The development of the new generation F1 tyres from Pirelli continues apace, but the company has now concluded the private part of its testing programme following a wet/dry test at Abu Dhabi.
Pedro de la Rosa has been driving the Pirelli test car, based on the 2009 Toyota.
On February 1 the F1 teams will be in Valencia, mostly with new specification 2011 cars, to test for real on Pirelli tyres and the choice of compounds for the first race in Bahrain will be made soon afterwards. Unlike tests on Bridgestones in recent years, Pirelli will bring a number of different tyres for the teams to try to the February tests, hoping to gain as much knowledge as possible.
At the Abu Dhabi test in November the feeling was that the soft tyre was pretty much ready to race, but that the hard compound tyre needed more work. Most teams and drivers will be interested to see what the revised hard tyre is like in the February test. It’s an important tyre, being used at a number of tracks on the calendar, particularly the ones featuring corners with high loadings.
Both tyres exhibited wear characteristics quite different from Bridgestone, whereby the performance dropped off as the run went on, rather than stabilising. This will lead to more pit stops this year, probably two at each race. The front tyre was stronger relative to the rear than the Bridgestone, a source of great relief to Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher, who struggled with the weak 2010 Bridgestone fronts.
Although the track improvement was significant and made it hard to judge, the feeling from engineers I spoke to after November’s Abu Dhabi test was that the Pirelli was around 2 seconds a lap slower than the Bridgestone, but that is expected to have come down since. McLaren and Force India are both using their 2010 cars for the Valencia test so we should get an idea of the relative performance of the two tyres after that.
This week De La Rosa has been busy putting the new Pirelli wet tyre through its paces in F1′s first ever night time wet test – on an artificially dampened track. He also did extensive dry running and as he signed off he gave the Italian marque the thumbs up.
“In my opinion, Pirelli is ready now for Formula One,” he said emphatically. “The dry tyre test went very well, and confirmed everything we had learned in Bahrain the week before. But the most original part of the test was when we were running at night on the wet tyres, which was as new an experience for me as it was for everyone else. The most important thing was that the water levels were consistent, which allowed us to have some accurate results from the test. At the end of it, we’ve come up with two tyres – wet and intermediate – which I believe are both competitive and stable.”
Meanwhile De La Rosa has told Autosport that he will not be driving for Hispania Racing, as has been rumoured on some websites, “HRT is, for me, not an option,” he said. “I don’t know what the future will cover. I’m trying to find a race drive in Formula 1 as always, I will never give up. Pirelli are planning to do some more testing during the year. I don’t know, possibly I will be running with Pirelli, a race drive somewhere, or a reserve role in Formula 1. The next few weeks will be quite important for my future.”