Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery says he is excited by the prospect of the company making its return to competitive F1 action in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix this weekend.
Pirelli replaces Bridgestone as official tyre supplier for 2011 having signed a three-year agreement with the FIA and goes into the season having completed a total of 33 days of testing over the winter with its new tyres.
The new tyres have been designed to encourage overtaking with Pirelli taking hard and soft compound rubber to Albert Park for the season opener.
“This is the moment that we've been building up to for more than a year now and it's very exciting for all of us,” Hembery said. “Our tyres this year are designed to be different to what we have seen before in Formula One, but I think all the teams have managed to gather some useful information about them in testing. We're aiming for between two and three pit stops in Australia, which in some ways is against our company DNA as our road car tyres are designed to be as durable as possible.
“But Formula One is a very different case, because our remit from the teams and promoter was to provide entertainment. With that in mind, we're just keen to get going now and it will be fascinating to see exactly how the drivers and teams are going to use our tyres to employ different strategies during the race. We've noticed a few differences between the teams already in testing, and it's going to be very interesting to find out exact ly how that translates into a race situation.”
Teams have worked hard over the winter to come to terms with the new tyres, and defending champion Sebastian Vettel admitted that the switch from Bridgestone would be one of the interesting changes for the season opener.
“None of us have ever driven around the Melbourne circuit on Pirelli tyres before so we are all wondering what it's going to be like,” he said. “It's the start of something brand new. I think the only thing that we can say for sure is that it's going to be different and create a lot of interest. Normally, it is a tough track for tyres, so I think that's something that we are going to have to keep an eye on during the race.
“Melbourne has a few things to look out for: the track demands good braking stability and some of the corners are a bit bumpy. Getting good traction is typically quite difficult there, so that will be an important factor in the car set-up. We'll be basing ourselves on the knowledge of the tyres that we have acquired during winter testing – although the conditions in Australia are likely to be somewhat different. Everyone is looking forward to the start of the season and I hope it's going to be a fascinating race, for the drivers and much as for the spectators.“