Pirelli, the official tire supplier to Formula One for the next three years, will get an unusual test underway in the United Arab Emirates this week. Never before in single-seater history has a test been organized at night and on an artificially wet track to recreate the conditions experienced in a typical rainy grand prix.
The Abu Dhabi test will take place a few weeks before the Valencia test, the first official group session of the 2011 season. The Yas Marina Circuit in UAE is one of the most fascinating venues on the Formula One calendar, a perfect setting for this extraordinary event that ends the development phase for Pirelli's Formula One tires. For the first time in the history of Formula One, the 5.55-kilometer Yas Marina track will be coated in water to create a unique 12-hour night test.
As the last round of private tests for Pirelli, wet and intermediate tires will solely be used. Today's session will start at 6pm and continue until midnight, with the same schedule for tomorrow.
Within the range of 2011 compounds, the rain tires have been specifically designed for wet or damp conditions. In line with current FIA regulations, Pirelli dry tires comprise four different compounds that have already been successfully tested.
Test driver Pedro de la Rosa will be at the wheel of Pirelli's F1 tire test car - a Toyota TF109. The TF109 was the last car to be developed by the Japanese manufacturer before it withdrew from the championship at the end of 2009, winning five podiums over its last season of competition. The test car will cover more than 1000km in extreme driving conditions with the rubber having to deal with severe stresses on a tricky wet and hot tarmac.
"This is a unique opportunity to witness a Formula One test car on track at night in the wet and on hot tarmac, in an entirely floodlit setting," said Paul Hembery, Pirelli Formula One Team Director. "We decided to do it this way because we want to challenge our rain tires with the most difficult and demanding of all situations. These tests will provide us with useful information to finalize our tire development process for Formula One. We will use this opportunity to gather more feedback and be ready for the Bahrain Grand Prix in March."
The two-day Abu Dhabi test is the last in a series of nine private tests that the Italian firm has carried out from August 19, when Pirelli's test program got underway. Since then, Nick Heidfeld, Roman Grosjean and Pedro de la Rosa, all at the wheel of a Toyota TF109, have covered more than 13000km in a variety of weather conditions at some important European and Middle East circuits.
Pirelli has used Mugello, Monza, Barcelona, Valencia, Jerez, Le Castellet and Bahrain to test its entire range of tires developed for the 2011 season.
Supersoft and soft compound tires were the last to be finalized and were successfully tested in Abu Dhabi last weekend, with Pedro de la Rosa driving for around 200 laps, the equivalent of some 1000km.
Coming up next is the official test in Valencia from February 1-4. The 12 Formula One teams will then move to Jerez, from February 10-13, and end the testing in Barcelona, from February 18-21. The 2011 Formula One season will begin at the Bahrain Gran Prix on March 13.