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Looking for clues from Jerez test
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Feb 2012   |  6:23 pm GMT  |  198 comments

The first pre season test of 2012 concluded yesterday and although it’s too early in the game to draw conclusions on the pecking order in terms of outright pace, it is possible to look at what some of the front running cars managed in comparable circumstances. Here we will look closely at some comparisons.

One of the headlines is that Pirelli have done an excellent job with the first stage of development of their tyres. Engineers and drivers alike are full of praise for them. The 2012 tyres are more durable and offer good grip. This was particularly evident when the track was cooler; the wear was significantly better than last year.

According to Pirelli, during the four days in Jerez “a total of 3380 laps were covered by 23 drivers – equating to 14,949 kilometres.” The new medium tyre completed the most with 1776 laps, followed by the new soft with 1010 laps run and the hard with 594 laps run.

Lewis Hamilton gave his assessment of the competition at the front, “The Ferrari’s not really showing anything just yet. Of course, the Red Bull looks fast – as it usually does – and we’re there I think.”

Although RBR have not gone for an eye catching time this week Vettel did use a set of new soft tyres on the final day, but his best time in a seven lap run on them was a 1m 19.7s, which indicates that he had a fair bit of fuel on board. His next run was on a set of used medium tyres and he did a 1m 19.6s straight off and then a sequence as follows – 1:28.1; 1:21.1; 1:21.5; 1:21.5; 1:21.7; 1:21.5; 1:21.7.

The Red Bull certainly looks consistent, as it did last year, driveable, stable and fast.

Hamilton did a nine lap run on new soft tyres and his first lap was a 1m19.9s, so it’s hard to draw too many conclusions. If the fuel loads were the same the McLaren is 3/10ths slower, but there’s no way of knowing how different the loads were. Just 10 kilos difference would account for 3/10ths of a second.

Alonso did a 6 lap run on new softs where the first lap was 1m 18.9s, but given the way the Ferrari had been running this week this was likely to have been done on less fuel than Vettel or Hamilton were using in comparable runs. There was no comparable used medium tyre run by the Ferrari, due to some reliability problems in the afternoon.

“Eight or nine hours of testing and only 40 laps, “said Alonso yesterday, “In Montmelo (Barcelona) we must do a hundred odd. We’ve understood only about 20% of what we need. This is a completely new car. In four days we’ve turned it around and seen progress even if it doesn’t show in the times.

“There is still much to do, especially on the aerodynamics and on reliability.”

Meanwhile Grosjean did a 13 lap run on used mediums with the following sequence – 1:23.6; 1:23.2; 1:23.4 ;1:23.5; 1:23.6; 1:23.6; 1:24.1; 1:24.2; 1:25.0; 1:25.2; 1:24.6; 1:24.9; 1:24.7; 1:25.3; 1:25.9.

Hamilton’s 13 lap run on used medium tyres was as follows – 1:22.1; 1:21.7; 1:21.8; 1:21.9; 1:21.9; 1:22.0; 1:22.0; 1:22.0; 1:22.5; 1:27.5; 1:22.6; 1:22.1; 1:23.9; 1:23.5.

Although you cannot zero in on the precise underlying pace of the cars, you can look at reliability and this shows that both Ferrari and Red Bull had some problems. Ferrari’s are to be expected given a completely new concept. The Red Bull niggles on an evolutionary car are a little more worrying, but they have time to sort them out.

For the most part the McLaren, Lotus, Williams and the midfield cars ran pretty reliably. Kimi Raikkonen covered 192 laps in his two days in the car and he’s clearly right there despite two years on the sidelines. It helps a bit that his team mate Grosjean is a little ring-rusty and playing catch up.

Engineers are saying that its going to be close this year behind the front three or four teams (Mercedes’ new car is an unknown) and that it will be vital to have all the performance enhancing parts working well in order to get results. These are things like KERS, exhausts blowing on rear wing elements and other aero developments that teams incorporate as the year goes on. Anyone who’s limited on development by budget could find themselves sliding back as the year goes on.

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The new Mercedes W03 will feature a stepped nose!! Came across a few shakedown video clips and picture (still video shots) and it does seem more like a stepped nose.

Also found another article about Hamilton on the new Mclaren. Not sure on its authenticity but interesting nonetheless:,36940.html



please give you breif view of the new boys in new cars so far in testing .



Glennb Reply:

February 14th, 2012 at 3:04 am

That sounds fair to me. If Lewis wins, its all about raw talent. If Seb wins, its the car. What is it when Jenson wins?


Well seeing as Jenson has spent the majority of his career as a journeyman, I would think you would know how I would rate him?

Yes Jenson is a very good number 2 driver (better than most) after what I saw last season but most definitely not an ace for how can an ace win 1 dry race ever since he got to Mclaren (that’s ever since he got some competition) & of course that win was mainly thanks to the Pirellis.

And oh, don’t forget the qualifying/tyre heating issues, so I would rate Jenson even lower than Sebi because his qualifying/raw pace is something that is lacking in his box of tricks.


Hmmm. Fair assessment on JB. I just hope LH lives up to your expectations this season as it will make for a great spectacle for the fans. Its hard to argue that LH is among the most exciting F1 drivers when he gets his brain into gear & his race-face on. I also think that the same can be said for SV. Looking forward to it!!!

Go Webber.


At least that new pull-rod front suspension the Ferrari didn’t break… yet. Been reading about the dynamics of it, something like double rebound stress on the lower links versus push-rod, and it does look like they had to beef those up.

Does anyone know where exactly the aero advantage is? All I can see is that it would let air flow into the radiators more cleanly. If that’s the main effect, then what’s the motive — could they run slightly less-dense radiators and get faster airflow out of the sidepods aimed at the lower rear wing / diffuser …?

Tornillo Amarillo

James, if it is possible I would like to have some insight about the pull-rod and push-rod suspensions, how they work, benefits, etc. to understand this matter.


OK. Coming soon


The only real test is the first race. Jordan would impress in pre-season testing, but from the first race onwards, the established/experienced teams stepped up their performance. Toro Rossob and Lotus Renault are more in the Jordan mould I think.


Hi James

In most of the f1 forums there seems to be a general acknowledgement that lotus E 20 is the car to beat. Do u agree with that. I know its still testing and difficult to judge but what r ur sources in paddock saying?


I hope that information is correct and that Lotus is up there for the title challenge, as I’m a Kimi fan. I know that fuel loads is a consideration, but the times in JA’s article tells a different story. It looks like RBR and Mclaren willl fight it out for top position, with Ferrari perhaps the dark horse.


I don’t see Lotus fighting for title. Could be some podiums but depends on pace of new Mercedes


@ K

But would you rather see a boring Vettel-season runaway or Hamilton boring race runaway?


Well if I were given a choice between the two extremes of course as a Lewis fan, I would rather see a Lewis run-away season because unlike Vettel, Lewis has raw talent (same as Alonso & Schumi) so if he was to win, it wouldn’t be so much about the car.

But Vettel, has a lot of question marks next to his name so when we have a situation like 2011, you feel he didn’t really deserve that much domination.

Personally I prefer close seasons for not only are they entertaining for the fans but the drivers too get a kick out of winning close contests.


I agree, the general assessment of Vettel is guarded, some may say unfair. There is no doubt that his full potential and racecraft has yet to be tested but there’s no doubt he has raw talent. It doesn’t matter how fast your car is, comprehensively dominating qualifying shows that this guy is fast.

I’m with everyone here – if we can have RB, McLaren, Ferrari, Merc and Lotus all fighting, then I think Vettel would really struggle (as would any top driver would). Yes Hamilton can be very fast but for me, Alonso is the most complete driver on the grid by a fair distance.


Alonso currently best – yes no doubt vettel currently astest – yes no doubt however Schumacher in his prime was certainly better than alonso and aster than vettel shame he got rusty might be the age in combination with 3 years out


That sounds fair to me. If Lewis wins, its all about raw talent. If Seb wins, its the car.

What is it when Jenson wins? and dont say “wet with safety cars”.


I’m not sure about your rating of Vettel. You seem to forget that last year Webber couldn’t win the title, nor would he win a race without Vettel’s gearbox trouble. And Webber is an incredibly fast driver.


@ F1

February 13th, 2012 at 11:39 pm

I’m not sure about your rating of Vettel. You seem to forget that last year Webber couldn’t win the title


Come on man, am not rating Sebi against the likes of Webber & Co, am rating Vettel against the cream of the sport.

For sure Sebi is a number 1 driver in his team but if he’s to go against other aces like Lewis/Alonso (even the old Kimi), he would most certainly lose in my view, because he hasn’t got that X Factor you understand?

Yes Webber is fast on his day & his problems last season are well documented e.g. Pirelli tyres & the blowing of diffuser gases.

With the diffuser gone, am sure we’re going to see a much tighter contest between Webber & Vettel just like in 2010.


How exactly does Vettel not have an “X Factor”? It’s ludicrous to say that Vettel, who has shone since his debut season and has carved out an image of being the guy to beat, doesn’t have any raw talent.


Who knows if Hamilton or Alonso would win against Vettel in the same team? History tells that they both managed to throw away two titles, which is more than Vettel did.


More durable tyres are a great thing for racing!

The tyres last year were at times stupid, you had situations where a driver on new tyres simply breezed by cars on older tyres with the car on older tyres completely defenceless against it.

I know many saw that as “Brilliant, exciting overtaking” but I just saw that as dull, boring & unexciting passing.

Hopefully the new more durable tyres allow drivers to push them so we get some proper, competitive racing & some real overtaking rather than dull passing due to massive tyre performance differences.

Same as above applied to DRS which I seriously hope gets banned ASAP before it completely kills racing!


One of the most intriguing teammate battles of 2012 looks like it is nicely set up after Jerez:

Daniel Ricciardo, Toro Rosso, 1:19.587, 157 Laps

Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1:19.597, 159 Laps


Especially seeing as Dan has more F1 experience.


Yes but Eric was doing a lot of Friday sessions so he isn’t completely raw… Also assuming track would of been more rubbered in for Eric rather than Dan, still looks very close!!


Thanks for pointing that out. I agree



Thanks for this – very informative.

Just one detail that interested me in testing you don’t mention, which was how fast the Sauber was in the cold weather very early in the morning. They seemed to be getting representatve lap times – sometimes their best of the day – while everyone else was several seconds off the pace, not getting the tyres turned on.

My question is, what does that tell us about their car? Has it got more downforce? Might it suffer worse tyre wear? Will it have an advantage in mixed dry / wet races? Does it have some other significance? Or is it just a curious but irrelevant factoid? I’ll be grateful for any thoughts you have.


Hard to say. The tyres generally impressed with wear rate etc in the cold. Not sure what fuel Sauber was running at the time.


Thanks for the update James.

Though Mercedes GP did not bring in thier 2012 model, but given their performance and mileage do you think, they are step closer to having a good package or is it early days to write about it.

Look forward to your views


Has to be about the new car, until we see that, hard to say


Amongst all these, I can’t really express how much I miss the refuelling. It always added to spectacle and gave a much wider window to strategists.

It is very boring to know before race that everyone has exactly same amount(more or less)of fuel in their belly. It just kills the excitement of knowing about the outright fast car.

I still believe that refuelling would have added much more especially with Pirelli to the excitement with race than those artificial aides like DRS.


James – it seems like last year RB had the strategy of qualifying first, getting out an early lead then staying out of DRS zone. Their car seems to be optimised to suit that. There were a couple of times where Webber was behind a leading car and despite having DRS, did not have the top end, either aerodynamically, gearing or lack of power, to be able to pass.

Do you think any of the teams will have learnt from last year’s DRS experience to develop a car to allow drivers to defend or attack more easily? Given that other loopholes have been closed, perhaps designers will focus more on exploiting car behaviour under DRS conditions?


I think that the Japanese gentleman that Ferrari hired for his tyre expertise will be the deciding factor and Alonso will win the WDC


Don’t Mclaren have one as well?


James, I’m a first time poster and wanted to say that you have written the best article so far that I’ve read at this stage of the game and I’m impressed with the number of reply comments you have made. You really are a fan’s fan!

I think even Melbourne will show little as last year the Renault had two podiums in the first two races. The whole season is about development, it just goes to show how hungry we fans are for on track action.

I’d like to wish you good luck with your Radio 5 gig but feel you don’t need it, I’m looking forward to listening in as my TV feed will be in Spanish.


‘The 2012 tyres are more durable and offer good grip.’

is more durable and grippy a good thing for those wanting a good race?


A lovely article indeed.

Firstly, Redbull is expected to be dominant since we are talking evolution here, Mclaren is gathering baseline information like they did last year, so they look strong period. The interest however are Lotus and Ferrari. Last year losing Kubica was a massive blow for the team and without a lead driver it was but obvious that they slid down the order coupled with their front exhaust fiasco. This year they have a world champion and one of the fastest men on the grid and the best part is that he committed and motivated. So its all to play for for Lotus.

Ferrari however has gone the revolutionary route with their this year’s car, yes they are bound to have some teething issues but no one has a more aggressive development then Ferrari baring Mclaren ofcourse. So they are not expected to be dominant for a couple o races. And judging from the last two years the Vettel chap takes no prisoners.

So bring on 2012 🙂

Tornillo Amarillo

I think,

– the tires are more “Bridgestone-esques” in 2012

– the championships will be more like in 2010, which is great, best year in F1 in this era

– with blown diffusers-exhausts ban in 2012 and with this new Pirellis, the rear grip is compromised, so maybe the cars are going to slide in the back from time to time, spins and accidents can occur and driver abilities could be key in races.


Hi James,

Thanks for the much anticipated updates! What is the view about who is going to benefit the most from the 2012 spec tires? Ferrari was horrible on harder tires last year.


Hi James,

Just wanted to thank you once again for the articles for us F1 fans, I just enjoy and look forward to reading your articles more than any other F1 site.

Just wanted to request an article with a more detailed analysis with regards to the differences in the tyres with respect to last year, when the time is appropriate (maybe after pre-season). Would be greate if you could put that on your to-do-list.

Also for someone looking to go to Silverstone for the first time, any recommendations for where to sit?.

Kind Regards



Hi Vic.

Myself and 2 other friends are going this year to Silverstone for the first time also.

We booked tickets to Village B.

Take a look at this website. I found it very useful when choosing the stands.

Hope this helps.


James?how much do u know about pat fry?I heard that he us good at designe and innovation.wasn he the brain behind f-duct?I trust him a lot I hope he gives Alonso a car that he deserves..


He wasn’t brains behind FDuct, but he’s a very good engineer


Agree with James.

However, if Pat Fry is a good engineer at McLaren, how come Ferrari are depending on him on the designs of the car? o_O


Hi James – hope you are well, just wished to check whether you still plan to post your update on the new Lotus v Lotus/ Bahar v Lopez developments? Would love to hear your views


Brilliant – thanks for confirming James. I love the insight your blog brings and as someone following the Lotus v Lotus saga closely as a long-time Lotus fan and someone who actually feels Bahars strategy is the right one long-term for the brand, cant wait to read your latest piece on this – any rough idea when you will be publishing it at all James?


Lotus should do well with this year tires as they have a lot of experience with Michelin and their square profile same as seems to be the new Pirelli profile.



Were do you get the lap times from? Are they available on the net? Would love to be able to check test laptimes.


Hi James, If McLaren have designed a car which is too slow to start with and are having to play catch-up again, do you think heads will roll at MTC.


Maybe but they came back impressively last year and you always have to ask ” Who would do better?”

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