F1 Winter Break
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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Hi James,

What are your thoughts on the Caterham? Do you think they'll claw their way into the midfield this year? I love an underdog...



THey seem to think they will. I think they should given the engine/drivetrain they have. KERS and three years of chassis dev with some good engineers


Thanks for the reply 🙂


Just to add, remember that Mike Gascoyne (together with Pay Symonds) was at Renault in 2004 which led to the double world championships in '05 & '06, so there's good pedigree at Caterham.

It does take a while to build-up your team, so that everyone has the same 'mojo' so to speak, and it also depends on resources available but I'd love to see Mike G win a championship down the road with Caterham coz his stint in Toyota was 'less than expected'.

Hi JA, i'm still wondering what had happened in Toyota F1 coz I really expected Mike G to build a title winning car; can you spare a few lines of nostalgia?


I think it's pretty well documented that Toyota's corporate management style didn't work in F1 with endless, pointless meatings slowing everything down and clouding the teams direction.


Very interesting. Last year during the tests the Ferrari were near the top of the timesheets and had a poor season. This year with a 'new' car apart from their glory lap they seem to be lagging behind. Do you think they have tried to change too much too quickly?


Well, there is a line of thinking that suggests it is madness to carry on doing the same things when they are not producing the results you need. You HAVE to make change. In racing, if you are trying to overtake someone you cannot do it by being on the same line as them and following. You have to take a different line. Same with the car development. Change always brings risk. It is the designers' and engineers' job to manage those risks to get the desired outcome.


I beg to differ. Newey has always been extremely successful with refining a concept until it doesn't seem to be possible to improve it any further. And even when getting stuck in a dead end street, like with the blown diffuser that got banned, he likes to take a few steps back and start a new branch from the old concept, rather than inventing a new one. He did that at Williams, McLaren and RedBull and his success is undisputed.



Hardly. He's been at Red Bull, what, 6 or 7 years now? I don't remember RBR being competitive with his original design there...


But his original design IS producing the results, thats the difference I guess.


I have a hunch that Red Bull and Mclaren will be very close. I think Ferrari will be nowhere near for the first few races.

I also think a smaller team could spring a surprise on us.

But this is just me guessing as testing shows nothing, especially the first tests.

I can't wait for this year, it's going to be one of the best.


God let's hope so ... if RBR are 1 sec faster than everyone else like last year at the start, it will be 2011 all over again.

Here's hoping that ANY car other than the RB8 wins the opening race, and that the same car doesn't win both of the first two races.


I have to say I noticed a real lack of marbles ESPECIALLY compare to last years test. Any thoughts on that James?


THat's what they're saying. Will check it out in Barcelona


If that is true, there could be even more overtaking this year as drivers can go off line a bit more.


Hopefully that great circuit design in India can be put to good use.


Thanks, James, much appreciated:-)

I was hoping that you will post something like this.

We would all love to be able to make some more conclusions, but it is impossible.


As long as it is fast and has a potential for strong further development (gain 2-2.5 sec by the last race), they will be good. Reliability is understood due to the new concept. Alonso will deliver. Not sure what Fry was hoping to see and what exactly is not meeting his expectations though.


Seems to be well softer and they achieved what they wanted to achieve - a car that is a strong base to work on. I think they are also contenders for the title and much stronger than last year.

Red Bull:

I still think they will be 0.3-0.4 faster comes the first qualifying. But it was almost a second last year.

I think Red Bull is the fastest and the rest is unknown.


I dont think you guys have a clue !. If Im not mistaken the Mclaren was less than 3/100's of a second slower in qualifying and at least as fast ad RB7 in the last few races. Dont forget the RB7 was designed for blown floor. I dont doubt the new car will be quick, but I think the mp 4 27 had a better platform for 2012 rules.I think the cars will be closer this year . As the step nose cars develop they will improve, but it will be the Mclaren thay will be quickest first few races.


Hi Alex,

I'd like to know what you mean by the McLaren being "well softer"? Are you referring to spring rates, which in recent times have been greater than the Red Bull and Ferrari?




Sorry, Martin.I wanted to say “well sorted”:-) Last year they way way too radical car and needed to changed many thing. This time they have a very strong base to work on and improve even further.

Seems to…

Ferrari is probably where McLaren was last year...could be.


Seems no one is fuly confident out of the box. We have to wait to see who has the big gun.


The McLaren is 3/10ths slower


Hopefully this difference between Mclaren & Red Bull will remain the same the entire season for this can only guarantee us a classic season.

I don't know maybe I have got used to seeing Mclaren playing catch up & giving the chase on race day and I for one, never want to see another boring Lewis Hamilton race win like Abu-Dhabi 2011 - Yuck!

Meanwhile, I haven't seen any pics of Vettel but for some reason I get the feeling he isn't the same happy chappie from last year for I read some words between him & Lewis & he was going on about how he misses the rear down force he's been enjoying the last few years because he now lacks rear grip or maybe he isn't too keen on the new regs that will guarantee us closing racing.

As for Alonso, he says Ferrari have learnt only 20% of the new car in 4 days, in my view that isn't a fast learning curve & if it's to continue, that will mean they will have only understood 60% (reliability permitting) by the time testing is over & yet all they had to do in the first place was to have launched the Ferrari from Silverstone 2011.

Okay am having reservations about Lotus & Mercedes for these two may not be on the ultimate pace to win the championship but rather, they might have the pace to be spoilers i.e. Steal points from the top three teams.

Yes, I predict lots of heart break & tempers flaring this season.

Anyway regarding the tyres, if the drivers are happy with the new rubber, who are we to complain but I still think these new Pirellis are simply meant to help the company save money & not necessarily improve racing because last year Pirelli were carrying with them the hard tyres all over the place only for the teams not to use them & hence Pirelli had to destroy lots of brand new tyres after the race.


If the Mclaren is only 3/10th slower as you say then Hamilton for the championship. Why do I say that? Mclaren have the capacity to outdevelop anyone including Red Bull so if they are starting only 3/10ths behind, I quite fancy them to catch up to and beat Red Bull by the time we get back to the Barcelona race.



February 14th, 2012 at 8:33 am

If the Mclaren is only 3/10th slower as you say then Hamilton for the championship. Why do I say that?


My dear fellow, if the Mclaren was only 3 tenths off, you can wager your last penny that Lewis would turn that MP4-27 inside-out & make up that deficient & if we won the title, you would have a situation where the second fastest car won the championship just like in 2008 which would be great for Lewis' legacy.

Hence why I said I would like the deficient to remain the entire season i.e. Wouldn't like Mclaren to out develop Red Bull.


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


Well, given only those two options, I would of course want to see the Hamilton boring-race runaway. If it was season's, I'd rather see a Hamilton runaway as well, if that was the only thing on offer (i.e. a season runaway). At least then you'd have Hamilton, Alonso, and Vettel all on 2 DWC's each, and the race to that 3rd title in 2013 would be great to watch!


"As for Alonso, he says Ferrari have learnt only 20% of the new car in 4 days, in my view that isn’t a fast learning curve & if it’s to continue, that will mean they will have only understood 60% (reliability permitting"

Let's not forget that Ferrari couldn't ru as many laps as they wanted to. That was a major cause slowing down the learning curve.

Your 60% would be true IF Ferrari were to have the same number of mechanical issues as they had in Jerez.

Of course the same applies to RB as well.


It was said on and off last year that Vettel preferred the blown diffuser and Webber was less keen on it. I think Mark and Vettel could be closer on some tracks this year, more like 2010.


Yes, it is interesting to see the changing fortunes of drivers when something fundamental on the cars (like tyres, downforce, weight distribution etc) changes. Each driver has their preference and some drivers are better at driving round the issues and adapting than others.


Let's hope it is closer this year. I'm sure nobody other than Vettel wants another Red Bull borefest.

Not liking the news that the tires are more durable. More degradation makes for better races.


At least more durable tyres means that Lewis can attack the race track instead of tip-toeing around. Levels the playing field with him and Jenson.


"Not liking the news that the tires are more durable. More degradation makes for better races." It also means that the RBR cars can unleash their pace more in races, as the Pirellis degration really curbed them


Curbed them? Greater downforce meant less wear relative to other teams (e.g. McLaren, Ferrari) with lesser downforce. That's why Vettel was usually able to pit later than his rivals to cover them off. I hope they're all the same in regards to front and rear-end grip, and that no car looks like it's riding on rails, like the RB7 often did.


Brad, their high downforce meant they didnt didnt spin the wheels up and slide as much, which helped protect their tires.

If they ran and hid up front, tires were not a concern anyway.



The degradation of red bull's tyres weren't just relayed to downforce at spa, it was due to their aggressive camber setup. We really don't know how the cars are going to affect the tyres yet



The downforce that the RB generates creates high tyre wear, not the other way round. Remember Spa with Red Bull blistering more exessively than the other teams? The tyres have effectively held the RB back in races which means that they could'nt really unlock the potential of the car. I know it's sounds scary, but now that the Pirellis have made the tyres more durable, expect the worse (if you're not a Red Bull fan). Adios


That depends, ware rate was directly linked to downforce last year. The more you had, the faster you went and the faster the tyres wore out. It remains to be seen if that's the same this year since it's not just the compounds that have changed but the side wall construction as well.


Great post and makes some sense of the last few days, RBR seem to be in great form, let's hope the others can give them a run this year.


Yeah was thinking that its the best and most interesting on track post at least that i have read since joining 🙂


This was what I was waiting for as your assesment of the pecking (last year) was right on the money, even though it's still early days of testing 2012



Great article James, it's cool to see the lap times in sequence to see the consistency! It looks promising at Williams with Senna completing 250 laps in two days!


+1. Any insight on how the Williams is looking? I think it's gotta be one of the nicest looking cars so far, and reliability seems to be there for the most part.


James, don't you think it is a bit early to try and do these comparisons?

A better idea would be to describe the various cars behaviour on track...

I have a lot about the F2012 being difficult to drive but we are getting conflicting reports...


True it's still too early, but with James' insights, bringing out any article would be great for the fans.

As for those reports, who are they to judge when they weren't the drivers behind the wheel to be honest? LOL.


its all setup for a great year


So in other words, no one is any the wiser.




Yep, if they have pace they are all sandbagging at this stage anyway. It is meaningless to assess pace during the tests. Breakdowns and lost track time are probably the real assessment of what's to come...


My Reads so far the risers Ferrari, Mercedes (and without seeing the car yet) lotus Force to be reckoned with, torro rosso, Caterham but only in relation to there previous trailers last season.

Stagnent to backwards Redbull, Mclaren, Sauber.

Defo backwards Williams HRT and Virgin (or what was) i reckon.


Interesting analysis, although it's hard to forget how last year McLaren struggled, Ferrari shone... and it all meant next to nothing come Melbourne.

I'm hoping Ferrari have delivered a true contender and we get a competitive fight at the top.

By the way, the sequence of times listed for Grosjean and Hamilton seems to be the same. One of the two must be a typo, right?


I am just hoping the 'Iceman' has a competitive car. Since he's back I have someone to route for.


root for


How do you know One Lunger isn't head of logistics for Lotus Renault 😉


I think Lotus is doing what they (Renault) did in 2011; strong in testing, good start to the year, and then a slow slide to the back. I think their form is more indicative of wanting to impress potential sponsors than having a truly fast car.

I'm betting the usual suspects will be up front this year, without any real surprises. Caterham will move up a bit, as expected, escape Q1 a bit more often and snag a few points on occasion. Williams will likely be in the same category. Most of the midfield will stay in the midfield.

We haven't seen Marussia, Mercedes or HRT, but I can't really see them doing much different. I bet HRT will get onto the grid, but they'll be slow and might not make the 107% in the first race or two (similar to last year). Mercedes will be quick, but I doubt they'll be able to leapfrog to the top of the heap. Marussia will likely improve, but I doubt they'll get as far as Caterham; however, I think they'll distance themselves from HRT a bit more, and might challenge Williams.

Personally, I hope that isn't the case for Williams, but nothing has really shown that they're going to suddenly find a second or two.


I agree with most that but feel Lotus will be more boyant than you may think and at the same time Williams taking in somewhat more water!


Don't forget the designer of the Williams car is Mike Coughlan.


Not sure if i would rate him as highly as an individual as many perhaps would. We will just have to see and mind he came in relatively late on October!.


Based on what?


Based on nothing at all, looking at the bigger picture and not just the fastest times It looks like Williams will have a better car than last year, in 2011 Williams had the fastest time at the Jerez test and there worst season ever, setting glory times this early in testing means nothing.


Simply the direction they (Williams) have continuing to head over the last few yrs and just had the feeling for the changes they have been making would not be enough with everyone else's drive forward for this season. Get i better idea come the later testing session's and obv the seasons start.

Still don't think they are in the right direction yet and doubt they will until they attract a massive sponsor or perhaps a buy out.

As for Lotus there's a good strong recent success base there, seems to be plenty cash available etc just feel they are on to something for the seasons start.


"The 2012 tyres are more durable and offer good grip".

Oh dear! Is that a cue for processional racing in 2012??? For me, the unpredictability of the Pirelli tyres last year was one of the main factors in some of the most absorbing racing for years.

Have Pirelli caved in to pressure from the teams or their own PR department????


It's fair to say we don't want 2010 again ... one-stop and you're good. We want a minimum of two stops, and preferably three. Best is what Pirelli is aiming for, which is that a team could go for a two-stopper or three-stopper using the more durable tire(s) for longer, to try to beat a three-stop or four-stop strategy, respectively.

If they can find that extremely small sweet spot, then we will be on course for an absolutely golden F1 season!


With a little higher durability, we should see drivers not give up an attack on the car they're following after 3 laps to preserve their tyres for the rest of the stint. This I guess will be more evident on the longer lap/fewer overall laps races than places like Monaco et al. with reduced downforce and closer matched, more durable tyres, I'm predicting a few more off-track excursions during the races from drivers pushing harder longer than last year trying to stay on the 'edge'... certainly early on. Melbourne could be a barrier fest with lots of safety car time...


Who does Pirelli answer to: Todt, Bernie, Ferrari, others, themselves? Which of these players can strongly suggest to them what to do?

Last year Ferrari had trouble warming the tires. This could play to them.


Bernie is at top of list, but Pirelli listens closely to the teams and to Charlie Whiting. They really know what they are doing.


James just curious to know teams would load up on fuel and do some flying laps on a new set of super sifts so only they can evaluate exactly were they are at in terms of outright pace or not


I think super softs were not available at Jerez.


I think all of the tires were there, but no team opted to try the supersoft. Which makes sense, b/c the supersoft hasn't changed. Better to spend your time evaluating the compounds that have changed from 2011.


James, if I recall correctly most people in pitlane last year were ultra concerned about the pirrelis in the preseason because of their high wear rate and falloff in performance. Yet when the season had actually begun it was clear to see that the tyres had a large part to play in the excitement we saw on track - some key people in pitlane (whitwash, ecclestone) even applauded Pirelli for the courage they showed by sticking to their guns despite the flack they were getting in the preseason.

Yet now everyone is praising the new tyres' consistency. Is this a bad sign, as far as excitement on the track goes? Hopefully no one is forgetting that the Bridgestones were bad because they were ultra good - ran for ages, no performance drop offs, etc. Seems like the same comments that these new tyres are getting...


Interesting. Hope you're wrong.


think perez might be changing tyres on the last lap this year!


I don't think better hard tyres will lead to more open strategy because the rules still force you to use two types of tyre. Top teams will qualify on soft, have to start on soft and probably end on hard. The only strategy will be within the mid section.

If the hard tyres really are a bit better, then it would be far better to drop the requirement to use both types.

Then the strategy is wide open - some top teams might even qualify on harder tyres, putting them in mid pack, knowing that fewer stops and DRS can help them get to the front.


just to add my 2-cents' worth...

tyres alone not the main differenciator; tyre + driver + chassis + engine, as a package in total harmony is what counts

different tyre types can be used differently as part of the total package; for example, last year, webber cudnt usurp vettel coz he cant make the tyre+driver component as effective as vettel, at least for most of the season; massa also took time to get a hang of it compared to alonso

let's keep our eyes on battles btw team mates and battles btw teams; ultimately, those that come out on top are the ones that made best use of their individual package


No I think this is a positive sign. This time last year in cold conditions they were wearing too much. Looks like they've done well and the strategy options are wide open for 2012


James can you expand on how the strategy will be "wide open" in 2012?



The Jerez test was particularly cold (4-8degrees) which would favour a car that had high downforce and worked it's tyres hard to bring them up to temp.

But does all this mean absolutely nothing come when we are into normal 25-30degree temp and you don't want a car destroying it's tyres.


Tyres are closer in performance so there will be a cross over where it's better to be on longer lasting slower tyre etc. Instead of running most of race on softer tyre and then harder one at end only


James, can you elaborate a bit more on how more durable compounds that we also hear are closer to one another in terms of durability and pace (compared to last year), will open up strategy options? To me that's a contradiction.


i hope kimi can be in the fight from the word go. It sure lokes like a motivated driver nowadays.


At least for three races ....


Yeah I think so, I reckon his performance dip last time was loss of interest/boredom think a lot of people forgot how good he actually is.

He may be in a different priority margin mind set now and really surprise a lot of people i think 🙂


As I said before, it'll only be by the end of the 2nd Barcelona test that we'll really know how everybody stands, after all there's almost two weeks between Jerez and Barcelona and nobody is running their full race package.


Hi James what's your feelings on the midfield battle? looks tight with Lotus, Force India, Sauber, Williams, Toro Rosso and hopefully Caterham joining in.


Great article James.

Can you shed some light on the Ferrari exhaust (that Charlie Whiting Ok'd in Jerez)? It looks rad. I don't know, but when I look at it combined with that extra air intake I can't help but wonder if there's something clever going on there (Perhaps not working as Fry expected in cold Jerez, but nevertheless). Fx. Have they found an effective way to blow excess heat from the exhaustpipes on the diffuser or some other clever trick to work around the regulations? As far as I can tell 2012 rules only forbids blowing exhaust gasses over the diffuser right? Just curious.


Did anyone read an article by Technical Director of Renault Engine? he mentioned that their engine has slightly less power than Merc's but is more fuel efficient, so much so that RBR can start a race with 10 to 15 kilos less fuel.

does anyone know about Ferrari's engine? any comparison we can talk about?


James did an article back in 2009 which kind of answers your question, though it is for 2009 engines, I dont think they differ to much from todays.



Was he talking about this season? Last year McLaren used hot blowing for their EBD, while RBR used cold. So right there, the McLaren will have to carry more fuel than the RBR. With EBD's gone this year, that requirement no longer holds.

It seems to me that Newey is not at all shy about talking about how their (Renault) engine is not the best one in the paddock, etc.

What F1 really needs is to unleash engine development again. They won't, b/c it would only be good for this year and next, before the turbo's come back.


I think Ferrari engine is same as merc but maybe uses bit mire fuel then others.I read that this year they are trying to cut the power so they can have a better fuel efficiency.and also meaning less fuel on the board.


thanks for the comment muralonso


Yes good to have a little insight particularly with times in relation to tyres. Of course the unknown is the precise fuel load at any given time, but I suspect the front row will be between Red Bull and McLaren. I certainly hope McLaren can make their car work effectively, but I suspect Ferrari are struggling a little, and I would not be surprised to see them ousted initially perhaps by Lotus or Mercedes. Mercedes not having run their 2012 car are as yet an unknown quantity. I hope Caterham with the various improvements they have can make the move into the midfield. The tyres do appear to be more durable as indicatd by the reduction of marbles off line, but let's see how they perform in higher temperatures.


James, are these lap times broken down into sector times at all? And if so, has anyone done any analysis of the relative sector times that the teams are doing?

I am just wondering if teams are testing their true potential by just pushing in certain sectors while "cruising" in others so they don't give the game away to their competitors.

PS: love your website & the various topics you cover. Keep up the good work & roll on the 2012 F1 season!


No they wouldn't do that. THanks


I had been thinking all this time that Lotus should have put Kimi on 3rd and 4th days. That way it would have been easier to somewhat compare the best drivers from top teams (Mercedes excluded). Now Grosjean's times somewhat a suspect when compared with Hamilton/Alonso/Vettel.

My perception is RedBull are still the team to beat but they may not dominate as they did in 2011 (they means Vettel, not Webber). McLaren is perhaps next - again here Hamilton is the danger guy. Next perhaps is a toss between Alonso, Button, Webber and Kimi (sometimes) for now. Mercedes is a bit unknown. If Hamilton and Kimi have their head sorted and Ferrari their machine, Button and Webber will be blown away by the former two and Alonso. Vettel with RedBull a bit ahead in speed may just nick it unless he goes in 2010 route to make some mistakes and and lower reliability of RB.


If the new tires are as reliable as they say and given Button's track record when it come to getting the most from his tire's I think Button will do as he did last year and leave Hamilton scrambling in pits for that extra 1 or 2 stops.


I wouldn't write webber off I think he is in for a big year I expect him to benefit alot from more durable tyres and no ebd as for button he can never be written off as for Komi I expect him to be battling it out with Schumacher and rosberg


I have to disagree with you Sri on Webber. Last year Mark couldn't come to terms with the tyres and EBD. By mid year he was getting on top of the tyres and when they outlawed EBD at Silverstone Mark was faster than Seb (qualifying on pole if my memory serves me correctly). With EBD gone and tyres that Webber will like I think we might go back to what it was like in 2010. It was interesting to see how buoyant Mark was after his test and how reserved Vettel was. I love the pre-season speculation!


Lewis is not in the biz of blitzing teammates. Barring his rookie year when he needed to prove himself, his approach has been teambased -The fact that HK did not perform while at Mclaren is really something only the team and the man himself can explain.

Lewis has grown up at Maclaren. He knows them inside out,the blood, sweat & tears that goes into the cars; the development; the Races. He knows that all their effort & hardwork can be rewarded by the ultimate price-the championship!

He wants the drivers title true but he also wants the TEAM to win the constructors!!! And will know from direct experience (alonso & heiki)how destructive/ineffective a demoralised/off-form team mate would be for that purpose.

So while he may expect to win against Button he also wants his teammate right behind him in position and points (ready to take over if he falters)- if he were to get his expectation then the point gap wld certainly not be a blow out.

Now with all the chatter over Lewis from last season and looming contract to be sorted it is possible that his manager will advise him to change that approach - I'm prepared to wait and see...


I do however, have concerns about Button which centre around "INTERFERENCE - Button compromising Lewis' races" ( and his fans may well worry about the reverse).

In my opinion his 2011 driving only looks xtraordinary in comparison with Lewis' (& webber in his championship winning car)but not on its own or compared to Vettel whom he was usually slotting behind. So if he is saying last season was his best ever then my concerns r justified. Of the top 5 only Lewis has owned up to a poor season. Neither Button nor Webber have (Vettel & Alonso obviously don't count)-perhaps they believe they extracted the maximum from their cars? .

If Lewis were to get back on form it would be the height of stupidity for the Mclaren drivers to begin to race each over instead of the competition (a veritable winning the battle but losing the war situation).

Yes I hope Mclaren produce the car but I also hope they issue ground rules to control and minimise intrateam racing.


To hell with that, Jenson and Lewis have provided some extremely entertaining wheel to wheel action over the last two years with Canada the only time they came together. They've shown everyone how it's done and I want to see more of the same.


Interesting Sri. What you write makes me wonder about Webber. He had trouble with the tires last year. Might he find it easier with these new compounds?


Webber was almost beaten by Kimi and Hamilton in 2009 with a car that was probably half-the speed that he had in possession. In 2010, he was having a good reliability while Vettel had lost some significant points in the beginning of the season to make Webber appear competitive. In 2011, that reliability issue was answered and Vettel was untouchable. Perhaps tires could have been an issue as you pointed out. But I do not think that alone was the problem. He should have at least been second in WDC with that good a car in 2011. Anyway, Webber is a good racer, but not in the exceptional category.


People have been predicting Button will get blown away by his team mate pretty much every year since he started, with Fisichella the only one to really succed at that when Jens was little more than a rookie in a very difficult car. I hope you're prepared to eat those words.


Ralf Schumacher scored 24 points and 3 podiums to Buttons 12 and no podiums when they were teammates. And Barrichello did beat Button in 2008 (even if only one out of four seasons, anyway)


Temperature was 4-8 degrees - Jenson is known not to work tyres therefore would have been difficult for him to keep tyres up to temp. Jens comes into his own once races and preserving tyres is a factor.


While being a McLaren/Hamilton enthusiast, I certainly would not discount Button so readily. He has improved tremendously with McLaren, and it will be interesting to see which of the pair come out on top. I think Pirelli tyres work more in favour of Button because they have last year lacked the latitude necessary to withstand sustained really hard driving, and I think Hamilton has had to rein in his aggressive style accordingly. This year with changes to the compound, structure, and profile the Pirelli's will be a little more durable as indicated by the reduced amount of marbles at Jerez so the pendulum will swing slightly towards Hamilton from the previous year. Given durable tyres and a quick car Hamilton can do things that other lesser drivers cannot, and can be very fast indeed, but this is the Pirelli era and we are stuck with having to drive fast smoothly to conserve the tyres which as we saw last year is a tad boring.


In 2010, Hamilton clearly had an upper hand over Button and in fact he beat him, so your point of only Fisi having done that is not correct. In 2011, Lewis head was elsewhere. That is why I mentioned that if head is sorted out well, he could beat Button again. If he is still in 2011 mode, then Button may gain the upper hand again. So I really do not have to eat my words even at the end of this year. 2009 with a BIG car advantage, it was easy for Button to win WDC. If the same car was in possession of Alonso or Hamilton/Kimi/Vettel the result would have been more devastating as Button barely was winning in the second half of WDC that year.



The point was about Button (not Barrichello) being not as good as some exceptional drivers.

Thats why I said BrawnGP was so good that even average drivers like Button and Barrichello did well even though they were competitive for only half-the season. If the same car was in Alonos/Vettel/Hamilton/Kimi's hands the full season's haul of points for them would have made the WDC itself meaningless from half-the season unlike in Button's case Barrichello had some chance till the last race or thereabout.


Sri, Button did do well with the Brawn car, only Barrichello did a lttle better overall from Turkey onwards. After Turkey Button had 61 points and Barrichello had 35.

They finished on 95/77 respectively. So after Turkey, Button gained a further 34 points, and Barrichello a further 42 points, only a 6 point difference, not very much if you ask me.

Indeed in the remaining 9 races that both drivers finished (so not including Spa) Button beat Barrichello in finishing position 5/9 times, though I think it would have been 4/9 had it not been for Barrichello's puncture in Brazil.

Its all well and good asking why Button didnt do as good in the final strecth of the season, but where was Barrichello for the first 8 races?



"Its also uncontrovertable fact that the Red Bull was the faster car over the second half of 09 and that the Brawn sufford badly with tyre warm up issues."

But Barrichello was doing well with Brawn car, so why not Button?


The Red Bull was at least as quick for most of the season, and the Mclaren there or there abouts after the half way point.


Talk about revisionist. I specifically said "blown away", Button acquited himself very well at McLaren in 2010 and, yes, Hamilton did beat him, but not by a huge amount and all this in a car that Button could barely fit into, with it deigned around the pint sized Lewis and Heikki.

Its also uncontrovertable fact that the Red Bull was the faster car over the second half of 09 and that the Brawn sufford badly with tyre warm up issues.


I am really loving there is almost NO press around Schuey, Rosberg, and Mercedes. Let everyone prattle on about McLaren, Ferrari, Vettel, etc. I think Mercedes are going to be better this year. TO me, better means they have a car to put on the podium. Wins? we'll see...


Possibly because they've yet to run in a representative car??


"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."

There was another run from Hamilton, the one interrupted by Kobayashi starting from lap 43 to lap 57. He kicked off with a 1:19.866.

Then 1:26.517; 1:20.983; 1:21.546; 1:21.488; 1:21.862; 1:21.826; 1:21.779; 1:22.062; 1:21.987; 1:22.657; 1:22.522; 1:34.033(red flag.

Looks pretty consistent and doesn't look 3/10ths slower than the RB to me.


Just guessing, will 2012 be

Red Bull




Force India

Toro Rosso

The highlight for me will be Kimi this year.

And I'll be glad if Ferrari can improve rapidly come Australia. May 2012 be similar to 2010.


I put the order as follows (yes I know it's early, yes it's only B-S guessing):





Lotus (maybe KR will improve the standing)

Force I



Have to remember that Lotus last year had a disgraceful lack of development over the year on it's car. Therefore meaning that after a strong start it fell off the pace of the top 4 and barely clung to 5th. Something they will need to work on this year.


and the mercs will finish behind the trs?


Will HRT make it to the grid this year ...last year aroud with Collin Kolles around, they struggled to make it to 107% rule in the first few races , and from the media reports , the HRT team is supposedly in complete disarray with Kolles departing with his mean and machinery. Are they joining hands with Epilson F1 which lost on the draw for a F1 grid slot... making it a complete Spanish entity..


James, I'm wondering what you mean by "It helps [Kimi] a bit that his team mate Grosjean is a little ring-rusty and playing catch up." Didn't Grosjean actually set a faster time?


Yes, but more generally the point is that both drivers are catching up. Raikkonen isn't coming into a team with someone who's been at sharp end of F1 for a few years and is full on it.


Ah OK that makes sense. Thanks for clearing that up 🙂


actually when I look at these times again, the RB looks really ominous!


Agreed. Autosport's live blog update commentators regularly referred to it as being on rails through the corners (nothing new, really, but without EBD you'd expect some rear end looseness). Also, is STR running a little under the radar? consistent times from both drivers at the higher end of the midfield?



Do you think we will see a return to one-stop races like 2010? Given that tyres were reliable at two degrees, they will certainly be super-reliable come race day?


I can't really see that happening. If the hard tyres are going to be 0.8 seconds off the softer ones, I can't see the teams being able to stretch out a single pair of softs for long enough to make a one stop work.


In 2010, the hard tyre was slower as well. But not slow enough that someone with softs could overtake someone with hards (that might change with DRS though).

And a fresh set of hards will always be faster than a used set of softs.

I fear that, we would return to the same 2010-style of racing, one pit-stop at one-third of the race and a procession thereon.


In 2010 the double diffuser was disrupting air so much that cars couldn't follow each other. We don't have that issue now.


Maybe. But that's not the intention


I guess it would depend on the car (the way it is set up for the tries), the driver (Button always gentle on the tries), the race (wet or dry) etc


Webber seemed to extract better times and handle the RB8 better than Vettell, you made no comment on his performance, what were your thoughts


James, do you think the rule to use both tyres will be reconsidered? People complain about DRS being artificial, but forcing drivers to use both types of tyre is even more contrived.

If the hard tyres are better than last year, then we'd see far more range in possible strategies without this rule. For example, one could go hard/hard or soft/soft/soft/soft, plus any combination in between. That would really mix things up.


I hope so! Not having to use both types would really open up the strategic options; assuming the conditions don't make the tyre choice obvious.


Very intresting point, I tend to agree with you. Did they not come up with this rule due to the ultra durable tyres that Bridgestone were producing?

Grayzee (Australia)

Thanks for the insight, James.

Has there been any talk about fuel consumption?

With the off throttle blowing now banned, would this mean that they will use/need less fuel this year? And will it be of any significance?


I'm a little concerned with the praise over the new tyres. Alarm bells are ringing in my head that the new compounds will be better for the teams but worse for the fans. The less durable compounds brought up nightmares for the tactical boffins, but great excitement for fans of racing as drivers had to struggle for position and protect tyres and not over do it.

I don't wants to see us heading back to the days of processionary races.


That wouldn't be considered a success by anyone


Who are the likely beneficiaries of more durable tyres James?

For me Hamilton comes to mind but is that likely or is that just wishfull thinking on my part being a big fan?


Yes, I think Hamilton, Webber and the softer compounds will work for Ferrari - but they've also worked hard on warm up issues


How do you think Williams are going James?


Better than last year but early to say relative to other midfield. Looks very close, maybe a few Tenths departing many cars


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?"



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


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.


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?


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,

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.


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.

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.


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 🙂


'The 2012 tyres are more durable and offer good grip.'

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


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.


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 - 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?


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.


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



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.


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


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!


@ 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.


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


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.


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.


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.



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



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:


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