Date: 7th March 2011 at 2:46pm
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The Formula One teams return to Catalunya this week for the final winter test session ahead of the new F1 season.

For the teams it’s a crucial time to test the final developments that they’ve been working on since the last test a couple of weeks ago, with the aim of hopefully nailing the perfect set-up for both performance and reliability for the season opener in Australia at the end of the month.

Ferrari and Red Bull will be hoping that their early pre-season test pace ahead of the chasing pack remains unchanged, while teams like McLaren, Mercedes and Renault will be hoping that they will close the gap which has been apparent in the tests thus far.

But it is also an interesting time for new Formula One tyre manufacturers Pirelli, who hope that this test will give a better indication to how their new tyre compounds will perform in the opening three races of the season.

Pirelli’s hard and soft tyres have been selected for the opening rounds of the season and teams will be testing these tyres throughout the Barcelona test this week.

‘Having announced our compounds for the start of the year, most of the teams will concentrate on testing the hard and soft PZero tyres,’ Pirelli’s motorsport boss Paul Hembery told Autosport Magazine ahead of the return to Catalunya.

‘We’re expecting them [the teams] to focus on long runs and race simulations, which should confirm the results we have previously extrapolated from our testing data: two or sometimes three pitstops at every race.’

While the drivers have so far had a mixed response to the new compounds, Pirelli’s brief was to develop a tyre which would bring a bigger emphasis to tyre strategy, with more pit stops in a race.

If testing this week shows that to be the case, then Pirelli will have matched the brief given to them when replacing Bridgestone for the 2011 season.

‘Our last test in Barcelona was held in temperatures of just six degrees in the mornings, which didn’t help to rubber the track in or gather the information necessary to base strategies on over the course of the season,’

‘We’re hoping for warmer weather this week, although it’s unlikely to be as warm as the temperatures we are expecting for the first race in Australia.’