Pirelli heads back to Barcelona, the venue for the previous Formula One test from February 18-21, for an extra test session following the announcement that the Bahrain Grand Prix will not take place as the opening round of the 2011 season.
The test takes place over a five-day period from March 8-12. However, the 12 Formula One teams will test for a maximum of four days each – bringing their total number of pre-season test days up to the 15 days that have been agreed.
With Pirelli recently announcing the PZero tyre compounds that will be taken to the first three races in Australia, Malaysia and China – the hard tyre as the prime choice and the soft as the option – the teams will concentrate their testing work on those two compounds at the final test in Barcelona.
The Italian firm is bringing 35 sets of tyres per team to the Spanish Grand Prix venue: a total of 1680 tyres, including five sets of intermediate tyres and three sets of wet tyres per team. This is considerably more than the two sets of intermediate tyres and three sets of wet tyres that had been earmarked for Bahrain.
However, the teams will be hoping for warm conditions in Barcelona, unlike the previous test at the track, in order to more accurately replicate the conditions that they are likely to encounter over the course of the season.
Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery said: “Our last test in Barcelona was held in temperatures of just six degrees in the mornings, which didn’t help to rubber the track in or gather the information necessary to base strategies on over the course of the season. We’re hoping for warmer weather this week, although it’s unlikely to be as warm as the temperatures we are expecting for the first race in Australia. Having announced our compounds for the start of the year, most of the teams will concentrate on testing the hard and soft PZero tyres. We’re expecting them to focus on long runs and race simulations, which should confirm the results we have previously extrapolated from our testing data: two or sometimes three pit stops at every race.”
The hard PZero compound offers a good balance between performance and durability, making it an ideal choice of prime tyre over a long run in warm conditions. The soft PZero compound takes less time to warm up and is quicker over a shorter period of time, but is also designed to work at its best in temperatures of more than 15 degrees centigrade: which are the ambient conditions for the vast majority of Formula One races.
A priority for the teams at this week’s test will be to complete set-up work that optimises the balance of the cars on the new PZero rubber. The compounds are identical for both front and rear tyres, but the rears as is the case with all rear-wheel drive cars warm up quicker because of the traction going through them. The front tyres take longer to reach ideal temperature, provoking a change of balance, which the drivers and engineers must make the most of by adjusting the set-up.
Having just returned from Barcelona with the new 2011 cars, the teams and Pirelli are in a strong position to capture plenty of meaningful data at the final test of the year this week: a last-minute opportunity for the teams to define specifications and experiment with new parts before making the journey to the other side of the world for the start of the 2011 Formula One season.