‘Pirelli’ is the buzzword in the Barcelona paddock, as the F1 world gets to grips with the extreme degradation of the Italian supplier’s 2013 tyres.
McLaren’s Sergio Perez was quickest in his McLaren on Wednesday, but he admitted to being surprised by how quickly the Pirellis were wearing out.
“I don’t know what to say,” the Mexican is quoted by Spain’s AS newspaper. “It is worrying and I hope it changes for the first race. It doesn’t matter what you do, what talent you have,” said Perez.
“It is an unpleasant surprise,” he is quoted by Speed Week. “The cool temperatures are making it worse; in Melbourne it will probably be better, otherwise we will be doing seven or ten pitstops.”
Up and down the pitlane, the comments were similar. Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo spoke of being shot with “rubber bullets” – the chunks of discarded ‘marbles’ as the tyres wear – as he drove around the Circuit de Catalunya.
“I’m not sure if what the tyres are doing is what they (Pirelli) had expected,” said the Australian.
According to Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, Mercedes boss Ross Brawn commented: “The wear is twice as high as last year.”
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg added: “The tyres have overshadowed everything. After a lap the grip is going away.”
No matter the tyre situation, it’s the same for everyone. Teams, then, are more guarded than ever about their setups and technical solutions with just one more test after this week’s running to prepare for Australia.
Red Bull is being highly secretive, with mechanics rushing to fit covers as the RB9 is wheeled backwards into the garage.
Bild newspaper suspects a “hacker” or a “virus” may have contributed to the world champions’ glitches in the McLaren-supplied software so far this week.
Contemplating Red Bull’s rivals, Dr Helmut Marko admitted: “The McLaren and Lotus look the best.”
As ever in testing, reliability is a big factor, and on Wednesday Ferrari continued to raise suspicions about an exhaust design flaw, when Fernando Alonso suffered a failure.
Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen also had problems. When asked what he did during his downtime, the laconic Lotus driver admitted: “I had a sleep.”