Felipe Massa has ended the first day of testing with Pirelli’s new F1 rubber top of the timesheets.
The Brazilian – who blamed his poor form in 2010 on the difficulty of warming his Bridgestones tyres up properly during qualifying – beat new world champion Sebastian Vettel by 0.33s with McLaren tester Gary Paffett third.
The two quickest men completed the most laps overall, each recording 94 tours of the Yas Marina circuit. The Renault team ran the least, with Robert Kubica only managing 39 laps before hitting mechanical problems. Force India were the only team to split driving duties, with likely 2011 driver pairing Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta notching 20 laps apiece in the Mercedes-powered car.
Of the new teams Virgin’s Timo Glock was quickest, half a second clear of Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus. Pastor Maldonado finished bottom of the timesheets for Hispania but was under nine tenths shy of the Finn, a definite improvement on the average gap between the two teams in 2010.
Afterwards Merecedes’ Nico Rosberg suggested that the tyres will – unsurprisingly – be slower than their Bridgestone predecessors.
“The general impressions are that they are slower. Quite significantly slower,” said Nico.
“After that, they were not easy to come to terms with on the set-up. In the big picture, they are pretty similar in the end to the Bridgestones, but if you are then looking for the fine tuning to extract the performance there is some way to go on adapting the set-up.”
Meanwhile Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari said drivers should reserve judgment on the new rubber until after the winter.
“We did a good mileage, some runs on heavy fuel and some with less and it was interesting to see how the tyres behaved. It is too early to say more than that, because of course there will be more development to come from Pirelli before the next season starts.”
The test concludes tomorrow. Vettel will remain in the Red Bull and Paffett in the McLaren whilst Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher will occupy their respective team’s cars.