Analysis: What we have learned from Barcelona test
Posted By: James Allen  |  22 Feb 2013   |  6:40 pm GMT  |  172 comments

The four day test at Barcelona ended today with rain, but the three previous days gave the teams a chance to learn more about the performance of their new cars and especially about the way they work on the new Pirelli tyres.

While it is still a bit early to say too much in terms of who is fastest in outright pace, as the definitive aerodynamic packages will only come onto the cars in the final test next week, we can nevertheless look at some details of long run performance, which shows us who is looking good.

Below you can see charts expressing the longer runs from Day 3, the final dry day. The first thing to note is that Alonso and Ferrari are not there, as they did not do any longer runs.

The lines going upwards indicate the tyre degradation; the lap times increasing as the tyre performance goes away, despite the lightening of the fuel load. Many of these are similar to race stints.

However the run of Grosjean is the stand-out performance of the day. He did three stints with Hard, Medium and Medium tyres. Look at his final run on the medium tyres. It stands out as the fastest and most consistent of all the runs.

The car looks quick and it seems to have inherited the 2012 Lotus’ ability to look after its tyres. It’s very encouraging for the Lotus engineers. There is real pace there too.

Rosberg’s run is interesting as it has more laps under 90 seconds than others. This may be due to fuel load, as it’s not possible to be certain how much fuel they were carrying. But as you can see, the degradation is more pronounced and more variable. Rosberg’s second run in particular looks reasonable, with 15 laps starting and ending around 89 seconds.

The Williams runs are interesting as they are quite consistent,even if they are slower than some of the others. This could be fuel related, but what engineers will be encourage by is the consistency, especially of Maldonado’s runs. He was using Medium-Medium-Hard-Soft. It’s a slow start, but assuming he’s running race fuel the degradation is not too bad. Arguably the Williams is the most consistent across the different tyre compounds.

Button’s run is consistent, again not exceptionally quick. The performance is similar to Hulkenberg’s runs and the degradation is slightly worse than Maldonado’s. We don’t know the fuel loads, so it’s hard to draw too many conclusions.

Likewise Webber’s run in the Red Bull. It’s consistent, he’s quicker on the medium tyre, but it’s not outstanding. It will be interesting to compare with next week’s runs when the teams fit the definitive Melbourne bodywork.

Overall conclusions then, a very encouraging picture for Lotus, Williams look like they will race well, although the outright pace isn’t known yet, the Pirelli tyre degradation is high, but they say it will improve in warmer conditions, Red Bull and McLaren not giving much away at this stage, but certainly clear of the Lotus.

[Additional Technical Input and Charts: Mark Gillan]

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If the insisted approach is for different tyre compounds and tyre management, then why not allow the teams to decide which tyre compounds they run at each race? Obviously Pirelli cannot take every option to each venue, but perhaps the teams should specify their option in advance. This would result in different strategies, good/bad compound gambles, and some mixed results, but can allow the teams to maximise their car’s performance.


We do not need refuelling back simple !!!!


I came across this analysis on outright performance and tyre degradation (

The Ferrari seems to be struggling on the longer runs!


Sorry, It’s interesting that they seem to be struggling so badly. Perhaps the cold weather is influencing the tyres?



As it’s known the Teams have got lap timing data divided up to 10 (or some like that) sectors per lap. Is it possible to get share that data and to assess cars’ particular performances at certain sections, like cornering speed, acceleration and breaking etc.


James, reading the stories about extreme tyre degradation and the effect the temperature has had, is it perhaps too much of a risk that no tests took place this year in Dubai or Bahrain?

Some fans, myself included, did not enjoy the roulette of tyre performance that so dominated the first half of last season. Is this year going to be worse?

Do we only have 3 tests this year due to the resource restriction agreement? Are they all in Europe for the same reason?

Is it otherwise wise to assume that tyre behaviour is linear with temperature and the graphs above can be adequately extrapolated (and can Pirelli supply such information)? Otherwise, there graphs aren’t very informative.


James when will the fia and ASNs let us know what is happerning with the empty slot july 21? I am desperate to know and want to get planning where to go this year, I was planning on hungry this year but a trip to say france or germany would be a lot cheaper. Is there any deadline, this also must be difficult for the teams to plan for…….


I think Bernie already said only 19 races. So the calendar stays as it is and there’s no July 21 race date. So you can book that holiday…!

Tornillo Amarillo

Rosberg said: “Take the rear. We had massive problems with tyre heating and losing grip and all that. That seems to be history now. And that is really a massive change.”

Such a relief…


Last year Alonso fought the championship with a car that initially was 2 seconds off the pace. Everybody agrees that after the first test the F138 is a much worthier car than its predecessor. So logically it seems that Ferrari should be in an even stronger position to fight the championship. But i am afraid this deduction is too simple. It seems to me that tyre management is going to be more than ever the key in this year’s championship. And this comes down to the car’s aerodynamic design & easyness to find the right balance. Teams that master the aerodynamics best (with best designers & best windtunnels & of course best budgets) will be fighting the title…But haven’t we been fighting this trend for years ?


Also the theory “we fought with a 2 second gap, so why not with a 1 second gap” only holds true because the field was so tight and jumbled up last year. If there’s only 1 or 2 (or even 3) teams sharing the majority of the wins between them, you simply won’t be able to win a championship with a car that’s off the pace.


Hi James,

I like your article – its very good. However I am curious – I think Rosberg did not do any race simulation. He did only couple of long runs. It may be quite inaccurate to put them together as racesim… Or do you have any info on their fuel load?

As far as I know only Lotus, RB, Williams (Maldonado,Bottas) did race simulation… I think racesims cant be compared to long runs of other teams. My opinion is that it will be better to first compare only long runs together and then race simulations extra.


Math lesson for fans that may not realise.

You can’t simply compare the slopes of the above graphs as they appear here. They are distorted due to the fact that the lap scales are different.

In this case slope is the difference in lap time over difference in lap count. You have to calculate this value for each slope in order to do a direct comparison. This is tedious. Nice if someone who likes this kind of thing can plot them on the same graph.


One of the ways to hide the fastest times is to run a sector of the lap as quickly as possible to get an idea of maximum potential, and then slow for the rest of the lap to post a slow lap time.

So if we extract each drivers fastest sectors and string them together, we have the fastest potential for each man.

As for the fuel load, if you know the run lasted eight laps, you may safely assume that the car was carrying enough fuel for eight laps at the beginning of the run, so deduct time accordingly for the extra weight.

It’s not rocket science, just needs a bit of effort to program the computer to filter the results, but there must be lots of analyists trackside who have hours to fill.


Hi James

Once again an F1 writer/commentator has neglected to make comments about the performance of the Sauber. You placed Nico’s graph but said nothing regarding analysis of it. Whilst yours is one of the best sites around for F1 news and tech analysis please remember there are fans of all the teams, and mid grid team fans like myself are always wanting info, it is so easy to get info about the top teams, however F1 is more than those teams


Assessment from Autosport(McLaren and Ferrari fast, Red Bull hiding pace as always):

Pos Driver Team Time Gap

1. Sergio Perez McLaren 1m21.848s

2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m21.875s + 0.027s

3. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1m22.160s + 0.312s

4. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m22.188s + 0.340s

5. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m22.197s + 0.349s

6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m22.616s + 0.768s

7. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m22.623s + 0.775s

8. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m22.675s + 0.827s

9. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m22.726s + 0.878s

10. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m22.826s + 0.978s

11. Jenson Button McLaren 1m22.840s + 0.992s

12. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m22.877s + 1.029s

13. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m23.024s + 1.176s

14. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m23.366s + 1.518s

15. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m23.718s + 1.870s

16. Paul di Resta Force India 1m23.971s + 2.123s

17. Max Chilton Marussia 1m25.115s + 3.267s

18. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m25.124s + 3.276s

19. Jules Bianchi Force India 1m25.732s + 3.884s

20. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1m26.177s + 4.329s

21. Charles Pic Caterham 1m26.243s + 4.395s

22. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m27.563s + 5.715s


Red Bull were hiding a lot of pace in testing last year weren’t they!


They came with a B spec car to Oz


The graphs provide excellent easily understood comparisons. Is it possible to add graphs from practice runs at the Barcelona Grand Prix 2012?. The possible rate of tyre degradation would also show up.


Hi James,

Love the graph’s.

For the next test could you colour code the tyre stints?

Would make it easier to compare.

Thanks again.


So when can we expect an announce from Force India ?


When they’ve finished pushing Ferrari for a 2014 deal for engine supply. Then Bianchi gets the drive. If they don’t get a deal, Sutil gets the seat.

It has nothing to do with driver ability – Sutil is the chip they are playing against Ferrari – it is simply negotiation – saying to Ferrari – you want Bianchi in a race seat, we want your engine deal next year – what’s it worth to you?


I’m guessing they’ll give Sutil and Bianchi a day each at the next Barca text, the wet running on Friday won’t have given them a good enough chance to evaluate them.


Sutil should have a seat. Right out the gate he was over a second faster than Di Resta under similar conditions. Considering PDR has had the benefit of considerably more testing this year and AS has been away for a year, it seems like a no brainer.

The decision FI face should be who gets the second seat RDR or Bianchi.


Think that’s simplifying things a bit, loads of things can effect headline lap times, Force India are the only ones who know the score.


Bring on Melbourne!


The McLaren degradation appears to be much worse than just about every other car. It varies between 0.3 and roughly 0.4 seconds per lap. Most of the others are losing only half that time or less per lap. The graphed line already looks pretty steep, but the horizontal axis for the McLaren is stretched out compared to the others because of the shorter runs.


They ( claim that Red Bull is definitely the car to beat after Barcelona.




Are you a team principal with years of experience? THey know what they’re doing.


i’m very sorry…very sorry. in did not know i had to have years of experience as a team principal to voice my stupid opinions on an opinion blog. Again, i’m very, very sorry. please accept my sincere apology.


I never said you were stupid. I was just saying that you’re trying to tell groups of engineers that have been doing this for decades that they are doing something wrong. Thats like me telling James that hes not a good journalist even though Ive never written an article in my life LOL


The teams would disagree. Once a team has a basic understanding of a car and know that systems are working it is VERY important to do a race sim.

When all is said and done the most important thing about a car is that it can get to the end of a race – as fast as possible.

Only in race conditions can they know that cooling systems work well enough for a car to survive a pitstop or that the bodywork can cope with the heat of the exhaust. A part might be able to cope with vibration for a few laps… but can it last a race distance? Will a wheel nut still come off having gone through the heat cycle endured over 25 laps?

The point at which a team goes for a race sim. is a good indicator of how much confidence they have in the car’s systems and reliability.


most of the things you mentioned do not need a race simulation to be understood. material strength and vibration affects are tested in factory. no need wasting valuable testing time on such things. plus, they already know a lot about the materials they are working with.


If it was that easy they wouldn’t need to test.

They are not allowed to simulate following another car in their wind tunnels. Material testing in the factory is very sophisticated but they cannot recreate the whole car conditions found in a race. I think it was ferrari who suffered from burnt bodywork at the first test. The front suspension failure Lotus had last year was not found in the factory.

Real life vibrations and side wind effects through a bend and when following other cars can only be found out on a track. The teams have to know that what appears to be OK in the factory can survive the variety of loads over a whole race distance out on track.


Why is it “certain” the Red Bull and Mclaren are clear of the Lotus?


Button’s times look incredibly consistent compared with everyone elses


Lotus’ pace isn’t that impressive, considering he did a full race sim. That last stint must’ve been on low fuel, yet he was still 7-8 sec slower than a qualifying lap.


Interesting! No data from Force India?


i am impressed by maldanado’s and webber’s graphs simply because they seem flatter than the rest suggesting that the tyres do not fall off as dramatically as the others.

surprised by the that of the smoothest driver though. it seem to have steep gradients, straightest nevertheless.

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