• Abu Dhabi Pirelli test

Massa tops first Pirelli test

ESPNF1 Staff
November 19, 2010 « Webber and I don't have to be friends - Vettel | »
Felipe Massa was the fastest driver on the new Pirellis © Getty Images

Ferrari's Felipe Massa topped the timesheets at the opening Pirelli test day in Abu Dhabi, as all 12 Formula One teams got their first chance to try the new 2011 tyre.

Pirelli will take over from Bridgestone as Formula One's tyre supplier next season, meaning drivers and teams will have to adapt to brand new rubber ahead of the season opener next March. However, it appears as though little has changed, as Massa clocked a time within a tenth of a second of his qualifying effort at last weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and none of the teams reported major problems.

McLaren tester Gary Paffett, who was third fastest behind new world champion Sebastian Vettel, said: "The tyres seem to be working well and not too different from Bridgestone, so a good start." While Renault chief engineer Alan Permane reported that the Pirelli's had suffered from "no warm-up issues", which had been a significant problem for a number of drivers in 2010, including Massa.

Vettel's best time was about two seconds slower than Daniel Ricciardo's Bridgestone-shod time set in the Red Bull earlier this week, although it must be noted that most teams were running with the new mandatory weight distribution set-up for 2011. Ricciardo's time was also a clear attempt to steal headlines, whereas all the teams approached the Pirelli test looking to gather data.

The tyres will be continually developed throughout the winter and Vettel is expecting improved characteristics next year. "I think the tyres behaved well, better than expected given the short amount of time Pirelli have had and they've done a good job," he said. "Pirelli are obviously in the middle of their development and what we used today is not what we will race with, but it was a good start. The circuit was in good condition and we had blue skies all day."

Kamui Kobayashi was fourth fastest in the Sauber and said tyre degradation was controllable, although the new tyres needed a slightly different approach in terms of set-up. "The tyres were quite consistent," he said. "Only in the morning I struggled with tyre wear, but after we made some set-up changes this wasn't an issue any longer. It was a very interesting test for us."

Pirelli brought its soft and medium tyre compounds to the test, with each team given four sets to use per day. Renault's Robert Kubica tried both and was fifth fastest, but only completed 39 laps after a technical problem with the car.

"We all know how important the tyres are for the behaviour of the car and so we concentrated on evaluating both compounds and understanding as much as we could about the tyre characteristics," Kubica said. "Although we didn't do a massive number of laps, we have still learned a few things and it feels good to have begun our relationship with Pirelli. Because we stopped early, we have saved some of the tyres for tomorrow, so it will be a busy day as we continue learning."

Rubens Barrichello gathers data on the new tyres © Sutton Images
Rubens Barrichello completed a healthy 91 laps in the Williams and set the sixth fastest time. His team ran an aero device early in the session to measure the flow of air from the front wheels, as the shape and construction of the tyre is different to the outgoing Bridgestones.

Force India was another team that experienced technical issues, with Adrian Sutil stopping on track in the morning with a suspected exhaust problem. He set the tenth fastest time overall before handing the car to Paul di Resta in the afternoon, who set the seventh fastest time.

Nico Rosberg completed 81 laps in the Mercedes and was eighth fastest ahead of Jaime Alguersuari in the Toro Rosso.

The three new teams resumed their place at the bottom of the timesheets, but all they all notched up over 75 laps. Timo Glock led Lotus' Heikki Kovalainen, with Pastor Maldonado in the HRT last as he completed his third day of testing this week.

Pos. Driver Car Best Time Laps
1 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:40.170 94
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:40.500 78
3 Gary Paffett McLaren 1:40.874 94
4 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:40.950 83
5 Robert Kubica Renault 1:41.032 39
6 Rubens Barrichello Williams 1:41.425 91
7 Paul di Resta Force India 1:41.615 21
8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:41.778 81
9 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1:42.019 71
10 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:42.859 20
11 Timo Glock Virgin 1:44.124 78
12 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1:44.686 88
13 Pastor Maldonado HRT 1:45.728 83