• Lewis Hamilton predicts new tyres will be tough on drivers
• ‘It’s maybe a more even playing field’
Formula One is on a go-slow, according to Lewis Hamilton, one of five world champions on the grid when the new season gets under way in Melbourne three weeks time.
The new season will herald a number of technical changes, including the introduction of an adjustable rear wing and the return of the kinetic energy recovery system (KERS), which will make life busier than ever for the drivers.
But it is another change, the arrival of Pirelli as the sole tyre provider, which has made the biggest difference. According to Hamilton it has made the cars slower. As McLaren prepare for their final testing session in Barcelona, Hamilton said: “There is more to think about in the car. But Formula One does seem to have slowed down.
“The cars are slower on a race distance. Last year we had to make tyres last with heavier fuel load and now it’s even slower. I did run the other day and it was painfully slow, it really was. Just not exciting, to be honest.
“The first run – I didn’t think I was pushing very hard – and the tyres were finished after nine laps, down to the canvas. On the next run, I had to go easier. It was almost like doing an out lap and just about made it to 15 or 16 on a soft tyre.”
McLaren already have their hands full as they try to close the gap between themselves and the pace-setting Red Bull and Ferrari cars, but all the teams will have to come to terms with the new, fast-wearing tyres, which is likely to result in more pit-stops and more changes in the running order.
“Over the years you have to change your style and adapt, while keeping the important part, which is the speed and aggression,” Hamilton said. “Now the biggest step is how we are going to have to look after the tyres.
“You’ll see it’s going to be just as competitive this year, if not more. The regs are bringing the teams closer, making it more competitive, but not as hard-core competitive. In 2007 and 2008, the teams were so quick and pushing each other so fast at the front. They’ve now slowed down the cars a little, it’s maybe a more even playing field.”
Hamilton’s team-mate, Jenson Button, has seen a very fast Ferrari in the early testing sessions. Fernando Alonso has been very quick in testing – both drivers have at Ferrari. “And they have been reliable,” Button said. “They were doing 140 laps a day and a couple of days we did 55. Big difference.
“They are in a great position. I don’t really know how quick they are. I know he [Fernando] did his quick lap on a supersoft tyre in Barcelona. We didn’t have one. You can look at their long runs and say they are consistent and so they must have downforce. They look strong.
“Red Bulls are the same as last winter. They didn’t look amazingly strong and got to first race and were massively quick. Then you have a gaggle of cars. The Toro Rossos look very competitive, they have done a great job, the Renault is a step behind that, even Force India … There are a lot of quick cars out there.”