Pirelli brought a test tire for both FP1 and FP2 this weekend at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Head or racing, Mario Isola, said:
“In comparison to last season, this was a more aggressive nomination by bringing the compounds in the middle of the range to Bahrain, with the softest choice being the C4 compound this year. It was quite a busy couple of sessions today, with each car running two sets of our 2021 tyres in C3 compound during both FP1 and FP2, allowing both us and the teams to collect plenty of data on new and used examples of these tyres. Now we have plenty of information to analyse before trying these 2021 tyres again in Abu Dhabi. Coming back to Bahrain this weekend, compared to the usual calendar slot earlier in the year, we had quite similar conditions in FP1 and FP2: with track temperatures around 26 degrees in both sessions. This gave teams the chance to test the tyres in conditions more similar to the race, and perhaps concentrate more on race pace. All the tyres performed in line with expectations today, considering also that the track was quite slippery. The soft compound showed no graining, but as is usual in Bahrain, it will be particularly crucial to manage the rear tyres to prevent them overheating.”
The tires were not met with the most glowing review from the drivers. Lewis Hamilton was trying to be nice:
“I’m trying my hardest not to say anything,” Hamilton said when asked for his reaction to the 2021 tyres.
“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.
“And 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.”
Lewis wasn’t the only driver unhappy with the test tires for the 2021 season. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel had very little praise too.
“They were not a step forward,” he said. “The opposite pretty much. [It was] probably worth a shot, but I hope we don’t see these tyres again. They are quite a lot worse compared to the tyres that we currently run.”
“If that one is the only option for ’21, then absolutely, I would love to stick with the ’19 tyres.
“I think as long as we don’t have a tyre that gives us anything that the current one doesn’t give, such as less overheating, or a better chance to fight each other, we shouldn’t get onto a different tyre.
“This one is worse for sure, and it will make all the problems that we struggle with already only worse.”
Pirelli are trying to develop their tire for next season but due to COVID, testing this season has been seriously impacted. To those ends, it will be interesting to see how well the tires work next season given the lack of testing in 2020 and what testing they have done has produced such responses as these.