Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali has admitted he is 'concerned' that the lack of durability of Pirelli's new F1 2011 tyres will lead to chaotic and potentially even dangerous scenes unfolding in the pit-lane during this weekend's curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
Along with McLaren-Mercedes counterpart Martin Whitmarsh, Domenicali has been one of the few defenders of Pirelli during the build-up to the new campaign, but in the wake of opening practice around the Albert Park street circuit today (Friday) – and an incident in which a tyre fitted to the Red Bull Racing of defending F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel incurred significant damage following contact with debris – the Italian has urged the manufacturer to develop its product, and fast.
“In the first race simulation in Barcelona, to achieve the best pace, we stopped four times,” the 45-year-old told Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport
. “On Sunday, there will be at least three, because when the performance drops, it is useless to leave a driver on the track without pace.
“We suggested that tyres are made with greater degradation in respect to 2010 – with Bridgestone, you could almost drive a grand prix without stopping – but imagine the race here with so much traffic in the pits for 72 stops in 58 laps... I am concerned.”
However, Pat Fry – the Scuderia's
new assistant technical director and head of racetrack engineering – offered a ray of hope, arguing that Pirelli's much-criticised rubber seemed to be holding out better in Melbourne than had been the case around Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.
“This morning, we worked mainly on evaluating a few aerodynamic updates on the front wing,” the former McLaren man reported, “while the afternoon was spent mostly comparing the two types of tyre that Pirelli has brought here, running with various fuel loads. Unfortunately, the second session took place in very variable weather conditions, with rain putting in an appearance, which made it even more difficult to assess the situation.
“During the first 90 minutes, it seemed that the tyres showed less obvious degradation compared to what we had seen during the 15 days of testing in Spain. As for the afternoon, I think we need to analyse the data very carefully, especially that part relating to the longer runs. Now we can get down to work – we can expect a long evening to prepare ourselves as well as possible for tomorrow's qualifying.”