RACE DEBRIEF

    Sebastian Vettel’s 2019 schedule has got a whole lot busier as the Ferrari driver is set to take part in a 2020 Pirelli tyre test in Spain just days before he competes in the Japanese Grand Prix...

    Mercedes and Red Bull will join Ferrari at the Circuit de Catalunya – the venue for the Spanish Grand Prix, and where the surface is much more abrasive than Paul Ricard where Pirelli last tested – and then head straight to Suzuka for round 17 of the championship.

    Mercedes will run reserve driver and soon-to-be Renault driver Esteban Ocon in the test, while Red Bull will run their simulator driver Jake Dennis.

    Pirelli’s F1 tyre boss Mario Isola explained why the test, which was squeezed in after being approved by the FIA World Motor Sport Council, was imperative for the tyre manufacturer, allowing them to get some more track time in to help finalise their 2020 rubber.

    It’s tough, but it’s doable. The aim of getting better tyres is a noble one...

    James Allison

    “The target of the test is to finalise the development for 2020,” he said. “We made a proposal to have an extra test to test a new compound with a wider working range, especially on the hard [tyre] levels.

    “That is not possible in Paul Ricard – that was the last test in September – and, luckily, three guys were available to run the test, so we will have one day each, [for] Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. That is a very good opportunity for us to finalise the product for next year.

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    “Testing is very important for us. We need to validate our tyres on track. We cannot change the product during the year. We have to do the best we can do during the season in order to homologate a good product for the following season and the only opportunity is to have a proper test calendar.”

    2019 Austrian GP

    While it may be a tight squeeze for Vettel, as well as the mechanics of each of the three teams, Ferrari’s Sporting Director Laurent Mekies says it’s a “complicated” but necessary operation.

    “I think it was only our duty to be able to do this test when they actually ask us to go and test this latest evolution,” he said.

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    “So, yes, logistically it is complicated but Sebastian will drive there and at the very end of the test he will just fly straight to Japan. But we felt it was, again, a duty towards everything we are asking to Pirelli to support the fact that we all want better tyres and that was the best way to achieve that.”

    Mercedes’ Technical Director James Allison added: “It’s tough, but it’s doable. The aim of getting better tyres is a noble one. We’re just leaning heavily on people who are knackered but they’ll step up…”

    Renault try out Pirelli's 18-inch tyres during a test at Paul Ricard

    Red Bull are facing the same challenging situation, with the added stress of Suzuka being a home race for their engine supplier Honda.

    “We’re heading to Suzuka and clearly with Honda we want to be in the best shape we can be and now we are being pulled to Barcelona as well, so it’s mighty challenging," said Chief Engineer, Car Engineering Paul Monaghan.

    So the general consensus, then, is that this tyre test may be a challenge for teams, but it’s a necessity, and it’ll be the same case for 2020 when teams start testing the new 18-inch tyres for the new era of F1.

    Pirelli’s Isola concluded: “We are grateful to the teams that accepted to test for us. I fully understand that it is a big effort of them to fit this tyre test into the calendar, which is very, very busy. It will be the same next year with an additional race, so we are finalising also the plan for next year.”