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Button – “It’s all about the first few laps..”
McLaren Honda
Button – “It’s all about the first few laps..”
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Mar 2010   |  6:00 pm GMT  |  160 comments

World Champion Jenson Button spoke to a few of the leading F1 websites today on a phone-in from the McLaren Technology Centre.

He seemed very upbeat after the testing and clearly believes that he has a competitive car. However he said that the last few weeks have proved to him that the first few laps of the race are going to be vital,
Picture 21

“It’s like an endurance race, like Le Mans, ” he said. “The car works very differently from high to low fuel loads in terms of balance. It is a different way of driving from last season. We have to look after the tyres a bit more, it’s tough on the tyres. If you damage the tyres on lap three in the race you’re screwed for the whole stint. So you have be gentle with the car.

“You have to work them the right way. They are on a knife edge, either they work or if they get outside the temperature range they fall off a cliff.”

Button confirmed what we’ve been saying on JA on F1 for some time, that the adjustable front wing is proving a crucial tool this season. Ferrari had theirs before McLaren and made good use of it, but it was interesting to note at the final test in Barcelona when McLaren fitted theirs for the first time, how much it helped in preserving the tyres over the long runs.

Hamilton’s race simulation on Sunday afternoon showed the lap times coming down nice and gradually, from 1m26s to 1m 25s in the first stint, then from 1m24s to 1m23s in the second stint and then from high 1m23s to 1m22s and low 1m 23s in the final stint.

“The way the cars work now with high fuel you really are adjusting the front wing a lot,” said Button. “Having it at the last test, you play around with it a lot as the fuel load comes down and through every stint and it’s key. The reliability of that front wing is key.”

Button also said that it is clear that the way the races will run this season will be quite different, things will be far less planned and much more reactive,
“I think the top teams will have similar strategies, although people will be looking to stop two or three laps before their rivals so they can get out and jump them,” he said. “You will also have the teams that aren’t so competitive trying crazy strategies like pitting on lap one and then hoping they can run to the end of the race.

“There will be lots of different strategies which will make it very exciting for the viewers but will make it very difficult for us. You cannot plan in advance really. All you can do is go through every scenario and hope that you are ready when you have to jump on a strategy change.”

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Hi James,

Do you know which (if any) teams do not have a driver adjustable front wing?

I believe Force India did not have one last year and I suspect that Lotus & Virgin to do not yet have one.


I believe Force India still don't have one but they did comment at their car launch it's something they may add on at a later date if seen as necessary - going by the comments in this post above I would expect to see one on the car soon if they haven’t added it already!

Nadeem Zreikat

Red Bull didn't have it last year, it would be good to know.


Sounds like F1 is going back to what it should be.... fair... but unpredictable.

I never believed in re-fueling... it never helped, everyone waits for fuel stops to help overtake, and everyone basically ran the same stratergy.

On top of that with no refueling there will be 4- 5 second per lap difference, meaning overtaking will happen. You cannot out accelerate an empty car with a full one... Its going to be great.


Too soon to say 'fair'. Let's wait and see how the FIA treat Schumacher (they'll want to see him win at least a few races again)!


Dale, what do you mean? Curious.


FOM (Bernie) would want Schumacher to win something, but I don't think the FIA has been biased towards him very often, quite the contrary. But I can definitely say that they have been very biased towards Ferrari until 2009 (think of the penalties against Hamilton in 2008, tyre rule change in 2003 against Michelin before Monza). In 2009, Ferrari were not favoured by the FIA because of their strong support behind FOTA.


I do not see how would there be an empty car and a full one on the same lap of a GP when they will all be on almost identical fuel loads. The only difference will be in the tires (although a big one) and the person behind the wheel 🙂


Surely he means that has been the case for the last few years not the future


Oops.... you're right there...

That said it was interesting to here Alonso talking about burning excess fuel off during a race in order to arrive at the finish on empty.. interesting concept!

I guess as they cannot refuel, its going to be difficult to ensure they have enough at the end ( remember the old days of mansell running out of fuel on the last lap) so they will have to overfill at the start and burn off any excess fuel.

I can't wait to see who the first numpty is to run out of fuel just before the end of a race


I'd be surprised to see cars running out of fuel.

It happened in the 1980s but that was more a consequence of three things - fuel hungry turbo engines, regulations that limited fuel tank size for turbo cars and less sophisticated engine management software than exists now.

Felipe Massa had to manage his pace to conserve fuel at last year's Spanish GP, but that was more to avoid the need for an extra pitstop.


As Alex says, I doubt they'll overfill - remember that the malarky with the safety cars was that teams would fuel to the precise lap and then if there was a safety car on that lap they had to pit and get a penalty otherwise run out. Charley Whiting kept telling them to keep a few laps of fuel in hand but none of them listened to him. So the same will be the case here - they won't run more fuel than they need to. Only if there's a safety car will the be in excess of fuel.


He spoke of this in the context of a Safety Car period, when the cars only use about 1/3 the fuel they need in race conditions (if I'm not mistaken). Which means that during a SC they would have to run as rich as possible in order to 'dump' some of the excess.


Button says: “It’s like an endurance race, like Le Mans,”. This does not bode well. The last thing F-1 needs is to be more processional. All too often it was only the pit stop strategy that made a race interesting. Banning re-fueling is a mistake, and it is Formula-1 fans that have to pay the price!


You get the sense that for the kind of spectacular overtaking that fans are looking for, the technical regulations have to be relaxed abit to allow more variations in engineering the car to allow significant differentials in performance that would then allow overtaking.

So long as FIA has such a tight narrow technical band within which the car must be built, overtaking will be restricted. the provision for optional KERS last year for example provided for such opportunity. Cars that were otherwise uncompetitive in one aspect used KERS to be able to compete with those that had an edge in the diffuser etc etc.

There is the tiered series argument against this but if the technical differences are not complementary this should enable authentic racing. For example, having KERS last year had the advantage of a power boost that was then negated by more difficult weight distribution etc. Thus if the technical differentials are optional and designed such that it is impossible to get synergy by having the entire package of options, we would be able to see some exciting racing as teams would be forced to choose technologies that suit their engineering skills best.

It would be rare to have two teams with technically similar cars on the grid and performance would vary with circuit, weather, reliability etc. This variability would equal more unpredictability and therefore better racing. It would also be more demanding for drivers as they would be required to compensate for the weaknesses of their cars to negate their competitors advantages on different circuits. Good drivers would be better rounded, more adaptive, more strategic rather than just pure racers. Rules would be more stable for longer as the engineering would by definition allow for enough good racing not to call for constant tweeking of regulations.


I like what your saying, however as long as you have qualifying there will always be less overtaking. Cars line up in order of speed. Why would we expect that to change in the race???

It may happen this year as some cars will favour the start when they are heavy compared to some which will perform better on low fuel.


Great post.

Opening up the regs would though have to coincide with a budget cap as without it the richest teams would cover all angles and be way too fast (for safety and for competing with the other teams). That's why the FIA put such tight restrictions in place and as you say, results in identical cars.


Bang on and bravo! For this reason alone, I wanted to see a breakaway.

All the FIA and FOTA surveys don't really cover what you've so compelling stated. It's not merely about "technology" or "ensuring that F1 remains the technical pinnacle." Apart from anything else, fans want Variety - of cars, engines, tracks and drivers; and Close Racing - not merely overtaking, but legitimate opportunities to overtake ON TRACK, not in the pits. Have those, and you'll also have Spectacle and Relevance. As you say, variety would do that.

F1 has always been innately conservative - For all it's self promotion as a unique and "higher" form of racing than any other, imitation, outright copying and "that's just how we do it here" thinking are just as prevalent as in any other form. Perhaps more so.

There has never been a diesel F1 car. Diesels showed up at Indianapolis in the 1950s and before. Audi has been running them at Le Mans and elsewhere for years now. Why never in F1?

The last of the 500cc GP two-stroke motorcycles produced 200hp from those 500ccs. Why not bring that technology to F1, especially since direct injection has produced two-stroke engines, in regular use right now (see the Evinrude E-Tec Series outboard motors), that meet the most stringent emissions standards?

Everyone uses side-mounted radiators to cool their engines, radiators that do little to nothing at rest or at low speed. Surely all that aero knowledge is already used to optimize airflow into those radiators, and airflow provides most of the cooling (note the fans and dry ice packs stuffed into them pre-race). So why not eliminate the weight and complication of radiators, and just optimize that flow further and use air cooling alone?

Front wheel drive? Why not?

None of this will happen, of course, absent looser rules and the willingness to take such risks. In other words, it won't happen in F1. Hey, Button's mentioned Le Mans. Maybe the ACO will kick things off by starting an open wheel series. Hmmmmm....


Sounds like its gonna be a 'fast cruise' and they'll want to just stay close to the front until near the end, then a sprint to finish.

Fuel ecomedy racing. How boring.


I disagree - if you look back to races pre 1994, the races were often much more exciting - refueling made the races a series of sprints punctuated by one car passing another during a pitstop.


Yep I agree - it was much better pre-94. The races during the refuelling era were frustrating to watch. I felt they never got a chance to develop, they seemed devoid of any texture or 'storyline'; just as a dogfight began to heat up someone would dive into the pits and the thread was lost.

On occasion refuelling improved the show - more often than not, it detracted from it.


I'm with you on that. Bring back the art of improvisation, not pit strategy! Ironic that mandatory pit stops were once frowned upon because they were reintroduced as an artificial means to "spice up the show," but now everyone is lamenting their end.

Of course, if a certain R. Brawn and M. Schumacher (pre-Ferrari) hadn't demonstrated the tactical advantages of planning a race around pit stops, that trend wouldn't have become so prevalent...


Agreed - good riddance to refueling, now please can they also do away with the mandatory pit stop please?!


I understand your concerns. From my perspective I want overtaking on the track, not by pit stops and wildly varying fuel loads.

I can't wait to see how some of these drivers last on full fuel tanks.

They will learn very quickly, and it will reward the brave who chance overtaking on full tanks, and those that can look after their tyres.

If the net result is processional racing, maybe that will trigger them doing something about overtaking.

Ultimately these guys are racers. Give them a shopping trolley and they'd race them (see usf1).


Interesting the bit where he says

"If you damage the tyres on lap three in the race you’re screwed for the whole stint. So you have be gentle with the car."

Would that mean drivers being worried about going for overtaking moves where they could lock up the tyres and cause a flatspot early in a race? Or even following the car in front too closely?

While last season we had some great moves by Button, Kobayashi etc now they may all have to think twice about it in order to make them last the stint while the cars are still heavy. If that happens it will be a real shame.


The same situation existed when fuel stops were permitted - destroy your tyres and you have to live with it until the scheduled stop.

Stopping for tyres either put you out of sync with your fuel strategy or you had to change the strategy. If anything, banning fuel stops means that an unplanned tyre change is less of a problem.


I see your point but now the cars will be a lot heavier than ever before at the start, increasing braking distances significantly - won't that make flat spots more likely to happen than before in that phase of the GP, and feel even worse to drive with when they happen?

Yes the strategies will now be dictated by the tyre stops (i.e when they lose performance and depending on track position) but you have to assume teams will ideally only want to do 1 or 2 tyre stops per race.

The good side is that we may get to see chases and battles like that epic 1987 Silverstone Piquet v Mansell again.

the speed gods

and don't forget that the cars are going to look slow during that first part of the race. I don't know what the spectators are going to think about that, watching from a 300 euro grandstand, under the blazing sun.

Not me you can be sure about that. I'll be watching from my sofa, with a cold beer close by.


They'll look fast - especially if they are showering sparks over the track like they used to!


The difference now though is no flat floors and they have the plank don't they.

I loved the senna Prost mansell era. Just amazing. I remember mansell chasing down senna at Monaco. One of the main memories from growing up for me.


If anyone thinks they'll look slow on tv or in a grandstand then I'm Ayrton Senna. No way you'll be able to tell without looking at the times.


Speed gods, I did see some of the turbo era and I thought it was great. My point was that if you go and watch the race, these cars are very fast.

I would be amazed if the laptimes for the modern non turbo era ( would like to see them for a comparable track) were quicker than now.

I don't want to see overtaking caused bu pitstops. Let the guys sort it out on the track.

I Want to see guys taking the risks on full tanks, not three short sprint races with small fuel loads.

the speed gods

you guys never saw atrton senna on a turbo car. That's fast. Most of you can't compare. So for you it's fast. But telling me that 4 secs can't be noticed, it's a little over the top. We are talking gp2 here. But yes, a gp2 it's a pretty fast car.


I think even fully laden with fuel an F1 car is going to look super fast!


I have watched many live f1 races, and you don't get the feel of how fast or how loud these things are until you have seen them (4secs a lap won't change that).

Go to the British grand prix and watch them coming out of the pits exit at full throttle from behind. Now that is loud!


Well apparently you and I and most others 'can't compare' (see "the speed god's" post below mine below!). Hilarious! Oh if only we could compare with the 'speed god'.


james do u think that massa this year is a better driver than hamilton was in 07 thus will be alonsos biggest threat yet.thats my feelings anyway.i remember u saying that mclaren were ahead after the first testing week.what has changed that with people saying ferrari now


I reckon psychologically Massa will definitely be his biggest challenge. Alonso can't cope with a fast team mate, it hurts his pride - having said that I think his pride was hurt more with Hamilton because he was a rookie.


Hamilton had two things going against him in '07; he was a rookie (inexperienced), and the pressure got to him at the end of the season.

His pace was right there on par with Alonso´s and in some cases quicker (Monaco).

I don't think that anybody expected that. Least of all Alonso. Massa is very quick; but it remains to be seen whether or not he has improved his race craft (i.e. win a race, without starting on pole) ... If he can do that then it will be very close.


You have clearly forgotten about Hungary 2008 where he started from 3rd and overtook Hekki AND LEWIS at the very first corner.

He dominated the race until his engine failed.

On paper, yes, but he demonstrated that he can overtake and win a race.

There were many occasions where he started from the back overtook many cars.


Ferrari were strong from the first test onwards. I think it's close enough that updates and track characteristics will make the pendulum swing from one to the other.


To add to your comment: I think the likes of Hamilton especially, the drivers that can get the best out of a not perfect will have a huge advantage with the opposite for those drivers that are only at their best when the car is on it.


Good insights as always James. I cant wait for 2 weeks time.


you obviously rate Hamilton as pretty decent (understatement). Have you formed any thoughts about how close you expect him and Jenson to be?

I suspect Hamilton will always have the edge over a quick lap or stint, but that over race distance they will be very evenly matched.

I expect it to be very close in the majority of races and dont expect one driver to trounce the other (I think similar to Alonso and Felippe Massa)


To overtake someone in f1 is difficult at the best of times. Button has proved he can overtake. But, my worry is, as Button has highlighted, because drivers will have to care more for their tyres, they may choose not to overtake as they may over work their tyres on that one corner. Braking later and so on. And then ruin the rest of their stint. This could be a very exciting year. It could also turn out to be one of the most boring too. Only 2 weeks and we'll finally find out.


Also what has to be remembered is that if a driver does damage their tyres, they can come in whenever and not really incur a penalty.

For example, with refuelling, pit stop windows were set. A driver had to come in at a certain time otherwise they'd run out, or drive on a heavier tank ruining tyres and going slower than those around them. Or they could stop, put new tyres on and come in again to refuel. Strategy would literally go out the window.

Now though, if a driver damages his tyres, what's to stop him calling the pits and making a stop within a lap? no need to worry about recalculating fuel tank levels and weights, and the fresh rubber certainly wouldn't hinder them.


Now though, if a driver damages his tyres, what’s to stop him calling the pits and making a stop within a lap? no need to worry about recalculating fuel tank levels and weights, and the fresh rubber certainly wouldn’t hinder them.

Certainly, fresh tires won't be a hindrance, but coming out behind Trulli can be the equivalent of a penalty 😉

Trulli-train references aside, the point is that pit-stops are still subject to strategic decisions, traffic being one of the factors to consider.


Exactly right - the pit speed limit was always a bigger cost of time than refueling was.


My feeling is that (generally!) in the recent past, we've seen most over-taking moves occur at the start of a race. This season we may see the reverse, a lack of over-taking at the start whilst the drivers take care of their precious rubber... then as the race progresses and strategies unfold, more over-taking near the end of a race, where one driver has taken the life out of his tyres and another hasn't.

Well, that's what I hope! Yet, I fear a processional season... with the odd mis-calculation of fuel or tyre-wear and when that happens then we'll have the most interesting races... or, of course, when the weather intervenes.

I don't mind, I'll still be watching... I've tried to explain to friends\colleagues etc, that even the dullest race (on the face of it) is still fascinating to me 🙂

Will we see anyone doing a Mansell (Dallas '84) and physically pushing their car over the finishing line? 😉


I don't foresee the start of races being any more exciting than last year because of what you say. But towards the end, let's say a driver is way out front but he killed his tyres in the process and pitted ages ago. Someone who just pitted is going to be catching them and it'll be way more exciting. Can't wait!


On some tracks the ideal strategy would be to perform three pit stops. A lot of the teams and drivers were doing this on their race distances at Barcelona. If drivers know they're intending to pit three times then i'm sure they'll not be so worried about tyre wear, and will be going for the over taking manuover.


I'm not so sure, because of the refuelling ban I think drivers will be forced to make overtaking moves


More importantly there will be massive differentials of speed when someone has just pitted relative to somebody else


Sounds like this will play into JB's hands. Lewis is always chucking the car about, and doubtless this will effect the tyres.

Prediction; Lewis to regularly beat JB in qualifying; JB to get the better of Lewis in the races.

Thomas in Australia

I think Lewis chucks the car around to get that extra 10th of a second. He's quite capable of driving more conservatively.

Prediction; JB a clear #2 all year, but with pure class and dignity.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

I agree. I think that he'll do a very good job but end up as no. 2......nothing like the sitation at Renault vs Fisi in 2001.

He'll haul in decent points and will be a credit to the team....certainly better than Kovi who seemed to have his head done in in his second year.


Poor Kovi, great bloke but second rate driver, Button will surely be way better than him.


I dunno bout that. I think Lewis will go conservative if and when he needs to. He seemed to be treating his tyres just fine in that race sim yesterday.


yes but the heat of a race is completely different to a race sim. Lewis has shown that he can´t help himself with getting the upper hand when in hot contest with other drivers: many times he´s made spectacular moves, on occasion he´s completely flopped it by letting impatience get the best of him. We´ll see how this year develops with his driving style, but i can´t help the sensation that in the long run he may level off great moves with spectacular drops. in the past that has been his greatest setback and on occasion his undoing.


I disagree. If Lewis' race performance drops, he's intelligent enough to realise he'll have to adapt his driving style to get the most out of the car - and he's good enough to do it. Over a race distance i think they'll be very evenly matched.


Agreed, Hamilton is one of the best at adapting. Many people have said the Button is fast but only if the car is exactly to his liking - hence why in the second half of last yr Barrichello was better.

the speed gods

wouldn' be a better idea, to make tyres that easily would last the hole race, so they could abuse them and still not be penalized by it? This would encourage overtaking, instead of being thinking about flatspoting them, and ruining the stint?


Such tires would come with a huge performance deficit. And, the 'both-compounds-have-to-be-used-during-a-race-by-each-driver' rule is still in effect.


Tyre changes were banned in 2005 and it was very exciting. But taking the skill out of it by making them so durable that they couldn't be damaged would be a backward step - I'm also not so sure it'd be possible; e.g. locking up at 150mph and not flatspotting?


A good F1 tyre is one that lasts as long as it is needed, no more, and no less, otherwise it would be carrying something it did not need, and thus would make it worse.

But I loved 2005 and the no tyre-change rule!

the speed gods

but remember in the 70's. They were slyding all the time, and they rarely had to change tyres. That's what i am talking about. Tyres that you can abuse. So they can use the cars hard, to make the racing most spectacular.


Ah ok now i see what you mean. But sliding is different to locking up as the wheels are still spinning and so doesn't result in flatspotting. I agree it would be exciting to watch but I guess the problem with that would be that nowadays the cars are just so reliant on aero, which they weren't as much in the 70s, which means that a car in front will now always be way better off because they have clean air. Making the tyres so hard that they couldn't be damaged through sliding would mean making them much harder, therefore reducing mechanical grip. But the general consensus is that to allow cars to follow closer (and therefore increase overtaking) they need to increase reliance on mechanical grip over aero. Also, I think that a car going sideways isn't generating as much downforce as a one going forwards (even if turning) and so again going sideways would be a further disadvantage when aero is so important.

I wouldn't necessarily disagree with you but i think it'd need to be part of a package where downforce was also vastly reduced - and i mean way more than they've ever done before as of course they just keep gaining it back!


"“The way the cars work now with high fuel you really are adjusting the front wing a lot,” said Button. “Having it at the last test, you play around with it a lot as the fuel load comes down and through every stint and it’s key. The reliability of that front wing is key.”"

Interesting that the downforce balance needs adjusting as the fuel load diminishes. I was put straight by Martin the other week re the centre of mass being within the fuel bladder and thus unchanged throughout the race, he also mentioned that the centre of downforce needed ideally to coincide with the centre of mass, this seemed very logical, but now I am wondering if all the flapfiddling is indicating that either the premise above was wrong, or McLaren and a lot of others have a flaw in the aero balance.


isn't the flap because the centre shifts under braking/accelerating ? So you adjust it for different corners & higher speeds etc ?


As the fuel load comes down, the handling of the car changes and the front flap is used to compensate.

If, for example, the car starts understeering with less fuel the driver can increase the front flap to get the front end to bite more and thus bring it back to a more neutral attitude.

If, on the other hand, the car starts to oversteer with less fuel the driver can decrease the front flap to bring it back to neutral.

This also impacts tire wear and performance. When the car understeers the front tires are sort of sliding accross the tarmac thus increasing wear and operating temperature. The same applies to oversteer and rear tires. The front flap allows the driver to dial out excess understeer/oversteer.


I can't read comments anymore on my mobile james, I see its a new site to so something has changed.


There has been some work going on this last 24 hours on cacheing and there are some problems as a result for non-Wordpress users. We are working to resolve the situation. Thanks for your patience.


I agree. I'm going to miss refueling, and whereas I can see the logic in it (forcing overtaking to occur on-track and not the pits), I'm not particularly looking forward to the tracks where it can't happen such as Monaco and Hungary.


During Q3 every garage is going to need an FIA tyre marker/observer because if a driver makes a good time he is going to come in and take those tyres off and save them for the start. Then repeat with another set for a 3 or 4 lap run which may be quicker. The FIA needs to know and be able to identify which tyres per car per time set. Or are they relying on the honesty of the team personnel? Do I foresee an after race disqualification for starting on the wrong tyres? Perhaps an in race penalty of an extra change to old tyres. Only if all tyre serial numbers are taken during Q3 will it be possible to prove anything. However since they now have to give half the tyres back before Quali maybe the remainder can be colour coded in sets to make life easier for the FIA


There's really no need for the kind of monitoring you suggest as the cars go straight into parc ferme following Q3.


Yes, but they still need to have the relevant tyres - they may not necessarily set their fastest lap on their last run; it's the set that gives them their grid position they need to start the race with, not what they finish the session with


No it will need monitoring because it's the tyres that the fastest time is set on - not the last set. This won't always be the same set.


Good point but to suggest anyone would bend or cheat the rules - whatever next 🙂


In the btcc all tyres are RF tagged and registed as drivers pass through sensors in the pit lane, I expect F1 must atleast be at this level of tyre control?


Ah well if that's the case it could all be done automatically then if the FIA has the right software.


Aslong as the mclaren garage is watched it will be ok. We all know the Brits are the dirty dogs in f1


You might like to read up on the history of Ferrari breaking into the Williams garage to take measurements and various Ferrari personnel caught in other teams transporters !


Makes a change from Irish complaints about the French cheating I suppose 😉


boys but u guys are easy to wind up lmao haha

Zobra Wambleska

Give it a rest.


Ha ! Doesn't FIA stand for 'ferrari's insider assistant' ?


Yeah right. And I suppose Piquet, Briatore, Renault, Schumacher are all Brits? You can't tarnish a whole nation by spygate.


"You will also have the teams that aren’t so competitive trying crazy strategies like pitting on lap one and then hoping they can run to the end of the race."

Will it really be as extreme as that? Find it hard to believe. Guess we'll see though.

Also, if these front wing adjustable flaps are actually going to be useful it'd be nice to have a KERS style graphic to show them being used, although I suspect we're not going to get that.


No strategy will ever work if you cannot pass, no matter how much faster you are in theory, in practice it all goes to pot and you end up at the same speed as the lowest common denominator in front. Therefore bold and aggressive passing will come to the fore this year.

Mr S will have to watch his weaving/blocking as the rules have been tightened since his day and as he is no longer with the leaping horse (whisperer) all the rules apply to him as well this time. Lets face it he got away with the proverbial "hand of god" far too many times in the past. People remember this so there may be a queue at the steward's office if he misbehaves again.


Totally agree rpaco.

Incidentally THIS was the real thing about KERS last year. It didn't matter a jot if it was 0.2 seconds a lap slower or faster to run with it or without, or whatever.

The REAL benefit of KERS was that you'd launch off the line make up five or six places, and then with noone else able to pass you would royally screw their races to the tune of 20 plus seconds. If you did so outside the top 10 it was even worse as they were generally stopping once less than the top 10 guys. And you could carry more fuel than those around you safe in the knowledge you'd still clobber them off the line.

There was quite a lot of times when someone like a Kovi would utterly split the field in half by qualifying on the fringes of the top 10, then leap up to 6th or 7th and hold the rest of them up and generally alter the balance for the minor points.

It won't be so dramatic this year with no KERs but you'd figure there may be ways to be the "blocker" again with the new strategies in play.


A TV graphic for the flap adjustment is an excellent idea. Who has Bernie's mobile number handy?

I guess they must already have some data about the use of the flap to enforce the 2 adjustments per lap rule.


I really forgot the adjustable-front-wing tool. It could really help the drivers during the race. I remember last year when Fernando told the press: "I have never used it all the season long" :-S


James, Love your Blog, love the content, but really don't like this new format, have to be honest... Keep it Simple. Thanks 🙂


What new format are you referring to?


I think it sometimes appears as the mobile version even on a normal computer, eg: news headlines as widgets.


This is some truly wonderful insight in the upcoming season. I mean the difference between worn tyres and new tyres can be up to 3 seconds a lap or so. So that hands the possibilty that teams can go for a late pitstop and make up for the lost time within 10-12 laps and still have the faster car. Meaning possibility to overtake the cars in front

Certainly when you throw in the suggested odd strategy by the less competitive teams there can be some more interesting racing and overtaking coming up this season.

The other nice aspect is that you really don't know when teams are going to stop. Normally this was fuel related, but know it is the great unknown, even for the teams themselves.

Can't wait to see how this season will unfold!


Its gonna be really odd not seeing the cars getting re-fuelled this but I hope it will come back next year as it was a vital part of the race. But this year will be interesting and now you will be able to see how talented the drivers are to be able to drive such an heavy car and adapt every lap as the car gets lighter.

We will see that fastest lap during the end up of the race when the cars are at its lightest...


"I think the top teams will have similar strategies, although people will be looking to stop two or three laps before their rivals so they can get out and jump them"

No one worth their salt will let a driver closing in on their own car pit more than one lap before said car, which should allow the leading car to still lead after a pitstop.

This whole rule setup lends itself to an aggressive qualifying effort, followed by 300 kilometers of defensive driving, trying to keep the spot you earned on Saturday. I foresee a field full of Trulli-inspired trains.


The hard facts are that GP racing has always been more often processional than not. The fastest cars at the front followed by the second fastest cars followed by the third, and so an so forth...

During the refueling era, all that changed was a several periods of artificial uncertainty at the end of which the fast cars were at the front followed by the second fastest cars followed by the third fastest cars, and so on and so forth...


If the tyres on going to be such a big factor, i would love to see the blue flags scraped and watch the leaders have to overtake the back markers whilst having to consider their tyres.


I'm very much in favour of this too... but it won't happen 🙁


As Button said "you had to look after the tyres". Perhaps at last the driver will be as important as a car is crucial. I would like to see F1 where the driver contributes at least 50% to overall performance. To me no re-fueling makes F1 more interesting.


Alain Prost! nuff said!


The thing that bugged me about last year was that nobody seemed to be using adjustable wings - it was common to see the traditional wing adjustments being made. They were rarely mentioned.

To see the comments that McLaren did not have an adjustable wing to bring to the early tests, when you'd assume they'd have a year's worth of trialling them so it should have been a no brainer makes me wonder about what did go on last year with all the discussion on the Working Group Overtaking fixes.


I always like hearing JB's thoughts, he comes across as the most honest of the front runners. Really can't wait for qualifying in Bahrain!

James, do you expect the cars to change order as the race progresses? Ie, in the first quarter of the race could mclaren be quickest then in the next part of the race could rbr be quicker? Or will it be more like 2009 when the quickest car stayed quickest all race?


It will be about track position - always is. Now the chance to jump a car in the pit stops is about pitting a lap or two before the car in front.


I take it that means it's essential to predicting how long the SECOND set of tyres can last then?... So you leap into the pits as soon as you're into their 'window' to last to the end and hope you were the first of the pitters?


As ever in F1, there won't be any single item to factor in, but I'm guessing it's going to be important to have the longest lasting set of tyres on last.... and whoever is kindest to their tyres stands the chance of getting that set on first.

It means therefore that you're running tyre strategy from the end backwards, not the start forwards - so you'd plan to come in AS SOON AS you're in the 2nd sets' window to run to the end, NOT when your first set is knackered (so the first set is only there to run you through to that window, not until they're knackered).

Wow that makes it complicated when choosing tyres for qualifying! Get it right and you could win from fourth/fifth row just on tyre strategy.

That's before we think about it raining.

Blimey, I think my head's going to explode.

James, do they actually have the software to help calculate this stuff or is it square one on that front until they get a season of data stored?


This is v interesting, since you may calculate that your second set will last until the end, but then ferrari pit 2 laps before you thus they may be in front of you when you emerge from your stop, you then have to push to close the gap, thus using your tyres quicker than originally thought.

Most teams I would guess will be making at least 2 stops and they will both be subject to change according to what your rivals are doing.

Is a false pit crew turnout allowed?


I think you're right. As James wrote recently, it's going to be important for teams to get long runs in during practice to gauge the tyre performance.


Predict, not predicting!


“You will also have the teams that aren’t so competitive trying crazy strategies like pitting on lap one and then hoping they can run to the end of the race.

“There will be lots of different strategies which will make it very exciting for the viewers but will make it very difficult for us. You cannot plan in advance really. All you can do is go through every scenario and hope that you are ready when you have to jump on a strategy change.”

I was imagining the clever people at Mclaren with their computers trying to work all this out and i started to do some back of the envelope calculations. ...Then i realized i'm not that clever and don't have enough degrees to work it out and might be doing it wrong. 🙂

...22 drivers, 2 types of tyres. So for each driver each lap they have 3 choices which are stay out or pit for the softer or harder tyre. Lets say the race is 50 laps long. i believe the resulting number of possible scenarios is absolutely gigantic, hence the "You cannot plan in advance really" quote.

The clever people in the teams will undoubtedly cut down the number of possible scenarios by assuming drivers won't stop more than a certain number of times in a race and that they are unlikely to stop again soon after making a stop. they will have models for the performance of each car that they will factor in.

Anyone out there with a degree in Maths want to expand on this and try and work out the number of possible scenarios?

my crap maths suggested that (assuming a driver might pit each lap...yes i know that can't happen in real life):

number possibilities = (3^22)^laps

[3 choices each lap. 22 cars]


When making a strategy it is important to remember that there are different scenarios that could happen at each stage of the race (safety car, weather, wing change etc)

Depending on which tyre the car starts the race on it is common logic that tyre wear is going to be highest at the beggining due to high fuel loads and less grip compared to the end of the race. Also factor in that a standard stop now takes about 21/22 seconds from pit in to pit out. Now through testing cars were experiencing that a change of tyres can make up to 3 secs difference a lap, meaning a car on average could pit every 7/8 laps but this isnt feasible or practical.

Through a calculation I have worked out it is best depending on type of tyre and considering fuel load, it is the best strategy to start on the harder compound and pit for another set of hards at 25/30% race distance and again at 60% for the final stint of soft tyres.

If starting on soft pit 20/25% race distance for hard compound, 55/60% for soft again to finish the race. This should keep the tyre wear constant with the ever decrease in the amount of fuel.


I think what best tire to use in Q3 will be determined by the race engineers based on the particular circuit and how good their individual car is good at preserving/optimizing their tire each lap, and hence will determine whether to go for performance / or durability. You bet they'd have dozen of computers doing simulations based from their Friday practice times.

Therefore, for example last year Brawn GP knew they had difficulty bringing their tires up to speed at the colder European races, hence they'd probably go for the hard-compound in Q3 and be a little off the pace initially, but their tire will last longer and pick up speed during the end of the stint.

Whereby, Force India, for instance, had serious problems with tire graining under high-downforce circuits like Monaco, hence they'd perhaps go for softer compounds and more pit-stops in order to maximize their speed, because it won't be too durable aways.

All this just based on my limited F1 fan knowledge, any tire experts out there pls clarify. 😉

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

You have to work with factorials (! symbol in mathematics).

Firstly, you have to decide what makes most sense to look at. You could look into the number of possible outcomes available to a driver and or to look at the number of outcomes for an event. You could then look at the number of orders in which events could happen. Given that there are numerous factors that can affect when a car pits and changes tyres the number of outcomes will be enormous.

Teams can only base strategy working around known parameters on which to base their calculations (e.g. fuel load and tyre wear) and not on an "every scenario situation".


One of the biggest problems with today's FIA restricted F1 is that all the top teams have engines that almost never fail whereas in the past it was never certain that an engine would finish a race as they were on the limit of known engineering know how.

Putting a rev limit on the engines has made them almost bullet proof which, I suggest is bad for F1 as well as the engine manufactures as they aren't able to show us what they can do compared to their competitors.

As for the upcoming races I think pole is going to be absolutely critical as all the top teams have great drivers so overtaking will be very unlikely as all can defend brilliantly.


No so sure Vettel would agree with you.


although that would make the races me enjoyable and less predictable, Im guessing the FIA were thinking about cost which has overshadowed the sport over the past year. Engine development and replacement costs a lot of money.


Not sure about that, with the cars now carrying 150kg more fuel and engine having to operate with more stress under racing conditions, who knows?


Got any info on the rumours of a Mercedes 'super diffuser' for Bahrain James?


I second that peter.

James what can you tell us of Mercedes updates?

In your opinion, is it going to be controversial?


It's always a bit of a mug's game predicting updates, unless you have an insight from someone close to it, which is rare. Let's wait and see what it is in Bahrain


Ok James,

I read with interest that not only is the update a diffuser but also a new front wing, new side pods and a new floor!

New car??


Pretty much! No, it's substantial but based on a strong platform


Regarding the mess that is USF1 and Campos the FIA should penalise them both for missing the first race (its inevitable now) by reducing there entry to a one car entry each, thus allowing space for a third team to enter.


Benny and Mike, you're both talking about penalising Campos and USF1, I don't follow your reasoning. In my opinion they should be helped to meet their goals! Due to various circumstances they are struggeling to be ready in time, but that is no reason penalise them!

If you were going to be late for school wouldn't you like another parent to give you a lift?



Nice analogy Paul 🙂 but if I wasn't planning to go to school at all this year, I think they'd give my place to another deserving pupil who has just as much right to an education as I do, rather than having an empty desk all year.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

USF1 now want their seat kept warm until 2011. Why should they be given this grace and favour? Their set up is a shambles and a disgrace.


If the chance takers are going to be penalised by having worn tyres from following too close/taking chances overtaking isn't this going to spoil the real racing?

James do you think the motivation for no refuelling was to save Bernie money transporting the fuel rigs around or to improve racing?


It was to save €300,000 a year per team in transporting the gear, yes. But it wasn't Bernie who was saving the money it was the teams


I thought the top 10 teams had their freight costs picked up by FOM (CVC)?


wow, thats a drop in the budget ocean isn't it. Surely saving money is not the only reason for the ban...


As a certain supermarket likes to say, "Every little helps"


My understanding is that there was a feeling that the refuelling era had run its course. The strategies were too predictable and it was time to try another tact. Good move too I say.


I understand there's no longer a need for super fast, 12L/sec fuel rigs but the cars still need to be filled up on site. So, fuel rigs are still needed. James, do you care to elaborate on how the teams can save that much on transporting (less) gear because of the 'no refueling during the race' rule?


Well they weigh a lot in freight terms, plus the people needed to man them and so on. That's the figure Christian Horner gave me when I asked him what the saving is


James, I find it hard to believe that they are saving much money by banning refueling.

They still need fuel during race weekends. And during practice and qualifying, all teams will have to do plenty of refueling and tank draining.

Are you saying that teams don't have their own rigs anymore? Do they have a common pit lane gas station were everyone needs to line-up?

But that would mean that they all use the same fuel, which I can't really believe. Teams used to have their own fuel suppliers, so surely that must mean that they still have individual fueling rigs?

Or do I miss something here? Can you clarify this please?


Because fueling isn't time sensative they can use normal gravety fed rigs(ie: a can and a funel) as opposed to the highly specialized (and complex, and heavy) pressurized systems they've needed recently.


Despite all this talk, assuming the top four are within half a second of each other, I still think it's the team-mate dynamic that will make all the difference.

We have four teams and eight drivers.... but out of those eight only one driver is the de-facto number one - no matter what Nico thinks.

Four races in, MS will be 2nd or 3rd in the Championship even if he hasn't hit the podium in any of the races, simply because the others will be stealing places off each other. By Europe, he'll have momentum (and updates) and by the time the other teams have the guts to back one driver over another, he'll be back to the old master.

The only fly in the ointments are reliability and Nico's balls finally dropping.

BUT.. more importantly, who came up with the calendar??!! After months of anticipation I've just realised Bahrain starts at mid-day on Mother's Day!! How do I tell an 80 year old she's not going out for a meal after all???

It's bad enough that Australia isn't the opener (who doesn't love going to the pub on a Saturday night, coming home and watching some crap film until the race start in the early hours?), but to clash with Mother's Day too is a disaster.


According to Wikipedia, only Britain, Ireland and Nigeria celebrate mother's day on that date... in Arab countries it's the following weekend, and for most other countries it's in May.


Maybe they do not *have mothers in Bahrain, so it makes no diff?


Maybe they don't - but I do!


Whatever Nico does, if the Mercedes is not competitive enough, then it won't help Michael to have a chance for the title because of the difference between a win and other places. Only wins and reliability will help.


I am just going to miss Kimi from this competitive field. I would have loved him against Hamilton in the Macca.

M. Fitri from Malaysia

Yeah, that would be good to watch...


Lest I remind you all that it could very well be that Mclaren and Ferrari are behind Red Bull and/or Mercedes. Everyone assumes that unless you are Ferrari or Mclaren you are the underdog. You heard it here first... my Bahrain Finishing order








Damn thhere are some really awesome drivers in the field this year...TG Schuey is back!!!!!


I think at least one of those and maybe two won't finish the first race.

For sure there are a few drivers that will be looking to mix it with Schumacher, letting him know that it's a different ball game in 2010.

How will Schumacher react? Will he yield?


i think i would be more a drivers call when to change the tyres..

i would also miss kimi. but im going to see him next week in rally mexico!!


James (or anyone else who understands these things!), if they have adjustable front wings, does that mean they could tweak them in the race to help them when in "dirty air" behind another car to get close enough for the pass?


Last season too...


It's more like a JOURNEY where one has to arrive at the destination still with a little fuel left for say 3 meters. But it's FUN tho. Just think like THE PROFESSOR.


The action at the opening should be very interesting indeed. The laptime difference at the beginning to the end of the race looks to be in the order of 3s so drivers cannot afford to be held up at the start as it would be impossible to make up that deficit at the latter stages, which should be good for some overtaking action right from the get go. What would compound this even more so is if some cars are particularly good, or set up to be, on empty tanks qualifying. The trick as Button says would be being aggressive without risking the tyres, can't wait for the racing to start.


It will also be interesting to see what strategy the new teams (or even the least performant ones) will opt for. I would expect some to go for a setup favoring heavy fuel loads thus compromising qualifying for being able to challenge the midfield in the first half of the race and then try to hang on to grid position in the second half. Not much different from starting with a heavy fuel load in past years.

On a second note, I guess we won't see any drivers opting for a strategy change and start from pitlane - unless the car has a problem and needs to be worked on past qualy, of course.


I'm not so sure Kitteh. I think they'll all be too concerned about their tyres and front wing (as this seems more important than ever!) to attempt anything too risky at the start.

I can see some of the young 'uns going for it though - only to be reprimanded by their respective team boss - after they've pitted on lap 1 for a new front wing and to change their flat-spotted tyres 😉

It's going to be about tyre conservation for as long as possible, leaving you with better grip (than your rivals) in the latter stages of the race.


I couldn't agree more but wait a year and we will get to see it after button does worse than heikki and mclaren are throwing millions at kimi to come back and buttons off to toro rosso or us f1 next year


Hmmm.. he may even be replaced by an Irish driver - loads of them waiting in the wings...


James, I read in Polish media that both Renault and Mercedes are going to introduce the new super-diffusors at Bahrain. Any comments? Thanks


Super diffusers, I don't know, but new updated ones, yes. Ferrari had one in Barcelona


Early in the race,if your key rival is getting away from you,you'll pass whoever is holding you up.It will be done gently and properly,to avoid damage to car and tires.The early laps are important because you can establish a demoralizing advantage by pulling away and then driving just as fast as you need to stay ahead until the end.By bringing refueling back,the hope was to create a show,increase safety by not carrying so much fuel at the start-but most of all stop someone like Ayrton Senna from leading wire to wire.Senna had many strengths-quickness,racecraft,and skill.But his ability to start a Grand Prix from pole is why he had so many victories.

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