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Mat Coch writes:
The Formula One pecking order remains shrouded in mystery, according to Sebastian Vettel. After three pre-season tests the reigning world champion believes a lack of consistent running, largely due to the Pirelli tyres, not to mention the weather, has left everyone uncertain as to just how they measure up against their rivals.
"I think we never had a winter that was less conclusive than this," Vettel told reporters in Barcelona. "Tyres last, if anything, one lap. For some people (it) may be different than others depending how much temperature you're able to create, so I think it's impossible to read the pace of the car and therefore to make out the favourites."
Designed for use in warmer, sunnier conditions, the Pirelli P-Zeros have come in for some criticism from a number of drivers who lament the excessive wear the tyres have had. Yet while the supersoft tyres have worn out in just a handful of corners Pirelli is not concerned, confident it has produced tyres that will hold up in typical race conditions.
However the high tyre wear has left a number of questions unanswered, key among which is just how each car will wear and respond to the new-for-2013 rubber in race conditions.
"It was extremely difficult to read some set-up changes and find the direction with the car because the tyres were simply not good enough," Vettel explained. "The last two days were fairly good in terms of weather; blue skies, sunshine, it wasn't very cold and the asphalt was quite warm, but the tyres were still poor.
"(We will) look into the data between now and Melbourne to understand a little bit more and then we probably know what expects us in Australia and for the beginning of the season but it could all be different."
Speaking on the latest Pitpass podcast Pirelli boss Paul Hembery confirmed that, while teams would have gained little tyre data during pre-season, he expects no surprises once racing starts.
"The season is going to be a two to three stop season," he explained. "We aim to do that every year. We've been quite close really, averaging just over two (stops) in the first year and getting to two stops average really last season. This year it'll probably just rise up a little bit getting closer back to 2011 levels. So Australia: two, maybe three stops."
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