F1 title rivals Hamilton and Verstappen disagree on Pirelli tyre investigation


Lewis Hamilton believes Pirelli is not at fault while Max Verstappen defended his team following his tyre blowout in Baku

Lewis Hamilton, 2021 Baku

Hamilton says Pirelli are not at fault for the tyre blowouts at the last race

Clive Rose/Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton says Pirelli is not at fault for the tyre failures that cost Max Verstappen victory in the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but the Red Bull driver has taken the opposite view and pointed the finger back at F1’s tyre manufacturer.

Following Verstappen and Lance Stroll’s high-speed accidents in Baku, their tyres were analysed. Pirelli reported that debris had not been the cause of the failures, and neither was there evidence of manufacturing defects. Instead, “running conditions” during the race were blamed.

Ahead of the French Grand Prix, Pirelli and the FIA announced measures to increase monitoring of how teams are treating the tyres, and imposed limits on the amount of time that cars can be held with tyre blankets removed  — to prevent the pressure dropping too low, which can improve performance. Minimum tyre pressures have also been increased.

Hamilton praised the measures by Pirelli to improve driver safety and said that the sole tyre manufacturer in F1 had to do a better job going forward in preventing teams from circumnavigating tyre pressure rules, a subject that he has alluded to in the past.

“They cannot put the blame on us. I think they have to look at themselves”

“At the end of the day, safety is always the priority,” he said. “For me and for my team, there have been clear rules and guidelines as to where we have to operate. So I was very surprised, naturally to see that they have to clarify those, which obviously you can take what you want from that but I’m happy that they have acknowledged that they need to clarify.

“I think what’s really, really important now is how we police it because they’ve not been policing how the tires are being used, tyre pressures tyre temperatures. We need to do better. So, it’s, it’s great that they’ve done a TD [Technical Directive], but it’s the action now we need to see them really follow through and be really vigilant to make sure that it’s equal across the field.”

Max Verstappen, 2021 Azerbaijan GP

The offending rear left tyre that cost Verstappen victory

Xavi Bonilla / DPPI

Max Verstappen, who had been in line for a comfortable win in Azerbaijan, blamed Pirelli for the blowout that sent him into the wall at more than 200mph and was sceptical of the implication that teams had been following the Italian manufacturer’s guidelines.

Pirelli’s investigation found that Red Bull and Aston Martin had followed the tyre temperature and pressure requirements before the cars went out on track. Both teams said that they complied with the limits “at all times”.

“I mean of course, they explained that we gave them our processes and they were within the limits they set,” Verstappen said.

“Those limits are not correct. There’s nothing we can do about it, we just follow what is possible within the rules. If that means that we have to go up on pressures, everyone will go up on pressures, but they say they didn’t have the correct measurements, but we gave it to them after the race and it was shown that we didn’t do anything wrong there. Aston Martin didn’t do anything wrong.

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“They cannot put the blame on us. And I think they have to look at themselves and we are here happy to help of course with everything, and they’re already one up on pressure from Friday to Saturday. So that means something that maybe it wasn’t enough. We’ll go on from here for sure and hopefully, that’s enough.”

Despite the tyre failures in Baku, Hamilton went on to praise Pirelli for the work they had done on the 2021 tyre compounds.

The reigning world champion has been an outspoken critic of tyres used in the past and claimed that drivers need longer-lasting compounds to avoid processional races and allow for better wheel-to-wheel action.

For this season, Pirelli has brought similar compounds of tyre but have used a different construction method than the one used last season. Hamilton believes that it has helped the product and added that he had no doubts over the integrity of Pirelli’s product going forward.

“I don’t have [doubts over] the integrity of tyres. Every weekend whenever there is a failure, they always put the pressures up, so that tells you something. We didn’t have a problem with our tyres and I think they’ve done a great job with the tyres to show that they’re more robust than before. In this particular instance, I don’t think Pirelli are at fault.”