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Jerez track surface too abrasive for understanding tyres

ESPN Staff
February 8, 2013 « Set-back for Ferrari at Jerez | Kerb damage briefly halts testing »
High levels of abrasion have caused issues for the tyres this week © Sutton Images

The abrasive track surface at Jerez could result in Formula One seeking an alternative pre-season test venue in the future as the teams and Pirelli have struggled to gain any meaningful data on the 2013 tyres this week.

All the teams and drivers have noted Jerez's abrasive surface which, combined with cool temperatures, means the tyres have suffered from 'shredding' - when strips of rubber come off the tyre rather than the usual marbles. Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery said the main cause is that the track is more abrasive than it has been in recent years.

"It's got quite substantially worse than last year," he said. "We've seen quite a lot of shredding in the tyres and it seems to be a lack of bitumen in the tarmac, so you're looking at a very open surface. That's meant that a track that has historically been very interesting for doing tyre compound work has been dominated by that effect.

"It's a shame because the conditions aren't bad, and in February you struggle to get anywhere over 20C in Europe. It's slightly disappointing from that point of view, but it's quite a big evolution [in the track] even from last year. It [the condition of the surface] is so far away from anywhere else you're going to see in terms of macro.

"You can see it's very open and it's lost the bitumen aspect of it. So you're left with almost the rocks, stones and gravel almost on its own and nothing in between. It's almost like going up against a sandpaper surface. Malaysia is another track that has that, but this is well beyond even Malaysia."

However, cool temperatures throughout Europe at this time of year means realistic alternatives to Jerez would have to be further away from F1's heartland.

"You'd have to suggest Bahrain and Abu Dhabi if you want a proper test, but even then you've got different issues in terms of what they provide you with. It's difficult because it's still quite chilly in the air which suggests when we go further north to Barcelona we'll have the same problem we had last year of it being very, very cold, particularly in the morning. Even after midday you find that large parts of the track are under shadow in Barcelona so you're going from warm conditions to very cold. There's not an easy solution that doesn't involve spending a lot of money on transportation.

"The sport used to go quite extensively to South Africa if you go back many, many years. Today, for a variety of reasons, cost being one of them but also practicality if teams want to make dramatic changes between sessions and the shipping issues involved, then there isn't really a perfect solution."