By Alan Baldwin
YEONGAM, South Korea (Reuters) - Pirelli hit back at Ferrari's Fernando Alonso on Saturday for criticising their Formula One tyres after Korean Grand Prix qualifying.
The Spaniard, who is second in the championship but 60 points behind Red Bull's triple champion Sebastian Vettel, qualified only fifth for Sunday's grand prix while his German rival will line up on pole position for the third race in a row.
He told reporters that the tyres could not even last a fast lap of the circuit without their performance dropping off.
"Of course Alonso is one of the great F1 drivers, so to hear such comments is disappointing and below the standards you would expect from such a champion," said Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery.
"I can only suggest he goes to ask the soon-to-be four-times champion how to get the best from the same tyres."
Alonso had recognised that his car was off the pace and accepted that the tyres were the same for everybody as he complained about them.
"The tyres cannot do five kilometres. If you push them, you finish the tyres. It's something that is not normal," he told reporters. "We have to be honest and the quality of the tyres is very on the limit.
"But I'm not blaming the tyres. That they are not good we all see with our eyes. It's the same tyres for everybody...so it's a compromise we need to find."
Pirelli, who came in for strong criticism earlier in the season after a spate of blowouts that led to a change in compounds and structure, have long argued that they are only meeting Formula One's own request for less durable tyres to encourage overtaking and mix up the strategy.
Ferrari are second in the championship and Alonso said he and Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa could be proud to be ahead of their rivals given the pace of the car.
"We are the third or fourth fastest team. It's what we've been in the last four years and I managed to fight for the drivers' world championship and we put Ferrari in second position in last year's championship," he said.
"We are now in second position and Felipe and me will try and do our best to keep it....in a way (we can be) very proud of our personal performance."
Five races remain after South Korea, with Vettel likely to wrap up his fourth successive title long before the season-ender in Brazil next month.
The German has won the last three races and seven of the 13 to date.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)