AlphaTauri confirm driver line-up for two-day Pirelli test at Paul Ricard

Michelle Foster
AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly on track during the Japanese Grand Prix. Suzuka, October 2022.

AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly on track during the Japanese Grand Prix. Suzuka, October 2022.

Nyck de Vries’s first on-track action ahead of his debut Formula 1 campaign begins on Saturday, the AlphaTauri driver scheduled to put in a laps in a Pirelli tyre test.

De Vries and his team-mate Yuki Tsunoda are the latest to put their team’s 2022 car through its paces in a tyre test, AlphaTauri picking up where Mercedes left off.

Earlier this week George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were in action over the course of two days, and as of Friday it’s AlphaTauri’s turn.

The Japanese driver will be behind the wheel of the AT03 at Paul Riciard on Friday, it has been confirmed to, with De Vries replacing him for the Saturday.

The new team-mates will be conducting a wet weather tyre test, the track to be soaked if Mother Nature doesn’t play her part.

This season De Vries is making his full-time debut, the Dutchman having secured an AlphaTauri race seat after an impressive one-off appearance for Williams at last season’s Italian GP where he finished ninth.

Concerns about Pirelli’s wet weather tyres

The wet weather tyres have long been an issue for Pirelli.

Last season after a soaking-wet Japanese Grand Prix, four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel declared Pirelli wets as “junk”.

“We are forced to go on the intermediates because the rain tyres are junk… sorry, not so good,” said the former Aston Martin driver. “So we push ourselves from one emergency to another. The whole field was driving on the wrong tyres.

“We are all responsible for that, but we have an intermediate that is so much faster than the wet tire. The wet is better for the conditions but so slow that you’re forced to be on the next tyre. That needs to be improved.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen added: “I think we need better rain tyres. You saw what we could do in the 90s or the early 2000s with the amount of water on the track.

“I’m very happy to do a few test days to try all different kinds of tyres because we need better rain tyres. The extremes are just slow and they don’t really carry a lot of water away.”

And so Pirelli put together a test programme, allowing them to focus on the wet tyres while also testing new slick tyres for the 2024 season.

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All the teams were invited, only some said yes

Pirelli’s chief F1 engineer Simone Berra said while all the teams had been invited to Pirelli’s off-season outings, only “some” took up the offer with a handful of tests with Alfa Romeo and Ferrari on duty in December.

“There will be some tests, not with all the teams,” said Berra. “We asked the availability to them, and some of them replied.

“We will work mainly on the intermediate and wets, because for us it’s the best period of the year to test in cold temperatures and in representative conditions.

“And then we will have even a couple of tests for the slicks for the new specification for 2024.”

Aston Martin will conduct further tyre testing on the 7th and 8th.

The teams, though, may not use the running to develop their 2023 cars with Pirelli’s Mario Isola revealing the FIA will be on hand to ensure that everything is above board.

“They cannot use the tests in February to develop the 2023 car,” he said, “the FIA is sending an observer to each test to check parts and that the configuration of the car has been used at any of the 2022 races so they cannot develop new parts, wings, floors, or something like that.”