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Barcelona Race Preview: Tyres, and Circuit characteristics
Pirelli still has made no announcement over whether they will be supplying Formula 1 beyond 2013. Ecclestone said almost 3 weeks go that ‘the deal is done’, but it clearly isn’t. For Barcelona, they are providing the orange hard compound and white medium compound, although the hard (orange) compound has been ‘evolved’ to provide ‘more possibilities for strategy’.
There will also be an extra set of prototype hard tyres allocated for free practice, to encourage all teams to run throughout the entire length of the session, rather than opt to conserve tyres for the rest of the race weekend. These tyres are neither the white nor the orange compound, but bear no marking and are a specially-created compound with emphasis on durability, so that the teams run for as long as possible. To distinguish these tyres, they will not carry any colour markings.
Paul Hembery, who has for many become the most excellent master of the F1 political landscape, has this to say. “We’re introducing a revised version of our hard tyre in Spain, which is closer in characteristics to the 2012 tyre. This new tyre gives us a wider working temperature window – although it delivers a little bit less in terms of pure performance – but it should allow the teams to envisage an even wider variety of race strategies than before in combination with the other compounds, which remain unchanged this year.
This is a decision that we’ve come to having looked at the data from the first four races, with the aim of further improving the spectacle of Formula One. “In fact this is almost a tradition with us now, as we also introduced a revised version of the hard tyre for the Spanish Grand Prix in 2011, which was our first year in the sport”.
Tradition eh, Paul? Normative – nothing unusual here then … he continues. “We’d expect the medium tyre to still be significantly faster and this is the one that the teams are likely to qualify on, whereas the hard is likely to be the preferred race tyre. As permitted by the current regulations, we’ll be supplying an extra set of prototype hard compound tyres for free practice, which will hopefully ensure that all the cars run throughout these sessions. It’s something we wanted to do to encourage all the teams to run as much as possible right from the start, especially with the rookie drivers, to give fans the spectacle they deserve to see.”
It will be good to see the cars on track in Barcelona, because it is a known reference point, having hosted numerous test sessions over recent years. This extra set of bullet-proof tyres has got be be great for Dr. James Beck and his underlying pace analysis, which he provides for us here at TJ13.
Personally, I’m glad to see the idea of only allowing rookie drivers to drive on the extra set of tyres in FP1 abandoned, as it would have led to some farcical situations. Rumour has it that these tyres are unmarked because Pirelli has scrubbed off the Bridgestone name from a batch made several years ago, which is still going strong and is expected to last until around 2020.
The racing in Barcelona has changed in the past 3 years, and those who detest the new F1 tyres and DRS have to admit the procession from pole to checkered flag we once had is now long gone. Having said that, the key to a quick lap time in Barcelona is finding the right compromise between aerodynamic grip and mechanical grip. Most teams run a stiff set-up at the front, to help turn-in, but go softer at the back to gain traction.
Changing wind direction can be a significant variable in Barcelona and is a factor that has an important impact on car set-up, especially in the first corner.
There was not a lot of news knocking around at the weekend, and a host of F1 sites ran stories about how qualifying was no longer ‘that important’. Well – in Barcelona, nine out of the last 10 races at the track have been won from pole position. Last year was no exception. Qualifying will be crucial, which means putting the extra set of tyres in free practice to good use in order to find an optimal set-up.
The 4.655-kilometer track contains 16 corners, mostly right-handers, which puts the emphasis on the left tyres, which do most of the work, and we will once again see the marble carpet appearing off-line as the degradation will return to be from lateral wear rather than the thermal degradation we saw in Bahrain.
In 2012 Pirelli selected the soft and hard tyre, However, the original 2013 range were all 1 step softer, so the medium is akin to 2012’s soft tyre and the revised 2013 hard compound is akin to 2012’s hard tyre.
Watson adds to the cries of Red Bull beware
TJ13 did a piece on Sunday about the latent explosive possibilities dormant in the Red Bull team. Now, John Watson has suggested, “The Malaysia thing has been swept under the carpet. I don’t know how long it can stay there. I suspect we will still see ructions at races later in the year,” he told the BBC.
Watson continues, “What authority does the pit wall now have to control certainly one of its drivers but most likely both of them? I can imagine Webber will think: ‘I did the right thing and was prevented from winning that race and now I find myself with a team-mate who doesn’t obey team orders and doesn’t receive any sanction or penalty – so why should I bother obeying team orders?’
“I think the team have shown incredible weakness by not penalising their number one driver and they have now created a rod for their own back. They have, in effect, let him run roughshod over the authority of the team principal. Red Bull have opened Pandora’s box. How can anybody control Vettel from now on?”
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Lewis Hamilton hinted he would take on Vettel if he could, “You know, I even think I could drive with Sebastian, I just wouldn’t turn the engine down.”
The Red Bull drivers haven’t occupied the same piece of race asphalt since the incident in Sepang, but the form guide may change this in Barcelona. The year 2012 was a poor one for Red Bull, with Vettel finishing 6th and Webber 11th. However, in 2011 the team had a Vettel-led 1-2 and in 2010 Webber won the race from Alonso, with Vettel 3rd. In both 2010 and ’11, Webber beat Vettel to starting the race in pole position.
Lewis’ ex girlfriend up for Miss Universe
Lotta Hinsta, daughter of McLaren team doctor Aki Hinsta, has won the Miss Finland competition at the age of 24. Back in 2006, before he got his first F1 drive, Lotta had a brief relationship with Lewis Hamilton [Whole lotta love? – ed.]. Lewis appears to have decided he prefers to be a toy boy, and has since opted for a giflrfriend 10 years Lotta’s senior, the (nearly) 35 year old ex-pussycat-doll – Nicole Shirtlifter.
Lotta’s entrance to the Miss Suomi Competition was a secret; she didn’t tell her friends and family about her involvement with the competition until she made it into the finals.
Here’s a few other things Lotta would like us to know:
She is “pretty good at golf” (can hack it in a man’s world)
Lotta was a store manager at a footwear shop (has the common touch)
She believes that she is very friendly and likes making fast friendships (essential for any ‘Miss Something-or-other’ competition)
She believes that Miss Finland could be a great role model and could inspire young women, in the sense that beautiful does not have to be tied to being skinny (politically correct statement).
Lotta lived in Ethiopia for few years (she knows how the other half can live)
She currently is in a relationship with Kristian Näkyvä (ice-hockey player – he’s harder than Lewis?)
She won the Car Babes 2012 title (don’t write off marrying a rich F1 driver).
And now back to F1…
TJ13 reported a week or so ago that issues over the German GP were finally resolved. Well, apparently not. The previous F1 contract holder – the NAG, who are insolvent – issued an injunction against the new F1 contract holder – the NBA – to prevent the race going ahead.
By now, the German court of appeal has ruled that the NAG and the previous tenants of the Nurburgring have no claim on the race. So once again we are now clear to hold an F1 race at the historic Nurburgring, in just over 60 days’ time.
Lotus suspect Pirelli bowed to Pressure
Speaking to Sky, James Allison says, “Pirelli look a few races ahead at a time and give us the compound selections for the next few races based on what they’ve learnt so far in the year. So for Barcelona, for the first time in a long time, we’re not taking hard and soft we’re taking hard and medium. We’re taking the same selection to Monaco that we normally do, soft and supersoft, but for Canada again we’re getting a medium when previously we would have expected a soft.
So it’s going a bit more conservative. I think they’ve had a few people in their ear about maybe taking it a step too far and they’ve gone a bit more conservative than we might have expected.”
Pirelli’s decision for Barcelona appears to be similar to the compounds they selected for 2012, but Alison spots that the decision for Monaco is to take 2 steps in compound, which means the 2013 rubber will be much harder than that used previously. Canada, like Barcelona, is subject to a one-step difference from the 2012 compounds, which in effect means the same kind of performance as in 2012 should be available.
Seemingly the easiest on their tyres this year, Lotus would be justified in feeling aggrieved if Pirelli has bowed to Red Bull pressure.
Having visited Barcelona many times over the past few years, I can say it is one of my favourite cities and the number of must-sees still keeps growing during nearly every subsequent trip I make. For those of you going to the Spanish GP who may have a day or so to spend in the city, here’s one of my favourites: the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, often simply referred to as La Boqueria.
This market is just off Ramblas, near Liceu station and close to the opera house. You can easily lose yourself inside for an hour or two as you wander between the rows of stalls selling an incredible range of food. I always end up with several bags of nuts roasted and flavoured locally.
The market dates back to 1217, when there were meat stalls situated just inside the city gate, and the metal roof you can see today was installed 99 years ago, in 1914. Ramblas is predominantly a tourist area, yet this market attracts locals from everywhere in the city, who come to find the freshest and best bargains on offer. A TJ13 top 10 tourist tip for F1 Fans in Barcelona.
McLaren looking for a fresh start
This is probably one of the most unremarkable headlines you could read about the team from Woking at present. It was always likely that McLaren would struggle somewhat early on, with the transition in suspensions from push-rod to pull-rod, which hampered Ferrari when they made the switch in 2012. Yet, even with the farcical and public wind tunnel debates, the F2012 recovered, and – as we know – Alonso missed out on the drivers’ title by just 3 points.
After being mauled by his young team mate in Bahrain, Jenson hopefully suggests, “The start of the European season in Spain always feels like a fresh start to the year. Suddenly, you’re back in Europe, the motorhomes and transporters are all lined up in the paddock, and it feels like a second home [to] everyone. It’s been difficult for the team to make consistent progress through the first four races, but I think returning to a circuit where we undertook two of the pre-season tests will give us a useful benchmark of our progress so far.
There’s been a lot of talk about the importance of next weekend’s upgrades; but, as with every upgrade, they’re simply part of the series of continuous improvement that are made across the season. As always, there’ll be elements of it that work, elements that perhaps work in a different way to what we’d anticipated, and elements that don’t work, or perhaps require further work. That’s life in modern Formula One. So I’m pragmatic about what we’ll discover next weekend. Of course, I’m hopeful that it’ll move us a step closer towards the destination.”
It appears that Jenson’s expectations for the upcoming race are pretty minimal, and Marrtin Whitmarsh is no more bullish when he sees the weekend as providing a good opportunity for gathering data. “The pace of life in Formula One never relents, and it’s incredible to think that our return to Europe next week will see a quarter of the 2013 championship already gone.
As with last year, form at the start of the season is still somewhat volatile and unpredictable; last year’s Spanish Grand Prix saw an unexpected but worthy winner in Pastor Maldonado, and while it would be difficult to see another left-field runner emerging as a contender for victory, the form book is still hard to read. We are pushing ahead to develop [the] MP4-28, and will be hoping for a productive weekend that will allow us to gather a useful data set for the races ahead.”
McLaren team members tend to wear their hearts on their sleeve more than other teams, and so this downbeat assessment of the upcoming weekend in Barcelona will not be great news for F1 fans of the Woking-based outfit. Only Sergio discusses the racing opportunities when he notes that the implementation of a second DRS-zone should improve overtaking at a circuit where this has not always been easy or possible.
“I hope that the introduction of two DRS zones at Barcelona will help improve the racing. We saw in both China and Bahrain that Formula One cars can race really closely if they are under the right conditions; Barcelona has always been a difficult circuit for overtaking, so I hope the new regulations will improve matters. It would be great for the thousands in the grandstands if there were some spectacular overtaking along the main straight.” (Quotes from McLaren.com).