Ferrari’s dilemma – how to improve qualifying without wrecking race pace
Scuderia Ferrari
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 May 2013   |  5:25 pm GMT  |  155 comments

Ferrari won the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday without the majority of the new parts that the technicians had brought to Barcelona to update the car and only some of them were tried on Friday in practice.

Alonso and Massa found a good balance on Friday and felt that they had a good chance for the race and didn’t want to upset that.

According to Gazzetta dello Sport, the issue wasn’t that the new pieces failed to match expectations, it was rather that the rain in the morning limited the opportunities to evaluate them properly and the priority was to find a good balance on the delicate Pirelli tyres.

The updates used in Spain consisted of a new package of exhausts, diffuser and front brake ducts, to better control the temperature of the front tyres.

The work on the exhausts and diffuser was in order to improve the low speed mid-corner to corner exit downforce levels, which are important as they make up around 25% of the lap time. This is a big area for all teams at the moment, as is work to control the temperature of the front and rear tyres.

The new engine cover didn’t even get tried on Friday and stayed in the garage all weekend, while other parts will need to be tested further at future races, most likely Canada.

Alonso won the race, despite qualifying only 5th. He was able to use a great start, clever strategy and a fast race pace to claw his way to the front and drive away from the others. But he won’t always be able to do that – particularly not in Monaco so the first order priority is to improve their single lap pace for better grid slots.

This task is all the more pressing as it appears that not only are Red Bull superior in this area, but Mercedes have now taken three consecutive pole positions while Raikkonen’s Lotus outqualified Alonso for the second time in five races. As last year, fifth threatens to be the Ferrari’s default grid slot, unless something is done.

Ferrari’s dilemma now is how to improve the qualifying performance of the car Speaking after the victory in the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday Stefano Domenicali said, “The situation is quite clear; we don’t have to unbalance our car at the moment, but we need to do something about qualifying. We will have races where it will be much more difficult to overtake. Without unbalancing the fact that we have decent performance in the race, we need to improve the qualifying so that we have cleaner air in front of us.

“For me this weekend was important to understand what was the jump in terms of performance you could expect from the other teams (updates) because from now to the end of July you may see one or two big steps of development, no more. And then I would say some teams will be forced to try to start work on the new car because of the big challenge that it is.”

And of course the big unknown is how the Ferrari will fare on the revised Pirelli tyres from Canada onwards. JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan believes that there is no reason to suspect that Ferrari’s good work in thermal management will go to waste when on the new tyres, but that it is likely that their advantage will be reduced over rival cars with less good thermal management, due to the larger operating window of the tyres and the increased durability.

On another note, Alonso said in the FIA press conference that he wouldn’t care if he finished second in every race for the rest of the season as long as he won the championship. Domenicali agreed with this sentiment, giving an indication of the team’s priorities.

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I don’t think they should concentrate on anything. Qualifying is redundant this year. As long as you can manage tires as the Ferrari does best then why waste resources into redundancies.

Even in Monaco all they need to target is finishing behind the Mercedes and they will win for when Mercedes’ tires wear down they can attack for Mercedes will be slower out of Rasscasse and Casino Square and they can pull off the move into the first corner and Mirrebeau respectively. But the trick is to be the first car to pass the Mercedes, for whoever, passes the Mercedes first will be the outright winner or to even stay behind before both the Mercedes pit.

An extension to their high tire wear the Mercedes exposed one other weakness in Spain…. They need to brake early…. now rest is upto the rest to play with it.


James,I thought launch control systems were banned from F1 for a couple of years now?

How come (both) Ferrari’s have such incredible lightning starts at every race?


Looking forward to that cos read that Ferrari has a very good software for their starts.


We are going to do a piece on that


James, I just wonder if Mercedes use a lot of fuel, and that it may exaggerate their problems with the tyres?

Anyway, I think the changes to the tyres coming in for Canada will help everyone on the grid, but particularly Mercedes and Red Bull. However, Ferrari and Lotus will still have their strengths of managing thermal degradation better than Red Bull or Mercedes.

For Monaco, it will be more of a case of getting heat into the tyres, rather than reducing the temperature of the tyres, which combined with slow-speed corners, good traction and braking required, Mercedes have to start favourites for sure. Red Bull will be strong as well, with Ferrari just behind them. Lotus will be there behind them, but Force India and McLaren will push them all the way. Toro Rosso is after them, followed by the disappointing outfits of Sauber and Williams, then the two youngest teams on the grid, Marussia and Caterham.


No, that’ not it. Force India uses the same engine and they are one of the best on the tyres in races


How about sticking Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel and Kimi in a GP2 car once and for all so we’ll really know who’s the best once and for all. Imagine just four of them out there, exclusive.


That would tell some people who is the best GP2 car driver of the four of them. Since Hamilton is the only one to have raced a GP2 car, some would regard that as an unfair advantage.

How would you take into account the quality of the race engineers that they have? In F1 the drivers get to tailor the brakes and the steering much more to their individual tastes than would be allowed in GP2.

Even looking at 2007 and Alonso and Hamilton, you will get many different views on this site. For example, Hamilton was a rookie and is much better now, or better a more rounded package but not any faster? Alonso was destabilised by the team for much of the year and for the first part, he was adapting to the Bridgestone tyres and the (Carbone?) brakes. Hamilton was faster in qualifying, but was he generally carrying less fuel.

No two cars are identical either. The biggest variation might be the tyres, but with four notionally identical cars, the engines would all give different numbers on the dyno, the chassis would all have a slightly different feel due to tolerances in the arm lengths and spring rates and dampers.

Some fans would like some other participants too. Bianchi is highly rated for pace. Paul di Resta would like to think he is in the mix given his F3 experience against Hamilton and Vettel. Hulkenberg is regarded by some as the most impressive GP2 driver overall.

Stick any of them in a NASCAR and Jimmie Johnson would make them look pretty ordinary for quite a few years.

Run the race in your head as many times as you like, but fans wouldn’t accept the result. There would still be lots of “Kimi’s the quickest of them all” statements on sites like this one. Or Alonso cracks under pressure. Or whatever.

F1 is a team business/sport that also has a driver’s championship. The team gets the money and the driver the glory.


I’m not sure there’s much to be concerned about from Ferrari’s point of view even with the change in tyres.

So far this season their best performances have come on circuits with a number of long corners (China, Spain etc.) which places just as, if not more, emphasis on a car’s aerodynamic grip than tyre performance. They clearly have the car hooked up well on those circuits (the likes of Silverstone, Nurby, Hungary aren’t too far away either) and that will help them regardless of how durable the tyres are.

Also, if you look at the lap times in Spain, Alonso finished nearly 40 seconds ahead of Vettel. Even allowing for the change in tyres, there’s no way you can account for that amount of time loss based solely on tyre wear. All that points to Ferrari having an all-round better race package than the Red Bulls, and that’s an advantage they should continue to enjoy as long as they carry on developing the car well.


This post has produced a fascinating response. FA reminds me so much of Alain Prost, a driver whose race craft was unequalled even with the sublime Ayrton Senna on the same grid. FA like AP is never unsettled by not getting the fastest lap in quali. His focus is always on race pace and that is where a race is won or lost. He is remorseless in this department. The glory of the single lap whilst very helpful in Monaco and Hungary does not guarantee a win with the current regs and tyre pit stops. SV relies upon being able to set a blinding lap for quali and then gallop away from the race pack after the start. This is not the way of the modern GP. With super reliable cars compared to 20 years ago, different tyre rules, drivers of the calibre of FA and KR can produce results that challenge the convention of the pole sitter winning most races.

Lest it be forgotten, off track quotes are as useful as an undercut in achieving the end result – a win.


I only see 1 scenario for Monaco:


Merc leading the race from the start with 1-2 cars in front of RBR/LOT/FER and driving slowly until first stop, then creating gap but will get stuck in traffic because of slow first-stint pace. Kimi and Alonso, with better tyremanagement should benefit from this by going longer and very fast at the end of 1st stint. Only Q is how long they can strech it..

RBR and Merc in particular might need a 2nd stop. What you guys think?


If the sun is out, then I suspect Pirelli’s intent with this year’s supersoft and soft is to ensure more than one stop for everyone.

If the Mercedes is similar to Barcelona, then I suspect as its tyres wear it will become vulnerable out of Portier and through the tunnel. A similar thing happened in 2005 with the no stop rule.

Between the Red Bull, Lotus and Ferrari, it will be whether the Lotus and Ferrari can run in clear air at some point to get ahead via the pit stops.


“Alonso and Massa found a good balance on Friday and felt that they had a good chance for the race and didn’t want to upset that.”

Well, with 1-3 finish, it seems to be understatement of the year


Qualifying is just not that much important anymore these days. Already since the time when one had to start on the same tires as they ended Q3 with.

Ofcourse its still better to be as much in front as possible, but teams tend to compromise qualifying in favour of race performance.

Hence some drivers don’t really go for it in Q3.

On another note. People always say the Ferrari from last year was so bad, but Alonso average finishing position was 3th and had the most podium finishes of all drivers so as much a great driver he is he couldn’t accomplish that in a bad car.


As happy as I am that Pirelli changed the tires back, it just means we’re going to have another Newey/Vettel (notice what I did there? 😛 )fest for the rest of the year. Hopefully Ferrari don’t worry too much about their Quali pace and stay focused on their race pace as I think this is their only shot at staying up there with Red Bull this year now that the tires have gone back to the old spec.

I’d still much rather see proper F1 tires, even last years tires hindered the actual “racing” too much.

Bring Back Murray

I personally don’t adhear to everyone’s concerns about Vettel and Red Bull suddenly becoming dominent again due to beefing the tyres up. Ferrai and Lotus both have much improved cars this season regardless of the tyre situation. All I can see is close racing between ALO and VET (and pss Kimi) rather than one driver / team dominating the others like in previous seasons.


You guys don’t want Alonso in pole, with the way he drives in the races, he win all of them if he starts from pole.


Well, he definitely has a very good win-from-pole conversion rate. Only ALO and BUT have conversion rates over 60% on that score (63.64% and 62.50% respectively). Ok, Pastor is 1-for-1 (100%), but out of those with more than one pole. Rosberg was at 100% too before Bahrain (now at 33.33%).

Of course, nothing you can do about unconverted poles due to mechanical issues. It would be nice to see the data having removed mechanical DNFs.


That’s what i thought too. Never give Alonso the best car, it will be a bore fest.

heinzman (Fan of ALO)

Instead of changing the tyres because they are too sensitive, why not bring back refuelling? Refuelling without qualifying on race fuel. Opens up more windows for all!

Bring Back Murray

Hmm.. I was never a great fan of refuelling. Yeah they were driving much closer to the limit but far too much overtaking was done in the pits and never enough on the track. There were too many situations where a driver would simply sit behind another driver for serveral laps, wait for the driver in front to pit, then drive fast for the next 2/3 laps, pit and emerge out in front of him again.

Heinzman (Fan of: ALO)

I hear you, these days I think it would be different though. The fuelling would give teams like Merc an opportunity to compete. End of the day the cream always rises.

What do you think about DRS/KERS?


On tracks that favor Ferrari all they need to do is be with in striking distance of Kimi. Lotus and Force India are their only competitors on those kinds of tracks, when it comes to tire wear.

I doubt we will see a huge difference in the actual compounds. I could be wrong, but I think Pirelli will go with another half measure (Breaking Bad reference 🙂 )and just round off the corners a bit and go back to Kevlar. If they can get away with just the Kevlar the will probably do that. Then if that fails they will make full changes in the compounds as well. They waited so long to get on top of this no matter what they do will look bad to some.


I agree that the compound changes are likely to be small. The way to avoid four stop races is to not race at Barcelona. To give Pirelli the benefit of the doubt, it could be the delaminations are coming due to debris and rather then punctures we are getting something more dramatic. Barcelona might be a convenient excuse for Pirelli to modify its tyres so that people who don’t understand tyres will assume the worst about the tyres.




James, Pirelli says they are gonna change tyre compound from Canada onwards, my question is what are teams saying on this as their approval is needed to change it and why is FIA keeping numb on all this. There are teams that will be affected in a negative way and most notably it will have positive effect on Red Bull. Whats your take on all this as I struggle to understand why they doing this and why are the rules sidelined, tnx James for best articles F1 related.


Oh yeah, one more thing, for those that seem unaware:

Monaco, like Monza, is a very special, that is, especially outside of the average, real outliers in terms of requirements for the car. These ‘special’ circuits require ‘special’ set ups, and it is most likely that the competitive teams bring a previously described “Monaco package” and have it embedded in their development program plan, to maximize what they learn and take away the most they can for subsequent development work.

Because of this, there could be surprises in terms of pace, in Monaco.

While fundamentally strong designs, as the Ferrari now seems to be, are ideal for specializing, but many seem to think that the Mercedes is almost fundamentally designed to work well in Monaco.

I say, the car (Mercedes) does not seem to have the fundamentals worked out very well, and I believe one manifestation that could be expected is, unpredictability of changes. Their optimization package will be more of a gamble than Ferrari’s.

Likewise, Lotus seems to have a very predictable system for their upgrades, (some might say, too predictable). Their traction out of corners may yet pave the way for a differentiating performance. I don’t believe Ferrari’s obvious edge in top speed will give much advantage at Monaco, but I fancy Alonso’s chances to the chequered flag better than Mercedes.


We have this great hip-hop singer named KOS in Canada, and he sings this song, “… if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it…”

Ferrari have finally got it right!

It’s been a while.

Keep on the current trajectory, continue to upgrade the car, without compromising race pace.

They’ve finally got it working, their entire system.

Let’s face it, the Ferrari was the best package in Barcelona.

All they have to do is keep it steady, in the same direction.

The Ferrari was the best package in Barcelona.


James, I realise that this is not Q & A for you but may I ask, in your opinion (or you may know in fact), during the race can any of the teams take the full speed/pace of their car for more than a lap or so without compromising their strategy or race?

If no-one can then surely this would be a big issue in deciding how aggressive Ferrari go on improving their quali performance. Why take a risk for essentially one race?


Thanks a lot.


This will be my last post now.


Improving qualifying without wrecking the race has to be a long term priority, but for Monaco they might do well to take a page from Mercedes book.

From what I’ve seen and read Monaco could be Mercedes best opportunity for a win, so the best bet for Ferrari to beat them there might well be to make sure they are in front of them at the start and let the rest of the race take care of itself.


I understand the logic behind Mercedes favouritism to win Monaco but I tend to believe, based on current form that Kimi / Lotus will excel there. If they can pull off a single stop (dry) race, I think they’ll be we’ll placed. The trick will be keeping within 20? secs of the fastest 2 stopper and being in front after the final stop.


i can see hamilton or rosberg being 10 seconds clear by lap 5 or 6 at monaco because of the field spread which is really big at monaco as nobody behind can overtake .

would you agree james ?


2s a lap quicker, at Monaco? The only way that could happen, and I’m not even sure if it could even then, was if the two Merc’s got away 1-2, and the 2nd car backed up the field so that the lead car could pull a gap.

If Mercedes are smart, and lock out the front row, they will make sure they ensure a 1-2 order, and do exactly that. Of course, to do something like that, the drivers would have to have a pre-quali agreement that whoever got pole would be allowed to lead the race. Then at race start, get together, make the cars wide, and ensure the 1-2 order.

Jonathan Lodge

reading the many articles about the route Pirelli are going down I would like to know a bit more about McLaren’s dilemma. There were calls for them to bring back last year’s car. With the prospect of using last year’s tyres surely they would be much better off using the older car…


Some people have argued that the McLaren front wing is a key part of the problem. Using a 2012 front wing design as a starting point for updating the MP-28 might be a good idea as the old front wing is designed to work with tyres of the coming shape.

Two things to consider are that the MP-27 is now 6 months development behind RB9 which is a step ahead of the RB8 that the MP-27 was just quicker than at the end of 2012. So for a team determined to win, this isn’t likely to help too much. Also, in not solving the MP-28s problems the team doesn’t properly understand them and learn from them for 2014. F1 design is largely highly evolutionary with limited innovation in contained areas. The MP-28 is a step towards the MP-29 while the MP-27 would constrain McLaren’s thinking and knowledge.

Ferrari went through something similar when it sacked Aldo Costa in early 2011 and brought in Pat Fry. It wanted to get out of a mid-2000s way of designing F1 cars and get into the simulator-led age.

One final point now that I think of it. The MP-27 was a high downforce, hard spring rate car, which is the antithesis of the Lotus. McLaren won more races than Lotus last year, so that approach isn’t necessarily wrong, but I believe Lotus and Ferrari have taken a step forward in race pace with these tyres, while last year’s McLaren is really an extension of Bridgestone era thinking.




Unfortunately they no longer have anyone to drive it. Personally I think the 2013 McLaren is performing as well as can be expected under the circumstances.


They have a former world champion who is also one of the most experienced drivers on the grid, as well as the newbie who is at least as fast as the previous encumbant


James, here’s an idea to get rid of qualifying altogether.

Let the cars start the next race in the order they finished the last one. This will encourage racing in every race. Especially in Barcelona as Monaco is next.

Saturdays will be free practice for the racing grid. Fridays are reserved for rookies & young guns.


Apart from going against tradition I think it makes a lot of sense. Purists would hate it but who cares?


Edd Straw on Autosport wrote about this, and said that the 1931 Monaco race was the first race to have a grid determined by qualifying rather than a lottery. So just tell the purists that they are not pure enough. It would also help teach F1 drivers what luck really is – mechanical failures are not luck for example.


2005 was a bit like that, one lap quali in reverse order of previous race finish positions.


The reverse order is meant to favour the winning teams from the previous race as the track is rubbered in.

Craig in Manila

Or have them start in order of Fastest Lap from prior race.

This method would encourage drivers to push hard the latter stages of the race even in circumstances where they were not in the points and/or had no chance of catching the guy in front.


Or let them start the race in the opposite order they finished the last one.


Reverse grid demo-derby…. Pass the band-aid


As much as I want to see that, I reckon they don’t need the medical car following them the first lap, but rather one of those big vacuum cleaner trucks they use to sweep the streets with… 😛

That will certainly spice up the show… lol


Alonso’s Qualy positions aren’t that bad, to be honest they are the best since he’s in Ferrari.

Australia 5

Malaysia 3

China 3

Bahrain 3

Spain 5

avg in 2013 – 3,8

avg in 2012 – 6,1

avg in 2011 – 4,6

avg in 2010 – 5,8

Bring Back Murray

Nice stats! Out of all the driver’s on the grid I’d say Alonso’s grid position matters the least. As long as he qualifies fairly neear the top of the grid (in the first two rows) you know he’s going to find a way to steam up the field.


Any insights james as to what they should do? Or if they should do anything at all for that matter. Personally I think that qualifying is Alonso’s chink in the armor and that Ferrari are probably on par with at least lotus. I wouldn’t do anything major and agree that many of remaining races don’t pose the Monaco problem.


I think the greatest theoretical improvement would be to find a way to increase low speed, say up to 120 km/h downforce without adding any high speed downforce. The improved traction out of slow corners comes with much less of a heat penalty than carrying more speed through medium and high speed corners. Extra low speed downforce is what made the Red Bull quick in Bahrain, but its extra high speed downforce gave it high tyre wear in Spain. To do this Ferrari would need to find a way for multi-element components, such as the front wings and the rear brake ducts to have their last elements stall above a certain speed without affecting the primary elements.

Making the car more aerodynamically efficient so that the car makes the same downforce but has less drag will add lap time with no significant time penalty, but this is more relevant in the race and the qualifying gain will be small.

Reducing the power loss from the Coander exhausts will also be a performance benefit, along with any other measures that can increase engine power with a ‘frozen’ engine configuration.

Do everything possible to lower the centre of gravity of the car. Largely this means finding ways to take weight out of the roll structure of the car and turning this into ballast. This would require a new crash test.

I would be very wary of messing with the suspension as that is likely to send the car in the Mercedes direction.




In my view, Ferrari need not worry too much about their qualifying pace.

If you look at it this way, Ferrari have the one of the best race pace and best launch so lets say the team (Alonso) qualify P5 or better each race, this would mean after every start, he would be around P2 or P3 and then this is where the race pace and easy on their tyres would kick in.

Yes theoretically, Ferrari have a car that can win anywhere as shown by the fact that the team that wins at Barcelona pretty much has the tools to do well at any circuit.

But I understand the team’s point of view in that they would much rather win as easily as possible but the problem is even with a perfect car, Alonso isn’t known for his qualifying skills plus now he has to deal with two teams that have super fast talents i.e. Red Bull and Mercedes.

So yeah, I wouldn’t change too much on those cars least I wreck something besides, it’s much more fun to win from a position that isn’t pole.

As for the new tyres, the team is sitting pretty too for last year, Ferrari were matching Red Bull on the 2012 rubber.


I have read on another site that whilst the change helps RBR it is actually going to be worse for Mercedes qualifying speed. Something to do with tyre squirt…

Might be of interest


Not a blogger I know, but I was not encouraged by what I read in his technical comments to read other articles.

Fundamentally, Pirelli is still going to have fairly high degradation tyres based on what Paul Hembry says. What Pirelli doesn’t want is debris causing delamination as that looks really bad. Debris that immediately causes a puncture is more easily understood by non-technically minded viewers.

The shape of the tyre is probably going to be slightly different and the deformation of the tyre under load will change from the teams have now. All sorts of bits around the front wings, front and rear brake ducts, etc will be changed by the top teams.

I don’t know if there will be any reason to change the suspension geometry. The qualifying ideal is to have the rear tyres quite vertical when the load is low – basically 0 degrees static camber. As the speeds go up the camber goes negative as the suspension squats – performed by having the lower arms either longer or becoming closer to horizontal as the car squats under load. The degree to which a team does this increases the heat generated in the tyre as camber distorts the tyre as it rolls and this distortion generates heat all the time. In a race situation a team might prefer to leave the camber more neutral all the time.

Personally, I’m not seeing too much change coming from the revised tyres apart from how punctures manifest themselves. To have 2 to 3 stop races, what Pirelli needs is to not race at Barcelona or Istanbul and not select the supersoft and soft options too often.




@ hero_was_senna

Shoot that sucks.

But I still trust the Mercedes pilots, all that this will mean is they won’t get pole regularly or by a huge margin.


Just what RB want…


The problem is one the weakness of Red Bull’s car will be removed from Canada onwards. Controversial in my opinion, but I guess Red Bull could be flying away with both Championships after Canada!


Pat Fry is a briliant designer /engineer.

Luca D Montezemolo did not hesitate to move

Alda Costa who was Ross Brown deputy i favour

of Pat Fry.

Pat Fry firm belief,the biggest improvement

in performance for 2013 regulations are in

the exhaust,exhaust, in every F1 meeting

Ferrari had a update ar a tweak to its

exhaust system.

Undoubtedly it has beared the fruit.

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