Sergio Perez, Sauber, Korea, 2011

Tyre wear fears prove unfounded – except for Sauber

2011 Korean GP analysisPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Sergio Perez, Sauber, Korea, 2011
Sauber were uncharacteristically hard on their tyres

Despite concerns about high tyre wear in the Korean Grand Prix, most teams managed to get through the race with just two pit stops.

But the Sauber drivers – whose car is usually one of the kindest on its tyres – had to make three after failing to make the super soft tyres last.

Here’s all the data from the Korean Grand Prix.

Pit stops

Red Bull did not use any of their soft tyres during qualifying, saving them for the race. But Sebastian Vettel didn’t need them – he used just one set at the end of the race.

Team mate Mark Webber, who’s tended to be harder on his tyres this year, used two sets.

Normally if any team’s been able to get away with making fewer pit stops this year it’s been Sauber – but in Korea the opposite was true. Sergio Perez’s second pit stop was later than most but even so he couldn’t get to the end of the pits on his super soft tyres. The loss of pace followed by an extra pit stop dropped him from 12th to 16th.

Vitantonio Liuzzi was the only other driver to make three pit stops, but that was because he pitted for a new front wing on the first lap.

Race progress

As the race history chart shows, Vettel pulled away quickly from Lewis Hamilton at the start, only to lose his 4.8s lead when the safety car came out.

His gains in the second stint weren’t as great until Hamilton started to come under pressure from Webber. The battle on their out-lap on lap 34 cost them three seconds to Vettel.

Fernando Alonso spent the first half the race behind his team mate. Would he have finished higher if he hadn’t been stuck there?

Perhaps not, given that he dropped back from Massa once they passed Nico Rosberg on lap 27.

However it may simply the case that Alonso had concluded from his earlier efforts that he couldn’t pass Massa on the track and resolved instead to try to look after his tyres, run longer and jump ahead via the pit stops – which is exactly what he did.

Lap chart

Webber gained a place on the first lap for only the second time this year – he also did so in China, when he started 18th.

The off-line side of the grid proved less of a disadvantage than was expected

All lap times

It was a surprise to see Red Bull bring Webber into the pits for his final stop on the same lap as Hamilton. If he had enough life in his tyres to keep going, keeping him out would have given him a chance of getting ahead – as Alonso did to Massa. His lap times give no sign that his tyres were going off because his performance was restricted by being stuck behind Hamilton.

It’s possible they had no choice in the matter. Korea’s unusual, partly blind and high-speed pit lane entrance may make it difficult for drivers to react to a car in front of them pitting by choosing to stay out – especially when they’re as close as Webber was.

If Red Bull didn’t know McLaren were pitting they may have been pitted Webber in a bid to get him on fresher tyres sooner and pass Hamilton that way.

2011 Korean Grand Prix

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Image ?? Sauber F1 Team