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NOVEMBER 19, 2010

Pirellis questions start to be answered

Ferrari's Felipe Massa pipped new world champion Sebastian Vettel to quickest time on the first day of the two-day Pirelli tyre test in Abu Dhabi, the first experience of the Italian rubber for the F1 teams. Vettel brought out the red flag just before the end of the scheduled proceedings when he suffered a right rear failure, with Pirelli now looking into the cause.

Massa's best lap, 1:40.170, time was around eight tenths behind Vettel's Abu Dhabi GP pole and a couple of tenths slower than Ferrari tester Jules Bianchi managed on Bridgestones earlier in the week.

"It was all about the tyres today," Vettel said, "this is the first chance we have had to try them out and work with them to develop the car's set-up for next year. I think they behaved well, better than expected given the short time Pirelli have had, and they've done a good job. Pirelli are obviously in the middle of their development and what we used today is not what we will race with, but it was a good start. The circuit was in good condition and we had blue skies all day.

"It was great to be back in the car after an incredible week - I went to Salzburg on Monday morning for a TV show and press conference and then to the UK to say thanks to the team in Milton Keynes - that was quite emotional. It's nice for me and the team to be able to enjoy our success, but 2011 started today and I was focusing on the tyres and getting to know them - I think we have learned quite a lot." Vettel continues for the final day of the test tomorrow.

With Bridgestone's Hirohide Hamashima saying earlier this year he felt that the weaker 2010 front Bridgestone tyre was badly suited to Michael Schumacher's driving style, there was much interest in the first day of the Pirelli test to see how that characteristic would compare. Schumacher himself was an interested observer and will take over the Mercedes tomorrow, but unfortunately for the seven times champion, initial impressions from team mate Nico Rosberg suggest that the Pirelli front could be even weaker. Slower lap times tend to bear that out, with Rosberg also noting that levels of degradation were quite high, which could actually lead to more interesting races tactically.

Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn said: "Today has been very important to start building our relationship with Pirelli. Whilst a lot of details remain to be understood, we feel that we have gained an initial understanding of the operational requirements of the two compounds that we have and have highlighted some important areas for investigation and improvement. We have been lucky to get exposure to the Pirelli tyres at a track with which we are now very familiar and in conditions that we will not experience again until the final test of the season in Bahrain."

Abu Dhabi Pirelli test times

1. Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 1m40.170

2. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull-Renault, 1m40.500

3. Gary Paffett, McLaren-Mercedes, 1m40.874

4. Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber-Ferrari, 1m40.950

5. Robert Kubica, Renault, 1m41.032

6. Rubens Barrichello, Williams-Cosworth, 1m41.425

7. Paul di Resta, Force India-Mercedes, 1m41.615

8. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1m41.778

9. Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso-Ferrari, 1m42.019

10. Adrian Sutil, Force India-Mercedes, 1m42.859

11. Timo Glock, Virgin-Cosworth, 1m44.124

12. Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus-Cosworth, 1m44.686

13. Pastor Maldonado, HRT-Cosworth, 1m45.728