Pirelli, the official tyre supplier to Formula One for the next three years, will get the 2011 season underway in the United Arab Emirates with an unprecedented test. Never before in single-seater history has a test been organised at night and on an artificially wet track to recreate the conditions experienced in a typical rainy grand prix.

The Abu Dhabi test will take place a few weeks before the Valencia test, the first official group session of the 2011 season. The Yas Marina Circuit is one of the most fascinating venues on the Formula One calendar, a perfect setting for this extraordinary event that will call a halt to the development phase for Pirelli’s Formula One tyres. For the first time in the history of Formula One, the 5.55-kilometre Yas Marina track will be coated in water to create a unique 12-hour night test.

Abu Dhabi testing wets and intermediates

This is the last round of private tests for Pirelli, with the wet and intermediate tyres solely in use. Today’s session will start at 1800hrs and continue until midnight, with same schedule for tomorrow. Within the range of 2011 compounds, these rain tyres have been specifically designed for wet or damp conditions. In line with current FIA regulations, Pirelli dry tyres comprise four different compounds that have already been successfully tested.

Test driver Pedro de la Rosa will be at the wheel of a Toyota TF109, chosen by Pirelli to try out the entire new range of Formula One tyres. The TF109 was the last car to be developed by the Japanese manufacturer before it withdrew from the championship at the end of 2009, winning five podiums over its last season of competition. The test car will cover more than 1,000 km in extreme driving conditions with the rubber having to deal with severe stresses on a tricky wet and hot tarmac.

Paul Hembery, Pirelli Formula One Team Director said: “This is a unique opportunity to witness a Formula One test car on track at night in the wet and on hot tarmac, in an entirely floodlit setting. We decided to do it this way because we want to challenge our rain tyres with the most difficult and demanding of all situations. And who knows, perhaps it could be a good idea for a future grand prix? These tests will provide us with useful information to finalise our tyre development process for Formula One. It is seven months since we started developing our tyres and five since we started with the actual testing. We are very satisfied with the results so far and we have also collected very positive feedback from the teams. Soon it will be time to get started in Spain where the first official test of the season will take place. We will use this opportunity to gather more feedback from teams and drivers and be ready for the Bahrain Grand Prix in March.”

The two-day Abu Dhabi test is the last in a series of nine private tests that the Italian firm has carried out from August 19, when Pirelli’s test programme got underway. Since then, Nick Heidfeld, Roman Grosjean and Pedro de la Rosa, all at the wheel of a Toyota TF109, have covered more than 13,000 km in a variety of weather conditions at some important European and Middle East circuits. Pirelli has used Mugello, Monza, Barcelona, Valencia, Jerez, Le Castellet and Bahrain to test its entire range of tyres developed for the 2011 season. Supersoft and soft compound tyres were the last to be finalised and were successfully tested in Abu Dhabi last weekend, with Pedro de la Rosa driving for around 200 laps, the equivalent of some 1,000 km.

Coming up next is the official test in Valencia from February 1-4. The 12 Formula One teams will then move to Jerez, from February 10-13, and end the testing in Barcelona, from February 18-21. The 2011 Formula One season will begin at the Bahrain Gran Prix on March 13.