F1 has entered a new era – of tyres, anyway – with Pirelli making their return to the sport this morning.
Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari was the first driver to take the new rubber on-track at the Yas Marina circuit for what were their maiden laps on a 2010 F1 car, with previous running having been done on Toyota’s 2009 racer. All twelve teams fielded drivers including world champions Red Bull, for whom Sebastian Vettel set the quickest lap of the session. He’s clearly recovered from his post-title celebrations quite nicely, then.
Paul Hembray, Pirelli’s motorsport director, is in attendance and is thus far pleased with how things have been going. His company are returning to F1 after an absence of 20 years.
“So far, we have had tremendous collaboration with the teams in preparation for this test,” said Hembray.
The Pirelli man also insisted that he isn’t concerned about the lap times recorded today. The fastest set in this morning’s session – new world champion Vettel’s 1m40.861s – falls over two and a half seconds short of Daniel Ricciardo’s lap in the same car – shod with Bridgestone tyres – during Wednesday’s young driver test.
“We have never set out looking for laptimes,” said Hembray. “That’s not to give you excuses about whether we are slow or fast because we haven’t a clue, to be honest. Maybe we like the surface that has been created and we have a great time. But it has never been an objective given to us and it’s not something that we have been able to chase.”
He added that Ricciardo’s lap on Wednesday highlights how changing track conditions can dramatically effect times. The Aussie was over a second quicker than Vettel managed in Saturday’s qualifying session.
“Based on the young driver test I think we’ve found someone who is a second-and-a-half quicker than Sebastian Vettel! That is the perfect example of how different days, different times and different conditions affect things. It’s not very important because the track changes a lot.”
Vettel’s best lap was half a tenth quicker than second fastest Felipe Massa, with Renault’s Robert Kubica a further tenth back in third. However with the teams still running their 2010 cars we’d be wasting our time if we tried to get any concrete indication of who the new rubber will favour next year.