On its return to Europe, the P Zero Yellow soft tyre (which has been nominated together with the P Zero Silver hard tyre for the first time this season) set the fastest time in the second free practice session in Barcelona: the home of the Spanish Grand Prix.
Jenson Button set the fastest time during the second session this afternoon, with a time of 1m23.399 on the soft tyre. As expected, temperatures remained dry and warm for both the hour and a half sessions, allowing the drivers to experience the sort of conditions that they are likely to encounter during qualifying on Saturday. For the race, a risk of rain showers has been initially forecast.
With Barcelona being one of the circuits that places heavy demands on the tyres, the teams used the two free practice sessions to assess wear and degradation rates on different fuel loads, and also to establish a base set-up that will suit their likely strategies. With many teams having introduced upgrades at the recent Mugello test, free practice in Barcelona was also another opportunity to see how these worked in conjunction with the 2012-specification Pirelli tyres.
For the first time, there is an entire step in between the two compounds that have been nominated by Pirelli for the race. With a lap time difference of just over a second between the two compounds, strategy will be even more important during the race, putting an emphasis on the data collected by the teams during free practice today.
In the morning session, the teams concentrated exclusively on the P Zero Silver hard before moving onto the P Zero Yellow soft tyre in the afternoon with some further use of the hard compound. The fastest time in free practice one was set by Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso with a benchmark of 1m24.754s.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “It was a very important session today for all the teams, as they aimed to gather as much information as possible in order to prepare their race strategies, which are going to have a big influence on the final outcome of the race. Barcelona is well known for a notable degree of tyre wear thanks to long and fast corners such as turn three, and although we still have plenty of data to analyse, it seems that the frontrunners will be likely to adopt a three-stop strategy. However, with a wider gap between the two nominated tyres than usual – both in terms of compound and performance – we could see some quite different strategies that are capable of springing a surprise. And of course if the rain showers that some people are predicting for Sunday materialise, then the race will take on an entirely new and unexpected complexion. With many of the teams introducing new developments in Spain, it almost feels like we are starting the season from scratch again.”
PIRELLI NUMBERS OF THE DAY:
Sets used overall:
Hard 53Soft 25Intermediates 0Wet 0
Highest number of laps per compound:
Hard 17Soft 18Intermediate 0Wet 0
PIRELLI FACT OF THE DAY:
Last year, a four-stop strategy proved the key to success for Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel: the only race other than Turkey (which also contains high-speed, high-energy corners) where this was the case. Pirelli nominated the hard and soft tyres last year in Barcelona as well, but this year’s compounds are softer across the board: the 2012 hard compound is similar in character to last year’s medium. However, the teams have plenty of experience of running the 2012 Pirelli tyres in Barcelona through pre-season testing. The final test held in March was dominated by Lotus, which went quickest on three out of the four days, using the P Zero Yellow soft tyre.