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Barcelona Test day 4 – Massa shows qualifying pace
Barcelona Test day 4 – Massa shows qualifying pace
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Feb 2011   |  6:26 pm GMT  |  175 comments

Today was the final day of the test at Barcelona, a momentous day with the announcement that the first race of the season in Bahrain has been cancelled. This means that the F1 teams will be back here for a further test on 8th March, which replaces the one scheduled for Bahrain.

Massa gets on it (Photo:Ferrari)

Felipe Massa set the fastest time today on a qualifying simulation, the Brazilian showing that these new Pirelli tyres suit his style more than last year’s Bridgestones. I think he will be more competitive in qualifying this year than he was last year.

The Ferrari is a good car, there’s no doubt about that, close to the pace of the Red Bull, but we haven’t really seen what the Red Bull can do fully extended on a qualifying run. It seems as though the two cars are reasonably close on race pace in long runs, but the feeling from engineers I’ve spoken to is that the Red Bull is probably around 4/10ths faster than the Ferrari at this stage, which is quite a bit.

But a lot can change, as we saw last year, with development. Ferrari need to keep the pressure up on that front and they need to innovate. As we have seen all winter, they are setting a lot of store by the way they go racing, the strategy decisions Pat Fry and Neil Martin will take and so on. By making fewer mistakes than the opposition they can gain a lot, even if they don’t have the outright fastest car. And in Fernando Alonso they have the strongest driver in the field over a race distance. They will keep Red Bull honest all year.

The postponement of the first race is potentially good news for McLaren, who have a problematic car at the moment and they need more time to sort it out. It’s not as big a drama as 2009, where the car had some fundamental aerodynamic issues, but the car is complex, loaded with technology and clearly has handling issues. Also it seems as though Lewis Hamilton is eating up the tyres more quickly than many drivers and is getting frustrated by that.

Today he was unable to get on the throttle through Turns 11 and 12, for example, losing tons of time in the process. Tyre management is going to be vital this season, which is more of a Jenson Button strength than a Hamilton one.

I had a long chat with Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery today. Pirelli have come in for some stick for the way the tyres are degrading, but he argues that this has a lot to do with them being designed for a higher working range of temperature. If the Spanish GP were held today, for example, it would be at least a three if not four stop race. However Hembery believes that when the race is held here in May in warmer conditions it will be a two stop race.

There has been a lot of talk about the way the track doesn’t rubber in with these tyres. That is due to a treatment they use on the tyre related to increasing the working range. Again it’s not something that will stay that way for ever.

I noticed when cars came in to the pits from long runs a build up of ‘marbles’ on the floor of the car just ahead of the rear wheels. Again this effect is due to the tyres chunking in the low temperatures and again Pirelli say it will be better in a higher temperature range. That’s why the loss of Bahrain test is a blow to them, as they were hoping for validation of their theory.

Currently the gap between the supersoft and the medium tyres is too great, which would make qualifying and races very interesting and would put pressure on the leading teams in the early stages of qualifying, if the smaller teams all ran the supersoft, to do the same. The supersoft tyres also don’t last very long. Pirelli are going to have to do some more work on the super soft, but they’ve bought themselves the time to do that by announcing that the tyre will not be used before the start of May at the earliest.

The performance gap between the soft and the hard, which they will use in the opening races, is around 8/10ths of a second. In these cool conditions the soft lasts around 12 laps, the hard around 20-22 laps. Being able to do the extra odd lap here or there is absolutely critical to race strategy as if you cannot eke the tyre out you might be forced to stop four times in the race, which loses you 25 seconds and could be the difference between finishing fourth and ninth, for example.

The major update kits the teams had planned for Bahrain test will be brought here on March 8th and we will see the picture change a little in some respects. Mercedes are staking a lot on their update kit and believe they will move forward. They are just behind Renault at the moment in the pecking order, but they have stronger drivers. Williams is stronger than last year, as is Toro Rosso, which has a very nice car.

Sauber has benefitted from taking not just the Ferrari engine and gearbox, but also the hydraulics and rear suspension this year and from a solid aero programme laid out last summer by James Key, the technical director. These midfield teams moving forward means that Force India is under a bit of pressure and could start the season just behind them. Lotus appears to have gained about a second relative to the field and is closer to the midfield teams, while Virgin doesn’t appear to have closed the gap by much.

1. Massa Ferrari 1m22.625s 121 laps
2. Webber Red Bull 1m23.442s + 0.817 69 laps
3. Buemi Toro Rosso 1m23.550s + 0.925 90 laps
4. Heidfeld Renault 1m23.657s + 1.032 95 laps
5. Hamilton McLaren 1m24.003s + 1.378 107 laps
6. Maldonado Williams 1m24.057s + 1.432 121 laps
7. Sutil Force India 1m24.177s + 1.552 64 laps
8. Perez Sauber 1m24.515s + 1.890 74 laps
9. D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m26.501s + 3.876 50 laps
10. Schumacher Mercedes 1m27.079s + 4.454 114 laps
11. Trulli Lotus 1m29.992s + 7.367 18 laps

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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

I really miss wins like these, fingers crossed.



It will be very interesting to draw parallels between the introduction of the new Pirellis and the introduction of grooved tyres back in 1998. Most teams struggled in 1998 bar McLaren, but eventually most of the drivers (except possibly Damon Hill) adapted well to the grooved tyres. Many drivers, including Hamilton are struggling with the degrading Pirellis and the care and attention the new tyres need.

Futhermore, I will not be surprised if there is a clear pacesetter by the first race, in the same way that McLaren adapted best to the introduction of the grooved tyres in ’98 and were 0.757 seconds faster than the Ferraris in qualifying for the 1998 Australian Grand Prix. Possibly Red Bull and Ferrari will be pacesetters, with McLaren some way behind.


I was at all 4 days of testing and found that there were certain places to sit where you could see a lot of the track and even to the untrained eye have a rough estimate of the pecking order, even without laptimes. I spent a lot of time between turns 12 and 13 as you can see a lot of the track. We weren’t looking at which cars were the fastest, we were just looking at the way the cars handled.

We came to the same conclusion as the experts and that was with an untrained eye.

It was a fantastic experience and I would recommend anyone to go. You learn a lot more than you think.

Great blog James. Fantastic read.


Thanks for that. I agree that it’s always worth spending time out on track, looking at the cars’ behaviour


Hi James,

I tried to reply to thelegend’s reply. It seems that my comment was not approved. I have no intention conduct unpleasant exchange. But I feel that it is necessary to get the fact rights especially when someone achieved something. I am not a Lewis fan but I think you gotta give credit when it is due.



Sure and I understand that you want to make a point about Alonso and Hamilton in 2007 but I’m totally over that debate here on the site. It’s a blight, it’s tedious, it wastes Mod’s time and I just don’t want any more of it. Anyone who disagrees is welcome to start a “2007 all over again” blog and conduct their exchanges there. I’m looking forwards


I hope all the doomsaying about piles of marbles offline isn’t actually an indicator that the 2011 regulation changes will be largely ineffectual. Then again the amount of changes and all the various permutations between them is staggering…KERS is back, but making its first appearance on the no-refueling cars with extra factors like the drag reduction system and of course the unknowns of the rubber. It will be interesting to see if Pirelli’s remark about the ambient temperature is indeed impacting their tyres making it into the optimal working range. It would be most curious if the tyre behaved different come the Spanish GP proper and really mixed up the running order. We can hope!


Have the teams run any scrubbed sets? Used to be quite common to see in a race.


Webber’s first set on that run was a used set of softs


Ignore that they’re slicks now obviously.


No. No. No.

No gap between tyres is too great. No wear rate is too great. They need no tweaking. Let the teams COPE.


So by the estimate that Ferrari are 4 tenths behind the Bulls, that must surely mean that the Red Bulls are still the class of the field. I would have thought the advantage they held in 2009 and ’10 would have been negated by the rule changes for ’11, i.e. return of KERS etc, adjustable rear wing, but it seems they’ve come out with a quick car from the box. Ferrari and RB pace looking ominous for McLaren.



I’m curious to hear your estimate of how much the canceled race has cost the top teams with the development of Bahrain specific aerodynamic package, wings, parts, etc. Does this package still go to Australia or is there a new Australia package? Thanks.


Hello James as you mentioned that Ferrari are still 4 tenths down on Redbull at this moment….so i would like to know what was the case last year around at this moment…what was the gap during last year barcelona`s test compared with Redbull…


Hi James,

Can you share your thoughts about how safety car deployment will affect the race differently than last year? Are there any rule changes in that area?

Many thanks!


I think it’s good that the track isn’t rubbering in, and I hope that continues to be the case. It would mean relatively more grip off-line compared to previous seasons, which might make for easier overtaking.


There is a big problem about marbeling, the off-line will be far more dirt tha previous seasons. I’ve seen some photographs and it is something amazing.


Seems to me like it might also mean less ‘marbles’ off-line, which is also good for ensuring all parts of the track are usable.



Thanks for the explanation about tyres. Absolutely fascinating. I only wish it made things clearer. More, please.


You know the funny thing about drivers stock market is like actual stock market, far too speculative.

Back in 2006 JA and a couple of F1 pundits said Kimi and Alonso would shade Schumacher in the same car, same day.

In 2007, we all realized something and he said the gap between Michael and Massa was larger than the one with Kimi. So those pundits concluded that their previous theory wasn’t exactly true.

Now it is believed that Alonso is the most superior driver, according to the insiders.

But what about a guy who beat him in his rookie season?

Please do not turn this into my favorite driver vs your favorite driver debate.

The point is that the idea of one dominant driver is just a perception, the eras of dominant Senna & Schumacher have ended. And I don’t believe Alonso – 10, Lewis 9, Seb – 8,it works that way.

I think the performance gap between them is too small to discuss and almost irrelevant since the car factor plays so much larger role.


The “a rookie beated alonso” theme seems endless, but I will never stop saying that:

-It was 1st Bridgestone season for Fernando and 2nd for Lewis, and 1st season for both of them with Mclaren so the “rookie” nickname could be for one or the other driver.

-After 18 races (if I remember) having the same points can not be called “beat”.

-Hungary and Japan GPs showed how FIA wanted to have an English WDC again.

-Ron Dennis sentence “We didn’t expect Kimi, we were racing Fernando” or this one from an engineer talking with Fernando “You don’t know how easy is to make an engine loose power”, tells me that the two drivers on the team were not exactly on equal oportunities.

And there are many mor reasons, but those ones are essential to understand what happened in 2007.


I’m beyond bored with this topic. Enough!


The guy who beat Alonso in his rookie season does not seem to get any better with time if you look at the results. Alonso finished two spots ahead of him in a #3 WCC car. Had Lewis avoided the mistakes he made to lose his 4th places in both Monza and Singapore, he would be a 2xWDC. However, he isn’t and Alonso beat him in 2010 so you can see why Alonso is regarded as high.


3rd best car? How do you define Maclaren is second best.

Oh and don’t forget Lewis didn’t have a team mate that would move over for him.


I think it probably boils down to alot of things in and around the car. I’m no expert, but things like setting up the car, dealing with changing conditions/predicaments in the race, feedback to engineers, encouraging people around you, race craft, handling tyres, handling pressure. Raw pace is just one ingredient, even if it might be the most important, i agree with you, in terms of raw pace only i think it is unfair to say Alonso is the strongest.

p.s. i’m not too keen on Alonso, he makes it difficult to like him in my opinion



I feel the same way about Alonso but I am not delusional, he definitely is one of the best, if not, the best.

But the point is that experts do get it wrong times after time, Massa vs Kimi was a good example.

And that “Kimi/Alonso would shade Schumacher” too.

I remember Ross Brawn said it would be a huge mistake to let Lewis race with Alonso because he was never beaten before and when double world champion start beating him, it would destroy his confidence. And look what happened.

If Alonso team up with Vettel or Lewis again, I don’t think it is wise to put your mortgage on Alonso because anything could happen.

And what we are missing from him is the “wow factor”. When we had Senna/Schumacher, we used to see those things that made us say “wow, how on earth is that possible” .

I don’t think we have seen anything like that from current top drivers.


I don’t really see how these new tyres could suit Massa better, Massa has been driving on Bridgestone’s basically his whole F1 career and I think what hit him the most was the smaller width on the fronts last year more than anything.

If anything the Pirelli’s may very well make things even worse for Massa this year due to how different they are from Bridgestone’s but also due to the fact they will have even less grip and durability, at least Alonso has gone through changing tyres before when he did the Michelin switch.


Your right and wrong Owen. Last years Bridgestones were too hard for Massa, but the width of the front tyres meant he couldnt put enough load on the fronts to warm them up.

This years tires are softer, but less durable (hence less stable and consitent) which means Massa will be able to put better loading (force) on the fronts, and warm them up better.

He should be stronger.

An example to this, look at qualifying in Bahrain and Valencia (the gap between Massa Alonso) a very small gap. Both tracks had high track tempertaure, easier warm up. Then look at Silverstone and China. Cooler track, less tempreture and he struggled.


The Bridgestones he was using 5 years ago are not the same as those used last year. When f1 switched to a single tyre supplier Bridgestone changed their tyre compounds and started producing more conservative (and cheaper i believe) tyres. I don’t know if the construction of the tyres changed at all but i’m fairly sure the relative size of the front/rears was tweaked affecting the handling characteristics of the cars.


This is what Jensen Button had to say on Feb 3rd; “I like the feeling of the tyre. It has a stable rear when you enter high-speed corners, you have a stable rear when you brake for low-speed corners, and that is something that I really do need with the car. I am happy with that step. There are areas where it is weaker than previous tyres – but that is the way it is built. You just change the balance of the car to suit that. There will be degradation on the soft tyre and you do have to look after it, but there always has to be a balance. You want to be quick over one lap and you want to be quick over a long run, so there is always a bit of a compromise. It is whether you can get the compromise right or not.”

Not a lot of whingeing there. This may be the same reason why Massa likes the tyres at this point.


Great to read this thread. It would be great to see the old Massa back!!


I think Massa’s problem last year was getting heat in to the front tyres which cost in qualifying, im assuming thats not the case the case with the Pirelli’s ?

I believe it was schumi that didnt like the narrower from tyres


A lot has been made of Schumacher not liking the narrower/weaker front tyre. But I do not think that was just where problem started and ended, as he was beating Rosberg towards the end of the season. Pat Symonds said recently that Schumacher just wants the fastest car and he doesn’t care if its unstable.


Well if you talk to him you will change your view on this


That’s good news, thanks for mentioning that James, as its been hard to find information about Massa’s opinions of the tyres.

In fact, Massa has been very quiet on his opinion of the tyres, unlike many others, so I was hoping that it was a case of no news is good news, and it seems to be the case.


Hi James

How is Schumacher doing on the Pirelli’s, also are any other drivers taking a significant liking or disliking to the tyres?



That is the question I used to be interested. But with Mercedes being a dog, who cares. I can’t bare the pain of seeing him getting lap by some energy drink makers.


All this conjecture about who will be faster than whom this year, reminds me that every year we seem to find out after a couple of races that a car we hadn’t expected to be on top is revealed, and one that we’d thought would be leading fails to deliver its testing promise.

I suppose we should all keep quiet and wait to see — but trying to make educated predictions and throwing in our two penn’orth is just too much fun.


A lot is made of lewis and tyres and i am disappointed that the new Mclaren donest look quick out of the box, normally the hallmark of a decent car. While Jenson is good on tyres, him and Lewis use them in different ways. Paddy Lowe, a man who should know more about the respective tyre useage than anyone else said it wasnt a case of one is better than the other but they used them in different ways, different ways of loading the tyre up etc. I think once the season gets going the gap will be much smaller than many make out. The one further thing i would add there though is i would imagine we might get Jensen beating Lewis for a few races but then Lewis adjusting his driving to suit, or finding a set up that works for him. As you say James, Lewis seems to get very upset when things dont go right and this might play into Jensens hands at first. But Lewis is a quick and good driver, the cream will rise to the top as they say.

The problem at the moment is the Mclaren clearly doesnt have a balance, and no matter who is driving this will result in lunched tyres and slow times.

A late car launch doesnt help this and I fear the first few races the results could be points not podiums, 2009 again perhaps?


IMO I think this year will be all about managing the tyre, qualifying will no longer have the importance it has done in the past. It will be drivers that can extract the maximum from the tyre without taking the life out of them that will prosper, namely Button and Alonso.

The important aspect of an F1 car this year will not be its outright speed, but more of how the car handles its tyres. I can see Hamilton taking the more aggressive route and taking an extra pit stop compared to the other front runners.


James, I’m really glad for your analysis of the tire strategy… but that doesn’t mean I like the tire rules! Why do we have to have these contrivances? The rules should just address safety (roll bars, etc.) and fairness (maximum displacement (NOT revs) and budget) and beyond that the designers, engineers, strategists, mechanics and drivers should be able to do their best to win. Full stop. What next? Extra revs when a majority of fans press a button on their remotes? [That’s a joke, Bernie.]


Its been long since i posted here but thanks for the good work james if i remember correctly those same engineers last season said ferrari was

ahead of the pack by 4/10 but it turned out to be wrong redbull were the class of the field i think those engineers like us are just guessing coz they dont know the variables of each team wat is clear is that redbull and ferrari are ahead with renault close if you look at hiedfields race stimulation runs yesterday they were pretty close to webbers times i think renault is looking good.


I don’t recall that being the case last year. The pecking order was fairly clear by the end of the testing. Red Bull had a bit extra in quali, but the pattern was there to see in Barcelona test last year – as it is now, if you know where to look


So how far behind Red Bull are McLaren? A second?


James, two questions regarding tyre use:

1. Are teams still required to use both available compounds each race?

2. Now that the difference in tyre compounds is so marked is it not unfair that top 10 qualifiers must start on their quali. tyres whilst those behind do not? This would represent a huge disadvantage for 9th 10th etc.


1. Yes
2. It will make for an interesting opportunity for a fast car, which qualifies outside the top ten


Hello James,

Wonderful article about the tyres.

But, aren’t Overtaking committee getting away from the core racing experience. Should the outcome of the race be decided at the pits rather than on track.

Firstly, Imagine someone maintaining a relatively slower lap times (say 1-2 secs) by looking after his tyres well, not having to overtake many cars on the track but still end up doing 2 pit stops and say win the race. Will it be interesting for fans to watch cars come in and fight it at pits for racing position?

Secondly, as of now there are lots of formula that govern the entire process. Whenever a new rule is implemented like the new Rear wing stalling, why put a cap on it saying it can be used only here and there? Why not let the drivers choose where to use this? Say when trying to overtake (or shall I say move over) a lapped car, can’t this system be used to move quickly?

Thirdly, as part of the cost cutting, people are convinced by reducing carbon footprint is the direction to head forward. This means going low on freight, shipping, manufacturing and testing (as is the reason given). Instead of this, if the teams collectively (FOTA) are able to contribute by building renewable energy sources and show the world that they are able to do this by other means as well wouldn’t it be great. May be if this is used to reduce some more carbon footprint, why not bring back more testing? This being the basis, if the budget cap is relaxed it will improve pure on track racing because the cars ought to be better. Like what is being done now: Same testing venue, but more number of days.

Will be waiting for your valuable views on this.


I think it’s more generally that strategy will be crucial this season. You have to plan your tyre usage and be on top of it. Managing the tyres has always been a vital part of F1, it’s only the recent Bridgestone years where the tyres were bulletproof.


May I ask why posting under my name and email has be blocked?

I haven’t been able to post in over a week here, and I thought that it was a technical problem.

But alas, after changing a name and a madeup email it has worked.

Was I accidentally blocked or did I hit some post limit on JAonF1 articles?

Or was I blocked for a reason and can I please find out what I did or said that ended up this way?

I can’t remember anything of mine that even had a [mod] edit in it, let alone enough to be deleted?

thanks, and sorry for any inconvenience


It’s not that you were blocked. As you can imagine without a filter we’d get 100s of spams every day, some times the spam filter doesn’t like certain letter combinations in email addresses, so the moderators never get to see the post. It happens occasionally, but hasn’t happened for a while. But as you say, you got through with this one.


Thanks so much. I was quite worried, and a bit worried that I was worried 🙂

I have a double letter in mine at the start so maybe that’s what did it. Strange though that just typing the first 3 letters in a row didn’t trigger it though.

Changed name and email and it all works well.


Great Testing coverage btw


There are a shedload of parts that aren’t even on the car yet, and they haven’t even vaguely pushed yet, so I hear.

You’re right though, others might be sandbagging.


The first 3 races will be more accurate on who’s on the top.

As for the degradation of tyres I hope it will not turn out to be a joke. Mind you they have not tested them in high temperatures, it will be weird to pit after 5 laps.

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