F1 Winter Break
Brawn: Mercedes to sacrifice qualifying pace for race benefits
Posted By: James Allen  |  05 Apr 2012   |  2:47 pm GMT  |  67 comments

Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn says that the team has understood why its qualifying and race performances have been so imbalanced this season and that he is willing to give up some qualifying pace to have stronger races.

Mercedes has scored just one point so far this season from a potential maximum of 86, and trails McLaren by 54 points already. This is despite qualifying one car in the top two rows of the grid at both races.

Mercedes issued a pre-race bulletin today with some findings from the first races, which showed that they were caught out by not getting the tyres into the operating temperature range for the race, despite hitting the sweet spot in qualifying both times.

In Australia the tyres got too hot in the race, in Malaysia the opposite. Speaking this afternoon in a followup conversation, Brawn said, “We have a situation where we have ultimate performance but it’s ‘peaky’. Perhaps we should move towards a broader base. We would not make compromises to work just for qualifying.

“In both races, our problems have been related to getting the tyres into the correct working window.

“However, at each race it was at different ends of the scale: in Melbourne, we overheated the tyres – it was under control on Friday, then we developed the set-up in a direction which did not prove helpful in the warmer conditions. In Malaysia, having done a lot of work in practice to make sure we didn’t suffer from the same problem, the cooler conditions on Sunday dropped us out of the window again.”

Brawn revealed that the tyres on the Mercedes have been running between 15 and 20 degrees outside the optimum temperature range and this is enough to knock them off the optimum performance. It seems that the new generation Pirelli tyres are quite ‘peaky’ themselves and getting them to work is proving tricky for other top teams too.

Interestingly this is an area where teams like Sauber and Williams appear to have done a good job so far this season, hence their strong showings.

Brawn reiterated that research has shown that the Mercedes DRS booster system- which shed drag from the front wing when the driver opens the DRS wing – is not the only differentiator between qualifying and race pace, although it is a contributor.

He also stated that he has confidence that the FIA will continue to withstand the lobbying from rival teams calling for the system to be banned and said that it was a low-cost item to copy, although a tough one to optimise if the chassis wasn’t desgned around it. “It’s just a couple of carbon pipes running down the car,”he revealed, “They cost thousands, not millions. But the opposition is so fierce because it’s difficult to do it if the car wasn’t designed that way from the beginning.”

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So, today's F1 seems to be about 2 things: getting tire temps right, and

lobbying the FIA when things don't suit you.

One is just engineering, although the camp that hates Pirelli will jump all over it. This might have been what Ferrari achieved back in the Bridgestone days with their billions of kms of testing on their own track.

The lobbying, though, is just disgraceful.


Yes, I'm starting to get a bit touchy about hearing all around the tires, the rubber, the compound, the tYres.

Can't we just talk more about front wings aero and not try to design a whole car around tire characteristics?

While I understand that Pirelli are doing what they have been asked, still, it's becoming tire race, not typical F1 race.

Quite interesting to hear about the "peaky" performance - something that RBR and Ferrari have claimed to experience, too.


I'm still perplexed by the FIA decision on the Merc duct. Flexible wings are not legal despite the fact that they have no movable parts whatsoever, yet the duct activated when the driver hits the DRS button is legal? That makes absolutely no sense.


The McLaren F-Duct has been outlawed because drivers had to take their hands off the wheel.

The Merc system does not suffer this problem. In fact it balances the car when DRS is used, which makes it even safer to use DRS.

Also the Merc system is just a duct connecting the front wing to the endplates and a hole in the endplates which happen to be hidden by the closed DRS wing. There's no moving part in it instead of the part which is legal to move, the rest is just there waiting for some pressure.

It's like you legally open your back door and the wind goes out of the window making a noise. Who says you must not keep your window open and have a wall in the hallway?


Since the DRS-duct wing doesn't require the driver to press a new button (just the DRS) then surely it is no different a system to the flexi front wings? They're not requiring the driver to do anything different from last year.


Think of it this way - movable aerodynamics are banned except for the DRS. The DRS design is such that on all the cars it influences more than just the rear wing. The teams also get the variation in airflow at the rear wing to impact on the lower parts of the car so that the drag is reduced there too.

So the Mercedes drivers are doing something legal in moving the DRS wing element. The secondary impact is slightly larger than what the other teams are achieving. There is no grounds to ban it. You could attempt a similar effect passively based on pressures generated by the wing, but that runs the risk in fast corners of having insufficient downforce.




The duct isn't activated when the DRS button is hit. The duct is active the whole time. It's just blocked by the rear wing thus no air can go in.

The DRS button moves the rear wing which happens to allow air into the Duct.

It makes absolutely no sense that it could been seen as illegal.


i think the mercs race pace will suffer tyre issues again because of the track characteristics.

probably still fast in qualifying.


seems like cars this year are prone to be either good in qualifying (mclaren, mercedes) or good in the race (sauber, ferrari)... lotus seems to have hit a good compromise from the start.


I would say the McLaren's are as fast if not faster than anyone else in race pace. Malaysia was very much a one-off situation and I would be very surprised if you or anyone else thinks that Ferrari/Sauber are faster than McLaren, RedBull, and Lotus in regular conditions.


RBR are just sore losers.


Yeah because the other teams have never lobbied to have their toys taken away...oh wait.


Redbull have every right to ask for clarification.

Since 2010 they've been subjected to numerous FIA clarifications, appeals, inquiries by the other top three teams, Mclaren, Ferrari, Mercedes.


There's already 2-3 times been clarification that its legal, sorry but seems like sour grapes to me, read the article today on the BBc and you will understand why.


True but the FIA have acknowledged it as legal two, maybe three times already and RBR are still trying to get it clarified? That smacks to me as desperation.

This is based on my understanding that the other top teams only contested RBR technologies once, if that isn't the case then I stand corrected.


Don't the Williams and Sauber have very similar brake ducts?


Merc are good in qualifying as their funky f-duct wings are linked to DRS.

The race (with limited use of the DRS) is a far better representation of their speed and it seems pretty average.

Many teams incl Lotus and Sauber seem to have fundamentally better chassis.


Did you even bother to read the article????


"Mercedes has scored just one point so far this season from a potential maximum of 86, and trails McLaren by 54 points already. This is despite qualifying one car in the top two rows of the grid at both races."

In fairness the driver who qualified on the 2nd row both times retired with a car fault in one race and was spun by a rookie and left at the back of the field in the next one.


Yes... without those problems I'm sure the points tally would be greater, but Rosberg's disaster of a race in Australlia is a indication of their troubles. From what I gathered from the first race, Schumi was suffering degredation before his retirement as well.

As for Malaysia, it was painful to see their tyre woes. Rosberg was 4th at one point and yet he managed to finish behind Schumi to no fault but his own tyres.

I doubt Schumacher would be able to finish much higher than he did without that accident. He did his best, stayed on the same tyre set for over half the race despite struggling but it wasn't near enough to challenge further up. In the dry, without drama, I reckon he would be easily in the top 10, but that's no where near his qualifying position.

No, Merc need to sort out their tyre problems. It's evident the car's fast even without DRS. Schumi feels confident in the car for the first time since his comeback, and Rosberg, with a similar driving style will definitly be close too. If only they can sort out the tyre degredation...


Agreed. I think a clearer and more positive picture will emerge as the season progresses. It's also good to see the old guy back on form against his teammate


Seems to me that this is a draw-back of launching the car late. McLaren, Williams and Sauber all did many miles looking specifically at tyre useage on the 2012 cars.


"It seems that the new generation Pirelli tyres are quite ‘peaky’ themselves and getting them to work is proving tricky for other top teams too...."

And not just 'getting them to work', but maintaining performance. Personally, I feel the performance window of the tyres is a little too narrow.


Dear James,

BBC's Gary Anderson commented on looking at Rosberg tyres at Malaysia, that they were not worn out, but the tires just lacked the grip.

On his current column at bbc :


he talks about a seven poster rig?

James, would love to have your views and also how a seven poster rig works?


SK Anand


I posted pretty much the same observation post-race. Rosberg was sure his tyre have worn out, which is why he pitted. Pretty sure Massa had the same issue too, and perhaps Button. I don't know about Massa, but with Merc's high degredation, and Button's smooth driving style I wonder if the inters need a lot more lateral movement (compared with the slicks) to keep heat in them. It would go a long way to understand what were wrong for them in Malaysia.


i guess the issue for Merc as Ross Brawn mentioned was not tyre degradatoin in Malaysia, but to get their tyres in the optimum operating window for performance....This years pirelli tyres have a very narrow temp operating window and the Mercs and other frunt running teams were unable to get their tyre temp under this window unlike the Sauber nd Williams


Well, friend, after Melbourne, Merc decided to go the opposite way with their tyres; they hedged a hot, dry race and moved their narrow tyre operating window towards that. With rain came cool tyre conditions, meaning they went the opposite way to conditions of the race. It makes sense, but is it the truth or Brawn's PR BS?

Yes or no, the Merc has a particular tyre warmth operating window... it's very narrow, and I doubt it can be resolved this year with set-up alone. Untill it gets sorted out, I see the Merc being very 'hit or miss' this year.


World Tire Management Championship..... sad.


I agree with you that we don't want drivers backing off a lap so much just to conserve tires ... the best way to separate the great from the good drivers is to see who can have total focus on putting in the fastest laps, lap after lap. And that means laps on the ragged edge.

But the alternative is to one-stop with the Bridgestones, and then only b/c of a mandated rule.

Perhaps we should go back to refueling, or maybe allow refueling at only one stop during the race. That would open up even more race strategy.


What motorsport do you know of that does not require a driver to manage tyres?


Unfortunately Mercedes comes across to me as a team that makes lots of promises but doesn't deliver.

Ross Brawn has been at this since last year, always giving the impression they got an ace up their sleeve only to back track with lots of excuses & explanations after awards.

But there's no denying the fact there's something strange about these 2012 Pirelli tyres for they seem not to consistent but hey, this is good news for the fans because this means we can expect the expected.

Meanwhile, considering Mercedes poor run of results these past two seasons more so seeing as Lotus seem to have jumped them in the pecking order, I can't see the team existing on the grid much longer more so as Brawn said his biggest goal/wish is to give Rosberg his first win & Schumi his 92 win.

Now considering the Mercedes DRS system, it's looking more likely to get banned for that's how F1 works i.e. If some teams aren't happy about a new invention, it won't last long even though it's been declared legal & has been copied by the rest.


It's 2 teams that should be in front of Merc in quali protesting. Mclaren doesn't mind because it leaves a buffer between them and the rest, and the other ones aren't close enough to care all that much.


Define the terms should be??? thought it was a competitive sport!! some peoples !


Plus McLaren are wetting themselves at the potential for them in qualifying when they get a similar system on their car! 🙂


They understand it completely now i will assure you Wu but the problems integrating it into the car as Mercedes clearly have pre crash testing.

As its not simply a case of matching the Mercedes effects by tie rapping hose piping onto the sides/under the car for obv aero reasons as the channeling/tubing is integrated through the chassis.

That is the other teams problem and not it should not and I believe will not be banned.


I don't think anyone is close to understanding how the system works, and even if they do they'll have to change everything about the car. It's no good changing the bodywork alone; to change it would mean all the other aero stuff would have to be changed too.

This isn't a 'cut and paste' job like the double diffuser was. A car has to be redesigned to incoperate it, which is why the Lotus and Red Bull are protesting. Better to ban it than live with it.

All of this makes me rather sad. Brawn's Merc came up with a potentially title winning concept only to be beaten by their own inability to understand the tyres.


I have a lot of time for Ross Brawn. He is surprisingly open for the secretive F1 world. I thank him for his openness here. I wonder, whenever he quits his current job, he'd consider a governing role within the FIA or similar? Charlie Whiting replacement? He'd certainly be well respected and trusted. Though if I were him perhaps I'd prefer to finally retire and enjoy the money! 😉


I agree - you always learn something when Ross speaks. And he is a winner.


GIven how much money he's made in the last three years I don't think he needs to do an FIA Technical job, however prestigious!


Incompetant rookies bashing you up the inside doesnt help either, that dimwit should have been given a penalty


As much as I don't agree with you; it was a simple, yet disheartning race incident, I was a little angry with his assesment of the incident. Ok, the Maldonando incident might have left him a little jaded, and yes it was a tad harsh in Melbourne, but in Malaysia it was his own fault for not letting that move by Schumacher go. As I said, a racing incident. But to go and blame Schumacher utterly for that mishap?

Only 2 qualis up front and he already thinks he's Senna.


It must be the black and gold Lotus-Renault he drives!!

It is clear that Grosjean is very fast, he has certainly had the legs on Kimi in qualifying so far and we havn't had a chance to see them on race pace yet obviously. He just needs to calm down - to quote Sir Murray of Walker, "To finish first, first you must finish!"


Indeed. Grosjean is a fast racer, but he has to calm down. He hasn't got a divine right to be up front, just like all the other drivers.

He gained a place at the start and has to accept that the place he gained will be under attack again.

A grand prix is just that; grand. It's not a sprint - it's a marathon. The way the race went he would've be better of to hold back and wait for Schu's tyres to determine the race for him. Inexpreince showed that day and one hopes he will learn from that, but to learn, one has to acknowledge their own mistake. From his reposte it seems he learnt nothing and is doomed to repeat it again.


I am very surprised by grosjean and his reaction to his start to the year. Is this not the same way he behaved last time he was in f1. Early days, but hope he does not self destruct again.


It seems that these days it isn't the driver that can make a real difference, instead it's something as absurd as the operating temperatures of his tyres. Surely that is not the way racing is meant to be.


Seems every post I make here involves Schumacher, and no... I'm not doing it for a bet.

Consider Schumacher and 1996. He won thrice in a car that didn't deserve a win. What's more likely; Schumacher in 1996 winning in the Merc, or grandpa Schumacher (today's) winning in 1996?

My guess it's the latter. The sport has really moved on since the times where a driver can make the difference. It's pretty much all technology now.


Don't put a champion in a bad car. Hrt and Marussia don't have this kind of issue.


Slick tyres have always been about heat, wear and contact management to be honest. Drivers have to deal with this in any car with downforce and slicks which is quite a number of formulae.

Getting your tyres up to temp without ragging them is just one skill racing drivers have often needed. It is exaggerated slightly these days by the oft changed synthetic compounds used to keep teams guessing and the cars insane levels of downforce in modern F1.

Setting a car up to benefit on quali or race has been a compromise needed since parc ferme rules came in. Personally I think it adds a layer of strategy but I know a lot of people dislike technical aspects and think driving should be a pure man versus man endeavour. Personally I think if you want man v man watch track athletics!


I agree with you Nelan, I've noticed some cars can do a series of quick laps then seem to slow down, also I've heard drivers say "my car wasn't quick on the 2nd set of tyres", or "the ballance was off after the pit stop",etc, so it does seem a bit of a lottery as to weather the tyres will work or not and how long they'll work for. The other thing that buggs me is that depending how many safty car laps etc, some drivers are told to slow down to conserve fuel, and I understand that most cars start the races with less fuel than the car would use if driven hard for the whole race, so what with the tyre issues and the fuel issues the complection of the race is effected and therefore not a genuine race. I accept that some spectators/viewers may find that a variety of different things happening during a race holds their attention and is entertainment, but then we have the more serious, knowledgable, and technically savy, fans/followers/spectators/viewers who apreciate proper races instead of economy runs and tyre conservation modes.



"The more serious, knowledgable, and technically savy, fans/followers/spectators/viewers"

Actually, those kind of fans would have known that Formula 1 has a long history of demanding drivers conserve fuel, tyres, engines, etc.


While I'm having a bit of a moan there's another thing that's been bugging me for a few years now, the front wings are too big/wide, they're always getting in the way/puncturing tyres/gettimg damaged/requiring pit stops/etc, I vote that they should be smaller on the next generation of F1 cars.




The front and rear wings are completely out of proportion and this does need to be addressed, both from a aesthetic and a safety point of view.


Merc needs to get their tyre issue sorted quickly...this year tyre management has become a very highly influential factor...


Brawn wasnt so smug when he was whining about the EBD and flexi wings for the past two years...


To be fair I think everyone was complaining about flexible wings last year (at least until Ferrari nicked an RBR one!).

val from montreal

James Allen , you are 1 lucky $%)*& ....

You get to actually speak to Schumacher himself on a regular basis ... If the planets start aligning themselves and Schumacher gets that 1st Mercedes win , PLEASE tell him that his fans were ALWAYS behind him .... You have the power James ... Thanx !!

btw , F1 was more balanced when Goodyear was the offical tire supplier back in 90's ..

Even during the Bridgestone VS Michelin days , teams did not have problems like now with their tires .... I just hate the idea of teams being forced to choose tires not chosen by them ! Having to use multiple compounds and only a limited number of sets per weekend etc etc ....


+1 to this comment!


I think Schumacher has been quite unlucky in the first two races and would have been comfortably in the points in both races without the gearbox issue in Australia, and the early spin and general chaos in Malaysia. I think Schumacher will finish 2nd, behind Hamilton in China after getting pole position.

I have more concerns with Rosberg. He has shown us that he struggles to manage his tyres effectively, especially against his teammate. To add to this, he has struggled under pressure so far this year. I think Rosberg will finish 6th in China.

I believe Schumacher can get this car to work well in it's current specification, and I don't believe they need to change anything drastic with the car, they have just been unlucky.

In conclusion, Schumacher is the CLEAR No.1 driver in this team and will win races this year, no doubt about that. Rosberg is not in the same class as Schumacher and others. Rosberg is the No.2 driver in this team.


wow, it will do wonders for F1s already dwindling global TV ratings and shrinking fanbase if the Merc system is banned - hence dropping schumacher, still the biggest drawing card to the casual F1 viewer, to about 15th, as the whole car is based on the system.

when was f1 last front page on a newspaper, too long ago i cant even remember??


To be fair, no matter how much Adrian Newey blows hot about this, there doesn't seem to be much sign of Charlie Whiting having this system banned.

This does bring something else to mind as well. James, do you have any more knowledge about the slit in the step in the Red Bull's nose yet? Is it just "mainly" a driver cooling duct that Newey claims or is there more to it than that?

Tornillo Amarillo

Even with huge money from Mercedes, can Brawn be happy having Newey decorated with medals from the Queen for his success in this competitive environment?


Here comes the "I told you so"...

Like I said many times, Merc's inability to understand the tyres has been its achilles heel. 3rd year running it props up its ugly head again. I really do hope they now understand what they have to do to get them working. I agree with Brawn; that DRS shouldn't hold back their race performance. It's their inability to make the tyres work in a wider window that's casuing them problems.

Hopefully with analysis they understand where they're going wrong and can go forward. I wouldn't worry too much about their quali pace in upcoming races. That DRS of theirs guarantees a top 10 start without much effort at just about every race track, but if they want a regular top 10 in a race they need to make the tyres work for them.


That's why they have probably hired Aldo Costa.


Seems to me that Ross has had tyre issues for the past 4 years, I seem to remember Jenson having a big wobble in the middle of his championship year. Could not get the tyres to work !!



Well my impression is they wont sacrifice quali pace but the start. We saw in Malaysia how slow the Mercs were from their usual start ups. Personally I think the tyre issue is more transmission related, the Mercedes-AMG may be too harsh on delivering all power as compared to McLaren with the same engine. But we are 2 races on they ll go back to Brackley knowing they have the pace all needed is fine tuning the set up.


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