Formula 1 teams are considering a plan to run development tires in free practice sessions this year, perhaps as soon as the Malaysian Grand Prix, as Pirelli looks to keep up its in-season development.
With testing banned once the campaign gets under way, Pirelli will have no opportunity to get data on tire tweaks from current cars during 2011 unless it gets agreement from teams for special running to take place. Although some thought was given to organizing some post-race tests during the campaign to allow Pirelli to evaluate changes it may want to make to tires, it has now decided the better option is to give extra "experimental" rubber to teams during Friday practice sessions instead.
The Italian tire company has now proposed this idea to the teams and the sport's chiefs, and if the plan comes off it could be in place as early at the second round of the season in Sepang. Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery told AUTOSPORT
: "If we go ahead with the idea of using FP1 [first free practice] we would give each team a couple of sets of a new proposal tire and they can use them then.
"After they have used these extra sets, the teams could then revert to the normal race sets for the rest of the weekend. So far, we've asked the teams if they are in favor of this plan."
Hembery said that the idea of using FP1 was better for Pirelli and the teams because it would involve far less cost and organizational hassle than holding a test on the Monday after a race.
"We had to find a solution that kept costs in check," he said. "Giving the teams extra tires does not interrupt the teams' race simulation work – and it also means there isn't some joker card or something unknown as there would be if we replaced the normal weekend tire sets."
Hembery said no final decision had been made on when or how often Pirelli would want to run development tires in sessions, but said the catalyst for such a move would be when the company felt it needed to make improvements to its tires.
"We will do it when the timing works well. We won't make changes just for the sake of it – but it's more likely if we see something that we want to tweak or change. That is why Malaysia is attractive for us, because of the extreme heat. We have to have compounds that work well in temperatures ranging from 10 degrees Centigrade to 50 degrees C [50-122 F], so we have a lot to learn this year."