F1 Winter Break
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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The right decision, can you imagine the controversy if the F1 circus had got into trouble? Anyway I think it's better when Australia starts the season...it just feels right (getting up at 4am to see it begin)and provides a better spectacle. As for rescheduling Bahrain? They shouldn't. The calendar is too full to be fitting a race in between. I'm sure many people will agree when i say Bahrain, we won't be missing you


Sigh.... "Also it seems as though Lewis Hamilton is eating up the tyres more quickly than many drivers and is getting frustrated by that." Is that a fact or is it conjecture?


I am no Lewis fan but am fond of Mcmac Team and am concerned at their start this year. Ferrari look very consistant in terms of their mile age and Alonso will kill Vettel in a straight fight for the title. RB quali pace will be nutrilised with the tyre wear remember.

So I may have to concede if Mcmac do not get ready for the opener catching Ferrari will be very difficult.

Mercedes and renault may also take points of Ron.

Still I am of the opinion 20 races is better than 19.


McLaren in general has always been a bit harsher on tyres compare to Ferrari and RedBull in recent years. Since Hamilton came into the sport he seem to have built a reputation for being a bit hard on tyres compare to the other title contenders as well. I am sure McLaren will find some sort of solutions for him soon enough. However, the car itselt doesn't look like a winning car so far. Of course it's too early to predict anything, but datas suggests McLaren & Hamilton both are not in great shape. Button might even outscore Hamilton this season if things don't improve by the 1st race.


Hamilton is more aggressive driver and it's logical and its fact that he eats up tires.... Button is one of the most constructive in terms of aggression on tires... Hamilton likes to attack and race on edges that's sure will result in less durability of tires...


The problem with the McLaren story is that there is quite a large part of their fanbase that are more interested in Button beating Lewis than McLaren winning the Championships so it becomes confusing as to whose driver's preferences the team should tweek the car's design; If the team cannot develop significantly beyond the current car, their package will be harder on the tires and therefore suitable only to Button - that is analogous to McLaren giving up on its Championship hopes even before the first race. If the car gets better in its treatment of the Pirellis, then Lewis can have a shot at the upfront cars - but that is looking unlikely. Basically looks like McLaren will be a mid field team this year. Looks like yet another year for Whitmarsh to be the only one among the new principals without a championship.


When Hamilton tested with McLaren with Michellin tyres his times were not that great, it was only when they switched to the more durable Bridgestones that he became competitive. Now that the teams have switched to less durable Pirellis could he be in for a hard time...?


I never saw the detail of the testing on Michelins, but a few things come to mind:

1: Lewis had just started driving an F1 car

2: Bridgestone development would have been guided by Ferrari, and Michael's preference for a strong front end, whereas the Renault on Michelins was an understeering car.

3: The 2006 McLaren was an okay car only - 3 poles, no wins.

4: The Michelins were usually more durable. In 2005 the Bridgestones rarely lasted the whole race. In 2004, the Bridgestone had the short life performance to win with a four stop race in France. In 2001-2003 there were races where the cars would stop for fuel, but Michelin shod cars would keep old tyres on.

I wouldn't generalise too much. Lewis has improved since 2006. In this case, Lewis in a McLaren on Pirellis isn't looking too good early on. If the McLaren is ordinary, then he won't win anyway.

We have seen in the recent past what changes in tyres can bring - Kubica and Heidfeld are good examples.


Sigh... That is a fact. Not only has he said so himself, the autosport commentators mentioned it and even Martin Brundle commented on how the McLaren looked like it was all over the place in Hamilton's hands. The lad is completely killing the tyres but then in warmer temperatures it shouldn't be so bad for him.


Again where's your evidence? M B stated "McLaren looks shocking as if on cold tyres". Now the question is was he referrring to Lewis's driving style or something in the way that the car is currently setup/handing. So please stop with the tired "Hamilton eats up his tyres line", when Mclaren themselves have stated that they see no evidennce of that when compared the Jenson.


Where's your evidence it isn't true then [mod]? If Lewis himself says he is struggling with the tyres, I think I will believe him over you thanks.

Sigh........(right back at ya!)



Is that 4/10th's for the Red Bull over the Ferrari meant to be for the Qualifying pace, or the racer pace?


what was the qualy difference between RedBull & Ferrari last year in Bahrain?


In Q3 it was around 1 tenth, but Fernando had a better time than Seb's pole in FP3. Also remember that Felipe was second on the grid that time.


Biggest difference was in Q2, with Vettel .3 seconds faster than Alonso.


Can I ask how on earth engineers can predict the Red Bull is faster than the Ferrari, let alone, predict an exact amount of time (4 tenths)?

From all of the lap data I've seen, which I have been analysing in quite some detail, I would say that Ferrari have the best car.


Maybe that is why they are F1 engineers and you are not? They will have access to data and an understanding of how these cars work that we dont and cannot dream of having.



My understanding is that the teams have acoustic analysis tools that judge how quickly the cars are accelerating, based on the change in engine revs, and from that what fuel mass they are carrying.

From that data and top speed info, the teams make assessments of how powerful their engines are relative to the competition. Now when Adrian Newey says that the Red Bull's Renault engine is giving up 0.5 seconds per lap to the Mercedes-engined cars, he could be honest or looking for a concession or massaging his ego.


I guess it is based on the collected datas. Both Ferrari & Red Bull covered more milage than any other team. Both teams used various set ups. So, it is easier to compare the pace of Vettel & Alonso & Massa. On the other hand, Webber's pace is a bit different even though he has also covered a lot of laps. Webber hasn't used as many set ups as the other drivers. So, long story short, 4/10ths would be the average pace per lap on the same set up based on the same number of laps. That's my reckoning anyway. However, 4/10ths seem too much. I'd say it would be a lot closer than that comes race weekend. Also don't forget how reliable Ferrari really is. Tyres and reliability will determine who has the upper hand for the season, not just the pace. At this stage my money is on the red cars. FA or FM we will find out!!!!!


if there is 4 tenths between ferrari and redbull were in for a nightmare of a season because the ferrari is definitly the closest car to redbull though as ever development over the season as ever will b crucial.


Maybe not mate. The gap will come down for sure. But with multiple pit stops this season, it is more likely the reliability will give one team the upper hand over the other. We all know how good Ferrari is on tyres. Also Ferrari will probably benifit from KERS than Red Bull as well having had a full KERS season experience before.


Mercedes GP- what can I say..

We are talking about a team that produced lemon after lemon with big budget back in Honda days.

And I was foolish enough to expect them to out-smart the likes of Ferrari and Red Bull with a smaller budget.

If Ross Brawn had any answer I don't see why he needs to keep it so late. I am not an engineer but dont aerodynamics massively effect on tire's degradation? If that's the case why are they collecting data in terms of tire behavior without the full aero-package?

It doesn't make any sense.


Slightly off-topic but Schumacher's Mercedes last year in the early part of the year understeered in the same way as his first Ferrai F310 in 1996 did; he couldn't get it turned to the apex and kept throwing the car into oversteer to counter the understeer. Here's the link below to the video of Schumacher at Silverstone in 1996. Do you see any comparisons James to the Mercedes in 2010?:



Yes the aerodynamic load is pretty important in terms of load on the tyres. Suspension set up: spring rates and camber and castor settings is another factor.

The BAR/Honda cars had good and bad years. The 2008 was a big stuff up, lacking basic rigidity in the chassis. The teams was generally able to improve the car during the season.

2009 Brawn was a very well designed car, including the double diffuser. It was generally a lot quicker than the Williams and Toyota, which also had the double diffuser, although the Toyota engine was slower than the Mercedes.

When Ross Brawn arrived he was able to implement the management processes of a big F1 design team. It is not so clear that when the downsizing came through that Ross got the best model. As I understand it, the Mercedes design shop is still smaller than then the three top teams. Therefore it is not that surprising that it is behind them. Individuals will come up with great ideas, such as the F-duct, but generally this is icing on the cake, adding 0.3-0.5 seconds per lap. The base design is often more different than this.


Interesting but true statement. Mercedez will just have to hang in there. Don't forget even with Schumacher, Ferrari took 5 years before winning the first driver's title in 20 years!!! They are probably not as bad they look. They have had some good moments in the past few tests. Merc will certainly work and build on that. It is a bit slower compare to the big 2, but it is better than last season I reckon.


Indeed. Since the Honda funded developents that won Jenson a world championship, the cars have gone backward. Just look at the results - since mid season in 2009, the slow march to the mid pack began. Ross had beter respond, I don't see Mercedes accepting this performance.


Actually, they have been going backward all the time. That's their signature. 2009 was a one-off due to double diffuser, even then they were going backward.

I am getting the impression that the team is not as competent as other teams.

Well, if Mercedes do not want to accept this, they better put more money in. Otherwise energy drink makers will lap the "Mercedes" I mean how embarrassing would that be?

By the way James, do you know what happened to Nick Fry? He disappeared quietly.


Not really - He's still at Mercedes






please stop SHOUTING 🙂


Mmmm, it smells like a three world champion beeing baked.


Firstly thanks James for such a wonderful synopsis of the day's happening.

I guess the cancellation of Bahrain GP is a boon to several teams coz it gives more time to experiment and be good with their much hyped updates.

It's good for us fans also because they will again test in a circuit which is at a lower temperature and then head to a circuit(read Australia) where the temperature will be much different. So it might throw a thrilling race as every team will be more or less blind as to how the tires will behave...Plus the teams also get 4 days of pure testing..


Don't count on Melbourne being warm this year, as the weather is behaving strangely to say the least. This week is overcast and in the low teens as a minimum and 20+ deg c as a max.

With four weeks to the race I would think the probability of a cool GP weekend is high.


Everyday forcast is extremely volatile in Melbourne now a days. One minute it says it will be 30 deg in the weekend, two hours later it said that it will be 24!!! With all the changes, number of pit stops & strange weather, we are up for a dramatic season opener.


On qualifying


We saw last year that the gap between top teams and midfield ones is very close with the single tyre manufacturer, engine freeze and the more and more restricting rules.

Given that the gap between option and prime tyres is 8/10ths, top teams will have to use the softer compound much earlier than they want which might damage their Q3 performance.

This year, starting on the softer compound won't be paramount as it used to be because of the safety car risk and the qualifying performance. I think that some teams might go for the harder compound in Q3. The drop in tyre performance (2 to 3 seconds) makes it easy to overtake even without the rear wing trick. Add to that the multiple pit stops and alternative strategies will look very tempting especially for teams not challenging for pole position (Mercedes & maybe McLaren) or for the less performing driver of a team (Massa for Ferrari & Maldonado for Williams). Another argument supporting the use of the harder tyre in Q3 is that the use of the softer tyre in the last phase of the race will make it last longer given that the track will evolve during the race with laid rubber.


Good comment, I completely agree. This big difference between compounds will be fantastic.


It is good someone got smart and stopped the race....It should have been Bernie, but lord knows he would not step up, then he would be to blame. Sad he wouldn't do it.


Hmmm, here's a multiple choice question for you:

Imagine you've spent £10,000 on a holiday but the tour operator is has a spot of trouble and you're not sure you still want to risk going with them. Do you;

a) Cancel the holiday yourself and get no insurance payout - making yourself look doubly stupid for having paid for an insurance policy and not using it

b) Wait until the holiday company cancels and get your £10,000 back

c) Blame your 80 year old travel agent for everything

Answers on the proverbial.


poor Bernie he lost so many dictators !


RedBull is 4/10ths faster than Ferrari : that's shocking James !

If RedBull can take care of its tyres as much as Ferrari does, it's going to be a bit boring at the start of the season. I don't think RedBull will repeat last year HaraKiris to help their opponents but they seem to have their share of reliability issues especially overheating on a quite cold spanish weather !

On the other hand it's not surprising giving how conservative the rear end of the Ferrari looks. Very few teams have less imaginative rear end. The only imagination consists in the number of Italian flags painted on the Red car : 7 this year (maybe more).

On the other hand, McLaren has been quite imaginative. The designers much have watched some of Tim Burton movies before working on their car and it didn't pay either. Moreover, they need to review their much publicized super complex modelling of the Pirelli tyres.

Mercedes doesn't feel like a top team to me and it looks like it belongs to a 2nd league with Renault.


are you a secret genius or one of the teams engineers, under a pseudonym? If not, maybe it would be worth allowing an element of doubt to creep into your assertions; I am sure they have their reasons. But maybe you should just in case, ring up martin whitmarsh and tell him your opinion of their tyre modelling program...I'm sure he will appreciate it as much as we will! 😉


I've heard from the journalist that make the spanish coverage (alongside Marc Gené)that this isn't the definitive rear wing, and the real thing is something never seen in F1.

Anyway, first comment here(excuses about my English), and, I've to say, best blog. Keep it up James.


Whose rear wing are you referring to, fullthrottle? Sounds like speculation, but I'm all for innovation so I hope it's true!


Ok, that was a answer to the statement of Ferrari rear end being conservative, that's why i mentioned Marq Gené.

Conrad M. Sathirweth

I'll get right onto Mclaren and tell them apparently they do not know what they are doing. It is just testing for crying out loud. I am getting sick of people saying that Mclaren have screwed up after seeing only 8 days of testing.


Best piece analyzing of the F1 pre-season tests James. This kind of posts is why this is the best blog on F1.

Like RedBull, you're carrying last year's form but don't rest on your laurels !



Currently James, what would you say is the current pecking order of all the teams?


James didn't answer but I think it's the following so far:

Torro Rosso
Force India


Why is Ferrari at the top of your list when he mentioned a suspected 4/10th of a second gap in quali for the RedBull? Clearly if this is so Red Bull have the car to beat.

I have to say....if RedBull has that much of a lead on everyone at the start of the year, I really think its going to be a boring year. Sure, reliability and strategy might come into play more this year, but RB won't make the same mistakes two years in a row....sadly believe this season will be wrapped up quickly if RB have that kind of an advantage.


Don't worry it won't be that straightforward, James is not always right even though I respect his analysis, on this right now after the last test I have to say Ferrari are just too consistent, reliable and out on track the car is visibly faster than all in fast corners. The pecking order will change but noticeably Mclaren are struggling with their new aero design, reliability and tyre degradation and I guess they're relieved to have seen Bahrain cancelled, Renault looks solid and if Bahrain wasn't cancelled I think they might would have beaten Mclaren by seen as everyone have more time it'll be interesting to see what they can do at the next test.


Red Bull - using wing where no one else has done race sims and quali

Ferrari - also fast

McLaren - hiding alot but not well tested

Renault - jumped Mercedes

BAR Mercedes - I mean Mercedes going backwards more than Schumacher

Williams - gradually moving fowardish. Looks good. Livery TBA/Confirmed

Sauber - playing it safe unlike last year, looks genuine

Torro Rosso - new floor and looks pretty good, 2nd in one timesheet and they seemed rather happy

Lotus - Big improvement

Force India - Fall back position maybe?

Marussia Virin - CFD niet niet niet

HRT - a new livery and more pay drivers looks good for them, but unable to find a 2nd pay driver looks bad

ALl just guesses, haven't attended anything, just going by comments, journalists' views and timesheets.

I'm rather certain about the top 3 and the bottom 2. Top 5 look correctish. That makes 7. MIddle 5 hyave the resources and if one can pull something off then we could see them jump, but who knows which one it is.


Did you actually forget Mercedes or you think they aren't worth mentioning?

Either way, I can't blame you.


Actually I did forget Mercedes, It goes like this:

Torro Rosso
Force India


Is Mercedes no longer in F1? I seem to have missed that.


Mercedes withdrawing :)?


.... poor old mercedes!


I would probably put Merc after McLaren, Torro Rosso & Williams ahead of Saubar as well as Force India ahead of Lotus. Other than that, that's my order too. Surely everybody's got a different one on their minds.


dude Merc looks bad but you should still give them the benefit and put the on the list somewhere..


As a Ferrari fan, I would love to see Ferrari beating Red Bull and it doesn't look too bad for the team. Fairly reliable car, quite fast. Definitely, we do not know where Red Bull is...but it is irrelevant. It looks like they at least are going to have a chance to fight for the championship and hopefully, this year it will be WDC and WCC.


Macca are only running at 90% of potential at the moment. First race we're going to see something phenomenal.


How do you know that? And how do you know others aren't following the same strategy?


By speculating & a little bit wishing I guess.


Oh, then I will do the same, and who knows, maybe I discover Hispania beeing 2 secs. faster than anyone else.


yeah some ozzie women


some say 90,2% !


I'm confused, is Bahrain cancelled or postponed?


Postponed in theory. This might be a bit of face-saving on behalf of Bernie though. He's probably said something like: I'll give you a call.

One wonders where it could go.

This has cost Bernie $20m one assumes. Bahrain paid over the odds for the first race of the season.

Now it's in Oz, at a bargain price. You really have to feel sorry for the chap.


It did not take long for so called Middle East Exotica to come to the end.
F1,does not belong or grow there, water Bafalo or the Camel is more appriciated
and understood.A fistful of $ to Bernie simply says money talks and sh*t walks
and we move on regardless of misery and poverty of people living there.
Its time for Bernie to look the Sunset with the stronger view, and return to the
traditional countries and it's venues where F1 began.



What about Yas Marina Circuit for hot condition testing?


testing outside of europe is uneconomical for most of the teams if you ask me.


hows about a test at bathurst the week before f1 gets underway in australia...too good to be true unfortunately


Yes, but I have read that Vodafone will be doing a promotion at Bathurst before the Aus. GP. Craig Lowndes to drive the F1 car and Button to drive the V8 car around Mt. Panorama. Can't wait to see it!


It will be Barcelona again.


Thanks James, excellent report as usual. Ferrari certainly would benefit from fewer miss steps, they needlessly left quite a few points on the track last season. I hope you're right about Mclaren having more time to get the MP4-26 sorted out. Yet will the precious time lost gathering data on the tires still be a hindrance in the first few races?

It is also a point well taken that Pirelli is building tires for races not for testing in February. Mark Webber made comments similar to this about how the drivers were worried about tires last year during testing but they ended up lasting much longer than expected.

From some of Lewis' comments it did sound like it was rather frustrating. I suppose the frustrations Jensen went through in his Honda days helps to keep him calm and confident.

Should be very interesting to see the upgrades.


I know we aren't reading too much into the times... but Massa's lap is half a second faster than anybody else this week. YESSSS!!!


I think he's back on it mate, fingers crossed.


Double thumbs up Pirelli.

That Virgin looks a bit slow.


0.4 sec between Red Bull and Ferrari? I would love to see some data behind the statement. In my view, this is what people would love to see...something that feels more accurate based on what they remember from last year.

I think nobody knows. Maybe Red Bull is faster, maybe Ferrari - but maybe McLaren...who knows?

In Australia things can be so different vs what we see today. Season is not won yet...heck, it did not start yet and already people are afraid of a boring season with Red Bull taking the title half season.



Adrian Newey taking the title halfway through the season. I believe he is the only designer to have won the WDC aswell... maybe Brabham counts, but that is all.

As much as I think Webber is one of the fastest in the field and as much as many think Vettel is baby (Ferrari-)Schumacher, niether would be up there without Newey. NO driver wouljd without the car, but Newey pretty much gave RBR the WDC and WCC by himself. Brillaint


Well I just talk to experienced engineers who attend all the tests and that's what I'm hearing, 0.3s to 0.4s but that changes all the time with new parts coming on stream etc. Will be different at next Barcelona test as season-starting body kits come through.


James you said earlier the 0.4 gap is in quali, not in race pace right?

I just don't quite understand - how can the engineers know the difference in qualifying pace since (as far as I know) the only qualifying stints we've seen so far was yesterday - when Massa was fastest?


You're assuming the teams create models to see how the other cars run - but I don't really see that happening. They have nothing to gain by doing that? It sounds to me like mostly thumb-suck numbers...


If a team can have a good idea of the fuel load a car had during a specific lap, and has a model on how fuel affects lap times, it's not difficult to put it together and guess what every team would be able to do on a qualy lap.

Now the real question is, what have teams been hiding from tests altogether?


James - I have no doubt that people started forming an opinion and thank you for sharing-this is why we all like coming here.

I am honestly curious, how do the see? We analyze lap times too and I can't figure out the difference. If anything, Ferrari is more reliable and with the amount o miles they were able to put on their car, I would say they might be a bit further with understanding tyres.

But, we are all speculating:-) I couldn't agree more with you - Ferrari will finally need to start innovating.


The teams have a lot more information that just lap times, they will have speed trap and sector times for starters. They can use acoustical analysis to measure engine rpm, so they know who's short-shifting. They can estimate fuel loads based on acceleration and how a car looks when changing direction.

I'm sure there are plenty of other little bits of information that also feed into their calculations.


I imagine it's experience that allows the engineers to predict - i assume it can't be done just from the figures (and without seeing the cars on track)


Don't understand how you can estimate 4ths from the info? It's only testing and we need to wait to australia


"Tyre management is going to be vital this season, which is more of a Jenson Button strength than a Hamilton one."

My point about F1's enticed flaw, proven.


It re-defines racing into conservation from risk-taking and attacking.


If you look back at the Canadian GP from last year it may give you a clue 😉


Is there any more news as to how the new KERs and moveable rear wing will impact the races? Will there be testing for us to see or is the first time we see this in anger going to be in Austrialia?


What is going on at McLaren??? Every year they come out with so much BS about how the car will be this and that...then reality makes an entrance. Hamilton needs an exit strategy if he wants to win another championship. However, I fear he is too loyal to Ron. He needs to take a leaf out of Adrian Newey's and Pat Fry's handbook..."how to flee a sinking ship".


So are we going to see qualifying with 5 lap-stints? http://f1tests.mine.nu/2011_1.php?rev=on

Or, in other words, what is the rationale behind the extra laps if this was meant to be a qualifying simulation? Is it really taking Massa 2 laps to get the tyres into their temperature operating range because of how carefully he needs to heat them up without losing performance? That's going to make qualifying in Q3 quite tricky, especially on long tracks like Spa.


No, you will see very little in qualifying. Everyone will try to get the job done in one lap


Hmmm on that note, I wonder if we may see a rule change in accordance with a change to less durable tyres.

Unlikely though, but we will have the top 10 qualifiers for Q3, do a one flying lap stint. We can get to see every lap of every driver, and that means we can see every mistake!


So it seems that the days of one-lap qualifying will be back before long. Surely they'll have to change the qualifying format to the way it was around in 2005 with single-lap quali; then again, that ruins the whole spectacle of qualifying as no one will push for the pole position; everyone will be too conservative. By the way, won't they have to change the regulations that the top 10 start on the tyres they qualify on? Surely by the time qualifying's done, their tyres would be shot...


Yes qualifying will see far fewer laps turned. You get one lap and that's it, except if you are struggling to get out of Q1 or Q2. Pressure's on the big boys to be perfect in Q1 and Q2 with one lap only and not to need a soft set in Q1


If everyone will try to get it done in one lap, then it does not bode well for those drivers who tend to make mistakes under pressure.


Do you think a fifth test is likely James?


I hope not, why give McLaren a get of jail free they don't deserve. Seems like they changed their car design at the last minute and bit off more than they could chew.


I'm not sure. If the next one goes on to the 11th, then it doesn't leave much time for another one before freight goes to Australia


James hello!again great coverage on tests!

Can you give more info about the Williams?

The car looks promising but it is dissapointing that u rate them after renault and Merc.

thank you vey much


+1 I would also like to hear how Williams and Torro Rosso are doing. They have come out with interesting packages --- and other team engineers have openly given them measured praise for their interpretations.


I'm at Williams on Thursday for a technical walk through of the car with Sam Michael. Will post after that


Thanks for that James!Great!



Thank you yet again for keeping the content world class and your insights highly professional.

As you have mentioned through the winter, Mercedes is down on pace. In your interactions with Ross Brawn, how does he come across in comparison to the height of success of the Ferrari years? Worried, confident, or playing the cards close to his chest?

Off topic, but it may be a fair addition to the site to have comment voting(?). Oftentimes I cannot read the hundreds of comments following a post, and I am sure I miss some very good points that are made by fellow readers.


The Mercedes being down on pace is an inherent sign that they may be a one-trick pony. They [in the guise of Brawn GP] were on the pace immediately with the double diffuser in 2009 but by mid-season they were overtaken for pace and by the time the RB fitted its double-diffuser (which I believe was difficult to incorporate because of its pull-rod suspension [correct me if I'm wrong]), they were comfortably faster and the trend continued into 2010 with some awful races (Schumacher at Canada etc.) The question us, can Brawn and Schumacher work their magic? Then again, it took Schumacher 5 years to win at Ferrari, with his first Ferrari being an understeering dog in the same manner to an extent that the Mercedes was.


People whinge when the tyres are too hard and now people whinge when they're too soft.

Pirelli were given the job of making tyres that were better for racing and it looks like they're doing that. A bit of pressure from the media should not sway them!

If the drivers and don't like it - lump it. Get better.


It's not just that they are very soft: They also provide far worse performance even at their peak than the Bridgestones did.


Totally 100% agree. Seems Pirelli are doing what we the fans have been asking for. As I say you play what the conditions give you.


i would have no problem with races with 4 or more pit stops.

as long as they're pedal to the metal when they're on track, it's going to be better than an endurance race.

very excited about the new season.

my tip is Kobayashi to shine this year.....and make a few heat of the moment mistakes too!!!


Hi James

I've heard lots of rumours that the Bahraini Royal Family have a rather large stake in McLaren. Around 40%. Is that true?

i thought you'd know for sure, but i haven't seen it mentioned in any of the Bahrain related stories.


i think this was not the utmost pace of Ferrari, as also RBR didnt show its full hand yet.

About 2011 season, i think

1. Ferrari will enjoy the advantage of more conventional push road suspension in the early stages of the season as tyres are new to all teams.

2. Difference between RBR and other teams will not be as big as last year.

2009 was like a reset year to old technical rules of F1. Until the next reset, advantage of having a genius designer like A.Newey will lose its importance more and more by passing each year.

3. Mclaren may not be the fastest car for now but it is better to keep in mind that a F1 season is a very long period and to have a car suitable to improve is as important as to start a season with a very strong car. So if the base of new Mclaren car is right, than thay may have the fastest car after the mid season or in the last quarter.

4. Ferrari and Mclaren currently have the best drivers (Alonso and Hamilton) who are capable to extract something more from their cars. If RBR can not come with such difference as last year it may be very hard for them to stop Alonso or Hamilton.

i wish a very enjoyable F1 season everyone.


I agree with that as well. That is exactly what happened when Adrian Newey was at McLaren. They had a massive advantage in 1998 with the introduction of grooved tyres and less mechanical grip, less so in 1999, but by 2002, the Mclaren was nothing more than average as the big teams, esp. Williams had adapted to the grooved tyres well. I believe they finished 3rd in the WCC that year


I agree, specially with your 2nd point.


james you talk about alonso very confidently, are you hoping he benefits alot from others misfortunes this year like he did last year?? hmmm


What about his misfortunes benefiting others? Last year we saw many of these ones. If he has a car not 1 or 2 tenths slower than the fastest, he wil take WDC, you can bet for it.


Alonso is one of the very best drivers on the grid. Anyone would be confident backing him to be in the mix for the title regardless of any misfortune the opposition might encounter.

C'mon, we all know there are at least three main contenders every year. he is most definitely one of them.


Since they're taking a bath on the Bahrain GP, they'll probably avoid the cost of any additional fly away races or practices.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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, 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.]


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.



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


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.


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!


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...



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.


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.


No. No. No.

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


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.


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!


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 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


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 really miss wins like these, fingers crossed.


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