by Mark Preston
As a follow on to my blog last year where I discussed how randomness drives excitement in F1, the first few races of 2011 certainly provided some interesting racing with KERs, DRS and Pirelli providing a set of variables that the teams have not yet completely mastered.
However as I was watching the German GP recently I noticed how the number of different tyre strategies is starting to narrow.
It is inevitable that the engineers will eventually remove some of the biggest unknowns in tyre prediction. It was interesting to hear Mark Webber comment that Sebastian had mastered the tyres more quickly than he had. As the teams simulators start to match the reality of the track, drivers like Mark will be able to experiment back at base to coach themselves to make the best use of the tyres. At this point the number of variables will again narrow reducing randomness in strategy.
In fact the German GP gave a few more ideas about how the teams might be combining the simulators with drivers and strategy software. The first hint came when Alonso said over the radio that Webbers tyres were starting to drop off and requested an update of the strategy to reflect this change. This shows that the teams models are starting to get quite accurate but they still need an empirical “trigger” or tipping point where the driver helps to recognise a change in the tyres that the engineers can use to re-correlate their models real-time. Once this correlation has been done the strategies can be updated with more accurate information for predicting forward.
The cold track temperatures at the German GP seemed to favour the McLarens and they were able to predict the change point of the tyres for last stint to perfection. If the tyre performance curve can be mapped accurately there should not be any benefit from what people are calling the “undercut” as this performance anomaly should be accounted for accurately in any strategy software: leading to no advantage or randomness. Lets see how their models fair in the hotter temperatures in Hungary.
The DRS works in combination with the randomness generated by the tyres. Theoretically if the fastest car leads from the front there should be no need for DRS. But, as the tyres provide unpredictable performance variations on each car and with each driver the DRS allows cars to pass each other should one team/driver be lucky enough to find themselves with a different performance envelope in the race in comparison to qualifying.
Again, as the tyres become more understood the randomness of the race vs qualifying performances will become less and DRS will become less of an exciting tool.
Hopefully the tyres change at a faster rate than the teams can match with their understanding!