This is the summary of the testing session held this week in Barcelona: the first of two sessions preparing the Circus for the world championship’s start in Australia, less than a month away.
Testing in Barcelona means testing for the whole world championship. The Montmelò circuit offers most of the same technical challenges of the GP season: a long down-hill straight leading into two extremes of a twisty section with varying corners, some extremely quick, with continuous ups and downs never allowing neither the cars nor the drivers a moment of rest.
Tyre-wise Montmelò is considered one of the three most challenging circuits for tyres due to the very high loads and forces not to mention having a very abrasive asphalt to complete the picture.
This week in Spain Pirelli brought in the its entire range of Formula 1® tyres and the new Purple coloured ultrasoft compound was the VIP on the track, making its official 2016 debut after first appearance last December for the Abu Dhabi tests. And the new Purple played its requested role: Ferrari and Red Bull wore a set of ultrasofts during Day 2 and Day 4, with Ferrari scored on both occasions the best time of the day (Vettel on Tuesday and Raikkonen Thursday).
The drivers’ first impression of the new ultrasofts has been centered on the very high grip felt and how lasting capability appears longer than expected. The verdict is still out the Purple, few drivers tested the new tyre and weather conditions were far from the ones teams will encounter at a mid-summer Grand Prix. The Spanish circuit is not the ideal arena for the Ultrasoft as it is intended for GPs where the tracks are known for medium to low loads; Montmelò characteristics are too intense for a compound that soft.
Beyond P Zero newcomer, the testing session in Barcelona provided strong positive results for Pirelli. No major problem occurred, on almost every occasion drivers and team push long stints they plan in the race and this often results in minute mechanical problems. On Day 2, the Mercedes team aimed to cover a minimum of 800 kms and Nico Rosberg drove exactly that distance before he was forced to stop a few minutes early due to a car blocking the circuit.
Apart from a light graining in the very early morning laps, a normal occurrence when the asphalt is still cold, teams didn’t report any anomalies.
The tests in Barcelona also allowed some young drivers to gain important on track experience. Rio Haryanto from Indonesia and Mexico’s, 19 years old, Alfonso Celis drove quite a few kms behind the wheel of the Manor and the Force India cars.
Now teams and tyres are looking forward to a well-deserved weekend of rest before the Circus takes to the stage once again. Montmelò will open its doors next Tuesday for another four days of testing, ending the pre-season F1® tests on Friday March 4th, when everything will be packed to start its trip back to the team factories for last minute work before flying to Australia.
These days in Spain Formula 1® was greeted by an early spring, no rain at all, hours of blue sky and warm temperatures. It was refreshing to be free of the winter so early in the season, but in less than a month F1® will face a late Australian summer. A hot challenge to say the least, but Formula 1®, at its 67th world season, will be ready and so will Pirelli.