Tyres seem to be very much the subject of the moment in F1, and that put Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery firmly in the spotlight during media opportunities in Barcelona. [See Pirelli's video guide to the Spanish GP
"The compound choices have been a little bit more aggressive," admitted Hembery when asked what had changed in Pirelli's approach to the supply of tyres to F1 this year compared with 2011.
"There are some similarities to last year but the hard tyre in particular is very much different," he said. "If we think about last year when we were here, the harder tyre in particular created quite a few struggles for the teams to get working. There were probably only two drivers in that race that got it working. So, yes there have been some changes.
"Last year we were finding that the soft tyre, if we take that as a good example, had a working range from 20 degrees all the way through to the late 30s," he continued. "This season we've seen that when the temperature dropped dramatically in Shanghai that caused quite a dramatic change in tyre performance when it went below 20 degrees." Hembery agreed that as a result of the change, there was "probably some sensitivity there" that hadn't been the case before.
However, he wasn't expecting temperature to be an issue this weekend in Spain, even if Sunday does prove to be cooler for the race than practice and qualifying as forecast. "It'll probably be in Germany or at Silverstone where we'll get more of an issue with that," he added.
In the meantime, Pirelli has been fending off some scathing criticism about the tyres from none other than multiple world champion Michael Schumacher since the end of the Bahrain Grand Prix three weeks ago. Hembery said that he had been working hard to bridge the gap between the tyre manufacturer and F1's most successful driver.
"Yeah, he had a meeting with some of our engineers," revealed Hembery. "To be honest, it was a little bit more general than just talking about Bahrain, it was trying to understand what we're doing with testing, future development, the way we're going forward and maybe hearing from ourselves of some of the constraints we have.
"Michael's obviously a great champion, he's been the most successful F1 driver so of course we listen to the comments," he insisted. "But we also have lots of comments from other drivers, and until they all say the same thing...
Hembery pointed out that when they took over as the tyre supplier to the series, Pirelli had been given a specific brief to make the tyres more challenging in terms of degradation and tyre wear, rather that make them so hard wearing that it was possible for teams to run on the same set for practically an entire Grand Prix race distance.
The 'aggressive' approach to tyre strategy is also reflected in Pirelli deciding to supply hard tyres as the primes but partner them with the soft rather than medium compound as the options.
"With a wider gap between the two nominated tyres than usual, both in terms of compound and performance, we could see some quite different strategies that are capable of springing a surpris," said Hembery.
"We were given an input when we started our adventure in F1 and we're still following that," he continued. "So while we obviously respect [Schumacher's input], it's one of a number and we carry on doing our work."
"We work on the input from the teams, so if the teams want us to take a different approach we can go back to an approach which is probably more akin to what you'd be doing in a tyre competition," Hembery added. "it depends on what the challenge is. We'll do whatever the sport wants us to do and at the moment ... That's the teams getting used to what would be for them, maybe changes to the car, slightly different change from ourselves in terms of challenge. As the season progresses you will see that they will master that."