Bahrain Grand Prix – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton didn’t hold back when he was asked his opinion on Pirelli’s new 2021 tyre compound. Formula 1 is set to introduce altered tyre compounds for 2021, for the first time in two seasons. Pirelli have used the same tyre compounds for the last two seasons, with planned changes for 2020 aborted at the end of last year following a vote amongst the teams.
With the 2020 compounds rejected, Pirelli kept their heads down to come up with better tyres for 2021. Testing of the C3 compound was carried out in Bahrain practice on Friday, with all the teams given the compound and told to do a stint on them.
Heading out at the start of FP2 on them, Hamilton was visibly sliding all over the road with a following Max Verstappen radioing in to compliment him on his ‘nice drifting’. Hamiltons’ best time on them was 6.7 seconds slower than Verstappen’s best time on the 2020 Mediums.
Speaking after the session, Hamilton was scathing in his review: “We’ve got a team here from Pirelli and I have the utmost respect for the guys that load our tyres up, come here and keep us safe and they do an amazing job.”
“Unfortunately, we’ve had the same tyre for the last two years. At the end of 2019 they brought a new tyre, which they normally do, and it was quite a bit worse. So then they said ‘well, we’ll just keep the tyre from last year’. They’ve had two years now to develop a better tyre and we’ve arrived with a tyre that’s three kg heavier and is like a second worse per lap.”
Hamilton continued his criticism by saying that two years of development seems to have produced nothing but an inferior product: “I know for the fans that doesn’t really make a difference but from a driving point of view we’re working with brands and partners who are at the forefront of technology and elevating and moving forwards. And if you’re going back, after two years of development, then I don’t know what’s happening. It definitely doesn’t feel good out there and it’s a worry.”
Asked whether he’d prefer just to stay with the same compounds used in 2019/2020 and cancel the new compounds once again, Hamilton said: “I’d prefer to just stay on these (2019/2020) tyres. If that’s all they’ve got and that’s the best they can do, which clearly it is, then it’d be better just to stay with this tyre.”
Hamilton got directly involved in the process of development for the new tyres, having represented the Grand Prix Driver’s Association in meetings with Pirelli and the FIA. The reigning Champion said none of that seems to have mattered: “They haven’t listened to a single word we’ve said in previous years.”
“We delivered lots of emails going back and forth to help them. And it’s still no better. So I wouldn’t say that we can do any more. Ultimately it’s technology. I don’t know if we’re at the limit of technology or it’s just their limit.”
Following on from that stint on the new tyres, Hamilton used the Soft compound to go quickest overall in practice and says the difference between Bahrain and the slippery Istanbul Park circuit last time out was ‘night and day’: “This track works the tyres completely differently compared to the last race in Turkey, it’s a night and day difference. Instead of doing a fast outlap to get temperatures into the tyres, you’re trying to go slow on the outlap to not put too much temperatures into them and keep them from overheating. I wasn’t particularly happy with the balance of the car, but everyone is probably in a similar position as the track was quite slippery and dusty. We definitely got some work overnight to try and improve ahead of tomorrow.”