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Analysis of Valencia testing
Analysis of Valencia testing
Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Feb 2011   |  11:06 am GMT  |  120 comments

This week’s test in Valencia threw up some interesting talking points, some of which give us pointers to the season ahead. It’s early days to be making predictions on who is fastest, but we learned quite a lot about the new Pirelli tyres, how they will affect the racing and what some of the key talking points will be from a technical point of view. It certainly looks like Renault has moved forward, that Mercedes has some work to do and that Red Bull and Ferrari are more or less where they were last season. But the devil is in the details and it’s still too early to be sure of the details as people were at different stages, for example not everyone used KERS, which affects the final few tenths of a second per lap.

Pirelli tyres
There has been a lot of talk in the last few days about the Pirelli tyres and how the performance drops off after the initial fast lap. Whenever something is new in F1 there is always a bit of a negative reaction, especially from drivers. I remember the moaning about the comfort of the HANS device, which you never hear anyone mention now.

Pirelli is clearly less advanced than Bridgestone was in making F1 tyres and in the design of the compound and the construction there is less science at this point. THe result is that the tyres are probably a step too soft through the range. The supersoft was losing around 2/10ths of a second per lap in degradation, equivalent to 10 seconds over half a race, which is too high for F1. The soft and medium were losing around 0.05s to 0.1s per lap, which is on the high side but workable.

Pirelli are playing their cards close to their chests, saying that they are following the brief they were given to make the tyres less durable than Bridestone and thus make the racing more variable. In all likelihood they will go one notch harder on each compound by the time they specify the tyres for the season.

What is happening is that the rear tyre is proving difficult to manage. The performance is going off and once it becomes more worn it drops off more steeply. This leads to an oversteery car. The drivers say that when it starts to go it’s quite sudden, quite knife edge. Managing this degradation by a combination of driving style and set up so as not to overstress the rear tyre is going to be crucial for the season. The Ferrari looks like it is quite kind on its tyres and maybe this is an area where Red Bull will have to be careful.

The top ten drivers will start the race on the tyres they qualified on and no set up changes are allowed after qualifying. There is a school of thought that the cars which produce the most downforce at the front of the grid could therefore be likely to punish the tyre more and therefore be forced to stop earlier than the midfield cars, who might be able to go longer on a set of tyres.

A well driven midfield car therefore might have a chance to compete with the slower of the front running cars. It could be a bit of a leveller.

There is no doubt that race preparation in the teams’ simulators is more important this season than ever. It’s clear that McLaren’s strategy since the November tests in Abu Dhabi has been to develop the most sophisticated simulator model of the tyres possible. I’m told that the thing that Jenson Button was happiest about from his testing on Thursday was that the real thing was impressively similar to the McLaren tyre model. Other teams will be aiming for the same thing, but McLaren’s strategy with Gary Paffett’s programme in Abu Dhabi and Valencia, looks like it was a priority.

Drivers will spend more time preparing for each race in the simulator and a team which has a good tyre model will have an advantage over the others as they will be able to use more of their time at the race track on things like KERS or development and less time on tuning the car in to the tyres.

From what we have seen this week it is likely that most races will be two pit stops and only freak conditions – as we saw in Montreal last season – will produce races with lots of stops. It is feasible, if Pirelli goes a step harder on compounds, that one stop will be possible at some venues, which is an important variable to keep in the mix. It could be, in other words, that there will be a range of possibilities which will make for good racing. It is clear that the role of the race strategists is going to be more important than ever this year.

What is also clear from the first test is that there are some interesting engineering challenges this season, from incorporating KERS, to the adjustable rear wing and the various parts of the floor exhausts can be blown over. Renault has innovated with its sidepod mounted exhaust outlets and it is likely that other teams will have known about it for a while and will be trying it to see if the gain is worth changing the car for. Williams too has innovated with a rear end set up which is aimed at getting as much air flow to the rear wing as possible.

The adjustable rear wing didn’t give as much of a straight line speed advantage in Valencia as many expected, it was certainly less than 10km/h. At some venues it will be more. Remember that the drivers can use it as much as they want in practice and qualifying, but only for 600 metres in the race. So most people will be working on how best to use it for lap time gain and let the racing sort itself out.

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I ‘ve read all the posts re tyres – I stand by my comments. No one wants tyres that are good for a lap and then fall off a cliff. It turns the racing into a lottery. We want to see real racing – not a procession of drivers trying to manage shot tyres.

Everyone seems to like drivers who have a spectaculsr style – Rindt – Peterson – g Villeneuve – Senna – Hamilton – Vettel. These guys get people excited. They shouldn’t be overly penalised because the tyres have to be overly managed.



Slightly related to testing in a way.

Something I noticed on a photo of Schumacher’s Crash Helmet is the Bridgestone Logo?

Is this a personal sponsorship?


Something I’m struggling to understand is how can they programe precise tyre characteristics into a simulator? Eg, how they degrade, or stability under braking, or diferent compounds/constructions, etc. Does anybody know where I can research this?



I would not have thought it to be that difficult. In testing you monitor the down force, pressure, temperatures and see what grip you get for various surfaces. This will correspond to a wear rate. Then factor in the effect of the tyre sliding and the subsequent graining and you are not far off.

One of the big issues all the teams don’t seem to have a handle on is the effect of laying down more rubber in the race and where the balance point tips, especially where you have a variation in the other major factor, temperature.


the thing with the tyres is there is meant to be degredation, the bridgestones were bulletproof and it hurt the racing bigtime…..


James,as you are close to the action…do you here whispers and suggestions from teams…on which car might be the fastest?

I have a feeling that Newey did it again…


Helmut Marko said to the press that Redbull would lap everybody if they raced today, but Helmut Marko has been known to run his mouth in the past. Whether it’s true or not, it’s a really silly thing to say after one test.

Can’t judge McLaren yet, but Ferrari and Redbull are fast and reliable as expected.


why is 2/10ths of a second per lap too much? in nascar on some tracks old tyres can be 3seconds slower, on a 25-50 second laptime depending on track. that would scale to 9seconds on some f1 tracks :).

remmber before every race teams said soft tyres would last x laps (normaly 10 or 12), and then carried on to lap 20 quite happily, and some ran even longer without issue


Tyres are stressful for teams, it’s alot easier for us to sit back and laugh at them for getting their panties in a bunch, but it makes them nervous and they always “err on the side of caution”. As being caught out by worn tyres can really ruin your race and get you out of sync in the stops. Check out Vettel in Monaco in 2009.

In some situations tyres “fall off a cliff” and that is what the teams aid to avoid. When they know the tyres are more durable, they can afford to be less paranoid about it.


Their paranoia = our entertainment during the race. As others have said, hopefully Pirelli holds strong on their nerve.


i hope merc can get michaels car up to speed, having him challenge the younger drivers will make great watching.


Jake H mentioned the new McLaren had TWO air intakes.. not sure on what the second was for – any more news?


It actually has four by the looks of it, the traditional intake, then two at the side that are either intakes or the exhaust (they are keeping it secret right now). Then there is another intake right behind the drivers head which is apparently for the hydraulics/electrics and/or KERS


Actually there appears to be three air intakes at the rollhoop section of the car.

There is of course the main rollhoop air intake and directly below it, a secondary intake which feeds the KERS unit. The third which is directly above/surrounding the rollhoop intake feeds the gearbox and hydraulics.


Thanks Mark.. can’t wait to see how this plays out


The 1st air intake is the standard one above the drivers head & thats for the engine.

The 2nd is directly below that & is for KERS.

The 3rd is on top of the engine cover behind the roll bar & this is what directs air to cool the gearbox, Oil & Hydraulics. This intake exits the car at the back of the engine cover & feeds air through the rear wing.

You can see all 3 air intakes in this pic:

And you can see the exit for the 3rd intake at the back of the engine cover in this pic:


how are they going to get around the KERS problem? Mainly that every driver, give or take, will use it at the same point of every lap making in null and void.


Some will have a better KERS than others and go faster, just like those with a better engine will go faster.


I just don’t see that greater down force causes greater tyre wear, all empirical data shows the opposite! Additionally we know that getting the tyres at their optimum operating temperature is vital in squeezing time out of the track. The less down force, the slower the car will go or the more the tyres will slip and grain.

If the implication is that because the front grid cars can go that bit faster and will causing the tyres to suffer, I just cannot see the rational. There’s nothing stopping anyone at the front of the grid conserving their tyres as any middle order car may and always have the upper hand because of their superior down force.

I cannot remember any previous situation when greater down force has been added to the car and it has increased tyre degradation for the same operating parameters. I can only remember or theorise the opposite to be true? The only thing I can remember is where the wheel geometry has been changed to get heat into the tyres. But the increased wear from this change in geometry was paid back from the increased performance from the temperature increase?


I have just seen the first photos of the new Mclaren and boy does it look the business. Of all the new cars this certainly looks the best with lots of innovative features similar to the Renault (not lotus)


Do you agree Renault innovative exhaust could increase tyre degradation by even overheating floor and other elements close to floor?


Very clever launch today by the men from Woking.

At first glance I was thinking they were reckless by taking parts of the car uncovered, then I realised the engine and back end were all dummies.

Car looks great though.



Could you please get someone to draw a sketch of the new exhaust by Renault? What is the big difference? Can it be copy quickly?



Mattoz – See this link for reasons why allowing the adjustable rear wing in qualifying may be vital!


I’m a bit puzzled at to the point of being allowed to use the rear wing openly in qualifying. I understand they will all have the same availablility but surely the point of the rear wing is to aid overtaking not to add unrealistic speed. On a track like Monza with four very long straights I can imagine the lap time difference between qualifying and race to be dramatically different.


I like the idea. I expect to see midfield cars at the front of the grid, because they’ve setup the cars to do well in qualifying. Come the race they will be picked off by those who are running the right race settings.

Let’s hope the midfield drivers are sensible.


Otherwise the 7th gear would be too short and they’d hit the rev limit when deploying the wing.


Thats doesn’t answer what I’m saying. I understand the rev limit issue, but why be able to use the system openly in quali. Why not void it in qualy and only use it in the race. It is afterall a system to allow overtaking.


Also, I doubt that the wing flap makes much difference in Monza, they hardly even run a flap that can be moved. Remember that most didn’t even bother with an f-duct last year in Monza, which could even be used at will during the race.


I don’t get what you are saying. When you understand the rev limit issue, then why ask? 🙂 What am I missing?

I see it like this:

when you disallow the wing usage in qualy then they will set up the gears so that, as usual, they hit the limiter on the longest straight with the normal wing setting.

Remember that no changes are allowed to the gearing after qualy starts. So in the race they cannot go faster despite deploying the wing, because they are rev limited when they do


Not so sure I like the idea of really high wear tyres to be honest, At least not the way its been done.

A Montreal type situation is fine when it happens as it happened last year, That been the harsh winter’s forcing a specific type of track surface to be laid to prevent the break-up we had seen in previous years.

The problem I have with this & where I think it becomes a type of gimmick is when the same situation is forced simply because some think we need to ‘artificially spice up the show’.

I don’t like the idea of race’s & at the end of the day championships been decided purely because of who kept there tyres in one piece more often than others. Im not keen on the idea of artificially forcing pit stops, I think its bad enough we already have a mandatory stop (To run both compounds), If we end up with drivers been forced to make 2 or 3 stops simply because the tyres fall to bits after 10-15 laps then Im not intrested anymore.

I think everything’s going too far in the wrong direction now. Everyone has become too obsessed with ‘improving the show’ and I feel there doing it at the expence of the actual racing.

yes its the same for everybody and tyre management has always been a part of racing, The part where I think this has become a bit of a gimmick is that they intend to intentionally make tyres wear a lot faster than they could purely to try & force drivers to have to make more than 1 pit stop because they have deemed that this is more entertaining.

Another problem I see is that we could see more marbles (Apparently been a lot more than usual at Valencia the last 2 days) which will hinder the racing. If you look at Montreal in 2006 where the tyre wear was bad we ended up with so many marbles offline that actual racing became impossible as going offline even by an inch put you straght in the wall.

It is not any one thing (like the hideously gimmicky AWR) it is the whole view that racing itself is not enough, and that the competition has to be stage-managed to make it more entertaining. The focus has shifted from racing to entertainment, and if it keeps shifting this way, there soon won’t be any real racing.


I happen to disagree, but you do bring up an interesting point regarding the marbles maybe affecting driving. I did not, however, hear any reports of an excess appearance of marbles at Valencia.

To anyone who attended: Is it true? And if so, was it happening to the extent that drivers would feel forced to stay always on the racing line?


I read about the marbles here:

And also saw a picture showing a lot of marbles here:


In order to spice up the pit stops (of which i hope will be more this year with a more marginal tyre) is there any milage in reducing the number of pit crew members invloved in a stop, to 6 for example? ie one person front/back of car and just one person on each wheel only to remove and replace the tyres??


The only point of that suggestion is to introduce the possibility of an overtake being made due to a error made by a mechanic.

That’s not racing and it’s most certainly not fair to put extra pressure on a team member who isn’t going to receive the rewards of those who the business out on the track.


Point 1 – Errrr YES!
Point 2 – and here’s me thinking that F1 IS a TEAM sport… pit crew/driver/mechanics/factory workers etc they win together as well as loose together.

Fair point


No no! It can’t be done!

It would be too much like copying all the *other racing series that use *less than 20 ppl to make a pit stop!

This is the *pinnacle! We need *more ppl out there, not less!


James, just wondering how Schumacher feels about the new tyres, no that he has had a full day on the near final spec of Pirellis how is he finding them, are they to his liking?


Have they decided on how they are going to ‘mark’ each compound? My idea would be to to change the colour of the logo from Yellow to another colour ie red as I notice sometimes they use red on a yellow back ground


I just hope they also put a coloured band around the circumferance of the tyre – which you can see from on-board cameras – and not just have the coloured name on the sides, which on TV you often can’t make out when a car whizzes by at speed.

Wouldn’t it be great if in this great technological age they could colour the actual RUBBER in differnt colours?!


thats how they are going to do it actually


That shade of yellow looks awful. Is it Pirelli’s co colors?


Red “Pirelli” for super-soft, white for soft, blue for medium, yellow for hard, yellow for full-wets, and red for inters. At least that’s what I read


That’s exactly what they are going to do. Yellow, red, blue and white if I remember correctly.

Marty McSuperFly

Nice article, thanks.

James, do you think that the difference with the tyres, compared to last season anyway might be a might be a philosophical difference between the two companies. Bridgestone being Japanese and perhaps more conservative, whereas Pirelli might be willing to take some more risks? I seem to remember that in 1997, the Goodyear tyre cut-up quite badly, even at circuits without a normally high tyre attrition rate; whereas the Bridgestones were generally more durable, although seemed a darn sight quicker too.


I think that is a fair assessment


I think a fairer assessment is that the teams ASKED Pirelli to make their tyres like this.

It’s not like they all asked for Bridgestone clones and this is Pirelli’s “attempt” at a Bridgestone clone.

As far back as Bahrain last year (post race), Whitmarsh was asking for weaker tyres in order to spice up the racing. Horner had earlier asked for this but everyone assumed it was because the Redbull is hard on it’s tyres and everyone was looking for their own interests. After Bahrain it was clear that Redbull wasn’t hard on it’s tyres, however Bridgestone didn’t want to comprimise it’s reputation for the sake of the sport.

Pirelli is willing to do that. They should be praised.

Canada wasn’t Bridgestone saying “here you go, here’s some better tyres”, it was an unintentional folly due to the tarmac surface and the fact that they hadn’t raced there in a few years, however it DID show how much of a difference weaker tyres would make.

I couldn’t even tell you what country Pirelli are from, but I can tell you for sure they aren’t British because they are getting a short end of the stick at the moment. 😛

Marty McSuperFly

Yeah good point.

Suppose there is a difference also in being the sole supplier rather than a competitor.

I wasn’t inferring that you could tell what nationality the company is from their behaviour of competitiveness, just that Japanese firms are historically more conservative in their approach to risk. At least that’s what I got from my reading of ‘The Toyota way’.

Although I’ll glady be proven wrong.


slightly off topic but have you see nthe new McLaren? Very interesting shape in the sidepods and 2 air intakes on the enginer cover – wonder what trick they have up thier sleeve this year?


Hi James, I will appreciate if you can explain in some detail the use of the KERS during a race, because if a car is trying to attemp a pass, the car in front can use the Kers to compensate, and make more difficult the move for the car behind?. Great web site. Best Regards


Yes, but it’s the same for both cars, as long as both have KERS. The adjustable rear wing can only be used by the car following


Oh dear. The more I hear about the adjustable rear wing and the attendant rules about pre-determined overtaking zones, the more it strikes me as an artificial and unnecessary gimmick that doesn’t belong in Grand Prix racing.

Tom Haythornthwaite

Here here!


Ian – you know that Hamilton’s reputation for tire-wear ended early 2008?

You know that all through 2010 he never used tires worse than Button? And won in Canada on awful tires? Care to cite any actual examples of Vettel and Hamilton being worse than their team-mates on tires?


Melbourne last year, Hamilton and Webber made extra stops and caught Alonso and Massa and co at 2 secs a lap, and 2 laps after catching them Hamilton went onto the radio saying the tyres were gone. Meanwhile the cars infront had been out there the entire time on the same tyres. There was no mention from Webber of his tyres being worn even though he tailed Hamilton through the whole stint.


Turkey 2010. After Webber and Vettel crashed, button was only able to catch Hamilton because Hamilton abused the shit out of his tyres, and couldnt push as hard. Whereas Button had looked after his, and was able to push hard as shit



Not true. In Turkey, Button was able to catch Hamilton cos he was conserving fuel and thought the racing was over. Also, in Spain, it was a RIM FAILURE and not a tyre failure. We need to check the facts before we propagate any falsehood around here. By the way, as soon as Hamilton had re-passed Button in Turkey, he was immediately much faster than Button had been when chasing him. Consider the fact too that Hamilton had been pusing like mad to try and get past Webber then Vettel while Button (as usual) as waiting to see if anything would go wrong. At Canada, when it “seemed” like Button was catching Hamilton at the end, Hamilton immediately set a lap 6 tenths faster than Button (on the second to the last lap).

Facts people, FACTS!


how do you know what is fact? sure, the mclaren PR machine would like you to believe that spain 2010 was “debris related” but come on… the tarmac is not debris!


Spain, both of them had problems that ended with Hamilton’s puncture and accident and Vettel’s problems and pit stop, pushing Fernando from 4th to 2nd.


Actually, Hamilton’s crash in Spain wasn’t a tire issue, it was a wheel failure due to an improperly tightened wheel nut on the last pit stop. This was McLaren’s conclusion after investigating it over the following week.


I believe the movable rear wing is turning out to be a joke. With a ‘reported’ gain of 10 KPH or less and only being able to use it in the last 600 meters, what good is it?


I’m starting to wonder as well.

SOme back of the envelope calculating:

they will spend approx 5-8 seconds in that 600 meter zone. A car wi +10 klicks will only gain about 50-80 feet during that time. Since the 1-sec behind limit translates into +- 200ft deficit then they may *not catch them up completely if they’re 1 sec adrift – unless the draft effect is *enormus.

SO, how much *is the draft effect worth?


If a car is 1 second behind it doesn’t deserve to overtake the car infront.

In the last 5 years, cars have been able to get within .5 if they are fast enough, compared to the car infront. Double diffusers are banned, downforce is reduced so that should be again possible this season.

This system is not intended to “gift” a position by allowing an easy overtake. It is in place to give a final boost in situations where overtaking was near impossible, in order to make it possible.

Still need to follow the car infront closely, still need to get a good corner exit, and still need to slipstream and outbrake that car in the next braking zone. Otherwise it’s cheap and artificial and worthless. Like the KERS overtakes of 2009.

And it will be tweaked on the fly by FIA because different tracks have different levels of impossibleness.

Tom Haythornthwaite

Thanks for that calculation. You are supporting my view that that rule is the silliest, amongst many silly ones we’ve seen lately.

Having the movable wing makes sense – like KERS it’s vaguely road-relevant as it reduces fuel consumption (or increases speed). But the rule is contrived and probably unworkable. Not to do with proper racing.

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