Formula One has had a bit of a shock. Since the first day of testing with the new cars and new Pirelli tyres in Valencia, horror stories have been circulating in the paddock.
Apparently, even the hard compound degrades so fast that the drivers are losing three to five seconds per lap and none of the tyre options are good for anything more than 20 laps. Unsurprisingly, there have been rumblings of discontent amongst the drivers and teams
The situation calmed down a bit during the tests, but the resentment was simmering away as drivers repeatedly complained about the Italian tyre.
"The tyres degrade after ten to 16 laps, but the average GP is between 60 and 70," Sebastian Vettel points out. The arithmetic is simple: "A one-stop strategy is out of the question, and as things stand, the same goes for two." Vettel is therefore expecting three or four pit stops in the first race.
A view endorsed by Lewis Hamilton: "It was like driving on an out-lap - very slow and not particularly exciting. It didn't feel as if you were in real race conditions."
And even the harder compound does not make any difference. "The hard tyres wear just as fast as the soft," says Fernando Alonso emphatically.
Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery cannot understand the fuss. The Italian manufacturer took the first test results, performed simulations for all the races on the calendar and came to the conclusion that no team would have needed more than three stops.
"Considering that the tyre degradation was higher than would be expected in warm conditions, this means that many of the scaremongering stories of four or five pit stops are inaccurate and even false," he commented.
Even with very strong tyre degradation, he maintains that a three-stop strategy would be possible. And that's exactly what Pirelli set out to do, given their brief to liven up the proceedings.
"We've simulated a race and seen who won," said Hembery, though he would not reveal the winner. "But it was much closer than you might think. At the same time, there were 50 to 60 overtaking opportunities, because the teams had a different rear tyre strategy."