MILAN, Italy (Aug. 18, 2010)—Pirelli Tyre S.p.A. has secured the services of Mercedes GP Petronas test driver Nick Heidfeld—who has more than 150 career Formula 1 starts on his resume—to be its official test driver as it begins testing tires for next year's F1 season.
Heidfeld will use Toyota's 2009 Formula 1 car, the TF109, to test the new rubber that all the teams will use from 2011 onwards, Pirelli said. The 33-year-old German, chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, spent 10 seasons in F1 driving for four teams before agreeing to become the test and reserve driver for Mercedes GP this season.
The Toyota TF109 was the last Formula 1 car produced by the Japanese car maker before it withdrew at the end of 2009. As such, Pirelli said, the car provides contemporary technology and performance with which to test the new Pirelli PZero Formula One tires to the limit while not providing an advantage to any team competing in the 2010 season.
Heidfeld will drive the car in a series of test sessions on several different circuits starting this month, Pirelli said. The development work will focus on finding the right compromise between performance, durability and spectacle.
“The role of test driver is a crucial one,” said Pirelli Motorsports Director Paul Hembery, “so we were looking for a driver who had plenty of recent Formula 1 experience, the speed to push our new tires as hard as possible, and the consistency to provide reliable simulations, as well as the analytical skills to relay information accurately to our engineers.”
Pirelli's development testing is getting under way less than two months since Pirelli concluded a three-year agreement with the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, world motorsport's governing body, as the sole tire supplier to the Formula 1 World Championship. Pirelli also will supply F1's companion “feeder” series, GP2 and GP3.
The current F1 teams will get the chance to test the new tires after the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November, Pirelli said. The Italian company's contract with the FIA calls for it to provide four distinct tires with different compounds, two of which will be used at each race.