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Ferrari Tops Time Sheets in Pirelli Test at Abu Dhabi

Fernando Alonso in temporary helmet livery at the Abu Dhabi tire test

With the dust barely settled on the 2010 season, the most preliminary test for 2011 has been completed at ABu Dhabi.  In this case, it was a test for Pirelli, the company that is replacing Bridgestone as sole tire supplier to Formula 1 for 2011 and beyond.

The general consensus among drivers seemed to be positive, with respect to the performance of the new tires.  As reported in Autosport, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel said, “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. 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.”

On Friday, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa was quickest, with Sebastian Vettel trailing him by a few tenths.  On Saturday, Ferrari topped the timesheets again, this time with Ferando Alonso on top.  Michael Shumacher, who initially was credited with second spot, was eventually dropped to seventh: his quickest lap was disallowed, as he’d cut a chicane.  This left Vettel in number two slot again.  Interestingly, Red Bull’s Mark Webber didn’t take part in either session.  Naturally, all of the driver were keen to get a first taste of Pirelli rubber in advance of the new season.  Being excluded from the test sessions entirely this week couldn’t have done Webber’s Red Bull inferiority complex much good.

Many observers were keen to hear Michael Schumacher’s reaction to the new tires, as he had, to a certain extent, attributed his lackluster performance in his first comeback season to the underperforming front tires provided by Bridgestone for 2010.  Schumacher’s initial response was positive, but cautious.

“Whether you can say the front tire is now stronger and that’s going to suit my style, what is very important is how next year’s car is going to suit these tires, ” he said.  “That’s very important. From what we have seen here, I feel positive about the tires. I was quite happy with the first test…The tires performed reasonably consistently and were good. I’m sure they’re making some small adjustments for the future, but all in all I’m quite happy.”

Careful observers might have noticed that both of the Ferrari pilots, Massa and Alonso, wore uniform red helmets at the test sessions.  Were they aping Michael Schumacher, who switched to an all red helmet livery during his tour with the Scuderia?  No, actually they were testing a new helmet design for the team’s (and Schumi’s) designated helmet provider, Schuberth.

Friday:

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

Saturday:

Pos.     Driver     Car     Best Time     Laps
1     Fernando Alonso     Ferrari     1:40.529     105
2     Michael Schumacher     Mercedes     1:40.685     74
3     Sebastian Vettel     Red Bull     1:40.825s     66
4     Rubens Barrichello     Williams     1:41.294     100
5     Robert Kubica     Renault     1:41.614     91
6     Gary Paffett     McLaren     1m41.622     46
7     Oliver Turvey     McLaren     1:41.740     30
8     Paul di Resta     Force India     1:41.869     35
9     Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber     1:42.110     43
10     Sebastien Buemi     Toro Rosso     1:42.145     97
11     Tonio Liuzzi     Force India     1:42.416     46
12     Sergio Perez     Sauber     1:42.777     46
13     Jarno Trulli     Lotus     1:44.521     83
14     Pastor Maldonado     Hispania     1:44.768     65
15     Timo Glock     Virgin     1:44.783     82

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