Tyre tweaks make no difference to Mercedes’ lead

2015 Italian Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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F1’s effort to draw a curtain across the explosive tyre failures seen during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend has not been an exercise in subtlety.

After FOM issued a rare, gushing statement in praise of its official tyre supplier yesterday, Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery today spoke of a desire to see everyone “singing off the same hymn sheet” when concerns about their tyres arose.

But while he tried to characterise the reaction to the two high-speed tyre blow-outs in Belgium as “exaggerated”, Pirelli’s attempt to enforce a significant change in tyre pressure limits ahead of the Monza race weekend spoke volumes about how seriously they were taking the problem.

Increasing the tyre pressures has been Pirelli’s typical response to the kind of failures seen at Spa two weeks ago. Comparisons can be drawn with similar problems at other high-speed venues, notably Silverstone in 2013 and Spa in 2011.

Forcing teams to use higher tyre pressure reduces the amount of the tyre’s surface area which is in contact with the road and eases the strain on the sidewalls. This comes at a cost of performance, so inevitably it is going to be resisted by the teams.

Pirelli originally called for front tyre pressures to be increased to 23psi this weekend – 5psi higher than the same race 12 months ago, a substantial hike. Such was the opposition to this from some quarters – Lewis Hamilton described it as a “disaster” – that Pirelli gradually began to cede ground.

Various revised figures have circulated since then and at the time of writing the new limits are understood to be 21psi for the front tyres and 19.5 for the rears. Such was the confusion over the back-and-forth between Pirelli and the teams that Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner admitted he was “not exactly sure” what the latest pressures were. “They seem to go up and down like a fiddler’s elbow,” he joked.

Teams also face limits on the amount of camber they can run. This is the extent to which the top of the tyre appears to lean in towards the car, which is done to maximise the tyre’s contact patch while cornering. The camber is being restricted to -3° at the front and -2° at the rear, compared to -3.5°/-2.5° last year.

One-stop strategies are the norm at Monza and with no red flags during today’s second practice session drivers were able to complete relevant mileage on the rubber without any failures occurring. At Spa, however, dozens of cuts had been observed on tyres which did not lead to any problems. So any problems which do exist may lie beneath the surface – literally and figuratively.

All this proved incidental in terms of the competitive order on the track. Mercedes enjoyed their usual comfortable cushion over their rivals, amplified by this being a power circuit and the W06s having the latest example of the three-pointed star’s motor.

Ferrari at least occupied the ‘best of the rest’ spot at their home event, albeit three-quarters of a second off the pace setters. Force India, whose revised VJM08 is extremely efficient in a straight line, produced enviable top speeds and had both cars in the top five in both sessions.

Williams, as usual, seemed to have a lot left in hand. “We’ve tested a myriad of mechanical components,” admitted head of performance engineering Rob Smedley, “new transmission developments, new suspension developments, plus other developments which we’re putting in the pipeline for the future”.

Ferrari’s preference for the softer tyre compounds and the sunny conditions expected on Sunday may well put them in a strong position for race day. But on one-lap pace the Mercedes-powered runners are likely to have a lot of fun in qualifying and could shuffle the red cars back to the fourth or even fifth row of the grid.

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Longest stint comparison – second practice

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


Lewis Hamilton87.92787.64388.62692.9987.21987.35589.77487.988
Nico Rosberg87.81288.02487.90187.97888.23587.07487.56488.26190.11188.39888.91988.31491.25588.188.205
Daniel Ricciardo88.37188.76288.82689.6689.23690.07389.47290.04589.39589.41389.62789.18989.14889.09688.9689.1389.66789.697
Daniil Kvyat89.6789.33989.21489.20989.13989.63689.87489.39589.47389.80489.86489.32889.45489.52589.626
Felipe Massa89.06389.20289.03888.91988.67793.76188.89589.04789.76989.59489.3689.30789.644
Valtteri Bottas88.59488.75288.62988.46788.51688.43388.31788.21288.89789.32788.82589.12689.11289.20389.07989.50589.49189.82594.371
Sebastian Vettel88.96688.76988.72588.68188.45788.54888.86188.64388.73288.83988.70288.72788.70388.82889.06789.137
Kimi Raikkonen88.12288.38288.55888.28688.70588.588.17988.45889.0588.27889.56988.58388.67588.70688.94489.19188.57388.788
Fernando Alonso90.78390.75490.72791.27591.12192.33891.68591.2890.893
Nico Hulkenberg89.50289.1289.02488.98488.67989.21388.88789.20689.22890.73489.43689.35889.46389.33489.6289.59489.58489.804
Sergio Perez89.28588.99188.70588.62888.77289.52789.64889.65689.36789.18591.55689.55989.47889.72890.18990.684
Max Verstappen89.08388.81389.10790.0789.67489.5789.3389.34989.29589.44190.41889.6689.48190.435
Carlos Sainz Jnr88.55389.61589.17189.01489.09288.89188.86788.789.49489.08288.99588.72788.94388.98989.0989.19189.60289.4889.117
Romain Grosjean89.55788.9289.08889.189.17790.15791.29291.19291.00190.66290.91590.33690.19190.39390.25390.33490.59490.219
Pastor Maldonado89.80888.77789.41391.6289.21390.72590.01990.38989.95189.79190.11390.60290.7490.99990.63790.69190.7991.599
Marcus Ericsson89.48989.61990.07389.71189.73589.54989.6689.857
Felipe Nasr90.21290.13191.6590.54490.23789.9690.12190.254
Will Stevens92.68392.37592.44992.45493.11992.27491.97693.44592.52593.25592.81592.48892.5992.663
Roberto Merhi92.3992.64192.15493.37892.9192.88693.29792.07293.68692.03692.04792.37592.50994.89197.93894.199

Complete practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’24.6701’24.27952
2Nico RosbergMercedes1’25.1331’24.30057
3Sebastian VettelFerrari1’26.2581’25.03853
4Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’26.7301’25.27863
5Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1’26.6121’25.32562
6Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’26.7831’25.38055
7Romain GrosjeanLotus-Mercedes1’25.49741
8Pastor MaldonadoLotus-Mercedes1’27.1181’25.51369
9Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes1’27.0751’25.64759
10Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes1’26.9361’25.89153
11Felipe NasrSauber-Ferrari1’27.2321’26.11451
12Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’27.4541’26.13349
13Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-Renault1’26.9221’26.22254
14Max VerstappenToro Rosso-Renault1’27.5911’26.45465
15Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso-Renault1’27.9071’26.64158
16Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Honda1’28.0231’26.96642
17Daniil KvyatRed Bull-Renault1’27.2751’28.72357
18Jolyon PalmerLotus-Mercedes1’27.66928
19Will StevensManor-Ferrari1’29.8531’28.20151
20Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Honda1’28.4231’28.47115
21Roberto MerhiManor-Ferrari1’29.9111’28.43939

2015 Italian 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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15 comments on “Tyre tweaks make no difference to Mercedes’ lead”

  1. It would be great to have a discussion of long stint times with a description of tires used, drop off points, and laps done. This is key info and none of the F1 websites seem to provide these details. This page is the best there is so far as I can find, but it is too sketchy.

    1. I would consider putting the focus more on that if I thought there was demand for it – my past experience has shown there is nothing like the level of interest necessary to sustain the time and effort which producing that kind of analysis would require. Particularly given that we’re talking about an article which will be of zero interest to anyone once the chequered flag falls on Sunday, and that spending more time on this would have a knock-on effect on other areas of the site. But as I say I’m always open to change, and I’d be interested to hear what others have to say.

      1. These articles are the only ones I always look for after friday practices.

      2. Hi Keith

        My suggestion would be changing the longest stint comparison chart by using two colours or line types for each driver. The harder compound laps could be just dotted lines for example. This way the chart gives a bit more info.

        So if Lewis for example does 20 laps on softs those laps would be grey. Then he does further 25 laps with harder tyre and those laps would be grey dots.

        Just a thought.

        1. Sorry I realised after I had sent the comment, that my suggestion only works if all laps included in that chart. Well, could exclude slowest laps just like you do now. But then it would not be the longest stint comparison anymore. What about two charts..one for each compound and longest stint?

      3. I’d also like to see it but I understand you don’t have an army of interns to crack this out in a couple hours on Friday afternoons. Even if you would charge for it, hard to see that it could be priced higher than marginal cost.

        However I think it would have value after Sundays. What is going on in fp2 is basically a mystery now and the NBC commenters are basically killing time, talking about all sorts of stuff, because they don’t have any context to know what is happening for specific cars. Knowing what is happening in detail for this race would let people get more out of the next race practice sessions, and so on. I think about it as how, in olden days, there would be detailed analysis of testing. Now, fp is the testing, but we don’t have the same coverage.

      4. I think the actual times they’re running tends to mean very little on Sunday as conditions are always better and the combination of free air and track position completely outweighs any advantages we tend to see on Fridays.

        I can’t think how many times commentators have said things along the lines of “Ferrari were running .5 seconds a lap quicker than the Mercs in free practice” then on Sunday the Mercs get the setup right, put it into race mode, get into clean air at the front and drive away.

        I think the information provided here is great and provides enough indicators of performance but getting into things like tyre drop-off etc seem pointless especially this season when the tyres have been pretty much nullified.

      5. A quick overview on the order of fastest drivers and cars on each compound and from this what the order appears to be for the race in this sites opinion?

        Then again I can see for myself in a way using the graph.

    2. I’d like to believe there are many other variables that make an F1 lap time, besides the state of the tyres. Particularly in Friday practice – Williams are just one team that’s happy to say they’re testing a multitude of parts (got to wonder what, at a unique track such as Monza!).

      Looks like Noah may be lowering the ark’s gangplank ready for qualifying, but Williams are higher up than usual on a Friday. And the Renault four much further down.

      1. Looks like Williams is out to emphasize that they’re not simply running their cars in qualy trim earlier than usual, and thus that their impressive pace is genuine

    3. I too would love to at least see the tires used on the stints. I use a varitey of F1 websites and the thing F1 Fanatic is always best for is the Predictions Championship, the championship standings update very soon after the race and the Friday Practice Analysis. This is pretty much the site to have good Friday practice analysis.

      1. *the only site to have good Friday practice analysis

  2. Whatever you do, don’t click on a mclaren’s box. At least be sitting down first. It’s chilling.

    Williams could be in for third if they can qualify well and don’t make another silly error. Strong pace.

    1. No worries about that. They’re famous for sandbagging on Fridays. Oh..wait..that’s Williams.

      Alonso almost topped the charts here – Manor better watch out.

      Honda’s ERS development was always dependent on reliable, small fusion generators. Blame the nuclear physicists for not getting with the size 0 program. ;-)

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