McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne topped the timing screens during Pirelli’s record-breaking non-stop 12-hour tyre test in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.
The session started with all the drivers running some laps on either the supersoft or yellow compound tyre to confirm the set-up of the cars, before switching to Pirelli’s new purple ultrasoft tyre.
Testing with the prototype tyres started around one and a half hours into the session. The teams tested several different potential variations of the new ultrasoft compound, from which one will eventually be selected for the 2016 season.
Prototype tyres were not marked with any colours or other visible markings to ensure teams were unaware of what they were running, to avoid a team gaining any particular advantage.
Pirelli’s Paul Hembery said the Italian tyre manufacturer was satisfied with the data it managed to collect, but admitted it was too early to predict if their decisions would lead to an increase in pit stops.
“We had one shot when it came to testing tyres for next season, and we can be satisfied by what we’ve achieved in this test, even if we have to fully analyse the data,” he said.
“We’ve tested different versions of the new ultrasoft compound for 2016, which was one of the targets for this session. The ultrasoft’s target for 2016 is to introduce a compound softer than the supersoft and mainly designed as agressive choice for street circuits: with better performance than the latest version of the supersoft tyre and faster degradation, in order to allow the teams to take a more aggressive approach to race strategy.
“Whether this will produce more pit stops, or any difference in strategies, it’s too early to say for now. We will fully analyse our data and team telemetry once we get back to base. But it seems we are heading in the right direction: the ultrasoft is expected to offer more possibilities for certain races.”
Whilst the times are unrepresentative of pace, as they were unaware of what compound they were running, it gave several rookie drivers vital time behind the wheel, including Vandoorne, Jolyon Palmer, Pascal Wehrlein, Adderly Fong, Alfonso Celis, Rio Haryanto and Jordan King.