Making a plan and sticking with it: How Ferrari and Lotus came out on top in Spain
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 May 2013   |  7:37 pm GMT  |  141 comments

This race may come to be viewed as a tipping point in the ongoing debate about whether the high degradation Pirelli tyres are good for F1 or not, as two of the three drivers on the podium did a four stop strategy.

Pirelli has indicated that they have been “too aggressive” with the construction of the 2013 tyres and will make changes from the seventh round, Montreal, onwards.

However against this backdrop, the strategy battle at the heart of this race was fascinating. And it showed that the teams who came out on top were the ones who had the best thermal management of the tyres and the clearest vision of how to execute their race strategy and who stuck to it.

Ferrari committed to four stops before the race began and likewise Lotus committed to three stops with the bulk of the running on the medium tyre, underlining their car’s gentle action on the tyres.

Other contenders, particularly Red Bull and Mercedes were washed away by not sticking to a clear vision of how to attack the race.

Alonso vs Raikkonen

In 23 years no-one has ever won the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona from as low as fifth on the grid, but Fernando Alonso managed it on Sunday, which tells the story of how much the Pirelli tyres have shaken up F1.

Alonso knew from studying the data from Friday’s long runs in practice that the car to beat on race day would be Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus, as this had exceptional race pace and low degradation.

When Raikkonen qualified fourth ahead of Alonso, this made him the main target, even with Sebastian Vettel started ahead in 3rd. The long runs from Red Bull on Friday had shown that they were struggling with tyre degradation.

Ferrari’s assumption was that Raikkonen would three stop and that Vettel would probably four stop. So they committed to run four stops, with Alonso pushing hard in the second and third stints. They were right about Raikkonen, but not Vettel; this merely played into their hands as we shall see.

Lotus looked at the data and concluded that although a four stop race was three seconds faster on paper, it was also more risky because of the increased risk of traffic and of things going wrong in the stops. Lotus also gives away a second to Ferrari in a pit stop on average, they simply aren’t as fast. However Lotus was the only team able to do most of the race on used medium tyres. They found them faster over a stint than new hard tyres but with similar degradation.

Starting from the dirty side, Raikkonen lost the initiative to Alonso at the start and this was crucial to the outcome, as Alonso was able to stay ahead after the first round of stops, when the field opened out.

The Ferrari’s secret as a race car is its ability to push hard on the opening laps of a stint (see fuel corrected lap time chart below, Alonso in red, Raikkonen in black) without overheating the tyres or damaging them and Alonso’s second and third stints demonstrated this perfectly.

Look at Alonso’s superior pace on the laps after his first and second stops ie where the red line dips down around laps 10 to 13 and laps 22 to 24.

In his tight battle with Raikkonen, it was the second stint in particular where he set the platform for his win, by taking his lead over the Finn out from two seconds to seven seconds. When he came out of the pits after his fourth stop, he was eight seconds ahead of Raikkonen. So that second stint was decisive.

Raikkonen was also slightly unlucky to come out from his second stop behind Vettel, who was losing time to Alonso.

On lap 38, just after the mid point of the race, they were together with one more stop to make each. Alonso was on fresh tyres, Raikkonen on 12 lap old tyres. If the Finn had been able to hold him back for longer, or to stay with him once Alonso got past, then he might have had a chance to challenge for the win, but he didn’t quite have the pace.

Lotus would not have been any better off trying four stops as this would have put them on the same strategy as Ferrari but with slightly less pace, so three stops was the right way to go.

Red Bull get in a muddle

This was not Red Bull’s greatest Grand Prix from a strategy point of view. Vettel qualified third and had the advantage of track position over Alonso in the opening stint, but lost the race and finished fourth because Red Bull fell into the classic trap of Pirelli era strategy indecision.

Red Bull tried to do three stops, couldn’t manage it and were forced to stop Vettel a fourth time, which cost them hugely. The proof of this is that he was beaten by Massa. And his team mate Webber, who started seventh, finished just behind him in fifth place.

Ferrari undercut Vettel at the first stop to gain the track position advantage and then the Red Bull driver ran three laps longer in his second stint, losing a lot of time in the process, to Alonso, Raikkonen and Massa.

But the real problem stint for Vettel was the third one, on new hard tyres. He managed only to get to lap 39, which forced him to switch to a four stop, but as it hadn’t been planned, all the time lost by trying to run longer stints counted against him.

Could Mercedes have avoided their slide?
For the second race in a row, Mercedes slid alarmingly back from their pole position slot, with Nico Rosberg ending up sixth and front row starter Lewis Hamilton faring even worse in 12th place.

Despite knowing from practice that they had high tyre degradation, Mercedes went for a three stop strategy with Rosberg and he was forced to nurse the tyres, begging the question, could he – like Vettel – have done better if he had committed to pushing harder on a four stop?

In his case the answer is probably no, but not for strategy reasons.

The evidence suggests that the Mercedes’ geometry is such that the car generates excessive temperature in the tyre, which is what triggers its loss of performance over a series of laps. This would still have been the case even if they had divided the race into five stints rather than four.

All they would have done would be to add another 20 seconds for an additional pit stop. The strategists were hamstrung by the limitations of the car.

This is not an easy thing to fix; there are various devices around the brakes and rear wheels to control the temperatures by a few degrees, but not to control the kind of temperature spikes Mercedes is getting. The fact that this appears to be a recurring problem for the team on high energy circuits, like Barcelona, shows how difficult it is to know where to start.

Tyre Strategies, Barcelona

M=Medium; H=Hard; N=New; U=Used;

Alonso:MU HU (9) HN (21) MU (36) HN (49) 4 Stops
Räikkönen: MU MU (10) MU (26) HU (45) 3 stops
Massa: MU HU (8) HN (20) MU (36) HN (51) 4 stops

Vettel: MU HN (10) HN (24) MU (39) HN (51) 4
Webber: MU HN (7) HN (20) MU (36) HN (50) 4
Rosberg: MU HN (10)HN (27) HN (47) 3
Di Resta: MU HN (9) MU (19) MU (38) HN (53) 4
Button: MN HN (11 ) HN (28) HN (46) 3

Perez: MU HN (10) HN (23) MU (38) HN (50) 4
Ricciardo: MN HN (10) MU (24) HN(39) HU 51) 4
Gutierrez: MU MU (13) HN (28) MU (42) HN (54) 4
Hamilton: MU HN (9) HN (25)MU (36) HN (50) 4
Sutil: MU MN (8) HN (22) HN (36) MU (49) 4

Maldonado: MN HN (8) MN (20)HN (35) MU (53) 5
Hülkenberg: MU MU (8) HN (21) HN (34) HU(35) MU (53)

Bottas: MN HN (9) HN (25) MN (43) 3
Pic: HN MN (8) HN (23) HN (41) 3
Bianchi: HN HN (2) HN (16) MN (29 ) HU (46) 4
Chilton: HN HN (15) MN (30) HN(47) 3

The UBS Race Strategy Report is written by James Allen with input and data from several leading F1 team strategists, from Pirelli and from JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan.


Courtesy of the Williams F1 Team

Note Alonso’s pace at the start of second and third stints relative to Vettel’s; also note the erratic lap times of Mercedes after first stint.

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So from the graphs DIR, PER and GUT were faster at the end than ROS, BUT and RIC but were not able (allowed) to pass, we could not see how close it was on TV


So we all know how huge the Ferrari F1 budget is - but how much less would they have had to spend on fuel if the oil price hadnt been manipulated by the likes of Shell/bp/statoil?

Stephen Taylor

James, I know you do this great strategic analysis but where has feature on your website gone where we could make our own strategy gone? I use to love that.


I agree. I liked it a lot (even won a few bets with it!). Can you bring it back please?!


Nicely put James.... By me earlier today on your blog 🙂


Van der Garde's lap time chart looks like a proxy for Pirelli tire performance...


Indeed...although mostly applicable to when there's only three of the tyres properly fitted to the car!

Thanks for the analysis James; if a four-stopper would have simply added twenty seconds to Mercedes' time then they seem in serious trouble. Shades of a problem essentially unresolved from 2012. Forget Pirelli changing tyre structures, it looks like their only hope of success may be if there's an unusually cold European summer.


James, there is one thing that I do not understand. Tyres are the same for everybody. All teams were well aware of what is ahead of them and then all made certain decisions when it comes to their 2013 car designs. It looks like Ferrari and Lotus just did a better home work and came on top.

Now that Red Bull and Mercedes is struggling (they designed the car to heat the tyre faster) there is a need to change the tyre.

I do not understand it. There is no safety reason...pure manipulation. Very sad...


Lotus were car used to test the tyres and Ferrari are fellow countrymen, no surprise which two teams are best suited to the tyre...


The test car is a renault.


I take it you actually watch F1?

"Last year they reluctantly agreed to allow a 2010 Renault to be used to test 2013 tyres and then when Lotus turned up this year with a car that was engineered to work well on its tyres, there were complaints that Enstone had benefitted from the tests."

Renault ---> Lotus


?? If you look at the podiums so far you will clearly see 3 teams going well on these tires. The Red Bull results haven't been that bad but a change benefits them because they are one of the few teams that can afford to redevelop the car. Here's hoping that the changes are minor enough for the smaller team to cope with using set up changes only. But if the tire profile changes enough to require aero updates a few teams will be out of luck. Lotus doesn't even have their cars designer on staff anymore.


Hi Alex,

My view is that there is a misunderstanding by the fans as to how much Pirelli is going to change the tyres. Paul Hembry if I recall correctly acknowledged that at races such as the US GP last year Pirelli was too conservative. With the exception of possibly Monza, my belief is that Pirelli will want to avoid races where any team will one stop.

Being mid season, it is highly unlikely that Pirelli would try to change the general degradation rather than wear characteristic of the tyres. So what we will have is races like China and Bahrain, but in the case of China, trying to get the first stint to last about ten laps, rather than 5 to 7. I really don't think Lotus and Ferrari will be that disadvantaged across the remaining races. We have two of the most agressive tracks out of the way. The soft and super soft will probably to made fractionally harder to ensure Hungary is a three stop race - with no on track passing that race will need pit stops.

A cynical view is that Pirelli has realised that is has a structural problem with these steel belted tyres. All the discussion about compounds and Red Bull winning gives a smokescreen for Pirelli to return to the kevlar belts. The greater angular momentum of the steel belts is possibly tearing the tyre apart when there is any damage.

I strongly believe Lotus and Ferrari's wear management advantage will remain relevant - Lotus possibly two stopping and Ferrari being able to undercut the Red Bull and Mercedes on laps that would seriously compromise the later two teams' races.

A differnt problem could emerge. Depending on the characteristics of the tyre, the aerodynamic properties of the tyre as it distorts under load could be quite different. For optimal performance this will necessitate a new front wing design and new rear brake ducts. Given Red Bull's downforce advantage, it would not be unreasonable to assume that it understands these areas better than any other team, so this might give Red Bull a slight edge in Canada when the transition comes. Canada is likely to be a strong Red Bull track anyway as it is similar to Bahrain in having lots of traction zones and few fast corners.

A new tyre type might prompt Mercedes to ditch its current rear suspension, so predicting a Mercedes pole on a circuit that favours the Mercedes power over the Renault driveability (the reverse of Bahrain apparently) might be a bold call.

I don't work for Pirelli (but I happily put Pirellis on my Alfa 159 two months ago) so I don't know the truth, but I'd suggest in the first instance trusting Paul Hembrey when he talks about 2 to 3 stop races and compare that to last year. Consider the PR damage if Pirelli just said its tyres were unsafe when there is no competition if you wish to as a further point towards largely maintaining the status quo.




Well said Martin. Aditionally, steel is heavier than Kevlar. Those kynetic forces really affect tyre performance and inner temperature. Returning to kevlar belts will make tyres lighter, thus favouring those drivers -at first- who cope well with sharp turn-in.

I've been a Pirelli critic almost from the begining, but the blame is on F-1 itself. It is the only top sport in the world that doesn't allow testing during the season! There have been several options on how to counteract this and always the teams end shooting themselves in the foot. It seems the most reasonable option should be to test at selected tracks after GP weekends with one car per team, just test drivers (clearly appointed for the purpose before season start), limited aero upgrades and limited fuel quantity. Engines and transmissions from the same allocation for the year. Team personnel at its minimum. No testing allowed when there are back to back GP weekends. 2 special or experimental set of tyres per team if it is decided it is a tyre test. Freedom to test engine-tranny-energy recovery systems separately, as 2014 will rule those 3 are a package. And finally, a certain percentage from the FOM money (only top-10) be directly paid to circuits, tyre manufacturer, transporters or any area that could be managed clearly by the FIA Resource Restriction Agreement. F-1 needs testing!


I'm hearing now that they do not plan to return to Kevlar belts


In Formula 1 the obvious competition is on the track. This is governed by the technical and sporting regulations. The less obvious competition in Formula 1 is off the track. Both the on and off track competition is just as keenly fought. However, off track has no regulations what so ever.

Off track, there is competition for sponsors, drivers and also, crucially, the influence that can be brought to bear on the decision makers. The teams will try all they can to bend the rules in their favour. If they can't make their car faster then the obvious thing to do is make the opposition slower.

It's always been the same, big teams use their influence to favour big teams.


Alex D, lets put aside which team we favour as that will only skew your view. This is what I believe F1 should be about. The most advanced racing cars in the world, with the best drivers, racing against each other. This would obviously involve balancing engineering, strategy and tyre management as always, however the importance of tyres is way too extreme this year and is now more important than driver skill and ultimate car pace.

What we have seen this year is drivers not pushing themselves to the limit (70-80%), not defending position, teams dictating track position, and boring meaningless qualifying sessions...

Button who is widely seen as one of the best drivers in tyre management, summed it up nicely.

‘When we’re going round doing laps three seconds slower than a GP2 car did in qualifying, and only six seconds quicker than a GP3 car did in the race, there’s something wrong. This is the pinnacle of motor sport. We shouldn’t be driving round so slowly to look after the tyres.’


Makes you wonder why they want 1.6L lawn mower engines then..?


100% agree with this. Yes, teams need to react to different tires, technology, etc., but this year, in my opinion, the tires are too much of a factor. For me, it's negatively affecting the racing.

Should the teams just get on with it? Yes, probably. But, that doesn't mean the situation is okay.


Had Button won the race, he would not say this. Why Kimi is not saying anything like that?He is saying that tyres are absolutely OK.

Yes, maybe Pirelli could have done a better job, but then you do not go and change everything upside down mid season...knowing that it will affect the championship, it will require a lot of rework from teams, it will require to change their development programs and most likely will affect the development of 2014. Is it what we all want now? We want Red Bull and Mercedes to get a helping hand? We want the championship to be manipulated?

Yes, Pirelli should absolutely change tyres for next years, but this years, teams should get on top of the situation.


Its not about Kimi's & Button's opinion or any other driver. Did you notice that Ferrari and Lotus arent complaining, ofcourse not, because they feel they have an advantage with these tyres, however Red Bull were complaining even after their 1-2 in Malaysia.

I believe that tyres need to be one area of a cars performace, not by far the most important area of performance. What Pirelli needs to do is wind down the extreme degradation, and the structual failures, and let the fastest car and driver package slug it out on the track for the championship.


Using Kimi as an example is not really fair, though. Kimi doesn't speak out about much of anything. He just goes with it. Look at his reaction to the James Allison situation for a perfect example.


Perhaps, certain teams should work in having better thermal management, instead of complaining about the tires.


Maybe you should have a tire delaminate... then you can come tell us its a very safe experience...


If RB think the tyres are unsafe, don't race. Indy precedent.


Not quite. The teams tested a 2013 compound on Friday in Brazil 2012, but only learned how the constructions worked at the first winter test this year. They then set about engineering to deal with them


Still, it feels like 2003 all over again.. what a shame.. I dont recall Red Bull complaining about the tire in Bahrain.

If Red Bull/Vettle fly off with the WC after they modify the tires then it will hurt F1 a lot more than what we have now.


They already complained in winter testing and even after their 1-2 finish in Malaysia.


RBR said even after the win they would still make adjustments to the compounds as they were too soft.

Vettel had this to say:


I agree that teams found out about tyres in winter test. Why Pirelli didn´t do anything about the tyres before? Already during testing all teams(some more than others) were complaining about the tyres. It seems that Pirelli ignored them. And now Lotus, Force India, Ferrari and maybe others have to pay for Pirelli´s mistake


Sutil lost over 50 secs due to pitstop problem.

Without that he could be well ahead of McLarens.


The tyre performance in winter testing was problematic, considering they did it in rubbish conditions outside of what the tyres are designed to work in, on a track known to already be hard on the tyres. The poor performance was put down to these factors, assuming that once they got to proper racing the tyres would show their true characteristics.

Even if Ferrari, Lotus and Force India are better on tyres... Alonso and Massa both ran 4 stops in Spain (and Massa had to give up on his push at the end to gain a position because of the tyres), di Resta ran 4 stops, Sutil ran 3 but only finished what, one position up? And a lap down from the leader? And then of course there was his tyre failure in free practice. Raikkonen, in supposedly the most tyre-friendly car, still had to run a very leisurely 3 stop race.

We certainly don't want one stop races where the only reason they're coming in at all is because the rules say they have to run both compounds. But the extreme in the other direction isn't good either.

It seems a bit odd to me that they spend all year (and a lot of money) flying around the world chasing good weather, but they start the year off testing in conditions they don't intend to race in at any point during the year.


Still....they made a decision on the development program based on what they learned and it was the same for all teams. Some did it better then the others. I think you have heard what Hembery stated - he believes that Pirelli is being pushed to make the Red Bull win again. This was a very clear statement from his interview.

In my view, teams should just progress and learn how to deal with these tyres. This would have been a decent story this year...they were all in the same boat. Right now...we will witness a championship that is manipulated by a certain political decision to support a specific team.

Is it really better for the image of F1?


There is no need to worry..

Do you really think that Pirelli will alter the tyre in such a way that suits Red Bull? Clearly Pirelli have made their feelings about Red Bull clear.

They will change the structure, yes, but they will make it in such a way that it will not suit Red Bull. They are experts at what they do, they know what Red Bull needs, they will make sure they do not get it...

So panic over, let get on with the racing


The current Pirelli creates a special situation in which both Ferrari and Lotus excel. This is all right if it is not that the freshness of the tires counts more than a driver's ability to drive fast. My feeling is that some improvement to the accelerated tire degradation has to be made especially other components of the car like engine, chassis, transmission, etc. are no longer putting an artificial restriction on how fast a driver can drive.


Vettel was a race winner in Spain in 2011 with 4 pit stops. And I don´t remember there were any complaints about it.


No, Pirelli themselves know there is a problem and have to do something about it. Red Bull aren't the only ones having problems. Even the race winner in Spain had to run a 4-stop, and still was far from going flat out. That's not what Pirelli set out to achieve. I'm sure the tyre failures aren't something they want happening either, and even if after detailed analysis they want to call it "debris"-related, there have been far too many seemingly inexplicable failures so far this season for it to be reasonable.

But they're worried about giving, or being perceived to be giving, Red Bull an advantage by changing the compounds and construction.


On the Mercedes' geometry and Alonso's comments that he considers the silver arrows as the favourite to win in Monaco because of their qualifying speed resulting from their 'ability' to get the tyres very quickly in their ideal operating windom: could it be that during Monaco qualifying we will see some teams that will do a couple of warming-up laps before going for their hot lap? On any other track it would probably be detrimental for the tyres on which they would have to start the race, but maybe in Monaco they will prefer track position over optimal tyre management?


Throwing my $0.02 in

- choosing to qualify on the prime tyres could be an option many teams consider to get off strategy from the Mercedes.

- the safety car at the end of lap one helped the tyres drop down in temperature after the start

- the soft and supersoft are softer than last year and the cars have more downforce.

- Lotus is a good bet to do as you suggest based on its experience last year with Grosjean and it minimises the risk of the traffic ruining qualifying.

- The tyre characteristics in terms of warm up this year are quite different from last year's tyres so the arguments of stopping later do not necessarily apply - we do not know yet.

- In 2011 a one stop race wasn't really viable. In 2012 it was overcast, reducing track temperature.

- As the Mercedes' tyres wear their lack of downforce rather than mechanical grip showed in the traction and braking zones. I believe they will not be able to hang on forever at the front - Portier will make them vulnerable for a run into the chicane. We saw the Mercedes being passed around the outside into turn ten in Spain.

- One final, leftfield point: point Rosberg and Hamilton have a little history of underdelivering in Monaco qualifying.

Unless you're a bookie, just enjoy the race as much as you can 🙂


Thanks, will try to, although all I'm doing during the races these days is keeping both of my eyes on the live timing app and that's not really exciting...:-)


It is true that overtaking is nearly impossible in Monaco. To win from the front you also need the ability to manage your pit-stop window. Mercedes appears to have no control on that. They will still struggle in Monaco as every other team will undercut them.


It will be very hard to undercut if slow car will be leading the pack due to huge train.


Undercutting strategy doesn't work in monaco, going longer while lapping faster is the only way to gain track position. Otherwise you get stuck in traffic. Mercedes have a real shot at victory if degradation is not a concern.


Undercutting is risky there it's a one stop race -you have to be sure you can do the rest of the race on the same set of tyres


With regard to the potential undercut just remember last year it was the opposite. James did a great article explaining how the teams found out during the race that new tyres were quick over the very first lap but then took time for them to settle and be consistently quicker than old tyres due to low degradation. James concluded Ferrari would have won the race if the did an overcut....... We shall wait and see what this year brings. All part of the fun and surprise element we need.


I think Monaco and why alonso thinks the mets are favorites comes down to 3 things:

Mercedes speed over a single lap

Low energy compared to spain

Tight track making passing harder. Even if their tires go off its difficult to get a pass to stick so they an control the race (somewhat).


A real test of strategy and driver skill.

Reading James's report I am baffled why many comments of the last two days want to go back to the days of the early 2000s when the fastest car by design with its own secret spec of tyre won every race, and everyone stopped the same number of times. I have to add that MS might also have won in a fair fight. Maybe less times

Who leads the points? the best four drivers. there is no anomaly.


Thanks for the relative pace graphs again!


With the tyre change can Mercedes become competitive? or decent? or at least less pathetic?


It'll be really great if Nico can be on the top steps of the podium. If not Hamilton will? Monaco will be very interesting this year I feel strongly.


They will anyway, I reckon they'll get at least a podium maybe win Monaco. HAM has been 2x on podium in first 4 races, don't forget


I think a podium is the best they can hope for. Even with overtaking as hard as it is they can't cover off all the different strategies employed behind them if their tyres fall off at the rate they have been.


The fact remains that Ferrari and Lotus have developed their car to better deal with the compounds that Pirelli have gave every team, and which every team agreed to at the Winter testing (correct me if I am wrong). Now Red Bull are struggling they are complaining. Too bad! It is up to them to adapt their car otherwise if Pirelli change their compunds they will simply be handing Vettel the championship on a plate. Something he simply does not deserve.


your right, but it is still NOT RACING

its a shame for the cars, drivers, engines ...



It would be great if people could put in the first line of their posts:

"My driver of choice is:...." (ALO, in my case)

Posts would be CRYSTAL CLEAR.


Doesn't really matter.

I have several drivers I like from all top 4-5 teams currently, yet I still want the tyres change whether it favours Red Bull or not, because I just plain dislike the tyres for crumpling apart and not giving real racing. When I say change, I mean make the last like how Bridgestone did, not favouring any particular team just because they whined.

If the tyres last good and give drivers a chance to go all out racing, then even if Red Bull or Vettel comes out on top (preferrably with close racing) then I'm fine.

What FIA introduced with the aero cut-back regs back from 2009 were enough to bring the racing pack closer together, with KERS and DRS it was helped even more, so we don't need this Pirelli tyres farce to affect F1 racing.



I am concerned they are starting to manipulate the reults in f1. They should just build the tires in the beginning of the season and let them go on until next year. Everyone is bending Pirellis ears to tailor the tires around them now thats not racing! Whatever happened of getting the best out of your package regardless of the tire.


Great analysis, especially the insights regarding teams falling into the trap of trying to minimizing stop and costing themselves dearly. The approach itself is sound and has worked extremely well for light on tires 2013 Lotus and 2012 Sauber. What I can't understand is why Mercedes, who have consistently been hard on tyres for the past few years, generally try and run one less stop than everyone else. They should accept the DNA of the car and plan to make at least the same or maybe one more stop than everyone else and give their drivers a chance to exploit what is a fast car.


James explained that quite well. The Mercedes overheat their tyres. So they must go slow to try to reduce tyre temperature, otherwise they use up their tyres through thermal degradation and need to pit after a handful of laps.

Here it is important to differentiate between normal wear and thermal degradation. The former is linear if the tyre temperature stays in its operating window, but the latter is highly nonlinear and can ruin the tyre very quickly.


Your science James serves to confirm what is patently clear with Alonso is his ability to manage tyres. He uses them well when fresh without damaging them and then still manages them well when they are getting old. He appears to understand them better than some of his competitors. Lewis whilst with Mc would repeatedly damage his tyres when fresh and then pay the price later. The need for tyre managemt has been with F1 for a while. I can remember last year races in which drivers like Alonso being powerless to respond in part because the team made the wrong call - Canada I think it was. Is the outcry so loud now because Lewis can't race & RB can't get their way?

61's the car... not Alonso...


It's the driver than that manages the tyres not the car -the car is the platform, the driver makes it happen.


That's not 100% true. The management is also about keeping them in their ideal operating window of temperature and that is done with clever little devices in the hubs and wheels to use or channel away brake temperature. So the car plays a huge part. especially the Mercedes where the rear tyre temps are higher than others and that has nothing to do with HAM and ROS


The last few seasons results suggest otherwise, as Massa was nowhere for much of last year, save the last couple of races.


He did seem to be about half a second faster than Massa during most of the race.


Hmm, why not both, Alonso and the car?

Cannot be that there is different ways of driving similar cars?

Notice Perez's and Hamilton's final positions driving similar cars. Hamilton is an excellent driver, but he is harder on brakes and tyres, I think. Alonso has good hands, no doubt.


Maybe because Felipe is doing well also.. Whereas in lotus clearly Raikkonen is fantastic on the tyres and Grosjean by his own admission is not. This is how you separate Car from Driver.


I meant to say Rosberg and Hamilton.


Surprising to see lotus using a used set of tires for all their stints and not saving some during qualifying. On their last stint they put a used set of hards on kimi whereas other drivers had 1,2, even 3 sets of new hards for the race. Any insight into this?


Yes- Kimis epic talent!


And they'd burned them up in Quali... 😉


Yes more to the point..


if three teams support the pirellis and eight teams don’t then i would think that pirelli should be made to change.

the change to the compounds was made to penalise the best/fastest team ,RB, in the first place. can’t have them stealing a fourth title in a row. not good for the general viewing public.

the very fact that pirelli are going ahead with changes supports the view held by the majority. the current trash tyres are ruining the racing. if people want strategic/tactical driven entertainment play chess and stay away from F1.


So if you don't want contrived slow speed racing lets get rid of the rules banning all the go-faster goodies, such as ABS, traction control, DDRS, blown diffusers, F-Ducts, felxi wings and floors, moveable aero, bespoke engine maps, adjustable ride height, unrestricted testing and budgets etc and may as well start another tyre war and have 5L V12s to really get some mph's on the straights.


Then F1 will be worthy of the name "pinnacle".


Simple and easy, Ferrari, Lotus, Force India managed to solve the problems much better than Red Bull.

Ferrari needed only 4 stops, kinda much though. Red Bull indicated they need 10 stops, well.

Teams unable to come to grips with 2013 tires will be whining and whining. IT'S NORMAL and that's been happening in F1 since it began.

I do not dislike Vettel at all but not another RB dominance please.

Alonso admitted to driving at 90% in Cat, I think that's very good for the bubble gummies.


Exactly - look at his 2nd and 3rd stints and tell me he isn't pushing


He was not pushing, he could have gone 2 seconds a lap faster but the tyres would melt. Or would you say Guiterez has the faster package with his fastest lap?


Gutierrez set his fast lap with new tyres and less fuel. You've got to compare like with like.


Basically Ferrari out smarted RBR. It is just that simple. Who knows exactly how a 4 stop race would go, but we do know Ferrari made the correct decision in race strategy.

As to the Merc, this is what Steve Machett went into pretty decent detail about before the race. Even though NBC is too cheep to send the play by play and color commentators over to the races they do a dang good job. Basically Machett is being told that the upper and lower arms to the suspension in the rear are too close together. This making it harder for the suspension to move. This in turn makes the camber not fluctuate from a negative to neutralish (not a word but I am Texan so there) relationship with the car and the track. I must say it was one of the best information pieces I have seen in a long time on a racing broadcast.

As for the compounds of the tires, they have to do something. They can't let them melt away like that and have it impact their brand. I don't think they need to go far but they obviously not only missed with the tires (tyres)they stuck their head in the sand after the first round of testing.

I know there are many Kimi and Ferrari supporters out there that fear Pirelli are playing politics, there are also RBR fans that thing Pirelli played politics already.

The thing is I almost feel like Pirelli saw signs there was something not right in winter testing. I feel their response was to either misinterpret the data there or stick their heads in the sands. Tires were even part of articles here, a small part but there were signs of trouble that were dismissed as the tracks being too abrasive and the weather too cold. That might be true but is that consistent with years past?

For me I would be fine if they just changed the construction to eliminate the delamination and made conservative tire choices. But the tires are too soft period.


The issue for me is changing the tyres well into the season, will taint any wins by RB from now on, regardless whether they would have won the race on the old tyres.There will forever be a question mark over this and their team's ethics.


Is it my imagination or does that graph show some sort of sweet spot for the Sauber of Hulkenberg in the last stint? Does this mean there might be hope for that car yet if they can figure out how to access that pace under heavier fuel?


Hulkenberg and Gutierrez were both quite quick at the end. It could well be that the car has some transient behaviour problems such as what Red Bull had early last with the car oversteering at slow speeds and understeering at high speeds. That makes the car very difficult to drive quickly in qualifying, but in the race this is less of an issue.


"will make changes from the seventh round, Montreal, onwards."

They promised that for Barcelona too! They will make the same promise for Silverstone, and then, for Budapest... they will bring the perfect sets of tyres for Austin -- just like last season.

heinzman (Fan of ALO)

The changes should not be made off the back off a frantic Catalunya pit lane. There have been murmurings about tyres for 12 months.

It does not help with identities like Martin Brundle and DC demanding 'I want to see racing', and stirring the uninformed casual fanbase into a frenzy. Sadly they are a big audience these days, and Bernie wants their cash.

Remove tyres as the limiting factor and there will always be a team dominating. The line between what we have now and the Schumacher days is very fine.


To be fair I think Martin mentioned to the effect, the current situation isn't great but he didn't want to go back to the days where teams finished in exactly the same order they qualified (barring mechanical issues)


You actually called the people who want to see proper racing, with drivers pushing themselves and the cars to the limit without being limited by cheese tyres and driving to slow delta times 'uninformed casual fanbase'?

Now I have read it all.


It is pretty popular on here and other sites to accuse anyone that does not agree with you as uninformed and casual.

F1 and for that matter any sport can't survive without those fans.


That doesn't change the fact that as well as the hard-core F1 fans, many more viewers are transient - call them what you like, perhaps casual and uninformed isn't fully accurate but it's close enough.


I think you have misunderstood his point.

The uninformed casual fanbase are the viewers who tune in because of pre-event advertising. They are fickle and need entertaining, hence the need for multiples passes.

People who have watched F1 for more than 5 years have a genuine passion for it, they may be angry with certain rules or drivers action but have formed the backbone of viewing figures before Sky ever got involved.

A few years ago, I read a report that American networks covering the World Cup didn't want 45 minutes per half, they wanted to break the game up into 15 minute segments as it would be better for their viewers, ie more advertising revenue because they supposedly have short attention spans. It may also explain why short oval track racing is so popular there!

I once replied to a poster on another site regards Senna vs Vettel. I have no problem people having their own opinion about any subject, but she admitted she'd only been watching F1 since 2009 and had never even seen Senna race. This to me was the epitome of the uninformed casual viewer.


Lotus' pit stop is beyond miserable...

They should undercut Alonso on the first pit stop.... and then try to run 4 stopper.

And they also need more downforce to improve their raw pace....


I, too, think that Lotus couldn't have matched Ferrari's pace even with the same strategy.

There are still some lingering ifs and buts, however. Had Räikkönen been able to hold Alonso at bay in the start and then decisively committed to four-stopping and undercutting Alonso at every opportunity, do you think he might've had a chance of taking advantage of the fact that even with DRS, passing was not a trivial ordeal without a considerable difference in pace?

While it's surely impossible to give a definite answer, I think this boils down to whether Alonso would have had such advantage in pace at the beginning of each stint.


James is that right I thought Raikkonens last pit was HN ?

Either way its mightily impressive he was the only guy to do 3 stops and all 3 mediums were used sets. Massa had 2 sets of New hards!- in fact most of the front runners had 2 sets of HN.

He is in a class of his own - no two ways about it


How is Kimi in a class of his own? The Lotus has been known to be good on its tires for the last 2 years. All he has done is exploited that as any seasoned GP winner or champion should. There is nothing particularly exceptional otherwise. When people speak of the top 3 drivers in F1... And I refer to polls of current drivers and team bosses also, he is not in with a shout for the top spot. He's just knocking on the door of the top 3.. That's about it.


Winning or finishing second at almost every race whilst your very quick team mate struggles to be in the top 10. Is one thing. His tyre and race management are second to none that's how and even those on the podium acknowledge that.

Alonso and Hamilton have both said he is driving brilliantly atm. There is talk that more than one team are after his services.

No driver, including the above can do 1 less stop and be withinn eye shot of the top spot whilst still doing identical lap times to the leader and sometimes faster- in any car. He is as good or better than anyone in the field right now. The same people who you think are saying that wrote him off last year and this year they are offering him drives.

Just because he is silent and aloof doesn't make him stupid or slow.I hope people like you keep underestimating him because it means they can focus on on the guys that beat on their chest and tell the world they are the best- while he comes through and wins.


It is very simple. Australia, Kimi won with a similar strategy. Ferrari was cought off guard there. In Spain they were ready to deal with Kimi because they focused on what he might do. Besides Lotus needs faster pit stops. They waste too much time. And Kimi needs to improve his start. He always loses his starting position. So he needs to climb back. In one race he can win despite that but not in all of them


The Ferrari is relatively faster than it was in Aus - thats the single biggest difference and has better launching clutch/ procedure than anyone on the grid. Still surprised because Lotus e20 last year take offs were among the best. Barcelona was not too bad given Kimi started on dirty side.

Sure Kimi had same solid strategy in Australia but he also had the fastest car too. The speed of his second last lap on very old tyres was proof in the pooding!

Clearly Lotus have improved pits stops by 1.4s over last year. But they have another 1 sec to make up now. Im sure their working hard but you have to remember Ferrari/ Red Bull can throw so much more resources than Lotus have- every time!


James, a lot of people are assuming that the upcoming change of tyres announced by Pirelli for Canada will hurt Ferrari and Lotus.

Is that what you really think? To me it looks like they have good tyre management and thermal management and it works for them now and will work for them post the upcoming change as well. Your thoughts pls....


Correct, they are good at it so why shouldn't they be good with the new tyres?

The point is that the move back to 2012 construction will reduce the negative influence on their rivals of poor thermal management

Ie their weakness isn't so significant any more


Any chance this will help Williams? They seem lost, but I'm not sure if its just the tires.


I suspect tyres are fairly irrelevant for Williams - it has got fundamental aerodynamic problems, probably at both ends of the car, with behaviour that changes depending on the corner speed.


If Red Bull and Mercedes all of a sudden jump clearly to the top of the leader table by mid season I will be sincerely surprised and sincerely angry. If teams are complaining about the tires from a safety point of view then that's fine but if they're arguing purely from a lack of success point of view then that's ridiculous. I'm not sure if any of the team principals have done any research into the history of F1 but tire management has been as much a part of reliability and pace as aero or engine or chassis design for as long as the sport has been around. Just get on with the racing. The races have been great so far this year and the championship is shaping up to be close and exciting.


I honestly believe that RBR are truly scared of Ferrari this year. If they were dominating even with "gummy" tyres, do you think we'd have had this fall out?

They are leading both championships because of Ferrari problems, not because of inherent speed. Other than China, when they decided not to run in Q3, RBR has started ahead of Ferrari but been beaten when Alonso has finished.



The past is the past, the team principals I'm sure know the history if F1 but they are bothered about right here, right now. Yes tyre conservation has always been part of managing performance, BUT not the the extent it has governed this season so far. The package needs to made up of 4 main parts in the correct quatities, say 20% strategy, 20% tyres, 20% car and 40% driver not 30% strategy, 40% tryes,15% car and 15% driver. The balance needs restoring.

Also of you think seeing and hearing drivers say "do I fight" or "i can't drive any slower" is exciting racing then I must have misuderstood what F1 has always been about.




Best analysis (so far!).

But I think that Merc can't keep the other guys behind them in Monaco. My guess would be 1-2 lock out in quali, then 3rd and 5th in race.

Lotus can't pass them, but RBR and Ferrari will - also because ALO and VET are willing to risk more than RAI.



Red Bull were decisive. They were just as decisive as Ferrari/Lotus were.

They started WEB on 4-stop and VET on 3-stop as VET was thought to be better on his tyres). They committed to those from the start (from qualifying even).

They then had to adjust VET when it didn't work as the tyres did not work as they expected.

So it looked like Ferrari/Lotus made a plan and stuck with it, because it worked as expected. It looked like RB/VET were indecisive because their chosen plan did not work. If VET had stayed with 3 stop it would have been worse - so why should they have been 'decisive and stuck with their plan'?

That's not a question of decisiveness, that's a matter of execution (or randomness of tyres/temperature if you prefer).


I believe Horner said somewhere that their plan for Vettel was to use a different strategy to Alonso, as they could not beat him on the same strategy. Hence they tried 3-stop when they saw that Alonso is 4-stopping.

Of course, they should have kept an eye on Massa!


How Ferrari came out on top? Thanks to Pirelli tailor designing the tyres for the 2013 Ferrari.

Everyone and their mother knows the Ferrari of the last few years suffered the most on harder and durable tyres and was much better on softer and less durable tyres.

Pirelli gave Ferrari the perfect tyre in 2013, while the rest of the field suffered because of it.

This is competition manipulation by the ITALIAN tyre manufacturer. More and more people on internet are talking about this. Everyone saw they went too far, so let's see what will happen next.


The Pirelli-favours-Ferrari conspiracy theory is making a comeback I see. If you've been awake for the last few years you'd know that's not exactly the case as Ferrari has been relatively less than competitive on this brand of tyre.


Wow, some fan are totally ridiculous. You do know Pirelli has been in F1 since 2011 right?

So according to you Pirelli have designed specifically for Ferrari this year after RBR has taken both championships in 2011 & 2012 using Pirell tires, utterly dominating 2011 when Ferrari struggled massively on the hard tire. They didnt change anything that year to help Ferrari.

This year and like the previous years, Ferrari and Lotus have been kinder to their tires but luckily have better pace than RBR. Now after 5 races, Pirelli will change the tires to assist RBR, who is "struggling" despite still leading both championships and likely taking away Ferrari AND Lotus' advantage.

And you think Pirelli is favoring Ferrari and only Ferrari? Where have you been the last few years? I only wish they had "favored" their Italian compatriots from 2011! They're quite late to give Ferrari an unfair advantage don't you think?!?


I think you got this wrong.


So why are they still struggling in qualifying?

Also, Bernie and Luca have been at war for a few years, do you honestly believe Bernie would let Pirelli favour Ferrari? Jeez!!


'So why are they still struggling in qualifying?'

Because Alonso doesn't have the outright qualifying speed compared to drivers like Vettel or Hamilton. On race day, Alonso's currently the fastest, though.


Alonso said qualifying is irrelevant and that is correct. Just ask Mercedes, lol.

The Pirellis fit perfectly under the Ferrari with their characteristics. It'slike they were made for Ferrari.

And looking at how Pirelli always talks bad about RBR and how they say in interviews and on their Twitter how they are stopping RBR winning a 4th title, it is easy to see the connection.

Bernie has been trying to change the Pirelli tyres characteristics for over a season now, what are you on about? He actually achieved it second half of the season and now he again is saying that Pirelli is doing it wrong and they did not ask for this. ANd what do you see? Pirelli changes it again.

But they will make sure it still benefits Ferrari. And this title will be thanks to Pirelli, not Alonso.


Bernie achieved it second half of last season... And what do you see?

Really! It needs spelling out? All of a sudden, Bernies favoured son had a dominant car again.


Am I right in thinking that Kimi had a new set of tyres (MN) for the race? (BBC comms suggested this after Quali)

You show that he utilised only used tyres, does that mean they prefer them to have had a heat cycle?


This is the data from Pirelli. He had no new mediums but I thought he had a set of new hards


His last stint was a set of new hards James


I thought so too, but this is Pirelli's data


Hi James, could you do an article on Mercedes tyre issues, and the general thermal management tricks that teams use for tyres?

Mark Hughes mentioned in his Sky Sports article that Mercedes were bringing some 'as-yet secret' development to Monaco that would help them. Hopefully it will work!


A silver painted Lotus..?


It seems to me from that graph that Massa backed off from chasing Raikkonen too soon. If you use Alonso's line as a reference it seems like Massa could have been challenging Raikkonen on the last lap or two with fresher tyres.

Do we know whether it was a team instruction to back off or his own decision?


I can't remember but I thought Massa was on the radio saying the tyres were giving up..?


Interesting to see where it went wrong for Gutierrez.

For the first half of the race he was matching Button for both strategy and pace, and had track position. But somehow he only got 14 laps out of his new hard tyres in the 3rd stint - despite having made used mediums last 15 laps in the second stint - and had to switch to a 4-stopper.

I had wondered if they ran out of new tyres towards the end, but that's not the case as he had 2 new sets of hard tyres to use in the second half of the race, the same as 3-stopping Button. Looks like his car was just not working on the hard tyre.


Hi James,

Do you know are Lotus trying to improve their pitstops. It seems rather silly that a team fighting for the championship is so behind in this area. Surely it also hinders strategy? If you take Vettel or Alonso pitting right behind Raikkonen at the moment, they will always pass him. Are Lotus lacking resources in this area or have they simply been jumped?

P.S Really enjoy this blog.


F1 in the classic era was as much a technical challenge of car design and manufacture as it was a driver challenge. During the era of unlimited testing and money, the technical challenge seemed to 'go-away', cars became very reliable. This high-tyre-wear era has introduced a technical challenge back into the equation and the team(s) that can crack it through design or strategy will have an advantage and good for them. Besides which technology that reduces tyre wear may well have practical utility in the real world outside F1.



you say that Lotus would not have been better off with a 4-stopper because they have slightly less pace than the Ferrari.

But RAI qualified ahead of ALO, and the Lotus long runs on Friday also looked very strong. So maybe it is not that clear cut?

It seems that since 2012 the default Lotus strategy is to try to do one stop less than the competition. But who knows, RAI might have been able to challenge ALO for the win on a 4-stopper.


They wanted to run on used mediums for three stints and hards for one, because they felt they had more pace that way. If you look at fuel corrected race plots of RAI and ALO you can see that the Ferrari has more pace. It was close in the end, but the Ferrari pace advantage and ALO's start told


But Kimi could've pushed more on every stint with the extra stop. At least he said so after the race.


I think Lotus used up most of their tyres in Qualy chasing a good starting slot



It is telling that Pirelli were able to say without a doubt how these tyres would have affected Mercedes. It is also coming to light that the current tyre format was basically brought on to rein in Red Bull.

What's done is done.

Moving forwards, maybe it would be prudent that Pirelli not change the tyre compounds any more. Not by a single grain of rubber, sulphur or steel. Else F1 will play into the hands of the conspiracy theorists more than they have already. Not a good thing, that.

It is fairly evident that there is a specific tyre temp window that these tyres have to operate in and that changes from track to track, sometimes from lap to lap. Under current rules It is difficult to generate the meaningful data needed to devise proper race strategy.

If more time were to be alloted for testing under race conditions (or as close to it as possible), the players can develop more data to extrapolate from. Open up the Friday practise sessions. No time limit. Dawn till dusk. That way a semblance of fairness can creep back into the sport. I think there is enough variations in temperature and mu at the upcoming tracks to keep everybody on their toes. However if the teams are armed with additional data, maybe the strategy won't be so keystone cops.


Mr Allen, your Race Strategy Report in sweet

and short,is simply briliant.

Please don't sell your site and you became

as a consultant to it, it would be a miscarraige of justice to the F1 followers.

Keep it up yes.


I was wondering if there's a chance for the drivers to decide whether they prefer long-lasting tyres to the current rubbish rubbers. May be they can decide in some sort of 'referendum'?



How likely will Pirelli continue to supply tires considering all the negative coverage? Your thoughts please.

Tornillo Amarillo

Hamilton is surprised because he thinks that fixing the tire problem in Mercedes is not "rocket science."

After Spain, Rosberg said the fall of Mercedes in the order was "unbelievable".

I think when the drivers take publicly such a safety distance from your team is because something very negative is underway there.


@ Jame's website developer

Completely off topic but could you please add lightbox or a similiar plugin.

One click on a photo opening a slightly larger version on the same page would be much simplier and rewarding then clicking through until your fingers bleed only to find the same size photo—ahhhhahha.



We'll look at it. Thanks


What would have happened had Kimi not been stuck for so long behind Hamilton on the opening stint and instead had been with the leading quartet all the way, and also if he hadn't been stuck behind Vettel in the later stint?

Could he have then been to switch to a four stop? Despite not have new rubber like Alonso, I think he could have been closer to victory.

He really needs to work out a way to pass cars better. It is hampering him massively this year. That and the less than optimal starts...

Torchwood Five

I am very likely operating on old information, but I remember in 2012, one of the F1 engineering analysts described how Adrian Newey's car design was set so that for Vettel to pull ahead so dominantly at the start of a race, he needed to get his car into clean air within the first two (maybe three) laps of the race, which is what I watched for at the start of the Spanish GP. For me, Rosberg leading for 13 laps, is what compromised Vettel's performance, more than any subsequent issue with this years' tyres.

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