Pirelli says that its trouble-free start to its return to Formula 1 in the Australian Grand Prix surprised even company management.
After a winter of fears in some quarters that the high degradation of Pirelli's rubber would turn F1 races into a lottery this season, the new 2011 tires received a unanimous thumbs-up in Melbourne as teams opted for varied strategies throughout the event.
Although Pirelli is well aware that the next race in Malaysia will likely be a much tougher challenge for its tires, its motorsport director Paul Hembery says he is delighted the doomsayers have been silenced for now.
"After the winter testing, some people were suggesting four or five stops which I always thought was over-exaggerated and misguided," he said. "I was expecting three stops to be the most common strategy in Australia, and maybe somebody who was doing really well could do two, but what I wasn't envisaging was a one-stop from [Sergio] Perez, which was quite extraordinary.
"It shows that we have brought something different to the sport. We have surprised everyone and surprised ourselves.
"There was a big evolution on the track. In the race, on the soft, we expected 15 laps before the first change, so it was very interesting. We need to analyze all the data now to see all the variation between the teams and the drivers but for a first race after eight months to get ready, it is an extraordinary achievement and I am very proud of my team."
Hembery said he had not been particularly worried about how the tire situation would pan out on Pirelli's first weekend back in F1, but says even a positive start now does not mean he can relax.
"It has been eight months of quite extraordinary work," he said. "When we started in June last year, we had to build a factory, create a team, design and develop a tire, create a logistics system and get to Melbourne, or what would have been Bahrain, ready to go. We are proud of that achievement. It is clearly only the start of the season, so you don't rest on your laurels, but this is a game where you have to keep working, and keep improving.
"Malaysia will be a huge challenge as well, one that will provide us with another learning experience. People have been very complimentary, which is nice. And that is one of the problems of winter testing; it can often lead you off in the wrong direction. But we believed in our data, and we believed in the work we did based on the results in doing that."
Leading drivers like Fernando Alonso who had spoken out against the tires earlier in the year were now full of praise for how the Pirellis panned out in the race.
"They were better than expected – or better than we saw in winter testing," he said. "They were a little bit more consistent, so it was a good surprise.
"We were able to do some extra laps and even at the end, the hard tire was also very competitive. And we saw also some people doing two stops with a long stint on the hard tire. It was different from winter testing and they were doing good."