Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton has blasted the tire compound that Pirelli has supplied for the Baku Grand Prix – citing that they are far too hard.
Lewis Hamilton has one true rival during the 2017 season: tires. Whenever the Silver Arrows ran into trouble, it always seemed to be tire issues on their star driver’s car. Interestingly enough, the issue was not that evident on the car of Valterri Bottas to the extent that it was to Hamilton’s – but that fact seems to get lost in the details as one thing rises above all else: Hamilton has had enough.
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) June 23, 2017
The 2017 championship leader has endured one of his worst free practice sessions as he finished in P10 at the summation of FP2. The low grid position comes as a largely uncharacteristic placement for Hamilton, and he’s wasted no time in ascribing the blame to the tires:
“The grip is very bad. I think it’s bad for everyone. I think everyone is struggling to get the tires working, the Red Bulls and the Ferraris perhaps less than some others but everyone is struggling generally in the whole pitlane.” – Lewis Hamilton
When asked to clarify what he thought was specifically the issue with the Pirelli compound supplied at Baku, Hamilton stated that he believed the hardness of the compound has been to blame. This comes as no surprise really, as Pirelli only just announced that they will not be fielding their Hard compound for the remainder of the season, instead believing that their super-soft is up to the job. Furthermore, we should remember that the FIA specifically asked for a compound with far less degradation than before.
“I think a lot of it is contributed by these tires being a lot worse, in the sense that, [they’re] bigger, heavier, stiffer, harder, they just don’t work a lot of the time.
We’re here at this circuit, where the track’s 50 degrees, and we’ve got the super-soft and the soft and neither of them work.” – Lewis Hamilton
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) June 10, 2017
While one can certainly empathize with Mr. Hamilton’s struggles, it does carry the appearance of a driver simply complaining about an issue that he and his team will have to work to overcome. Hamilton has long-enjoyed races that force him to contend with two to three cars at most, but with the additional mismanagement of tire grip and duration plaguing his performance, this is perhaps one of the first times that we’ve seen the Brit appear as close to “off-balance” as we’ve seen him in a long time.
He faces stiff competition not only from the two Ferrari drivers, but also from Bottas – who’s been doing all that he absolutely can to ensure that he becomes a Mercedes mainstay. The pressure is understandable, but could the Mercedes dominant be brought under by something as simple as tire usage? That remains to be seen.