Mark Webber cynically raised his eyebrows after Michael Schumacher set the fastest test time at Jerez last Friday.
It had only been one day after Nico Rosberg sounded pessimistic following his stint in the new Mercedes, triggering a wave of negative reports in Germany.
Australian Webber, who drives for the reigning champion Red Bull team, noted that after Schumacher’s chart-topping lap, “he was immediately two seconds off the pace once again”.
“It was probably just a little show for Germany,” said Webber.
“The super soft tyre is much faster but they only last for one lap,” he explained.
Schumacher denied that his laptime was a ploy to ease the pressure off Mercedes, amid rumours he might also have pressed the button for his adjustable rear wing at every opportunity.
“I was on a ten-lap run, so I don’t know if you can call that very short (on fuel). It is also true that we are not the only team to have tried these tyres,” said the German.
But McLaren’s Jenson Button, who insists his new MP4-26 is “not weak” despite it not yet setting a headline time, said the new Pirelli compounds have made it harder than ever to read into test pace.
It has also been suggested that Nick Heidfeld’s quick time at Jerez was to appease worried Renault sponsors in the wake of Robert Kubica’s crash, while Rubens Barrichello topped the order just two weeks before Williams floats on the stock market.
“There are big differences between the different tyres of tyres,” Button said.
To Auto Motor und Sport, Bruno Senna explained: “The difference between the hard and the super-soft, I would say is 1.5 to 1.7 seconds.”
Finally, Felipe Massa smiled as he said no-one in F1 should be surprised to see Schumacher topping a timesheet.
“Schumi in front? This is not news, he’s won more than any of us,” he is quoted by Autosprint.
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