Analysis of progress on track and in the pits
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Analysis of progress on track and in the pits
Posted By: James Allen  |  13 May 2013   |  8:29 pm GMT  |  59 comments

The Spanish Grand Prix threw up a few interesting comparisons from last year to this, not least in the relative pace of the cars and the improvement in speed of the pit stops.

At one end of the spectrum the Mercedes was 2.3 seconds faster in qualifying than in 2012, while the Williams was a second slower than Pastor Maldonado’s pole time from last year.

But in the pits there has also been progress; Ferrari set the fastest stop on Sunday, a clear second faster than its best time last year (when it was again fastest) thanks to the many detailed changes like the new spoke pattern and detail around the wheel nut – which works for enhancing thermal management of the tyres and brake cooling system as well as to speed up pitstop times, with faster on-off access of the wheel gun.

Fastest pit stops, Barcelona 2013

Taken from the time the car passes the pit lane entry line to the exit line – this measures the contribution of both mechanics and drivers

1. Ferrari 18.471s
2. Red Bull 18.606s
3. McLaren 18.810s
4. Sauber 19.324s
5. Mercedes 19.352s
6 Force India 19.481s
7. Toro Rosso 19.498s
8. Williams 19.723
9. Lotus 19.743s
10. Marussia 19.830s
11. Caterham 20.734s

Fastest pit stops, Barcelona 2012

1. Ferrari 19.456
2. Red Bull 19.624
3. Lotus 19.777
4. Force India 19.867
5. McLaren 19.888
6 = Mercedes, Toro Rosso 20.059,
8. Williams 20.218
9. Sauber 20.381
10. Marussia 20.669
11. Caterham 21.275
12. HRT 21.471

Progress on track

It is always instructive at Barcelona to draw comparisons with times from last year to see how much progress a team has made. As the best all-round test of an F1 car, Barcelona is a good yardstick, especially as the teams know it so well from testing.

The picture from this year is fascinating.

2013 Qualifying vs 2012 Qualifying, Fastest car
Amount Faster
Mercedes 2.3sec
Force India 2.1sec
Marussia 1.8sec
Lotus 1.3sec
Red Bull 1.2sec (based on Q2 times, RBR didn’t run in Q3 2012)
Ferrari 1.1sec
Toro Rosso 1.1sec
Caterham 0.6sec
Sauber 0.2sec

Amount slower
McLaren 0.1sec
Williams 1 sec


A lot of the update work on the cars at the moment revolves around improving aero dynamics in low speed corners, particularly on corner exit. Low speed corners (up to 130km/h) account for on average 40% of the lap time. And around 60% of the time spent in these slow corners is spent on middle of corner to corner exit.

In other words around 25% of the typical lap time is spent in low speed corner exits, making it the most important single phase of the lap.

So you can see how this is where time can be found and why the exhaust blowing into the diffuser to generate downforce is so important.

The Mercedes and Red Bull were the best in the low speed final sector in Barcelona, featuring the chicane. The Mercedes had a 0.3s advantage over the field in this sector on Saturday and that bodes well for Monaco, which is all about low speed corner exit.

The problem for Mercedes is that it is overheating its rear tyres in the race. The car overstresses the tyre which is good for low speed corners in qualifying but is a problem over long runs in the race.

What F1 engineers are looking for with these cars and tyres is not peak aerodynamic loads, but having load at all points and a stable platform.

The plot below shows clearly the relative degradation experienced by Mercedes drivers in comparison with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

Alonso’s degradation is fairly linear (in red), showing that the car has the degradation under control, where the Mercedes is more extreme and peaky. The vertical axis is the lap times with faster times at bottom and the horizontal axis is the number of laps. Alonso’s five stints are clearly identifiable. He backs off in the final one, but note the Ferrari’s pace on the opening laps of the 2nd and 3rd stints. That the Ferrari can push that hard on the tyres and then also maintain linear degradation is impressive

Additional input: Mark Gillan, JA on F1 Technical Adviser

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59 Comments
  1. Baruni says:

    James – as always, an interesting read. Shouldn’t the change in compond/ construction of current years’ tires relative to prior years be considered when conparing lap tmes? This is a variable that will be difficult to quantify.

  2. Anil says:

    Great article James.

    Out of interest, how many stops do we expect in Monaco? I’m assuming 2 with the odd team trying a 1 stop?

    1. James Allen says:

      Monaco is usually a 1 stop race. But it’s the return if the dreaded soft tyre from China. If that isn’t up to doing 45.- 50 laps then we are looking at 2 stops minimum

      1. **Paul** says:

        Your comments about the rubber black round things (so sick of typing the same T word!) sum it up up James.

        The fact all the blogs are full of comments about Pirelli say something is very very wrong in F1.

      2. Prima Donna says:

        Hi James. I’ve been scouring through all your recent posts to see if you had published anything on Ferrari’s electrifying starts and I know this question was also asked on your April 16th post – the strategy report post the Chinese GP. How is it that the scarlet horses fly off the line and make up so many places and why is it that none of the other teams have such great starts? Alonso and even Massa, quite often, blitz off the line as soon as the lights go off and make up a good number of places by the first corner. It would be really great if you could shine some light on this. Thank you!

      3. James Allen says:

        We’ll do something on that

    2. Pranav says:

      I’ve received some top secret info from FIA and Pirelli which suggests that something incredibly strange might happen at Monaco.

      Due to Pirelli bringing their supersupersupersupersupersoft and supersupersupersupersoft tyres to Monaco, Paul Hembrey is not confident that any of these cars can finish a single lap on Pirellis without them overheating and delaminating.

      Therefore, an emergency construction of 3 more pitlanes around the track is in progress. However, the construction is being masqueraded as FIA support buildings and access roads for the upcoming race.

      Word is, after the start finish straight, the first new pitlane complex will be somewhere around Mirabeau. The second new pitlane complex will be somewhere inside the tunnel (this does 2 things; letting teams changed ruined Pirellis and also slow down the cars inside the tunnel). The third new pitlane complex will be somewhere near the swimming pool complex.

      Kimi Raikkonen was quoted as saying that the tyres are fine and the rest of the teams are whingeing because they are not able to make their tyres last for more than 2 corners. He hopes to be able to reach the second pitlane complex inside the tunnel each lap without destroying his tyres.

      The pit strategy is expected to be somewhere around 100-110 stops per race per driver. But the Lotuses might get away with 95 stops per driver.

      Due to the sudden huge demand of new Pirelli rubber, the factory has hired 3000 more employees and taken over Bridgestone and Michelin factories to cover the demand.

      1. Wayne says:

        What I would like to know is why on earth are we hearing nothing at all from Bernie about the tyre debate? This guy usually chimes in on every subject, and as this is a pressing matter for the sport where on earth is the King in this time of (mini) crisis?

        Is the guy afraid to speak out because he is getting what he asked for from Pirelli or have I just missed all of Bernie’s guidance on this matter?

        Anyone else heard anything from Bernie lately on this issue – his silence seems incredibly strange to me.

      2. Alex Supertramp says:

        Well, you made me laugh !

      3. Tim says:

        Made me laugh too :-)

  3. goferet says:

    How things in F1 change in just a 12 month period. However, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

    Interesting figures in the pitstop league table for not only have they got faster but more competitive and what I saw of Vettel’s pitstops, it seemed like he hardly stopped, it was that fast. However, with these friends of ours, the Pirellis, the pitstops just like qualifying might have been rendered useless e.g. Only once has the driver on pole won the race in the last 8 races.

    As for Williams’ lack of pace from 2012, it really disturbing seeing as they didn’t produce a radical car. Same thing for Sauber, very little improvement despite all the money they bagged from 2012.

    The only explanation, I can think of is these teams didn’t plough enough money into development during the 2012 season for they were much focussed on collecting points or perhaps, the change of power within these teams disrupted everybody.

    Now, the fact that Mercedes are overheating their tyres just might prove to be a masterstroke for those wet races i.e. While everyone is sliding around looking for grip, the Mercedes fellas will be over the horizon.

    1. Mojo66 says:

      It could also be possible that Williams used something last year that has been banned this year.

      1. Tim says:

        Frank Williams is only 70 once and cannot expect a present from Bernie unless its a really big birthday – next win will be when he is 80 I guess :-)

  4. stoic says:

    So McLaren’s decision to not use last year’s design is a stupid one, isn’t it?

    1. Monktonnik says:

      If it is qualifying 0.1secs of a lap slower the yes. Having said that, I guess it was Hamilton who got the 2012 time against Perez. It could still be faster than years.

      I guess we need to compare the quali times of JB from all the previous races last year to see if it really is slower.

    2. kfzmeister says:

      They were at the end of development with that particular front suspension. They needed to switch suspension due to the new(er) aero regs. They will catch up, sooner or later. Looks like there are some issues with wind tunnel calibration.

    3. I know says:

      No, it’s not a stupid decision. For a company that’s in the business of making high performance cars, components and related services, admission that a whole year of engineering was wasted is simply not an option.

      The comparison of the fastest time in qualifying is interesting, but there are several factors; different drivers, different tyres, different track conditions, different objectives (i.e. setting the car up for race pace or qualifying pace), and finally, different cars. I am sure, the teams know very well how their car is performing relative to last year, but you can’t just read it from one figure on one particular day.

  5. Mitchel says:

    Love the 2012 v 2013 comparison. Grim reading for those two teams.

  6. Yago says:

    I am going to put here a comparison between 2013 and 2011, that I already posted before in another thread, but I think fits better here:

    Pit stop 1 Pit stop 2 Pit stop 3 Pit stop 4
    Sebastian Vettel (Spanish GP 2011) Lap 9 Lap 18 Lap 34 Lap 48
    Fernando Alonso (Spanish GP 2013) Lap 9 Lap 21 Lap 36 Lap 49

    Total Race Time Vettel 2011: 1:39:03.301
    Total Race Time Fernando 2013: 1:39:16.596

    Two tenths a lap faster the 2011 Red Bull, with blown exhausts in their full glory and with Hamilton pushing Vettel to the end of the race. On the other hand, in 2013 Alonso cruising during his last stint and held back by Rosberg during the first one.

    I think it is really interesting and tells something about the tyre situation…

    1. Andrew Woodruff says:

      +1 very interesting

    2. Nuno says:

      This post should be passed to Red Bull boss. I guess he is good at numbers so he can see that his golden boy won with 4 stop strategy as well but I guess that at that time F1 was racing for him

    3. JR says:

      Great analysis! And we still have to hear Red Bull saying this is no racing anymore. The main difference is that yesterday they didn’t win. Such bad losers.

    4. puffing says:

      Thanks for recalling relevant facts.

    5. TheLollipopMan says:

      Great figures! They clearly show the brouhaha over the tyres is a ridiculous overreaction. It’s simply up to the teams and drivers to adapt to the tyres and get the best out of them, like Alonso/Raikkonen/Ferrari/Lotus (and now Massa) are doing. It’s no different to other drivers/teams getting the most out of other rules and restrictions, like blown diffusers, etc. People need to stop denigrating the entire sport just because their favourite teams/drivers can’t use the tyres at ten-tenths. This was the best race at Barcelona ever, and everyone’s overlooking that fact by jumping on the Pirelli-bashing bandwagon. Sad.

      1. **Paul** says:

        “This was the best race at Barcelona ever”

        That’s how not to have you’re post taken seriously.

      2. TheLollipopMan says:

        Well, Paul, what year do you think was better? Tell us, and I’ll watch it again.

    6. Amritraj says:

      +1.

      This tyre drama is a bit exaggerated.

      Didn’t Red Bull win with 4 stops in Bahrain? I didn’t hear them complaining about tyres that weekend.

      While I dont mind the extra pit stop, I do hope we can have more committed racing on track.

      Rgs,
      Amritraj

    7. **Paul** says:

      F1 cars that are slower than 2 years ago… wow that is a pretty graphic demonstration of what is wrong with F1. F1 engineers can’t ‘unlearn’ what they’ve picked up in previous years, new cars should always be faster (bar massive rule changes, like V10s > V8s).

      All those engineering advances made between 11 & 13 are completely negated by tyre performance.

      That’s not waht you’re trying to show, but that’s what it says.

      1. Yago says:

        Q3 Time Vettel (Spanish GP 2011) 1:21.181
        Q3 Time Alonso (Spanish GP 2013) 1:21.218

        The Q3 times of the winners of the 2011 and 2013 Spanish GP are very similar as you can see. As the race in 2011 was completed 2 tenths a lap quicker than in 2013, we can say that 2013 tyres were 2 tenths slower over the race distance of the Spanish GP than 2011 tyres (assuming track and weather conditions to be similar). Hence, the tyre situation now is very similar to that of 2011.

        2013 tyres are not slow when it comes to one lap performance, they actually are faster than the 2012 tyres (and probably faster than 2011 tyres too), so you can see that the cars now, at least at Barcelona, are not faster than 2011 cars. And as I said, it is down to the banning of blowing difusers, which actually is a pretty big rule change performance wise.

        This is what I was trying to show, and I hope it is clear now. Sorry if this is not what you wanted to hear, but theses are just facts.

      2. Yago says:

        “Blown diffusers”! And sorry but I forgot about DRS banning, so actually 2011 car-tyres were actually faster than 2013 car-tyres at Barcelona in Qualy, but again this year tyres are faster over one lap. So I think it is fair to say that performance wise 2011 was very similar to 2013 (at Barcelona).

  7. John M says:

    Wow, those qualifying times really highlight the plight of Williams and McLaren.

    Not a big fan, but you have to feel for Maldonado…going from pole/win to backmarker in one year, with the same team.

  8. Oz Geezza says:

    Mr Allen, Your analysis are as superb as Alonso
    drive on Sunday I thank you.
    You being a man amongst the people in the know
    two question I would like to ask please.
    1st,has Pirelli secured the contract with FIA to
    supply tyers for 2014?.
    Has Michelin arrived on the scene and what chances
    if any has Michelin have.

    2,On the very good source I am to believe there is
    no certinty that Renault will supply Lotus with its
    Engine in 2014.

    My understanding is the Red Bul and its sister team
    and Wiliams, your thoughts if any please.

    1. James Allen says:

      1. There are some questions around the tendering process the FIA is due to carry out for tyre supply. I don’t hear Michelin’s name

      It is very late for anyone else to come in for 2014

      2. There’s something going on around Renault at the moment, possibly linked to needing down payments for 2014 engines

      But at same time Renault isn’t happy with some aspects of F1 2014 at the moment and there are discussions going on.

      1. mhilgtx says:

        Steve Matchett said on the US broadcast that he thought Allison left Lotus over financial issues and that there was a little bit of bad blood over it. Financial as in what Lotus was prepared to commit to for the future.

      2. Clear View says:

        James can you possibly expand on what you have heard about the renault engine supply please. I guess much is hear say but little things like this interest the die hard fans. Eg, what isn’t renault happy about for next year and is the lotus issue to do with them being level with Red Bull without works status? This is the same for merc and force India too at the moment.
        Hope you can give us a look into the “real” working of F1.
        Great arrival by the way, I don’t expect anything less these days lol.

  9. shortsighted says:

    The continual steep increase in lap time in every lap following tire changes means that the car with a newer set can easily overtake another with older tires. It is no longer the ability of the driver that counts in overtaking. It is how fresh the tires are that counts. Such over-dependence on the freshness of the tires to determine who is faster undermines the basic of motor racing which should be an unhindered contest between drivers’ pace.

  10. Chris C says:

    What isnt explained is why merc are still slow at start of stints and start of races, if a trye is degrading fast its still at full life at the start of a stint, whats the answer to that?

    1. James Allen says:

      Overheating. That’s also why 4 stops wouldn’t have been any better for them and would have added another pit stop to their race

      1. I know says:

        I think the question was why Mercedes are slow even at the start of a stint with fresh tyres. The answer to that is that they are trying to protect their tyres from the beginning of a stint, which does not allow them to drive as fast as possible. Every team does that to some degree, but Mercedes have to be especially careful.

      2. aveli says:

        i think mercedes should forget about protecting the tyres at the start of the race and go full throttle. as soon as they notice a drop in performance they stop for a fresh set of tyres. after all the batches of tyres do not behave in the same manor. they could at least try this on friday and saturday. comparing it with protecting the tyre at the start of the stint and go with the faster option. alonso and massa tore up their tyres and got the best results.

  11. Robert says:

    Is that slower McLaren Qualy time due to not having Hamilton in the car ?

  12. Hutch says:

    Hi James,

    Thinking about the progress of technology… In a hypothetical scenario where for 2014 F1 reverted back to the exact rules from 2004, would the cars the teams designed absolutely blitz a 2004-spec Schumacher Ferrari, or would it be difficult to make gains?

    In other words, do engineers learn more about optimising for a set of rules each year, or are they making real advancements in know-how?

    I’d love to get your opinion…

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes of course. THey cannot unlearn what they have learned, Simple example is aerodynamics. There has been so much advance in that area since 2004. Look at a front wing from then and now.

  13. mhilgtx says:

    Just to keep things clean here:

    On the US broadcast Steve Matchett had a complete segment on the Mercedes rear suspension geometry. The gist being the Mercedes does not enjoy enough movement in the suspension to generate a flat traction patch, that when set up with even a moderate amount of camber the tires just don’t load up properly for them. This of course generates tons of heat and uneven wear. During the race though he and David Hobbs both thought it looked like Merc MIGHT be running positive rear camber as a work around. If that is what they tried, it didn’t work.

    As far as those pit stop times the biggest thing it showed me is that RBR closed the gap on Ferrari by about .05 of a second and that was with a few slow stops (if you want to call 2.7 seconds a slow stop) by Webber.

  14. sandman says:

    Interesting analysis. I would actually add about 2 tenths more because DRS is no longer unlimited which means the williams is the only car slower than last year.

  15. Tom Westmacott says:

    Very insightful!

    Couple of typos: we seem to be missing the 8th best team for pitstops for 2013 (Williams?), and I think at the end you meant to refer either to Alonso’s four stops, or five stints, rather than four stints (?)

  16. Gaspar says:

    I just love 20 year old guys , bring back the great 80′s , 90′s …yeah right . This Barcelona race was something special because the particularity of the track . I don’t have problem with the 2012 season , or with all the races in this year before Barcelona .We should not overreacting just because of ONE race . Currently the regulations favor the spectacle , i am 38 years old , i remember my first race in 89 , i was 14 year old and was pretty boring , Prost winning in a McLaren after Senna had a problem . To me the best year was 2003 , and all seasons after 2009 . So , it’s very ok now , maybe the DRs zone in some track needs to be shortened because sometimes it’s too easy . No problem with the tyres . last year was the same and in the end we had one stops . And yeah Red Bull dominating . If Lotus and Ferrari can build a car good for this regulations , all the other guys can try too , not reverse , give them a tyre who suits they car .

  17. Jo Torrent says:

    Brilliant analysis, looks like it’s a qualifying lockout for the Mercs in Monaco but then there’s the race. If they can’t do it in Monaco they won’t do it anywhere unless they come up with something spectacular.

  18. Jo Torrent says:

    As we are in the technical part here, I wonder what is going on with the difficulties even top teams are experiencing with correlations between simulations & track. It was Ferrari for 2 years & now it’s McLaren.

    Are they missing something, or F1 has become so complicated only an evolutionary approach works. If it’s the 2nd option, we might have some huge surprises next year as everyone has to do something different.

    1. I know says:

      I wouldn’t believe it every time a team complains about “correlation”. It’s another way of saying “we haven’t figured out what our problem is”, or even worse, it means “we simply haven’t come up with a good idea to make the car go faster.”

      Unless they publish their CFD data, there is no way to tell the difference.

  19. JohnM says:

    James, those qualifying time improvements are quite astounding considering the DRS restrictions this year. It also shows that this one lap speed was not translated into the race at all. Theoretically (but drawing a long bow) if it had, the race should have been completed about a second a lap faster than last year, which of courses did not happen.

    It does however suggest that the drivers were not pressed very hard to do the times that they did.

    It also shows in the fuel corrected lap times graph. Both of the Mercedes came out after their pit stops and were appreciably slower than Alonso. I assume that they drove to their delta straight away and took none of the speed that the car and tyre had.

    This just hi lights the total disconnect between qualifying and the race.

    Lastly I’d like to offer another analogy of how this weekend has turned my opinion against the sport and left me feeling very flat.

    I was today doing some laps on the 2012 F1 game at Monza (yes I know it’s just a game) and as I came around the parabolica, waited for the car to rotate and pick up the full throttle, the thought crossed my mind, I wonder if in next years game I will have to coast to save the tyres?

    How depressing :(

  20. Elie says:

    Interesting stats thanks James. Despite the good improvement from Lotus- had they been on Ferrari pit stop pace Kimi would have been .7 of a second when he came out of the pits almost immediately past again rather than the 2.2 or so seconds he had to recover over the next several laps. That’s a how fine a margin it is these days and how important it is to get into clear air.

    I would argue that the low speed downforce and mechanical grip in the Ferrari is at least equal to the Mercedes T3 at Spain proved that!.

    If people are so worried about the soft. What then of the Supersoft ? Is there any concern from Pirelli in this regard ? . I don’t believe there should be but it would be interesting to know .

  21. Bayan says:

    I think Merc will be great in qualy in Monaco. But their race will not be great given they eat through their tyres so quickly. Might be more safety cars this year.

    1. I know says:

      Monaco is about the only race where having unpredictable and unreliable tyres adds to the “excitement” and where qualifying still counts for something. I just don’t hope there are any serious accidents due to tyre failures – no margin for error in Monaco, where a high speed delamination could have serious consequences.

  22. Thompson says:

    I still don’get this years races – with everyone driving to deltas it makes it really hard to follow and again Kimi finds himself in a very strong position by the end of a race almost un-noticed by the coverage.

    The mercs repeated the performance of China was it? going backwords the moment DRS is activated – but I believe if the issue with the tyres can be sorted they will have a dominate period during this season.

    Although it was denied post race, have team orders been envoked at Mclaren – Perez could have passed Button easily without damage to his tyres but did not. has this been touched on?….considering the ‘coded’ radio message played on air.

    5 races in – interesting season.

    Massa taking points off RB…..hmmm

  23. Ahmed Ginnah says:

    Short or selective memories; let me tell you that last year the Spanish F1 Grand Prix winner also made 4 stops for tyres, and No one noT even the BOSS complained about tyres.The winner this year at the same GRAND PRIX also made 4 stops.lots n lots of complaints – n the tyres will now be changed. WHY? Choose from your short or selective memory!! RBR was not anywhere near the podium.

  24. John Chnnery says:

    Just enjoying James on Monaco, I did not know how good a driver he is being able to drive a F1 car behind the safety vehicle, fantastic.

    I walked the track and my admiration of any driver who can get round that venue at those speeds WOW I used to race but respect.

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