Having expressed his frustrations with the latest Pirelli tyres during winter testing at Jerez and Barcelona, Sebastian Vettel was disappointed to see his chances of winning the first race of the year scuppered by continuing high levels of wear.
The Red Bull Racing driver qualified on pole position for last weekend's Australian Grand Prix but, despite pulling away over the opening couple of laps, was unable to make a break and lost positions during the three pit-stops he made for new rubber. Although Ferrari's Fernando Alonso also made three stops – as did most of the field – he was able to finish ahead of Vettel, while race winner Kimi Raikkonen went the 58-lap distance on just a couple of changes.
"I think we still managed to get a very good result, but we probably didn't have enough pace in the race to beat the two cars in front of us, and there is a direct link to tyre degradation,” Vettel told journalists on the eve of round two in Malaysia, “We will try this week to treat the tyres a little bit better and go a little bit further."
The triple world champion had already noted during testing that the levels of degradation made it hard to get a read on relative performance, and his theme continued between Australia and Malaysia as he lamented the fact that tyres had become such an influential factor on racing.
"The last two years with Pirelli, we have had a lot more degradation than we used to and, from a driver's point of view, when the tyres run away from you, it's not so nice because you can't challenge the car as much as you'd like,” he explained, “In qualifying, we get more or less one lap out of the tyres and then we drive under the car because the tyres don't allow us to [keep pushing]. If you could choose, you would love to go flat out every lap to challenge yourself and challenge the car."
With different tyre compounds on offer for Sepang, where temperatures are expected to out-strip those seen in Melbourne and the track surface is much smoother, Vettel and Red Bull are keeping an open mind on the problems they may face this weekend, but the German isn't confident that things will be too much better.
"Testing was quite cold and Australia was cooler than we expected, so we need to see whether things will change for here,” he acknowledged, “You have a certain base set-up, which we use most of the time, and then you try and be a little more specific for every race track. Melbourne is different to here, so we're looking into a couple of [set-up changes], but nothing has changed to previous years. This has always been an aggressive track, so I don't expect a miracle - we'll still suffer high degradation."