Pedro de la Rosa has played down the advantage his Sauber team may have with the use of the tires ahead of the start of the season.
An analysis carried out by Bridgestone suggested after winter testing that the Sauber C29 is very good at maintaining its tires, something that will be crucial this year, with refueling banned. But de la Rosa reckons the conditions during testing have been very different from those the team will face in Bahrain.
"I don't think the tire information is that relevant, because we come from winter testing where temperatures were very low, and now we come to the reality," de la Rosa told reporters in Bahrain. "So, I think the way we use the tires will change dramatically from the way it was in Barcelona, for example. So we have to be open minded. We really don't know where the competitors are. We can only judge by what I feel and looking at the data on our car. We are quite happy with the tests that we've done."
The Spanish driver said, however, that his team is determined to push as hard as possible to spring a surprise this weekend.
"We will push. We are here to improve," he said. "I'm not sure if we will manage it or not, but we have the motivation to do it. But, honestly, I don't know where the competitors are. I have no idea which teams will be quicker with a 120-degree track temperature. I'm very open minded and I'll take it just step by step."
De la Rosa, returning to racing after seven years as McLaren's tester, said he was relaxed ahead of the first race of the season.
"It feels good. I'm very happy to be back, to be honest. Relaxed, as well, probably because for me being here is already like I won a grand prix. It's been a tough winter, long, difficult, so I'm relaxed in that sense."