2012 Formula One Pirelli Tyre Analysis

Welcome to the Tyre Analysis for the 2012 Australian Grand Prix. Our Spreadsheet is now over eight megabytes in size thanks to some excellent work over the past week by Jez101 to create new features and prepare it for the new season. Not forgetting Sushifiesta’s input in the creating of the initial spreadsheet last year.

The spreadsheet collects data by taking the raw lap data, and it can work out how much fuel has been burned, and it also takes into account tyre age and condition at the start of the stint. Unusual lap times due to close proximity to other cars or errors are filtered out.

For this first race, the Soft (Yellow) and the Medium (White) were chosen. The top 5 drivers all went for Used Soft, New Medium, and New Medium. Vettel is the exception; his second stint was on another set of used Soft’s.

Let’s look at the Option Tyre first. I have selected some of the more interesting drivers for this graph. On the whole it seems to only show low wear; Albert Park has few high speed corners. There doesn’t look like there are any particularly severe gradients of tyre wear, certainly no cliffs that were present at some early races last season. Surprisingly the McLarens have the steepest curve, Button loses a second after 13 laps (that includes the three qualifying laps), and another second just three laps later. It seems that McLaren should have brought the drivers in earlier than they did, the time lost for Hamilton could have been the difference that cost him second place. There will be a special graph later on focusing on just the McLaren drivers.

Meanwhile at Red Bull, tyre wear was much less an issue, Vettel spent the longest of anyone bar Perez on a set of Soft’s, and lost only half a second of pace in over twenty laps. He was also the only front runner who used the Soft tyres twice, and it had no negative effect on his race. Webber also loses one second, but after just 16 laps. He still is much harder on his tyres than Vettel. Alonso follows a similar wear pattern to Webber; they spent the first stint very close to each other. Massa has the highest tyre wear, I can explanation I can think of is a bad setup which can cause heavy wear and low grip. Either way he had little choice but to attempt a three – stopper.

Lastly Perez, he managed to hold onto those tyres incredibly well. It isn’t just the car either; he preserved his tyres far better than Kobayashi as well. In thirty laps his tyres were only 2.3 seconds worse off than when the team put them on his car brand new.

The Medium Tyre instantly appears to wear very little, these curves a more horizontal than the Option tyre.. Several drivers’ curves are very straight, except Massa, but I won’t look into what was going on with his race. Senna spent 28 laps on the Prime tyre, and it wore by 1.1 seconds, this new Medium tyre seems to take the place of the old Soft tyre as the best all-rounder, it is still relatively fast in comparison to the Soft as you will see in the next graph. The two McLarens once again have very similar tyre degradation levels, once again there is little to choose between them. Vettel also has a similar wear level. Webber meanwhile loses his tyres quickly at first but then they seem to get better which can’t be right especially when he struggled so much more keeping the Soft tyres healthy. Alonso has a difficult time on the Mediums; he lost 1.6 seconds to tyre wear whilst the grid average was at about 0.8-0.9 seconds.


At first glance it looks like once again the gaps between the compounds are too large. They don’t crossover until lap 14, which is a little too late in my opinion. The wear is fairly gradual as well, nothing like the steep cliffs that we were treated to last year that made racing so exciting. Pirelli predicted that the difference between the compounds would be approximately six tenths of a second. The gap in fact begins at about six tenths of a second, and dropping down to minus one tenth after 22 laps. However the fastest fuel adjusted laps for each tyre were 0.603 seconds apart, so it was a very good estimate from Pirelli. One good thing is that the tyres are being used for similar race distances and so varied strategies can be used with similar outcomes.
Compared with last year’s tyres they are holding up much stronger, so I think more aggressive softer options should be considered for as yet undecided European rounds.


This is a special feature exclusively analysing the two McLaren drivers whose race tyre levels have created some discussion recently, so here is an attempt to settle that. For the Soft tyre between laps 12 and 18 they are losing grip at an almost identical rate. The Medium tyres also show very similar wear; Hamilton possibly had more wear at the end of the stint. All the dots on this graph are just raw scatter; the curves are lines of best fit. I can’t think of an explanation for the unusual start to Hamilton’s first (Option) stint. It may be that it looks bad as Button was pumping in fast laps at the start before settling down. I will let you draw any other conclusions yourself.

For Malaysia we can look forward to the Medium and Hard compound, I believe this is the first time that they have been used together.

If anyone wants a look at the spreadsheet just tell me and I will upload it.

Thanks for reading!

TC, Jez, and Sushi.
This has gone far beyond what I was expecting when I first started playing with trying to extract some stats on the tyres! Nice work guys!

Also, has anyone else noticed the new UBS Strategy Calculator on jamesallenonf1.com. I can't commit to anything right now but over the summer I may have the time and the interest to try and create a cliptheapex version, or something that predicts the fastest strategy based on the stats here. This would actually bring us full circle I think, because originally I was investigating the tyres to see whether jez's(?) assumption of linear tyre wear in a strategy spreadsheet he had was anything like realistic.
I pointed that link out to the guys a few days ago.
It would be interesting to feed the actual data in from Australia and see what it spits out.
We are "prototyping" something like this. What it says is that 2 stops and 1 stop were almost indiscernable for the average car, but as TC has highlighted the McLarens in particular have quite high wear on the options, so that would not have worked for them.
Looking at some of the other data, here is how the teams are (in general) stacking up on tyre deg.

McLaren - appears high on options, although this may have been fuel saving at the end of stints too. Fast and stable on the medium tyres.

Red Bull - Vettel lacked ultimate pace, but his deg on options was very low. Webber had higher wear on options, but not to the same degree as last year. Webber's prime tyre stints were fast early and held up very well indeed. Red Bull are going to be a major force, if not a dominant one. I'm looking forward to Malaysia where the wear was highest last year as this will answer a lot of questions.

Ferrari - Seemed scared of the options but Alonso did ok (no worse than the Mercs). His primes also were reasonably quick and stable. Massa had a 'mare, suffering higher deg than anyone else in the race.

Mercedes - the lack of pace in the race must be a real worry for the team that seemed on Saturday to be ready to fight for wins. Schuey was starting to fade quickly when he had to stop while Rosberg made his first stop on lap 12, paying the penalty with a 19 lap second stint on options where deg was quite high (2s by the end). Malaysia will be a massive test for Merc.

Lotus - very easy on tyres compared to Merc but only Kimi provided any data.

Force India - also very easy on tyres, but lacking any real speed.

Sauber - quick and reasonably good at keeping the tyres alive.

Williams - really easy on its tyres. Senna did 29 laps on his first set of mediums, losing perhaps 1s in that time. Maldonado's option run also stands out as being fast and consistent. Williams may be in very good shape?

Caterham - a weekend to forget for them after the hope from testing, but Petrov had a decent run on the mediums.

Overall, it seems that the McLaren and Red Bull have swapped roles a bit. Red Bull struggled in quali but had good race pace, just as Jenson and Lewis had last year. McLaren's qualifying speed was quite something so they could control the race. They could have gone faster (if they had put more fuel in for example), so maybe they are just giving Seb a dose of his own medicine?
Ultimate pace in Australia was about 1s slower than last year, with the fastest fuel adjusted lap being Button's lap 5 which was 1.27.684 taking fuel into account. Last year the fastest lap was a 1.26.6.
This is simply outstanding.

If I may ask one question, do you have any comment on Perez' strategy selection? Was it best for him, or could he have gone faster by doing something more conventional? And how was the tyre wear comparison between the Saubers?

So three questions then :D
This is simply outstanding.

If I may ask one question, do you have any comment on Perez' strategy selection? Was it best for him, or could he have gone faster by doing something more conventional? And how was the tyre wear comparison between the Saubers?

So three questions then :D
I'll let TC post the charts, but I did look at this and I think he did suffer a bit at the very end of his option stint. He would have needed to have gone a bit longer on the primes to optimise the 1 stop but he was losing a lot of places at that time and the traffic was costing him.

The thing is that it is a very "long" pitlane with even the quickest stops losing 28s on in + out lap on what you would expect. The whole of the main straight at pitane speeds, basically. Would he have made up 28s doing a two stop? Probably not, but you tell me when TC puts the charts up. :)
After the rain three weeks ago in Malaysia, we return to normal proceedings for the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix Tyre Analysis. As ever special thanks go to Jez101 and Sushifiesta.

The spreadsheet collects data by taking the raw lap data, and it can work out how much fuel has been burned, and it also takes into account tyre age and condition at the start of the stint. Unusual lap times due to close proximity to other cars or errors are filtered out.

This week Pirelli chose the yellow Soft tyre as the Option and the white Medium tyre as the Prime. Interestingly a variety of tyre strategies were used amongst the top drivers, most likely due to the smaller gaps between the compounds.

Firstly let’s look at how the Soft Option fared. At a glance it appears to have encountered a relatively low degradation, especially when you compare it to last year’s soft compound. A feature of the Shanghai circuit that came to light this year is how it can negate most performance gains for a driver or car, and this appears to be the case with tyre management as well – all of the top drivers are experiencing very similar wear patterns.

Unfortunately for Massa he is not one of them. He used a new set of soft tyres for his final stint, and theoretically should have had a little more grip than when Alonso used his. Despite that his degradation is considerably worse than his teammate. Since these narrow front tyres returned in 2010 Felipe has struggled to achieve the same speed or wear as Alonso, and it does not seem to be changing any time soon.

Of the drivers in that small group the only person who stand out to me as having bad wear is Schumacher. It seems likely that if he lasted the race he would have attempted a three-stop strategy, whereas the smoother style of Rosberg was able to manage a two-stop race.


Moving on to the Prime tyre now, this year it is the preferred race choice, unlike last year when it was the tyre that was only run as the teams were obliged to. Once again it is very tricky to say any one driver had a good or bad time on the tyres. As we know from watching the race Räikkönen had very severe tyre trouble and Vettel claimed to have tyre issues. Both will be examined in a special feature later on.

Unsurprisingly the 2012 Pirelli’s are coping with the stresses of Formula 1 much better than the marshmallows of early last season; it seems unlikely that those crazy races will ever be seen again. Apart from that I don’t think that there is too much more to be taken out of this graph, feel free to add your own observations.


On lap 47, 19 laps into his stint on used primes (so lap 22 on the graph), Räikkönen suddenly was unable to hold off the queue of drivers behind him. However the graph does not show the expected sudden acceleration in wear. I think that his tyres had started to run close to the cords as many as 5 laps earlier, and that once one driver had passed him, he was unsettled or pushed out of position which opened the floodgates and left him in 14th only four laps later. Clearly Lotus pitted Kimi far too early for the second stop; Grosjean who stopped four laps later was able to finish sixth and not too far off fifth-place Vettel. This may be a sign that Romain is smoother on his tyres than Kimi, which could pay dividends at high wear tracks.

On to Vettel now he spent the last 5 laps of the race being overtaken by three cars, all on much newer rubber than him. The Red Bull strategy – after seeing him move nowhere from 14th – was to pit him a few laps early and undercut the rest of the field whilst they were still on much older tyres. However this meant that his last stint would need to be long, 25 laps in fact. And at almost the same point as Räikkönen, Vettel started to lose places. Whilst I try to avoid opinions on these posts, I think that he should not feel hard done by losing that second place, it was on borrowed time that he would have to give back.


Lastly when comparing the Pirelli compounds for this year and last year, it is startling to see just how close they are. 2011 spec compounds were up to 1.5 seconds apart, for 20 laps this year there is not 0.5 seconds between the tyres. In my opinion this means the Soft and Medium tyre should not be paired again, as the Medium is much more durable, and only a fraction slower.

In Bahrain the Soft and hard will resurface again, however the scorching desert sun should make things more interesting.

You are welcome to post your own observations and requests, and I will link to our behemoth spreadsheet if you wish to have a look.

Thanks for reading!

TC, Jez and Sushi.
The thing I haven't quite got my head around is the the softs are still a lot quicker in qually. We are showing brand new softs as slower than brand new mediums in race trim, but that might be people being extra careful not to overdo them when the cars are running race fuel.

Maybe at some stage we will have to properly split used vs new...
I think this race showed tyres that we want to see. The interest in the last 40 or so laps was created by the ability of teams to do different strategies. This created the 2nd-11th train and thus the overtaking contained within. Given that the 2011 marshmellow tyre effect was clearly unsustainable, this race was imo an unqualified success for these tyres.
I think you are correct that the tyres made for the different strategies that made the race so much fun, but I don't think the options were part of that at all. In the same way as we had some mega races last year on mostly options, we had a mega race on Sunday on mostly primes.

It's probably greedy to demand more, but it would have been perfect if the options had been more a part of the race, offering a strong undercut choice leading to the significant deg that is already there. It's just 4 or 5 tenths, but there is a problem with these yellow tyres on race fuel.
Is the white not simply the 2011 yellow?
It's not identical (broader shoulders), but the result might well be similar.... I hope the option can retain the one lap pace so it remains the qualifying and race start tyre at least.
It's not identical (broader shoulders), but the result might well be similar.... I hope the option can retain the one lap pace so it remains the qualifying and race start tyre at least.

Yes, its always dispiriting to see a contractual obligation tyre. If the yellow isn't great, by the way, what could that mean for the red?
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