Pirelli bringing in special “winter” hard tires for Jerez test

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On the eve of Formula One’s preseason testing, Pirelli has announced that teams will get to use a “winter” version of their hard compound tires for this week’s session at Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.

All of the teams are coming to grips with their new turbocharged V-6 engines and other technical changes, so one assumes they don’t want to lose any bit of track time because of cold weather in Jerez. With that in mind, Pirelli has brought in the one-off “winter” tires that are optimized to perform in low ambient temperatures with a reduced risk of graining.

“Last year, the teams lost some preseason running due to excessively cold conditions in Spain: We even saw some ice on the track at one point,” Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery said in a statement.

“In order to combat this, we have developed a special ‘winter’ version of the hard compound. This will be used for the Jerez test only and it is designed to work effectively even in cold conditions.”

Additionally, Pirelli has announced an arrangement to have the Jerez circuit watered down for Friday, the final day of the four-day test. This is occurring because the new 2014 regulations state that one of the 12 days of preseason testing must be devoted to wet-weather tire testing.

Thus, in addition to all four of Pirelli’s slick tire compounds, their intermediate and full wet compounds are also coming along for the Jerez test.

Pirelli also revealed some notes regarding their new 2014 tires. In addition to new compounds and constructions, each rear tire now weighs 250 grams more and each front tire weighs 200 grams more than the 2013 tires. Also:

  • The front tires have a new profile, while the rear profile remains largely unaltered.
  • The new compounds are generally slightly harder than their 2013 equivalents to optimize grip.
  • The full wet tire has a new rear tread pattern in order to reduce aquaplaning by increasing how much water can be dispersed at full speed. It also has a new compound that is able to work well in damp and/or drying conditions, in order to increase the crossover point to the intermediates.

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”