The “fundamental characteristics” of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the venue for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, have been altered by recent track resurfacing, according to Pirelli Head of Car Racing Mario Isola.
Pirelli admitted in a statement that they’re expecting the changes to the track surface to be “significant”, but said they wouldn’t be comparable to learning an entirely new circuit.
The track was completely resurfaced during January and February of this year, with all work being completed before Formula 1’s two pre-season test sessions in late February and early March.
“The teams already have some knowledge of the new asphalt from pre-season testing,” conceded Mario Isola.
But, he later said that hotter weather, greater developed cars, and an older surface age should all play a part in creating conditions different from pre-season testing.
“The tarmac was the same as we had in testing, but obviously the weather conditions are different,” Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen said following his somewhat disastrous FP2 session.
“The new surface created a few moments for a lot of drivers, myself included,” Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo said, with an obvious allusion to the crash that ended his run in FP1.
Pirelli said “wear and degradation rates will need to be re-assessed” by the teams ahead of Sunday’s Grand Prix.
Mercedes-AMG engineer Andrew Shovlin agreed with Pirelli’s claims, admitting that “we [Mercedes] spent more time than usual trying to understand how all three compounds compared” during Friday practice.
Pirelli said that the surface changes had added to the “complexion” of the circuit.
With the new track surface, Pirelli has also decided to minimize the standard tyre tread depth by 0.4 millimetres. This change will help the teams control tyre overheating, but will not give a performance advantage.
Mercedes-AMG said in a statement ahead of Friday practice that the new track surface had made “historic comparisons even trickier”.
Teams will get their last taste of the new track surface during Saturday’s sessions: FP3 and qualifying.
The Grand Prix will then quick off on Sunday at 3:10pm local time.