Pirelli has responded to mounting criticism from drivers that the swift degradation of its F1 2011 tyre compounds will make life difficult indeed over the forthcoming world championship campaign, by reminding them that it was the teams and governing body that specifically requested just such a specification and that 'this is an opportunity for the sport, not a problem'.

After Team Lotus star Jarno Trulli last week lamented that Pirelli's development work had 'missed something' as 'the tyres are not balanced yet' [see separate story - click here], F1 World Champions Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso as well as Force India ace Adrian Sutil have become the latest competitors to express their concerns.

"The problem is the tyres wear down too fast," Red Bull Racing's defending title-winner Vettel told Austrian television channel Servus TV, musing that the drop-off in performance could be in excess of ten seconds-a-lap. "They are only good for 16 or 17 laps, then they start to break up and are ruined, then the driver doesn't have a chance - the problem is that after a certain number of laps the tyre is finished, no matter what the driver does. The feeling when driving is different, and that is a pity for us.

"For a team, it would not be a problem [to resolve that issue], but for the whole field it will take a while to get used to the tyres. For now, it's too late [to redesign the tyres]. We will be racing again in just a few weeks."

Vettel dismissed the notion that the likes of McLaren-Mercedes rival Jenson Button - who is famously easy on his tyres - stand to benefit from the new specifications compared to those of Pirelli's predecessor Bridgestone, whilst Alonso fears the anticipated rise in the number of pit-stops to replace worn-out rubber in grands prix in F1 2011 will provide strategists with regular headaches and arguably penalise the traditional big-hitters by shaking up the order and making the outcome of races unpredictable in the extreme.

"From what we have seen so far, degradation is very significant - the hard tyres degrade just as quickly as the softs - which means we will have races with lots of pit-stops," the Spaniard mused. "I'm not keen on that, because I think this increased uncertainty does not favour the strongest teams.

"It's as if in football it was decided to have a penalty per team each half hour, in which case Barcelona and Real Madrid would not be jumping for joy. However, the situation is the same for everyone and it will be important to be fastest, because I don't think we can make one stop less than our main rivals."

"It's like being in a touring car or on intermediates," Sutil told German magazine Auto Motor und Sport, contending that due to limits on the number of sets of tyres that each driver can use over the course of a grand prix weekend, one of the upshots of such severe degradation is that there will likely be substantially less running during free practice in order to preserve them, adding that 'after the tyres break down, you can't really test anything'.

"I've tried to drive differently, say 20 per cent slower at the beginning, and that gives you maybe one more lap. We will probably all be pitting at the same time, and quite often."

Pirelli, however, has hit back at the comments, insisting that its brief from the FIA was to design deliberately aggressive compounds that would deteriorate quicker during races than last year's more durable Bridgestones did, as a means by which to boost overtaking possibilities and spice up the spectacle.

'The increased degradation is a feature specifically requested by the teams and the organisers to improve the show,' read a statement from the under-fire Italian marque. 'This is an opportunity for the sport, not a problem. What must be said is that we have not run with optimum conditions in the official winter testing, both in terms of temperatures too low and the track conditions.

'We hope that in Barcelona for next week's test, there are the conditions to allow everyone to verify the real performance of our tyres. We will continue to work closely with the teams and pay great attention to their feedback.'