Pirelli looks forward to action-packed race weekend in Australia

A total of 1072 laps completed, using three sets of hard tyres and one set of soft tyres per car marked Pirelli's opening day of the Melbourne Grand Prix weekend, with local hero Mark Webber setting a time of 1m26.831s in the first free practice session and Jenson Button setting a time of 1m25.854s in free practice two. These were the vital statistics that underlined the Italian tyre firm's debut at race one of Pirelli's three-year agreement to supply P Zero tyres to Formula One. Webber's fastest time in the first session was quicker than the fastest time set by Robert Kubica (Renault) in the equivalent session last year of 1m26.927s. Webber completed 20 laps on the hard compound, setting his quickest time towards the end of the session. As usual, the grand prix weekend opened on Friday with two hour and a half long practice sessions held from 1230-1400 and 1630-1800. Ambient temperatures during both sessions were 17 degrees centigrade, with some light rain at the start of free practice two. Most cars opted to use the hard P Zero tyres in the first session, which have been nominated as the prime tyre for Australia, before switching to the option soft tyre for the bulk of the second session as they refined their race strategies. The second session started with some intermittent rain, which washed away the small amount of rubber that had been laid down in the first session, but all the teams still managed to complete plenty of dry running with Sergio Perez (Sauber) covering the furthest distance at 39 laps. Button set his fastest time on the soft PZero tyres completing 32 laps. Pirelli brought additional tyres to the circuit today to replace 20 tyres that had been damaged in transit by cold cracks: superficial splits in the rubber caused by cold ambient temperatures. This is a well-known phenomenon for slick tyres when they are being transported all over the world but it is a purely aesthetic issue that has no bearing on performance or integrity. The total number of substitute tyres was 54, in order to guarantee a reserve supply. Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery commented: "We're pleased with our first outing under competitive grand prix conditions, as our tyres have already shown a good level of performance and durability. While the weather may have felt cold for Australia, these were actually some of the warmest conditions that we have run in recently, and already we can see that our rubber is working better at these temperatures. We're in for a very exciting weekend: even with all the information that we have at our disposal, it's still hard to predict exactly how all the action will unfold." PIRELLI FACT OF THE DAY: Compared to the supersoft – the most aggressive compound of the range – the soft tyre is 25% harder and the hard tyre is 170% harder. This means that there is a 145% difference between the two tyres available to the 12 teams in Melbourne. Tomorrow the teams will take part in one more free practice session in the afternoon from 1400-1500 before embarking on qualifying from 1700-1800. Last year's pole time was 1m23.919s, set by Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull). The lap record is held by Michael Schumacher, thanks to a time of 1m24.125s set in 2004 with Ferrari. *** For further information please contact: Alexandra Schieren +33 607 03 69 03 alexandra.schieren@pirelli.com Francescopaolo Tarallo +39 334 684 4307 francescopaolo.tarallo@pirelli.com Anthony Peacock +44 7765 896 930 anthony@mediatica.co.uk