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F1: drivers happy with Pirelli tyres

Sport Published the 13/01/2011

This was a decisive step for Pirelli. Last weekend, on the Abu Dhabi track, drivers tested for the first time the tyres from the new official supplier to the world Formula 1 championships. Although a few improvements are expected, the new tyres left a very good impression. Summary of the reactions of the drivers and sports managers.

Formule 1 Ferrari with Pirelli tyres Copyright © : Pirelli

"Overall, I am quite happy with the handling of the tyres, said Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), who clocked up the best time on the Yas Marina track. They are not too different to the Bridgestones, so it should be a smooth transition". The reaction of the double world champion resumes the overall feeling.

Picture of Paul HemberyCopyright © : Pirelli

"The drivers' comments are very encouraging", underlines Paul Hembery, head of Pirelli sports (photo below). They especially liked the performance of our front tyres. This was one of our goals and I am delighted we achieved it". 

During these two days, the twelve championship teams tested two types of tyres: soft and medium compound tyres. Several did more than 80 laps of the track, nearly the equivalent of two grand prix, to gather maximum experience. Sébastien Buemi (Toro Rosso) thought he had understood well how the tyre handles" after doing 97 laps. It remains, according to him, to develop the tyres by February.

A more sentimental reaction from Stefano Domenicali (Ferrari) who is delighted to be working with the Milan firm. "Now we have two symbols of Italian excellence on the track", commented the director of the Scuderia. "I am persuaded that Pirelli will make an important contribution to our discipline, in terms of professionalism and technical development. His enthusiasm was shared by Felipe Massa (Ferrari), his driver, who had a hard time warming up his tyres during the qualifications. Pirelli's soft compound seems to have convinced him. "From the start, I really felt at ease", he confided. "There were no unpleasant surprises".

Like Robert Kubica (Renault), Alan Permane, chief engineer of the French team, is also happy. "The tyres handled well: the grip was very good, and they heated up nicely." Even though some Pirelli compounds seem to modify his car's handling, Jarno Trulli (Lotus) also found them efficient. However, "clear direction still needs to be found to enhance the car's handling."

The trials were less conclusive for Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), who ranked 8th after the first day. "The Pirellis are much slower, declared the young German driver to Autosport. This is not good for me. At best they are similar to Bridgestone, but they could be worse." 

For Sébastien Buemi, finally, even though the Pirelli tyres handled well, they need to gain in longevity. "Wear is still high, he said. But, bizarrely, the soft models wear much less than the hard models!"

The Milan firm is currently analysing the data collected from the trials in order to improve its product. In the short term, they will change the architecture of the rear tyres. "We still have some additional adjustments to make on the compounds to rebalance the tyres", explained Maurizio Boiocchi, Pirelli's director of development.

Next trials: Bahrain, from 12 to 16 December, before another private test session to take place in Europe in January. The next major meeting with the drivers is planned for the start of February: the final official trials before the start of the 2011 season.

Further reading
>> I tested the Michelin Pilot Super Sport in Dubai
>> Interview with Jean-François Beaupère, project manager at Michelin