High tyre degradation makes three-stop strategies likely

2012 Malaysian Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Sepang, 2012Malaysia’s high temperatures combined with Pirelli’s softer 2012 tyres will make life difficult for the drivers this weekend.

As track temperatures hit 47C in Friday practice, drivers saw their lap times drop off quickly.

“Managing tyre degradation is going to be critical to performance on Sunday,” said Heikki Kovalainen.

Longest stint comparison

Drivers saw their lap times drop off within the first half-dozen laps in second practice. This is in marked contrast to what we saw in Melbourne one week ago.

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint in second practice:

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/2012drivercolours.csv

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Sebastian Vettel 104.516 104.564 104.278 104.133 103.84 103.861
Mark Webber 105.312 105.248 104.893 104.31 104.444 104.568 104.407 104.369 104.505 104.681
Jenson Button 104.803 104.984 104.659 104.823 104.904 104.935 105.142 106.739 106.422
Lewis Hamilton 109.841 105.39 104.79 107.751 104.849 105.022
Fernando Alonso 104.907 104.872 103.686 104.479 104.623 104.116
Felipe Massa 105.315 105.49 105.638 105.58 105.857
Michael Schumacher 105.422 105.73 107.097 105.194 105.473 105.347 105.439 106.675 105.692 106.314 106.139
Nico Rosberg 105.349 105.421 105.369 105.589 105.409 105.855 105.521 105.764 105.406 106.457 109.792 106.513
Kimi Raikkonen 104.307 103.846 104.218 104.429 104.437 104.599 104.628 104.646 104.992 108.017 105.713 106.854 108.324
Romain Grosjean 104.359 104.999 105.552 105.002 108.496 104.952 104.92 105.662 105.387 105.218 105.73 106.176
Paul di Resta 104.601 104.825 105.079 105.42 105.494 105.454 105.657 106.236 107.364 108.787
Nico Hulkenberg 105.607 105.235 115.272 104.422 104.818 104.952 104.013 104.492 111.298 104.349 105.084 107.892 107.807
Kamui Kobayashi 103.72 100.747 106.042
Sergio Perez 105.584 105.226 105.288 105.529 106.276 106.653 106.797 108.111
Daniel Ricciardo 106.793 106.339 105.961 105.8 106.088 106.032 106.102 106.839 106.866 107.277
Jean-Eric Vergne 107.523 108.072 106.425 106.396 106.211 106.469 106.53 106.752 111.15 106.766
Pastor Maldonado 105.701 105.243 105.207 105.342 104.921 104.872 104.944 105.184 109.259 105.328 107.319
Bruno Senna 104.544 104.394 104.427 104.354 104.644 104.823 105.224 106.067
Heikki Kovalainen 106.504 106.786 106.147 106.446 106.788 106.418 106.163 106.555 107.966 107.266
Vitaly Petrov 106.359 106.147 106.475 106.785 105.772 105.548 105.575 106.555 107.033 107.967 108.04
Pedro de la Rosa 106.182 106.174 105.701
Narain Karthikeyan 105.622 108.566 113.754
Timo Glock 101.681 114.864 103.112
Charles Pic 103.52 112.871 103.419 109.898 103.293

On the face of it this may seem a surprise – Pirelli have brought their medium and hard tyre to this year’s race, whereas last year the soft and hard tyres were used.

But Pirelli have produced softer compounds for their three hardest tyres this year. According to the tyre manufacturer the 2012 hard tyre is 31% harder than the super-soft – last year the same tyre was 70% harder.

Even so, we are not necessarily going to see a repeat of last year’s race, where some drivers used four-stop strategies.

According to Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery: “Our first impression is that a three-stop strategy seems likely and so far there is a difference of around 0.5 seconds between the two compounds, but the track will still evolve considerably before the race.”

How many pit stops we end up seeing will be strongly influenced by the weather. If it stays dry and the surface rubber builds up, this will help protect the tyres. Rainfall will wash away the rubber and make the circuit more abrasive, leading to more pit stops.

Added to that, the difference between the two compounds is smaller than last year. Jenson Button said: “It?s going to be tough on both compounds around here with all the humidity and the heat.

“I think the race will be tough for all of us ?ǣ unless the circuit improves a great deal, there?s going to be quite a few stops on Sunday.”

This sounds like bad news for Mercedes, who struggled with tyre degradation even in the cooler temperatures at Melbourne.

But Michael Schumacher believes they’ve made progress on that front: “I am very happy about the work that has been done since Australia,” he said.

“This has enabled us to achieve reasonably consistent long runs which is obviously important in these conditions.”

It was clear from his message to the pits during practice that Sebastian Vettel is not happy with his new car yet.

“The tyres drop off quite quickly here, which is the same for all the drivers,” he said. “But I think we are sliding quite a bit and I would like the car to be a bit more stable.”

Sector times and ultimate lap times – second practice

Car Driver Car Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3 Ultimate lap Gap Deficit to best
1 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 25.152 (2) 33.075 (1) 39.781 (1) 1’38.008 0.164
2 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 25.353 (5) 33.235 (2) 39.838 (2) 1’38.426 0.418 0.109
3 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 25.055 (1) 33.506 (6) 39.972 (6) 1’38.533 0.525 0.000
4 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 25.440 (9) 33.300 (3) 39.956 (3) 1’38.696 0.688 0.000
5 16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 25.394 (7) 33.492 (5) 39.967 (5) 1’38.853 0.845 0.000
6 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 25.477 (12) 33.456 (4) 39.958 (4) 1’38.891 0.883 0.000
7 2 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 25.444 (10) 33.714 (13) 39.975 (7) 1’39.133 1.125 0.000
8 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 25.409 (8) 33.672 (11) 40.114 (8) 1’39.195 1.187 0.207
9 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 25.285 (4) 33.627 (8) 40.291 (13) 1’39.203 1.195 0.261
10 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 25.516 (14) 33.537 (7) 40.151 (10) 1’39.204 1.196 0.240
11 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 25.510 (13) 33.660 (10) 40.127 (9) 1’39.297 1.289 0.000
12 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 25.372 (6) 33.694 (12) 40.245 (11) 1’39.311 1.303 0.000
13 11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 25.455 (11) 33.904 (14) 40.266 (12) 1’39.625 1.617 0.000
14 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 25.649 (17) 33.631 (9) 40.407 (15) 1’39.687 1.679 0.000
15 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 25.226 (3) 34.010 (16) 40.460 (16) 1’39.696 1.688 0.000
16 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 25.637 (15) 34.221 (18) 40.359 (14) 1’40.217 2.209 0.054
17 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 25.644 (16) 34.030 (17) 40.696 (17) 1’40.370 2.362 0.308
18 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 26.001 (21) 33.932 (15) 40.730 (18) 1’40.663 2.655 0.284
19 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 25.666 (18) 34.672 (20) 41.126 (19) 1’41.464 3.456 0.000
20 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 25.845 (19) 34.519 (19) 41.317 (21) 1’41.681 3.673 0.000
21 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 25.958 (20) 35.401 (22) 41.158 (20) 1’42.517 4.509 0.077
22 25 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 26.204 (24) 34.683 (21) 41.784 (22) 1’42.671 4.663 0.203
23 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 26.121 (23) 35.499 (23) 42.038 (23) 1’43.658 5.650 0.000
24 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 26.110 (22) 35.523 (24) 42.190 (24) 1’43.823 5.815 0.000

Button had a slow first sector on his quickest lap. He and Lewis Hamilton have the fastest combined fastest sector times, which underlines McLaren’s performance advantage.

Fernando Alonso may have been sixth-quickest in second practice but the team remain pessimistic about their prospects. Technical director Pat Fry said “it will not be easy” for them to get into Q3

But there was good news for HRT. Their drivers benefitted from having working Drag Reduction Systems and improved steering, and lapped with 7% of the fastest time, indicating they’re quick enough to be able to qualify.

Narain Karthikeyan said: “In the morning session we suffered some reliability issues, the same as in Melbourne but not as bad and we?ve also got some cooling issues too.

“In the afternoon these issues persisted on turns 13 and 14 where I wasn?t able to select the gears properly but the important thing is that we?re within the 107% time and can continue to improve and be in better conditions.”

Combined practice times

Pos Driver Car FP1 FP2 Total laps
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1’38.021 1’38.172 47
2 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’38.826 1’38.533 53
3 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’38.535 1’39.402 46
4 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’39.323 1’38.535 45
5 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’38.813 1’38.696 55
6 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’40.469 1’38.853 56
7 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’39.980 1’38.891 50
8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1’38.919 1’39.311 39
9 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’39.092 1’39.133 49
10 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1’39.128 1’39.696 51
11 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’40.099 1’39.297 56
12 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1’39.298 1’39.625 43
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1’39.440 1’39.464 45
14 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1’39.783 1’39.444 58
15 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1’39.910 1’39.687 37
16 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1’39.724 23
17 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’39.896 1’40.271 44
18 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1’40.247 1’42.594 37
19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1’40.678 34
20 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1’40.857 1’41.464 50
21 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1’41.085 1’40.947 56
22 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1’43.170 1’41.681 38
23 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1’44.580 1’42.874 38
24 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1’45.360 1’43.658 26
25 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1’45.528 1’43.823 40

The second session saw the highest temperatures and several drivers failed to improve their lap times. Vitaly Petrov said: “The grip levels this morning were not good, but I think that was the same for most of the teams, but this afternoon we had found some improvements, even though the track itself had lost some of the grip from this morning.”

Kimi Raikkonen had a KERS problem in second practice and is still not fully happy with his car’s steering: “It was an okay day but we still have work to do on the set-up. The steering was a small improvement but we are still working in this area.”

Speed trap

The highest straight-line speeds recorded in second practice:

# Driver Car Engine Max speed (kph) Gap
1 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso Ferrari 313.4
2 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Mercedes 312.5 0.9
3 16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso Ferrari 309.9 3.5
4 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault 309.4 4
5 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 309.2 4.2
6 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham Renault 309.1 4.3
7 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes Mercedes 309.1 4.3
8 3 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes 309 4.4
9 11 Paul di Resta Force India Mercedes 308.9 4.5
10 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren Mercedes 307.3 6.1
11 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus Renault 307.3 6.1
12 15 Sergio Perez Sauber Ferrari 305.6 7.8
13 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham Renault 305.5 7.9
14 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams Renault 305.3 8.1
15 19 Bruno Senna Williams Renault 304.9 8.5
16 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Renault 304.9 8.5
17 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari Ferrari 303.8 9.6
18 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber Ferrari 302.4 11
19 24 Timo Glock Marussia Cosworth 301.9 11.5
20 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault 301.8 11.6
21 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT Cosworth 301.3 12.1
22 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT Cosworth 301.2 12.2
23 25 Charles Pic Marussia Cosworth 300.4 13
24 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari 300.4 13

Much has been made of Mercedes’ special DRS arrangement which allows them to shed drag more effectively and attain higher top speeds. They weren’t quickest of all in the second session, but they among the fastest through the speed trap.

2012 Malaysian Grand Prix


Browse all 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix articles

Advert | Go Ad-free

36 comments on High tyre degradation makes three-stop strategies likely

  1. RumFRESH (@rumfresh) said on 23rd March 2012, 13:15

    McLaren really need to capitalize in these early races. Red Bull aren’t going to be lying down for long. I get the sense that the Red Bull package is there, it’s just a matter of understanding it and optimizing performance.

    • smudgersmith1 (@smudgersmith1) said on 23rd March 2012, 13:47

      You might find its the opposite, RBR need to get their act together early as Maccas is a relentless development machine !

      • Probably Vettel needs to take sometime to accustom to driving without EBD.

      • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 23rd March 2012, 14:23

        @smudgersmith1 I still don’t buy it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen something which definitively proves that to be the case.

        2009 was too much hype. If you looked at the car’s aero since the launch – there was nothing wrong; except one crucial thing. The endplate design. And the weight distribution was wrong too. At Nurburgring they upgraded that endplate to an outwash concept, and the weight distribution was fixed – what happened? McLaren were a frontrunner.

        2010 – they hit a dead end and couldn’t improve the car in Germany.

        2011 – other than 1 DRS wing what development leap did they make? Everyone says their leap from Barcelona testing to Melbourne was amazing – it honestly wasn’t. McLaren wasn’t troubled for outright pace in testing. It was their trick exhaust was melting their floor; which in turn was causing their lack of downforce. In reality there really WASN’T anything fundamentally wrong with the car.

        • smudgersmith1 (@smudgersmith1) said on 23rd March 2012, 15:32

          If you look at the first 5 races of 2011 compared to the last 5 races, in qualifying
          RBR versus Mclaren
          1st 5 qualifying the RBR were on average .62 seconds ahead.
          Last 5 qualifying included a .3, .2, .3, Lewis actually on Pole and Vettel pipping JB by .009 in Japan.
          I havent time to check the rest (Im at work !!) Additionally in the 1st half of the season Mclaren managed only 2 wins, whereas they won 4 races in the second half, that looks like progress to me…

          • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 23rd March 2012, 15:39

            Yes but again – it’s not something super special. The Red Bull was the faster car – and the law of diminishing returns has great effect in F1. It takes a lot more effort to update an excellent package; than it takes to upgrade a very good package.

            Regarding the wins – the McLarens have had many times through the year when they were the faster Sunday car than Red Bull. They had more wins in the second half of the year mostly because JB had just started to wake up, and the team were raising their game.

        • smudgersmith1 (@smudgersmith1) said on 23rd March 2012, 18:18

          OK, we will see…enjoy the season mate

    • Bigbadderboom (@bigbadderboom) said on 23rd March 2012, 14:29

      Mr Horner has not been himself, not sure whether his moans about Mercedes have been over reported or whether he has genuine development conncerns about this years car, and wishes to reign in othersdevelopment lines. Of course it’s probably both, but the Red Bull looks a handful, If they don’t get the Quali set up right a podium may be a struggle, there may be no safety car to gift vattel a place here!

  2. Cluffy_Wedge said on 23rd March 2012, 13:30

    Clearly, giving Mercedes an AMG badge has automatically made them much faster.

  3. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 23rd March 2012, 13:34

    Good showing by the Toro Rosso drivers, so far, and they are fast on the straights, too.

    Difficult to judge who is looking good on the basis of the longest stints (especially since I didn’t see the last part of FP2), but Webber, Alonso and Button are looking pretty good.

  4. Solo (@solo) said on 23rd March 2012, 13:40

    I hope it doesn’t take them the full year to fix that power steering or else Kimi will transform from ice-cream man to wine man.

  5. Akin Aslan said on 23rd March 2012, 14:07

    what surprises me is that Fernando Alonso is running ”like” maximum wing on his car, top speed of his car is ”only” 300 km/h which for me is a sign that they are really in a bad situation.

  6. InfectedCrayons said on 23rd March 2012, 14:13

    Kimi to get a five place grid penalty according to Autosport for changing his gearbox. This is bad news.

  7. looking at the longest stint comparison chart. does it mean that Kimi’s long race pace is faster than many of the other drivers?

  8. timi (@timi) said on 23rd March 2012, 16:19

    Keith the opening sentence,-

    Malaysias’a high temperatures combined with Pirelli’s softer 2012 tyres will make life difficult for the drivers last weekend.

    I think it should be “this” weekend, not “last” weekend..?

  9. Meander (@meander) said on 23rd March 2012, 16:44

    Let’s see if tire management “guru” Button can pull off another tactical coup. This would be the race to prove his skill.

    • JamieFranklinF1 (@jamiefranklinf1) said on 23rd March 2012, 19:09

      I think he has proved his skill on many occasions. But I do think that Button will have the edge here in the race. Hamilton will be better in Quali, but Jenson will be able to eke out more performance on the tyres.

      We saw here last year that Webber had to do another stop because of the tyre wear, and with the softer compounds, it might effect more drivers.

  10. Randy (@randy) said on 23rd March 2012, 17:03

    Paul Hembery for Autosport:

    “I don’t think Michael was in a situation that you could judge. He was going extremely well until he stopped [with a gearbox problem].

    “And Nico was either in a position where he was attacking cars in front or defending a position. That made him more aggressive than he ordinarily would be, because to try and overtake you have to be very aggressive.

    “So you have to look at it under the context of how much pressure he was under. That probably was a major factor in that.”

    Funny. So if Nico would be alone on the track, he would have won. Well, technically yes, but then it’s not racing.

    I cannot wait for the race to see what is Merc’s real race pace because in Australia it was so rubbish that i don’t believe the results. Rosberg basically came home last (not counting MR) 18 seconds behind Vergne. What happened?

    • Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 23rd March 2012, 17:56

      Well, Rosberg had a puncture after colliding with Perez on the last lap. But even before that, he was in the lower reaches of the points.

      I think Merc clearly have the 3rd-fastest car, but like last year, will probably not bother those above or below them too much when it comes to the points order.

  11. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 23rd March 2012, 18:58

    I hope there is some truth in what Schumacher says about the team getting on top of the tyres a little more. I’d love at least a podium for Mercedes.

  12. jpowell (@jpowell) said on 23rd March 2012, 19:59

    Will next years ‘tyres’ be made from a rubber compound or will some more imaginatve materials be required . I suggest crumbled digestive biscuits for the mediums and strawberry jam ( I really like cheese cake) for the super softs that would leave something really Italian for the other two compounds perhaps Calamari for the hards and coffee ice cream for the softs.

    • Adam said on 23rd March 2012, 20:10

      Agreed.

      I was having a surreal conversation this afternoon with someone who agreed that Lewis was better than Jensen at setting quick laps, and at overtaking, but that Jensen is currently better because he was manage tyres.

      I find it rather sad that F1 has ceased to be about driving as quickly as possible, purely to invent a contrived reason for pitstops in a world without refueling.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 23rd March 2012, 20:42

        I see it differently: the refuelling-with-spec-tyres era was an aberration in which a key part of an F1 driver’s skill – namely being able to look after tyres when necessary – was temporarily rendered obsolete.

        Happily that blip is behind us and F1 is better for it. Before it, when we had tyre wars or when in-race refuelling was banned, being able to manage tyres was a vital part of an F1 drivers’ skill as it is today.

        It’s not as if the need to turn the quickest possible lap on a set of tyres at a certain time has disappeared from F1 completely: we see it at times in races – some more than others – and we see it in qualifying.

        F1 is clearly better this way. Now we have cars that are more difficult to drive, tyres that are more challenging to use and, as a result, races that are less predictable and more entertaining.

        I wouldn’t exchange what we have now for what we had four or five years ago. This idea that what went before was automatically better just because we don’t have it any more is classic knee-jerk, rose-tinted glasses thinking.

        • John H (@john-h) said on 24th March 2012, 0:08

          There are pros and cons for me. I loved it when they got rid of refueling, as I knew it would create mixed strategies and more interesting races. Problem is that its gone too far with these crumbly tyres to improve the show, and now drivers are not sliding the back end around, pushing every lap because they’re too scared to damage their tyres.

          Its not rose tinted specs, I think most understand that tyre management is a worthy skill, its just that now its all we ever hear about and personally I think that’s a shame.

        • Dizzy said on 24th March 2012, 7:17

          Difference is that before we had refueling when tyre management was a more important part of F1 the drivers had options on what they wanted to do with tyre strategy, Now there limited.

          Pre-94 you could take the hardest compound & conserve them to run the race on no pit stops, You could take the medium & drive slightly conservatively aiming at 1 stop or you could take one of the soft compounds & run aggressively planning 2 stops.

          I really think this new style F1 would benefit massively from this sort of thing been brought back. Give the aggresive drivers like Hamilton the option of running flat out planning a stop or 2 & give the more conservative guys like Button the option to no-stop trying to conserve his tyres.

          The format as it is now with the tyres falling to bits regardless of what you do isn’t what racing has ever been about & certainly isn’t as exciting as what we have seen in the past.

          Most fans always go on about how drivers like Hamilton, Kobayashi, Montoya, Raikkonen etc.. are exciting to watch because there aggressive, These crappy tyres will end up harming these types of drivers & F1 will become far less exciting as a result!

  13. sid_prasher (@) said on 23rd March 2012, 20:54

    Looking at the speed trap it seems like Ferrari are having to run a full wing just to add stability to the car.
    McLaren looking untouchable at the moment…will be interesting to see how much does the RBR improve today (Saturday).

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.