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Pirelli: Wider 2017 F1 tires meeting expectations after testing

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Pirelli’s new, wider tires for the 2017 Formula 1 season have met expectations following their first extended test in Barcelona this week.

Pirelli was tasked with producing tires that were more durable and 25 per cent wider for 2017 as part of a shake-up of F1’s technical regulations.

The Italian company completed extensive testing with Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari last year, but did not get a full range of data from all teams until this week’s pre-season running in Barcelona.

“We’re satisfied with the results of these four days. From what we can see up to now, the new product is in line with our expectations,” Pirelli racing manager Mario Isola said.

“For the 2017 season, the sport asked us to develop tires with less degradation, which allow drivers to push to the maximum. That’s what we’ve seen during these four days of testing so far, and what we’ll continue to see in the second four-day session next week.

“During the first session, the lap times have already been lowered considerably. The target was for lap times that were five seconds faster compared to Barcelona in 2015.

“Yesterday, Valtteri Bottas set a best time of 1:19.705 on ultrasoft tires. Considering that the pole time in 2015 at Barcelona was 1:24.681, I would say that this objective has been met.”

On Thursday, the track in Barcelona was made wet so that Pirelli could test its intermediate and extreme wet tires. As conditions remained sunny, the track dried through the day, but Pirelli was able to get plenty of data regarding the crossover phase between compounds.

Pirelli is also set to get more accurate data next week when teams begin to chase optimum lap time, with the focus through the first test being reliability and system checks.

Running in Barcelona resumes on Tuesday (March 7), lasting another four days prior to the start of the season in Australia on March 26.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.