FEBRUARY 22, 2013
Pirelli plays down wear of 2013 tyres
The alarm in the paddock about Pirelli's 2013 tyres is growing louder with every day.
The latest shock is the performance of the new 'supersoft' tyre, which - to the circus' collective surprise - will be supplied to teams in Melbourne next month.
Williams' Pastor Maldonado tried the compound in Barcelona on Thursday, and - according to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport - it proved not only unpredictable and heavily-degrading, but also slower than the harder 'soft' variant.
But in truth, now is not the time for the sport to panic about the prospect of ten-stop pit strategies in 2013.
Sergio Perez had put voice to the alarm this week by flagging the "extreme" degradation of the new Pirellis, but he now notes: "We were also very worried about the tyres last year.
"Then in Melbourne in warmer weather everything was much more normal," said the Mexican.
Indeed, F1 drivers tested the 2013 tyres during practice in Brazil late last year, and there was no subsequent panicking.
"So," said Mark Webber, "we are optimistic that in Melbourne, on a much warmer track, the cars will slide less and we will not have the dramatic graining that we've seen here."
Lotus' Romain Grosjean did a four-stop race simulation in Barcelona on Thursday, while Australian Webber had to stop for tyres five times when he conducted a race simulation.
But Paul Hembery, Pirelli's motor racing director, thinks that while Melbourne will be much warmer, the teams will also be smarter once the 2013 season actually begins.
"We believe we will see two to three stops in Melbourne," he is quoted by Brazil's O Estado de S.Paulo.
Pirelli's racing manager Mario Isola, speaking to Spanish newspaper El Pais in Barcelona, agrees: "Perez is more scared than he should be.
"All we've done is try to slightly increase the spectacle of the racing, but we haven't done anything dramatic."
Perez's teammate, the veteran and former world champion Jenson Button, added in Barcelona: "The tyre problems we are all having here are completely normal for these conditions.
"Barcelona has a rough surface, there are high speed corners, and it's cold. What do you expect?
"Pirelli can't make tyres tailored for winter testing," he insisted.