Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery says Nico Rosberg's emphatic win in the Chinese Grand Prix is evidence that Mercedes is making progress in learning how to unlock the potential of the tires with its W03 chassis.
The team has proved quick in qualifying all season – Rosberg and Schumacher occupied the front row in China – but until Shanghai the Mercedes has suffered heavy degradation in the races which has cost it competitively. In China however, Rosberg led the race except during his pit stop phases, and made one less stop (two in total) than his nearest rival Jenson Button.
"We thought before the race that the three-stop [strategy] was most probable and two was possible but probably at the limit, and you'll probably find that at Mercedes they were even questioning at the time whether they should do a third stop and try and get out," said Hembery. "I haven't spoken to the guys but I am quite sure that conversation would have gone on so it's fascinating.
"Before the race everyone was talking about Mercedes' problems managing tires, so I did say that Ross [Brawn] had mentioned to me that he thought they had understood a lot of them and it seems quite clearly that they have. They were quite superb from start to finish so it is good to see."
Hembery also suggested that Rosberg's ability to make the most of his start and run up at the front in clear air had helped him conserve his tires. When asked whether the German has stayed out too long on his first stint using primes, allowing Jenson Button's McLaren to threaten him, Hembery said: "No, I don't think so, I think they were also trying to monitor the levels of degradation so they were changing their strategy almost in real time.
"We were sure that a lot of teams were altering their strategy during the first stint which is common throughout the season," Hembery added. "You do get races like that as we saw, and the McLarens were on a three-stop strategy which was nearly good enough. They came second and third, so as we said it was marginal whether it was two or three and in the end two was enough because Mercedes had the performance advantage by starting at the front.
"And in F1, we know how much of an advantage that gives you on the road, you are not running into any dirty air or anything and you have a clear road – and they took that advantage superbly."