Sergio Perez admits high levels of Pirelli tyre degradation at Barcelona unexpected
McLaren driver hopeful situation will improve before Melbourne
By James Galloway in Barcelona
Last Updated: 20/02/13 6:11pm
After Formula 1's teams began to get a better handle on the 2012-spec version of the originally fast-degrading tyres in the latter stages of last season, Pirelli have introduced softer compounds across their range for the new campaign with the aim of ensuring there are at least two pitstops per car per race.
The levels of degradation being seen from the various compounds has proved an increasing topic of discussion at the winter's first test at the Circuit de Catalunya - which, unlike the previous testing venue at Jerez, also serves as a Grand Prix venue.
McLaren driver Perez, the fastest driver in the field on Day Two, was particularly vocal, with the 23-year-old Mexican saying that, even when discounting the caveats of testing, the drop-off in tye performance was much quicker than he had experienced before.
"It's extreme. It's very, very difficult the degradation - it's a big surprise," Perez told reporters.
"Normally we see in winter testing a lot of degradation, but never this much. We are going to have sometimes cold races like here, so it's a bit of a worry, but we are still learning about the tyres and once we go racing I hope things can change with the tyres."
Perez built his reputation during his first two years of F1 at Sauber as a driver who was kind on his tyres and Pirelli's renewed efforts to spice up the show have been thought likely to further play to the strengths of drivers with his kind of silky touch.
However, judging by his experiences of Barcelona so far, Perez says its all-but impossible to prevent the tyres degrading within a handful of laps.
"As a driver obviously you can help the tyres to last a bit longer, but at the moment we are learning from the tyre is basically very weak and there's very little the driver can do now to help the degradation," he added.
"The tyre is difficult to do two or three laps with it. Once you do a lap you are starting to fight degradation so it's pretty difficult to learn anything from your car or from the balance."
Indeed, Perez joked that if the situation didn't improve in time for the first race drivers would need to make "seven or ten stops" in Melbourne.
McLaren's new signing was speaking at the end of his second and final day behind the wheel of the MP4-28 at Barcelona this week, team-mate Jenson Button taking over the car for the closing two days.
After the team had spent the most recent test days somewhat running under the radar, Perez leapt to the head of the timesheet on Wednesday afternoon in a single flying-lap run on the soft tyres - becoming the only man to dip below the one minute twenty-two second bracket so far.
And while declaring that he thought the MP4-28 was "definitely competitive", admitted McLaren still had plenty of improvements to make over the final six days of testing, with finding more downforce a key target.
"The summary is it's positive," he said. "Today has been a very important day for us because me managed a lot of mileage on the car and we managed to complete all the programme that we had this morning. So in that respect I'm very happy. And I think the conclusion is we have a lot of work to do before Melbourne.
"It is the same approach we had when we started testing, I think we have to maximise every single change to get this car better before we get to Melbourne."
He added: "I think the car is definitely competitive. We have no idea how the others are, the car has a good base but this base has to be improved for the first race. The team is working very hard to find more and it has to be our approach. I think we have to find quite a bit more downforce for the first race.
"I think the car in general is quite strong, it has a very good base and a very good potential to be improved if we can make them work. It's very difficult to tell you that the high-speed is bad for us, or the low-speed [for example]. I think in general we have to improve our car."