With the tyre situation in F1 again raising concerns at the Chinese Grand Prix, two leading team bosses have said that they expect Pirelli to overcome early-season difficulties.
After Malaysia's 'Multi21' farrago was blamed on the need for both Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel to preserve their final set of tyres [ see separate story
], both qualifying and the race in Shanghai were dictated by the life of the latest Pirelli rubber, particularly the soft compound, which Webber shed after just a single lap, having started from the pit-lane.
Although the race result ultimately rewarded those that opted to set a flying lap, and therefore start the grand prix, on the option tyre, three drivers – Vettel, Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg – produced slow laps on the medium compound, settling for spots at the foot of the top ten but with a different strategy for Sunday. The decision to preserve tyre life also contributed to a slow start to the opening qualifying session, while Friday's practice was also sparsely populated in the early stages.
Although Fernando Alonso quickly emerged as the likely winner in China, thanks to a combination of Ferrari strategy and the F138's kindness to both compounds, others – ironically including Button and Vettel – were being warned to moderate their aggression in a bid to make their rubber last. Lewis Hamilton was similarly compromised on the run to the flag, allowing Vettel to close in over the final few laps, and there were complaints of a like nature throughout the field.
Pirelli's Paul Hembery has said that the Italian company would review the situation after this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix, but has also pointed out that early season complaints are nothing new, and noted that teams eventually get to grips with the latest rubber.
Both McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh and Red Bull's Christian Horner have said that they expect Pirelli to get on top of the issues.
"It was excruciating,” Whitmarsh told Reuters
after the Shanghai race, "I hate it when my drivers are out there and you know they are driving at nine-tenths, but my job, and the team's job, is to maximise the opportunity of scoring points and that's why we did it.
"I prefer it when F1 is a sprint from stop to stop. I'd much rather [a situation], from a personal perspective, where you have tyres and you pull out and go for it flat out. Then, when they are worn out, you jump on another set and go flat out...”
While the aim of promoting greater overtaking and creating the need for more pit-stops to encourage the use of strategy has generally succeeded, most teams feel that Pirelli has gone too far in 2013. Both Red Bull and Mercedes have called for F1 to revert to its 2012-spec rubber – ironically before their cars filled the top four positions at Sepang – but Horner admits that he expects Pirelli to react to the 'crisis' in other ways.
"We get accused of making a lot of noise about these things, but I don't think it's great for all the drivers to be cruising around at 70 per cent for large percentages of the race,'' he told reporters, "They want to push, they want to drive as hard as they can, and they don't want to drive percentages.
"We're seeing that qualifying is paying less of a premium than trying to preserve the tyres. Our car performs well, is a quick car, but a quick car abuses the tyre more and they can't cope with that. So we have to adapt our approach and set-up to make sure we get more out of the tyres. It's a matter of a compromise between an exciting qualifying and a good race. Sometimes it's difficult to achieve both, [but] Pirelli are a very capable company, and I'm sure they'll get that result very quickly."