Wehrlein at Barcelona. Photo: Pirelli

Rain dampens latest round of Pirelli’s 2017 tire testing

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This week was meant to be a heavy two days of running for Pirelli’s new 2017 tires, but rain at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona prevented Mercedes AMG Petronas drivers Nico Rosberg and Pascal Wehrlein from doing much running at all.

Rosberg drove the modified 2015 Mercedes chassis, the W06, on Wednesday. The German and World Championship leader was in Barcelona only a day after celebrating the team’s third successive Constructor’s Championship but only got 60 laps of running in.

Per Pirelli, “cool temperatures in the morning (with track temperatures of 17° centigrade at the beginning of the test) and the rain in the afternoon hindered the work that was done today, making it difficult to obtain representative tire data.”

Of those 60 laps, Rosberg ran 46 in dry conditions in the morning and then 14 in the afternoon.

Rosberg on 2017 Pirelli tires in dry conditions. Photo: Pirelli
Rosberg on 2017 Pirelli tires in dry conditions. Photo: Pirelli
And then it got wet for Rosberg later on. Photo: Pirelli
And then it got wet for Rosberg later on. Photo: Pirelli

Things didn’t improve any for Wehrlein, who took the reins on Thursday, when Lewis Hamilton had meant to be driving but didn’t owing to a sore foot.

Wehrlein, the Manor driver, completed 31 laps on Pirelli’s Cinturato Intermediate compounds in the wider 2017 sizes. Temperatures were even cooler today as the running got underway with a damp surface, track temperatures of just 15 degrees centigrade, and fog. The rain returned in the afternoon, ending the session prematurely.

“Obviously the weather hindered progress to some extent both today and yesterday, as is not entirely unexpected at this time of year in Europe,” said Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery.

“The same can apply to the early part of next year, which is why we are in favor of some guaranteed warm weather testing in 2017, before the season gets underway.”

On the subject of warm weather testing, that should take place this weekend with Red Bull Racing testing the 2017 tires in Abu Dhabi from Friday through Sunday.

What Hembery was referencing in his last quote was a row over 2017 preseason testing, with tests set for Barcelona but Pirelli – and some other teams – petitioning to get at least one test moved to a warmer climate. Bahrain has been mentioned.

Lewis Hamilton takes F1 pole in dramatic Russian GP qualifying

Russian pole Lewis Hamilton
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix, after narrowly avoiding early elimination when Sebastian Vettel crashed.

Hamilton charged to a track-record time of 1 minute, 31.304 seconds, beating the Red Bull of Max Verstappen by 0.563 for his fifth straight pole position. Hamilton can achieve his 91st career win in the race on Sunday, matching the record held by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was beaten into third by Verstappen’s fast run at the end of the session and was .652 off Hamilton’s time.

The long run from the grid to the first significant turn means Bottas could yet threaten to overtake Hamilton at the start Sunday using the slipstream from his teammate’s car.

“It’s nice being on pole but here is probably the worst place to be on pole,” Hamilton said.

“This year you’re seeing that our cars are more draggy and there’s more tow this year than we’ve seen in other years. So I generally expect one of (Verstappen and Bottas) to come flying by at some point. I think I’m just going to focus on my race and run the fastest race I can.”

Bottas earned his first win at the 2017 race in Russia after starting third and overtaking the two Ferraris ahead of him at the start.

Verstappen and Bottas both start the race on medium tires, which could give them an edge in terms of pit strategy over Hamilton, who is on soft tires, which wear much faster.

“I’m just going to have to nurse those tires for as far as I can. These guys, if they get by, they’re going to be pulling away,” Hamilton said.

Verstappen said he was delighted to start second.

“I wasn’t expecting that and of course it’s great for us. If we can get a good start tomorrow you never know what can happen,” he said.

Vettel lost control of his car over the kerb on the inside of the 90-degree, right-hand turn four and spun into the wall, before the Ferrari bounced back onto the track. Teammate Charles Leclerc was following closely behind and narrowly missed the wrecked car, driving over its discarded front wing.

“Oh my God, that was very, very close,” Leclerc told his team over the radio. Leclerc qualified 11th and Vettel 15th as Ferrari failed to reach the top-10 shootout with either car for the third time in four races.

Vettel’s crash meant the red flag was waved while Hamilton was trying to set his first valid lap time to make the third session – after his first attempt was earlier ruled out for going off the track.

After the track was cleared and the session restarted, Hamilton had to rush his out-lap to make it over the line in time for another flying lap with just a second to spare.

“It was horrible,” Hamilton said. “Heart in the mouth.”

Hamilton was also asked to report to race stewards over another incident in which he went off the track in the first part of qualifying. No further action was taken. It was found Hamilton didn’t gain an advantage because the lap time wasn’t counted.

Hamilton is the runaway championship leader with a 55-point advantage over second-place Bottas and 80 over Verstappen. If he can earn four more pole positions in the last seven races, he would be the first driver to 100 in F1 history.

Earlier in the third and final practice Saturday morning, Hamilton set the pace with a time of 1 minute, 33.279 seconds that was 0.776 better than his Mercedes teammate Bottas, who had been quickest in the first two sessions.