Sebastian Vettel doubts that his extra test running with Pirelli last year to help test the 2017-spec Formula 1 tires has given him a notable advantage over his rivals at the start of the new season.
Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull worked with Pirelli through 2016 using ‘mule cars’ to help develop the Italian tire supplier’s new compounds after a redesign of F1’s tires to make them 25 per cent bigger.
Vettel completed the most testing of any driver, and was one of the few to offer no complaints about managing the ultra-soft compound in Australia at the F1 season-opener.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton decided to pit early from the lead in Australia as he struggled with the ultra-softs, allowing Vettel to move into the lead and trigger a strategy that saw Ferrari win for the first time in 18 months.
While Vettel’s extended testing with Pirelli was cited as a reason for his victory in Australia, the German doubts he gained a huge amount from the running, but was happy to have been involved.
“I’m not sure. I think maybe the right answer is ‘no’,” Vettel said when asked if he had a better understanding of the tires as a result of his test running.
“The reason why I’m generally happy to do it is because I love driving. So, when there’s an opportunity to test, even though testing can sometimes be a bit dull and boring.
“But still, you’re driving the car and that’s much better than sitting on the bike for a couple of hours or whatever training to be fit enough to drive the car. I think that generally track time is limited so every opportunity you get.
“That’s personal, but I can’t understand why you would reject it and as I said, I’m happy to drive the car and I think there’s always something you learn.
“So for sure the days I did last year with Pirelli to help them get feedback for the tires etc., for sure they also helped me.”
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg also said that he doubted there was a huge amount to be gained in the private tests, particularly as the cars used varied from the 2017 models that are now racing the tires.
“Obviously it was these mule cars which were not fully representative and the tires were also not, I believe, the exact spec that we have now,” Hulkenberg said.
“But, you know, there’s always something that you can learn, and pick up, that you can use for your advantage. But that’s in the past. It’s history.”