Tongues were wagging in the Barcelona paddock on Thursday when some drivers hit the Spanish circuit wearing odd-looking Pirelli tyres. Some of the tyres, whose compounds are normally visibly differentiated with coloured branding, featured significantly different markings. The big rumour was that, now just two weeks before the start of the season in Australia, teams had requested the blank tyres in order to hide their test programmes from their rivals.
According to France’s Auto Plus, motor sport director Paul Hembery cleared up the matter by explaining that the blank tyres were in fact “prototypes”. They had been manufactured not at Pirelli’s usual F1 factory in Turkey, but elsewhere, in the event that a natural disaster forced the tyre supplier to change its plans at the last minute.
Hembery also answered the criticism that, after Pirelli’s initial 2011 tyres spiced up the racing early last year, the new generation might not be aggressive enough.
“We need data from the races to judge that,” he insisted. “It’s far too early.”
He also confirmed that Pirelli is close to announcing the identity of its 2010-specification test car, and a new test driver. It is believed former Force India driver Adrian Sutil is a candidate.