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A closer look at the pace of the F1 cars post Melbourne
A closer look at the pace of the F1 cars post Melbourne
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Mar 2011   |  5:55 pm GMT  |  152 comments

Over the winter we were told by teams and drivers that it was very hard to guess what the pecking order was simply from looking at testing.

With so many variables like the DRS wing, KERS and fuel loads, establishing a clear picture was difficult during the four official tests.

On top of that the McLaren car which turned up in Melbourne at the weekend was so utterly transformed, performance wise, from the one which stuttered through testing that it was unrecognisable.

This shows that the scope for rapid development with these new rules is significant, at least in the early stages of the season. So the gaps will change a lot in the next few races.

Most of the downforce on an F1 car is generated by the diffuser and with these being cut back from double to single diffusers this year, the pressure is on to get the exhaust gases blowing across them and to find every possible way to maximise the downforce of the car, efficiently, with not to much drag. Hence the exhaust arms race going on at the moment, which was started by Renault.

Red Bull has clearly got the most advanced car; Vettel was 17km/h faster through the high speed chicane at Turn 11 than Hamilton’s McLaren and more like 25km/h faster than the midfield teams.

The time sheets from the first Grand Prix of the season tell a partial picture, as not everyone was able to unlock the pace in their car; Ferrari and Mercedes in particular were not as fast as they expected to be in qualifying and at the other end of the grid, Lotus did not show the step closer to the established teams on Saturday they believed they had achieved.

Vettel was on pole by 8/10ths from Hamilton, with Alonso six tenths slower than the McLaren, Petrov three tenths behind. To me that indicates that the Renault is probably as fast as the Ferrari. Rosberg was a couple of tenths behind, with the Sauber there too. Williams didn’t show what they can do in qualifying or the race, really. It was a messy weekend for them.

However looking through the fastest laps from the race points out a few more important indicators about performance. Jarno Trulli’s fastest lap was a 1m 32.550, one second slower than the Force India of Adrian Sutil. This is still not as close as Lotus thought they were, but still a big improvement on their qualifying pace and on where they were last year.

Meanwhile Virgin’s pace in the race highlights just how far off they are, D’Ambrosio’s fastest lap was two seconds slower than Trulli’s. They are adrift at the back of the field, and judging from a comparison of the lap times that Liuzzi turned in his brief spell on the track, there is a danger that Hispania might actually be faster than Virgin, once it gets a chance to do some set up work, in Sepang.

Meanwhile at the front, Vettel and Hamilton were cruising on Sunday, Hamilton had a damaged floor and Vettel just maintained his pace to manage his tyres. He could have gone a lot faster if he needed to.

So the fastest race lap was the Ferrari of Felipe Massa, pushing very hard in the closing stages after a late pit stop for new tyres, Alonso was also quick after his third stop. Although these laps on fresher tyres do not tell the whole story, they do show that there is pace in this Ferrari. Its problem is high tyre wear.

Sergio Perez amazingly set the 7th fastest lap – fourth fastest team – on tyres that had done 16 laps and when the car was still heavy on fuel. The Sauber is quite a car it seems, capable of qualifying in the top ten and easy on its tyres, with plenty of raw pace. That’s a points scoring combination.

Toro Rosso were consistent; they qualified 10th and 12th and in the race set the 10th and 11th fastest laps.

However we must be careful, Melbourne often shows a picture which isn’t born out by the races that follow. KERS will be more important in Sepang and Shanghai and whatever system Red Bull has, it’s going to need some help from it at those two circuits. Tyre wise Sepang is smooth, like Melbourne, although with some higher speed corners, so the tyre wear will be slightly higher, but not back to Barcelona levels.

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some insight into the mercedes story ? what happened there?


James is there any truth in the story here in Melbourne that a front wing was flown out for Vettel to use and not Webber /

I noticed at the end of qualifying that Mark was paying particular attention to Vettells wing !

If so why do you think and is the nail in the coffin for Mark as far as favouritesome is concerned ?

So far dont know if Mark has made any comment about this.

Your thoughts.

BTW love your commentary, great job!


I think mark was looking at the ammount of damage, both Red Bulls had been sufferung from this all weekend ... I expect he'd have lots of chances to look at the wings in the pits to see any differences (after qual they got park f)


A good DRS system will be vital in Malaysia qualifying.

No doubt it will work better in the race here as well.


KERS as well. Two long straights...


A good KERS system will also be needed. Red Bulls one isn't working so it should be interesting.


The thing that's puzzling me about DRS is this: wouldn't it be less effective when one is behind another car, because you're in the slipstream anyway?

I would have thought something that generates MORE downforce in the last corner, and then the natural effect of the slipstream, may make a more of a difference in this scenario, without the danger of large speed differentials.


Didn't they try that last season, with the adjustable front wing - thus allowing a car to follow more closely through a corner and then let the slipstream effect do it's thing - but it didn't seem to work.

I feel DRS has come about from a progression of McLaren's f-duct device. Early last season McLaren had an advantage on long straights due to this and made many passes.


I agree James, Sepang will more likely show the performance of the cars than Melborne did. Especially since the ambient and track temperatures weren't what was expected. The Pirellis were a pleasant surprise. As far as watching the race, had I not known there as a new supplier I wouldn't have told that much difference between this year and last year. Kudos to Vettel for praising the new tires and admitting there was a bit of hysteria pre-season.

It was also good to see Sauber peforming well, despite the D-Q. And what a fine (and rather ironic) finish by Petrov.


Most analysts including you James emphasized that Ferrari was kind to its tyres in Spain. It was shocking Sunday to see that among the top teams they're the ones with the worst tyre degradation. McLaren was definitely impressive and as you pointed out Sauber is mind-blowing simply. Such a raw speed coupled with such tyre nursing is hardly believable. In the Guardian today, I read that Pirelli engineers didn't believe the screens when they saw that Perez did pit only once and needed to double check with Sauber that he actually managed to do it. Perez said that in order to achieve that he hardly pushed but yet managed good laptimes. I wonder what that Sauber can do at the hand of top drivers.


if you cook or if you can not heat enough your tyres, which means if you can not stay in the best work temperature window of the tyre, than you can not be kind on your tyres.


"I wonder what that Sauber can do at the hand of top drivers."

Give Kobayashi and Perez a bit more time and I think they'll start giving some of the 'top' drivers another two things to worry about.


Yes, I think that Perez is a very good driver. He just seems to one up Kobayashi even, and that is impressive.

A fun comparison would be to put Kobi and Perez in a Red Bull and Webber and Vettel in a Sauber and see what is what... 😉


Lots of surprises, that's good. Sport's hopeless when you know everything in advance


Agree. Thank goodness we don't have a whole bunch of journalists writing almost daily articles explaining the intricies of a sport that many of us wouldn't get the depth of without. ANd the imagine if we everyone else 'posted' ideas, now THAT would be crazy. 🙂


LOL very good point, mate. Not only everyone "posting" ideas as you say, but also being able to discuss it!! 😉


I was amazed by Liuzzi's lap, he was not far from the Virgin's pace. If they are actually faster in Sepang that would be a huge embarrassment for Virgin.


Yeah and don't forget HRT had no running at all before qualifying and they also used last years front wing so yeah I don't know how but the HRT is fundamentally faster than the virgins I believe, a huge embarrassment.


I must say, I really disliked Alonso back in his Renault days. I was (still am) a big Schumacher fan, and nothing annoyed me more than him singing "we are the Champions" when Schumacher's engine blew in Japan 2006 (which cost him his 8th title).

But I think over the last few years - particularly 08/09 in the Renault - he has matured and petulance has turned to determination and confidence. I see him ringing the very best out of the car in every race he drives - and you can really see the advantage he has on Massa, despite Massa setting the fastest lap.

I hope the Ferrari picks it up again so we have a nice three way - Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso - title fight. Let's be honest here - these guys outclass their teammates and that will show this year.


No one is commenting it anywhere, but Alonso passed Kobayashi round the outside in the chicane, in lap 2. That's some real class, I've only seen another driver pull that one: Hamilton last year. Definitely VET, HAM and ALO are the 3 best drivers in the grid. I expect a very tough season for their 3 teammates...


I felt exactly the same way except I don't think that Alonso got matured. He showed more fists than a combination of those showed by the rest of the grid in the past 5 or 6 years.
Michael was a better team player even tho people don't give him enough credit for that. He would play second fiddle even when he was a bytes driver if the team needs him. He never blame the team or that 6 10ths, he never demanded no1 status when he is not doing a better job than his teammate. I stopped supporting Ferrari when Alonso came in. I dunno how you guys can live with that after being spoiled by Michael. Don't get me wrong Alonso is one of the greatest gp drivers. U can't take that away from him.
I will support Ferrari again if they hire Lewis or Vettel.
What's wrong with Lewis guys? He is a nice bloke according to Hekki.


Yep, Schuey was a great team player, e.g. in Japan 1999...


Malaysian GP 1999 to be precised~


I'm not a big fan of him either but since he drives for Ferrari I will have to support him. My only nightmare is if one day Hamilton drives for Ferrari. That will be too much to support.


I feel the same way about the Mercedes/Schumacher combination... But that is the way the cookie crumbles I guess. As much as you hate a driver, you start rooting for him a little as soon as he drives for your team, and that is the truth... 🙂


Hamilton is the same type driver as Alonso in my opinion.. ruthless, a little bit selfish, and can get a bit moody when things doesn't go on their way. But that what makes both of them interesting and unique.


...and he will drive for Ferrari...


Virgin is the team that should leave F1 not HRT. Actually, both should.

The gap between them is so tiny with HRT qualifying on shakedown laps. They don't know the car, the tyres and the circuit.

In a way, TeamLotus was a deception too. I thought they would harass ForceIndia. They're far from them.



You're being kind to Mercedes. Their race pace was as miserable as their qualifying pace. They're far from the top 3 and Renault.


James great article!

About Williams, Rubens was flying passing 11 cars up to lap 27 when he crashed on Rosberg.

What about that?




He shouldn't have been behind them to begin with...


The new teams are still new, despite all their efforts. They'll need plenty of time to get closer to the established guys and all those glorious press releases about being happy with P19 in qualifying and P15 in the race won't do. It's a natural process all those underdogs, minnows and beavers (as they like to be known to their self-righteous fans) go thru. Mosley's legacy continues to haunt F1. So many teams went down that route in the past but fell apart after two or three seasons. I wish them luck but they'll need more than that.

I was under the impression that Trulli has picked up the victimizing tone of the team bosses and every quote from him contains lots of complaining about virtually everything in the world.

The funniest thing, however, are Ferrari's team quotes: "Were we slow? Did I block Button? Am I frustrated about finishing behind Petrov?" They ask a lot of questions and seem to be speaking to themselves, a potentially dangerous sign. I'm worried about their mental health...

Even if RBR don't put KERS back on for Sepang or China, they can still do a good job, damage limitation or whatever. KERS is irrelevant, it was more than obvious in 2009. Of course, Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault blew a lot of cash on it... I feel sorry for them. Maybe the more powerful version of the system for 2013 will be slightly better, but so far it's been a source of constant headaches for the teams who run it.


Ferrari a big disappointment. I do not understand why Ferrari for a 3 or 4th year...cannot do anything good. Nothing changes for them....they have a good driver and this driver was not able to finish ahead of Petrov. How is that? Renault lost key people...and yet they are on par with Ferrari


Well, Ferrari lost the key people too when luca decided to disband the dream team.


Simple explanation. Couldn't get the best out of the tyres in the colder conditions on Saturday. Then Alonso was outmanoeuvred at turn 1. Any slim chance of a good result was gone.

Once the track was warmer, they showed there was performance, but by then it was too late.


This is not the point I am trying to make. Ferrari will get better and will be close to winning races or will win races this year for sure. The point is different - Ferrari is not the one being chased and they do not know what to do to start a year as clear favorites with the strongest car.

They will scratch their heads and will make the car faster by implementing the exhaust from renault, sidepods from McLaren, etc - but then you are not a real Ferrari.


they are Ferrari...they are right on schedule...and will be there...


Alex, this is race 1....

They will be there come the title deciders, or at least I'm confident Alonso will be.


James (or anyone else), has there been any objective assessment of how much the "illegality" of the Sauber rear wing could have assisted their pace? Or can we be confident they only got disqualified on a technicality?


I hope James doesnt mind me posting this, but Scarbsf1 blog explains what is illegal about the wing,


For technical articles, in addition to James tech analysis articles Scarbs (Craig Scarborough) is always a good read.

His twitter account is @ScarbsF1. I think is the link to his article on it.

42 is the full link. Previous one didnt work when I clicked on it.


Renault was quite impressive. Heidfeld will definetly improve in the next races. After a collision in the first lap the right side of his bodywork was completly destroyed.

James, do you have any information how long the DRS zone will be at Malaysia? Will it start just after the last corner or somewhere else on the straight?


They announced today that its going to be 700m long but i missed the location, sorry.


Thanks anyway!


So much for the less fattening KERS then!

If Hamilton was using the full KERS on the start, it had no effect upon his deficit to Vettel, whom, to all appearances had at very least, "double KERS" and simply rocketed away in the first few hundred metres.

Were I Red Bull, I would seriously consider not fitting KERS at all until the others had shown a considerable improvement in their performance.

And of course Red Bull made 3 stops whilst it was proven that if you get things right you only needed one stop in Melbourne. The point being that had Vettel also needed to make only one stop he would have been maybe another 40 seconds ahead at the end of the race. The others had better hope that Red Bull do not get the tyre wear sorted.


And to add to that, if Red Bull doesn't fit any KERS up until the so called performance has been proven, they will be on the back foot and drop behind the others. It is important to keep on developing the KERS.


Lewis had a poor start and had it not been for KERS, he would have been in 3rd or 4th definitely helped him. Couple that with the fact that the Red Bulls both had amazing starts


Kers only works once the car reaches 100km/h or for you Englishmen, 55mp/h. Due to the short straight in Australia, the KERS was ineffective. The KERS will be more important in Sepang.

Also Hamilton was on the dirty side hence Webber had a better start too.



Please state the reg which says it can only be used after 100km/h is achieved. This was mentioned a lot two years ago but it was not in the regs then either. I have just re-scanned both the tech and sporting regs and cannot find any reference to it. As far as I know KERS is used off the line by all teams, having fully charged it beforehand.


It's not in the regs, the extra power in 1st would just spin the back tires off the line so the driver won't press the button until they are up to speed.


Hamilton got a poor start - this much was apparent by the fact that Webber was catching hin and along side him until the McLaren KERS kicked in and Lewis was able to pull away. Had Hamilton not had such a poor run off the line then he may have been troubling Vettel into turn 1, rather than fending off Webber.


Wow! That Red Bull is fast! 17km/h through the fast chicane is very significant. Impressive stuff.


This is the kind of analysis that I want to read. More on the speed on the chicane, midfield performance and the bottom team.



Well done James!


James - why does it sometimes happen at Melbourne that one team has such an advantage? Thinking back to 1997, Villeneuve had a gap to Schumacher in 3rd on the grid of over 2 seconds, but the championship went down to the wire. Do you think we'll see a repeat of '97 where the gap is never as big, or will Red Bull stroll into the distance?


The thing is we don't have a Schumacher that is head and shoulder above others.
Alonso is very good but he is not head and shoulders above Lewis or Vettel.


The advantage the Williams had in 1997, and the Mclaren in 1998 was far greater than the advantage the RedBull has this year or had last year. The Ferrari in 1997 of Schumacher was over two seconds slower of in Australia and that of Irvine 3 seconds slower than the Williams in 1997! In 1998 The Mclaren again was close to 2 seconds a lap faster the Ferrari. Both the Williams and the Mclaren were designed by Adrian Newey. It unbelievable that Schumacher managed to take such inferior machinery to the final race of the year in both 1997 and 1998. Schumacher at the time was in his peak, and was by far the best driver in f1. Today we have a number of very good drivers, but none of which are capable of dragging such inferior machinery to challenge for the title. It’s what made Schumacher arguably the greatest driver of all time and certainly of his generation.


Not sure I agree that there is nobody who can outperform a car in F1 today

I'd certainly put Alonso in that bracket at the moment, who can maximise what he could get out of the car (even if not brilliant).

Oh yes, and perhaps Geo forgets that in one of those years he quoted, schumacher broke his suspension in Oz, then decided to drive right across damon hill so he they would both have to retire. I watched it again in BBC4s docu this weekend, and had forgotten quite how blatent it was.

I do agree, the Senna Schumacher fights would have been good to watch.

I personally think Senna was miles better.


I agree 100%.

In 1994 and 1995 he had an inferior car to the Williams driven by Hill and yet still won the title both years.

The late great Ayrton Senna in the Williams vs Schumacher in the Benneton for 1994 and 1995 seasons would have been even more exciting. It's a shame fate dealt a different destiny and we never got to see the full story of Schumacher vs Senna.

No doubt Senna would have still been at Williams in 1996 and 1997 and what amazing seasons they would have been.


Yup... Just like as Hakkinen/Coulthard had the same advantage for the following season, I still remember they lapped everyone but themselves, but still Schumacher drag the championship battle to the very last race. Hopefully McLaren and Ferrari, or even Mercedes can pull out something similar, or else we are going to get another boring 2004 style season.


To what extent is tyre wear a factor of the car design vs driving style?

The Ferrari's seem to wear the tyres out faster, with the Sauber's at the other end of the scale. That would suggest the car design is a big factor in tyre degradation; but on the hand, it's always seemed to be that driving style is seen as the biggest factor.


But no one expected Lewis to last his tyres like he did, especially in a race distance. I think the tyre simulator that McLaren developed over the winter is really paying off. Kudos to Paffet and the rest of the team.


Very good point. Especially when you add in that the car will have been unbalanced by the broken floor


Ruben's - after his off which put him down to 20th - seemed to be going very quickly, and overtaking a lot of cars.


the problem of Ferrari is directly related with pirelli tyres which i think they brought a different component than which used during Barcelona tests.

while some teams and drivers benefited from different component others effected badly.

Ferrari were 1sec faster than Sabure during the tests but the difference at qualification was 0,2 sec.


Thank you for the informative breakdown of all the main variables, James!


I think difference between Virgin and Lotus is not that big. Here is the first stint comparison between Trulli-Kovalainen vs. Glock. After that stop Glock had a problem so comparison thereafter would be meaningless:

Trulli started on hard tyres and pitted on lap 16, until which his average lap time was 1:37.511

Glock started on soft tyres and pitted on lap 18 (2 laps more than Trulli despite started on soft tyres), until which his average lap time was: 1:37.438

Kovalainen boded much better tho who started also on soft tyres like Glock but pitted 2 laps early on 16, until which his average lap time was: 1:36.445

On same compound, Kovalainen was 1 sec faster per lap than Glock, who in turn was a tad quicker than Trulli's who albeit was on hards.

Therefore, Virgin is obviously slower than Lotus, but not that much suggested by the fastest laps timesheet.


Thanks James! Did the Redbulls use their KERS at the start of the race? They got of the line very quickly. I thought it would be Hamiltons only chance of getting ahead, instead he was defending and Vettel pulled 2 seconds very quickly?


They did have the KERS on the car, it's just not working at the moment.


I have read in numerous places, and I'm sure Christian commented after the race that they had removed it due to concerns of reliability.

If they werent going to use it, it would be better to remove it and use ballast (which would love the COG of the car) and put it where they wanted to optimise handling.

Maybe they put all of the ballast in those front wing endplates.


"Q: Lewis has KERS on his car. You don’t have KERS on you car?

SV: We do have KERS on the car, but we didn’t use it. It is not that we take it down and then are lighter than the rest. That was in 2009 when you could take it down and play around with the weight. And I was wondering why nothing was happening… (laughs) But let’s be serious again - we have to get it working for Malaysia. "


They didnt have it on the car.


I can't understand, if FIA has showed Webber's start with KERS indication, why it is confidential similar info from Vettel's car, or really does FIA decides what to display on TV and what to conceal even form analysts?



In relation to the Red Bulls not having KERS did this reduce the weight of the car or did they just redistribute the weight saved by taking it off?


Rider, James,

Weight distribution of the cars is fixed at minimum 342kg at the rear & 291kg at the front.

Leaving the teams with 7kgs to play with.

It's incredibly doubtful that Red Bull (and all teams) aren't far enough under, that only by removing KERS will it give them access to the 7kgs as ballast.

Apart from reliability, removing KERS gave Red Bull no other advantage.


No, there is a minimum weight, so they would have to add ballast, but it would give an advantage as it would be where they want it


Red bull took the KERS off their car on Friday due to 'possible reliability issues' - Hamilton was on the dirty side of the track and span his wheels which is why the RB got away safely. Added to that its a short run up to the corner. Since you can't use KERS until the car is up to a decent speed anyway and after a couple of seconds you are in the breaking zone. So KERS is of limit benefit on this track.

If Mclaren had got the acceleration correct at the start they might have possibly got ahead of the RB rather than having to defend and find a way thru.

After that RB's pure pace opened the gap - at the expense of tyre wear which came back into play later.


KERS can be (WOULD BE) used off the Start. We saw HUGE bebefits to KERS Start cars in 2009 - especially the Mclarens..

I have no doubt that lewis had his thumb firmly on the KERS button at the start - which would have contributed to his spinning up the rears and allowing Webber a half chance to sneak through and gain 2nd place by T1 - which he lost IMHO because he braked too early and let LH back into the slot... OK.. he probably didnt want to get nailed by the McLaren mid corner either..

I hear that the weight of the KERS unit causes issues with Webbers car - as he is heavier than Seb - and the combined KERS and Driver body weight might be hard for MW to reach - even with some drastic weight loss on his behalf

Any truth to this James?


RE: KERS limitation, not to be used below 100 kmh

I've read somewhere that's an urban legend. As well I've struggled with the tech regulations (art. 5) and there's nothing about a speed limit on the use of KERS.


We first of all, you cannot use KERS until the car is already up to around 100kmh I believe (although looking through the FIA regulations I'm struggling to find that exact wording). LH started on the dirty side had wheelspin at launch on Sunday, which cost him. Webber is heavier than Vettel and may have things set up differently, we did not see a replay of Vettel's start, showing a KERS graphic, on Sunday and have only the team's word that nothing was used. Vettel conceded in the press conference that "I was pushing buttons at the start, yes" but later changed his story when told Christian Horner had said to the media that the team was not using KERS



Nice article as always. What was your opinion of the DRS system (if you're not already writing an article on it)?

Usual caveats about Australia not being the best place to demonstrate it apply, of course, but do you think it was a successful introduction?


Not james, but I read some interesting commentary on it.

Most of the drivers were using DRS to get up close by the end of the straight for turn 1, and then actually making their move at the end of the next straight.

The straights arent actually that long in Oz, so I'd expect it will directly help more on the longer straight tracks.


Sepang would be a better place to test the DRS out... two long straights followed by a hairpin at the end of each of them. Can't wait, already got a ticket for that Grand Prix.


Andy - cheers for your comment, very interesting.

I'd actually rather see what you say was happening, than the driver blasting past on the DRS-straight and being ahead before even making it to the braking zone.

It was just hard to tell from my own viewing of the race - it seemed most of the time to make little difference and then occasionally worked far too well, which was the worst of both worlds, but perhaps the TV cameras weren't always following up the "second corner" moves like you were talking about.

Not that there was a particular shortage of it in Australia, but separating it out from the KERS and tyres and other stuff seems tricky.


In reality that straight was too short to see the benefit of it. You could see the cars getting close but just as they got to the end of the straight.

I'm quite glad it wasnt like a PS3 turbo boost button. So while it helped, it didnt guarantee an overtake.


"it" being overtaking, sorry!


All of this is great but that was one boring race in terms of on the track action. As long as you have massive tire wear and lots of "clag" (note that David Hobbs mentioned this 4 times in one race instead of his usual one, a new high and, his fellow announcers even brought it up several times) and there is only one line around the track you are never going to get passing. Maybe this is too simple but what about tires that don't leave clag all over the non racing line. Sure the grip will be down and the speeds slower but there could be a lot more passing which would make it a bit more interesting to watch.

Hugh and Janice Mckenzie

Having done the Senna trail in Brazil and having had contacts with the Senna Foundation we feel that an opportunity has been missed to help raise more contribution towards one of the things Senna really strived for to help the children of Brazil

We are sure you have great donations from many rich contributing sponsors but we held Senna in such great esteem

It truly is an opportunity to see how you have captured one of the greatest but surely a contribution of £20

is very limited and yes we are the ones that did not make it time to acquire the tickets

but would have felt it a honour to give to such a good cause and keep up the good work Senna started. Please let us know evan though we cannot get a ticket how we can contribute to help with the foundation trust funds


Just trying to put together the things about tyres.

Which one the case?
Ferrari struggled to put heat into the tyres during qualifying -> Isn't that means that the car gentle on tyres?

On the next day had higher tyre wear than RB and McLaren during race. -> Was that because the car lacked of downforce and slid too much?

Opposite of lack of downforce is Red Bull. They have enough of it but their wear was more than McLaren's

What is the best compromise on tyre wear among driving style, suspension geometry etc. ?


Very intertesting read on a topic I hoped you would be discussing!

Your site has become a daliy read for me because your insight is always very interesting and in-depth and the comments posted are generally from a knowlegable bunch of people that just seem a bit more grown up (sorry kids)


Thanks - that's the idea


James -

You mention that Ferrari's trouble was high tyre wear, I'm a bit confused by that.

It seemed to me that on Saturday Ferrari struggled getting heat into the tyres and perhaps couldn't get the best out of them in cooler conditions due to being fairly light on tyres, rather than the opposite.

On Sunday, Massa seemed to struggle with high degradation but this was understandable given his early dog-fight with Button.

For me, Alonso looked fine on tyres... he was lapping far quicker than Webber having done similar laps towards the end of their second stint and was matching pace of leaders. He came in to cover Webber after his brief off - good call, I was screaming at the telebox and obviously Pat Fry heard me (good ears Pat). However, I don't think Alonso's set was finished or that he struggled with degradation particularly.

What insight do you have to the contrary? Would be really useful to understand.




Sorry James I just wanted to clarify, do they still have the double diffuser or was it just a typo? I do agree with you that it is too early to clarify where the teams are, shame about the Saubers but it looks like James Key might become very valuable property in the future the way he seems to have turned that team around.


Some interesting points to consider. Amazing speed diff at the chicane. Doesnt make good reading for the others.

On Sauber, I've said it towards the end of last season, and I'll say it again now. James Key appears to be one of those people who can just make cars faster. Hes one to watch in the next period of time. Perez and Kobayashi are the type of driver pairing that will gain the team support from the neutrals (I always hppe for them to do well since Peter took back over)

In theory, the Ferrari back end is one of the best out there, and I can imagine its in the top 2 engines in F1 without a doubt. It was quite ironic that Sauber and STR were troubling the ferrari yesterday.

Mercedes seemed to be in the doldrums for race one, but maybe thats just a blip.

I'm delighted to see McLaren turn up with a decent solution to their issues. It was looking dicey to say the least.


Is James Key's role at Sauber is the same as Newey's role at RedBull?


Yes, he's in charge technically. Not sure he's as hands on in the design area as Newey


More than one way to captain a ship though James 😉

People who turn up at teams and those teams see an upturn in performance can't be a coincidence.

My favourite quote of the entire weekend was someone posting about whether this whole Newey thing is hype. Not sure I buy that one 😉


I don't think they were anywhere near Ferrari their customers. They troubled Massa maybe but Ferrari is all about Alonso now like in the old good days.

I hope you enjoyed your week-end with Macca revival. Hopefully they'll find a way to mess it up.


Maybe a poor strategic call that costs one of their drivers the WDC?


I definitely enjoyed the weekend more than Barcelona a few weeks ago where the car was in a mess. 🙂


Melbourne is an odd place. It's described as a place where you can't measure relative pace of the cars, yet in the last decade has proved an excellent indicator of the driver/car that goes on to actually win the championship.


I agree, in the past 5 years, 4 merlbourne winners won the championships. Strange isnit


The Lotus Renault looks really quick (if it's in one piece. The damage on Heidfeld's car was fierce!), it'll be interesting to see whether they can keep up the same development pace that they had last year.



Did Red Bull still carry around the KERS in their car on Saturday and Sunday, so carrying the weight penalty, or remove it? With the system, they must have 0.5 to a second extra in hand?

Also, through simulation, has anyone worked out how much the DRS decreases laptime in qualifying? I realise it varies from circuit to circuit (Monza/Monaco), but then we could see how much the double diffuser ban and what the actual one lap pace of the Pirelli's is compared to the Bridgestones.


The cars have to run at a minimum weight so there was no benefit weightwise. The benefit would come from being able to place more ballast in better areas of the car, improving the balance of the car


It strikes me that the RBR can carry more pace through the corners than any others car at present. And this it seems was evident in Australia. But we know the Mclaren has a more powerful engine and is not a million miles off the RBR with downforce. Once we go to Sepang is it not possible that we will see the Mclaren emerge as the 'faster' car?

My point is that if Mclaren can find some more downforce by perfecting the EBD then the advantage may swing Mclaren's way quite quickly as their straight line pace wins out.


Virgin need to find a wind tunnel sharpish.


I posted on another forum (naughty me) that I honestly believe Hispania will be faster than Virgin by the end of summer! Nick Wirth just won't admit that his CFD only design approach can't deliver the goods in open an wheeled formula in the way that it has in the ALMS Acura car. Still lots of deveopment to be done to the software yet.


I'm convinced that a Geoff Willis led redesign, and a Williams back end will be right come race weekend.

So I share your view. But I'm going for the 3rd GP of the season! If I'm not right, come back to me 🙂


Could be sooner than that.

Jake Holocointo

James, I'm curious; why are you going out of your way to avoid questions pertaining to the political situation at RBR?

Does your relationship with Mark preclude you from commenting on what is clearly now a dysfunctional relationship between Mark and Helmut Marko?

If not, are you able to comment on the rumour that a new wing was flown out for Vettel -- and only Vettel -- to use in Melbourne? If Vettel was the only one to receive the new wing, then it would suggest that things have become positively spiteful between Mark and the good doctor.




I'm not avoiding it. I know nothing of this wing and there was no talk of it over the weekend. Both cars were sustaining damage to the bottom of the front wing endplate through contact with the ground. As for politics, it's very clear that the team is lined up behind Vettel now.


"Both cars were sustainin damage to the bottom of the front wing endplate......." That's interesting! Did other cars running on the same track and at similar speeds sustain similar damage? Or was it due to a RBR flex mechanism hard at work?


It's (to me) becoming clear that the top 3 teams all now have a clear No 1 and I'm sure it does to you too.

Senna didn't need to have the tile No1 at McLaren though he was (rightly) simply No1.

The likes of Vettel, Hamilton (in my view the fastest & given equal equipment more so) and Alonso don't come along often and it'd just great that they're all racing at the same time against each other (history would maybe tell a different story had Schumacher faced the same during his prime!



have you been able to gain any insight (for instance from Frank Dernie or one of your tech contacts) about how the Redbull front wings can hold the vertical load tests without problem, but can flex at will in the race and quali.

I'm fascinated, as I believe it may be something to do with the directional layering of carbon fibre.

Hats off to them...


Maybe it is not because of the wing. Maybe it is related to the geometry of the arms of the front wheels and the suspension system during the turning.


It's hard to believe RBR have provided both of their drivers with the same equipment.

A question to anyone who can answer,

How many times can a team fail to qualify before there is no place for them in F1?


Definitely not one....


I haven't found anything about that on FIA 2100 Sporting Regs.

IMO, it would be a question of time. No sponsor could support a team that consistently fails to qualify.


Oooops! 2011 Sporting Regs... I've not been able to find the 2100 ones yet! 😉


I love watching the coat turning of F1 fans. It would seem the very people that noticed Vettel for who he really was last year, have changed their opinions after his lottery championship win.

In 2010 the general consensus was Vettel is a spoiled, obnoxious little brat (this is concerning several pieces of behind the scenes footage), but when he did win it was all lollipops and rainbows.

Now we're in 2011, and after the first race is screamingly obvious the little brat is being silver spoon fed by his team, I mean lets face it, Germans stick together right?

Swap the RBR cars around, and lets see how good a driver he really is.


I'm not a Redbull fan, or a vettel fan, but I dont think you could get wider of the mark on this one...

From what I've heard hes a decent young lad. Hes probably a little immature at times, but hes only just out of short trousers.

And as for your comment about Germans, I'm sure they look after their own, just like the brits would be expected to look after theirs and so on.

And how you'd reconcile that with Helmut Marko pushing Daniel Ricciardo is pretty difficult 🙂


Have you been watching F1 for the last three years?

I'm sorry for being procrastinating but... I'm sure most reasonable people would agree that Vettel is a golden boy.


I've been watching F1 for 25 years.

Whether they support him more than Mark isnt my point. That isnt his fault. He doesnt come accross as a brat, far from it.

Adrian Newey made the call on the wing didnt he, not Christian Horner, not Helmut Marko.

I'm a huge fan of Mark, and I wanted him to win the WDC last year in the absence of a McLaren winner.

I personally think a lot of this issue is dragged up by your friend and mine Mr Marko. But thats IMO... 🙂


So waht do you think the chances are that RBR will have a rocket ship that eats tyres every few laps on some of the harsher circuits?

Turns out Renault were right with their predictions.... joining top 3... Amazing!


Fast Laps give a distorted picture, now that refueling is banned, since most Fast Laps are set by drivers on new tires at the end of the race when the car is light. There's much less info to be gleaned since refueling was banned.

Now, the Sauber is interesting. Last year, Kobayashi had some fantastic results by running ridiculous numbers of laps on a 1-stop strategy, and it seems like Sauber has tried it again. The speed of Perez's car late in the race on old tires was surprising, and so the apparent lap-by-lap dropoff may eventually stabilize given enough laps. It will be interesting to see how teams respond. You would think the top teams would now try to see if they can run a 1-stop strategy.


It says that in the post, however you can make some comparisons


In my opinion i feel as though the DRS system works very VERY well.

Without analyzing every lap, I noticed that a car that was faster was able to get close enough for a pass, even though it did not happen in turn one. Button on kobayashi is a good example and Vettel on Button is another one which without the pass, would have cost him the race win. I also noticed that cars with similar pace was not able to easily pass another, which was the fear of most in pre-season.

As a fan that has loved every race over nearly the 20 years I have been following the sport I think DRS is perfect, because it gives the oportunity if you are quick enough to get past a slow car and get on with the race. I applaude the FIA for trying something crazy like this and hope it has a similar effect on the remaining races.


Does the DRS really have any appreciable difference to the closing speed when a faster car is in a slower car's slipstream? I'd be surprised if it was enough to make any huge difference.

Surely the biggest effect comes into play once the following car moves out of the slipstream to attempt the actuall overtake? Isn't this why the 1 second rule was brought in, to make sure that cars would be in the slipstream anyway, and the DRS is to assist the actual overtaking manouvre?


Like most people I suppose, I was both positively surprised and impressed with the pace of McLaren (and Hamilton in particular), Renault and Sauber.

Less so by Ferrari, Mercedes as far as teams are concerned; and Webber and Massa who underperformed their team mate massively.

I'm going to Sepang next week. What corners would you recommend we watch the Friday practice sessions?


What must be worrying for Massa in particular is that the car is now having troubles warming up the tyres again, according to Aldo Costa.

So they have a worst case scenario - tyres that are slow to warm up and that don't last long.


Interesting to read, James. I'm looking forward to your posts about Chinese GP next month.

I have a question and hope you could help me here. I've search jobs with Formula One racing, not the engineering kind of jobs, but the hospitality jobs that could make me travel with the tournament. I did a lot of searching, but with no luck. Can you give me some ideas? Thank you very much.


Write to the teams' head of HR. Offer to help as a translator or even on their shopping runs during the GP weekend.


One thing that I "observed" during the race but I haven't seen anyone pick up on was that after 5 or 6 laps into a stint, Hamilton started to catch Vettel. The in-car radion from Vettel was broadcast first saying his tyres were going off in the first stint, and Hamilton could stay out longer.

So, are the Red Bulls getting better grip from the tyres in the first / second laps, whereas the Maclaren's are taking a few laps longer, but last that little it longer?

This would partially explain the gap that Red Bull got in qualifying and repeated in each of the laps following the start and certainly the first stop? During the race, Hamilton started to close slightly 3rd or 4th lap into the stint.

Could be that Vettel eased off, but I doubt that was the case, certainly at the start of the race.

Just a thought!


A friend of mine made the same observation during testing. He said that the drivers that warmed up their tyres at a more relaxed pace at first seemed to be able to make them last longer with not such a harsh performance drop off.

Your observation seems to confirm that theory to an extent. It might have been that Vettel pushed to hard in the first 2 laps and heated up the tyres to fast...


I'm still angry about drivers leaving the track (all 4 wheels outside the defined exterior of the circuit) to make a pass, by going the long way around, with no reprimand. If you get a drive-thru for cutting a corner and gaining an advantage (rightly so!), surely the same should happen if one goes around the outside of a corner at a much higher velocity and thus gains an advantage!?!?!?

Anyhow, it would seem RBR still retain their cornering advantage over the other teams!



I have a totally unrelated question, but thought I'd ask it here as it would be good to have your opinion.

I've been saving up to visit the Japanese Grand Prix combined with a 2 week holiday of Japan. Given that you have been going there for 20 years do you think that the current problems in Japan will affect the atmosphere at the race and the general atmosphere/experience of visiting Japan.

I don't think I will be going north of Tokyo anyway.

Appologies for sticking this question in a totally random place.




Officials told me in Melbourne that at the moment, Japan is on. Of course the country has a lot to overcome and we hope it doesn't happen again later this year. the track is 400kms at least south west of Tokyo. I'd fly to Nagoya via Seoul, if I were you


Thanks James, this really is a once in a lifetime (or at least till I retire in 30 years) trip and I really don't want it to go wrong


Hope the situation in country will improve and all will go to it's normal way, so that we will not miss Suzuka GP in this year.

But may it sounds little naughty but I guess who will not be much worried about, other TOP teams apart from Red Bull, Ferrari sooner..


The next few races will show the real picture. Many teams have gathered valuable information on the tires behavior, so I expect closer gaps. Good KERS is needed in Sepang, I hope there won't be any rain to ruin the race and watch slow laps. RBR's rivals need to think about aero packages, because Vettel was gaining a lot in the third sector at Oz, and this is the only place where good aero is required.


Another great F1 article and as others have said it's (in the main) refreshing to read intelligent, reasoned and knowledgable comments from others.

Re Redbull and Kers, I agree we onl;y have the word of Redbull that they didn't have it and let's face it it's their right to say whatever they say so long as there're not breakjing any rules.

On the race, I was dissapointed that Vetel didn't get a penalty for his liilegal overtake of Button, who knows how the race would have panned out if he was instructed to give the plkace back (as he should have done) and as for Brubles comments that the stewards didn't look at it as Vetel had already overtaken Button that's missing the point as Vettel's speed was such it was impossible for him to stay on the track.

One would think with todays technology it'd not be too difficult for the FIA to have a system that alerted race control when a car (any car) leaves the track!



Just wondering if anyone has done any comparisons of qualifying laps to see how long each driver activated their DRS over the course of their hot lap? Are we not just seeing the qualifying speed of the cars, but also the extra capability of some drivers over others to cope with the balance changes activating this system causes the car's handling? And did Vettel use this substantially more than the rest of the pack, and thus have a much faster lap, or is that purely just raw pace? DRS times or percentages of each lap would be fascinating.


An interesting question. I think I heard Martin Brundle say that Vettel was able to use DRS through some of the corners in qualifying. I expect the pole lap is available on the BBC website so with the on-screen graphic it would be possible to check.


The lap the BBC show is often not the actual pole lap from what I can see. This time it was as you could see Vettel's dashboard had the time on it. But in previous seasons they seem to have just used a random flying lap, because I noticed this when in qualifying the driver had passed traffic to get pole, yet when the lap was played the next day there was no traffic at all.


He was able to ope the DRS in the middle of Turn 2 and earlier than others when exiting corners. We saw that all through practice


What was the top speed difference between vettel and webber? would that be an indicator of any equipment differences ?


1) Weight distribution percentages are fixed by the 2011 rules. The only advantage of not running KERS is lower CG. A lap time model will clearly show if it is every better to race without KERS.

2) KERS would not be of any benefit off the starting line. Lacking any aero down-force, the engines are not delivering maximum power for some distance beyond the starting line. Why would you want the extra power of the KERS until the engine is at max power?



I think there's no regulation about not using KERS below 100 kmh. Actually, as far as I remember, the reason is that using it below some speed could make the car 'undriveable'. Did anyone hear this?


Explains how Red Bull's wing flexes so well.

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