German Grand Prix: Friday Practice

Posted on July 6, 2013


So it’s all change for the Nurburgring then. New tyres with kevlar belts and restrictions on their use are going to shake up the competitive order and split the season into two clear halves. The sensitivities of running tyres sensitive to temperature with different heat retention properties are going to move different cars in and out of the performance window, and the championships will depend on the whims of Pirelli.

Not a bit of it. In fact the suggestion from Friday is that we have a very similar competitive order to that which we saw at Silverstone. Without exploding tyres. There are a few differences, but more of that later.

The tyre compounds brought to Germany are the soft and the medium, and as at the other races where we have seen the soft tyre as the option compound, there is a big difference in one-lap pace between the two and a huge difference in tyre life. It was easy to pick out the runs on the different compunds from the data as the soft degraded quickly as was running around six laps, and th medium was running consistently for more than 20 laps – in fact the degradation pretty much matched the fuel effect (so even laptimes) and there were no signs (at all) of phase 2 degradation. So for the front runners, we are looking at a strategy of soft-medium-medium. Unless there are major changes to the track conditions, two stops with two stints on the mediums looks like the most likely strategy. Soft-medium-medium-medium is a possibility, especially if the first stint ends up being very short – but if the teams are thinking about that, then we may see some saving primes in Q1 as Mercedes did at Silverstone.

From FP2 we have long run data from everyone bar Raikkonen and Bianchi. As always, I’ve put this on a race history chart, which is below:


In many ways this looks just like the plot from Silverstone. In fact it is so similar, here’s the Silverstone plot for comparison:


The real differences between the two are that Toro Rosso and Force India look less competitive, and Sauber look better. For the rest, it’s pretty much as you were. So much for the dramatic shake up in the competitive order.

Basically, Red Bull are quickest followed by Ferrari and Lotus. Mercedes are behind, but this seemed to be fuel effect in FP2 at Silverstone and there’s no reason (given that the picture is almost the same) to think they’re not doing the same here. Then we have a gap behind the first four teams.

Force India, McLaren, Toro Rosso and Sauber look to be fighting over the minor points and Pic’s run bodes well for Caterham. In fact Pic and Maldonado were closely matched, as were Bottas and van der Garde – but the latter were a lot slower. Marussia (or Chilton at least) seem to be a little adrift.

So the pace table looks like this:

  • +0.0s Vettel
  • +0.1s Webber
  • +0.2s Alonso (but not consistently)
  • +0.3s Grosjean (but very short stint)
  • +0.5s Massa
  • +0.6s Rosberg (actually slightly closer to Red Bull than at Silverstone FP2)
  • +0.8s Hamilton/Gutierrez (fuel load? much faster than Hulkenburg)
  • +1.5s Di Resta
  • +1.6s Button
  • +1.7s Sutil/Hulkenburg/Ricciardo
  • +2.0s Perez
  • +2.2s Vergne/Pic
  • +2.4s Maldonado
  • +2.7s van der Garde
  • +2.9s Bottas
  • +4.0s Chilton

So the biggest question is over the competitiveness of Mercedes, as the fact that the data matches Silverstone suggests that they will be thereabouts. Lotus are a bit of a mystery as well, as they did more work on the soft tyre and seemed to learn that it wasn’t a viable race tyre. Their race pace looks OK – but the uncertainty is quite high. Red Bull look strong.

If you were hoping for a big shake up with the tyres, then I’ll think you’ll be disappointed. Maybe in Hungary…