Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Sepang, 2012

High tyre degradation makes three-stop strategies likely

2012 Malaysian Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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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:

Sebastian Vettel104.516104.564104.278104.133103.84103.861
Mark Webber105.312105.248104.893104.31104.444104.568104.407104.369104.505104.681
Jenson Button104.803104.984104.659104.823104.904104.935105.142106.739106.422
Lewis Hamilton109.841105.39104.79107.751104.849105.022
Fernando Alonso104.907104.872103.686104.479104.623104.116
Felipe Massa105.315105.49105.638105.58105.857
Michael Schumacher105.422105.73107.097105.194105.473105.347105.439106.675105.692106.314106.139
Nico Rosberg105.349105.421105.369105.589105.409105.855105.521105.764105.406106.457109.792106.513
Kimi Raikkonen104.307103.846104.218104.429104.437104.599104.628104.646104.992108.017105.713106.854108.324
Romain Grosjean104.359104.999105.552105.002108.496104.952104.92105.662105.387105.218105.73106.176
Paul di Resta104.601104.825105.079105.42105.494105.454105.657106.236107.364108.787
Nico Hulkenberg105.607105.235115.272104.422104.818104.952104.013104.492111.298104.349105.084107.892107.807
Kamui Kobayashi103.72100.747106.042
Sergio Perez105.584105.226105.288105.529106.276106.653106.797108.111
Daniel Ricciardo106.793106.339105.961105.8106.088106.032106.102106.839106.866107.277
Jean-Eric Vergne107.523108.072106.425106.396106.211106.469106.53106.752111.15106.766
Pastor Maldonado105.701105.243105.207105.342104.921104.872104.944105.184109.259105.328107.319
Bruno Senna104.544104.394104.427104.354104.644104.823105.224106.067
Heikki Kovalainen106.504106.786106.147106.446106.788106.418106.163106.555107.966107.266
Vitaly Petrov106.359106.147106.475106.785105.772105.548105.575106.555107.033107.967108.04
Pedro de la Rosa106.182106.174105.701
Narain Karthikeyan105.622108.566113.754
Timo Glock101.681114.864103.112
Charles Pic103.52112.871103.419109.898103.293

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

CarDriverCarSector 1Sector 2Sector 3Ultimate lapGapDeficit to best
14Lewis HamiltonMcLaren-Mercedes25.152 (2)33.075 (1)39.781 (1)1’38.0080.164
23Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes25.353 (5)33.235 (2)39.838 (2)1’38.4260.4180.109
37Michael SchumacherMercedes25.055 (1)33.506 (6)39.972 (6)1’38.5330.5250.000
48Nico RosbergMercedes25.440 (9)33.300 (3)39.956 (3)1’38.6960.6880.000
516Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso-Ferrari25.394 (7)33.492 (5)39.967 (5)1’38.8530.8450.000
65Fernando AlonsoFerrari25.477 (12)33.456 (4)39.958 (4)1’38.8910.8830.000
72Mark WebberRed Bull-Renault25.444 (10)33.714 (13)39.975 (7)1’39.1331.1250.000
81Sebastian VettelRed Bull-Renault25.409 (8)33.672 (11)40.114 (8)1’39.1951.1870.207
912Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes25.285 (4)33.627 (8)40.291 (13)1’39.2031.1950.261
1018Pastor MaldonadoWilliams-Renault25.516 (14)33.537 (7)40.151 (10)1’39.2041.1960.240
1117Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso-Ferrari25.510 (13)33.660 (10)40.127 (9)1’39.2971.2890.000
1210Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault25.372 (6)33.694 (12)40.245 (11)1’39.3111.3030.000
1311Paul di RestaForce India-Mercedes25.455 (11)33.904 (14)40.266 (12)1’39.6251.6170.000
1414Kamui KobayashiSauber-Ferrari25.649 (17)33.631 (9)40.407 (15)1’39.6871.6790.000
159Kimi RaikkonenLotus-Renault25.226 (3)34.010 (16)40.460 (16)1’39.6961.6880.000
166Felipe MassaFerrari25.637 (15)34.221 (18)40.359 (14)1’40.2172.2090.054
1719Bruno SennaWilliams-Renault25.644 (16)34.030 (17)40.696 (17)1’40.3702.3620.308
1815Sergio PerezSauber-Ferrari26.001 (21)33.932 (15)40.730 (18)1’40.6632.6550.284
1921Vitaly PetrovCaterham-Renault25.666 (18)34.672 (20)41.126 (19)1’41.4643.4560.000
2024Timo GlockMarussia-Cosworth25.845 (19)34.519 (19)41.317 (21)1’41.6813.6730.000
2120Heikki KovalainenCaterham-Renault25.958 (20)35.401 (22)41.158 (20)1’42.5174.5090.077
2225Charles PicMarussia-Cosworth26.204 (24)34.683 (21)41.784 (22)1’42.6714.6630.203
2323Narain KarthikeyanHRT-Cosworth26.121 (23)35.499 (23)42.038 (23)1’43.6585.6500.000
2422Pedro de la RosaHRT-Cosworth26.110 (22)35.523 (24)42.190 (24)1’43.8235.8150.000

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

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Lewis HamiltonMcLaren-Mercedes1’38.0211’38.17247
2Michael SchumacherMercedes1’38.8261’38.53353
3Sebastian VettelRed Bull-Renault1’38.5351’39.40246
4Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes1’39.3231’38.53545
5Nico RosbergMercedes1’38.8131’38.69655
6Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso-Ferrari1’40.4691’38.85356
7Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’39.9801’38.89150
8Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault1’38.9191’39.31139
9Mark WebberRed Bull-Renault1’39.0921’39.13349
10Kimi RaikkonenLotus-Renault1’39.1281’39.69651
11Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso-Ferrari1’40.0991’39.29756
12Paul di RestaForce India-Mercedes1’39.2981’39.62543
13Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1’39.4401’39.46445
14Pastor MaldonadoWilliams-Renault1’39.7831’39.44458
15Kamui KobayashiSauber-Ferrari1’39.9101’39.68737
16Valtteri BottasWilliams-Renault1’39.72423
17Felipe MassaFerrari1’39.8961’40.27144
18Heikki KovalainenCaterham-Renault1’40.2471’42.59437
19Bruno SennaWilliams-Renault1’40.67834
20Vitaly PetrovCaterham-Renault1’40.8571’41.46450
21Sergio PerezSauber-Ferrari1’41.0851’40.94756
22Timo GlockMarussia-Cosworth1’43.1701’41.68138
23Charles PicMarussia-Cosworth1’44.5801’42.87438
24Narain KarthikeyanHRT-Cosworth1’45.3601’43.65826
25Pedro de la RosaHRT-Cosworth1’45.5281’43.82340

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:

#DriverCarEngineMax speed (kph)Gap
117Jean-Eric VergneToro RossoFerrari313.4
28Nico RosbergMercedesMercedes312.50.9
316Daniel RicciardoToro RossoFerrari309.93.5
410Romain GrosjeanLotusRenault309.44
512Nico HulkenbergForce IndiaMercedes309.24.2
620Heikki KovalainenCaterhamRenault309.14.3
77Michael SchumacherMercedesMercedes309.14.3
83Jenson ButtonMcLarenMercedes3094.4
911Paul di RestaForce IndiaMercedes308.94.5
104Lewis HamiltonMcLarenMercedes307.36.1
119Kimi RaikkonenLotusRenault307.36.1
1215Sergio PerezSauberFerrari305.67.8
1321Vitaly PetrovCaterhamRenault305.57.9
1418Pastor MaldonadoWilliamsRenault305.38.1
1519Bruno SennaWilliamsRenault304.98.5
162Mark WebberRed BullRenault304.98.5
176Felipe MassaFerrariFerrari303.89.6
1814Kamui KobayashiSauberFerrari302.411
1924Timo GlockMarussiaCosworth301.911.5
201Sebastian VettelRed BullRenault301.811.6
2123Narain KarthikeyanHRTCosworth301.312.1
2222Pedro de la RosaHRTCosworth301.212.2
2325Charles PicMarussiaCosworth300.413
245Fernando AlonsoFerrariFerrari300.413

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

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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

  1. 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.

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

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

      2. @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.

        1. 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…

          1. 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.

        2. OK, we will see…enjoy the season mate

          1. And you!

    2. 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!

      1. It would not be the first car newey designed that had problems. Maybe he is getting bored with f1 again.

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

    1. Pity it eats tyres like an AMG too :P

  3. 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. 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.

    1. i think it is more to do with the wrist he injured before christmas. As he gets fitter, hell stop complaining (it’s not really his style)

  5. 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.

    1. More wing means more drag which means lower top speed, but better low speed performance.

  6. InfectedCrayons
    23rd March 2012, 14:13

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

    1. oh man…

  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?

    1. Yeah, I was wondering about that. Brundle said after FP2 that Lotus looked like they had a lot of work to do, but from the high fuel long run times, they look in fine form and as if they don’t suffer as much degradation as some of the other teams.

      Also, Keith, the drivers’ lap times chart doesn’t to load for me in 32bit Opera 11.61 on 64 bit Windows 7. Which surprises me, I’ll have to have a look at why Opera thinks I’m running 32bit Windows.

      1. Can you supply details via the contact form please? See here for guidance:

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

    1. 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. 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?

    1. 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. 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. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

        2. 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 (@)
    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).

    1. Suspecting the same about Ferrari. Such wing could be less about improving lowspeed performance than about just making the damn thing driveable. Sad…

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