Date:Tuesday March 29 2011
Pirelli came through the opening race of the F1 season with flying colours in Australia.
The tyres certainly brought another variable to the sport which at times can be accused of being a bit dull.
Drivers completed the race with a variety of different strategies with most completing the 58 lap race with two or three stops, while one Sergio Perez completed the race with just one stop.
With Pirelli running the hard and soft compounds, the race also saw the drivers managing their tyres at different stages of the race, with the softer tyre being quicker than the hard tyre until degradation affected its performance.
The performance levels were not as dramatic as some had previously suggested, but it was enough to catch out Rubens Barrichello.
Barrichello’s Williams cut up the inside and hit Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes on lap 22 in what looked like a rather ambitious overtaking move.
But the Brazilian revealed that he was actually defending his position from Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi and due to the different tyre compounds the braking distances caused the incident.
“I wasn't planning on overtaking him [Rosberg] at that point, I was defending from Kobayashi.
'I think we have one tyre with grip and one with less and so we have different braking points. Rosberg braked earlier, and was already in the middle of the corner before I could stop the car.” Rubens Barrichello told Autosport Magazine.
Before the race most teams and drivers predicted that to complete the race drivers would complete either two or three pit stops around Melbourne, a four stop strategy was even considered due to the high tyre wear the teams had experienced in winter testing in Barcelona.
But Sauber’s Sergio Perez surprised everyone when he completed the Australian Grand Prix with just one tyre stop.
The strategy earned him a seventh place finish on his debut, before he was disqualified for a technical infringement.
'To be honest we never thought we could do only one stop. In the briefing we spoke about two or three stops depending on how the race was going. But then I did a very long stint on the prime.”
'I managed the tyres quite nicely, I was not going to the limit and still my pace was three or four tenths off what I could do so... I am really happy for the team. ” Perez told the BBC before the announcement of his disqualification.
For Perez to complete the race with just one stop (lap 23 of a 58 lap race), came as a huge shock as no-one on the grid had predicted the Pirelli soft compound could last that long.
Lotus driver Jarno Trulli was very critical of the Pirelli tyres behaviour during the race.
'They've left us all shocked. I don't mean they were better or worse than we had expected, I mean that they were completely different: it's as if they have been changed since the last tests in Barcelona.” Trulli wrote in Repubblica and quoted by Autosport Magazine.
Trulli added: 'Problem is, the cause of this is unknown. You just need a tiny difference in the set-up, in the balance, in the track or air temperature, and even within the same team you get opposite reactions.
'Just think of Vettel and Webber: Sebastian dominated, while Mark at one point would lose two seconds a lap from Alonso. So, this is the real challenge: to understand how to use the tyres. I think it will be one of the key points of the season.'
But while Trulli criticised the unpredictability of the tyres, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso praised Pirelli following their first outing in a competitive environment.
'They were better than expected - or better than we saw in winter testing, They were a little bit more consistent, so it was a good surprise.
'We were able to do some extra laps and even at the end, the hard tyre was also very competitive. And we saw also some people doing two stops with a long stint on the hard tyre. It was different to winter testing and they were doing good.'
But while Alonso, Perez and Trulli may have been surprised with the tyres performance, there was no-one more surprised than Pirelli’s own motorsport director Paul Hembery.
'After the winter testing, some people were suggesting four or five stops which I always thought was over-exaggerated and misguided, I was expecting three stops to be the most common strategy in Australia, and maybe somebody who was doing really well could do two, but what I wasn't envisaging was a one-stop from Perez, which was quite extraordinary. he said.
But while the tyres unpredictability is not ideal for the drivers and teams, it exactly matches the brief given to Pirelli following their move into the sport and replacing Bridgestone from last season.
The more uncomfortable the drivers are, the more chances the spectators have of seeing them pushed to the limit and making mistakes.
Hembey added: 'It shows that we have brought something different to the sport. We have surprised everyone and surprised ourselves.”
Date:Tuesday March 29 2011
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