Insight: Different ways Lotus and Red Bull find speed
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Mar 2013   |  9:52 am GMT  |  105 comments

Before the season started, JA on F1 Technical Adviser Mark Gillan observed in the first podcast of the season that the key to success in 2013 would be thermal tyre management. And the first Grand Prix in Melbourne proved it, with Red Bull able to dominate qualifying, but losing performance in the race, while Lotus went the other way.

So what was happening? And will it happen again this weekend in Malaysia?

The key with the Pirelli tyres is to get the fronts warmed up evenly with the rears for a single lap in qualifying. But with the same set up, the car has to then manage that heat, particularly the rears, on longer runs. Having the front tyres in the right temperature window is particularly important for grip on turn-in to the corner.

One of the ways teams manage the heat is by playing around with heat soak from the front brake discs. It was while experimenting this early last summer that McLaren’s Jenson Button struggled, for example.

Red Bull had complete front drums in Melbourne, so little heat from the brake discs was going into the front tyres. Their car obviously doesn’t need that extra heat from the discs, with the downforce from the front wing and the front geometry generating tyre temperature. But they couldn’t keep the tyres in the ideal window on the longer runs on a chilly race day.

In contrast Lotus had a drum which stopped where the disc is located, so all the heat from the disc would have soaked through the wheel rim and into the tyre. Raikkonen’s success was based on getting ideal performance from the tyres and this allowed him to use one less set, saving 23 seconds of pit stop time and maintaining track position. Lotus insiders have paid tribute to his ‘patience’, rather than grasping at opportunities he managed the race to perfection and still had plenty of performance in his tyres at the end.

Managing front tyre temperature with these devices is an area where Lotus were particularly aggressive last season, even resorting to asymetric geometries last year from left to right, depending on circuit layout and important corners.

And it looks like they are doing it again this year, with excellent results in Melbourne.

Despite qualifying 1.3 seconds slower than Red Bull, they managed to race faster and use one less set of tyres to achieve it, with Raikkonen setting a fastest lap some 1.2 seconds faster than Sebastian Vettel on a two stop strategy to Red Bull’s three. That’s quite a swing from relative qualifying pace to race pace.

For the heat of Malaysia, they are likely to revert to a full drum set up to reduce heat soak.

This will be a crucial area of focus for the engineers and drivers this weekend. With the same medium compound as Melbourne, but also the hard tyre which has a higher working range, getting the balance right with track temperatures of 45 degrees will present a compleletly different challenge.

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Brilliant James! Keep it coming!


Hi James,

I found the implied logic of this article interesting. After thinking about this for a bit, my conclusion is that with the cool temperatures the Red Bull had the rear tyres reach operating temperature notably before the front tyres. The sheer downforce level of the Red Bull and the suspension geometry choices that lead to one-lap performance and tyre warm up mean that if Red Bull went down the Lotus path it would most likely overheat its front tyres over a stint, which is no help even though the rear tyres are also overheating.



Adrian Newey Jnr

James – Kimi’s fastest lap puzzles me. The teams spent the last few months playing their cards very close to the chest with regards to their true pace. What would be the advantage of showing the other teams the true gap in performance? That would just highlight how much better they have to get. It would be better (especially after one race!) to keep a bit of performance up our sleave. In F1, few of the leading teams would be saying “oh Lotus is too far ahead to bother improving”. These teams are too experienced and motorvated to given in to any supposed psychological benefit of Lotus’ actions.


I love the way Raikkonen race in Melbourne. It is so typical of him to score the fastest lap of every race (if possible).

The top three are all serious contenders for the WDC. I hope to see a three way rivalry.

However, I am not interested in another year of 7 or more races with 7 or more winners.


So if its primarily the drum setup, wouldn’t it be easy for other teams to copy what Lotus is doing? Or am I missing something?


Hi James,

Thanks for the great insight … easy to read, and even a layman like me can understand .



More of this!!! I love this kind of article, thank you James.

Too much in the TV coverage, all we here about is the leading 3-4 stories all weekend – aero, tyres, drivers, weather. It can be repetitive for F1 tragics like me.

This kind of detail shows the true depth of engineering and inspiration behind F1 today.


Great article!

Interesting the difference here. I presume that as the season goes on Red Bull will better understand the tyres and thus it will be harder for Lotus to maintain this advantage?

Tornillo Amarillo

Kimi about Malaysia:

“It’s not really any special place… I don’t enjoy the heat and the humidity of the place…”

But he added it’s a nice circuit…


I’m so bored of reading about “tyre management”. It’s sad that at the so called “pinnacle” of Motorsport the drivers, the cars, the engineers are all being constrained by the tyres. Your never going to hear the likes of schumachers 60 qualifying laps again because it simply isn’t possible! I dont think in an era when we have so many champions and great drivers and teams we should be restricting them with gimmicky tyres. This session would have been perfect with regulations remaining largely the same aerodynamically the cars would be pretty close and the RACING would have been brilliant! With the tyres being so peaky the chances of a genuine driver to driver battle are going to be a lot less than most fans would like. Instead one of the cars tyres will go off and all credibility is going to the team with the best tyre management!


Thanks James, highly fascinating insight.

Lotus have produced an absolute peach of a car this year. To think that Kimi stopped right in line with the 3-stoppers at the end of his 1st stint but then managed to stretch out his tyres so that his last set were in better condition at the end of the race than those 3-stoppers must bode well for his chances this season.

The only thing missing from Kimi’s point of view is that he has never managed to reproduce his 1-lap pace since his return. I remember the qualifying pace he had at McLaren was other-worldly.


Great article James love this site


Thanks for this, great insight. It now makes sense to me that the Lotus often appears with very blackened, brake dust coated wheels by pitstop time (like all cars used to), because their disc is only partially enclosed. In contrast, the wheels on the Redbull still appear very clean, no matter how long they run.

With regards to the Lotus, I’m still intrigued to find out about an issue one of your readers referred to in an earlier post. There were more sparks striking off the rear skids on this car at Albert Park than I’ve seen for a long time. It would appear they are running very low ride height at the back, contrary to the modern trend initiated by Redbull. What is the philosophy here?


I think a correction in terminology is in order here. A “brake drum”, at least in the U.S., has referred to the type of brakes that existed prior to the advent of disc brakes. I would think that a more appropriate term would be “disc enclosure”.

What I’m sensing here is whether or not there is a full, or partial, cylindrical covering around the circumference of the brake disc that would trap a certain amount of heat in the disc which would then get transferred to the wheel via its contact with the disc hub.

It would seem to me that the less the disc is enclosed that less heat would get transferred to the wheel/tire due to the cooling effect from more airflow. Then, again, I guess the opposite could be true depending on how tightly packaged things were.


I’m pretty sure the primary purpose of the “brake drum” is an aerodynamic aid – rather than having air being whipped up inside the wheels, a shroud is put as close as possible to the wheel to calm the flow. In some cases it also covers the disc. That might give you an idea for the name – whatever the opposite of a turbine is.


Great article.


great article, thank you for giving these useful informations !


Regarding the drum set up, doesn’t it suggest that on warmer temperatures the degradation on the lotus will be lesser than red bull’s?


James – what tools are available to the drivers to make changes to the car during the race via steering wheel. I believe previous years they were given some tools but was not utilized much.


Kind of sad… let see, team radio to Hamilton.

Hey Ham… if you are chasing a car, please stay clear at least one second, otherwise, you will cook your tires….

Hamilton radio:…. If I keep pushing the tires they will not last.

Team radio: aaah, we understand that, so please keep on driving around and don’t do something wild, remember the tires.

Ham: What!!! I don’t get it…

Team: Yes, DRIVE LIKE A GRANDMA. Confirm that please, over.


OMG did I ever laugh – thank you, thank you


Sadly that’s gonna be our season this year, again.

Nursing those things to the finish line…..

Guess the drivers should actually be nurses not racers.


Thanks James for answering my question with a awesome technical insight.


I think every one is making too bigger deal about Red Bulls qualifying speed.

Yes they probly are the fastest in qualy but as Lewis Hamilton said they were the last cars out on a drying track.

I really dont think Red Bull as any where as fast as ppl are making them out to be.

Webber with his “better” setup inished 6th in OZ thats after the fact that Rosberg retired.

That’s hardly blinding speed is it?

Red bulls excuse that the weather caught them out is a load of crap!

it was cold and rainy all weekend. What did they suddenly expect it to be 40 degrees on Sunday?

You didnt need to be a climatologist and a satellite

to workout the weather was going to be pretty much the same on sunday as it was the rest of the weekend.

anyone with a smartphone and a weather app could have told it what the weather was.


Red Bull were not the only team caught out by the weather. Merc were too, thats why they ran a lot of front and rear wing; they were set for wet running, but it didn’t rain. I don’t know of many satellite equipped climatologists that can provide a brave prediction of Melbournes weather. It is just so unpredictable.

As for Webber, more than anything else, his race was fouled by a faulty ECU (as well as the team being caught out by the weather).


Judging by the 2 previous days common sense told u what the weather was going to be like. The weather was exactly the same from friday to sunday so I still dont get there point.

As for Webber his telemetry was exactly that a telemetry issue all that happend was the team didnt know what was happening with his car but it had no bearing on the performance of his car.

And his Kers issues only lasted the first 20 laps.

as Mclaren said the issue was with the receiving equipment in the pits.

Bottom line is everyone had the same weather and the same tires and Red Bull whatever there excuse they werent fast enough on race day.

its not like there were 2 clouds hanging over the Red Bulls following them around the track.

But anyways in a few hours we will find out just how good they are.


The simple reason why super computers do weather forcasting is that common sense can’t.

As for Webbers ECU problems, McLaren has already apologised for ruining his race.

You seem assume that telemetry is of minor importance in F1. You couldn’t be more wrong. In modern F1, telemetry issues are of fundamental importance; like with fighter aircraft, all design processes, strategy etc are driven by supercomputers. To burtress this, at every race, the cars transmit about 1.3 terrabytes of data. Thats enough to completely exhaust the hard disk capacities of 3 average home PC’s.

F1 is way, way more than some greasy guys changing oil and pumping up tyres. Its a sport, but its not football.


Great article! The Hungarian GP last year had somewhat similar elements to it as well, at least as far as Kimi’s driving goes. During the middle stint, he was deliberately taking it easier (to the degree of his team wondering if everything was ok), only to blast a number of fastest laps when others went to pits to leapfrog a number of cars, eventually finishing 2nd. He seems to know when to push and when to wait.


I agree with your Hungary observations, but this time his “taking it easy’ times matches the times his peers who are not taking it easy. In Hungary last year its was preservation = speed, this time he had so many factors against this but somehow he was able to be equal or faster 80% in his stints if he wanted to, and with older tires. It was a matter of speed in demand, I’ve observed in the Australian race with sector times and clean air/traffic factors and tire age.. he was able to reply when he needs to. He was the only diver to go quick or quicker at the end of its tire life like it was in the Goodyear vs. Bridestone vs. Michelin designed to last against the Pirellis designed to do otherwise. Unexpected in a way but.. Pretty much like in 2005 season with one tire races, one set of tires per race. I think the factor is 75% in his driving style which is quite uncommon i heard. I read somewhere, Newey described Kimi’s driving style as to maximising the mathematical model known as the “the traction eclipse – friction circle – trading retardation against cornering load”. He said Kimi was a master at it. Managing understeer (as he mentioned with his fronts last weeekned)to manage the mass dynamics of the car. An example he showed in the 05 Monaco Grand Prix, he was down a pit stop (SC) but he was able to lap faster at will and more to win the race with 50% more fuel load. He qualified pole(10 place penalty) in Monza 05, one stop less fuel (tire failed though but with amazing race speed). Later that year Alonso(I’m a huge fan) mention for the first time in Suzuka he said he felt faster than Kimi, and yes at sprints(like Australia 2013)he could be a few laps faster during the race but not as fast and long as Kimi did. And ultimately before his final stint in traffic(web/but)Kimi was faster and at the end and in ultimate lap speed. Hopefully Lotus could give him a car like the McLaren MP4-20 or the F2007.


Sorry i meant one stop more fuel for a one stop strategy in Monza 05 but still on pole. Not much luck in the race though. Cheers James.

unF1nnished business

Interesting read!

James I have to ask, do teams ever get upset with your exposure on technical insights?


I’ve not had any heat from anyone, if that’s what you mean!

It’s all a game. There are some very good people like Giorgio Piola, Gary Anderson, Mark Hughes etc here at the races, all looking to get technical insights

unF1nnished business

Yes the heat! lol.

I seem to recall Piola exposing Lotus’ height adjuster in early 2012…soon afterwards it was made illegal.


You think it would be simple for teams to have some kind of temperature map for tyres working range/track temperature and ambient temp. Depending on the last two you could change the first to exactly the correct operating window.

Perhaps this is what lotus are doing by controlling the brake temp soak?


great article james. My friends wonder why I watch F1 so much. I tell them read a few websites like and you will understand why.

People complained about aero dominating a few years ago. Now people are complaining about tyres dominating. This is happening because somebody has found an advantage using tyres. Earlier somebody found an advantage using aero. Once tyre usage is optimised by all, somebody will find an advantage using something else. People will then complain about that something else.

I think this is great stuff that Lotus has found. F1 is about the package and tyres are very much part of it. Just as much as the aero, driver, engines etc.


Good stuff Srinivas

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