We’re counting the days to the F1 season-opener in Melbourne this Sunday – especially with so much emphasis being placed on Pirelli’s new tyres.
Jenson Button reckons the Italian manufacturers tyres will add an ‘interesting’ element on the track.
And speaking just ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, the McLaren driver predicted the race could go down to the last corner because the teams are not used to the new rubber.
Button revealed: “The tyres are going to be interesting. None of us have raced them. Some people have done race distances but it is always different when there are cars around you. When you’re stuck behind someone, running with less downforce, the tyres get damaged very quickly.
“It will be interesting to see how people look after the tyres, or whether we just take our brains out and go full speed ahead.”
The tyres have been criticised by some drivers and teams, because they degrade too quickly – which could suit Button’s smooth driving style as he is traditionally gentle on tyres and can limit degradation by reaching a driving balance between attacking and preserving them.
However, the 2009 World Champion insisted: “I don’t think tyre management and smooth driving style will help you win a race if you haven’t got a quick car.
“For me looking after the tyres in the last stint will be important but the first two or three, not so much. The important thing will be to stop one lap before everyone else – if you do that you’ll overtake them because you’ll put new tyres on and go 3-4s a lap quicker.
“The main question will be, who’s going to be brave enough to stop earliest? Then, you might think you’ve made a lot of ground up after the first stop but you could lose it all again on the last stint. It’s a balancing act and it’s going to take a few races to work out what the best strategy is.
“If we are doing a three stop race and its 60 laps long, you’re going to be stopping every 15 laps. In the real world that would be the quickest way to the end of the race but if everyone’s stopping on lap 15, you want to stop on lap 14 because you’ll overtake people.
“The problem is, everyone is going to be thinking the same way and so they’ll be bringing it further and further forward, so you could be stopping on lap 9. And then you’ve got to do the rest of the race with two stops on two sets of tyres and they are not going to last that long. It’s pretty much impossible for them to last that long with the degradation.
“The first few stops are going to be happening quite early and the last stint is the one where you will need the tyre management.
“I think you’ll see so much overtaking in the last stint here in Melbourne that it will shock everyone. It’s going to be to the last corner, I think, this race, which is great. I don’t know if all of them will be like that but this one will because we don’t understand the tyres yet.”
Alex Kapadia, Operations Team