Busy Bahrain Test For Pirelli

With all of the technical regulation changes stealing the headlines this winter, Pirelli have enjoyed a quiet Christmas, as the media storm of last summer is now no more than a memory. However, the changes to the tyre compounds for this season cannot be underestimated despite the admittedly more demanding aerodynamic and powertrain changes, and Paul Hembery expects this final test to place more intense pressure on the new P-Zero tyres, as teams look to find performance in their 2014 challengers.

Paul Hembery could be in for a busy four days in Bahrain

Qualifying Simulation Imminent…

Its that crucial stage of pre-season, where the majority of teams have assured reliability, solved the teething problems and are now ready to turn up the revs and hit the track in anger for the first time. While Mercedes had evidently stretched the W05 last week, the coming days will see the other teams examine their packages and run qualifying simulations. Aside from the race runs, Pirelli’s latest incarnation of F1 rubber has not been unduly challenged – the imminent qualifying runs will put the tyres through their paces.
This, coupled with the set-up work, will allow Pirelli to gauge whether their 2014 rubber will be successful. “We saw more work on tyres at the recent Bahrain test than there had been at the very first test in Jerez, and with teams likely to be attempting more qualifying and race simulations this week in preparation for the opening Grand Prix, we would expect this upward curve of tyre work to continue over the final four days in Bahrain,” Hembery is quoted as saying on crash.net. It is understandable if Hembery and company are a touch anxious heading into their most testing time so far in 2014. Following a controversial season for the manufacturer last year, where their F1 contract was challenged as a result of the safety concerns after the disastrous British Grand Prix. Mistakes were made, but lessons were learnt and it is unlikely that similar issues will be experienced this season – especially considering that this seasons compounds are markedly harder across the board.

Tyres Will Impact Performance

Being harder, the raw lap time yielded by the tyres will be reduced. The 2014 compounds could also impact on the number of stops required during a race distance, with Nico Rosberg, Valtteri Bottas and Jenson Button all finding the tyres far more comfortable across a race distance as oppose to last seasons rubbery tribulations. Consequently, stint duration will probably be lengthened this season, which could make race strategy less poignant. This has a number of ramifications. It could mean that teams are less inclined to restrict running in Q3, with the potential gains on Sunday reduced as a result of less critical tyre life. Also, tyres that are more durable are less susceptible to fracturing on the surface and at the belt. Both of these are of course positive aspects of the harder compound tyres, and I for one, believe that Pirelli have got their priorities right this year. Creating safer tyres at the expense of tactic engaging degradation is an easy decision to make, from a business perspective as well as a sporting one. The regulations will make the on track action exciting regardless of whether tyres are on the limit of grip or otherwise. It will be interesting to see how hard the new tyres are and their impacts across a competitive race distance. We will get a sense of what is to come over the next few days, but we will not know the true characteristics of the rubber until as late as Malaysia, when they are likely to be tested thermally for the first time.

With the third and final pre-season test kicking off in Bahrain tomorrow, you can expect the usual coverage on the blog, with an analysis of the day’s events being posted at 7pm every night. This will be supplemented with my live opinions of the unfolding events on Twitter, whenever I can access my account. Its sure to be an exciting four days as teams make their final preparations before Melbourne.    

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