Formula One looks set for a repeat of last year’s start to the season as teams struggle to get to grips with the latest generation of F1 tires.
Pirelli, the official F1 tire supplier, has produced a softer range of compounds this year in a bid to increase the teams’ strategic options during the races.
After 12 days of testing, much of which was conducted in conditions that are far cooler than is typically seen in races, teams are still scratching their heads over the tires.
“All the teams, ourselves included, will still have a lot to learn about the tires in Melbourne,” said Ferrari technical director Pay Fry. “The performance and the degradation of the tires will be the determining factor in establishing how competitive everyone is.”
Toro Rosso’s head of vehicle performance Laurent Mekies added: “Getting a full understanding of how the new rubber works is something that will take longer than we had expected.”
Last year seven different drivers won the first seven races as teams found tire performance hard to predict. While drivers doubt a repeat of that situation is on the cards, the tires are expected to add some unpredictability to what looks like a very closely-matched field.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said they expect to hit their target for increasing the number of pit stops at each race:
“As this was the final test session, it was useful for the teams to have the opportunity to run through every tire in the range as they complete their preparations.
“Now we’re looking forward to getting to Australia, where our tires will be able to function properly within their working range, and we hope to see an exciting race with between two and three pit stops per car.”
Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic. Follow F1 Fanatic on Twitter.
On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.
And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.
Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.
The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.
“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.
“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.
“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”
A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.