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Pirelli unfazed by criticism

NEWS STORY
22/03/2013

Mat Coch writes:

At present, it's impossible to ask a Formula One driver a question and not have him mention the tyres. During winter testing there were fears the tyres would fall apart after a few laps, in Melbourne there were concerns about temperatures and now in Malaysia there are concerns about degradation levels.

"Tyres, tyres, tyres, tyres," exclaimed Mark Webber after the second practice session in Sepang. "The whole category is geared around tyres at the moment. Everything is around tyres."

Webber struggled by comparison to teammate Sebastian Vettel in Melbourne, while Red Bull team boss Christian Horner implied the German's inability to convert pole position into the race win related to the tyres.

"To be honest you could take the quote from the last two seasons," scoffed Pirelli's Paul Hembery. "It tends to be a phase at the start of the year and after six to eight races it all changes."

Concerns over the Pirelli tyre have abounded since the Italian company made its return to Formula One in 2011, though on each occasion it has proven unwarranted. Indeed Pitpass, and this writer, were especially critical of the tyres ahead of the 2011 season and duly ate a large portion of humble pie.

Many of the problems in 2012 related to regulation changes impacting exhaust blown diffusers. With cars designed to have the feature when the rules were revised many were left scrambling to manage the balance of their cars which led to increased wear.

This year new construction and compounds (leaving the whole range softer compared with last year) have come in for some flak with claims that tyre degradation is entirely car dependant. Normally a driver can nurse a car to increase tyre life, however the suggestion this year is that the drivers can no longer change their style to manage wear.

Hembery however believes it still too early to draw any real conclusions, believing the lack of normal running is likely adding to some team's anxiety. "The teams have got a challenge," he claimed.

"It's the same for every team," he continued. "As the season progresses it becomes about the cars and drivers as it should be. It's a 19 race season. It's a long, long season, and it adds something different to the start of the year. If you do plot the last couple of years it gets to the 8th or 9th race and things calm down and it tends to be about other thing rather than tyres."

Until then we can expect to hear more about the tyres, and the impact they may have on an individual team and drivers' fortunes on any given weekend.

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