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Vettel Heads Day One At The Ring As Tyres hold up
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Posted By: Matt Meadows  |  05 Jul 2013   |  4:02 pm GMT  |  64 comments

Sebastian Vettel suffered little hangover from last week’s late retirement as he topped Free Practice ahead of the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, with Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber completing the top three.

The running order from Silverstone seems to have changed little in the wake of Pirelli’s product change for this weekend; Red Bull had an edge in single lap and long run pace over Mercedes with the rest following.

However Red Bull’s drivers suggested afterwards that Mercedes had possibly masked its single lap pace with a bit of extra fuel in the soft tyre runs this afternoon, believing them favourites again for pole position tomorrow.

Ferrari remain half a second off the ultimate pace after a troubled first day, which saw electrical problems blight Alonso’s start to the weekend.

Fernando Alonso endured two stoppages in this morning’s FP1 when trying to complete installation laps. The issue boiled down to an ECU problem that saw his car’s electronics malfunction and cause a jamming in the gearbox.

Therefore, he did not complete a lap until the afternoon and ended the day in sixth place with a time almost identical to that of Felipe Massa in seventh.

Red Bull had very strong long-run pace in the afternoon, particularly on the medium tyres, with Webber completing a twenty-two lap run on the medium tyre and lapping with good consistency. This comes as bad news to Ferrari and Alonso as their chances of making up their points deficit this weekend looks bleak on race pace alone.

“I wasn’t so happy with the car this morning and Mercedes were quick, but in the afternoon we were in better shape. We’ll see, but so far I am happy,” said Vettel.

Mercedes looked very strong on a green track in the morning, but were giving something away to Red Bull, especially in long run pace in the afternoon. They were losing time on the Red Bull over a longer stint as the tyres degraded, especially on the soft tyre.

Mercedes favoured the hard tyre at Silverstone, so with last week’s option tyre becoming this weekend’s prime compound Mercedes are likely to be one of those that is forced in to a three-stop race as Red Bull may be capable of just two stops, along with Ferrari, Lotus and Force India.

With Pirelli and its new specifications coming under intense scrutiny this weekend there were no signs of failures as the Italian company reverted to Kevlar-belted rear tyres and strict guidelines on tyre pressures and the prohibition of tyre-switching. The use of steel belts on the front and kevlar on the rear should mean front tyre warm up is good relative to rears, which should help some teams who have been struggling to balance the temperatures front and rear.

The use of Kevlar as the main structural frame of the tyre is thought to stop the failures that we saw last week as it is more maneuverable than the previous steel model and allows for a greater margin of operational factors.

“The steel belt was angled in one direction which is why, when you invert it, it actually goes into a point rather than being pushed along the top of the belt. That is why it creates a weakness.

“Kevlar is not as rigid as steel, and it also operates at lower temperatures, so it gives you greater margin from that point of view,” said Paul Hembrey, Pirelli Motorsport Director. He said yesterday evening on BBC Radio 5 Live that he was absolutely confident that the new specification of tyres would not fail in the way we saw at Silverstone.

Kevlar’s ability to operate at lower temperatures also comes as positive news. Since the steel band could not do this in the same way, the movement in the tyre at lower tyre pressures put excessive strain on the sidewalls and shoulder – causing more stress, and increasing the chances of a failure.

The chosen tyre compounds this weekend should play more in to the hands of Lotus than what was seen at Silverstone. Their race pace was second best to Red Bull and their qualifying simulations saw them take fourth and fifth on the day, with Romain Grosjean ending out Kimi Raikkonen.

Behind the Ferrari pairing, the top ten was completed by three Brits headed by Lewis Hamilton. After topping FP1 the Mercedes driver was unable to put a clean lap together on the soft tyre and from then turned his attentions to longer runs.

Jenson Button and Paul Di Resta completed the top ten for McLaren and Force India respectively, both over a second from Vettel’s pace.

GERMAN GRAND PRIX, Nurburgring, Practice
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m30.416s 39
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m30.651s +0.235s 38
3. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m30.683s +0.267s 41
4. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m30.843s +0.427s 32
5. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m30.848s +0.432s 27
6. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m31.056s +0.640s 39
7. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m31.059s +0.643s 41
8. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m31.304s +0.888s 35
9. Jenson Button McLaren 1m31.568s +1.152s 37
10. Paul di Resta Force India 1m31.797s +1.381s 40
11. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m31.824s +1.408s 34
12. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m31.855s +1.439s 42
13. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m32.055s +1.639s 39
14. Sergio Perez McLaren 1m32.086s +1.670s 36
15. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1m32.495s +2.079s 39
16. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m32.762s +2.346s 44
17. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m32.879s +2.463s 35
18. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m32.880s +2.464s 36
19. Charles Pic Caterham 1m33.695s +3.279s 38
20. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1m33.804s +3.388s 40
21. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1m34.017s +3.601s 10
22. Max Chilton Marussia 1m34.667s +4.251s 39

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64 Comments
  1. Michael S says:

    Mercedes look like they are toying with the others at this point. I would be STUNNED if Merc does not lock out the front row again.

    1. Tealeaf says:

      Writing this just 5 min before quali, I say you’re probably right, I’d aloso be stunned if Hamilton doesn’t win on sunday.

  2. goferet says:

    First off, glad to see the tyres holding up during free practice, it appears we shall have a race after all. So yes good job Pirelli, do keep it up.

    Also it’s a good sign that the new rubber doesn’t seem to have disadvantaged anybody which is good news for the credibility of the championship.

    Only disappointment is Pirelli decided to bring the fickle soft tyres from China, I believe the supersofts would have worked better.

    If you ask me, I doubt no team will be able to last long on the softs for if you recall in China, even the gentle teams came in about the same time as the rest so I think it will be a 3 stop race for everybody.

    Now regards the form team for this weekend, according to the Red Bull pilots, they claim Mercedes is the team to beat (both on Saturday and Sunday) as they suspect they were carrying more fuel in FP2.

    As for Ferrari and Lotus, they’re still lacking that one lap pace which is more of a disadvantage for Lotus because they haven’t got an explosive launch off the grid.

    Anyway, so far, it appears Vettel is going to have a good weekend because he’s happy. At previous German Grand Prix, he used to be gloomy before and after the free practice sessions.

    1. Andrew M says:

      Yes, great job by Pirelli for providing us with tyres that can last through two sessions of Formula One without exploding into lethal shards of debris. You done it guys, keep it up!

  3. AlexD says:

    Red bull with have this one. Sad to see Ferrari struggling. What happened to their form? Tyres or develoment not as good as rivals?

    1. F1fan says:

      Red Bull are fast but not reliable. Nothing is lost for Alonso and Ferrari yet.

      1. Michael S says:

        Why does everyone keep acting like Ferrari lost the plot? They are where they have been all year, right next to the Lotus. Red Bull is a bit quicker in qauly pace, and no one has been able to to touch the Mercedes over one lap all year.

    2. JohnBt says:

      Ferrari had ECU problems which was solved and their long runs was not too bad. So don’t count them out on raceway. Somehow Alonso will find his way to the podium and hope Massa will be somewhere in the top ten.

      1. AlexD says:

        Not talking ECU, in general…they post it compared to Merc and Red Bull…typically they are now more than half a second off, so how can you take points off.

  4. Zombie says:

    Each time i look at the bottom of the timesheet and see Williams at the tailend, i cannot help but wonder what went so wrong so soon to a team that was fighting for race wins just a few years ago. Frank and Patrick must be heartbroken given the current circumstances their beloved team finds itself in..

    1. R says:

      I agree with this but i also remember that most of the championships in the last 13 years have gone to 2 drivers and 2 teams. Most people count the end of year trophies as to how well teams have been running.
      In a way struggling when there has been such dominance isn’t so noticeable considering Mclaren have little more to show and no one argues they are a weak team.
      Well done to red bull and in particular Vettel however, you are most certainly the best that’s out there currently.

  5. Nuno says:

    James,

    What would you say was the pecking order in terms of long runs?

    Thanks

    1. Tealeaf says:

      Well James didn’t answer so here’s my take on friday’s race pace pecking order:

      1. RBR
      2. Ferrari
      3. Mercedes
      4. Lotus
      5. FI
      6. Mclaren

      Thats what I believe but as we all know things can change from one day to the next, I expect Mercedes to come on strong just like Montreal and silverstone and this time Hamilton will take his first Mercedes win and Webber will for once match Vettel this season, expect Mark to be on the podium and maybe beat Rosberg to 2nd, also Vettel should hold Alonso and Kimi behind him thus preserving and extending his championship lead.

  6. CYeo says:

    If last year’s Kevlar tires are considered better than this year’s Swiss cheese of a tire, I wonder why Pirelli even bothered with the steel belt.

    Was it cheaper to manufacture?

    1. Tom Shelley says:

      Yes, apparently that is the only reason they changed it.

      1. Wade Parmino says:

        Who pays Pirelli? Is it the FIA, FOMA or the teams? They do actually charge a fee for their tyres, don’t they?

      2. Tom Shelley says:

        Yeah the teams pay. They haven’t always paid directly for tyres, but they do atm.

      3. Tealeaf says:

        No they’re basically using free tyre supply as ways of paying for sponsorship to the sport.

    2. Juzh says:

      Yes, a lot.

      1. CYeo says:

        Well, if that is the case, looks like the fondue pot has cracked with Pirelli holding the steaming mess.

        FIA asked for exciting races, Pirelli thought they were asking for cheap instead.

    3. Anne says:

      At the end of last year we were having races with one pit stop only at least for some teams. For example the US GP. So Bernie and FIA asked Pirelli to make tyres with less durability to avoid a one pit stop race this season. But as we see it´s seems impossible to mix less durability and security. Besides Bernie and FIA may love to see many pit stops. But I like to see a safe race

  7. Quade says:

    It looks like Vettel for this one.

    The tyres held up without seeming to alter the current tyre balance of the teams.

    “The steel belt was angled in one direction which is why, when you invert it, it actually goes into a point rather than being pushed along the top of the belt. That is why it creates a weakness.”
    -Paul Hembrey,

    That doesn’t make sense. When it is switched around, the angle of the steel belt remains the same. Its like using the mirror image of the tyre on the mirror image of the track.

    1. Sebee says:

      Does a court of law call on you or Paul as expert? Unless you post from Michelin R&D room that is.

    2. Mark V says:

      I would say it doesn’t make sense to YOU. What actually doesn’t make sense is that you continue to trash talk the tires despite the fact you obviously do not fully understand them or how they could fail if not used correctly.

      1. Quade says:

        How do you know I am not an expert? Please keep to the topic and make any points you have.

        The tyres are rotten thats why they can’t stand normal racing use. Proof? Only F1 is affected, yet other formula’s employ the exact same tactics, at faster speeds, on the same tracks.

      2. Mark V says:

        I can ask you the same question: how do you know I am not an expert?

        But let’s say you ARE an expert. You claim to have proof the tires are no good and yet in all your posts the past few days the best you can come up with is to make an off-handed comparison to other formulas? Based on that flimsy proof I wouldn’t hire you, (that is if you don’t already work for someone and have a hidden anti-Pirelli agenda).

    3. Wade Parmino says:

      It is a bit difficult to understand. Perhaps Mr Hembrey did not explain it in the most clear of terms.

      I’m thinking (and this is only my interpretive guess) that the steel belt is slightly conically shaped. But, this would only cause a problem if the tyre was refitted incorrectly to the rim. I don’t know if this is what was meant by “inversion”. It is confusing and my thinking is probably totally wrong.

      I think we all need a diagram to assist our understanding of this particular issue. Or a very clear explanation from a professional.

    4. Tyemz says:

      “When it’s switched around, the angle of the belt remains the same” or so the teams thought or so you think.You don’t have to agree with everything they say but for God’s sake do realise that these are expert tyre manufacturers and they know these tyres better than most of us do.
      Pirelli may not be blameless in all this but as long as the teams are blatantly disregarding operating instructions, then we can’t point fingers at Pirelli.
      GA might have done it when he was at Jordan but certainly not with tyres which were built to have a short life.

    5. mhilgtx says:

      Not sure if you can get the US broadcast but Steve Marchette did really good job explaining this using the telestrator.

      Basically the belts on these tires are a wrap. Think of a cinnamon roll or some other rolled pastry. You lay out a flat sheet of pastry (steel belt) and you apply the filling of butter sugar and cinnamon (rubber compound)to about 2/3 of the way down. Then you wrap the pastry dough around the filling making a log (probably not a log for a tire). Then you use the last bit of the dough to wrap around and seal the log up. I recommend puff pastry for this exercise :). Now slice into disk place on a buttered nonstick sheet tray and bake. To finish it all off encase (the rubber that meets the road) with cream cheese butter cream icing and serve.

      The roll for the steel belt that is over lapping will act to tighten up the roll when rolled in the correct direction. However if you roll it in the opposite direction your roll will try to come apart. As the steel belt pulls away from the rest of the tire it now has a sharp angle or point that can work to push the frosting or for a tire the compound off the tire causing the delamination.
      This is one of the issues Pirelli thinks has been happening.

      1. Quade says:

        That explanation seems plausible. However, such a construction with overlapping steel would leave the tyre lopsided and cause harmful vibrations.

  8. Glennb says:

    Vettel may well have been ‘fast’ over a lap but Webber sure looked good over the longer runs on the medium.

  9. SteveS says:

    Question here for James Allen: do you know which teams were “tyre-swapping” and which (if any) were not doing so?

    1. James Allen says:

      Most of them!

      Once one tries something that works the rest copy

      1. K says:

        A few commentators from the pits said that Mercedes started doing this after the test and then others copied them. And Rosberg admitted it gained them a lot in race pace/tyre degradation area.

        Maybe the not so good race pace times in practices so far explain that, since it’s forbidden now.

    2. JohnBt says:

      McLaren did not swap at all for both cars and Perez had two blow ups, that’s why the controversy. I guess Pirelli screwed up along the way trying to please FIA.

      1. Kingszito says:

        McLaren swapped tyres too. Mercedes was the last team to start swapping tyres. That was the reason they suffered with tyre management at the beginning. Tyre advantage has been reset to zero with these new tyres especially starting from Hungary, so any team that gets grip of it first will really mount a challenge, but if that team is RBR, then the season is over.

  10. eetFrog says:

    Apologies if this has already been brought up but It didn’t look to me as if last weeks blown out tyres had any steel in them at all, certainly compared to the ones earlier in the season where a steel belt was clearly visible?!

    1. Tyemz says:

      don’t know much about that but I’ll assume that’s because last week’s tyre failures were explosions (with the steel belt and all giving way) as opposed to the delaminations we ‘ve seen in the past.

  11. mhilgtx says:

    I am waiting on NBC to get around to showing the damn practice session. Apparently the Tour de France is more important in their eyes. Probably has to do with ratings.

    So while reading about these tire issues I remembered back to my childhood back in the 70′s and 80′s going to the drag races and how the nitro powered cars cars would under-inflate their tires. This is even noticeable when the car was being towed up to pre-stage area behind the water box because there would be a large wrinkle in the side wall. Once underway it was very noticeable and I must admit I always thought this was one of the coolest things about racing. Another memory I had was my father drilling wholes in the rims of new tires about every 1/2 inch all the way around then when the tires were mounted screwing the tire to rim with self tapping screws.

    Why did they do this, well first there was a problem with tires spinning on the rims during launch. Back then the tires had tubes so not sure how they solved this problem once they went tubeless.

    As far as the under-inflated tires if you watch dragster execute a burnout you clearly see them grow, partly due to centrifugal force but mostly from heat being rapidly applied to the tire increasing the air pressure in the tire. For the team to be under-inflating the tires today in F1 comes as no suprise since I am sure they have been doing this decades if not years.

    Here a couple of videos that clearly show this even today:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ug6w4ZjwVo

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghs8qoYPSjY

    1. timothy clarke says:

      nice post!

  12. mhilgtx says:

    James or Mod if you have time, on line 8 of paragraph 2 please replace “…drill wholes” with holes and “tires” with wheels

    Thank you very much

  13. Jean-Paul says:

    Hi everyone,
    How come Mercedes have been so strong suddenly after the “secret test”?
    And by the way, wasn’t the purpose of that secret test for Pirelli to make the tyres safe?
    Why do they another test then?

    1. Tim says:

      I think you will find there is considerable discussion on these matters in earlier articles on this website :-)

    2. Afonso Ronda says:

      Hi Jean-Paul,

      After the whole tyre test saga, Pirelli came and said that they still needed to do more testting (just before Silverstone).

  14. Sven says:

    I’m sure Mercedes are sandbagging and will easily take pole.

    I expect Webber outqualify Vettel here. If he can’t do it in Germany, which is one of his best tracks(and one of the worst Vettel’s tracks), then he can’t do it anywhere.

  15. testgate rules says:

    now the drivers can race, because there is no danger anymore.
    They keep sayng it’s a dangerous sport, but when something out of the ordinary happens, they panic.
    What a shame, telling they will boycott the gp.
    What do you think the drivers of the 70′s would think, if they saw this group of prima donnas?

    1. tarun says:

      read kimi’s statement on this issue.

      1. testgate rules says:

        Kimi is the only one with some decency. After fp1, when they saw that the tyres were ok, even vettel was saying that it was all taken out of proportion, that they were not thinking about a bycott!!! Does he think the fans are stupid.
        These bunch of cowards wanted to quit on safety grounds, using the safety of the fans as a tool.
        shame on them, and pedro de la rosa, who wants to be the leader of the bunch. Shame on them all.

    2. Hugy says:

      They wouldn’t have thought anything because drivers of the 70′s died every couple of races. And about the boycott, I sure as hell wish that the 1994 San Marino gp had been boycotted.

      1. testgate rules says:

        you can unfollow gp all together, and don’t have the wish for a race to be boycotted. think about it. You can use your free time to watch maybe figure skating. That would be safe enough for you… i hope.

    3. Matthew Pitt says:

      Actually – the drivers of the 70s would have done the same thing….

  16. grat says:

    So why does Pirelli continue to say the kevlar tires are “Less sophisticated”, when from all indications, the kevlar tires have a wider operating temperature and a more forgiving profile?

    Reading this article, it seems like the steel-belted tires were designed in such a way that failures were almost guaranteed to happen eventually– even more so if you take into account the camber, pressure and left-right swaps that Pirelli say they knew were happening.

  17. shri says:

    Lotus and Ferrari need to bring back their mojo to avoid Vettel romping away.
    If Merc can keep their tyres good they could with the race.
    For now RB seems is on top. Let us see how tomorrow turns up.

  18. Robert N says:

    James,

    why did Pirelli ever put in the steel belt in the first place? This has obviously backfired, so what were they hoping to achieve?

    1. stephen W says:

      According to Kravitz its because steel is cheaper. As the tyres are free to all teams i guess its a way of cutting costs,you could also add pandering to making F1 more entertaining which apparently was the brief Pirelli were given.

      Tyres will always have to be managed, but the extent we’ve seen recently is in my opinion making a mockery of what used to be considered the pinnacle of motorsport.

      1. Tim says:

        As the tyres are free to all teams…
        According to Adam Parr, on the Sky F1 show, the teams pay for the tyres. He stressed this point, noting that it was different to the previous tyre suppliers to F1 and that Pirelli were pleased with their contract. In addition to paying Pirelli for the tyres, the teams also carry branding on their cars – a point that irks the teams somewhat.

      2. Stephen W says:

        Thanks for that your absolutely right !

      3. Robert N says:

        Thanks. The cost aspect hadn’t occured to me.

  19. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    It’s seems to me that if teams usually had inverted the tyres, because it was normal practice to do that in past races, it was a construction error from the manufacturer to build a tyre that could explode in Silverstone if placed in the other side of the car…

    I’m happy so far P1-2 had no problems!

  20. Seifenkistler says:

    I wondered if the FIA would ever have considered forcing short-life tyres if the old Nuerburgring with only 11 laps to race would be still used. Would the current soft last even a single old lap?

    1. Gaimcap says:

      Kinda moot since I’m pretty sure the prime would be the hards with Medium options in that case.

      More interesting would be how qualifying was handled. They way it is now, essentially Q2 and Q3 would be one flying lap, since their installation laps would probably take around 8 minutes.

      I could totally see someone completely losing out because they were waiting in a queue for open air, and then just completely missing out on their timed lap. Else wise, the guy who gets out first in Q3 would almost always get pole (because he’d be the only one with clean air).

      Actually…Come to think of it… After qualifying they’d be starting on 25-30+ mile old tyres with another 10-15 to pit. The modern equiv being, doing 15+ laps on your qualifying tires, which is pretty rare at the moment. So I guess in a way you’re right, that might be a problem…

  21. Irish con says:

    I was laying in bed watching first practice this morning and thinking to myself why do they need to do a lap and then back into the pits at the start of first practice every weekend and nothing ever happens and next thing fernando stopped on the side of the track. Sorry fernando what a jinx I was. Hahaha

  22. JohnBt says:

    The proposed boycott was important also to let FIA know the drivers are not idiots for crying out loud. It’s about time!

    Game on for Sunday.

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