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Pirelli get wet at Paul Ricard 11 Nov 2010

Pirelli tyres. GP3 Series Testing, Paul Ricard, France, 4-5 March 2010. Paul Hembery (GBR) Pirelli Motorsport Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia Spain, Saturday, 26 June 2010 Pedro de la Rosa during Pirelli tyre testing at Valencia, Spain, October 2010 © Pirelli

The south of France is not normally known for torrential rain, but Italian tyre firm Pirelli have successfully completed two days of wet running at the Le Castellet circuit this week in preparation for its eagerly-anticipated return to Formula One next season.

This was made possible thanks to the advanced sprinkler system at the Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track, which is able to accurately dampen the track to any specified level of wetness for the purposes of testing, whatever the ambient conditions.

"We're very pleased with the outcome of this wet test session,” said Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery. “The sprinkler facilities at Paul Ricard allowed us to carry out all the work that we intended in consistent conditions and maximise our time there to the best effect.”

Over the course of the two days, Pirelli test driver Pedro de la Rosa completed 826 kilometres in the Toyota TF109: 294 kilometres on Monday and 532 kilometres on Tuesday. The test was aimed exclusively at refining Pirelli's family of two rain tyres: the standard wet and the intermediate.

Pirelli were able to test both types of tyre comprehensively within a wide window of conditions, gathering some extremely useful data about each tyre's behaviour on a wet, damp and drying track. As a result, the design of the rain tyres have now been finalised and significant progress has been made on the definition of the compounds.

Wet-weather testing will continue next year, but for now the European phase of development has come to end and Pirelli heads next to Abu Dhabi, where the Formula One teams will have their first taste of the new rubber in a two-day test on November 19-20 following this weekend's Grand Prix.

“This will be the first indicator of where we are really at,” said Hembery. “It's still a big step into the unknown but we believe that we have a solid foundation of products now with which to make more progress - after less than three months of running to date."

Pirelli will take two types of slick tyre to the Abu Dhabi test: the medium tyre as the prime and the soft tyre as the option. Each of the 12 Formula One cars present will have eight sets of tyres available over the course of the two days, meaning that Pirelli will take nearly 500 tyres to the Middle East.