James Allison, technical director of Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport, says pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya may not be as representative of Pirelli Motorsport’s new range of tyres as everyone would hope, thanks to the changes made to the track during the off-season.
Traditionally, the surface around Spanish venue has been aggressive on the tyres, but after resurfacing work took place, the track is a lot smoother, and Allison feels that tyres may be able to survive longer than they would have done in previous years.
Pirelli now have seven different tyre compounds to choose from in 2018, with the hypersoft and superhard joining the five previous options, and the first pre-season test of the year that starts on Monday will offer the first true idea on how each compound will work with the new cars, including Mercedes’ W09.
“It’s never easy in Barcelona winter testing to pick up everything that you would wish to about the tyres, because it’s winter, and the tyres don’t run in the winter on the whole when we’re racing,” said Allison on Motorsport.com
“And Barcelona is quite an aggressive track on the tyres, it tears them up in the winter, you get a lot of graining. This year is going to be particularly interesting because they just resurfaced Barcelona, and it is a lot, lot smoother, and the sort of rubber that would be torn up last year in Barcelona testing could probably survive this year.
“But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be super-representative of the remainder of the year. It’s going to be a challenge, but our constraints are no different to anybody else’s so we just need to operate as efficiently as we can and get the maximum amount of experience in the eight days that we have available to us.”
Pirelli previously tested 2018 compounds in the post-season test in Abu Dhabi last November, and Allison feels all of the teams will have got significant information about each compound then so not to be completely in the dark heading into this weeks test.
“We would have had as much chance as everyone else to have learned everything that we needed to know,” said Allison. “But of course it’s one track, one test, at the end of season on a circuit that’s very kind to tyres, and then having to on the back of that extrapolate what you need for the first bit of the racing season, where you have to choose your tyres blind – well, not blind, informed by the Abu Dhabi test.
“So we would like to have been testing all the time and learning over and over these things. It’s a level playing field, our team had a good test, we felt we had a programme that allowed us to learn as much as we could in that time.
“We hope that we’ve made our judgements correctly about tyre selection for the opening races before we learn for real how the thing performs.”