Teams experiments show what Ferrari’s plan might be
Scuderia Ferrari
Teams experiments show what Ferrari’s plan might be
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Feb 2010   |  7:03 pm GMT  |  147 comments

The third official test starts tomorrow. Analysing the lap time sheets from last week in Jerez, it is clear that the front running teams have already begun experimenting with the tyres and how to use them in qualifying and the race. This is critical this year because the fastest ten cars will have to start the race on their qualifying tyres so it’s essential to make sure you pick the right one.

The work done by Ferrari and Mercedes last week in particular gives us some clues about how the race weekends might play out and it tells us a bit about what the Ferrari may have been designed to do.

Ferr test
Looking at lap times by themselves is meaningless, but if you look at groups of runs and the relative lap times, you can work out on which ones the car was full of fuel and from that benchmark lap time you can calculate how much fuel they were carrying at various stages.

One of the problems the teams will face is that there will simply not be enough time during free practice sessions at the Grands Prix to evaluate how the tyres degrade over a long run. However in testing we have seen Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes doing 35 to 45 lap long runs and it’s clear that there was quite a bit of work done on evaluating whether qualifying on the harder tyre might be the way to go.

Stints of 45 laps are unprecedented in recent F1. They are also a significant factor for the drivers as the lap times will be some three or fours seconds slower at the start of the race than in previous years and that means far lower cornering g forces, which is good news for 41 year old Michael Schumacher and a key part of the reason why the new rules made a comeback more feasible.

Looking at last week, Alonso and Schumacher carried out some short three or four lap qualifying runs, then pitted and went out for long stint race runs on around 110kg of fuel, to evaluate how it might work, although they did not carry low fuel for the qualifying evaluation at this stage. Alonso used the medium and Schumacher the harder tyre.

The interesting thing was that the medium on the Ferrari seemed to be quickest on its 2nd flying lap and it then it went into a long drop off period. So Jerez showed that it could be used in qualifying on a four lap run and then prove a good race tyre despite the drop off period.

It takes quite a few laps before the performance comes back, but when it does it is pretty constant so that by the end of the run, the falling fuel weight is far more significant for lap time than the tyre degradation.

But if you are at the front and the cars behind cannot pass you then it’s a good option.

If this is the character of 2010 tyre on some tracks it will be very hard to find out during practice sessions whether stopping earlier than your rival is going to be the better option, as some people have been suggesting. So much will depend on track characteristics and how the tyres degrade on those tracks.

Alonso’s performance showed that if Ferrari can weather the long drop off period of the softer tyre without getting overtaken, then they have the faster qualifying tyre and one which will still be going strong 45 laps into the race.

Ferrari may have designed their car with a tactic in mind; it seems to work the tyre well in qualifying trim, so they will be well placed on the grid and once the tyres are through the drop off period, caused by the rears graining, it looks fast and consistent, so they are in good shape.

Schumacher’s long run on the harder tyre on the Mercedes was very consistent and showed another way of doing it. But that tyre was up to half a second slower on the qualifying lap.

But, as I said, it will be hard for the teams to get a thorough evaluation of the tyres in the time they have allocated for practice sessions, as no-one does huge long runs like that in practice.

So you might see teams split with one driver pounding round doing a long run tyre evaluation on Friday afternoons while the other works on fine tuning set up. This is what the drivers mean when they talk about working together for the team, because they will have to be well organized.

At Williams, for example, I could see Hulkenberg being sent out to do the long run, with Barrichello responsible for setting the car up across a range of different fuel loads.

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Brilliant analysis, and I think James is more on the pulse than any other analyst / website on the web. Keep it coming James. Loving the prospect of F1 2010.


Sorry James (or anyone else out there!), my brain isn’t big enough to work this out for myself, but;

If you’re a Sauber/Force India/Torro Rosso/Williams, based on this analysis, can you actually be better placed to plan for a grid slot of 11th/12th?

i.e. If you’re aiming for points more than podiums, is being able to choose your tyre in 11th place more beneficial than qualifying in 10th/9th and being locked into the same tyre?

And if so, is it possibly to estimate by how much?


James. Could you post something about the new teams (Campos/USF1) and where they are, and also perhaps some information about the test FIA used to chose them from the pack? Seems like they (FIA) did a really bad job if two of the newcomers don’t show..



Why do they test at Jerez twice? Silverstone and Monza used to be old testing stomping grounds. Portimao was also used last year. I am assuming silverstone is currently being ripped to shreds, but Monza could be used.

Another question, will they leave the current confguration for silverstone intact for other series? or so it could be used if the new ‘arena’ circuit is a flop?


Plus Silverstone is currently barely above freezing! It used to be used for in-season testing a lot, which is unfortunately no more. Scheduling a test at Silverstone in February or early March would be too much of a gamble on the weather. There might be rain in Spain but at least it’s a bit warmer!


This seems highly unlikely. Since the majority of races are now probably going to be one stop you would hardly want the final stint to be on the harder tyres. Maybe, if it is a two stop race, this strategy may work, perhaps monaco. However, I sincerely doubt they designed their car around this. Far more likely they have designed their car to simply be kind on tyres and this is just an unforseen benefit.


Hi James

What I haven’t really been able to find out is, how well is Micheal driving, would you be able to shed a little more light on this? As lap times don’t tell the full story

Many thanks


Other engineers say he’s done an impressive job


…and others will raise their game….


James just a thought, and there may be legal mumbo jumbo in the way, but have you thought of running an alternate commentary to coincide with the World TV feed from this website? Im sure that people would be very excited to an alternate to BBC and 5live…


I think The FIA would suddenly remove his F1 entry ticket. Maybe when FOTA go it along in 3 years time ZZZZZzzzzz…….Sweat dreams 8)


great idea.


Hi James,

Just a request for an article about whats happening (or not happening) with USF1? Seems like its all falling apart over there..




Read speed TV as it just they’re gonners 🙁


Looks like a great season ahead. Wish KERS was still allowed. KERS would be one more variable for this highly talented cast to play with. Imagine the skullduggery of Schumi vs. the English with KERS!


There is an unofficial agreement between the teams not to use KERS this season. however since it is still allowed it can be developed all year, ready for next. This year’s regs still show the same low values of energy storage and release.



That’s fascinating that a key reason Schumacher could come back is because of the lower cornering g-forces. Is that something you’ve been told for a fact or something you deduced?



That’s one of the things I disagree with James on, sorry James but me thinks you are over cooking that one 🙁


Well yeah I’m inclined to agree (with Dale) because surely Schumacher is still one of the fittest guys in the sport?

But James you speak to way more people in the sport (compared to my zero people!!) so would be great to hear where this info is from, even if it’s just a theory.


Hi James,

As ever – a great article and much appreciated.

I’m still concerned about overtaking next season however; the sneaky double diffuser issue has possibly eroded the outcome of the OWG but even so, as a general statement, there doesn’t appear to be strong concerted committment from any of the the main stakeholders to achieving closer on track action in F1 – and thereby giving the fans what they crave. Do you think this is a fair assessment? and if so why the reluctance?



So it looks like the teams preffered strategy will be to maximise grid position by using the softer compound to qualify and relying on the fact that overtaking in F1 is very difficult even in a faster car.

Sadly it says a lot about F1’s in ability to address the overtaking issue. Far to many races are decided on Saturday and I don’t see that changing much this year.


This year in terms os strategy it´s a new territory for everybody, so we might see very different strategy at least on the first races of the year.

At least that´s what i´m waiting for.


James, another superb article. Really enjoying your coverage of the build up to the 2010 season.

You have mentioned a couple of times that Ferrari have recruited the head of aeros from Toyota, but my questions is why can I seem to find no mention of this officaly from Ferrari?

Keep the great posts coming! Can’t get enough of them.


Do you think that Schumacher and Barrichello would be able to convert their experience with no refueling from the beginning of the 1990s, into todays situation.

They are the oldest ones in the grid with the most experience and in my opinion it might be a slight advantage.



You are getting good at this. 🙂

Great article!


Not so sure about this analysis for the following. The best tyre for quali could degrade and make the car slower at the start of the race? That means you are either going to get over taken or you will be backing the field up. By the very nature of the tyre degrading, you are going to be the first to pit against those with tyres which are not degrading. If you have not been already over taken, you will be coming out at the back of the pack that you have been holding up? Leaving you all booted and suited with no where to go until the others pit. This is based upon what we saw last year, with this years tyres believed to be similar.

There is the possibility that a new set of tyres will give you initial fast lap times, but without the track space it will be difficult to realise. A tyre that degrades quickly at the start of a race will more than likely not suffer at all at the end of the race, where fuel loads are so greatly reduced and the track has been fully rubbered in.

I am sure some cars will sacrifice lower fuel levels for improved race pace, hoping to turn the wick up when the car in front pits, allowing them to jump the car at their subsequent pit. That can only work where you have the space to put in those fast times though.

It would not surprise me if some cars have a super rich fuel setting, such they can virtually dump fuel if tactics dictate?


Thanks James, exactly the sort of expert analysis we all come to your blog for. Not sure how much info you’ll be able to get from Jerez in the next couple of days except maybe which of the cars aquaplanes the best!



Thanks for that, seriously, you are the man.

As much as I would like to see you back in the commentary box, this website and your info and insight is fantastic and much appreciated.

In a perfect world you could do both.

I’m a long time F1 fan, but I honestly can’t believe I’m following testing so closely this year.

Do you think we’ll have a better idea who’s where on the final test day?, or will we have to wait until the chequered flag in Bahain?

stay on it,







You know what, you’ve hit the nail on the head.

I’ve always thought this blog was fantastic but never been quite sure why it’s so far ahead of everything else out there…. but you’ve nailed it…. it’s because it truly brings F1 closer to us.

I’ve never felt so close or well informed about testing, politics, strategy, racing or all the protagonists.

I’m not just watching it or reading it anymore, I feel part of it and my anticipation and enjoyment of F1 has never been greater. As a result I now enjoy a sport I’ve loved for decades even more – which is not mean feat James, so thank you!

FOTA and FOM would do well to spend more time talking to you to work out how to make the sport more appealing and accessible to new fans.


“FOTA and FOM would do well to spend more time talking to you to work out how to make the sport more appealing and accessible to new fans.”

Bang on! Now you’ve nailed it. I had a similar thought today.

When you look at the official F1 website, it’s mind-numbing(except for live timing), but the site in general is disappointing and lacks the passion you feel here.

JA and are the real deal.

btw I just noticed my Bahrain typo.


Can someone explain how “Ferrari may have designed their car with a tactic”, when the rule of starting the race on tyres you qualified on is only a few weeks old?

Did Ferrari know about this rule when they started designing, or honing their design, which would have been months ago?

Zami from Melbourne, Australia

So far in my book Ferrari is the team that stands out. Whether it’s going to be Massa or Alonso that remains to be seen. Alonso is regarded as the most complete driver on the grid. Therefore, most people will put their money on Alonso. However, Massa is no monkey with the car. He is capable of winning the world championship as well.

Anyway, looking at the tests and reading this article I’m not convinced the significant rule changes will play out very well for any team in particular. Teams will take a few races to adjust with these changes. In that case the experienced driver such as Schumacher & Barrichello are ahead of the game as far as the understanding of the rules goes. On the other hand, Williams probably do not have a winning car at this stage compare to the Ferraris, Mercs, Red Bulls & Mclarens. Mclaren definitely is capable of developing the car rapidly as the season goes under way. They have shown it in the past that 1st half of the season tells a different story than the 2nd half of the season. And Mclaren is certainly the team I’d expect to improve the most if they are not at the front right away. At the same time, most cars looks like a modified copy of last year’s Red Bulls. So, Red Bull will be very strong with the combination of exciting Vettel & experienced Webber and we are really up for an exciting season.

Well James, I was wondering what happens with the cars that leaks fuel during the race (not necessarily their own fault)? Are those cars being allowed to refuel to make up for the loss?

It was good to know about Michelin’s interest to get back into F1. I hope we get back to the tyre war era again. The fights between Bridgestone & Michelin were exciting.

My other question was James, is there any new rule at place for wet weather condition?


A car that leaked fuel would be black flagged anyhow. The fuel cells are designed to be resistant to puncturing in a crash. If a fuel line broke, it would be bound to ignite on the engine, so there wouldn’t be a workable car to re-fuel.

So simple answer is that the no refuelling rule means exactly no refuelling. Any “but we ran out of fuel argument” would be a loophole to exploit.

Zami from Melbourne, Australia

Thanks mate


youre really good james, thanx for this excellent insight


Amazing analysis James!

Hopefully there will be some dry testing in the next four days and we can get a better idea of the how cars perform.

What do you think will be the pecking order this time? Any guesses?



hi James;

Very interesting observations/ suggestions here. It is something I’ve been wondering about too — there has been a lot of concentration/fascination about the fastest cars in testing and I’m thinking smooth driving styles will be rewarded over the race distance.

The fuel loads/ tire degradation balance might see drivers such as Button, Barrichello, Alonso, and Schumacher collecting points regularly. If your suggestion works out then it is hard to believe the ‘unhired’ Nick Heidfeld isn’t on the grid… clearly those drivers with skill and on-track experience will be able to manage the balance more successfully from race to race.

At first I thought the Ferrari looked clumsy, even ‘over-designed’ at the front end but seeing how they have been able to work through the race distance equation has me liking Alonso’s chances more and more. And if I was too hard on Massa — he’s done mammoth distances in testing so far.

After the next batch of tests — weather permitting — I think we will have a better feel for which cars can also manage the fuel economy of the race distance. Being ‘light’ on the tires with a few kilos less fuel should translate into race distance speed too.


Seems a tricky situation this year. It’s not about out right pace. To win races and championship, convolution of various factors will be required. I totally agree that team work will be of utmost importance.

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