Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Shanghai, 2012

Mercedes’ double DRS could put them in contention for pole

2012 Chinese Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Shanghai, 2012Several teams struggled to come to terms with much lower temperature during practice in China today compared to what was seen in Malaysia. From 45C and above in Sepang, track temperatures in Shanghai struggled to pass 15C.

At teams, such as McLaren, drivers had different reactions to the cool temperatures. Lewis Hamilton said he’d had a “great day” but Jenson Button was clearly unhappy with his car’s balance.

“I was trying to find a good set-up but the cold weather made it difficult to understand the car because the tyres weren’t working perfectly,” Button explained.

“Tomorrow should be a bit warmer than today ?ǣ we don?t quite understand the tyre temperatures and can?t get them quite in the right area. And if we make a set-up change and the tyre temperature changes by five or ten degrees, then that change goes out the window.”

Longest stint comparison

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint:


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Sebastian Vettel 103.775 103.046 102.815 103.011 103.072 103.78 103.348
Mark Webber 103.129 103.36 102.868 103.131 102.571 102.701
Jenson Button 102.657 102.993 108.385 105.528
Lewis Hamilton 104.323 102.833 102.602 102.565 103.054
Fernando Alonso 102.798 103.009 105.284 102.957 103.461 104.67 103.52 104.288 104.033
Felipe Massa 104.433 104.846 104.25 103.465 103.549 108.271 103.933 107.856 104.145 106.786
Michael Schumacher 103.91 104.159 103.642 104.933 104.511 104.27 104.474 105.606
Nico Rosberg 103.168 103.413 103.354 103.768 104.449 105.017 104.063 110.837 104.773
Kimi Raikkonen 98.698 98.362 98.699 100.095 105.093 99.389
Romain Grosjean 110.293 102.385 104.207 102.049
Paul di Resta 102.674 103.09 103.463 103.122 103.193 103.175 103.393 103.095
Nico Hulkenberg 104.503 103.015 103.169 103.082 103.545 103.152 103.473 103.425 104.037
Kamui Kobayashi 104.58 103.771 103.351 102.884 103.604 103.146 103.704 103.019 103.069 103.539 103.58
Sergio Perez 102.94 103.179 110.12 105.556 104.797 104.795 106.782
Daniel Ricciardo 104.28 104.22 104.06 103.943 109.945 104.636 104.736 105.653 105.378
Jean-Eric Vergne 104.448 104.104 104.11 104.463 109.42 104.754 104.29 104.147 105.298 104.392 104.141 105.185
Pastor Maldonado 103.516 103.375 103.787 109.937 104.193 103.425 103.172 104.006 103.243 103.366 103.198 103.92
Bruno Senna 102.69 103.947 104.033 103.095 103.049 104.619 104.211 107.597 104.735
Heikki Kovalainen 103.413 102.95 103.122 102.816 102.809 103.34 104.573 106 104.363 103.838 105.647
Vitaly Petrov 118.039 104.316 102.237 101.6
Pedro de la Rosa 103.81 104.007 104.139 105 103.859 103.813
Narain Karthikeyan 105.698 105.504 104.472 106.967 104.312
Timo Glock 102.458 100.058 99.651 102.033 100.357
Charles Pic 105.912 103.236 102.826 102.503 102.415 102.795 103.238 103.458 102.016 102.469

Mercedes were quickest courtesy of Michael Schumacher’s 1’35.973 in the second session.

However Ross Brawn sounded a note of caution about their race pace, which was marked by high degradation in the first two races. Looking at their longest stints (above) the team still have some improvements to find in this area compared to McLaren and Red Bull.

Neither Timo Glock (who spun) nor Kimi Raikkonen did much in the way of high-fuel running.

Lotus were another team who struggled with tyre temperature and excessive understeer. During the second session Raikkonen’s engineer remarked to him that the car was “clearly not working properly”.

Team mate Romain Grosjean admitted: “We?re not where we would expect to be, partly due to the low temperature which we didn?t expect.

“We’ll analyse what?s changed coming from two warm weekends to here where it?s pretty cold and has changed the game.”

Sector times and ultimate lap times: Second practice

Car Driver Car Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3 Ultimate lap Gap Deficit to best
1 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 25.544 (6) 28.636 (2) 41.793 (1) 1’35.973 0.000
2 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 25.399 (1) 28.605 (1) 42.141 (6) 1’36.145 0.172 0.000
3 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 25.481 (3) 28.690 (4) 41.982 (2) 1’36.153 0.180 0.007
4 2 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 25.515 (4) 28.679 (3) 42.126 (4) 1’36.320 0.347 0.113
5 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 25.718 (11) 28.835 (5) 42.011 (3) 1’36.564 0.591 0.053
6 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 25.639 (8) 28.944 (6) 42.127 (5) 1’36.710 0.737 0.001
7 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 25.426 (2) 29.040 (9) 42.463 (10) 1’36.929 0.956 0.262
8 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 25.701 (10) 28.949 (7) 42.306 (7) 1’36.956 0.983 0.000
9 11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 25.541 (5) 29.077 (10) 42.348 (8) 1’36.966 0.993 0.000
10 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 25.623 (7) 29.129 (11) 42.414 (9) 1’37.166 1.193 0.150
11 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 25.787 (13) 28.991 (8) 42.556 (11) 1’37.334 1.361 0.083
12 16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 25.676 (9) 29.160 (12) 42.615 (12) 1’37.451 1.478 0.165
13 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 25.722 (12) 29.228 (13) 42.633 (13) 1’37.583 1.610 0.253
14 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 25.875 (15) 29.278 (15) 42.708 (15) 1’37.861 1.888 0.111
15 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 25.889 (16) 29.326 (16) 42.715 (16) 1’37.930 1.957 0.000
16 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 25.805 (14) 29.228 (13) 43.080 (18) 1’38.113 2.140 0.180
17 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 25.984 (18) 29.368 (17) 42.775 (17) 1’38.127 2.154 0.049
18 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 25.952 (17) 29.545 (18) 43.152 (20) 1’38.649 2.676 0.134
19 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 26.223 (20) 29.910 (20) 42.701 (14) 1’38.834 2.861 0.156
20 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 26.189 (19) 29.949 (21) 43.115 (19) 1’39.253 3.280 0.093
21 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 26.332 (21) 29.692 (19) 43.407 (21) 1’39.431 3.458 0.220
22 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 26.346 (22) 30.136 (23) 43.758 (22) 1’40.240 4.267 0.103
23 25 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 26.641 (23) 30.070 (22) 44.042 (24) 1’40.753 4.780 0.000
24 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 26.728 (24) 30.355 (24) 43.956 (23) 1’41.039 5.066 0.086

Red Bull, who tend to keep a low profile on Fridays, looked more competitive today. They ran an earlier version of the RB8’s exhaust in an effort to get to the bottom of their recent problems.

The car looked good on high fuel as it did in the first two races. Sebastian Vettel was cagey about the team’s progress: “It is tight between the cars. I haven?t seen everything, but I think overall we can be quite happy.

“We tried a lot of things today and now we need to go through everything and see what the best set-up is. If you look at the car, you can see a big difference compared to the set-up we used for Malaysia, but driving it?s hard to say, as I don?t have a comparison to this track.”

Lap times are significantly quicker here than last year. Schumacher’s fastest time in FP2 was 1.715s faster than Vettel’s best from the same session last year.

If that improvement is carried over to tomorrow it could bring them within range of the fastest time seen at the track. Last year’s pole position time of 1’33.706 was 1.468s off Schumacher’s record 1’32.238 from 2004.

Complete practice times

Pos Driver Car FP1 FP2
1 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’38.316 1’35.973
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1’37.106 1’36.145
3 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’39.198 1’36.160
4 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’38.977 1’36.433
5 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’38.116 1’36.617
6 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’39.199 1’36.711
7 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1’38.911 1’36.956
8 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1’36.966
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1’40.328 1’37.191
10 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’40.056 1’37.316
11 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1’38.584 1’37.417
12 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’39.748 1’37.616
13 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1’50.465 1’37.836
14 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’39.768 1’37.930
15 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1’41.204 1’37.972
16 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1’40.540 1’38.176
17 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’40.153 1’38.293
18 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1’38.783
19 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1’41.071 1’38.990
20 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1’39.346
21 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1’42.330 1’39.651
22 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1’40.298
23 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1’44.227 1’40.343
24 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1’44.500 1’40.753
25 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1’47.204 1’41.125
26 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1’42.521
27 Jules Bianchi Force India-Mercedes 1’44.118

On the face of it the situation looks grim for Ferrari with Fernando Alonso tenth and Felipe Massa 17th. However Massa had to abort his first soft-tyre run after Glock’s accident, so the picture isn’t quite as bad as it may seem.

Technical director Pat Fry said the upgrades the team brought have helped, but added: “We cannot ignore the fact that the characteristics of this track seem to be less suited to our car than Malaysia.

“Taking these two factors into consideration, I am not expecting anything new in terms of our positions on the grid: at the moment, our realistic expectation is somewhere between seventh and twelfth place.”

Speed trap: Second practice

# Driver Car Engine Max speed (kph) Gap
1 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes Mercedes 320.8
2 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Mercedes 320.7 0.1
3 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus Renault 320 0.8
4 15 Sergio Perez Sauber Ferrari 319.6 1.2
5 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham Renault 319.3 1.5
6 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso Ferrari 319.2 1.6
7 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham Renault 319.2 1.6
8 11 Paul di Resta Force India Mercedes 318.6 2.2
9 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 318.4 2.4
10 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault 317.5 3.3
11 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber Ferrari 316.4 4.4
12 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Renault 316.2 4.6
13 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault 315.7 5.1
14 16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso Ferrari 315.6 5.2
15 3 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes 314.1 6.7
16 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren Mercedes 313.7 7.1
17 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari 312.5 8.3
18 19 Bruno Senna Williams Renault 312.1 8.7
19 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams Renault 312.1 8.7
20 24 Timo Glock Marussia Cosworth 311.5 9.3
21 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT Cosworth 311.4 9.4
22 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT Cosworth 311.2 9.6
23 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari Ferrari 308.9 11.9
24 25 Charles Pic Marussia Cosworth 308.2 12.6

Call it a front wing F-duct, call it double DRS, whatever you call it Mercedes’ controversial rear wing system could put them on pole position this weekend.

While Hamilton’s McLaren was fastest in the first two sectors of the lap, Schumacher was two-tenths of a second quicker than anyone through the final portion of the lap, which includes that 1.4km flat-out blast to turn 14.

The two W03s were the fastest cars through the speed trap. They also had among the highest top speeds at the three intermediate points around the lap.

With 59% of the 5.4km lap spent at full throttle, Mercedes’ strong straight line speed is a major asset here.

2012 Chinese Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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52 comments on “Mercedes’ double DRS could put them in contention for pole”

  1. I think mercedes are in the mix to start the race from pole position, but i suspect Hamilton will have enough pace to get the outright quickest time in Q3.

    In the race however, i think its between Macca and RBR as Mercs tyre degredation is clearly hurting them.

    Intersting analysis by Gary Anderson regarding drivers race pace, Hamilton comfortably was the quickest overall in his race stint, the Red Bulls were lapping in the 1.43′s and on a couple of occassions ,only dipping into the 1.42′s. JB was lapping pretty much identical to the RBR’s. Hamilton however was lapping consistantly in the 1.42′s and and only on a couple of occassions lapped in the 43,s bracket.

    Overall, despite his grid penalty, i expect Hamilton’s going to be tough to beat.

    Source for Laps from FIA website: http://www.fia.com/en-GB/mediacentre/f1_media/Documents/chn-session2-times.pdf

    1. @mclaren have a link to Gary’s analysis mate?

    2. Unless hamilton can make a banzai start and leap frog the redbulls, I think p3 might be the best that he can achieve

      1. You saw the race last year, right?

        1. So technically, if Hamilton gets pole, does it count as pole then grid penalty? Or does it regulate him to P6 and therefore P2 is pole? In the latter case, it would mean that Hamilton should not be in the top 3 press conference at end of quali.

          1. I believe it’s the former.

    3. but you have to take in consideration the lenght of those hamilton’s quick lap times. only 6 laps whereas others have a longer streaks

      1. An awsome article, lets sure hope that Michael and Mercedes can carry the pace from today over to sunday. Then we are actually in for a shot at a podium.
        Great article Keith, with some stunning analyses.

  2. Yay, Thats good news! Go Merc

  3. Lap times are significantly quicker here than last year. Schumacher’s fastest time in FP2 was 1.715s faster than Vettel’s best from the same session last year.

    If that improvement is carried over to tomorrow it could bring them within range of the fastest time seen at the track. Last year’s pole position time of 1’33.706 was 1.468s off Schumacher’s record 1’32.238 from 2004.

    My expection is that, for some reason, the teams were running lower fuel today than they were last year, and that we will again (as in Malaysia) see a Q3 time that is slower than last year’s (I predicted Schumacher on pole with 01.34.872).

    Funny how so many teams seem to be caught out by the cold temperatures, especially since the weather forecast hasn’t changed much over the past week.

    Finally, I was wondering about McLaren’s pace in the final sector. I haven’t seen much of practice this morning, but were McLaren running a lot of wing, or do they tune down their engines more for practice than other teams?

  4. Come on my fellow Germans!

  5. wow wow wow. I love it when there is a re shuffle of the pack. Can’t believe I missed these two sessions. boooo.

    Even if Mercedes aren’t in with a win race pace cause of their tyres its still way cool and will make things heaps interesting. I know I am pretty easily satisfied but still this is really great.

    I think the five place grid penalty may end up being good for Lewis. If he wins it with a grid penalty he will be The Man, and it looks as though he has the pace to do it.

  6. I agree that Hamilton is the fastest in the stint…I think that top speed of Mercs’ will give them the opportunity to content for the pole…On the other hand, I’d like to see if on low temperatures the tyre degradation of Mercs will not be a problem…!

    1. yeah I think Merc might vie for pole now that LH will be docked 5 spots, but there’s still JB in his Mac…I think that what does not bode well for Merc though is that in spite of their ‘magic’ F-duct, they haven’t started on the front row yet…the Mac’s without an F-duct is faster on a single lap in quali so far.

      1. Why couldn’t Merc get pole on outright pace?

        1. Yeah they might, but they haven’t yet…that’s how fast the Macs have been and without the ‘trick’ F-duct…that’s all I’m saying…for sure there’s a good chance a Merc will get pole and probably sooner rather than later…just find it interesting that their innovation hasn’t prevented Mac, without said innovation, from getting one-two on the grid for the first two races.

  7. Quali laps by the mercs in Monza should be interesting.

    1. they will probably do a button and run more wing rather than go for a comedy top speed

      1. I don’t think that they will do a Button since the situation was different with the original McLaren “F-Duct” which could be used at any point during the race. If they run too much wing then they might take an easy pole position but will become sitting ducks in the race with high downforce and no DRS.

    2. Unless the other teams have copied the system by that point.

    3. i expect every top team to have spent millions of dollars by then developing their own double drs.

  8. “Taking these two factors into consideration, I am not expecting anything new in terms of our positions on the grid: at the moment, our realistic expectation is somewhere between seventh and twelfth place.”

    Read that as: “We’re expecting Fernando in 7th and Felipe in 12th.”

    1. Huge laughs for that one.

    2. That is hilarious :) :)

    3. I thought the exact same thing :P

  9. I think theres a very real danger of Alonso missing Q3, difficult times for Ferrari, it seems the harder they try the worse it gets for them, but chopping and changing personel is unlikely to be the answer, they need consistancy, and strong leaders, no point in making any more sacrices to ease pressure. But I fear that some more heads may roll soon.
    As for the Mercs, I really hope Schuey can stick it on pole then watch as he makes his car the widest on track as his tyres inevitably drop off before anyone elses (except Rosbergs of course) could make for a dramatic race especially with that top end advantage. McLarens will be bouncing off the limiters even DRS and KERS may not be enough, simply may not have the room at that end of the gears! I remember Jenson having that problem last year! If the weather holds this could be a brilliant race!

    1. Schumacher holding everyone else would be a blessing for a charging Hamilton. That is, If he doesn’t tangle with Maldonado, Massa or Grosjean, who will be for the first laps there or thereabout.

  10. I think I will use a typical testing theory: Lotus is sandbagging ;-)

  11. let them have their artificial pole. they will only finish 6-8th or so anyway in the race.

  12. How i would love for a Schumacher & Hamilton battle. There is a lot of talk of Mercedes and Hamilton but where will Button and Red Bull fit in ?

    1. Well I guess by the race, Button will have borrowed Hamilton’s set-up data to get a bit closer.

  13. I’m almost thinking Hamilton’s grid penalty might even do him a bit of good – he might shine a bit more if he knows he’s got to fight his way through the pack. Winning from 6th place? Stranger things have happened.

    1. It will do him a whole lot of good if he wins but what happens if he sticks it on pole, takes his penalty and finishes third again? That’s going to get pretty frustrating. I suppose the one positive if that happens is there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be leading the championship.

  14. The figures only showed that HAM had alot in store.

  15. DRS Sucks!

    1. COTD (well, I liked it).

  16. I would love to see Schumacher add to his pole tally, but I’d like to see Vettel add to his more…

  17. Does anyone know which exhaust configuration was used by redbull drivers?

    1. Vettel’s was supposed to have preseason testing config. Webber’s the latest config from last race. Remember that RBR changed the exhaust config in the last test(which made it to Australia and Malaysia)

  18. Alain (@paganbasque)
    13th April 2012, 18:00

    It surprises me a lot to see that Nico is clearly faster than Michael on the long stints, speciallly when Michael seems to be quite happy with the balance of the car and Nico is struggling a little bit more. Extrange, isnt it?

    1. Its weird to see that drivers like Webber and Schumacher can cope with less and unpredictable cars than the new guys like Rosberg and Vettel which are used to super gripy cars from 2006 onwards.

      1. It didin´t seem to me that Nico was that much faster or faster at all on the longer stints.We will see,who gets the most out of the Merc this time around.

  19. I doubted it, still it doesnt matter they are incapable of winning with that car, the Mclaren is too far ahead the Mclaren behaves completely different from any other car, dont know what is different but when a driver is complaining of understeer without blown diffuser thats good, the car looks very balanced and very low, very low centre of gravity unlike any other car.

  20. Mclaren needs to find some pace on the last sector, other than that things look good. Altough it’s a bit early to dranw certain conclusions

  21. If Red Bull haven’t shown their hand yet we could see another Vettel pole..

  22. If you take the long run lap times as an infallible race predictor it’s going to be Ham, Web, Vet, But, but that’s a big if, throw in the 5 place penalty and Webber is looking good for some more points this weekend and realistically so are Button and Vettel, on top of that you have to consider that Webber came from 18th. to 3rd. last year so Hamilton should be capable of winning from any place on the grid as long as it’s ahead of Massa.

  23. I was actually expecting a bigger gap from the speed trap for Mercedes. Only .8kph to Lotus isn’t much at all all things considered. Strange that McLaren were so far behind too. Are they going for a more downforce orientated set-up?

    1. Hi Andrew, yes I noticed that, if the Lotus could generate the downforce of the McLarens and have the top speed of the Mercedes then nobody would need Mercedes double DRS system. I think we know now why the Lotus chassis is not working.

  24. Kieth if Hamilton gets top time in Q3 will he still be given the pole position stat? Or will the 2nd place driver get it? I don’t think the second place driver deserves it as it is no fault of a driver for a cracked gearbox.

  25. I don’t like this ‘Double-DRS’ as once everyone starts developing it all thats going to happen is the system will get optimised, more drag will get dropped, DRS will thus produce a bigger speed gain & passing in the DRS zones will become even easier & more boring to watch.

    This is the fundamental flaw in DRS, fota/fia say they want it to get to a point where it doesnt produce easy/guaranteed/uncontested passing & will continue optimising the drs zones. However teams will always find a way to get more speed out of it & eventually we could see a point where even in smaller zones were getting boring/easy/uncontested DRS passing & that will only harm the racing.

  26. @keithcollantine You were right about Merc being a factor!

Comments are closed.