High tyre wear raises prospect of exciting Korean Grand Prix (Practice two analysis)

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Korea, 2010

The low-grip surface at Korea and the high tyre degradation the teams are experiencing could be the a recipe for an exciting race on Sunday.

On top of that the three championship contenders all seem quite evenly matched following the first two practice sessions at the Korean International Circuit.

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After a quiet first practice, Ferrari showed their hand in the second session and got in among the front runners.

As the track surface became cleaner and more rubber went down in the second session, lap times continued to improve, though not as quickly as in the first. That makes it tricky to pick which of the three top teams, if any, might have an edge.

Lewis Hamilton’s fastest time was bettered six minutes later by Fernando Alonso, who went a tenth of a second quicker. Five minutes after that Mark Webber found another tenth.

Alonso pipped Webber to the fastest time in sector two. Webber was quickest in the final sector. McLaren were the fastest of the three in the long first sector (though Renault were quicker still).

So although the top of the times sheets placed Red Bull ahead of Ferrari followed by McLaren, the pecking order might actually be the reverse of that.

However there is a clear split in straight-line performance between the three cars. McLaren are up near the top of the speed trap figures but both their key rivals were around 7-8kph slower in FP2:

1. Michael Schumacher, Mercedes – 316.9kph
6. Jenson Button, McLaren – 315.8kph
7. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren – 314.5kph
12. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull – 307.9kph
13. Felipe Massa, Ferrari – 307.8kph

With two long straights following the first corner this has obvious implications for what could happen on the first lap.

The big question for race day is how much the changing grip levels will influence strategy. As we saw in Montreal, low grip can mean higher than usual tyre degradation. In Canada that forced many drivers to make two tyre stops instead of the usual one.

As the track surface rubbers in the rate at which the tyres ‘go off’ should decrease. During second practice we heard Nico H???lkenberg complaining that his tyres were “falling to pieces” and he was warned to expect the same in the race.

Looking at the lap times of drivers like Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton from the end of the session shows how severe tyre degradation was. Instead of finding an incremental improvement in lap time as the fuel load came down their lap times levelled out or even rose.

Vettel had to use the soft tyres earlier than planned in second practice today as he picked up a puncture on his hard tyres. His first laps on soft tyres, much earlier than his rivals, was well off the pace they were setting on hard tyres.

Bridgestone expect that, come the race, the soft (option) tyre will be up to speed:

We saw a lot of graining on both compounds front and rear today. This is related to the dirty surface as the tyres cannot grip the tarmac properly.

This situation should continue to improve with the track surface evolution tomorrow. We expect that the option tyre should give a faster lap time and if the surface continues to improve it should have reasonable durability. How much durability depends on the track surface evolution so this will be the crucial question for the next two days.
Hirohide Hamashima

What happens to the track in final practice tomorrow will strongly influence what the teams decide to do on Sunday. Drivers who qualify in the top ten, of course, have to start the race using the tyres they qualify on.

In Montreal the Red Bull drivers started the race on hard tyres, expecting the soft tyres would go off too quickly in the early stages. But that gamble failed to pay off.

If any of the top three teams get the call wrong this weekend it could cost them dearly in the championship.

Pos. Car Driver Car Best lap Gap Lap At time Laps
1 6 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’37.942 16 73 23
2 8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’38.132 0.190 20 68 30
3 2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1’38.279 0.337 19 62 29
4 11 Robert Kubica Renault 1’38.718 0.776 17 66 28
5 1 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’38.726 0.784 16 88 19
6 7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’38.820 0.878 20 62 32
7 5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’39.204 1.262 8 48 22
8 12 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1’39.267 1.325 15 62 28
9 4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’39.268 1.326 15 61 29
10 23 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1’39.564 1.622 18 68 26
11 22 Nick Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari 1’39.588 1.646 19 63 25
12 3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’39.598 1.656 13 61 25
13 9 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1’39.812 1.870 19 60 34
14 15 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1’39.881 1.939 16 62 25
15 14 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1’39.971 2.029 16 63 22
16 10 Nico H???lkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1’40.478 2.536 14 59 30
17 17 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’40.578 2.636 15 60 28
18 16 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’40.896 2.954 19 61 31
19 19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1’42.773 4.831 18 67 28
20 18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1’42.801 4.859 18 92 19
21 24 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1’43.115 5.173 17 67 26
22 25 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1’44.039 6.097 21 73 29
23 20 Sakon Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 1’45.166 7.224 7 68 17
24 21 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1’46.649 8.707 2 92 3

Ultimate laps

An ultimate lap is a driver’s best three sector times added together.

Pos. Car Driver Car Ultimate lap Gap Deficit to best
1 6 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’37.936 0.006
2 8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’38.132 0.196 0.000
3 2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1’38.279 0.343 0.000
4 11 Robert Kubica Renault 1’38.338 0.402 0.380
5 7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’38.614 0.678 0.206
6 1 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’38.726 0.790 0.000
7 12 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1’39.080 1.144 0.187
8 5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’39.125 1.189 0.079
9 4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’39.233 1.297 0.035
10 23 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1’39.564 1.628 0.000
11 22 Nick Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari 1’39.588 1.652 0.000
12 3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’39.598 1.662 0.000
13 9 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1’39.812 1.876 0.000
14 15 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1’39.881 1.945 0.000
15 14 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1’39.887 1.951 0.084
16 17 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’40.397 2.461 0.181
17 10 Nico H???lkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1’40.426 2.490 0.052
18 16 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’40.815 2.879 0.081
19 18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1’42.724 4.788 0.077
20 19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1’42.773 4.837 0.000
21 24 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1’42.896 4.960 0.219
22 25 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1’43.892 5.956 0.147
23 20 Sakon Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 1’44.904 6.968 0.262
24 21 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1’46.226 8.290 0.423

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61 comments on High tyre wear raises prospect of exciting Korean Grand Prix (Practice two analysis)

  1. Chris said on 22nd October 2010, 10:31

    If Vettel’s ultimate lat was apparently slower than those around him, why is he at the top of the ultimate lap chart?

    • graigchq said on 22nd October 2010, 10:46

      yeah i’m trying to work that out too.. i think it’s a mistake, doesn’t make any sense…

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd October 2010, 11:42

      Sorry the list wasn’t in the correct order. Fixed now.

      • DeadManWoking said on 22nd October 2010, 18:26

        Alonso pipped Webber to the fastest time in sector two. Webber was quickest in the final sector. McLaren were the fastest of the three in the long first sector (though Renault were quicker still).

        Webber was right on pace with the McLarens sector 1 times in FP2, .027 behind Button and only .022 behind Hamilton instead of the full second+ between them in FP1. The McLarens had obviously cranked on more wing as they were only 6th and 7th in the speed trap and while this hurt them in sector 1, it brought Lewis to within a couple of tenths in sectors 2 and 3. But if tire degradation is a problem, McLaren may have to furher increase downforce to combat it and nullify their advantage in sector 1. The speed trap and sector times in FP3 should tell the tale tomorrow as well as they’re ultimate grid positions of course.

  2. MacLeod said on 22nd October 2010, 10:36

    The first corner is going to be the breaker. If the front row isn’t RBR i give the front RBR little chance at all.

    • McLarenFanJamm said on 22nd October 2010, 12:22

      RBR do look quite vulnerable down the straight, if they’re forced to defend into the first corner it will compromise speed down the straight and give the faster McLarens, Renaults and Ferraris a good run at them down into Turn 3. The Red Bulls have to be asking themselves if they have enough of an advantage through Sector 3 to get a good run down the start/finish straight and get back in front. Of course their problem then is they have that massive straight to contend with again. The circuit being anti-clockwise has really played against them.

      All in all, we’re potentially looking at one heck of a race!

      • JT19 (@jt19) said on 22nd October 2010, 15:35

        i really do think there will be a lot of weaving on the straight after turn 2 (braking the toe from cars behind), and can potentially see a few crashes from some rookies into turn 3. i do hope that the Mclaren’s come out of lap 1 unscathed.

  3. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 22nd October 2010, 10:37

    I have to say, Korea is really shaping up to be a diamond in the rough.

  4. Griggs said on 22nd October 2010, 10:44

    Maybe this is the race for Jenson to try his starting on the prime tyres strategy. The option tyres could be much more effective later in the race…

    • graigchq said on 22nd October 2010, 10:48

      my thoughts exactly, and it really surprises me that he is the only one who has tried this strategy.

      His quali lap last race was only 2 tenths off his team-mate, on hard tyres!! surely this is the way to go? Later in the race, after a longer stint than the others, he emerges with soft tyres, and low fuel, to be able to effectively overtake those in front of him with his speed trap figures there to prove it’s possible.

      • Scribe (@scribe) said on 22nd October 2010, 11:18

        Remember the lessons of Canada, if graining really is severe, the optimum strategy will be to start on the softs and get them out of the way.

        Redbull 2-3′d it in qualifying on the hards, but the graining was such that they had to pit when everyone got new hards on. It also ment they had to deal with the soft tyres later in the race.

        • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 22nd October 2010, 12:21

          I think the softs might be the way to go too. That way, they’re either out of the way or they might hang on for longer than expected.

          The only twist might be is if the hards are faster in qualifying trim, like we saw in Spa last year. But I think that only happened because Spa is such a long circuit the softs on the day died before completing a qualifying-speed lap.

          • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 22nd October 2010, 12:25

            Oh, to add, F1 this year has shown time and time again it’s better to get the advantage before the stops than end up with much better tyres after the stops and then try to overtake – apart from extreme cases like Kobayashi in Valencia and Kubica in Singapore. Even if a soft-runner has to pit on lap 8, his hard tyres will still be better than the guys now in front of him because they haven’t pitted, and he will leap them at the next stop.

          • But that presents the problem of overtaking slower cars who started on the hards after they pit early… Not all the top drivers are known for their overtaking prowess.

          • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 22nd October 2010, 16:02

            Depends. If they hang on, there’s no problem. If they go early, the hards won’t last too long either.

      • DaveW said on 22nd October 2010, 15:28

        This is exactly what went wrong in Suzuka. After seeing this approach fail in Canada and Suzuka, I don’t see the point of trying it on one more time. Button needs to purse the radical strategy, for him, of trying to go toe to toe with Hamilton and the other contenders and beat them on speed, in Q3 and in the race. I heard Prew say otherwise but I think he is still dreaming of Australia and China where his neat parlor trick won the race but that was so long ago now.

  5. Todfod (@todfod) said on 22nd October 2010, 10:57

    I think we are going to have atleast 2 pit stops for tyre changes during the race. It will be interesting to see how the different teams and drivers decide between qualifying on primes or options, and whether they would want 2 stints with the primes or the options. I think the best strategy will win the race, more than who locks out the front row.

  6. Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 22nd October 2010, 10:59

    I’m glad they’ve changed the pit lane exit. The old version, the one that went right round the outside of the outside of the corner, would’ve taken forever, and would’ve removed the incentive for drivers to two stop.

    The new pit lane configuration is really short though, so if the tyres are wearing as badly as it seems I think we can expect a bit for variation with the strategies

  7. Why is Ferrai that slower in straight line and Renault faster ? Ferrari’s F-duct cant be that bad compared to the Renault one and Ferrari seems to be a faster engine than Renault.

    • roser said on 22nd October 2010, 11:52

      Two possibilities:
      1- sandbagging
      2- adjustments to be competitive in the second and third sectors but make them less competitive in the straights

    • bob80 said on 22nd October 2010, 12:51

      That’s not indication of capabality of car at all. By changing setup you can make Toro Roso fastest on the straight line, much faster than others. The problem is maintaining enough downforce and grip in corners along with that high straight line speed.

      • Another possibility could be, they might have turned down their engines on practice. Considering their engine situation, it is wise thing to do. The way Ferrari has utilized Massa’s quali breakdown at Singapore to change his engine indicates, Ferrari were on engine saving mode – or it could just be an opportunistic move as well.

        • I’m pretty sure that they aren’t running their qualifying/race engines in practice, but recycling older engines. So losing an engine “only” means spending time replacing it.

        • Daniel said on 22nd October 2010, 23:12

          That was a neat trick Ferrari played with Massa. As a result I would say the best way to use engines is to use them all once as quickly as possible, that way any time you do start from the rear of the grid you get an extra one with no cost.

    • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 22nd October 2010, 20:40

      Renault was extremely fast in the speed trap at Suzuka as well. I think they’ve just made the right call by waiting to introduce their F-duct until Spa rather than strapping on an inefficient version earlier as other teams have. Other than McLaren theirs seems to be the most efficient.

  8. Adrian said on 22nd October 2010, 11:01

    BBC weather is predicting rain on Sunday…could spice things up somewhat even if it falls before the race to green the track up a bit…

  9. JohnBt said on 22nd October 2010, 11:46

    2 stops will definitely be good for the race.

  10. McLarenFanJamm said on 22nd October 2010, 12:24

    Is Pole Position on the racing line for this race? If so, you can guarantee with the amount of dust there is off the racing line that you will be better off starting in an odd numbered grid box. If Qualy finshes the same way FP2 did then we’re looking at a very interesting first corner.

  11. Steph said on 22nd October 2010, 12:35

    I’d still start on the softs and then just see how the race pans out. At this stage it might be better than a gamble esp for RBR as this title is there to lose.

    The first sector could be brilliant at the start. If the start was anywhere else RBR might well be safe but they look vulnerable at the mo.

    • Adrian said on 22nd October 2010, 13:23

      I think it might be worth Button taking a gamble again. Even with their straight line speed I think the McLaren’s are going to have a hard time beating the RBR cars…and while Hamilton might be able to make up for that with his aggressive driving style, I think Button is better playing to his strength – tyre management – and trying to get an advantage that way. Either way, I think it’s worth McLaren splitting the strategy for their 2 drivers to cover off both options as it’s unlikely that both will still be in realistic title after this race…

      …basically I think they have to take an “all or nothing” approach to the last 3 races to stand any chance of the WDC.

      • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 22nd October 2010, 13:37

        Good point, they can’t both make serious inroads unless their rivals DNF. Realistically only one can win out and it would make sense to hedge their bets. I still think in normal situations starting on the hards is going to be an inferior strategy, but in a mixed-up race it could pay off. If tyre wear is high and there’s an early SC Button might find himself promoted to the front and would try to win from there.

        • Scribe (@scribe) said on 22nd October 2010, 15:42

          60% chance of rain they keep saying, SodslawofF1 says it’ll never rain when predicted but tommorow could well be a hectic race.

        • The team would be better splitting the cars if it is looking unsure over how long tyres last but which driver will want to make a gamble? Will Jense want to make it again after Japan?

          The softs should be better for qualifying so I imagine RBR will go for them just as that first sector could be a pain for them. Starting on softs will get the out of the way and they may actually last fairly long. A gamble could really pay off but if it doesn’t and they go for it then it’ll be game over for at least one of Mclaren’s drivers.

  12. LewisC said on 22nd October 2010, 13:18

    I haven’t seen any footage yet, just photos, but looks to me as if the pit lane exit/first corner on this track is profiled in such a way that cars exiting the pits will actually be faster around the corner than those coming down the straight – because they’ll be able to get on the power earlier and blast through the apex harder. If so, that would make the ‘effective’ penalty for a pit stop lower, as it’d make it easier for a car coming out of the pits to get back out and defend against an attacker, or make a pretty nailed-on chance stick at the end of the long straight.

    For what it’s worth I can’t see anyone other than RBR sealing the front row, but Hamilton should be leading by the end of the first lap (unless of course he bins it into a wall somewhere).

  13. MacLeod said on 22nd October 2010, 13:37

    Tyres won’t be a problem as latest report says: it’s starting to rain saterday evening till monday. And it’s IF going be much more faster the qualifier could be a wet one also.

    Lets hope Button didn’t ruin a set of rain tyres because he is going to need them.

  14. The problem I have with JB and his tyre strategy is, he will not PUSH when asked to do so and will come around to question pit calls by the team :-(

    If only he can push when asked to, like his team mate does, things will look fine for him.

    Just my 2ps

  15. xabregas said on 22nd October 2010, 14:18

    What a race it can be this one. That 1º sector is going to be key for sure.
    Maybe the pole here isn´t that important, unless mclarens take it no one going to have a chance to win this one.
    Really liked the track and i think there are more than 2 or 3 places to overtake, Kobayashi, Kubica and Hamilton going to enjoy this one.
    It remains to be seen if it rains and if the tire strategy going to be key here too.
    As for the track i liked it very much, Korean guys can be proud of this one.

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