Lewis Hamilton is now one of the grandees of the Formula One grid and with age it appears the resistance to change increases in equal measures. In fact Lewis has been popping off here and there this year including at his own team for not “listening” to him, Red Bull for their ‘brutal’ sacking of Nyck de Vries and the Florida legislature for enacting the will of their electorate in education reforms.
And old favourite which has appeared in Lewis’ gun sights regularly is Pirelli who are the focus of his latest ill-informed rant.
Pirelli step into F1 breach
Hamilton has a long history of hitting out at F1’s tyre supplier and usually when he believes their actions are in direct conflict with his own performance capabilities.
Pirelli entered Formula One when nobody wanted to be the sport’s tyre supplier. The sport’s previous manufacturer of tyres had become increasingly irritated over their relationship with the FIA and the general criticism of their ‘rock hard’ tyres which were difficult to warm up in 2010.
There were no other bidders to replace the Japanese tyre company but Pirelli stepped into the breach in 2011.
Hamilton first came to blows with the Italian based rubber manufacturer at the British Grand Prix back in 2013. Having claimed pole position he was leading the race from Sebastian Vettel when one of his tyres exploded requiring him to crawl around half of the lap on his return to the pits to fit fresh rubber.
Hamilton calls Pirelli tyres “dangerous”
The seven times world champion has repeatedly criticised Pirelli for making tyres that wear out too quickly and that require him at times to refrain from pushing flat out to manage the wear of his rubber.
However, Pirelli are only acting upon a brief from the FIA who have requested the F1 tyres degrade in a certain way which will deliver more interesting race strategies and pit stops.
Hamilton saw it fit earlier this season to describe Pirelli’s efforts to design tyres that don’t require pre-heating as “dangerous” and “pointless” arguing no energy efficiency would be saved from the exercise.
Hamilton queried the potential energy saving made by banning tyre blankets, pointing out “you have to drive multiple laps to get the tyres to work” and therefore use up more fuel.”
Indycar star mocks Hamilton’s ignorance
The Mercedes driver was immediately criticised by Indycar expert James Hinchcliffe who was critical of Hamilton’s uneducated rant.
“Confused by some F1 drivers reluctance to ban tyre warmers. It makes for better racing, it highlights the skill of driving on cold tyres, and it saves a ton of money/pollution from freight and energy consumption,” he said in a post on social media.
“The argument that it’s dangerous has been disproven in many other four-wheeled motorsport, and recent claims that it’s less sustainable because you’d have to ‘use more fuel to put heat in the tyres’ are inaccurate.
“Cold tyres mean less throttle use/higher lap times, which means less fuel consumption.”
Lewis criticises new F1 tyre allocation
Despite his ill considered and illogical reasoning over the incoming F1 tyres which will require no pre-heating, Hamilton has once again targeted his favourite Italian luxury brand of tyre makers over another initiative to aid the FIA in its drive for net zero in 2023.
At last weeks Hungarian Grand Prix Pirelli arranged a trial test for what is called the FIA’s ‘Alternative Tyre Allocation’ initiative. Here each driver receives a reduced allocation of 11 tyres for the weekend down from th previous 13.
In addition for the three qualifying sessions a single compound is mandatory for each meaning drivers must use the hard tyre in Q1, the medium in Q2 and the soft tyre for the pole shootout.
On Friday prior to qualifying, Mercedes decided to use jus one set of medium tyres for Hamilton during the one hour afternoon session. He ended free practice two in a lowly 16th on the timesheets with his team mate Russell rooted last and 20th.
Less F1 on track running alleged
When asked why the team had opted for the specific run plan, Hamilton replied, “We only had one tyre to use in that session.
“Not really a great format, this change they made for this weekend. It just means we get less running.
“Not ideal. There are a lot of wet tyres that they throw away at the end of every weekend rather than trying to take time on track away from the fans.”
Of course Mercedes were able to analyse their long run tyre degradation for the race by running just one set of tyres as a simulation of the Grand Prix conditions ahead. Hamilton was clearly less concerned with the new format less than 24 hours later when he claimed his first pole position for 33 races.
4,000 less F1 tyres around the world
The current Mercedes W14 design philosophy has delivered a car which can be slow in warming up its tyres and Hamilton was presumably concerned that being forced to run the hardest compound in Q1 he may not even make it out of the bottom five who would be eliminated.
Lying last with the rest of the field returning to the pits, Hamilton delivered a spectacular final run of the session to make it into Q2 and on to deliver a much celebrated pole position by Lewis and the team.
Yet now the dust has settled, Pirelli have decided again to slap down Hamilton’s comments over their wastage based on his clear ignorance of how the tyre logistics operates.
Firstly 11 sets instead of 13 per driver per race will reduce the number of tyres Pirelli hauls around the world by almost 4,000 in a single year.
Pirelli boss exposes Hamilton’s ignorance
Secondly top Pirelli boss explains why Lewis Hamilton has no idea what he is talking about and in fact it is the pre-heating of tyres that causes a monstrous amount of waste.
“At the European races, we leave the (dry) tyres on the rims and take the new ones with us, supplying the teams with the same sets,” explains Mario Isola.
“With overseas races it is more difficult,” he admitted. “Because of the customs rules, the teams have to take the rims and we have to bring the tyres.
“And that’s a problem, because once a tyre is off the rim, it can’t be reused.”
Pre-heated new tyres are scrapped
Isola goes on to explain at times the pre-heating tyre blankets cause a heat cycle to be put through the rubber and at times when they are moved from the rim a damaged single tyre requires the entire set of four to be scrapped.
The current wet tyres Hamilton suggests are thrown away in their truck loads are different however.
“Rain tyres don’t have this problem as they don’t use tyre blankets right now, so we only need to replace one tyre in a set of four. So it’s great to save money on that.”
The redesigned tyres that don’t require pre-heating can be safely removed from the wheel rims at one race and put back again at the next.
Big decisions this weekend at F1 commission
What Hamilton is clearly unaware of is the current wastage the tyre blankets create means even more pre-heated but unused new tyres are ditched than even the saving created by the Alternative tyre allocation.
Further, the wet tyres are not the problem has Hamilton suggests because they are simply shipped to the next event and refitted should the weather require it.
Pirelli performed a final two days test following the British Grand Prix with their proposed tyre constructions for next season which will removed the need for pre-heating.
On Friday prior to the F1 race in Belgium, the F1 commission will meet to make a decision on whether to proceed with the new Pirelli designs and enforce a ban on pre-heating in 2024.
Pirelli may quit F1
German publication AMuS is reporting should the F1 commission reject the new Pirelli tyre design, they may well quit the sport and open the door for a return by Bridgestone.
This is a huge headache for the FIA because Bridgestone have indicated they may ignore their their brief on how the F1 tyres should perform. They claim creating tyres that degrade may harm their brand and affect the perception of the road car tyres they sell.
Of course were Bridgestone to return with their characteristic ‘rock hard’ tyres a significant element of the current F1 race strategy teams must deploy would be lost.
Less F1 overtaking
Driver’s looking to move forward in the field and overtake at present can opt for an alternative tyre strategy to the leading pack and fit a fresh set of rubber early that provides much improved overtaking options over their rivals ahead on the older degrading rubber.
Hamilton’s ill advised comments which in hindsight now will appear to some as plainly ‘stupid’ reflect the gaping political divisions within the paddock over the future of Formula One racing.
“My first victory in F1. This one is for Anthoine.”
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) July 26, 2023