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The start of the season is drawing closer: Penultimate DTM tests of the winter in progress, preparations for F1 season have finished. The first race of the year will get under way next week in Australia.
Kilometre champs I: After two weeks of testing, eight test days and 64 test hours, the team has completed the winter tests with the new Silver Arrow. New team member valtteribottas posted 628 laps, driving the new F1 W08 EQ Power+ at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the equivalent of 2,923 km or the race distance of ten Spanish Grands Prix. This was a perfect technical rehearsal for the Finn, who posted more kilometres over the winter than any other driver. His team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, completed a further 468 laps, bringing the team’s tally up to 1,096 laps (5,102 km or the equivalent of 16 complete races). No team put in more kilometres in Barcelona than the Silver Arrows.
Kilometre champs II: However, the new F1 W08 EQ Power+ did not post test kilometres in isolation in Spain. The Mercedes-AMG F1 M08 EQ Power+ Power Unit was also utilised by customer teams Force India and Williams. In total, the three Mercedes-powered teams posted 2,681 laps which equates to 12,480 km. The fact that all three teams in Barcelona finished among the Top Five in the kilometre stakes, completing the most laps of all four engine manufacturers, is testament to the fine work of everyone at Mercedes-AMG High-Performance Powertrains in Brixworth.
StatAttack: The kilometre figures are all the more impressive considering the stresses and strains that the brand-new Silver Arrow was exposed to. During testing, more than 17,500 turns were taken, 49,000 gear changes made, 70 sets of Pirelli tyres used, 43,840,000 shots of Petronas Primax fuel injected and 4,384 MJ of energy produced by the MGU-K. These are absolutely incredible stats, but that’s enough of playing around with numbers for now! The moment will soon be upon us, in around ten days, when the lights go out for the first time this season in Melbourne’s Albert Park.
Three questions for Gary Paffett
Gary, this was your first time out in Vallelunga. How did you prepare for the new circuit?
Gary Paffett: I’ve been around for so long now that I very rarely find myself at a new track. It’s been quite a while since I had to learn a new track layout, so I prepared a bit with a computer game. There were no such luxuries in my early days, you know. This is why it’s so much easier now to learn new circuits. I also went over the track with the engineers when I first got here. What’s more, Robert drove the car the day before me, so I was able to check out his data. It’s important to drive on the limit where possible in order to make the best use of our time here during testing, which is why I prepared myself very carefully for the track.
Homologation of the new Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM has now been accomplished, so what is the team’s main focus here in Vallelunga?
Gary Paffett: This isn’t the final version of the car here in Vallelunga, the one we’ll be using for the season opener at Hockenheim. Like most teams, we’re still in an interim phase. The main task at the moment is to understand the tyres and mechanical components.
Since you raised the topic, Hankook are introducing a new generation of tyre for 2017 that should prove a tricky challenge for drivers. Will a good ‘nurser’ of tyres be fazed by this prospect?
Gary Paffett: We’ve been wanting softer tyres for some time now, since they improve performance on the first lap and in qualifying. The car is also nicer to drive, plus, the tyres degrade faster, which should lead to greater differences in speed in the race. That will, hopefully, lead to more battles and overtaking manoeuvres. It’s what fans want to see. For the driver, it means a different style of driving. There’s a little more grip, but you have to be careful how you use it. If you’re over eager on the attack, then the tyres will degrade too much, and ultimately, you won’t have a deal of potential left. You have to keep a good eye on the tyres and feel for the point at which they start to degrade. When you’re sitting in the car, you don’t have precise data, like tyre temperature, in front of you. You have to try to feel that. This is why test driving is so important. We learn more about tyre behaviour with every long run. The biggest challenge this year will be to understand the tyres and get the most out of them in the race.
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