Lewis Hamilton has criticised Pirelli’s Formula 1 development, branding their new 2021-spec tyres “quite a bit worse” despite working on their latest compounds for two years.

All teams and drivers sampled Pirelli’s new range of 2021 compounds across both practice sessions for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday, following on from a previous test of various prototypes in Portugal last month.

Hamilton was left unimpressed with his first proper taste of the revised selections which have been homologated for next season by the FIA and feels that F1 should stick with running the 2019 tyres for a third successive season.

“Oh god… I'm trying my hardest not to say anything,” Hamilton replied when asked for his evaluation of the new 2021 compounds.

"What I want to say is weekend in, weekend out every year we've got a team here from Pirelli. I have the utmost respect for the guys that come here and load our tyres up, bring them here, and keep us safe. And they do an amazing job.

"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 just said, 'Okay, well now we just keep the tyre that we had from last year.’

"So they've had two years now to develop a better tyre. And we've arrived with a tyre that's three kilos heavier. And it's like a second worse per lap.

"And I know for the fans, that doesn't really make any difference. From a driver point of view, we're working with brands and partners who are at the forefront of technology, and elevating and moving forwards.

"If you're going back after two years of development, I mean, I don't know what's happening. So it definitely doesn't feel good out there. And it's a worry.

"I prefer to just stay on these tyres. If that's all they've got, and that's the best they can do, which it clearly is, we'd be better just to stay with this tyre.”

After attending an FIA meeting last year as a representative of the Grand Prix Drivers Association to raise concerns over Pirelli’s tyre development, Hamilton hoped that progress would be made. Instead, he is worried the situation will only get worse when F1 switches to new, 18-inch wheels in 2022.

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

“When we go to the bigger rim, I’ve heard we lose grip when we go to that tyre,” he added. “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.”

Red Bull driver Alex Albon echoed Hamilton’s prediction that the new tyres could be over a second slower than the current construction, while his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen said the prototypes were “a bit all over the place in terms of grip and balance”.

“They’re slow and they are not really grippy,” Albon explained. "I reckon they are over a second off what we have right now, which doesn’t bode too well. We’ll see how it goes. 

Meanwhile Lando Norris felt the tyres were a “little bit trickier to drive”.

“There’s not a big difference,” the McLaren driver said. "They are not in night and day. It is not like they are completely different tyre. It is still a similar thing but I find them a little bit more tricky.”

 

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