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.

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.