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On track action likely to be more limited in 2011
On track action likely to be more limited in 2011
Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Mar 2011   |  12:20 pm GMT  |  197 comments

When I was at the Barcelona test recently I had a few discussions with engineers about some of the ramifications of the behaviour of the new Pirelli tyres.

The Italian firm has said that its brief is to create more short-lived tyres, prompting more pit stops, but one of the interesting possible side effects of that is that drivers will spend less time on track during practice and qualifying, despite needing time to perfect adjustable wing and KERS usage.

Track time will be tight with limited tyre life (Darren Heath)

There is always a trade off in practice between saving tyres and getting enough set up time. Also with testing being so limited now, many teams use the Friday practice sessions to test new components or aerodynamic developments for future races. The trade off here with the short lived tyres will be interesting.

The real problem is that it’s very hard to evaluate a change. If you set a time with one set up and then change it, the lap time will drop because of the tyre performance so it’s tough to work out what the effect of the set up change was!

The rules say that the drivers have 11 sets of tyres. They have two sets of hard and one soft set for practice. They must give a set back of primes after first practice and a set of each back after second practice.

That leaves eight sets for Saturday and Sunday, of which a set of hards and a set of softs must be given back before qualifying.

With the performance we have seen so far in testing, where the tyre performance drops off by as much as six seconds over the life of the tyres and the hard tyre lasts around 20-22 laps, it’s likely that a car will not be able to do much meaningful running on Friday, compared with the Bridgestones, which were good for a race distance at some venues.

Drivers will have six sets of tyres for qualifying and the race. The drop off in performance after the first hot lap in qualifying means that there is no point in staying out for a second lap, as the next lap is at least a second slower. So drivers will attempt to do just one run in each of the three sessions. Of course anyone in trouble in Q1 or Q2, or who does not expect to make it through Q1, can throw extra sets at it, but the front runners will not be able to do that. Certainly Q3 will be all on the one lap.

“In qualifying, it takes at least three sets, but only if everything goes perfectly. Perhaps you have a yellow or red flag, or make a mistake. Then a set is done straight away, ” Sebastian Vettel said recently. “It’s not like you can recycle a tyre again and then get a second run. These days the pace drops by one second.”

It’s also going to be tight for front runners in Q1 as the gap in performance for used tyres compared to new ones, means that even a Red Bull or a Ferrari will be taking a chance trying to get through Q1 with a used set, as they did last year, in order to save tyres for a second run in Q3. So all roads point to Q3 being a single lap challenge for pole, as it was a few years ago.

The scope for mistakes is great. There should be enough excitement going on we may not need to turn the sprinklers on…

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Another unqualified triumph for one of Bernie’s endless ill-thought-out gimmicks. Have Pirelli build these kind of tyres, but forget to up the bare allocations that come from the days when Bridgestones that were like rocks! Genius!

It’s almost as good when he ruined the Australian Grand Prix overnight, turning it instantly from a family friendly day out, to a strictly hardcore-fans-only, cult event, squinting through the barriers into the sunset, just so he could get an extra 300,000 viewers back in Europe or something. An extra 300,000 squinty eyed viewers. And he wonders why they don’t think it’s worth the money in Melbourne!


Well, since there’s a limitation of 11 sets – if it gets too boring (meaning – I just paid 700 euros to watch the cars and they aren’t showinp up) – can’t they just raise the limit to, let’s say, 13 ?


I think the drivers will struggle for new Tyre and new innovative rear wing.

McLaren’s Hamilton predicts Pirelli will be tough on drivers

“F1 is on a go-slow, according to Lewis Hamilton, one of five world champions on the grid when the new season gets under way in Melbourne three weeks time. The new season will herald a number of technical changes, including the introduction of an adjustable rear wing and the return of the kinetic energy recovery system (KERS), which will make life busier than ever for the drivers.”


don’t mean to be a wiseass, but it’s even worse. They will only have 7 sets to complete qualifying and race. Don’t agree? OK, bear with me…

Drivers get 3 sets for P1 & P2(2 prime, 1 option) and give 1 set back after each session ==> 3 -2 = 1

Another 8 sets given but they have to return one set of each compound after P3 before Q1. ==> 8 – 2 = 6

1 set left from friday + 6 sets left after P3 = 7 for qualifying and race.

Teams who will only participate in Q1 will have the luxury of being able to go 3 or maybe 4 pitstops if necessary. Teams who do all Q’s might see themselves running out of tyres after 2 pitstops.

Another dilemma to choose from….like we say in Belgium, a choice between the pest and cholera.


You know what, we can speculate, complain, moan, compliment or whatever we like about this situation regarding the tyres, but I for one am going to say that I am really looking forward to this aspect of the season as i think it is going to be very unpredictable, there are so many factors to consider, just to name a few:

Will cars qualifying outside the top ten benefit?

Will cars using too many tyres in Quali suffer in the race?

Will there be a lack of running in free practice?

If so will that affect the teams ability to analyse new parts or set up the car?

How beneficial will it be to stay out longer on track during the race?

How will the tyres suffer from over-driving in following cars/overtaking?

If so will that go against people who make more stops?

Will anyone be brave enough to get to the top ten shoot out and then not bother going out so they can have a brand new set of tyres for the race (remember ARW)?

Will we see a topsy turvy grid with the midfield teams pushing in Quali and the top teams trying to be conservative?

Will drivers with the right driving style truly benefit keeping in mind the tyres have a small life span?

Will drivers who cn make the most of cars that are all over the place be the ones who truly benefit?

How many mistakes are we going to see in the first race?

Will going off track have a more serious impact with these tyres?

That and so much more to consider, i think its al very exciting



Given that it’s probably a good thing that the tyres may wear out quicker, there’s still the danger that Pirelli have overdone it : there’ll be no more passing because the car in front will be in in 5 laps anyway. And if there aren’t extra sets of tyres the track will be deserted for a lot of practice.

And the new drivers won’t get enough track time. They don’t get enough as it is.

Looking forward to how this pans out, but for the moment I suspect that the boffins may have outsmarted themselves. What we really need is a new tyre war.


>>Will anyone be brave enough to get to the top ten shoot out and then not bother going out so they can have a brand new set of tyres for the race <<

Oh I like that one! I was thinking being #11/12 on the grid would be best, but maybe you're onto something…


well said and total agreement


I’ve been saying this for years… Manual gearboxes and steel brake discs, and ditch all this silliness with moveable wings and kers! We would then have room for mistakes with missed gear changes, and a bigger braking zone for overtaking! No frills everyone wins and its more relevant to road cars!


But then it wouldn’t be a “pinnacle” of anything! And omg we’d have to watch LMP racing to see the ‘pinnacle’!


I hadnt thought about it that way, but i hope to hell you are wrong James.

However, obvious solution, give each team a couple more sets of tires.


I think we need to step back and stop worrying about it, until the first few races are over, this could be the best thing for F1 for years, it might not. We are just observers and if we could predict what was to happen, then we wouldn’t bother watching, this time last year, Alonso was fav to be champion, Hamilton was going to trounce Button, HRT would not make more than 3 races. but four things strike me

1) The Bridgestrong long lasting tyre destroyed racing last year, put the hards on drive to end of the race and hope everybody in front of you pits, end even two cars on the same strategy, if u stay out a lap longer, you gain a place

2)Surely if a tyre degrades by 6 seconds a lap, over 18 laps, then surely the person in the best position will be the one who knows how their car performs on lap 18 .. and 20

3)Teams have a tendency to work the optimum strategy, so when somebody pits, they all pit, so I would expect to see them all running together for most of the race

4)Changing the subject slightly, but when the first picture of the Merc were shown on the net, everybody shouted ‘Red Bull Clone’, it’s the only car that looks nothing like a red bull, even with what we think are the facts, we are always mistaken

Lets see what happens, and enjoy the event


The sensible thing would be to remove the stupid “handing back” of certain sets of tyres after practice.

Alternativley just give them an extra couple of sets per race.

What about the possibility of a super hard tyre that can only be used in practice with stable yet mediocre performance but will be a platform on which the teams can set up the cars before moving to the race rubber. Even thats a bit beurocratic though, just give them a pile of tyres and let them get on with it.

Pitstops should not be mandatory, with the way the tyres are looking it doesnt look like anyone would try a no stop but even so the teams should be allowed to pit as often or as unoften as they like.

As for this wetting the track nonsense, has Bernie lost his marbles altogether? He is obviously trying to keep up with the good Colonel in terms of whos the most senile! I thought the short-cut idea last year was silly but this is ludicrous. F1 is the pinnicle of motorsport, wetting the track is something you do on Mario Kart or Dick Dastardly does in wacky races. Well done Mark Webber for immediately slamming that idea.


I thought the emphasis of the restrictions on testing and practice was cost savings. So why has Pirelli been given the brief to develop a tyre that wears out quickly? Surely it would be better all round if tyres were used that could last a whole race, so teams that look after their tyres would have the advantage of not pitting. Last year we saw a number of cars/ drivers making a set of tyres last most of the race only pitting towards the end to comply with the silly rule of using both compounds. Let’s just have two types of tyre; a durable slick and wets.


Kudos to Pirelli for actually having balls to make tires that are more for racing, less for lame-ass PR, even if it means some self-righteous, uneducated F1 fans will think that is the sign of the lesser quality tire.

This is the kind of approach you’d expect from a racing tire manufacturer.


This has nothing to do with F1 fans as most will be informed and understand what is going on. Pirelli involvement with F1 can only be viewed as value based upon the PR that comes with that association.

If you then consider the effect these short lived tyres will have on the rest of the general public, it may not be seen as a plus. If the concept that the general public has, leaves them wondering whether they can make a couple of runs to the shops before needing a refit, you have to question the merits of such PR. However silly that may sound, Bridgestone took that seriously, one of the biggest brands.


Only one of the biggest brands following its association with F1.


I think the ‘general public’ is probably a little smarter than you credit them for. It’s pretty intuitive that driving fast and racing wears out tires faster, unless you’re from some 4th world place with few cars. Particularly if they’re called ‘special racing tires’ or some such.

I just don’t think this is going to be an issue.

Bridgestone’s tires were developed during the wide-open ‘tire wars’ and naturally became pretty much bullet-proof. This is not what is wanted now.


By the end of the “tire war”, Bridgestone completely lost that one too.

In 2005 when they had to make tires both durable and fast, Michelin blew them out of the water. In 2006 it was more or less even, but Michelin was in far better position as a tire supplier before being forced out.


Bridgestone thought this was an issue and they could easily have provided tyres on many occasions that did exactly as the Pirelli’s are expected to do.

The reason they did not do so is because of this perceived issue and they did not want their product being associated in such a manner.


Well, I agree with everything except that we’ve not seen the tires perform at higher temperatures. Agreed that this phenomenon is true/possible at low temp circuits.


Maybe Q3 won´t be so important, mainly in the in the first three or four races. The teams will learn a lot during that period and then they will fine tune the setup/tire management/strategy.

I am happy with the adjustable rear wing and with the new tires. There have been a lot of concern and negative comments but in the end every year is the same, and it seems that public is never happy with new regulations.

The debate is always a good thing, unless FOTA and FIA finally realize that it is useless to listen to the public opinion because we are always very negative about whatever they do.

If we have processional races, we criticize a lot because it´s boring. If we feel that there will be more overtaking, we keep criticizing everything because it will seem artificial and too easy. I could give many other examples.

Is there a magical way of pleasing every one? Of course not.

Maybe we will have another great season, and for sure it won´t be because of tire degradation or kers or whatever that it won´t be so good as last season.



Like all F1 rule changes these things take a season two to iron our the problems. perhaps they should run future rule changes through a junior formula the year before to see if these things work or in most cases not. Im sure it would save a lot of money. The wet track idea? For all bernies greatness, he’s still a loon!


I’ve had a bad feeling about less track time ever since testing started.

I reckon Fri P1 will just be installation laps and maybe the odd flyer.

Probably the first time in the last 14yrs that i will bored at the Melb GP on a Fri.

I hope i’m wrong….


I have a couple of points to make;
1) I’m excited by the tyre situation. Yes it is contrived racing but less so than race-control-approved moveable wings and boost buttons

2) F1 is going to have a difficult time justifying its green approach to racing in the next few years (reduced engine size, KERS, etc) if it’s also throwing gallons of water onto the tarmac at the same time (especially in desert locations!).

3) Why aren’t these gimmicks for ‘better racing’ tried out on lower formulae first, away from the spotlight?


James, Mark Hughes in Autosport was saying that the drop off in tyre performance will occur no matter how gently they are treated and that Jenson”smooth” Button might not actually benefit that much, and the drivers who will benefit are those that are comfortable with Overteer when the degradation does occur (doesnt sound like our JB does it).

If think that in order to get enough extra laps out of the tyres to save a stop in comparison to the others, the lap time differential will be too great.

Asartin Brundle always said, if you stay out a momment too long on the wrong tyre you are screwed. Now normally this is wet/dry choice, but this year the same may apply to old/new. If the lap time is hurt as much as you and other commentator are saying then running at 5 or 6 secocnds off the pace just to run those extra laps wont make sense…


Hi James

A point off topic, you made a point in a previous article that the Mercedes is about 0.7s or maybe more off the pace. Ross brawn has recently commented on needing to find 1 second.

Just wanted to make the point beacuse i get a little fed up with some peoples comments who question you all the time.

In James we trust!!



Don’t have to explain this but they are 0.7s off the pace in testing, Ross feels he needs to find a second… he will be wanting to win, not just catch up, so he needs more than than 0.7s to ensure he’s in the hunt come Melbourne

0.7s vs 1s over a 1m30s or so lap, where’s the problem?


Allright David,

My point was more so that when James said this a wee while ago some people were quick to question him, and just now Ross Brawn basically (kind of) confirmed what James said, i wasn’t actually questioning the 0.7 vs 1.0 at all.



I feel that after the first race in Melbourne then will we know how the tyre conditions play out.

I do remember when the new 2010 rules were implemented many of us were not in favour or complained negatively. But it concluded as one of the best season in F1.

Could 2011 be even better, we have 19 or 20 races to find out.


Hi James

With limited running will the emphasis on team mates working together to set the car up be even stronger or is that something that would have been the case regardless.

Also if the parctice sessions are going to be dead, then the practice session spectators will just end up fading away, hence loss of money. The sponsors will lose coverage time. So depending on how important they 2 factors are i’m sure someone somewhere will be thinking of how to resolve this.



I dont understand how so many people are writing off the tyres, the wing etc.

I think the wing offers the opportunity for drivers to make mistakes, much in the way that cooking the tyres or the brakes used to, or missing gearchanges.

I’ve been trying to persuade mark blundell to go for the 5m Indy challenge on twitter. Any chance you think? He’d said it would be fun. If mario is thinking of it, Billy will be in with a good chance. Just a spring chicken!


I bet JPM would do it!


Need stable tires for a 10-20 lap stint then managed degredation.

Why can Pirelli not supply a hard, consistent compound for testing, Friday & Saturday sessions? At least allow teams to evaluate new parts and set up changes more effectively.


I don’t know if anyone else has picked up on this, but it should help with the traffic problems we have been seeing in qualifying a bit if the cars are doing less laps.

I think reduced Friday running is a bad thing, but if it improves the racing, which tactically and on track it could, I think it is a small price to pay.

I think Pirelli are doing the right thing. Tyres shouldn’t be able to last a whole race in my opinion.

David Turnedge

Whatever the problems faced this year, I’m sure Gold-Silver-Bronze medals will improve the show!



Love that last phrase

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