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Massa lauds 'positive start' as Pirelli officially returns

The overwhelming impression within the F1 paddock is that Pirelli's return to the grand prix grid in 2011 is on the right track, after Ferrari star Felipe Massa paces the opening day of the Abu Dhabi test
Ferrari's Felipe Massa has heralded a 'positive' first day of running on Pirelli tyres in Abu Dhabi today (Friday), with the Italian company making an official return to F1 almost two decades on from its last appearance in the top flight as it gears up to supply the entire field with rubber in 2010.

On a perfect if demanding day for testing with hot weather and sunny skies, Massa wound up quickest of the 13 drivers in action around the Yas Marina Street Circuit, completing 94 laps as he stole newly-crowned F1 2010 World Champion Sebastian Vettel's thunder by pipping the German to the top of the timing screens by a third of a second.

“It was a positive start to begin to understand the behaviour of the Pirelli tyres,” remarked the Brazilian, who will hand over to team-mate Fernando Alonso for day two. “I felt at ease right from the start, and there were no unpleasant surprises.

“We tried two different types and acquired a lot of data which will be useful for Pirelli to develop the tyres still further for the start of the 2011 season. On the hards, there were some difficulties over a long run while the softs worked well both on the very first lap and also after they had done a larger number of laps.”

“I wish to take this opportunity to welcome back Pirelli to F1,” added the Scuderia's team principal Stefano Domenicali. “It is nice to see two symbols of Italian excellence together on track. I am sure that Pirelli will make a very important contribution to our sport in terms of professionalism and technical research.”

“It was all about the tyres today, as this was the first chance we have had to try them out and work with them to develop the car's set-up for next year,” concurred Red Bull Racing star Vettel, back at the scene of his history-making title triumph in the Middle East just five days earlier. “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.

“It was great to be back in the car after an incredible week; I went to Salzburg on Monday morning for a TV show and press conference, and then to the UK to say thanks to the team in Milton Keynes – that was quite emotional. It's nice for me and the team to be able to enjoy our success, but 2011 started today and I was focussing on the tyres and getting to know them – I think we have learned quite a lot.”

Gary Paffett placed third for McLaren-Mercedes, the team's loyal long-time test driver likewise expressing himself satisfied with progress after 94 laps and reporting a basic balance and performance from the MP4-25 not dissimilar to that produced when on Bridgestone rubber. Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi wound up just behind Paffett in fourth.

“I think the tyres from Pirelli are well-made,” underlined the Japanese ace. “We tested how to work with these new tyres and how we need to further develop our car for them, learning in which way they are different to what we were used to running. The tyres were quite consistent. Only in the morning I struggled with tyre wear, but after we made some set-up changes this wasn't an issue any longer. It was a very interesting test for us.”




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