Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020

Hamilton: Pirelli’s new 2021 tyres are “worse” despite two years’ development

2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton has renewed his criticism of Pirelli’s tyres after sampling their latest compounds for the 2021 F1 season in practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

All drivers were required to run versions of Pirelli’s 2021 compounds during today’s practice sessions. Hamilton was one of several who were unimpressed by the new rubber.

Last year teams unanimously rejected the new compounds Pirelli developed for this season. The 2019 compounds were used again this year. Hamilton said in February Pirelli needed to produce better tyres for 2021.

However after driving the tyres today, Hamilton was unimpressed. “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,” said Hamilton. “Unfortunately, we’ve had the same tyre for the last two years.

New tyres are a “second worse per lap” – Hamilton
“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’.”

Despite having further time to develop their tyres, Hamilton said the new rubber is a step backwards.

“They’ve had two years now to develop a better tyre and we’ve arrived with a tyre that’s three kilos heavier and is like a second worse per lap.

“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.

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“It definitely doesn’t feel good out there and it’s a worry. I’d prefer to just stay on these 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.”

Last year Hamilton attended an FIA meeting as a representative of the Grand Prix Drivers Association to put forward their concerns over tyre development. Last year drivers gave their input to F1’s ‘target letter’ for Pirelli, which sets down goals for tyre development.

“The previous target letter we weren’t involved in and they hadn’t listened to a single word we’ve said in previous years,” said Hamilton. “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.”

Formula 1 is due to switch to new, 18-inch wheels in 2022. Hamilton is fears this could prove another step backwards.

“When we go to the bigger rim, I’ve heard we lose grip when we go to that tyre. I think what we actually really need in Formula 1 is slightly less downforce and more mechanical grip and a lot of that comes from the tyres so that we can follow closer.

“But it doesn’t seem that we’re going in that direction. Naturally I think we don’t want to go backwards, so I think there’s more work to do.”

Other drivers also gave unfavourable feedback on the new tyres. Alexander Albon said they were “not very fun to drive on” and his team mate Max Verstappen similarly unenthused.

“It’s difficult to know what components we were running,” said Verstappen after his experience of the 2021 rubber. “We were a bit all over the place to be honest in terms of grip and balance. So we’ll look into that and we’ll speak to Pirelli about it.”

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020
Vettel would prefer to stick with the 2019 tyres
Kevin Magnussen’s verdict on the tyres was they were “not very good.”

“They’re certainly not quicker,” said the Haas driver. “I don’t know if that’s the final tyre for next year but [they] could be better.”

Sebastian Vettel concurred with Hamilton’s view that F1 should keep its current tyres instead of switching to the new ones.

“They were not a step forward, the opposite pretty much,” he said. “[They were] probably worth a shot but I hope we don’t see these tyres again, they are quite a lot worse compared to the tyres we currently run.”

“If that [tyre] is the only option for ’21 then absolutely I would love to stick with the ’19 tyres,” he added. “I think as long as we don’t have an option that gives us anything that the current tyre doesn’t give – less overheating, better chance to fight each other – then we shouldn’t get onto a different tyre.

“This one is worse, for sure, and it will make all the problems that we struggle with already even worse.”

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2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

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51 comments on “Hamilton: Pirelli’s new 2021 tyres are “worse” despite two years’ development”

  1. But they’re the 2019-spec tyres with some tweaks or have I missed something?

    1. @jerejj the modifications have become more extensive over time, so it’s a bit more than a slightly tweaked 2019 tyre.

      The idea is that they want to modify the carcass of the tyres to withstand more load, with the intention of allowing the teams to use lower tyre pressures than they currently do – as a comparison, the teams were allowed to use 21.0psi on the fronts, 1.5psi lower than the current spec tyres, and 20.5psi at the rear, which is 0.5psi lower than they currently do.

      For the rear tyres, it has been confirmed that the overall profile of the tyres should stay the same, but the design of the carcass and the materials which are being used are being adjusted to alter the structural integrity of the tyre.

      The front tyres, though, are going through a more significant redesign – the shoulder has been redesigned and thickened, and the overall profile of the tyres have also been modified to suit. Whilst the rears might be more of a modified 2019 design, the fronts are a more noticeable evolution compared to 2019.

      1. Coventry Climax
        27th November 2020, 23:58

        Thanks for the explanation, Anon. However, it does not explain why these tyres are not an improvement over the previous version(s).
        I’ll give you the reason for that though: ‘Pirelli’.
        It’s always ‘Pirelli makes the tyres the FIA wants them to .. and yak yak’. Fact is, they’ve been crap from the moment Pirelli became the (sole) supplier.
        Oh, and one more thing: it’s 2020, nigh on 2021. We don’t internationally use pounds, miles, inches and such anymore, specially in science. (But maybe that’s where Pirelli gets it wrong, they don’t treat it as science?) The SI (International Standards) unit for pressure is Pa (Pascal), defined as: N/m2 which equals kg/(m x s2). N is Newton, m is meter, k is 1000, g is gram and s is second.
        It boils down to: 1 psi is 6894.757293168 Pa. So usually, we talk of kPa, to make the written value a factor 1000 smaller. Now go and have your 568 ml of beer. That’s an imperial pint by the way, with which you’re better of that with the United States Customary pint, even though both are 1/8 of a gallon. At least not everything from the US is bigger and better.
        Start to see why the SI units might make sense? Cheers.
        Hurts my eyes everytime I see F1 coverage use those awful medieval units, in the ‘graphics’.

        1. Coventry Climax, why are you having a go at me when it is the sport itself that insists on using psi to measure the inflation pressure?

          I am reporting the figures in the way that the sport itself is reporting those figures – I don’t see why that necessitated the sort of post you have put up in response.

    2. F1oSaurus (@)
      28th November 2020, 7:31

      @jerejj These are the 2020 spec tyres with some tweaks.

  2. Do we know what the updated tyre is looking to achieve? It may be slower, but does it allow drivers to push more or allow them to keep the temperature in the operating window easier? To say it’s “worse” doesn’t really say why.

    1. @f-duct
      I don’t know about these tyres, but the 2020 prototype-tyres the teams tested in Austin and Abu Dhabi last year, had less peak grip but were more consistent.
      In the end the teams rejected them, because they had less peak grip than the tyres used on 2019.

    2. The main purpose is to make sure that we won’t have 3 or 4 cars with tyre blowouts like we had in Silverstone @f-duct.

      Apart from that, I guess Pirelli did try to get them less peaky.

      1. F1oSaurus (@)
        28th November 2020, 7:32

        @bascb No that was not the main purpose. That should be a bare minimum.

  3. They should go back to the the thicker tread tyres which the Mercs struggled and eventually pressured the FIA into going back to the thinner tread tyres.

    Or use 2011 or 2012 spec tyres with 3 pit stops.

    Everyone would much prefer that to 7 years in a row of total Mercedes domination.

    1. Nah, just you B o n d o

    2. F1oSaurus (@)
      28th November 2020, 7:32

      and all the teams later agreed Mercedes was right

  4. The problem we have here is that we are testing next years tyres with this years cars.

    Last year they did this, the teams kicked up a stink about them and demanded to use the previous spec tyres for this year.

    But then, still moan about tyres developed for different cars, we can’t push, they degrade too quickly etc.

    Now I’m not trying to defend Pirelli and the tyres, but they are designed to a spec:
    1. What are the expected downforce and demands of next years cars
    2. Meeting the performance degradation settings requested by FIA / Liberty etc
    3. Safety / performance split – we’ve had issues with tyre failures which are dangerous and need to be avoided, but the teams demand a level of performance and grip.

    No answers here, but I’m tired of the moaning about the tyres, just accept it is what it is and design the cars better to use them.

    In the Pirelli era, some years a few teams have got on top of the tyres to really work with them. That can come with some other performance penalty. It’s a decision the teams designers should make.

    1. Next year’s cars will be almost identical to this year’s cars

  5. Im sure non of the drivers was impressed when grooved tyres came out but they had to just get on with it. Now these children throw there toys out the pram and they get what they want.

    1. Lol talk about an armchair critic with an overly inflated sense of importance. Nothing is ever perfect in F1, let alone life. Grooved tyre complaints were nowhere near what they are now- you could literally do an entire race on those Bridgestones while maintaining reasonable lap times. These chewing gum Pirellis on the other hand….

      1. The FIA tell Pirelli to make tyres to these specifications. Pirelli can make a tyre that lasts 100% race distance if they want to.

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          28th November 2020, 7:34

          Pirelli told the FIA that this would be a good idea. All the other tyre manufactures had completely different ideas

          Pirelli have shown that they cannot even execute their own idea.

          1. That wasn’t the point. But then I doubt you could find a point unless you sat on it.

  6. Pirelli should just give the drivers magically everlasting tyres.

    1. Bridgestone could do it…. but then again Bridgestone didnt do f1 on the cheap like pirelli do.

      1. Bridgestone used far harder tyre compounds with less grip, those tyres could outlast a whole race on one set even at the harshes races Adam. Remember how drivers would stop only in the last 3-6 laps at times, and only because it was mandatory?

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          28th November 2020, 7:35

          @bascb So in short: “Yes you are correct”

      2. That’s not on Pirelli. They’ve said it countless times that they could make a tyre that lasts the race distance if needed, but the F1 rulemakers want them to make the current spec of tyres.

      3. That was in the days of fuel stops. We don’t have fuel stops so need tyres that degrade otherwise there is no strategy at all just Mercedes winning 17/17 rather than 14/17.

  7. F1 suppliers going in the exact opposite direction than adviced for maximize the overtakes. Nothing new. In a few months we are going to hear “the changes are not producing the desired effect” like always. Normal… no single change is being well implemented. This, and their inefficiency making actually driveable full wet tyres… Pirelli needs competition from another brand, or we are going to have crap wheels forever.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      27th November 2020, 20:07

      @esmiz – They’d never agree to it because it would prove beyond doubt how bad they really are. Without competition, they can blame the rules, debris, the teams, the weather…. Once a proper tyre company gets to make a tyre to compare to Pirelli, the list of potential excuses disappear.

  8. Wow, that’s a kick up the backside for their R&D team.

    1. Coventry Climax
      28th November 2020, 0:09

      Which won’t come across anyway because I seriously doubt they actually have an R&D team. ;-)

    2. @george Yeah that’s scathing

  9. Initially I was of the view that Pirelli were making c**ppy tyres because that was down to the tender requirements designed by the FIA. But now I am starting to think after nearly a decade, Pirelli are out of their depth. I mean we are still getting blowouts (Silverstone 2020) just like we were in the early years (Silverstone 2013).

    1. Its because pirelli make their tyres on the cheap. They do f1 trying to spend as little money as possible

    2. F1oSaurus (@)
      28th November 2020, 7:37

      @blazzz It was not in the original tender requirements. Michelin’s proposal was actually longer lasting tyres and then use less of them to save cost. But Michelin wanted a million per team per season. So Ecclestone dragged Pirelli in with the fast degrading tyres idea to win the tender and they would give the tyres for free, plus they would fill Ecclestone’s pockets with a big trackside sponsoring deal.

      1. @f1osaurus

        Semantics. Whether it was the FIA or Bernie- Bernie was the F1 boss at the time. My fundamental point remains the same, I thought it was because Pirelli was asked not that they couldn’t make good tyres. Now, I doubt they actually can make good tyres to F1 standards.

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          30th November 2020, 8:52

          @blazzz Pirelli presented the idea of fast degrading tyres as theirs. So I simply feel they don’t get a pass on that either.

          But yes, totally agreed, the problem is not the fast degrading principle of the tyres, but the utter lack of quality on all other fronts where they fail. No matter how long the tyres are supposed to last, if they are used for actual racing they overheat, grain, blister or blow out. That is totally on them regardless of what they are trying to achieve for “improving the show”.

  10. I’m not surprised pirelli have failed again. This is what happens when your only tyre manufacturer is doing f1 on the cheap.

  11. Pirelli must hate Hamilton by now. I don’t think he’s ever said anything positive about them in the last decade

    1. 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,” said Hamilton.

    2. @kingshark can you point to any drivers on the grid who have had anything positive to say?

      We can see in this same article that the two Red Bull drivers weren’t exactly giving glowing recommendations, and it’s not exactly hard to find other negative responses from the drivers. Do you think Pirelli appreciated Russell and Norris calling their tyres, amongst other things, “absolute garbage” earlier this year either (if anything, Hamilton’s comments are very tame compared to what Russell and Norris were saying)?

  12. petebaldwin (@)
    27th November 2020, 19:59

    Pretty brutal from Hamilton there but it needed to be said. Pirelli are just embarrassing themselves at this point.

  13. 3 pounds heavier ? could that be a sign that they are going for greater longevity even if it means a slight loss of grip ? If so, as a spectator I applaud, but were I driver I would boo. It would be great if we could have a long test and development session followed by a couple of races to fully evaluate the new tyre, but that is never going to happen.

    I agree 100% with Lewis in his desire for greater emphasis on mechanical grip over aerodynamic downforce, unfortunately F1 being F1, the designers will always find more downforce than the rulemakers intend.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      28th November 2020, 7:40

      @hohum Wasn’t it because of a new structure which they would need for the 18″ rims? I remember something like that when they brought these tyres in 2019 as proto types for the 2020 season. And then also they were massively rejected as poor

      1. @f1osaurus, as I recall it the predicted extra weight with 18″ rims was all in the rims themselves.

        1. @hohum Well the tyres are 3 kilo heavier already without the 18″ rims so …

          Last time they brought these prototypes, Pirelli hinted that it was the stronger substructure that caused the extra weight.

  14. Just make them use the tyres next year and if they’re such a disaster we may finally get rid of Pirrelli.

  15. This is quite an upset, they cannot get this done? Nico Hulkenberg said, his Michellin tyres were excellent in Le Mans with sinilar loads. So just stick those on and use them.

  16. So, when the mass blowouts happened at Silverstone this year, it was blamed on the fact we were essentially using 2019 spec tyres, and the proposed 2020 tyres would have survived.

    So, bets we’ll have mass blowouts in Silverstone again next year?

    Surely the tyre construction is about more than the total grip offered? If it is about strengthening tyre construction, why not just overrule the teams and get on with it?

  17. Could be just a limit of technology. F1 cars are just so heavy and so much downforce that the tires see huge loads going through them and it is difficult to just manage all that with all the other variables. Combined with the way the electric power kers is optimized for corner entries means that all of those forces create very high stresses on the tires all the time around a circuit. Not just in specific places like at eau rouge for example.

    Add in the fact that the teams are using very efficient suspensions which keep the tires on the ground (and loaded) very efficiently which means you get very consistent high forces acting on the tires and also over kerbs. All the while the tires have to act as a suspension for ever heavier cars. With more downforce you are doing all this more often at higher speeds. And with more weight you are doing it harsher every time. More downforce also means the tires see more combined loads of cornering and braking/acceleration as there are less braking zones and shorter braking zones.

    Just a simple napkin calculation proves that if your mass goes up 20% you need 20% more grip from the tires to keep the same corner radius at that speed. And tires don’t give linearly give more grip as you put more weight on them. To get 20% more grip you need like 30%+ more downforce because the heavier weight of the car also adds more load on the tires. So going from 650kg car to 780kg you need like 60% more grip from the tires. More grip = more tire stress. All the while you have not yet gained a single tenth in lap time. You are just adding more downforce to offset the weight penalty. And making the tires bigger to handle bigger numbers…

    The tires themselves are also huge in size which means small changes will create big weight and inertia differences as any and all changes have to cover much larger surface area than say a 2005 grooved slicks. And all this while pirelli has to work with one hand behind its back to make sure their tires meet the endless and very specific list of fia requirements. They can not even fix an issue because the tires are specced for the entire season. Everything is at its limit and the teams and drivers just want more of everything.

    In the end the solution is simple. Forget lap time. F1 needs less downforce and f1 needs to be willing to sacrifice those lap records for it. Or they can bring special qualifying tires if they want to keep them. It is almost impossible to make a tire for this much downforce, car weight and grip while also making the tires last through abuse of cars chasing others in close proximity, sliding and doing all that inside a large temperature window. And doing it safely. All the while the tires having the ability to come back to the driver when the tires have overheated, grained and/or blistered. It is not that f1 is in a situation where you can pick 2 out of three. It is more like you can have 2 out 12.

    1. As nice as your explanation is – it will never convince the Pirelli-haters club here from spewing their rhetoric.
      They just don’t care that the demands on the tyres have increased many-fold, laptimes have tumbled and consistency and safety have improved greatly – but while the tires can’t last a full race in heated battle AND produce a lap record each and every time, they are rubbish and Pirelli should be banished.

      It must be nice to live in their fantasy world, free from the constraints of physics – and reality in general.

      1. F1oSaurus (@)
        30th November 2020, 8:56

        Rhetoric? The tyres are horrible whatever way you look at it. They are simply not fit for their purpose. If the drivers push them even in the slightest they overheat, grain, blister, and blow out. That’s absurd.

        As someone stated above, Michelin is able to provide tyres that work for Le Mans with similar loads. Bridgestone has also provided tyres that worked with similar loads in F1. While Pirelli just keeps going from bad to worse.

        Pirelli is ruining F1 and turning it into a tyre management race.

  18. Let’s just hope Michelin takes over after 2022.

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