Thats it. The end of a season is always sad, but like all fun things, there must be an end. Its been a pleasure engaging on Twitter and producing F1 oriented content for you all this year. I’ve got big plans for 2014, namely involving switching blogging platforms and taking everything I’ve learned from producing technology-oriented news, and applying it here. Have a good off-season everyone, it won’t be long before F1 2014 is in action!
The final Qualifying session of Formula 1 2013 got underway this weekend, with the predicted rain being the dominant factor in how the teams cultivated their running. It started off with most of the teams electing to run on the Intermediate tyre, before some started to talk about a potential crossover onto the dry, Medium tyre as a dry line started to appear in certain areas of the track.
The rain then came down, forcing most of the drivers to stay out and put in a lap time, to avoid the risk of loosing time to the increased intensity of the rain. Whilst most got their laps in, it was Lotus’ Heikki Kovalainen and the two Toro Rosso’s who were having to battle with the Williams of Pastor Maldonado. Kovalainen had issues with his previous team Caterham, as he found himself behind them on his laps, making him run wide an oversteer in the dirty air. He never the less, managed to just get a lap in at the end.
Then it was the Toro Rosso’s who elected to run a new set of Inters, as the used sets they were running were not providing them with the sharp tread edges, required to disperse the water at the rate needed, to get some purchase and traction out of the corners. Vergne managed to get a lap in, as did Riccardo in the end, with Maldonado loosing time in the last sector, ultimately deciding the drivers who will no longer take part in Qualifying.
Q2 started then, with what can only be described as under the same intensity of rain as the previous session. The two McLaren’s struggled, despite both of them having brand new sets to play with. Bottas was also unable to get a good lap time in for Williams. Towards the end, the two McLaren’s were fighting to try and stay in Qualifying, with Perez fighting his car a little too hard….
The rear snapped on him as he went up the hill into turn 6, and for a moment he held the slide before the paint on the rumble strip sent his car backwards and into the barrier, breaking the front wing and rear suspension in the process. Not the way I’m sure Perez wanted to complete his final Qualifying session of McLaren and indeed 2013 with.
Q3 was next, however as the conditions worsened towards the end of Q2, Race Control decided to delay the session by 30 minutes due to the amount of standing water on the track. We did eventually see running though. The two Red Bull’s were posting some quick lap times initially, with the Mercedes of Rosberg looking fast. Romain Grosjean could only manage P6, after he could not find enough pace on the Intermediates.
Alonso however, was looking quick. With Vettel at the top, he was the only one that could rain on his parade. Fernando put in his fastest sector one, before going off at turn 4, which pretty much ended his run for pole. Rosberg posted a pretty competitive lap, six tenths slower than Vettel. Whilst Mark Webber will start P4 in his final Grand Prix.
Its almost certainly going to be a wet race tomorrow. If its not then we don’t really know what to expect from the dry tyres. But for the wets, to echo what we said before, it will be all about the crossover point between the two tyres should the rain be intense at the start. Even for the wets, it will still be important.
1. Sebastian Vettel - 1:26.479
2. Nico Rosberg - 1:27.102
3. Fernando Alonso - 1:27.539
4. Mark Webber - 1:27.572
5. Lewis Hamilton - 1:27.677
6. Romain Grosjean - 1:27.737
7. Daniel Ricciardo - 1:28.052
8. Jean-Eric Vergne - 1:28.081
9. Felipe Massa - 1:28.109
10. Nico Hulkenberg - 1:29.582
11. Heikki Kovalainen - 1:27.456
12. Paul di Resta - 1:27.798
13. Valtteri Bottas - 1:27.954
14. Sergio Perez - 1:28.269
15. Jenson Button - 1:28.308
16. Adrian Sutil - 1:28.586
17. Pastor Maldonado - 1:27.367
18. Esteban Gutierrez - 1:27.445
19. Charles Pic - 1:27.843
20. Giedo van der Garde - 1:28.32
21. Jules Bianchi - 1:28.366
22. Max Chilton - 1:28.950
Whilst the rain still interrupted practice this morning, the teams had to use the track conditions to their advantage, as the crossover point between the Full Wet and Intermediate tyre could prove to be crucial in both Qualifying today and the Race tomorrow.
The times being done by drivers who went out initially; Sauber, Marussia, Mercedes, and Force India were all in the low 1:35s, 1:34s on the Full Wets. Then as conditions improved, we started to see the crossover point become more apparent, as the drivers dipped into the mid 1:31s, high 1:30s.
Then with fifteen minutes to go before the session ends, the rain stopped coming down and teams started to think about switching to Inters. Mark Webber was first out, immediately setting a lap time three seconds faster then everyone else by lapping in the high 1:27. Romain Grosjean also posted a competitive time in the low 1:28s.
A team that didn’t do much running however, was Ferrari. After their install laps, Alonso and Massa looked chilled in the garage as they saved their allocated set of Wet tyres for Qualifying and the Race. The reason being because, if we have a similar situation in either session, he who has the newer, sharper tyres, will be able to cope better in the greasier conditions.
Sebastien Vettel also limited his running in Practice Three, however we saw a number of drivers still struggling with balance. Lewis Hamilton in particular, was not happy with his car, nor was the two Saubers, who were seemingly locking up at some of the higher speed corners. They had to use their tyres, in a bid to find the right setup. Whether or not that will compromise the amount of laps they will do in Qualifying will be interesting, as it could leave them more vulnerable if the track is evolving at a high rate.
Anyway, we’ll know in the next hour, when the final Qualifying session of F1 2013 commences.
The final F1 weekend on the year is underway at Brazil, with the drivers having to bring out their swimming goggles for both sessions. Rain stopped the teams from running the Pirelli 2014 development tyres, with only the Intermediate and Wet tyres being run by the teams today. Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastien Vettel were the top three in both practice sessions today, even though the Red Bull only went out with the 15 minutes to go in the session.
Vettel did get some running on the development tyre in Practice 1, but it was only a lap and a half before the team called him in, with his race engineer Guillaume Rocquelin telling him that they "have all of the data we need." After a lap and a half in damp conditions on dry tyres, decide for yourselves whether or not that information will be crucial for next year.
As for any dry running, we expect the teams to get some in tomorrow at least in Practice 3 or Qualifying. The race could also be dry, but there is a 65 per-cent chance of rain affecting running, as is the case tomorrow. Chances are we might see dry Practice 3 running, then maybe a rain interrupted Qualifying thats something along the lines of 2010, where dry tyres will be used to set lap times towards the end.
Pirelli’s Paul Hembery however, thinks the conditions we saw today will be representative for the rest of the weekend, so the running was relevant for the teams. "The conditions we saw are likely to continue for the rest of the weekend, so it was useful for the teams to establish a wet set-up and assess the performance of the wet and intermediate tyres with different fuel loads."
"It was a pity that the drivers didn’t get the chance to try the development tyres as this was an important opportunity," he continued. "On the other hand, the 2014 tyres are obviously designed for a completely different type of car to what we see competing for the final time this weekend, so there was only a limited amount to learn anyway. In the end the situation was just a bit unlucky, as on the two previous occasions that we brought development tyres to Brazil in 2011 and 2012, conditions remained dry on a Friday.
As for which tyre is the strongest, "The intermediate tyre has shown itself to be very adaptable yet durable over a wide range of conditions," says Hembery. "It’s hard to predict a strategy under these circumstances, as in the end it’s the most quick-thinking and flexible tactics that tend to win in the rain – and of course there’s always an element of luck as well.”
One of the teams that will be praying for a crazy wet race on Sunday will be Caterham, who are looking at finishing ahead of Marussia again in the championship. At the moment they are last because Marussia managed to finish in 13th place, so it will be both Pic and Van Der Garde’s job to try and match or better that this weekend.
Mercedes meanwhile, believe their best chance of winning will also be if there is a wet race, since their car seems to suit those conditions better, as evidenced earlier this year in Australia. McLaren also think wet conditions are their best bet for a good race, with Sauber looking more at a dry race for balance purposes.
1 Sebastian Vettel
2 Romain Grosjean
3 Mark Webber
4 Lewis Hamilton
5 Fernando Alonso
6 Nico Hulkenberg
7 Sergio Perez
8 Valtteri Bottas
9 Nico Rosberg
10 Jenson Button
11 Daniel Ricciardo
12 Felipe Massa
13 Esteban Gutierrez
14 Heikki Kovalainen
15 Paul di Resta
16 Pastor Maldonado
17 Jean-Eric Vergne [Time Penalty +20 Seconds]
18 Jules Bianchi
19 Giedo van der Garde
20 Charles Pic
21 Max Chilton
22 Adrian Sutil - DNF [Collision]
Pirelli are expecting the one-stop strategy to be the favourite amongst drivers today. With them bringing the hard and medium compound tyre to Austin this weekend, it will be all about track temperature as the races progresses. As exhibited in qualifying, a lot of drivers suffered a change in their cars pace as the track temperature went down a couple of degrees from what it was in Practice Three.
Jenson Button in particular, who has been struggling this year with the cars consistency just wasn’t showing the clear pace that McLaren have due to these circumstances. It wasn’t all bad for some though. William’s Valteri Bottas managed to get into Q3 after he found some pace in the car. Both Sauber’s were also looking strong, with Hulkenberg in a solid 4th place.
Lotus’ Romain Grosjean also showed some cunning pace, with his new teammate for the next two races Heikki Kovalainen also showing some outstanding pace in the Lotus qualifying in P8. Mercedes are set to be among those who struggle, with McLaren also expected.
“Our tyre choice here is on the conservative side, which means that getting the tyres up to the right temperature was important. That was not necessarily an easy task today as the track temperature actually fell slightly during the session, which is not the normal pattern we see in qualifying,” says Pirelli’s Paul Hembery. So obviously the track temperature will be something to look out for this afternoon. We expect it to be in the thirty degrees range.
"Tyre wear and degradation should not be a considerable factor for the race with either compound. As a result, we will probably see just one pit stop for most runners, as was the case last year," says Hembery. The one-stop is theoretically the fastest strategy for the 56-lap Grand Prix; which means starting on the Medium, then switching to the Hards around lap 19.
We predict some might go to lap 26 - 28, providing the track conditions are consistent in the first opening laps. That one-stop could easily turn into a two-stop for some though. If someone in the midfield decides to run it and the track conditions do change, expect there to be a mad dash to the pitline as if its just started to rain.
An alternative to the Medium/Hard one-stop strategy would be the Hard/Medium; start on the hards and finish on the Mediums with 19 laps to go.
1. Sebastian Vettel - 1:36.338
2. Mark Webber - 1:36.441
3. Romain Grosjean - 1:37.155
4. Nico Hulkenberg - 1:37.296
5. Lewis Hamilton 1:37.345
6. Fernando Alonso - 1:37.376
7. Sergio Perez 1:37.452
8. Heikki Kovalainen - 1:37.715
9. Valtteri Bottas - 1:37.836
10. Daniel Ricciardo - 1:38.131
11. Paul di Resta - 1:38.139
12. Nico Rosberg - 1:38.364
13. Felipe Massa - 1:38.592
14. Jean-Eric Vergne - 1:38.696
15. Jenson Button - 1:38.217
16. Adrian Sutil - 1:39.25
17. Pastor Maldonado - 1:39.351
18. Giedo van der Garde - 1:40.491
19. Jules Bianchi - 1:40.528
20. Esteban Gutierrez - 1:38.034
21. Max Chilton - 1:41.401
22. Charles Pic - 1:40.596
We’re in Austin, Texas this weekend for what has only just recently become our favourite race on the calendar. F1’s break into the United States has been epic so far, with the successful run of the 2012 US GP last year, the sport it well on its way to turning many heads away from the catastrophe that was the 2005 US GP held at Indianapolis. The penultimate race of the season is really about points for the teams, which means gasping the tyres over the weekend will be key to ensuring that they take home as many points as possible.
Pirelli have made it somewhat easier for the teams this weekend, nominating the satsuma orange Hard tyre and the white-marked Medium compound tyre. Pirelli say that the nomination is a good test of the tyre’s all-round ability, with traction demands out of slow corners just as important as lateral grip through the high-speed changes of direction that are also a key characteristic of the Circuit of the Americas.
“When you have more energy going through the tyre, you have a bigger heat build-up - which is what increases wear and degradation,” says Pirelli’s Paul Hembery. “Now that we’re coming to the USA for the second time we have a better idea of what to expect, whereas last year - when we also nominated the hard and the medium - it was much more of a step into the unknown.”
“This year’s compounds are softer, so we would expect around two pit stops in the race, depending also on the rate of track evolution,” says Hembery. Practice One saw a lot of track evolution, with the Medium tyre degrading more so than the Hard. But both compounds seem to be “hanging on” according to McLaren driver Jenson Button.
In terms of strategy prediction, based on the data in both Practice One and Practice Two, Hembery says that “we could well be looking at a one-stop race for most runners, as was the case last year, although some may try two stops if they feel it offers a speed advantage.” The medium tyre will be the one to qualify on for the drivers, which means the pitstop window could be between lap 18 for most, with the ones kinder to their tyres looking at lap 26 - 28.
The times in practice three will be something to look at, as the teams finalise their setups for Qualifying later in the day.
1 Sebastian Vettel - 1:37.305
2 Mark Webber - 1:37.420
3 Nico Rosberg - 1:37.785
4 Lewis Hamilton - 1:37.958
5 Heikki Kovalainen - 1:38.073
6 Esteban Gutierrez - 1:38.229
7 Nico Hulkenberg - 1:38.254
8 Romain Grosjean - 1:38.255
9 Jenson Button - 1:38.269
10 Fernando Alonso - 1:38.461
11 Valtteri Bottas - 1:39.512
12 Adrian Sutil - 1:38.719
13 Felipe Massa - 1:38.938
14 Sergio Perez - 1:38.941
15 Pastor Maldonado - 1:39.784
16 Daniel Ricciardo - 1:39.246
17 Paul di Resta - 1:39.410
18 Jean-Eric Vergne - 1:39.579
19 Daniil Kvyat - 1:40.065 [Practice 1]
20 Charles Pic - 1:40.376
21 Giedo van der Garde - 1:40.563
22 Alexander Rossi - 1:41.399 [Practice 1]
23 Max Chilton - 1:46.226
24 Rodolfo Gonzalez - 1:43.716 [Practice 1]
25 Jules Bianchi - 1:47.987
1 Sebastian Vettel
2 Mark Webber
3 Nico Rosberg
4 Romain Grosjean
5 Fernando Alonso
6 Paul di Resta
7 Lewis Hamilton
8 Felipe Massa
9 Adrian Sutil
10 Sergio Perez
11 Pastor Maldonado
12 Jenson Button
13 Esteban Gutierrez
14 Nico Hulkenberg
15 Valtteri Bottas
16 Daniel Ricciardo
17 Jean-Eric Vergne
18 Giedo van der Garde
19 Charles Pic
20 Jules Bianchi
21 Max Chilton
22 Kimi Raikkonen - DNF: Collision