Raining and graining are the concerns in China

2014 Chinese Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, Shanghai International Circuit, 2014Start with a low-grip track surface. Add the coolest track temperatures of a dry session so far this year.

And throw in a circuit where the cars pass through two medium to high-speed turns of more than 270 degrees.

These conditions are a recipe for tyre graining, where small pieces of rubber form on the surface of the carcass, ruining the performance of the compound.

Judging by the radio messages during the second practice session, every driver struggled with this on their race-preparation runs. They tweaked the settings on their steering wheels to try to cure it and cranked up their front wing angles when they switched to the harder tyres.

Some drivers, like Kevin Magnussen, were having their first experience of the Shanghai International Circuit, where this is a common problem.

“The first corner here is very tricky, and that’s where you do the damage to the front tyres,” he said.

“I don’t know why we’re not as competitive as we’ve been in the previous races, but we have a lot of front tyre degradation – and we need to investigate why. In fact, I’ve never had this much front tyre graining – it’s very difficult to deal with, so we’ll adjust the set-up and my driving style to compensate. It’s a new track for me, too, so I need to adapt to that.

“We’ll try to solve things overnight – but, if it rains tomorrow, at least we won’t have any front tyre graining.”

The local weather forecast still calls for rain tomorrow, and if we do get our third wet qualifying session in four races drivers won’t be worrying about graining. At least not until Sunday, when the weather is expected to be dry again, and the loss of Friday’s rubber build-up due to the rain will put the track right back to square one.

Marco Mattiacci, Ferrari, Shanghai International Circuit, 2014Ferrari are also in the spotlight but they are subject to even greater attention this weekend after their poor race in Bahrain was followed by the shock resignation of Stefano Domenicali on Monday. Today they were ‘best of the rest’ behind Mercedes on pure lap time.

But rather than being a sign that they have suddenly found some performance in the F14 T this appears to be a reversion to the form we saw before Bahrain, where they were the second-fastest team on Friday in Australia and Malaysia as well.

The one-second-plus performance advantage Mercedes had in the first three races is no doubt hiding behind a hefty slug of fuel in the tanks of the two W05s today. Lewis Hamilton may have ended the day quickest but he was clearly unhappy with the balance of his car and has some progress to make overnight.

Nico Rosberg was third fastest but was advised to back off by two-tenths of a second in the final sector due to the yellow flag caused by Pastor Maldonado. It looks like he eased off a little more than necessary as he lost almost all his time to Hamilton in that sector.

Note also both W05s enjoyed a 3kph straight-line speed advantage, indicating they can afford to add more wing to improve their tyre management.

Red Bull, who surely enjoy the best car in the field in terms of sheer downforce, seemed the least troubled by graining. At the end of his race stint Daniel Ricciardo’s race engineer Simon Rennie complimented him on his long run on soft tyres during which he went further than anyone else.

Longest stint comparison

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

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/2014drivercolours.csv

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
Sebastian Vettel 103.94 103.499 103.972 104.108 104.373 104.512 105.95 105.736 106.011 106.684
Daniel Ricciardo 103.525 103.532 104.168 103.921 104.085 104.603 104.243 104.343 104.472 104.741 104.815 104.677 105.531 104.873 104.377 104.374 104.643
Lewis Hamilton 103.081 102.837 107.96 104.039 103.993 109.552 106.542
Nico Rosberg 102.697 111.538 102.694 103.263 103.701 104.446 104.489 104.371 104.466 104.584
Fernando Alonso 103.922 103.031 103.276 103.854 103.785 104.456 106.179 106.829 106.212 108.632 105.516 105.749
Kimi Raikkonen 104.321 104.938 105.08 105.276 105.584
Romain Grosjean 105.897 105.819 105.196 105.975 105.871 105.779 106.235 105.836 106.145 106.252
Pastor Maldonado 100.455 111.569 110.06 101.022
Jenson Button 104.69 104.694 105.034 105.455 106.215 106.441 107.442 106.098 106.085 106.311
Kevin Magnussen 105.39 105.454 105.96 107.375 107.05 107.454 107.27 106.854 107.14 107.434 107.133 107.472 107.583 108.364
Nico Hulkenberg 104.04 103.858 104.382 104.329 107.378 104.858 104.982 104.93 105.231 106.121
Sergio Perez 104.088 103.614 104.06 104.623 104.814 104.705 104.825 105.271 105.468 105.289
Adrian Sutil 106.784 106.549 106.976 107.078 107.373 107.971 107.561
Esteban Gutierrez 105.567 105.292 105.318 106.19 106.282 106.47 106.422 106.995 107.119 106.989 107.456 107.234
Jean-Eric Vergne 105.468 104.923 105.291 111.511 105.416 105.845 105.349 105.598 105.727
Daniil Kvyat 105.114 105.687 105.937 105.35 104.633 104.596 104.705 104.854 105.1 105.48 105.438 105.353 105.938 106.798
Felipe Massa 103.349 103.567 105.355 105.82 104.266 104.546 104.597 104.663 104.854 104.72 105.046 105.554
Valtteri Bottas 105.879 105.337 105.435 104.861 104.956 105.429 107.226 104.773 104.476 105.259 105.371 105.293 104.664
Jules Bianchi 107.484 107.136 107.301 110.121 107.79 107.141 108.418
Max Chilton 107.859 107.678 107.928 107.87 110.359 109.008 108.881 110.468 125.471 108.4 108.047 108.14
Marcus Ericsson 108.541 109.008 109.479 110.527 107.842 107.87 107.919 112.129 108.441 109.585
Kamui Kobayashi 106.29 106.209 105.801 107.28 106.43 106.738 108.879 107.971 107.704 108.544 110.568

Sector times and ultimate lap times

Pos No. Driver Car S1 S2 S3 Ultimate Gap Deficit to best
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 25.875 (2) 29.669 (3) 42.771 (1) 1’38.315 0.000
2 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 25.922 (3) 29.580 (1) 42.954 (2) 1’38.456 0.141 0.000
3 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 25.866 (1) 29.692 (5) 43.168 (4) 1’38.726 0.411 0.000
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 26.052 (5) 29.683 (4) 43.076 (3) 1’38.811 0.496 0.000
5 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 26.101 (7) 29.645 (2) 43.269 (5) 1’39.015 0.700 0.000
6 19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 25.966 (4) 29.857 (7) 43.295 (7) 1’39.118 0.803 0.000
7 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 26.130 (8) 29.849 (6) 43.304 (8) 1’39.283 0.968 0.000
8 22 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 26.148 (9) 30.052 (12) 43.291 (6) 1’39.491 1.176 0.000
9 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 26.076 (6) 29.875 (8) 43.586 (13) 1’39.537 1.222 0.000
10 26 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 26.183 (11) 29.876 (9) 43.589 (14) 1’39.648 1.333 0.000
11 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 26.201 (12) 30.106 (14) 43.429 (10) 1’39.736 1.421 0.000
12 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 26.297 (13) 30.068 (13) 43.379 (9) 1’39.744 1.429 0.000
13 25 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Renault 26.180 (10) 29.998 (10) 43.581 (12) 1’39.759 1.444 0.000
14 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 26.383 (16) 30.004 (11) 43.443 (11) 1’39.830 1.515 0.000
15 11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 26.306 (14) 30.142 (15) 43.676 (15) 1’40.124 1.809 0.000
16 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 26.358 (15) 30.248 (16) 43.753 (18) 1’40.359 2.044 0.000
17 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 26.385 (17) 30.290 (18) 43.720 (16) 1’40.395 2.080 0.000
18 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 26.439 (18) 30.273 (17) 43.743 (17) 1’40.455 2.140 0.000
19 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 27.040 (21) 30.882 (20) 44.395 (19) 1’42.317 4.002 0.010
20 4 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 26.914 (19) 30.876 (19) 45.012 (20) 1’42.802 4.487 0.671
21 10 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 26.915 (20) 31.108 (22) 45.118 (21) 1’43.141 4.826 0.389
22 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 27.162 (22) 31.084 (21) 45.207 (22) 1’43.453 5.138 0.226

Complete practice times

Pos Driver Car FP1 FP2 Total laps
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’41.560 1’38.315 34
2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’39.783 1’38.456 48
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’40.181 1’38.726 46
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1’40.772 1’38.811 53
5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’41.629 1’39.015 50
6 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1’41.699 1’39.118 39
7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’39.283 26
8 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’40.970 1’39.491 52
9 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1’42.090 1’39.537 60
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 1’41.977 1’39.648 49
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1’41.175 1’39.736 46
12 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1’41.366 1’39.744 49
13 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Renault 1’41.505 1’39.759 54
14 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1’39.830 25
15 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1’42.733 1’40.124 45
16 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1’44.162 1’40.359 49
17 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1’40.395 30
18 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1’43.731 1’40.455 34
19 Felipe Nasr Williams-Mercedes 1’42.265 13
20 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1’44.270 1’42.327 34
21 Giedo van der Garde Sauber-Ferrari 1’42.615 16
22 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1’44.782 1’43.473 50
23 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1’44.038 1’43.530 48
24 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1’44.835 1’43.679 54

Speed trap

# Driver Car Engine Max speed (kph) Gap
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 331.1
2 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Mercedes 331 0.1
3 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 328.1 3
4 25 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso Renault 327.7 3.4
5 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 327.2 3.9
6 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren Mercedes 326.8 4.3
7 26 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Renault 326.2 4.9
8 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari 325.8 5.3
9 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 325.3 5.8
10 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 324.8 6.3
11 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber Ferrari 324.2 6.9
12 22 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes 323.7 7.4
13 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 323.4 7.7
14 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber Ferrari 323.2 7.9
15 10 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham Renault 322.3 8.8
16 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia Ferrari 322 9.1
17 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault 321.3 9.8
18 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus Renault 320.9 10.2
19 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Renault 320.3 10.8
20 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham Renault 319.1 12
21 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault 317.5 13.6
22 4 Max Chilton Marussia Ferrari 317.3 13.8

2014 Chinese Grand Prix

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Images © McLaren/LAT, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo

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22 comments on Raining and graining are the concerns in China

  1. timi (@timi) said on 18th April 2014, 13:59

    Ricciardo’s long run really was something special. If we can get him, and a couple other drivers to manage the graining and stretch out their soft stints, then we could have an exciting race with varying strategies.

    A rain hit qualy would further add to the spectacle since teams will have to wait until Sunday to see how their setup can cope with the circuit demands in the dry. I’m expecting to see a slightly shaken up order, with some teams gearing up for the best start position following qualy, while others opt for a more racey setup for the dry race. Should be a good weekend

  2. Toxic said on 18th April 2014, 14:23

    I hope that if it rains, it’s going to rain on both Saturday and Sunday. On 3 previous occasions, we had wet quali and dry race. As much as it is quite exciting to have rain on Saturday, it’s the race that matters the most and we still didn’t have a proper, wet race. This is very interesting track if it’s wet that’s why it would be good if we could see quite consistent weather on both days. and see some skill in the wet.

  3. Breno (@austus) said on 18th April 2014, 15:07

    Ferrari seems to have solved some of the top speed issues, only 3.9 and 5.3 kmph slower than Hamilton.

    • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 18th April 2014, 17:09

      @austus – It was Domenicali’s fault…

      In Bahrain testing we got pre-race predictions from McLaren that we might see 210mph on the back straight at China, so I would suggest we’re yet to see Mercedes do anything approaching meaningful running.

      • Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 18th April 2014, 18:04

        @william-brierty

        I doubt so. The Mercedes-powered teams already did significant engine saving in Bahrain as well before firing on all cylinders in quali and gained just 1-2kph per car.

        Ferrari does seem to have improved its engine mapping or ERS software somewhat.

        • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 18th April 2014, 18:33

          @atticus-2 – Mercedes are just 7kph faster, on one of the longest straights of any racetrack in the world, than they were at the end of the Bahrain straights: I think we can safely say the engine is turned down substantially. Regarding Ferrari, any improvements they have made on straights can be attributed to a) software updates and b) their larger DRS slot gap. That will not nullify the enormous straight line deficit we saw in Bahrain, although it is a step.

          • Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 18th April 2014, 18:39

            @william-brierty

            …And that longest straight is just 80m longer than the longest straight in Bahrain. I think that 7kph is a more than reasonable improvement and does not necessarily mean the engine is turned down.

            I agree with the rest, basically that’s what I wanted to say as well. A step from Ferrari in the right direction.

  4. David not Coulthard (@davidnotcoulthard) said on 18th April 2014, 15:20

    Will the sound of the rain solve the noise issues that some people think is present?

  5. Dizzy said on 18th April 2014, 15:23

    so much for pirelli’s promise to reduce the number of marbles with these new tyres.

    if its like it was for practice in the race, there goes any chance of seeing some good overtaking attempts because as bruno said on sky as soon as you get onto that you lose all tyre temps as well as having less grip due to the actual pick-up.

    really is something pirelli need to work on as there tyres produce a massive amount more marbles than any other tyre thats been used in f1 over the 40 years i’ve been following it. they keep saying they want to do something about it yet every year its just as bad.

    • Roberto said on 18th April 2014, 22:42

      Marbles haven’t been a big problem all year so far. The tyres have been ok, its track conditions that are causing serious marbles and . There is little Pirelli can do if the tyres are being shredded at the top unless they make their tyres with 2005 levels of hardness, or changing the track surface itself.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 19th April 2014, 1:54

      It’s an absolute scandal, how on earth can F1 claim to be improving automotive technology, let alone being the pinnacle of motor-sport, when it continues to degrade the performance of the cars by running them with sub-standard tyres.?
      Further, how can we take seriously any suggestion that F1 is serious about reducing costs when it requires cars to use at least 2 and preferably 3 or 4 sets of tyres per car per race requiring a team of 16-20 crew to change them on top of the manufacturing and transport costs ?

  6. madgerz (@madgerz) said on 18th April 2014, 15:42

    @keith : I appreciate the data available but is it possible to know the tires the longest stints were done.

  7. Mr win or lose said on 18th April 2014, 15:53

    So this year there is a trade-off between tyre wear (more wing) and fuel consumption (less wing), so that could be interesting, especially because of the high tyre-wear levels and the fuel limit.
    One question: is a low-downforce setup more tyre-friendly as long as you avoid skidding around (less downforce = lower cornering speeds = less load on the tyres)?

    • Michael Brown (@) said on 18th April 2014, 16:02

      Low downforce is more tire friendly because it reduces cornering speed, as long as you don’t slide or spin the tires. While cornering speed is reduced, straight line speed is increased. High downforce makes the car more stable in fast corners but fast cornering places more stress on the tires.

      In the latter years of the V8 formula, Red Bull were ahead with low top speeds and high downforce. Now it appears Mercedes is on top with their straight line speed advantage (3 kph counts for a lot of time on long straights in Shanghai).

      • xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 18th April 2014, 16:41

        But with more downforce, the loads on the tyre are increased, but there is significantly less lsiding

      • With High Downforce the cars are less prone to sliding hence the less wear , But with Low Downforce the cars are more prone but obviously F1 is all about balance of having right wear and right downforce level enough to get ahead , Mercedes engines are always stronger in straight speeds all the time even at Tracks like Hungary last year as well

  8. WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 18th April 2014, 17:14

    All it takes is a Mercedes team being cautious regarding engine mileage and all of a sudden we have a free-for-all according to Sky Sports, merely a fortnight since one of the most dominant team displays in recent years. Utter rubbish. Ferrari are looking for friendlier headlines and Mercedes are keeping their engine mileage down; nothing more to read into here.

    • @william-brierty
      More or less, yeah. I think that the gap should be similar to what we saw in Malaysia, Bahrain was always a track that was going to play in Mercedes’ hands.

      It’s really incredible how easily everyone forgets that all the FP sessions have been like this in 2014 so far. After every friday there’s always someone saying that Ferrari looks competitive, that they are catching up. Maybe they are catching up a little bit, but there’s no way anyone can compete with the Mercedes on pure performance at the moment.

      • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 18th April 2014, 19:45

        @yobo01 – So true. It was the case last year with Red Bull…

      • mark p said on 18th April 2014, 19:50

        As a Ferrari fan I can say that although the Friday single lap times have looked good the game was given away by the longer stints in fp2 when they were know where but here they look much much better but of course if dry in quali I would expect Merc to easily lock out the front row.

  9. Ricciardo’s top speed was again higher. I’m not quite sure why there is this constant disparity between Vettel and Ricciardo – perhaps it points to evaluation of different wing levels or fuel loads, though I’m not too sure the latter would affect that drastically.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 19th April 2014, 2:02

      @vettel1, It may be purely personal preference, SV is a creature of max downforce so possibly prefers to have as much as is available, while DR is used to having less and probably feels comfortable sacrificing a little in search of balance and top speed.

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