Sam Michael has come to the defence of Pirelli in the wake of criticism over their tyres for F1 2011.

A number of drivers have voiced concerns about the levels of degradation and earlier this week Jarno Trulli added that in his view Pirelli's development work 'missed' something [see separate story - click here]. Michael however is adamant that the Italian manufacturer is doing okay.

"I have to say from a time period point of view, Pirelli have done a fantastic job," the Williams technical director said. "We are comparing our tyre degradation and grip to a very high benchmark and to somebody [Bridgestone] that had been in the sport for many years.

"The progress Pirelli have made has been fantastic. To start with we had a lot of wear and degradation with the tyres. But even in the last test, you could already see that improving and it is improving because of three primary things.

"First: Pirelli are working on the tyres and they are making them better. It is not a massive programme compared to a tyre war, but they are doing it.

"The second thing is the drivers are learning how to drive around these tyres. They are very different. It is great when you have somebody like Rubens [Barrichello] in the car to identify these differences because he has driven so many different types of tyres over the course of his career.

"The third thing is the teams are changing the set-ups and adding more downforce and all those things stop the car sliding so much and improve the degradation.

"Having said that, I'm quite sure in the first few races we will be into multiple stop strategies. I think there will be a minimum of two stops and maybe three stops in some of the early races.

"I'd be surprised if it went any worse than that. But that will improve as the year goes on."

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