Tag Archive | Pirelli

Hamilton’s adverse 2013

2013 was woeful for Lewis Hamilton. The 28-year-old only had five podium appearances during 2013, a feat matched by the beleaguered 2009 season in the McLaren MP4-24. In fact it was the first time in his career that he failed to score more than one victory in a season (he managed two in ’09). Here, we aim to establish issues the world champion suffered with over the course of the 2013 F1 season.

PASTURES NEW

In January Hamilton arrived at his new base in Brackley. It is a new and wholly different environment to the one he had long become accustomed to at Woking. A factory less eminent to that of McLaren’s metallic, clean mega structure set upon a pristine, gleaming lake. New surroundings, faces and names to memorise. The only man Lewis truly knew was his team mate Nico Rosberg. Throughout their youth the two traveled and raced against each other in several junior series’. They grew up with each other. Hamilton now lives just a stones-throw away from the German after he bought an apartment last year in Monaco.

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Its not just communicating with new faces, its adapting to a completely different F1 car. No one car is the same. Lewis would have had to get used to all the different buttons on the steering wheels, the different maps the car runs, the different terminology and codes that team engineers use.

BRAKES

Mercedes used a ‘FRIC’ (Front and Rear Interconnection) suspension this year, a system which helps stabalise the cars pitch under braking and roll through corners. By the time the F1 circus headed to Europe, it was the much talked about must-have device. And whilst this helped Lewis gain lap time over his rivals, it wasn’t long before Mercedes’ rivals caught up and other problems developed.

In June, Lewis conceded that he was struggling with the brakes, in comparison to Rosberg. At McLaren, Lewis had always used Carbone Industrie. A brake material he could always rely on to give him the power to stop as late as possible in the braking zones. Late-braking was Lewis’ forte. It had a different feel to the Brembo brakes he now uses on his Mercedes car. The Brembo is more adept to braking and turning at the same time, its a driving brake.

Back in Montreal, Hamilton told the press that he wants to evolve for the long term rather than look for the short term solution: “I can change them if I want or I can just get used to them, and I prefer to grab a hold of it, get used to them and do a good job.”

He had tried going back to the factory over the summer to alter his driving style, by braking in a different manner and allowing the car to slide into a corner and progressing on the throttle: “I’ve been working in the simulator, using different techniques. There are a lot you can use: for example, lift and coast in a race situation, so instead of braking at 100m, you lift at 120m and brake at 80m; or later downshifts.”

The Brembo’s are not Lewis’ friend and it shows on track. So often this season, Lewis has been unable to attack into a braking zone, or more worryingly, he has been unable to defend himself from an overtake. He has looked far out of his comfort zone. On more than one occasion this year the Brit has been overtaken around the outside, something he had proudly boasted about never happening to him. Braking has been the biggest thorn in Lewis’ side all year long. It is yet to be seen whether Mercedes will cave into placing his much favoured Carbone Industrie brakes on his 2014 machinery.

TYRES

Tyres were the biggest talking point for the first part of the season. Many teams and drivers couldn’t make them work .Mercedes problem was the tyre not lasting long enough to do a sensible stint in the race. It was not uncommon to see a silver Mercedes on Pole for Sundays race.

The chassis was very good at generating tyre temperature straight out of the pits, so the tyres always had good heat for the first qualifying runs. However, it was tyre degradation and heat management that was the issue. There were more than a few times when we heard the team over the radio telling drivers to preserve rear wear rates or that the rears were heating up too much. Lewis’ problem was actually trying to generate temperature from the brakes, which almost ‘osmosises’ through the rims and into tyre itself.  During qualifying Hamilton could take half a lap to generate enough tyre temperature to have confidence in the car, by then he would have already lost a significant amount of time.

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Then there was the British Grand Prix. A race which Hamilton was leading comfortably until the tyre cried no more and exploded. The fault was with the kevlar belt in the rim. Hamilton wasn’t the only one to suffer that race.

Towards the second half of 2013, Pirelli brought along last years compounds for the remaining races. The Mercedes cars did not suffer with massive degradation anymore, but they did not have the raw pace of the Red Bull, which was allowed to scamper away into the distance. Fortunately Pirelli look like they will be bringing a stronger, slightly more durable compound for the 2014 season, which means cars with higher downforce will be rewarded as drivers should be able to push to the absolute maximum.

PERSONAL

Hamilton is a lot ‘stockier’ today to that of the young boy who walked into the sport back in 2007. Back then he weighed a slight 66kgs. He is clearly more muscular in the upper body and arms, and whilst this may look athletic, it comes at a massive cost. Additional weight is a Formula One designers nightmare. An extra 5kg generally will cost around two tenths of a second per lap, a huge amount in Formula One terms. Lewis now weighs 71kgs, thats 5kg more than he did seven years ago. But it is a far cry off the 58kg that four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel weighs.

Lewis’ love life never seems to be out of the tabloids. It’s no secret it has affected him in the past, his emotionless celebration of Pole Position in Korea 2011 was due to his split with pop singer Nicole Scherzinger. Since then the relationship had been on and off. Lewis is an emotional driver, we hear it over the radio at races. He just needs to focus and channel his energy onto the race track.

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He has allowed personal issues to affect his racing before when he decided he no longer wanted his dad as a manager. Since then he has long craved for the family feel in his garage. Last year at McLaren he admitted that he was envious of Jenson Button’s entourage of family, friends and management. He may well require that to help him feel more relieved at the back of the silver garage.

Lewis attended a lot less sponsorship and partner events during 2013. This year was the first year where Lewis felt that the shackles were released. He was no longer required to be demure. Mercedes had no intention of holding him back or slowing him down. Less frequent sponsorship events were a driving factor in his transfer to the Silver Arrows. He had long become bored of having so many days of the year dedicated to sponsor events at McLaren.

Lewis will try and develop his driving style for next year, all the drivers will, the new engines will require it. He will have time to compare the data for braking styles between him and Rosberg over the course of 2013. He will have to go away and get leaner if he is to fight at the front. He will hope that this year is just a blip, after all  he could have had a nightmare year similar to that of former team mate Jenson Button.

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Less marbles in 2014?

Pirelli have announced that are trying to construct a compound of tyres which reduces the amount of marbles on track in 2014.

The move comes after current F1 drivers voiced their concerns about the amount of debris on circuits. The marbles, which are discarded pieces of rubber from the tyres, make it nigh-on impossible for drivers to commit to an overtaking manoeuvre off-line.

“The drivers certainly have commented on it and we can understand it,” said Pirelli’s motorsport boss Paul Hembery. “So it’s something that we are trying to do.”

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The Pirelli boss has acknowledged that the marbles are created through wear so the softer compound of tyre are the main culprits for creating marbles.

“We know that it’s clearly wear-related, it’s basically tearing of the tyres in some cases, certainly the super-soft and to an extent the softer tyre have not had the strength that we needed.

“You can see some races where we had almost no marbles when you are using the hard and medium, certain surfaces where it’s low abrasion. So we are working to try and improve that. The general comment from the drivers is ‘reduce marbles’.”

Paul Hembery has admitted that there is a great challenge to try and stop the Pirelli tyres discarding excess rubber.

“At the moment we’re doing a lot of work on scaling and understanding where we are with the different compounds, we wanted to try and improve things like the tear resistance of the compounds, which has a direct impact on marbles which is something we are trying to reduce for next year,” he said.

“With the increased wheelspin, that has a chance of creating more marbles compared to where we are today, so we have to increase the mechanical strength of the compounds.”

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Whether the changes to the tyre will create a different feel for the drivers, who will have a whole raft of new change and developments on their 2014 cars, is not yet known.

There has also been some concern related to the safety of marbles. On more than one occasion over the past few seasons have drivers had large chunks of rubber, either coming off the drivers car in front or from the discarded rubber on the side of the track, hitting the drivers helmet. A few drivers have said that if their visor were to be open for cooling purposes and a piece of rubber were to strike them, the result could be similar to the damage caused to Felipe Massa at Hungary in 2009, if not worse. The Brazilian’s helmet was hit by a rogue spring from Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn GP car. Massa subsequently lost consciousness and crashed badly.

 

Friday Analysis: Shanghai

The talk of the paddock after Fridays two practice sessions were no longer about the Red Bull driver fall out – but instead the high degradation of the tyres brought to Shanghai.Each tyre in the Pirelli range have all been made a step softer for 2013 and have brought higher wear rates and higher degradation at all of the Grands Prix so far, much to the chagrin of most drivers and teams. In China the teams are experiencing massive front left graining, all due to the Shanghai International Circuits long right handers, including Turns 1, 2, 8 and 13. These turns are putting a huge strain on the Pirelli soft compound tyre more so than the medium tyre.

Perez crashed into the barrier at the pit lane entry

Perez crashed into the barrier at the pit lane entry

The softer tyre is also significantly quicker over one lap; early predictions suggest it could be as much as 1-1.5 seconds per lap, meaning it will be the ideal Qualifying tyre for Saturday’s Q3 session. Jenson Button actually went so far to proclaim the soft tyre was the “perfect tyre over one lap, it’s more like a Qualifying tyre.” The tyre did pose a problem for Jenson though when at the end of a 13 lap stint on a relatively high fuel load, he locked under braking for the Turn 14 hairpin and the tyre tread dissolved on the track surface, leaving Button to crawl back to the pits with a slowly delaminating tyre. Despite the softer tyres ability to deliver one quick lap, the pace fades away very quickly. A closer look of a 9 lap soft tyre stint during Free Practice 2 looked like this:

Lap 1: 1m 48.5

Lap 2: 1m 43.9

Lap 3: 1m43.4

Lap 4: 1m 44.1

Lap 5: 1m 44.3

Lap 6: 1m 46.2

Lap 7: 1m 46.8

Lap 8: 1m 48.3

Lap 9: 1m 49.5

These times are suggesting that the tyres are very quick straight out of the box. Managing the tyres first lap pace ensures that the stronger lap times have lasted for longer, for example by taking a slower lap 1 pace, the driver has managed to get his fastest lap on lap three of the run. But once the meat on the tyre has been used for one or two quick runs, it enters a realm of no return. The tyre drops off very quickly, and although manageable at first, towards the end of the stint (just lap 8) the tyre will be useless and in need of changing given its lack of pace. The simulations all suggest that after a 3 lap run on the softer tyre in Quali 3 on Saturday, the tyre may only be serviceable up to lap 7, anything after will result in huge loss of grip and subsequently, time.

Vettel was unhappy with the lack of pace to the frontrunners

Vettel was unhappy with the lack of pace to the frontrunners

The issue of safety could now be where the teams voice their concern to Pirelli. Several teams like Red Bull in Malaysia have already said the tyres are impeding the cars overall speed, as the drivers are having to drive slower to preserve the rubber. Free Practice 2 in China saw Jenson Buttons tyre delaminate and Lewis Hamilton hitting out by saying, “The life of the tyre, it’s the worst I’ve ever experienced with bits flying off all over the place…It doesn’t feel like the right tyre for this circuit. I did a couple of laps and the tyres just disintegrated.” Other drivers too have voiced their concerns and rued the rubber brought to Shanghai. However Pirelli boss Paul Hembrey hit back by saying the softer tyre was doing as it is intended, “If the medium did the same then I’d be concerned, but it doesn’t,” he said. “It’s a qualifying tyre. It’ll be a bit like Melbourne I guess where the top teams are going to be forced to qualify on the softer tyre because it’s such a performance advantage and within the first 10 laps they are going to have to pit.”

The medium compound tyre has a more structured wear rate and will be the ideal tyre to last around 15-20 laps during the race. This will be the tyre the drivers will want to be on for most of the race, despite its lack of grip compared to the softer tyre it can still offer a lot of durability. Enough to stretch to a risky two stop strategy.

The soft compound drop-off is very large and will have a significant impact on the race come Sunday. All of the top 10 qualifiers will all be on the yellow marked softer compound, because of the significant advantage it will yield in Q3, they will require that tyres grip to hoist them up the grid. Those starting from 11th backwards, will almost all certainly start on the white marked medium compound and try as hard as possible to eke out towards a two stop strategy, they will also be hoping to pick off a few of the front running cars whilst they are getting serviced in the pit lane.

Felipe Massa was fastest in FP2

Felipe Massa was fastest in FP2

We could end up seeing a scenario come race day where the weakest tyre wins. What that means is, whoever has to pit first may well come out on top over the long run, despite having the disadvantage of pitting so early. This is due to the overlap that they benefit from when receiving new rubber. Say a driver, in this instance Nico Rosberg was running third just 3 seconds behind the theoretical race leader Felipe Massa. Nico could pit on lap 7, a seemingly early and stupid lap to pit, but only for him to benefit from fresh medium tyres, which could run quicker than Massa’s Ferrari. After just 1 lap Nico would take the lead of the race, the degradation of the softer tyre really can be as much as 3 seconds a lap, if you stay out and get it wrong.

All the talk of extreme tyre graining, wear and degradation could all be elementary of course. We have seen in the past extreme tyre conditions on Friday for the scenario to change completely for the rest of the weekend. Given that the track conditions should remain largely the same as we are not expecting any rain over the course of the weekend and there are no significant support races to upset the chemistry of the track surface, there may well be a track evolution which could favour both compounds of the Italian manufacturer’s tyre. This would leave all previous criticisms unfounded and a fairly undramatic and straightforward race…but then nothing is straightforward in Formula One.

2012 Pirelli’s – Help or Hindrance?

Ever since the Italian tyre manufacturer Pirelli was drawn into the sport at the start of last season, they have either been lauded or critisised for creating a confusing and highly complex tyre, which evolves and degrades in abnormal patterns.

Praise tends to come from the Team Principles, the FIA, Bernie Ecclestone and of course the fans, as the tyres allow for unpredictable races and results, none more so than this year, with 4 different drivers from 4 different teams winning the first 4 races. This increasing unpredictability allows for a much highers global TV audiences as well. More racing, more fans. I mean who wants to remember the US Grand Prix in 2005?!

2012 Pirelli Tyres

However the criticisms are slowly beginning to creep in, and mainly from the drivers. Many of which, welcome unusual results, but not at the cost of actual driving ability. The problem that has become apparent this year is that to make a soft tyre go a few laps longer on the first stint, you have to drive off the limit, taking every corner smoothly and sacrifice perhaps up to 2 seconds per lap. Thats not racing now is it?

As Fernando Alonso rightly put it last week, “It’s like Real Madrid, Barcelona and AC Milan suddenly playing with the budget of Cesena.”

Normally racing in a 60 lap Formula One race should consist of 60 laps of F1 drivers, proving their worth as the finest in the world and driving the cars on the absolute limit of adhesion. But today’s Formula One consists of a driver trying to preserve a tyre and run around slightly conservatively so he wont have to make an extra pit stop during the race. It appears that losing 15 seconds saving a tyre is better than losing 20 seconds in the pit lane.

But Pirelli are only doing the job they were asked to do. It is not their fault, it is now up to the drivers to determine whether to run at maximum race pace or to run conservatively. No one can argue that the first 4 races, which have offered up to 4 different winners and results are great for the sport. But has it become somewhat artificial?

Marbles

Another issue with the Pirelli’s is the sheer amount of marbles going off-line on the track throughout a race. It is ruining the racing. Drivers are now no longer wanting to overtake in certain areas, in fear that they will damage their tyres by going  over the marbles. We saw it in Bahrain, where Kimi Raikkonen decided not to take to the inside of Sebastian Vettel at Turn One for the victory, as it was too slippery due to the excessive marbles on the track.

Paul Hembery of Pirelli summed it all up perfectly, “Racers are winners; they’re not happy unless they’re winning.”