Lewis Hamilton says Pirelli’s current tyres for Formula 1’s move to 18-inch wheels in 2022 are “not a bad place to start” after a rare voluntary test at Imola last week.
The seven-time world champion has been a key figure in a collective push from F1 drivers to get Pirelli to produce tyres they are happier with.
F1’s Grand Prix Drivers Association has been critical of the job Pirelli has done at times in its period as F1’s sole tyre supplier, and development has been minimal in the last two seasons as a new specification was vetoed by teams for 2020 and this year’s tyres have not been substantially modified.
Pirelli is in the process of conducting an extensive testing schedule for next year’s tyres, which will be fitted to 18-inch wheels as part of F1’s extensive car design overhaul.
Hamilton and Mercedes contributed two days to that programme at Imola after the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, with Hamilton calling it a rare occasion he actually offered to take part in testing.
Thanks to @LewisHamilton for some great feedback after a busy day of testing 2022 #Fit4F1 18-inch tyres at @autodromoImola with @MercedesAMGF1: 130 laps completed in total today. @F1 pic.twitter.com/neGtORYlAc
— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) April 20, 2021
“I don’t ever volunteer for test days and it’s probably one of the first ones that I have volunteered for,” said Hamilton on Thursday in Portugal ahead of this weekend’s grand prix.
“So I immediately regretted it when I woke up in the morning on the day! I was like ‘dammit!’.
“But no honestly it was at a really great track to test at so I enjoyed the day and the weather was good.
“I plan to be here next year and want to be a part of it, I want to help Pirelli, helping them towards having a better product.
“It’s something that the drivers, all of us, have wished for more performance moving forwards.
“It’s important for me to gauge what the starting point is and what differences I can help with, so that from a driver point of view we have more grip, more mechanical grip from the tyres, less degradation.
“It was a good test, and obviously it was the first step of the tyres, but it definitely wasn’t a bad place to start.”
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) April 21, 2021
Hamilton’s remark that his Pirelli test was partially inspired by his intention to continue in F1 last year is another strong indication his current one-year deal with Mercedes will be extended.
The 36-year-old only signed his new contract in February after a drawn-out process that did not end in the longer-term solution most expected.
It means he will need to sign a new deal to continue in F1 and his latest comments only add to the suspicion that will happen at some point this season.
Asked about that remark in his Pirelli answer, Hamilton said he had motivation to continue given the fight Mercedes finds itself in against Red Bull and his off-track pursuits trying to encourage greater diversity in F1.
“I’m pretty spontaneous so it could always change,” he said. “But I don’t know, I’m enjoying this battle, it’s been more exciting, it’s been even more of a challenge.
“I continue to love working with this team, and encouraging to see the steps that for example my team are making towards becoming more inclusive and more diverse.
“Today they already announced one of the initiatives that we have within our organisation [a partnership with the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers UK as part of the Mercedes Accelerate 25 diversity and inclusion programme] and we still have a lot of work to do as a sport.
“There are still many teams that have continued to stay silent. There are many people so far that are not particularly being held accountable and there’s still a lot of work to do within this sport.
“And I know that being here, I have more chance of helping change that then not so that’s something I’m looking to do. I don’t know how long I can stay but we’ll see.”