Having looked at the testing times yesterday and the reports coming out of Barca I noted that there was no info on the Pirelli's from the drivers or the teams.
This has been rectified on http://en.espnf1.com/f1/motorsport/story/42780.html where the drivers discuss the tyre degradation issue after testing short, medium and long runs over the last two days. Petrov said yesterday that the degradation was very significant once the tyres reach end of life:
"In one lap it [the degradation] is getting to half a second, then one and a half seconds and then two seconds and then three seconds," he said. "If you decide to come in [to the pits] one lap later you could lose two seconds and those that come in one lap earlier will have some advantage."
The story indicates that the tyres life cycle, in terms of consistency, is somewhere around the 15-16 lap mark at which point, if Petrov's evaluation is correct, we can look forward to the massive degradation kicking in.
What will this mean for the races? The track at Barca is 4.655km long so 16 laps equates to 74.48km. The Spanish GP is 66 laps in overall length (307.104km) so by Petrov's calculations constant operational rubber on the car would necessitate 4 pit stops over the course of the race. From a strategic perspective the pitstop is approximately 22 seconds so the question is whether the teams can justify driving an extra 6 laps per stint on old rubber to push out to 3 stops.
The Melbourne track is 5.303km long and the race take place over 58 laps (similar distance of 307.57km). A longer lap, but also a quicker circuit than Barca with consequent heavier braking at the end of the long straights, particularly along the curved, fast back section between turn 9 and turn 13, the start-finish straight, and between turns 4 and 6. logic would dictate that the tyres would degrade quicker with higher temperatures, higher speeds, and heavier braking.
Could we expect to see some teams attempt a 5 pitstop strategy?
Webbo, talking about the tyres on foot of his Barcelona test, said:
"There are a lot more opportunities to screw things up, unquestionably. Actually, in a bizarre sort of way, if we raced here tomorrow and you had a dry grand prix there wouldn't be many surprises. We know what's probably going to come our way and we just have to get ready for that. It's just in relation to what everybody else does that your strategy might be a surprise."
I'm sure everyone else would be hoping that their strategy might come as a surprise to Red Bull too Mark!