Sergio Perez says his new McLaren team have made a “huge leap” forward with their performance from the first test in Jerez to the second in Barcelona.
The Mexican, who is about to start his first season with the team after joining from Sauber, topped the timesheets on day two of running at the Circuit de Catalunya, finishing 0.349 seconds quicker than reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull.
Though he refused to get excited about the headline time, Perez was pleased with the car’s progress and how he was getting used to the feel of his new machine.
“It is nothing more than testing,” Perez said in an interview on the official F1.com site. “Tomorrow everybody will have already forgotten about it. It has no significance. Sure it is nice to see your name up there, but you don’t get anything for it.
“What really meant a lot is that we obviously made a huge leap forward from Jerez to Barcelona. The car is now coming my way much more naturally. It’s a good sign.
“It’s been a good day. I am very happy with our programme. So far my first four days with the team and in the car have been great and hopefully on the last two days we will be able to again do very productive work.”
However, Perez did raise concerns about the “extreme” level of degradation of this year’s Pirelli tyres. The Mexican made a name for himself in 2012 as one of the drivers who was very good at making his tyres last in race conditions, but he said the big drop-off in performance in cold conditions was a bit of a concern.
Perez said: “It’s extreme. The degradation is very difficult. It’s a big surprise. Normally in winter testing we see a lot of degradation, but never this much.
“We are going to have a race here so it’s a bit of a worry. But we are still learning about the tyres and I think once we go racing I hope things will change. I definitely hope it changes, because if we are in this situation in Melbourne we are going to see something like seven or 10 stops.
“I’m sure we always see a lot of degradation in winter testing and all the teams are learning, and especially us, we need to learn a bit more about the tyres.”
Vettel said that he felt all the teams are struggling with high degradation. “It’s been very difficult,” he said. “Similar to all the other people struggling with the tyres! Struggling to make them last, I think you see fairly rapidly lap times go off. Arguably it’s a little bit too cold for the tyres.”
However, Force India’s Paul di Resta played down concerns. “They certainly look like they are wearing out quite quick,” he said. “But the temperatures are not [as high as they will be] where we are going to be racing them, so we should probably give them a bit of a break.”