Pirelli gets wet at Paul Ricard

The south of France is not normally known for torrential rain, but Italian tyre firm Pirelli has successfully completed two days of wet running at the Le Castellet circuit this week in preparation for its eagerly-anticipated return to Formula One. This was made possible thanks to the advanced sprinkler system at the Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track, which is able to accurately dampen the track to any specified level of wetness for the purposes of testing, whatever the ambient conditions. Over the course of the two days of testing, Pedro de la Rosa completed 826 kilometres in the Toyota TF109: 294 kilometres on Monday and 532 kilometres on Tuesday. The test was aimed exclusively at refining Pirelli's family of two rain tyres: the extreme wet and the intermediate. The extreme wet is used for full rain conditions while the intermediate is a transition tyre that copes well with conditions between dry and wet. These tyres were previously run in Valencia at the beginning of October, and plenty of progress was made throughout the two days at Le Castellet. Pirelli was able to test both types of tyre comprehensively within a wide window of conditions, gathering some extremely useful data about each tyre's behaviour on a wet, damp and drying track. As a result, the design of the rain tyres have now been finalised and significant progress has been on the definition of the compounds. British driver Ben Hanley also tested the extreme wet tyre for GP2. Unlike Formula One, the GP2 regulations do not permit an intermediate tyre, meaning that the GP2 extreme wet has to be very versatile to cope with a wide range of rain conditions. Wet weather testing will continue next year, but for now the European phase of development has come to end and Pirelli heads next to Abu Dhabi, where the Formula One teams will have their first taste of the new rubber in a two-day test from November 19-20 following this weekend's Grand Prix. Pirelli will take two types of slick tyre to the Abu Dhabi test: the medium tyre as the prime and the soft tyre as the option. Each of the 12 Formula One cars present will have eight sets of tyres available over the course of the two days, meaning that Pirelli will take nearly 500 covers to the Middle East. Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: "We're very pleased with the outcome of this wet test session. The sprinkler facilities at Paul Ricard allowed us to carry out all the work that we intended in consistent conditions and maximise our time there to the best effect. With our European campaign over we now head to Abu Dhabi, which will be the first indicator of where we are really at. It's still a big step into the unknown but we believe that we have a solid foundation of products now with which to make more progress - after less than three months of running to date."