If McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh had hoped to calm the waters of dissent swirling around Pirelli's return to F1, he would have been disappointed to hear one of his own drivers adding further negativity ahead of this week's final pre-season test in Barcelona.
While Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Jarno Trulli and Adrian Sutil have all lamented the apparent lack of durability shown by Pirelli's super-soft compound, arguing that it will throw races into disarray and potentially turn the established pecking order upside-down [see separate story – click here
], Lewis Hamilton has found another flaw that he believes makes F1 more frustrating following the winter withdrawal of Bridgestone.
"There is more to think about in the car, but F1 seems to have slowed down," the 2008 world champion moaned to Britain's Guardian
newspaper, "The cars are slower on a race distance. Last year, we had to make tyres last with heavier fuel load and now it's even slower. I did run the other day and it was painfully
slow, it really was. Just not exciting, to be honest."
Hamilton pointed to the same durability problems as his rivals as he described the symptoms that he fears will affect the quality of the racing in 2011.
"The first run – I didn't think I was pushing very hard – and the tyres were finished after nine laps, down to the canvas," he revealed, "On the next run, I had to go easier. It was almost like doing an out lap and [we] just about made it to 15 or 16 on a soft tyre. Over the years, you have to change your style and adapt, while keeping the important part, which is the speed and aggression. Now the biggest step is how we are going to have to look after the tyres."
Despite lamenting the possible loss of the 'speed and aggression' that have been his trademarks since joining the top flight as reigning GP2 Series champion in 2008, Hamilton admitted that he was expecting another exciting campaign, ironically with the tyre woes bringing the field closer together.
"You'll see it's going to be just as competitive this year, if not more," he concluded, "The regs are bringing the teams closer, making it more competitive, but not as hard-core competitive. In 2007 and 2008, the teams were so quick and pushing each other so fast at the front. They've now slowed down the cars a little, so it's maybe a more even playing field."
While he naturally hopes to be in the mix with Ferrari and Red Bull when the season kicks off, belatedly, in Australia in three weeks' time, Hamilton and team-mate Jenson Button know they have work to do at this week's Barcelona test, hastily arranged following the cancellation of activities in Bahrain that were due to have kicked off the season this week. The MP4-26, which features some radical design features, has struggled for pace and reliability in the two sessions since its Berlin launch, with the exhaust system a particular concern. With track time at a premium in the build-up to the season, McLaren is already well behind its rivals in terms of development and hopes that the break since it last ran at the Circuit de Catalunya will have produced updates that cure the unpredictability currently being experienced by both drivers.