Barcelona Test 2: Days 1 and 2 Long Runs

Posted on March 2, 2012

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A combination of time available and the fact that the long runs from day 1 at the final pre-season test at Barcelona didn’t give too much away have resulted in an update only after the second day of the test. Apart from Massa’s run, there was little to go on as the long runs were essentially isolated meaning that inferring a fuel load is too speculative. From day 2, the runs of Grosjean (Lotus) and Alonso (Ferrari) are clearly worth a look. So we’ll focus on these three runs with the obvious caveats that Massa was running on a different day. The tyre types have been taken from the Autosport Live commentary.

The stints shown are:

Massa: soft-soft-soft-hard

Grosjean: soft-soft-soft-hard

Alonso: medium-soft-soft-medium-medium

As the timing suggests that the cars did not go into the garage, we should not have to concern ourselves with refuelling, which will make things easier. As it seems that this is the case, then we should be able to infer how the different cars are behaving relatively on softer and harder rubber, and get an indication of the pace difference on the different tyre types – at least on the Ferrari.

A ‘race’ history chart has been constructed using the laptimes, with fictional in/out laps. First up are the traces of the three runs, and below them are the individual runs with the model fits. Massa is in red (with crosses), Alonso also in red (no crosses) and Grosjean in yellow.

The races are very close, only a few seconds would separate the three cars at the finish. Alonso seems to have higher tyre degradation than the others, especially in his soft tyred stints (2 and 3), but apart from that there really is very little to choose between them. I have fitted each of these races using the intelligentF1 model, and the individual fits are below.

Massa:

The fit for Massa is pretty good. The pace on softs at the start is pretty much the same as Vettel’s pace from the previous test (but I think he was on hards). The degradation (just over 0.2s per lap in the fit) in the later stints is higher than in the first stint, and although I can get the first two stints to match on pace, the third stint is about 0.5s slower. The pace on the hard tyres at the end is 0.9s slower than on the softs for my fit.

Grosjean:

For Grosjean, the fit looks very similar to Massa’s. Uncannily, the fit on pace is identical for the soft tyres, and 0.3s slower than Massa (so a 1.2s gap) for the hard tyres. This would suggest that Lotus and Ferrari are as closely matched as it appears at first glance. There may be a few tenths hidden, but these teams are showing very similar pace.

Alonso:

The trace of Alonso seems to be fitted less well than the other two. This is only partially true, as the early parts of the two stints on soft tyres (stints 2 and 3) and the second stint on mediums (stint 4) are OK (in terms of matching the gradients – which is pace) with the degradation model used here (same as for Massa), but the second half of the stints show significantly higher degradation. The immediate thought is that the tyres are just plain older than Massa’s. This makes the fits look less convincing, but I think that they are just as representative of the car’s pace. Once more, the pace on softs used in this fit is identical to that used for Grosjean and Massa. The pace on the mediums is 0.6s slower by this fit, and the fit is pretty good for the first and last stints, which is a pretty good test for the fuel model as the further apart the stints, the more sensitive it is. Indeed, this is a key reason to stay with the fuel model as the third stints of Massa and Grosjean could have been fitted more nicely using a slightly lower fuel effect.

So overall, even though Grosjean’s ‘race’ seemed more impressive than Alonso’s today, this suggests that the Lotus and Ferrari cars are very closely matched at this stage of testing, with the Ferrari being marginally better on the hard tyre. This also gives the first assessment (at least on this blog) of the gaps in pace between compounds, with the soft tyre looking order 0.5s faster than the medium, with another 0.5s to the hard. This is consistent with the numbers I have seen (on Autosport, I think) being suggested by Pirelli, which is comforting.

Here’s hoping that some other teams run very similar simulations over the next two days.

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