Jury still out on 2014 tyres
The new generation of Pirelli tyres have been met with mixed opinions by three of the drivers who took part in the opening two pre-season tests of 2014.
Pirelli's tyres came under intense scrutiny last season after issues with fast degradation led to a series of spectacular blowouts, most notably at the British Grand Prix as six drivers suffered tyre-related failures. Fernando Alonso described the tyres as "not good", as the problematic nature of the 2013 rubber saw average pit stops per race shoot up, with one example being the 79 which occurred at the Spanish Grand Prix.
The general consensus so far seems to be that Pirelli has rectified some of their biggest degradation issues, though Adrian Sutil and Nico Rosberg disagree on the scale of the improvement in performance demonstrated so far.
"They are reacting a lot better and more consistently than they were last season," Sutil said. "There's not such a drop in performance, or at least what I can see at the moment. All the laps you do are closer together but they are really hard, construction is of course stiffer than last year, so the tyre is holding on better. The most important thing is the tyre is consistent because losing three or four seconds a lap last season just because of the tyres too much."
But Rosberg is of the opinion the biggest issues with the tyres will be a complete contrast to those experienced in 2013.
"There's less downforce so you are working the tyres a lot less, so here [in Bahrain] for instance often you are struggling to make the tyres work," he said. "Getting enough temperature in the tyres will be the issue, whereas last year mainly always [the problem] was overheating the tyres. So it's an ongoing process and we need to know all the tools that there are to influence the tyres and use them according to the conditions."
Force India's Nico Hulkenberg believes degradation will still be a major issue at some of the hotter circuits because of the demands of the new engines.
"They are pretty tricky to handle [in Bahrain] in terms of degradation," he said. "It's very easy to have rear degradation, especially with the torquey engines, very easy to spin up the rears and thermally degrade them so I can see that being a bit of a challenge for sure."
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director, revealed the new tyres are leaving fewer marbles on the circuit and that he is pleased with how they have reacted to the opening tests.
"Although the teams are still at a comparatively early point on the development curve with their new cars, testing data so far indicates that the 2014 tyres are more consistent and durable than their predecessors," he said.