Schumacher is losing control, then he is reaching his limit to control the car on said tyres. Therefore Schumachers skill is lower than he thinks it is, or the other drivers are now better than him.

    1. Anil says:

      Football commentators often say ‘it’s the same for all of them out there’ when they play on waterlogged pitches. However, would you want them to play on those pitches every time?

      Also, Schumacher has adapted to these tyres perfectly fine, much better than Rosberg on many occasions this season. He’s been unlucky with reliability but that’s got nothing to do with his tyres.

      1. Grayzee (Australia) says:

        Nice analogy!

    2. Dominic Donald says:

      Well, i think we all know what the drivers mean when they say they cant push to the limit. They are talking about having the need to be physically and mentally on the edge with all senses working overtime. At the moment all drivers are working well within their own capabilities for speed and endurance, but are now on the limit of something else entirely – their limit of driving smoothly and being delicate with squidgy tyres. If you listed words which to you describe great F1 cars and great drivers, “delicate”, “careful” and so on, would not be words you would choose.

    3. Chris says:

      I think MSC’s point is that the drivers only have one or two laps each weekend where they can really push the limit of the car (not the tyres) – those laps are obviously their last timed laps of qualifying.
      In the race they are always driving to limit the deg of the tyre – note the deg isn’t the wear – these tyres could last the entire race distance – but because of the high deg it is obviously quicker to stop and put new/fresher tyres on.
      The deg is so high (not helped by no re-fuelling) that the drivers are driving well within their capabilities and the capabilities of the car – as MSC said its like driving behind the safety car all race.
      What some of the drivers are asking for is a more consistent tyre in terms of deg – so the deg is flattish for 10 or so laps maybe 15 on the harder tyre and then it starts to fall off rapidly – forcing the pit stops.
      This would be a good balance of being able to manage your tyres and actually being the fastest racing driver you can be – at the moment the more aggressive racing drivers are not enjoying the complete emphasis on the tyre management bit – they want to race and be able to push themselves and their cars.
      As a side note, why do you think we rarely see crashes/mechanical failures these days – it is because the cars are being driven to 60-70% of their capabilities and the tyres are 100% or maybe even more.

    4. Wade Parmino says:

      So what if it is the same for all of them. If they all had only the rims to drive on, it would also be the same for all of them. Doesn’t make it right. Not for the drivers or the sport.

    5. Robb says:

      He’s not saying these tires put him at a disadvantage.
      He’s saying that a contest to see which chassis and driver can be kindest to the tires while driving around at 75 percent isn’t really racing.
      I agree.
      Tire management should be an element of F1 racing, but it shouldn’t be the only element.

    6. SteveR says:

      or maybe only MS has the gonads to come out and complain about them….

  8. Anand R says:

    Loss time for a Pit stop = 19 seconds
    Total time needed for pit stop: 24 seconds.

    Mclaren Stops = +9 Seconds

    1. Phil R says:

      Do you want to swap for left rear the gun man?

      1. Bhaskar Rac says:

        yes I would love to, and then patting Hamilton for his patience after changing the tyre.

      2. Anand R says:

        No, and its not his fault really! a 2-3 sec lag can be attributed to human error. That was clearly a failure on the wheel nut/gun… a hardware issue. Too bad!

  9. PaulL says:

    Praise Schu for speaking up.

    Can’t stress enough that I, as a fan also, want to see drivers racing on the limit because that is the truest measure of their racing ability even if it doesn’t encompass every aspect of driving. Also, it’s far more exciting I think watching drivers on-the-edge finding the limit, it has a more intense quality about it.

    Seeing drivers race at the limit, to me, has always mattered far more than creating unpredictable races. The latter is far more superficial once you understand that it sometimes can’t be any other way. A contingently unpredictable race that isn’t set up to be that way seems more authentic and thereby exciting and enjoyable.

  10. Dan Orsino says:

    James, didn’t Raikkonen win here for McLaren and for Ferrari?

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks, yes, updated

      1. Brad says:

        LOL, James always seem to forget about Kimi with these Pre-race strategy articles Dan…

        James :-P

      2. James Allen says:

        I know. That’s the last time, I promise!!

  11. Tom Haythornthwaite says:

    I think those who say that drivers should be able to drive to whatever limit the tires permit are missing the point that drivers must take it easier to preserve the tires. While I admire Button’s skill in doing this, I agree that this should not be what the racing is about.

    And as I’ve complained before, having to use two types of tire is contrived and artificial.

    I think we need a single design of durable tires, still with no refueling, and real racing based on driver skill. It *wouldn’t* bore me.

    1. CarlH says:

      I agree that preserving the tyres shouldn’t be the only thing that F1 is about, and in my opinion the tyres are too much of a factor this year.

      However, when you see stats like ‘in three of the previous four races there were less than five overtakes in 66 laps of racing’ it shows just how processional a race can be when the drivers are so closely matched in terms of skill.

      It’s a fine balancing act but I think Pirelli have gone too far this year. Why didn’t they aim for the same level of tyre performance as last year? There was some great racing, but ultimately the fastest car/driver package came out on top, which is exactly how it should be.

  12. Alex says:

    Iceman..!!!!

  13. Nigel says:

    If your calculator is anywhere near accurate, the best strategy seems to be three stop using three sets of new primes. Not only is it the fastest race strategy, it also leaves the most tyre margin if the driver needs to push during the race. In addition it allows using all three sets of options in qualifying.

    The leading teams should definitely run Q1 on options (not the prime as they normally do), but try not to take too much out of them – they ought not to need to push too hard to get through to Q2.
    Then do a first run in Q2 on the scrubbed options fairly early, as getting to Q3 with two sets of new options is then possible – if not there’s still a clean set of options for a late run if necessary.
    Q3 is then one or two runs on new options. You don’t want to run in Q3 on scrubbed options, as it’s possible to be quick (as Hamilton has shown), and you really don’t want to start the GP on tyres three laps older.

    The race and qualifying benefits are so clear that I don’t see any other strategy being adopted (again, assuming your calculator is correct).

    Four stops is slow, and two stops even slower.

    1. James Allen says:

      The tyre model is based on data from the winter tests and from first 4 Grands Prix.

      To do that strategy you’d have to save three sets of new primes, which isn’t easy..

      1. Nigel says:

        I thought I’d shown exactly how you save three new sets of primes ?
        (Just don’t use them in qualifying.)

      2. iceman says:

        Currently the faster teams often use 3 new sets of options plus 1 new set of primes in qualifying, so they do need to be more economical with the tyres for your strategy.

      3. Nigel says:

        Agreed – but this time round, using the primes in Q1 would be squandering them, as they appear to be very clearly the superior race tyre.

        In previous races, it’s usually been about saving a set of options – there’s no point in doing so in Barcelona.

        Obviously it’s not easy saving three new sets of tyres from qualifying, or it would be done by more drivers. So far this season, however, there’s been little or no benefit in running twice in Q3 – and some have chosen not to run at all.
        There’s an element of gambling in any qualifying strategy. I just think the one I’ve outlined has by a long way the most advantages, and the fewest disadvantages.

      4. Hendo says:

        If you sit out Q3 you can save a set – never mind the poor fans that shell out hundreds $$$ to see cars on track on Sat as well as Sunday.
        And us sitting up at midnight watching on TV.

        Rather than rewarding this tactic with the choice of new tyres to start the race – anyone that gets into Q3 but doesn’t run, should start on the tyres that they set their fastest lap on – whether that’s Q1 or Q2.

      5. Nigel says:

        I don’t think any of the leaders will sit out Q3 – though they may well run only once.

        Under the current rules you really can’t blame a driver who barely scrapes into Q3 not wanting to run. It hugely disadvantages him in the race.

        I agree that the rules need modification – but you also want to avoid advantaging someone who qualifies in 11th over those who make it into Q3. It needs some serious thought.

      6. Nigel says:

        I see that (light) rain is still a possibility for Sunday.

        As the primes have a much higher operating temperature than the options, I assume this would completely alter predicted tyre performance.
        If the weather forecast doesn’t change, it’s going to make qualifying strategy much more complicated.

  14. Garry Edward says:

    I hate these tyres.!! The drivers should be able to push has hard as they like but wear them out quicker, other drivers can be smoother and make them last longer. Thats different two racing styles.

    Trouble with these tyres is that everybody has to keep them in a tight operating window to get the best from them, thats not racing, its managing. Schumacher definately has a point and its not good publicity for Pirelli.

  15. Dave says:

    “Qualifying has historically been critical in Barcelona; the last 11 races on this track have been won from pole position…”

    With the exception of last year of course where Webber was on pole but finished 4th.

  16. JohnO says:

    Pirelli need to change these tyres…quickly turning formula 1 into a joke….looking forward to Sunday’s lesson in tyre management, be nice to see some racing instead.

    1. Nigel says:

      Pirelli have changed things up by providing softs and hards as the two tyre choices.
      I think you’ll see more racing than you think this time around (even if I agree that the tyres degrade a bit too readily).

  17. Harv says:

    I know people have tossed up the question before, but can’t remember the reason against it – but wouldn’t unlimited tyres on raceday be a good compromise? This way drivers can drive flat out if they want to knowing they can pit for fresh tyres if necessary and try to find a proper balance between the time needed for a pitstop vs pushing too hard

    1. Harv says:

      unlimited fresh tyres I mean

      1. Andrew Carter says:

        The number of tyres for a race weekend were limited for envrionmental and financial reasons.

      2. Nick James says:

        Ahh, environmental reasons. What a load of cr*p!

        When I watch formula 1 I want to see cars spitting flames, burning rubber and screaming with power, not hug the bloody trees!

        All this environmental awareness cr*p has no place in formula 1 or motor racing. Smaller engines so they are more fuel efficient and better for the environment! What a joke!

        What about all the huge trucks and jumbo jets that cart the teams all over the world?? Right, so 24 RACING FORMULA 1 cars being slightly more fuel efficient will really offset that lot!

        BRING BACK THE V10′s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      3. William Wilgus says:

        If F-1 really wanted to be environmentally friendly, it would go back to the 1 tire set for the entire race. That would also reduce costs.

      4. AuraF1 says:

        I think the argument from pirelli is that would require a vast number more tyres manufacturing and shipping to each race – essentially it would drive the cost up enormously for both them and the logistics.

        Unlimited anything in formula one equals no control of costs – hence no unlimited testing mileage etc.

        I presume that’s the argument against anyway. I’d be a big fan of dedicated qualifying tyres so Saturday’s don’t end up being a save a tyre don’t run exercise.

      5. James Clayton says:

        To be honest you don’t even need unlimited tyres. Considering the massive amount of tyres they bring anyway, surely bringing an extra 2 sets of each compound to each event wouldn’t be a massive burden.

        They could also save some money (and they environment, if they really care) by NOT MELTING DOWN AND RECYCLING TYRES THAT *HAVEN’T EVEN BEEN USED* AT A MEETING, as they apparently do now!

    2. MISTER says:

      Bad idea. If the tyres go on after 8-10 laps of driving flat out..unless that driver is 2.2 sec faster a lap than the rest..is not worth doing it because the 24 sec to change tyres will put him way back.

      1. Harv says:

        That’s oversimplifying it a bit, as the track rubbers in frequently mostly by half distance and used harder tyres are often 2.5 sec slower than brand new softs etc. but I do understand the cost issue

    3. Wade Parmino says:

      Each driver should get 3 sets of each of the 4 compounds for the whole weekend and these should be allowed to be used in whatever configuration the teams and drivers wish.

      It can only be described as utterly ridiculous when a driver experiences a puncture in one tyre in practice thus rendering the WHOLE set unusable. The other three (possibly highly valuable supersofts) are perfectly fine.

      Any configuration should be permitted; any tyre anywhere on the car, front, right, left, rear. It should be up to the teams and their drivers.

  18. Andrew says:

    How hard will the F1 drivers be able to push at Barcelona?

    Not very hard, I expect the fastest drivers in qualifying to become ominously slow during the race.

  19. Davis says:

    Come on Kimi!!!

  20. Brace says:

    So in one department where drivers make a direct difference, Schumacher sucks?
    Pack your bags old man, before even more doubts regarding your ability start surfacing again.

    1. MISTER says:

      It’s not where the drivers make a direct difference. Is the setup of the car that makes that difference.
      The direct difference that the drivers would make is exactly where Schumacher is complaining. Is their skill of driving flat out..which at this stage they (the drivers) cannot do it because of the tyres.

  21. David Payne says:

    James,

    I usually view your site using my iPhone and there is niggling problem. The red ‘more’ link is very close to the link that allows you to make a comment. Due to the tiny size on screen I often end up clicking the comment button by mistake.

    Your pages tend to take longer to load than mist other sites (perhaps because of the sidebar content) and so it’s very annoying to end up pressing the wrong link, waiting for it to load, pressing backspace and then taking greater care to press the right link and then wait for that one to load.

    Can you please find a way to move the links so that they do not interfere with one another?

    I like your site but the navigation and load issue mean that it’s no longer the first site that I go to when I want insightful F1 news. Other than that, my thanks for a great site!

    1. James Allen says:

      You can expand the page on an Iphone. I’ve got one too and that’s what I do. I even post stories from it and believe my the risks of pushing the wrong button there are greater!

    2. Msta says:

      Try clicking on the title of the article instead of the more link.

  22. Doug says:

    Excellent as always, James, thanks!

    Will not be watching here in Australia until our local provider puts it back on the HD channel (get in Rusty’s ear, will you ;)

  23. Craig in Manila says:

    James, I don’t want to move too far into the Pirelli discussion again but is Schumacher the only driver or “insider” that has made negative comments about the tyres ?

    1. James Allen says:

      That I’ve heard, yes

      1. ethanJ says:

        Oh really James, are you 100% sure on that?

        Perhaps you go and speak to Martin Brundle, James .

        He clearly stated that 2 CURRENT pilots were in the car with him after the last race and they compared driving with the tires similar to something “their nanny could do”. TheY were apparently very negative.

        So like all things in life, I think we see and read what we want to read and simply ignore the rest.

      2. Doohan says:

        They mentioned all that off the record
        Does he name them?
        James doesn’t report on off the record.

    2. GT_Racer says:

      Nope he isn’t.
      Brundle says he spoke to 2 drivers that had similar critisism of the tyres, Brundle himself was critical of them on the Sky coverage at Bahrain.

      Also been told by some of my old FOM mates that they hear a lot of discussion on team radio with teams/drivers “Really laying into the tyres”.

      1. Craig @ Manila says:

        Yeah, and I thought I saw Button quoted as saying something to the effect of him not understanding the tyres at all.

  24. Yos says:

    It looks like there are a few banned words in F1 2012 like ‘out and out racer’, ‘out-driving the car’ or ‘to be on the limit’…We seem to equalise the field with name it crazy pirelli tyres or luck, there is no any other secret of seeing different cars finishing on the podium in all of races so far.

    1. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

      And what about the knock on effect in terms of driver nicknames from the 2012 tip-toe F1 era:

      Brambilla: The Gorilla
      Prost: The Professor
      Hakkinen: The Flying Fin
      Raikkonen: The Iceman
      Schumacher: The Red Baron/Schumeister
      Mansell: Il Leone
      Lauda: The Rat

      ….and for the 2012 era

      Rosberg and Button: The Nurses ?

      1. Anand R says:

        LOL! Yes.

  25. Yury says:

    Hallo James , you have written:
    “The league table below shows the order of the pit crews based on their fastest time in the Bahrain Grand Prix, from the car entering the pit lane to leaving it.

    1. Mercedes 21.888s (1=)

    2. Ferrari 21.963s (5)

    3. Red Bull 22.017s (1=)”
    Now, could you please have look at
    http://www.formula1.com/results/season/2012/867/7167/pit_stop_summary.html ?
    As we can see there
    3 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 39 16:09:10 21.800 1:06.534

    3 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 39 16:09:31 21.705 1:06.590

    The RBR have done there fastest pit at 21.705s . That were faster than Mercedes 21.888s in your table.

    best regards,
    Yury

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks, yes. Good spot. Updated

  26. Bolaji says:

    Another race where drivers will be driving to the very limits of caution, pushing to achieve the highest speed possible in super cars equipped with Pirelli ballet shoes.

    May the most gentle, kind, (cautious, even) driver win!

    1. Robb says:

      Yes, God forbid we would ever have to watch a race with brave young men, full of testosterone and adrenaline, aggressively fighting each other tooth and nail, while pushing the limits of man and machine.

      1. karmar says:

        That type of racing…danger, excitement, aggression, pushing to limits, daring, fast, sliding, power, edge of your seat sennesque..

        …um, are you crazy, this is F1, there is simply no place for that sort of thing any more…i mean really.

        …F1 now…it must be elegant, slow, polite, dull, boring, a gentlemens sport…with a global TV viewing of about 300 and fast declining.

        F1 was a tag or an omega watch in 80′s,90′s, 2000′s..now its a patek worn by andre reiu fans.

  27. Luke Clements says:

    James,

    I don’t like all the ‘resource restrictions’ that F1 has imposed on itself…but if we have to have them, why doesn’t F1 just give the allocation for engines, gearboxes, tyre sets (with an extra allocation of hards to cover the safety argument) at the start of the year and just let the teams do whatever the heck they want, whenever they want?
    It would be fantastic for its unpredictability, but come November, the best teams will always be there and will have managed their allocation of resources better while the “one hit wonders” who maybe win a GP at the start of the year with new engines and super soft tyres, struggle to limp home with blown up engines and rubbish hard tyres.
    Just my two cents, I hate seeing drivers/teams get penalised grid spots for changes of this and that, with my idea they will pay in the long run! Also hate the stupid 2 tyre types per race rule, again this idea fixes it, they will suffer at the end if they have used their best tyres up.

    1. James Allen says:

      Fair point. But sponsor money is hard for teams to come by at the moment, despite the sport having $billions of future income guaranteed, so if you had unfettered spending there’s no way it would be as close as it is today and that makes for interesting racing

      I’d love to know if there was another way..

  28. CarlH says:

    Hi James,

    Any idea if Pirelli are going to be pushing for the use of qualifying tyres next year?

    Seems like they have been hinting at it for a while, and it could solve a lot of the current problems (drivers choosing not to run in Q3 etc).

    1. James Allen says:

      Good question, I’ll ask

      1. Bayan says:

        Would also like to know what changes would be made to starting tyre since currently you have to start with the tyre you used to get your grip spot. Or if Qualifying format would be changed.

    2. db4tim says:

      They really need to open up all qualifying with unlimited tires…let them run what ever

  29. flippys pants says:

    I think Schu has a point, but I think it’s a bit more subtle than people are making out. I’ve been trying to explain it to myself, and here’s how i see what he’s talking about, and why not everybody is unhappy.
    Imagine a car going round a corner. Its speed is ultimately governed by grip from the tyres. That goes up if the car has more downforce, better suspension etc, but ultimately it comes down to rubber gripping the road.
    So imagine a scenario where the car can do 100mph round the corner before it starts to slide. So let’s say 100 is the ‘limit’. All drivers like being at or slightly over this limit as that’s where the fun is and that’s where skill can play a part.
    Now this limit is not like the limit put on the car by the engine or the aero, its a whole zone in which the car can perform, differently for each corner depending on loads of factors, not least the skill of the driver.
    Some drivers are better than others at the limit, and for arguments sake, might be able to get the car round at 110 mph by sliding it judiciously. Others are not so comfortable and can only get it round at 105, perhaps. so that’s 5% over the ‘limit’. A complete numpty can drive it at 99, of course, because there is no sliding going on and it’s just physics.
    Now comes the fun bit. Schu, Ham etc, the ones who pride themselves on car control at the limit (or over – somewhere in that 10%), really like to do that because they are so good at it and it gives them an advantage over the rest of the field. Problem is, with these tyres, one or two laps driven like this means the tyres are finished. So they have to drive at 99% which they hate doing, and wait and watch as the tyres smoothly degrade (can they really work it out to one ten-thousandth of a second?) til they hit the cliff and pit for fresh rubber. Button and the other ‘smooth boys’ take a different approach, which i think is just as impressive a skill, but is less spectacular. They attempt to get ever closer to the 100, but never go over it, 99.9%, if you like. So they are operating in this very tiny window, being ‘gentle’ or ‘careful’ in one set of words, or ‘ultra precise’ , ‘freakishly delicate’, ‘obsessively perfect’ in another. They take a delight in this ability, and great satisfaction from it when it works. They win not by being fastest, but by still having grip when others have lost theirs. That’s one of the reasons there is so much overtaking. The ‘racer’ types just hate this approach. They’d rather be sliding it in under braking, booting it out under a dab of oppo, showing what a hero they are. Which we all love as well, obviously. Now imagine that this precision applies not just to every corner, but every braking event, every traction event, every time the tire is asked to do work, basically. Those who can get it to 99.9% and not go over 100% are the ones who will do best.
    So the tyre design has probably gone too far in favour of the smooth guys, but that’s not to denigrate them in my opinion. Question we want to ask ourselves is what kind of racer to we want to win? How much overtaking do we want to see? The answer I think will be to ease back a bit on the deg of the tyres, but not much.

    1. Wade Parmino says:

      Kudos on the EPIC post.

      I think Alain Prost would have excelled in today’s F1.

  30. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    Excelent report!

    I feel Schumacher is winning this GP, maybe he finally deserves it.

    James, it is like McLaren is going backwards with the low-nose desing? Mistake?

  31. c-m says:

    This one has Red Bull written all over it.

    The high speed and medium speed corners will suit their package with it’s ultimate downforce.

    Mercedes will struggle.

  32. jonnyd says:

    can’t believe we have people defending the current tyres in f1, when you have real drivers, not just schumacher but others + brundle (source, brundles column on sky) all saying the same thing.

    when you have drivers not being able to drive to their own limits, let alone the cars, just to nurse some tyres home, pre – determined by a computer calculating tyre wear versus laptime that they have to drive to.

    when you have drivers who cannot even consistently run behind another competitor for fear of using up their tyres too much
    (ironically, the scenario that f1 has changed so many rules for, so that a car behind can follow closer)

    when you have drivers who have just 1 shot to overtake, and cannot persist or their tyres fall apart (kimi at bahrain)

    how can you be defending that and calling it exciting racing?

    close? qualifying is close yes. very close, the cars are closer than they have ever been in terms of performance, and that comes out in qualifying. And we are robbed of it completely in the race, due to drivers not being able to push like they do in quali.

    ’4 different winners!’ well if you enjoy your f1 being a lottery, determined by nothing but track temperature and teams who happen to be in that ‘tyre setup window’ then youre in for the best season ever.

    for those of us who like to see the best drivers in the world, driving the best cars in the world, trying their absolute best, trying to maximise their own performance and go as fast as possible (because thats what….racing is) – you’re in for the worst season yet.

    1. James Allen says:

      We’ll get into this in detail in the BBC Radio 5 Live coverage across the weekend.

    2. davisfac says:

      agree..

      F1 is just not F1 anymore.

      Not sure what it is now however i’m sure if SENNA were just starting now he would have give F1 a miss. What would be the point, round peg trying to fit into a square hole. A fast dynamic driver in a sport that supports the slow and the people that can manage tires. B-O-R-I-N-G.

      There is simply no place for his, Senna or Hamilton or Shumacher, TYPE of racer in F1 anymore.

      Is F1 run by a bunch of old men, sure sounds like it?

      1. Wade Parmino says:

        I doubt Senna would ‘give it a miss’. F1 is still considered to be the pinnacle of motorsport (and I believe it is), certainly of open-wheel racing. Senna had such a pathological need to win (NOT intended as an insult) at the highest and most elite level. There is no way he would choose to race in another league or category if given that choice.

      2. ROBERTO MARQUEZ says:

        You miss the point he is making

  33. ROBERTO MARQUEZ says:

    Since it started Formula 1 has been dominated by one or two drivers in every season. Reasons : driver, car , driver -car , other. Now we have started a season with 4 races 4 winners. I think this way Formula 1 racing will become a favorite with people that bet on sports, real fans will go some where else . I am sure horse racing is more predictable rigth now than F1.I insist ,it is like if swimmers for the olympic games going to use swimming trunks that degrade if they go too fast and they will be forced to make stops ,go to to the changing room and back.
    The gold medal will be won by the guy with the better shoes to go to the changing room.Is this racing ?????????????

  34. SP says:

    As much as I too dislike these Pirelli tyres, I cant help but think that if they (or anyone) were to produce tyres which drivers can really sprint on, we may end up with something similar to the Bridgestone like tyres. And in turn, processional racing.

    However, I do feel Pirelli can find a happy medium. A set of tyres which give the drivers the ability to really push but at the same time, not so durable where they can run them for the majority of the race. Lets hope such tyres can be produced for 2013! :D

  35. AussieWoZ says:

    You have to feel a little for Pirelli in this debate. The tyres produced have been exactly what was asked of them by the FIA. It surely must be a concern for their management.

  36. Bayan says:

    This might seem like going backwards given the cost saving measures F1 is all about these days but I think if they bring back refueling during the race and make tires that allow drivers to push then the racing might be better given we now we have DRS and KERS.

    Or bring back multiple tire makers and allow the teams/drivers to choose any tire maker during the race weekend. Yes, costs more but may make for good racing.

  37. David says:

    MSCs forte was to drive fast with low fuel and lots of stops.
    I think he had five stops in one race and still won.
    This is a different game which does not play into his strengths. I have some sympathy for his position, but these are the rules and you have to manage them the best you can…DRS included
    David

  38. virgopunk says:

    Continually staggered by your excellent strategy guides. They are without doubt the most informative pieces of F1 journalism I’ve ever read. It does show though how hard it is to predict the top 10 finishers…damn you Castrol Predictor!

    1. James Allen says:

      Especially this season…
      Thanks

  39. NJ says:

    “How hard will the F1 Drivers be able to push at Barcelona?”

    Answer: Depends on who wins the Pirelli lottery.

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