F1 Melbourne 2013 Review: FP1 and FP2 most reminiscent of Mr. Noah

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Top times of the day

Pos   Driver Team Tine Diff   Laps
1 Vettel Red Bull 1’25.908 33
2 Webber Red Bull 1’26.172 0.264 31
3 Rosberg Mercedes 1’26.322 0.414 26
4 Raikkonen Lotus 1’26.361 0.453 38
5 Grosjean Lotus 1’26.680 0.772 32
6 Alonso Ferrari 1’26.748 0.840 35
7 Hamilton Mercedes 1’26.772 0.864 28
8 Massa Ferrari 1’26.855 0.947 32
9 Sutil Force India 1’27.435 1.527 35
10 Hulkenberg Sauber 1’28.187 2.279 34
11 Button McLaren 1’28.294 2.386 30
12 Di Resta Force India 1’28.311 2.403 37
13 Perez McLaren 1’28.566 2.658 33
14 Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’28.627 2.719 31
15 Guitierrez Sauber 1’28.772 2.864 33
16 Maldonado Williams 1’28.852 2.944 36
17 Vergne Toro Rosso 1’28.968 3.060 36
18 Bottas Williams 1’29.386 3.478 39
19 Bianchi Marussia 1’29.696 3.788 32
20 Pic Caterham 1’30.165 4.257 37
21 Chiltopn Marussia 1’30.600 4.692 36
22 VD Garde Caterham 1’32.450 6.542 11

Closer racing in 2012 theory

It fails to recognise that there are new Pirelli tyres, which the teams will master by 1/3-1/2 way through the season.Well all the pundits have been forecasting even closer racing down to the regulation changes from 2012 to 2013 being slight. Looking at the table above it would appear at present that is clearly not the case. This theory only applies if all teams have the same funds and technical ability to extract the smaller incremental gains out of the car.

More importantly this theory does not take into consideration the ‘law of diminishing returns’ and the associated incremental costs required to extract these gains. Simply put when the potential gains are more plentiful and bigger in terms of performance effect the smaller teams can ‘luck into’ (skilfully analyse) areas of technical development the bigger teams have not spotted or worked on so hard.

Thus when there is a smaller range of development for everyone to focus on, those with less resource cannot find these relatively ‘big wins’ and are competing $ for $ in the same technical areas of advancement as the bigger teams.

Tyres: At last it’s warm

Any way that aside, today was mainly about the teams finally getting to grip with the new Pirelli’s as the temperature was above the minimum required to bring them into their designed ‘operating window’. The dry tyres available are the supersoft and the medium whereas in 2012 Pirelli provided the medium and the soft.

untitledAmbient temperatures peaked at 28 degrees centigrade (during the first session) with Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel setting fastest time of the day towards the end of free practice two on the supersoft compound. Red Bull had never run this compound before today either in Jerez or Barcelona.

Pirelli says the fastest timed from both compounds were noticeably quicker than in 2012, thus demonstrating the performance development they had planned to bring.

Paul Hembery of Pirelli said, “The teams were able to try out our tyres within their proper working range for the first time, so as usual they made the most of the opportunity to assess the behaviour of their cars in representative conditions on different fuel loads. The medium tyre showed plenty of consistency, just as we expected, while the drivers also benefited from the rapid warm-up of the supersoft.

With Albert Park not being a permanent facility, the track started off ‘green’ but lap times rapidly improved as more rubber was laid down. From what we can see of the degradation so far, we’d expect the majority of the teams to stop twice during the race, with some of the faster cars maybe trying three stops”.

untitledInterestingly Melbourne has one of the shortest pit lanes of the year yet the total time for a stop is only the 7th quickest with an ideal stop being around 21 seconds. The reason for this is the tight pit lane layout and subsequent speed limit of just 60Kph instead of the normal 100Kph.

With regard to degradation, Vettel was only 0.5s slower after 10 laps than he had been on his fastest lap on the medium tyre. So the dramatic rubbish we’ve heard from drivers about 5,6 and 7 pit stops appears to be from a land of fantasy –  and we should really have known this.

Pirelli have suggested the delta time between the compounds is around 0.8s per lap. So from supersoft – a 2 compound jump – to medium would be 1.6s. The statistics from the day suggest it is in fact smaller than Pirelli thought as here are the fastest times for each compound.

FP1:                                                          FP2:

1. Vettel   1.27.211    Med Used    1. Vettel        1.25.908     Supersoft New
2. Massa  1.27.289  Med Used    2. Webber    1.26.172      Supersoft New
3. Alonso 1.27.547  Med Used     3. Rosberg   1.26.322     Supersoft New

The longest run on the supersoft was 18 laps and was 26 laps for the medium tyre. Strategists will probably suggest 10-12 laps will be optimum for the super soft tyre whilst the range for the medium tyre could be good for 20-24 laps.

So who is where?

Red Bull were imperious, and clearly have had the confidence in their close season development to spend testing in Barcelona trying development parts for later in the year rather than racking up times.

untitledThe grip they have with the car is phenomenal and the angle of ‘rake’ as we discussed last week is most prominent. It is almost as though they have an active ride capability on the front of the car which is allows the front to squat down under braking, allowing the front wing closer to the ground than any of their rivals. Of course this would be illegal.

Mercedes were close to the Red Bull’s fast lap with Nico outperforming team mate Lewis Hamilton in FP2. However in FP1 Lewis was 0.5s quicker than Nico and had a ‘messy second session’ according to Toto and he didn’t get a proper quick lap in.

Mercedes look good for the second row, though both cars ended the session stopped on track with reliability issues.

Dutifully Lotus came in next with Romain pushing Kimi hard and there was 0.3s between them, so starts from the 3rd row of the grid look probable, though with Mercedes reliability problems continuing a podium is a good bet.

Ferrari appear to have similar problems to last year in that there are there or there about at race pace but nowhere on the ‘fast lap’. This will surely disappoint Fernando though he proved in 2012 he has the skill to make up such a deficit which is again about 0.8s per lap.

untitledMcLaren had a woeful day with Martin Whitmarsh saying, “We were lacking overall grip, consistency, we had understeer, poor ride. So a very difficult day. One where we didn’t go forward either during the course of the day so that’s a bit of a concern.”

The best time placed the team only 7th in the second session some 2.3s off the pace off the pace of Vettel. Being optimistic Whitmarsh added, “But [we gleaned] a lot of data [that] the team will be, I’m sure, working hard and long tonight. We’ve given ourselves what should be a base that we can improve upon. Hopefully we can do so tomorrow. But a disappointing and tough day for the team.”

Sutil brought Force India in ahead of Hulkenberg in the Sauber, and Adrian was nearly 0.9 seconds quicker than his team mate Di Resta. Guitierrez was 0.6 s slower than his experienced Sauber partner.

Ricciardo for Toro Rosso kept Williams Pastor Maldonado behind the Italian team, and JEV was after Pastor but 0.3s slower than his Australian team mate.

Bianchi impressively won the battle of the bottom 4 drivers with a time that was almost 0.5s ahead of Caterham’s more experienced Charles Pic.

The grid

untitledThe top 10 on the grid so far could easily look like something out of the story of Mr. Noah. With the exception of Red Bull the tea leaves from Barcelona are not a million miles away.

Mercedes quick but unreliable, Lotus 3rd also with a few reliability issues, Ferrari next and McLaren should fall into line around here. Force India appear to have the better of Sauber, and Toro Rosso have moved ahead of Williams.

Even with an engine he commented was so much better in the Caterham, Charles Pic could not live with the rookie Bianchi even though they both completed over 30 laps.

Of course rain is forecast tomorrow for qualifying – so then anything could in fact happen

In the dock

untitledValtteri Bottas and Esteban Gutierrez were fined €2,800 and €800 respectively for breaking the pit lane speed limit of 60Kph. Bottas was a huge 13.8kph over during the first practice session and Gutierrez by 3.4kph in the second.

Jules Bianchi was close to sanction for entering the pit lane from beyond the point allowed. The stewards stated, “The driver had been instructed to do a further lap after the chequered flag. He saw other cars enter the pit lane while he was on the left side of the track.”

The fact that this was done in a safe manner appears to have excluded Bianchi from punishment. “He stopped and waited for other cars. He was then on the wrong side of the bollard. He entered the pit lane rather than do another lap. The stewards accepted the movement was done safely and that there were mitigating circumstances.”

Mark Webber was close to sanction too after doing a practice start from his pit box. Webber was pulled back into the box which is against the rule which demands the driver leave the pits after pulling away from their box. A statement from the stewards said, “The team explained that as soon as the error was identified they instructed the driver to drive onto the track without making any changes to the car.”

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13 responses to “F1 Melbourne 2013 Review: FP1 and FP2 most reminiscent of Mr. Noah

  1. Red Bull do look quick, who knows, maybe Mark can break out and win in Australia… you can hope…

    Massa seems to have found some speed and one wonders if Ferrari is just marginally better than last year if Alonso can win the title with Felipe riding shotgun.

    Mclaren… they now have two sensitive drivers so if their car is not working they are not going to be anywhere near the front. At least with Lewis (and all his baggage) they had a driver that could get a wheelbarrow up the grid in a reasonable place. Ted Kravitz compared the RB and Mclaren rear wings this morning and it looks like the latter have a door for a wing compared to the RB… struggling for grip is causing them to hunt for downforce and sacrificing top end… IMO

    Cannot wait for Sunday! Might have to revisit my Castrol Predictions Judge… I just might have to do that.

  2. I for one am not yet reading too much into RBR’s dominance in FP1 and FP2. In fact it gives me some hope that the rest has come closer because in the past the Bulls most of the time stayed under the radar on Fridays, so either they were simply checking their actual speed as that is something they haven’t done during pre-season testing and then their times aren’t that impressive, or maybe they are even trying are put up a smokescreen in the hope that it may push some of their competitors into a set-up that is a bit too risky?

  3. I do wonder about the relevance of Melbourne regards outright pace. It has been demonstrated before and has been mentioned in the media that it’s maybe not the best place to form too many opinions.
    Friday is also notoriously difficult to judge.

    Is there any update to the engine mapping that the FIA told Renault had to be changed?
    Also, Ferrari said over the winter that they had major updates to bring to Melbourne, Malaysia and China, was thee any evidence of this?

    I know I’m clutching at straws, but I need to believe..

    • Fernando has been talking down Ferrari since Barca 2.

      You can still go to the ball – err sorry believe – though. Qualy is forecast wet…

    • This could also give you hope – Red Bull not uber confident if Marko’s not been confined to quarters and is completely in the dark.

      “There is no panic,” Marko told Bild newspaper. “A place on the podium in Melbourne would be a good result. The field is much closer together.”

    • I didn’t check it myself, but according to FIA website 11 out of 17 winners of the Australian Grand Prix have gone on to win the WDC that year, so that would suggest that Melbourne is actually quite relevant as an indicator.

      • While true there is reading into half a seconds differences in time and seeing outright dominance. You can’t read much into the lap times here unless one team is two seconds clear of the rest of the field.

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