May 1 (GMM) F1's new face of 2012 is polarising the sport.

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes AMG F1
Michael Schumacher, Mercedes AMG F1

Photo by: xpb.cc

It seems teams, drivers and spectators alike either love or hate the new great influence brought largely by Pirelli's new generation of tyres.

An admitted critic is Michael Schumacher.

"It's a 1000 piece puzzle that you need to put together at each race," said the seven time world champion, according to Auto Motor und Sport.

Not for three decades have four different drivers driving for four different teams won the opening four Grands Prix of a season.

"From the standpoint of competition," wrote Livio Oricchio in O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, "there is no doubt that the Pirelli 2012 generation meets fully the objective of promoting the show.

"But if you think purely about the engineering challenge that is Formula One, and the genius of the people and the immense financial and technical resources needed for success, the tyres have now taken on such an importance that the results don't seem compatible.

"Myself, and many in Formula One, hope the new versions of tyres that Pirelli is developing returns a little more predictability in terms of how they behave, without affecting the show too much."

For now, however, the teams need to put their puzzles together, and that will undoubtedly be the focus of this week's three-day in-season test at Mugello.

"He who understands the tyres first," McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh astutely noted, "will have a huge advantage in the world championship."

A broad understanding is already developing, including why 2012 winners Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel won from the very front of the field.

"When you're in a battle, you can't take the lines that are best for the tyres," said Mercedes' Ross Brawn.

All eyes are now turning to Mugello, where the understanding will continue.

"These test days could change the balance of power in Formula One," Norbert Haug predicted dramatically in Bild newspaper.

Not everyone is enthusiastic, however, including McLaren who oppose the Mugello test on cost grounds.

Williams' chief engineer Mark Gillan agrees: "The days of test teams are gone, so this is not logistically easy," he is quoted by Germany's Sport1.

Bruno Senna added: "Mugello is not an ideal test track, as it's very different to most of the tracks that are on the calendar."