Pirelli's first official Formula 1 tire test started in Abu Dhabi on Friday morning, with all 12 teams getting their first chance to sample the Italian company's rubber.
Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari was the first to take to the track on Pirellis, using one of the eight sets of tires that are available to each team during the two-day test. These are divided between the soft and medium compounds.
It is the first time that the tires have run on a current Formula 1 car, with all testing so far having be done privately by Pirelli on a 2009-specification Toyota TF109 that it has hired for testing.
Teams are hoping that the two-day Abu Dhabi test will give them the opportunity to understand how the characteristics of the new rubber will affect the cars. Pirelli has supplied an engineer to each team, but has not dictated how the test will be run. It will be up to the individual teams to run the test as they see fit before sharing the data with the Italian tire company.
"It's about getting an understanding of how the tires differ from what we are used to. Sauber technical director James Key told AUTOSPORT. "We head in with a car setup that isn't specific to the Pirellis and we will see if the offset that we get in the way that the car behaves is what we expect from the tire data that we have. Then it will be a case of understanding the fundamentals – how the tires respond to basic mechanical setup changes, how they respond to different fuel loads, how they degrade and how they warm up.
"It will be basic stuff on the first day, then maybe on the second day we can see how they react to changes and if we can get a bit more out of them from changing the setup or the way that the drivers are using them. We can look at longer runs as well."
Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery said yesterday that lap times are not the focus for the test. Instead, he is eager for feedback from the teams to help the company modify its compounds for the start of preseason testing next February.
"It's not important because the track changes a lot," Hembery told AUTOSPORT. "We have never set out looking for lap times."
Running on Friday are: Gary Paffett (McLaren), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Rubens Barrichello (Williams), Robert Kubica (Renault), Adrian Sutil/Paul di Resta (Force India), Jaime Alguersuari (Scuderia Toro Rosso), Heikki Kovalainen (Lotus), Pastor Maldonado (HRT), Kamui Kobayashi/Sergio Perez (Sauber) and Timo Glock (Virgin).