Pirelli's soft and medium tyres were tried out by all the teams today during the first two sessions of the Abu Dhabi GP weekend. Despite being the same tyres as in India, the durability and consistency of the two compounds is very difference due to the nature of the Yas Marina track.
With sunset coming around half an hour into the second free practice session at Abu Dhabi, the teams had experience of driving both in daylight during the first session, with high ambient temperatures, and also in the cooler conditions of the evening.
The fastest time of the day was set by Red Bull’s newly-crowned champion Sebastian Vettel, who established a benchmark of 1m41.335s on the P Zero Yellow soft tyre halfway through FP2. The other compound that has been nominated for Abu Dhabi is the P Zero White medium, meaning that the teams are working with the same selection as they had for India. Nonetheless, even at this early stage in the weekend, there is much less wear and degradation on the soft tyre in particular.
In the morning, when track temperatures peaked at 45 degrees centigrade, Lotus driver Romain Grosjean went quickest on the medium tyre. This was the only compound the teams used in FP1, before moving onto the soft tyre in the afternoon. Force India’s Paul di Resta had a braking issue that damaged the wheel rim, with no other tyre-related incidents throughout both sessions.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “Friday in Abu Dhabi is unique as there is a marked contrast between the conditions in the two sessions. With FP2 more representative of qualifying and the race, this obviously limits the usefulness of FP1 here, as tyre wear and degradation at that time is not typical. But any time running the car is useful when it comes to evaluating set-up for this race, where the emphasis is on traction, which has a direct correlation to rear tyre life. In the morning, it was quite slippery as usual due to dust on the track, which is what caused the graining that some teams experienced.
"From what we can see so far there is approximately 1.5 seconds between the two compounds: enough of a difference to make strategy a key consideration. We’d expect the top 10 to qualify on the soft tyres tomorrow, which of course potentially hands an opportunity to those from P11 downwards who can start on the tyre of their choice. We still have plenty of data to analyse but as it stands we would predict between one to two pit stops for the race, with the teams perhaps having the possibility of a longer final stint than usual because of the cooling track temperatures.”
The fastest tme of the day on medium tyres was set by Romain Grosjean in the morning session, setting a 1:44.241. Sebastian Vettel improved on that considerably with a run on soft tyres in the afternoon, completing a lap in 1:41.335.