After worried drivers had expressed concerns during pre-season tests in Barcelona that extreme tyre degradation would lead to ten-stop Grand prix races, Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery was a pleased and relieved man that the first day of the 2013 F1 Australian Grand Prix
weekends had allowed the new compounds to show their true potential.
"I'm really pleased, to be honest," said Hembery after the end of three hours of free practice on Friday at Albert Park
in Melbourne. "After the winter testing, which was obviously not particularly good from a tyre perspective, to finally get running in the normal running conditions - we are pleased.
"We found that the medium tyre is lasting 22-24 laps, which is what we needed. And the supersoft is very much a qualifying tyre here," he added. "You've got to your time in and probably do a short stint at the start and then you'll be looking at a two, possibly three-stop strategy.
"From our point of view that's in line," he insisted. "The day the supersoft really is just intended as the tyre to do a time with and the main race will be held on the medium tyre. So we don't see any particular issues."
The difference in tyre degradation rates had been down to the weather. With conditions at Jerez and Barcelona last month much colder than usual - and below the intended levels for tyre use at Grand Prix events during the season - it was the much warmer conditions in Australia that had made the difference with track temperatures peaking in the upper-30s.
"The teams were able to try out our tyres within their proper working range for the first time," explained Hembery. "The medium tyre showed plenty of consistency, just as we expected, while the drivers also benefited from the rapid warm-up of the supersoft.
"With Albert Park
not being a permanent facility, the track started off 'green', but lap times rapidly improved as more rubber was laid down," he continued. "From what we can see of the degradation so far, we'd expect the majority of the teams to stop twice during the race, with some of the faster cars maybe trying three stops.
"As anticipated, we saw a performance gap of around a second between the two compounds here, which leaves the door open for plenty of strategy."
TV analysts suggested that the drop-off in supersoft performance might be as much as three seconds over the course of just ten laps, which could make for some very interesting team strategy approaches to qualifying's Q3 session and to how the teams use the options at the start - or possibly toward the end - of the Australian season-opener.