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Analysis of first day on Pirelli F1 tyres: A positive start
Analysis of first day on Pirelli F1 tyres: A positive start
Posted By: James Allen  |  19 Nov 2010   |  6:00 pm GMT  |  109 comments

The rebirth of Pirelli as a tyre supplier began today with the first test in Abu Dhabi.

In total there were 13 drivers on track today, with Force India giving both Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta a run.

The fastest time was set by Felipe Massa in 1m 40.170, which was a shade faster than he managed in qualifying for last week’s Grand Prix. But of course that does not tell the whole story.

The world champion tests Pirelli tyres (Getty)

First there has been a significant amount of track improvement since last week, with lap times in the Young Guns test around 1.3 seconds faster than at the Grand Prix.

To complicate the picture further, there is the chemical reaction which takes place when one manufacturers’ rubber mixes on the surface with another. This takes some time to work through.

My research from talking to a number of senior engineers this afternoon is that the Pirelli tyres are around two seconds per lap off the pace of the Bridgestones, which bowed out last week. The engineers will get a clearer idea tomorrow in the second and final day. Today was mostly about set up, finding ride heights and camber angles. Tomorrow we may see more performance runs.

Jaime Alguersuari had the honour of turning the first lap for a current F1 car on Pirellis this morning on a hot track surface.

Engineers noted several things straight away. The camber they need to run with these tyres is different and inevitably there will some changes to suspension geometry required in designs for next year’s cars, which is to be expected.

Many reported that the front tyres were more positive in braking and turn in than this year’s Bridgestones which is likely to be good news for drivers like Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa who struggled with that this year. I imagine both of them are feeling quite relieved tonight, although Schumacher has yet to try them as it was Rosberg’s turn today. Rosberg wasn’t as positive about the tyres as others, telling Autosport that he felt the tyres were “weaker” than the Bridgestones.

But Massa had a very different feeling. “I felt at ease from the start,” said Massa. “And there were no unpleasant surprises.” Massa added that the medium tyre needs work on the long runs, while the soft was quick on the first lap and had quite good durability.

Pirelli have already said that the tyre construction will not change for next year, it is already pretty much locked in. The company plans to do a lot more work on the compounds, however, on stiffness and on working range.

The only negative was a rear tyre failure on world champion Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull car right at the end. Pirelli will be hoping that there is no repeat of that tomorrow.

But the overall view is that they have the construction right and that is the main thing. The tyres are almost ready to go now, which is a fantastic achievement by Pirelli engineers after an absence of almost two decades from the sport. They have a three year contract as sole supplier to F1.

There are some significant aerodynamic effects from the tyres as they are a different shape from the Bridgestones, this will be the focus of a lot of wind tunnel and CFD work over the coming months.

The tyres seemed to warm up pretty quickly, which is not surprising given the heat of Abu Dhabi, so we don’t know yet what it will be like in Spain in February. Nor is it clear what the graining will be like on a green track. These things will be discovered when 2011 testing starts in earnest.

The soft tyre was faster than the medium, which engineers found a positive discovery as that wasn’t always the case for Bridgestone – just ask Nico Rosberg about the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. There will be two other tyres in the range of four, which the teams will race with next season.

Interestingly when I spoke to Jenson Button about his reasons for not testing the new tyres this week, he said that the McLaren engineers had advised both him and Lewis Hamilton that it would be a waste of their time as the tyres were expected to change beyond recognition over the winter. That is not the impression I’m getting tonight from the teams. They feel that they have a good handle on the tyre now and that the changes will not be on a major scale.

“Whilst a lot of details remain to be understood, we feel that we have gained an initial understanding of the operational requirements of the two compounds that we have and
have highlighted some important areas for investigation and improvement,” said Mercedes boss Ross Brawn. ” We have been lucky to have been able to get exposure to the Pirelli tyres at a track with which we are now very familiar and in conditions that we will not experience again until the final test of the season in Bahrain. Michael watched today’s proceedings with great interest and is
looking forward to experiencing the tyres for himself tomorrow.”

Abu Dhabi Pirelli Tyre Test, Yas Marina Circuit
1. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m40.170s 94
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m40.500s 77
3. Gary Paffett McLaren 1m40.874s 94
4. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m40.950s 83
5. Robert Kubica Renault 1m41.032s 39
6. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m41.425s 91
7. Paul di Resta Force India 1m41.615s 20
8. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m41.778s 81
9. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m42.019s 71
10. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m42.859s 20
11. Timo Glock Virgin 1m44.124s 78
12. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m44.686s 88
13. Pastor Maldonado Hispania 1m45.728s 83

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Just imagine if Pirelli do make tyres that go off quickly for next year. Then every race will be like Montreal in 2010. How exciting would that be!!!!!


These tests may not be relative to next years cars,2011 cars will be heavier due to KERS,and also more restrictive balance options,but must give a “feel” for how the tyres will perform.

No amount of computer driving will achieve the same analysis,so how the test driver for Mclaren is going to be able to give any worthwhile information is beyond me,the updates Mclaren introduced in 2010 failed more often than not,at least one of their drivers should have tested.

If it was that irrelevant, why have the other teams elected to have at least one main driver present?



do you know if the Pirellis are a harder compound tyre in general than Bridgestones and therefor less grippy so slower?


Ok. Own up. Who keeps slashing Vettel’s tyres?



Hi James,

Great article. Would it be possible for you to let us know where you can get all the timing data please?

Thanks. I’m looking forwards to what you’re going to be writing over the winter, I’d especially like to see some more videos the ones you have done with LG are great.


Totally second that, mate.

James, what videos are you preparing for us to survive this looooong booooooring winter break? (still 15 weeks to go 🙁


Congrats to Pirelli, I had my doubts but by all accounts the first test has been a success. I don’t care if the tyres aren’t as fast as Bridgestone, i just want them to provide better overtaking.


Hi James,

I’ve been reading a lot about the Pirelli’s shape; would you say these tires have more rounded shoulders like the Bridgestones or more “square” like the Michelin?

Given you said the fronts are more “positive” under braking, I’m guessing you meant they’ve got a slightly larger contact patch and would perform in a similar window as the Michelin’s did back in their day?


James, does RBR have the budget to compete at the front again next year ? In other words, they are not another Brawn, a one-year wonder, are they ?


Definitely not. THey have plenty of money


Can they “build” layers of graining into the tyres so that they lose grip and then regain it at different points? Then according to how a driver (and car) treats its tyres, they will mostly have grip at different points during the race, which might lead to more overtaking.

I don’t know? I haven’t really thought this through. It’s late here.


James, do you know whether the teams will be doing specific wet weather testing next year? It is important to find out how these behave as well; for example I recall Bridgestone had some severe degradation issues with their intermediates earlier this year, and Pirelli could be similar.


I haven’t heard, but I would imagine so. From last few years’ experience they will get rain anyway in Spain in February. But if not I’m sure they’ll douse the track.


i think the first impression may be important with a new tyre brand. ferrari and renaults were dominant teams of the 2006 season but just after the season, on the new much harder birdgestone tyres mclaren drivers were as fast as ferrari and clearly faster than renault drivers.

for the next few seasons after 2006 renault team really struggled to suit bridgestone tyres while mclaren team came a real force.


Maybe thanks to spygate, mclaren was same level as ferrari in 07.


McLaren aren’t stupid – did noone notice that they chose to run Paffett in their ‘Young Guns’ test. Which makes them the only top team to run a back to back test between the 2 tyres using the same car, track conditions & driver!

A very McLaren thing to do.


Exactly. A proper, variable-minimized, back-to-back is exactly what is required at this stage.

Paffet also does the bulk of the simulator donkey-work, so the opportunity to get him on real tracks for a couple of days, to help correlate what he does in the sim, to what he does on track, was also, I would argue, correct.

This test is mainly about making sure the tyres fit, stay inflated, don’t come apart, and perhaps the vaguest taste of the balance … but do any of the 2010 cars even have the FOTA-standardised 2011 weight distribution, so even ballasted, the utility of that information seems minimal?

The importance of this first test has been blown out of proportion, Pirelli has a huge list of internal priorities that they will be meticulously working through over the next few months, the idea that a vague first impression from a Schumi or Vettel afternoon run, will have any sway on the development cycle at this stage in proceedings seems highly unlikely.

I think more teams should have run their (grossly track-time limited) reserve-drivers, not less.


Ahh, NOW it makes sense!


Thanks Mr Col! No one noticed but you…

In hindsight(!) makes me wonder why no one else thought of that.


Indeed, but then surely they could have used at least one of the race drivers to run a comparison as well to a) verify Paffets feedback and b) allow one of them to gain some knowledge and start feeding that back to Pirelli.

As I’m sure a certain 41 year old “has been” will be doing, whilst Jenson and Lewis are on the beach…

Hussein S Lokhandwala

I wouldn’t call them stupid, but neither would I call them the most successful constructor of the last 12 years.


I don’t agree. Today’s test on Pirelli isn’t about knowing how faster or slower are the Pirellis compared to the Bridges. It’s about to adapt the car to the tyres, to make them work efficiently together.

If the Pirelli’s are 2s faster or 2s slower, it’s the same for every team.


Excellent post. I very much doubt the tyres at Abu dhabi will be that close to the ones starting the season. Clearly the structure will be the same, but the durability and compound development will be largely different by the end of testing.

And couple that to the fact that Gary has probably clocked up more time on the simulator (and will be doing so again), it makes sense to me….

Meanwhile Lewis was joining around goodwood this morning at at a vodafone even at mtc tonight. Jb is probably on the beach enjoying himself. Good luck to them for next year. I hope we see the return of the mc.


I meant to say hooning but good old iPhones 😉


Good point


Hi all, sorry to do a total “off-topic” post, but a recent article quoting Vettel as being committed to Red Bull for now but also being interested in potentially driving for Ferarri or Mercedes in the future got me thinking about the similarities between Vettel’s career to date and Schumacher’s early years.

Both joined F1 with an immediate impact, both have won their first championship with a fair degree of controversy throughout their championship year and with a team that has never won a championship previously and which sees them as their future (although it has to be said that Vetttel hasn’t dominated his teammate as MS did).

Both are seen by many to be very arrogant and yet those who are close to them talk about them being extremely charismatic and vulnerable.

James, you’ve obviously had dealings with both of them (and writen an excellent book on MS), have you noticed these apparent similarities previously and do you think SV will extend the career similarities by winning another WDC with Red Bull and then seeking a new challenge as MS did at Ferarri.


I think you can’t compare this year’s RedBulls (by far the fastest cars on the grid) with Benettons of Schuey’s first WDC.


Would Alonso accept an equal team-mate? Couldn’t see Vettel taking the risk of joining Ferrari while Santander are still involved.


I see absolutely no similarites between them safe for both being german.


They also both started at Kerpen didn’t they? Trivial, but true.


Any chance of a detailed feature into the actual makeup and construction of an F1 tyre? I understand that its a very secretive formula but how much of a current F1 tyre would actually feedback to a super durable road tyre, obviously the number one thing for a tyre company like Pirelli is brand recognition but will their involvement actually improve their road tyres?


I doubt there’s any correlation between a tyre withstanding 4g lateral acceleration and 5g forward deceleration under braking and which lasts 300Kms with a tyre withstanding 1g in the sportiest road car and lasting tens of thousands of Kms.

It’s like F1 aerodynamics relevance to road cars. If anything, they’re more relevant to aeronautic industry.


Ok I’ll admit to feeling a bit stupid asking this, but in what way are the tyres a different shape?

I can see how they could be narrower, wider, lower, taller or even a different diameter – but what’s different about the shape?

All clues gratefully appreciated!


check some f1 photos back when michelin tyres were in use (look at front photos of f1 cars), see the difference between bridgestone and michelin.

as James indicated michelin tyres had more sharp shoulders while biredgestone always used more oval shoulders.


Width of shoulder, shape of shoulder, even a small difference makes a big difference aerodynamically


James: Have the FIA tire specs changed? If not, why have the tire shapes changed? I thought there was in 2010 a max width for the wheel, a max diameter for the wheel with mounted tire, and a max height for the mounted wheel/tire? Does the Pirelli definitely have a different shape within these constraints, or are the teams just verifying aero effects?


It’s the shoulder mainly, as with Michelin which had a different shape from Bridgestone


Hopefully…the Pirelli’s will behave like their road tyres and older F1 tyres…

Absolutely magic for a short while, so sticky it’s as though they’re melting off the wheel rim. Then as the miles go on they fall apart dramatically.

My last pair of fronts lasted 12,000 miles!


Not goo for me. I went from Bridgestones to Pirellis on my BMW 335i, and the bridgestones had way more grip. 🙁


Read my post too 🙂

I’m with you. Great performance, but no Michelin like durability. Hope that’s like f1 next year…..


“Michael watched today’s proceedings with great interest and is

looking forward to experiencing the tyres for himself tomorrow.” This quote from Ross Brawn is quite interesting, it`s an indication that he will get a lot of support from the team and they will work the car to suit his style; i`m not saying that they will leave Nico alone, but that much work will be done on Michael`s driving style


Yeah, but if Nico’s driving style is that much different to Michaels Nico will have a hard time. It looks like MS is going to ruin another driver’s careere. If Michael were that as good as some make him out to be he wouldnt need a car built around his driving style to go fast, he should be able to work the setup to where he wants it.


Yes that’s right, after 3 years lay off he should destroy everyone.

Get real mate, a part from Lewis, most top drivers cant beat their teammates in their first year. Vettel couldn’t match his team mate pace in Torro Rosso and Nico, Kimi, Massa all of them were beaten by their team mates when they were rookies. And don’t forget they were actively racing in other series before joining F1. MS had 3 years off.

Oh and Nico said his driving style is similar MS so that they can’t build a car that only suits Michael.


well i can guarantee you, they wont CHEAT and ask nico to blatanatly surrender the lead to michael and then lie to the world that nico made a mistake!!


*sigh*….some ppl just can’t let go


“…the tyres …are a different shape from the Bridgestones..”

So they’re not circular then?!



I was surprised by the difference of shape fact. If the tyres have the same dimensions, where does the shape difference comes from (the tyre sidewalls ?)


I wonder if Pirelli will be tempted to resurrect the full-on coloured sidewalls it used on the Benetton at the ’86 US Grand Prix?

I often found it impossible to tell who was on what type of Bridgestone tyre as the green stripe was barely noticeable at speed.


I found it hard to tell the difference at times too. It often had to do with the light conditions. If only they had made the stripe white and not green we would have had a better chance.

Someone should have stopped the Mercedes painting a green/turquoise stripe on the outside of their tyres for their sponsor. wow, that made it confusing.


I think they should bring back white-wall tires!

That would certainly help tell the softs apart from the hards! It’d be as clear as… black and white! (har har har)


Great article. I hadn’t put the connection about michael and massa before. Remember felipe got closer to michael than any of his previous teammates and at times in 06 was quicker and the assumption must be that they enjoy the same setup. This could explain why they both have so dissappinted this year.


I don’t remember which race it was in ’06, but there was one time Schumacher and Massa were running close, I think with Massa following. But in any case, the feed was kind enough to show the braking and throttle input – Massa’s looked similar to Schumacher’s.

I’ve always been impressed by Massa’s ability to improve (even if he has to hit a low first), so I do hope he can mix it with the front runners next year with the tyres a bit more to his liking.


i disagree rubens was the closest to schumacher even in 2006 schumacher was losing it abit so massa didn’t face the best of him, but back to the point i think massa will be back to his best


Maybe in Rubens dreams but the statistics and times tell a different story.


James, you forgot to mention that in Vettel’s car tire was punctured.


Hi James,

Great to see you continue writing even during this F1 winter break! Will definitely help to ease off the 4 month period of boredom without the sound of engines. Thanks much:-)

Coming to the test, it is quite interesting to see Massa and Rosberg having differing opinions about the tires. Massa seems quite happy to use the Pirellis while Rosberg already sounds doom and gloomy.

I think both had problem related to front tires, are they similar or different issues?

Also the times too aren’t too encouraging considering the amount of running the track has seen over the past few days.

But if the degradation is good and the soft tires are significantly faster than the medium/hard ones, can we expect to see two pit-stop strategies returning next season with drivers using the soft ones twice and doing one stint on the medium?

I know it is too early to talk about these but will all these be a little clear at EOD tomorrow?


Kobayashi is the one who did the best work, looking at just time and the car he is driving in.

4th fastest, nice.

Yes, I know these times don’t mean that much but still.


Could be to do with Heidfeld having some data on the first iterations and future development path of the Pirelli tyres.


Looks like the tyres are ok for a first try. If they are a couple of seconds slower than the Bridges, it’s no problem. We don’t care about ultimate performance, what matters is how close are the competitors.

I hope that these tyres will go away quickly in order to have less straightforward races (canada like) but it doesn’t look like they took that route. One can’t criticize them, if the tyres go away quickly, drivers will start complaining about them which is not good for Pirelli. They are here for commercial purposes after all.

But the FIA and Bernie should push in this direction before it’s too late. The drivers will have to avoid criticizing the tyres. There’s nothing better for racing than dying tyres. All the overtaking issues will vanish and racing will be much more crazy and much more fun. Even in Monaco, when the Renault killed its tyres, Fernando and Fisico where unable to hold the competition.

I remember the first technical debrief by James where he demonstrated how dull the races will be this year and that whenever someone pits for fresh rubber everybody is going to follow. The season was arguably one of the greatest ever but James analysis was spot on. What made the season great is how close was the competition at the front. This was helped by RedBull mistakes too.

If next year a Car Driver combination dominates the field, we’ll witness one of the dullest season ever and with current rules the leader can always cover the following cars. The only way to avoid that is by making multiple pit stops necessary with less durable tyres.


I agree. Pirelli themselves said very early on that if they make “weak” tyres, then the teams have to support them and not bad mouth them.

In the interests of the sport, I would like to see the drivers challenged more. They’re supposed to be the best. That’s also why I don’t mind the thought of them having to contend with even more buttons next year.

It doesn’t make sense to see the best drivers in the world in cars that are “easy” to drive. And yes, I know it’s relative.


I’d like to see tyres that are marginal on a 1 stop, as in if you do a one stop and can conserve the tyres you’re fine, but the margin of safety is clear that this year they were always well within the duration of the hard compound.

So someone like Lewis could go all out on a two stop. That would make it interesting.

As it is, why have any pitstops other than the spectacle. As everyone has only 1.


Yeah, I absolutely agree with you Jo, I’d like to see tyres that drop off sharply and suddenly so that it adds to the excitement of the race and adds an element of unpredictability.


I think that we all agree that one should be there both for commercial purposes and for sporting reasons. One has to hope that they think about it.

I just hope that we are not in for an unpleasant surprise when the 2011 season starts. The tire situation this year was not always acceptable (the soft tire should not last almost the entire race and there should be more of a performance gap between tires).

I read an article where Pirelli said that they wanted support to develop more aggressive tires. Maybe the tire question depends more on the teams and drivers and not the tire supplier.


Indeed Pirelli declared that they might consider going the agressive route with tyres loosing performance relatively quickly but they stated that in order for this to work, the teams and drivers should play along and avoid criticizing the tyres.

They must have concluded that it was impossible to avoid a bad publicity may be. Imagine a Vettel, Alonso or Hamilton pulling a gap and then loosing their tyres and the race consequently. In the post race conference, the 1st thing they’ll say is how bad was the tyre. It’s a natural reaction and maybe Pirelli isn’t willing to take the risk.


The soft rubber should be faster and degrade more quiclkly, it should not be too durable.

The hard one must be slower and more durable.

It will also help if during some grand prix the tires will go off like during this years Canadian race (although it may be more track related).

Maybe the thing is that the track surface contributes a lot more to the degradation or lack of it than all the effort the tire manufacturer makes.

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