Lewis Hamilton went from sick to quick at the Chinese Grand Prix yesterday only to find his tyres were falling apart.
The two free practice sessions marked the season debut of Pirelli’s quick-wearing soft tyres and, while Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and Lotus found them to their liking, Hamilton was of the opposite opinion. “My tyre was the worst I’ve ever experienced. There were bits flying off it all over the place. It didn’t last long,” said the Mercedes driver, who had retired to his hotel with an allergy on Thursday.
“It (the soft) doesn’t feel like the right tyre for this circuit. I did a couple of laps and the tyre disintegrated. It was quite unusual,” said Hamilton. Mercedes were one-two at the top of the timesheets, with Nico Rosberg leading, in a morning session that saw only the medium compound used. The soft told a different story with Rosberg, last year’s winner in Shanghai, fourth in the afternoon, Hamilton seventh and Massa fastest.
Hamilton said he had felt a little uncomfortable in the car. “We made a change going into free practice two with the brakes and there was a big difference, a positive step, and I’m hoping we can make some more steps like that just to make me feel more comfortable in the car,” he said.
Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery said degradation had been in line with expectations on the medium tyre but not the soft, with big differences between the two. “We’d expect the soft tyre to last between 11 to 12 laps in the race and the medium tyre for about 18 laps,” he added.
Paul Di Resta was ninth in practice for Force India while rookie Max Chilton suffered an oil pressure issue with his Marussia that restricted him to five laps in FP2 and left him propping up the standings.