While Alonso fared well at Silverstone and picked up his first winners trophy for 2011, there is still a big question mark hanging over the race pace of the Ferrari. With the variable conditions during the Silverstone race and all the drivers opting to use the intermediate wet tyre during the race, there was no requirement to run both slick compounds allocated for the race. Consequently, the entire field only raced the Pirelli soft compound (yellow) tyres and nobody raced the Pirelli hard compound (silver).
Thus far in 2011, the hard compound tyre has been used at Australia, Malaysia, China, Turkey, Spain and Great Britain. However, the hard compound was modified from Spain onwards to be more durable than in its original incarnation. With this additional durability came less grip and longer warm-up times.
While the Ferrari cars were not blowing the field away in the early races, their pace wasn't too far behind the front runners as evidenced by their finishing positions. However, in Spain, Alonso in particular was matching it with the Red Bulls on the soft compound tyres but was in a world of pain on the hard tyres, finishing a lap down on Vettel. With the hard tyres not used in Britain, Ferrari were potentially saved of some disappointing performance. Ferrari have been quick to attribute their better performance in Britain to a raft of developments in their car and have dismissed their poor hard tyre pace to history. Massa, in particular has pointed out that the free practice sessions on the hard tyre were good at Silverstone and therefore they have passed their hard tyre woes.
Some analysis may bring Massa's assessment into question. Comparing qualifying 1 sessions, where both teams ran the hard tyre, the average Ferrari times were 0.385 seconds quicker at Catalunya and 0.0495 slower at Silverstone than the average Red Bull times. In Q3, on the soft tyres, Ferrari were an average 1.345 seconds slower in Catalunya and an average 0.405 seconds slower in Silverstone compared to Red Bull.
Considering this data it would appear that Ferrari lost comparative pace on the hard tyres but gained on the soft tyres. This supports Ferrari's conclusion that they have gained performance through upgrades, but it would appear to be effective only on the soft tyres, while they are still struggling on the hard tyres. Admittedly, this is a crude performance comparison, particularly when using single lap pace as an indicator for race pace. In addition, the blown diffuser debacle at Silverstone has inevitably thrown a spanner in the mix.
Pirelli are bringing the soft and medium tyres to the Nurburgring this weekend and have not indicated their tyre selections for the remainder of the year. It will be interesting to see how Ferrari perform when they do have to use the hard tyres again. My guess is that they won't be smiling.