Sebastian Vettel hopes Pirelli’s prototype 2021 tyres made their one and only appearance at the Bahrain GP.
Pirelli continued their blind tests on their 2021 rubber by asking teams to run the revised prototypes alongside their regular programmes during FP1 and FP2 at the Bahrain International Circuit.
But come Friday night it was hard to find a driver who was positive about them, and Vettel quite frankly hopes they are never seen again.
“They were not a step forward, the opposite pretty much,” he replied when asked for his opinion on them in the paddock.
“Probably worth a shot but I hope we don’t see these tyres again. They’re probably quite a lot worse compared to the tyres 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, 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.”
Mercedes struggled terribly on the prototype tyres and were running P19 and P20 on them before returning to their normal schedule on the 2020 compounds.
Lewis Hamilton went on to finish fastest in FP2, and like Vettel he was far from pleased with the proposed 2021 rubber.
“Oh god…I’m trying my hardest not to say anything!” Hamilton joked in the Bahrain paddock after Friday practice.
“What I want to say is…weekend in and 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. They do an amazing job.
“Unfortunately, I mean we’ve had the same tyre for two years. At the end of 2019 they brought a new tyre, which they normally do, and it was quite a bit worse so they said ‘ok we’ll just keep the tyre from last year’.
“So they have had two years now to develop a better tyre and we’ve arrived at a tyre which is three kilos heavier and it is like a second worse in lap time.
“I know for the fans that doesn’t make too much of a difference. But, from a driver point of view, we are working with brands and partners who are at the forefront of technology and elevate [the sport]. If you are going back after two years of development then I don’t know what is happening.
“It definitely doesn’t feel good out there and it is a worry. I definitely just prefer to stay on these tyres again.
“If that is the best they can do, which it clearly is, it would just be better to stay with this tyre.”
The current tyres should make for a fascinating strategical battle during the Bahrain GP with many predicting a two-stop race.
Vettel feels Ferrari still have a little bit of improving to do heading into qualifying, but suggested the team will set up with both qualifying and race day in mind.
“It’s probably not the best track for us on paper, but we still have a little bit that we can improve and see what we get tomorrow,” he explained.
“It was obviously difficult to make the tyres last and it will be difficult on Sunday. It’s not quite clear yet how many stops and which tyres are the best, so a little bit of homework tonight. For now, I think we focus on quali and then prepare for the race.
“Points are scored in the race, so certainly you have to think of the race, but the higher up you start, the better your chances.
“But we’ve seen here many times that you can make quite a big difference with strategy and tyre handling and nurturing, so let’s hope that come Sunday, we’re better off. But until then, you’re obviously trying to go as fast as you can because the same applies in quali as in the race… the faster the car is, the better you will be in quali and also then in the race.”
Vettel’s P3 in Turkey along with Leclerc’s P4 brought Ferrari back in to contention for P3 in the Constructors’ Championship, but with 24 points to make up on Racing Point who currently occupy that spot, Ferrari know that a solid double-points finish in the Bahrain Grand Prix is essential.