Top times of the day
|12||Di Resta||Force India||1’28.311||2.403||37|
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.
Ambient 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”.
Interestingly 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.
The 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.
McLaren 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 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
Valtteri 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.”