McLaren Engineer Details Lewis Hamilton’s Early Struggles With Pirelli Tires

November 25, 2020 9:00 pm

Lewis Hamilton is currently on a roll. Six of his seven Driver’s titles have coincided not only with Mercedes but also with tire manufacturers Pirelli, with his maiden one coming in the McLaren car, when Bridgestone was the tire provider in 2008.

Bridgestone ended their tenure in F1 in 2010. So, Pirelli swooped in to become the sole tire supplier in 2011 and has been in charge ever since. They changed the idea of how races were run. Teams faced more tire degradation than previously and had to manage their lap times. Eventually, most of their drivers got their heads around those issues.

Why did Lewis struggle with Pirelli?

The Briton preferred to go full-throttle on every lap. According to Mark Temple, his performance engineer at McLaren, Hamilton’s biggest issue was exploiting the tires. Explaining why, he said

“The idea that you had to drive slower to go fast was quite alien to Lewis.

“And you know it was a difficult year for him outside that particular thing… but that was the thing that really challenged him more than anything else up until that. Particularly as his teammate was Jenson, who was like the master of going faster by driving slow.”

Turning point for Lewis Hamilton

FILE PHOTO: Formula One – F1 – British Grand Prix 2008 – Silverstone – July 6, 2008 Lewis Hamilton of McLaren Mercedes celebrates winning the British Grand Prix with his pit crew Action Images via Reuters/Crispin Thruston/File Photo

The then-McLaren driver turned over a leaf at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix. Starting from the back of the grid at 24th place, he managed the tires to perfection. As Mark Temple points out –

“After a fantastic pole position, we got sent to the back of the grid because of a fueling error in qualifying. And then the only way to get anywhere in Barcelona, you know you can’t overtake, is to out-drive everyone else using tire management.

“And that was sort of the switch-on point. Like, ‘ok this is really important now.’ He put his focus into it and then just turned it around. From that race onward through the rest of his, that year and I suppose his career, understood the importance of that.”

Lewis wants Pirelli to make better tires for 2022

Formula One F1 – Russian Grand Prix – Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton celebrates with the Pirelli Pole Position Award after qualifying in pole position FIA/Handout via REUTERS

Since the much-anticipated new rules come in 2022, teams and drivers are working hard to improve the racing spectacle. As overtaking is so hard, cars are being designed in a way that facilitates more wheel-to-wheel action. Thus, he wants Pirelli to play their part by limiting tire degradation.

He said,“For 2022 we need a better tyre, we need a tyre that gives us more grip, better safety, and enables us to to drive closer to cars and give you guys and the fans better racing.”

Who knows? Maybe they pay heed to his advice and make a better rubber. It’s time they pull up their socks.

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