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F1 test analysis: A couple of graphs to get you thinking..
F1 test analysis: A couple of graphs to get you thinking..
Posted By: James Allen  |  22 Feb 2011   |  7:36 pm GMT  |  215 comments

We’ve heard a lot recently about the Pirelli tyres not lasting long and how this will affect race strategy this season, with three and even four stops a possibility at some races, based on current wear rates.

I’m grateful to my old friend and colleague Kaz Kawai from Japanese Fuji TV, who has patrolled the pit lane with me for over 20 years, for sending me some graphs illustrating the difference in the way the Bridgestone and Pirelli tyres function.

We had all got used to the dependability of the Bridgestones and in fact they had gone too far to the conservative side, with performance which was too perfect. Don’t forget that they developed their technology in the days when they were engaged in a tyre war with Michelin, who were very scientific in their approach and hard to beat.

But once Michelin pulled out and Bridgestone became sole supplier, with the same tyres for everyone, what we were left with was tyres which were too good.

Take a look at this graph from last year’s pre season testing at Barcelona, held in similar conditions to what we experienced this week.

You can see the consistency of the lap times, how little they wear, in fact the trend is upwards, showing that as the fuel burns off the laps get faster. The tyres were so good the fuel effect was significantly greater than the tyre wear.

Contrast that with the second graph (below) from Sunday’s long runs on Pirelli tyres. The trend is dramatically the other way, despite the car getting lighter as the fuel burns off and this is a graphic illustration of tyre degradation in action. It’s what the engineers and drivers are trying to find a solution to in the testing.

Look at the steep drop off in performance in the final lap or two before a stop. It’s really dramatic. As for the difference between hard and soft tyres, look at Webber’s graph, the blue one, his second set was new soft tyres and the third set was new hard tyres – there’s quite a significant difference in the rate of drop off, I’m sure you’ll agree. The softs last around 12-14 laps the hards around 20-22 laps.

Making the tyres last a couple of extra laps more than your rivals will be one of the critical areas this season in being competitive in races.

I’ve picked a graph from testing last season for comparison, rather than the race because the conditions are the same. Pirelli say that their wear rates will be less severe in May at the Grand Prix because the tyres are designed for a higher working range temperature than we have at the moment.

I think it’s a fascinating picture and very easy to understand.

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Interesting data. Have been thinking about the upcoming season. The data may indicate that 2011 will not be as close as 2010; we may have a driver or team completely dominate. The 2010 data showed that the lead drivers could maintain track position for almost a whole stint hence reamining competetive if a lead driver had a problem. The drop off in times in 2011 indicates greater variation between drivers/cars. Some drivers will have to concentrate entirely on smooth driving to maximise tyre life. They therefore may find it difficult not to fall that critical pit stop behind. This may allow the driver or team who gets it right to completly dominate irrespective of all the pass assist gadgets. I will be surprised if 2010 is repeated.

F1 2010 to kill time until March

Fantastic stuff James! About the Merc and their cooling issues, how much laptime do you think they are sacrificing at the moment? Seems their update kit might be worth more than the other teams judging by their “tone” in the press. Might the Merc not be so bad after all? Next test will be very exiting to follow.


The thought just came to me about the 2013 Tyre regulations.

James do you know if there are any plans in the works. I have heard rumours of the desire of tyre companies to go to larger tyres, including rim sim up to 18 inches up from the current 13 inches.

2013 is a reasonable time away to make any changes with go with the new turbo cars.


That has been discussed since Michelin floated it. Not sure where the teams and FIA are on this in their discussions


very informative analysis from Sam Micheal at


shortly according the Sam

Ferrari and Redbull are front at least 0,4sec from the second group which consist of renault, williams, rbr, sauber than comes the third group where mclaren and mercedes are currently in.

this is what Sam mentioned about mercedes and mclaren

“It could change. McLaren is clearly in trouble and so is Mercedes, so they are bringing stuff to the car and could easily switch up into that top group. The times that they were doing, especially on the qualifying-type runs, were nowhere near quick enough to go to the first race like that. Nico (Rosberg), I think, did a 1:23.1 with the Mercedes while Felipe Massa’s 1:22.6 Ferrari run wasn’t even low-fuel. Ferrari could have dipped into the 1:21s for sure. But, saying that, Mercedes has a massive upgrade package coming for Bahrain so maybe they will jump up there.”

you can read the full analysis from above mentioned link.


James, thanks for this very interesting article. The most obvious thing is just how much slower the cars are this year. We heard how innovations like the F-duct could trim half a second a lap and a double diffuser maybe a bit more and so on but here, without those devices, the cars are five to six seconds a lap slower than last year. Is this down to the tyres? I thought that if tyres degraded faster it meant that they were softer and provided better grip and the trade-off was between durability and speed. Is that correct? If so, with these tyres lasting for so few laps they should be really fast! Have Pirelli somehow produced a tyre that is both slow and short lived? Or have the cars lost so much performance from other changes?


No it depends on how developed they are.


So this is a feature of Pirelli being at the start of their stint in F1 and if we could somehow bring next year’s tyres from Barcelona testing through a time machine and use them now we would see much less of a difference? OK, I think I get it, thanks James.


Examining the graphs a bit and forgive me if it has been mentioned before, for Massa, laps 39 to lap 50 seems to have hit the sweet spot for time and tyre performance. Vettel’s 42-57 stint too looks very good.


Some additional detailed analysis and graphs here:


I think the issue here isn’t tyre specific. The sophistication of the modelling, computing and analysis departments at the bigger teams means that no matter what you do with tyres, pit stops etc etc there will be a favoured strategy that emerges. The days of alternative strategies being made to work by drivers & engineers were down to instincts, one guys gut against another and both backing a different option. You get the occasional maverick blimp that because of an un-modelled factor will give a deviant result but in the main statistical modelling and analysis done to the nth degree will always choose a favoured approach. Moreover the more data they collect during the season the more convergence you’ll see.


About 0.4 sec between Red Bull and Ferrari.

Sam Michael “We know how the aero platform is, and we take photos of the cars, and we have no idea where everybody is. So the journalists don’t have any chance to predict it.”


MOOOAAAARRRR, James, moar, we must have moar!!!!!

Seriously, this is fracking good stuff. Thanks!!


The idea behind rapid tyre degradation is to improve the spectactle with more pit stops (2), but in reality it will serve to reduce the actual racing because any spirited driving such as overtaking will effectively be stymied.

I don’t think the powers that be have thought it through properly as they could have kept similar compounds to what Bridgestone supplied and simply had a mandatory 2 stop strategy. As it is, as others have said, it will become a tyre conservation contest that isn’t really what we want to see.


I tried to read most of the comments but did anyone else notice how much larger the redbull advantage is this year ?

Though i don’t think we will see a processional race at all this year. The degredation in lap time is extraordinary they races will be like nothing we have ever witnessed. I cant wait, bring on Melbourne! and enjoy the last year of these beautifull (albeit already slightly emasculated) engines.


This is really interesting. Although I would love to see a graph of more historical testing to see how the Pirelli compares to tyres in the Michelin era for example. I don’t know if you or anyone else has that information.

The Pirelli’s were always going to be more of a challenge for the drivers. At the moment you could say they may have gone slightly too far. However the wear is only going to improve as temps increase so come the start of the season a 1 stop/2 stop decision may be marginal which can only be good for excitement levels.


Interesting stuff.

Sorry for being completely off topic, but what is your old mate Steve Rider up to nowadays? It seems ages since I saw him covering any sport on TV; it must have been BTCC that I saw him cover last. Are we going to see any more of him on ITV or any other channels do you think?

I am a fan of Jake Humphrey – who I think has revolutionised sports presenting to an extent – but I still rate Steve as the best sports presenter out there (along with John Inverdale, actually) and I think it’s a terrible shame that he’s nowhere to be seen these days.


Steve does stuff he enjoys, BTCC on ITV, not sure about other networks. He does loads of presentations etc. Saw him recently, he’s fine.

I agree about Jake. He has great ability and is very likeable


Hi james, I know this is way off topic as far as this article goes but just a quick question.

Any idea why we dont see more intresting in-car cameras in f1? We had that helmet camera on coulthard at brazil a few years back but since then its vanished.

CART managed a brilliant visor-cam 10 years back-

And BMW used something similar during testing-

Since its clearly possible to do in a way which doesnt interfere with the driver why have FOM not come up with something similar?

Also we seem to have lost some of the angles we used to have, We used to have cameras in the mirrors, and on the rear wings yet we seem to have the same 2-3 static angles now and i think its time we got some more,especially since we have the onboard broadcast avaliable via the bbc.


As an aside, why has my previous email address apparently been blacklisted? Changing it by one letter has enabled me to post comments again.


No idea. There is a spam filter, it must have fallen foul of


I suspect the fact that the camera housings are now a regulated part of the car, and a designed part of the aerodynamic package, has resulted in less flexibility in terms of on-car cameras.


Interesting comparison. Looks like we will find out who can preserve tires. Sad that we have to wait longer to find out.


I clearly remember so many times Schumi would put in a 20 lap stint that had each lap being faster and faster. Saw Kimi and Fred do it as well. Latest example was Webber at Hungary.

I guess I am jaded but this is what I like to see, the driver deep in the zone and pushing harder each lap.

To me this is racing at it’s purest!

This year will be about how easy you can treat the tires and the only ‘pushing’ I’m afraid we will see is in Q3….


Very Interesting post, congratulations and thanks.

After seeing all those long runs I’ve remembered one that really amazed me when I saw it, look at this 14 laps long run Fernando did the first or second day:

1:26.833 -1.992

1:27.918 +1.085

1:27.078 -0.84

1:27.469 +0.391

1:27.461 -0.008

1:27.713 +0.252

1:27.448 -0.265

1:27.953 +0.505

1:27.797 -0.156

1:28.326 +0.529

1:28.405 +0.079

1:28.110 -0.295

1:28.869 +0.759

1:29.034 +0.165

That would be clarely on top of the graph.


Really exciting article and equally exciting comments. I really believe we have many different variables like driving style, strategies, car setups etc. in action due to higher tyre degradation and looks like we have all the ingredients for a cracking F1 season. Just wonder why some drivers have been moaning and complaining about the tyres giving Pirelli bad publicity. I fear that’d force Pirelli to go Bridgestone route and start making those control tyres that last forever and drivers complaining they can’t make their fronts work in quali.

And I feel sorry for Pirelli, they have listened to the teams and the fans, taking note of the fan reaction Montreal got and going for tyres that warm up quicker and degrade quicker as well. Unfortunately they’re taking stick for it. But as a true and loyal F1 fan, when my bike required a tyre change a few weeks back, I went for shiny new Pirellis.



Your answer please (select any one which you think is the best answer)

Formula1 is all about:

a) Viewers and Entertainment

b) Drivers and Pure Racing

c) Teams and Strategies

d) Energy Drinks and Brand Names

e) Money, Market and Glamor

Rest can also answer…


F1 is all about the best of the best, pushing everything to the limit


I agree. Which is why I think drivers should be able to push the car to the limit. Tyre conservation? Bit of a long-distance sports car thing, not F1.


It is F1…………


Just want to add that I also find the comments here as interesting as the original posts. Fascinating stuff.


Fascinating, thanks.

Go Pirelli!


Hamilton is leading from Vettel and the tyres they qualified on are just beginning to go off. Alonso is in third, a few seconds back.

As soon as Hamilton thinks his tyres are going he has to pit, because he can’t risk Vettel letting Hamilton go past the pit entry then diving in himself. Vettel would come out the pits on better rubber and then when Hamilton does pit he’d most certainly be behind.

So Hamilton has to pit early. Vettel might choose to follow him in (probably would). Alonso will might wait a longer still.

At the end of the race Hamilton and Vettel have pitted twice and will both try to do the last 22 laps on tires suited to no more that 15 or 18. Alonso, having spaced his stops better is flying on the following his pit stop with 10 to go and should catch Hamilton and Vettel, with KERS and an adjustable rear wing and fresher boots…

This is my vision of 2011…


Here’s another; think Singapore last year, Vettel follows Alonso all race, pops him on the last lap because he can use his rear wing adjuster and Alonso cannot..


Push to pass? Ugh… I imagine they will need to restrict it from being used by the front runners. Can you imagine the uproar if a driver holds back until the last lap, use the button to pass and… wait for the ratings to drop like NASCAR.

I just had a thought, why not only allow the rear wing to pass up to your qualifying position, after that you are on your own. Sounds good to me! Qualify in 2nd, start the race, pit for tires, fall back a few spots, push the button to pass back up to 2nd, but if you want 1st place you have to earn it.


First of all, many thanks for this info James. As always, very invaluable. Looking at the graph and gradients of each drivers I have come to the following conclusions/assumptions:

– We know this already but the graph confirms that the Ferrari seems gentle on its tyres than others. Gradient is very smooth which shows good consistency.

– The Red Bull, similar to Ferrari but a slightly steeper angle suggesting it may be a little harder on the tyres. Also, noticed that Webbers times drop off a lot faster than Vettels. Could it mean that he’s struggling to manage the tyres? Or it may just be that he was on a different program.

– As for the Mercs. They may be slow but don’t seem far off Red Bull in terms of tyre degradation. And Schumi seems to do be doing job of managing those tyres.

(Would like to see a graph with Mclarens info :))

Moving onto the tyres – I admit, at first I was concerned but it may not be too bad. It’ll just create more strategy and make it a more fascinating spectacle to watch. I agree, if the tyres have a significant marbling effect, the drivers will think twice about going off line to overtake. But I don’t think that would be too much of a problem. I hope not! There may be a big difference in performance between tyres but thats down to the teams and drivers to manage. All will face the same challenge. I guess eventually, teams will work out the fastest and most efficient tyre strategy for a race and a trend MAY follow. But of course, that can vary from one track to another. At the end of the day, they’re all going to be racing each other… which I’m sure we will all enjoy 🙂

I feel this will be yet another epic season. Roll on!

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