The conclusion of Pirelli’s 12-hour private tyre test in Abu Dhabi represents the final track running of the 2015 Formula 1 season and Stoffel Vandoorne topped the times for McLaren.
Pirelli had requested the test to gather data for the 2016 season as part of its new deal to supply F1 with tyres up until the end of the 2019 season.
The Italian company’s new ultrasoft tyre, which will be used for the first time next season, made its on-track test debut, as all ten constructors’ took part in the test. Pirelli did not allow them to run any car development parts and the teams’ were also provided with unmarked tyres throughout the day.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motorsport director explained that it was too early to tell if the ultrasoft tyre will produce more variety in team strategy when it is used on street circuits next season.
He said: “We had one shot when it came to testing tyres for next season, and we can be satisfied by what we’ve achieved in this test, even if we have to fully analyse the data.
“We’ve tested different versions of the new ultrasoft compound for 2016, which was one of the targets for this session. The ultrasoft’s target for 2016 is to introduce a compound softer than the supersoft and mainly designed as aggressive choice for street circuits: with better performance than the latest version of the supersoft tyre and faster degradation, in order to allow the teams to take a more aggressive approach to race strategy.
“Whether this will produce more pit stops, or any difference in strategies, it’s too early to say for now. We will fully analyse our data and team telemetry once we get back to base. But it seems we are heading in the right direction: the ultrasoft is expected to offer more possibilities for certain races.”
Ferrari had Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen at the wheel of its car throughout the day, while Mercedes’ running was conducted by Pascal Wehrlein, not its race drivers Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg.
Raikkonen ended the day just over 0.3s adrift of Vandoorne’s best lap of 1m44.103s, while Marcus Ericsson set the third best time of the test for Sauber.
Force India and Manor opted to run rookie drivers’ during the test, with Alfonso Celis Jr running for the Silverstone-based team and he ended the day 14th fastest on 1m48.545s.
Speaking about his first experience of an F1 car, Celis said: “My first day in a Formula 1 car certainly lived up to expectations. The car had huge grip and excellent braking efficiency, but my experience in the Formula 3.5 car had prepared me quite well for this big challenge. I really enjoyed the experience and I’m pleased with how the day went.
“For the first few runs I took things steady while I got used to the car and all the systems. Then, with each run, I started to push more and more as I kept learning about the car.
“With the programme for the day set by Pirelli, I could simply focus on my driving and getting to know everyone. 2016 is going to be an important year for me as I continue working with the team so I’m pleased to have some valuable miles under my belt already.”
GP2 racer, Jordan King, got his first taste of F1 machinery for Manor alongside Rio Haryanto, who has previously tested for the team in 2012. King set a best lap of 1m49.661s, the slowest of the day.
King, who was also Manor’s reserve driver throughout 2015, said: “My first time at the wheel of an F1 car has been an incredible experience and I can’t thank Manor enough for providing me with this opportunity.
“Today’s Pirelli test had a very specific focus and I was determined to make the most of this chance to show my development capability as well as my potential for the future.
“We had a trouble-free day, so I could really get stuck into the plan, and this enabled me to build my confidence as the afternoon progressed. I was really fortunate to drive the car for 59 laps and I’m pleased with my lap time considering all the elements of the programme. I can’t wait to do it again sometime. Soon, I hope!”
Pirelli test times:
1 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1m44.103s 99
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m44.456s 56
3 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1m44.480s 50
4 Jolyon Palmer Lotus 1m44.568s 90
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m44.940s 56
6 Pascal Wehrlein Mercedes 1m45.605s 107
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1m45.805s 57
8 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1m45.849s 54
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m45.852s 71
10 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m45.940s 103
11 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1m46.309s 48
12 Carlos Sainz Jr Toro Rosso 1m46.995s 56
13 Adderly Fong Sauber 1m48.439s 57
14 Alfonso Celis Jr Force India 1m48.545s 65
15 Rio Haryanto Manor 1m49.593s 56
16 Jordan King Manor 1m49.661s 59
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