Pirelli gets chance for data on ’14 tires with Bahrain test

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After an arduous 2013 season, it appears Formula One tire manufacturer Pirelli will have ample opportunity to get it right for 2014.

As part of the FIA’s raft of regulation changes issued today, Pirelli was given the green light to stage a three-day test session next week at the Bahrain International Circuit. All F1 teams have been invited to the test and six of them have accepted: Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari, Force India, McLaren and Toro Rosso.

The 2014 Pirelli compounds were slated to run during the early free practice sessions for last month’s season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix. However, steady rains at Interlagos effectively kept the running of those prototypes to a minimum.

But with today’s decision, Pirelli should be able to attain enough data on the new tires to properly set up for the rounds of pre-season testing in January.

And that means we should avoid embarrassing situations such as the multiple tire explosions that marred the British Grand Prix and put Pirelli’s place in the sport in serious jeopardy. Following the chaos at Silverstone, Pirelli created a new specification of tire that debuted at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The company had been adamant about testing their new 2014 tires in advance of multiple technical introductions for next season such as V-6 turbo engines and new energy recovery systems. At the Indian Grand Prix in October, Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery even said that his group wouldn’t be able to supply tires for 2014 without more winter tests.

Fortunately, the FIA has heeded Pirelli’s call for tests. The last thing F1 needs with such an important season on the horizon is “Tiregate: Part 2,” and the FIA’s allowance of the Bahrain test should help in putting that unsavory scenario to rest.

Valiant efforts from Hunter-Reay, Dixon come up just short at Road America

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Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon drove about as hard as they possibly could during Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix, and they both drove nearly perfect races.

Hunter-Reay took advantage of Will Power’s engine issues on the start to immediately jump into second, and stalked pole sitter and leader Josef Newgarden from there, often staying within only a couple car lengths of his gearbox.

Dixon, meanwhile, had a tougher chore after qualifying a disappointing 12th. Further, he was starting in the same lane as Will Power, and when Power had engine issues when the green flag waved, Dixon was one of several drivers who was swamped in the aftermath.

Scott Dixon had to come from deep in the field on Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix. Photo: IndyCar

However, as is his style, he quietly worked his way forward, running sixth after the opening round of pit stops, and then working his way up to third after the second round of stops.

It all meant that, after Lap 30, Newgarden, Hunter-Reay, and Dixon were nose-to-tail at the front, with the latter two in position to challenge for the win.

Yet, neither was able to do so. Hunter-Reay never got close enough to try to pass Newgarden, while Dixon couldn’t do so on either Hunter-Reay or Newgarden. And, neither driver went longer in their final stint – Dixon was actually the first of that group to pit, doing so on Lap 43, with Hunter-Reay and Newgarden pitting together one lap later.

And Newgarden pulled away in the final stint, winning by over three seconds, leaving Hunter-Reay and Dixon to finish second and third.

It was a somewhat bitter pill to swallow, with Hunter-Reay noting that he felt like he had enough to challenge for a win.

“I felt like we had the pace for (Newgarden), especially in the first two stints,” he asserted. “I really felt like it was going to be a really good race between us. Whether it be first, second, third, fourth stint – I didn’t know when it was going to come.”

He added that, if he could do it over again, he would have been more aggressive and tried to pass Newgarden in the opening stint.

“In hindsight, I should have pressured him a bit more in the first stint,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “We were focused on a fuel number at the time. Unfortunately that Penske fuel number comes into play, can’t really go hard.”

Dixon, meanwhile, expressed more disappointment in the result, asserting that qualifying better would have put him in a possibly race-winning position.

“I think had we started a little further up, we could have had a good shot at trying to fight for the win today,” he expressed.

The disappointment for Dixon also stems from the knowledge that his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda had the pace to win, especially longer into a run.

“The car was pretty good on the long stint,” he asserted. “I think for us the saving grace was probably the black tire stint two. We closed a hefty gap there. We were able to save fuel early in the first stint, which enabled us to go a lap longer than everybody, had the overcut for the rest of the race.

“I think speed-wise we were right there. Had a bit of a crack at Hunter-Reay on his out lap on the last stint there, but cooked it too much going into (Turn 14), got a bit loose, lost momentum. That would have been really the only chance of passing him.”

Dixon remains in the championship lead, however, by 45 points, while Hunter-Reay moved up to second, tied with Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi.

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