Lewis Hamilton compared his Pirelli tyres to balloons on Sunday after he and his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas suffered serious blistering problems at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.
Just a week after his dramatic victory on three wheels, with a punctured fourth, at the British Grand Prix, Hamilton admitted he was afraid one of his tyres might explode.
Three cars had suffered tyre failures at Silverstone last weekend, but Pirelli pressed ahead with a decision to introduce softer tyres running at higher pressures than previously, much to the concern of many teams.
The two Mercedes drivers finished second and third in an unexpected upset result that saw Red Bull’s Max Verstappen storm to his first win of the season and ninth of his career.
Hamilton said Mercedes had struggled with their tyres and had no immediate answer to the problem.
“It was a massive challenge today,” he said. “But congratulations to Red Bull, and to Max. They did a great job.
“They didn’t have the problems that we had and it was unexpected for us to have the blistering as hard-core as we experienced.”
He said he was glad to have survived the race without a puncture and to have found some pace to claim second at the finish.
“I’m grateful to have progressed like I did. I was pushing pretty heavily.
“The team will work hard now to identify our tyre problems. Pirelli had tyre failures last week – and then the pressure (tyre pressure) on them goes up and up and up so they’re like balloons, you know?
“I’m not sure anyone else struggled with blistering as we did so we’ll look into it.”
Hamilton said he was nervous in the car as he managed his tyres.
“That middle stint, even in the first one, I started to fall back to Max. I was managing the tyres like you couldn’t below.
“In the middle stint, one half was bald and the other half was ok. In the end, I was driving with half a tyre! I was afraid it was going to explode.”
Bottas was frustrated by both his tyre problems and his Mercedes team’s strategy decisions.
“It was frustrating for us,” he said.
“My strategy was far from ideal and there are lots to learn from today. It was an opportunity to win, from pole, and I had an opportunity to keep up with Max, but as soon as I started to push the tyres just fell apart.
“Blistering was an issue for us and it seemed that Red Bull had none, so they had an edge. Tyres just over-heat. It’s basically boiling. You get holes in the tyres and then you just lose grip.”
Verstappen’s first win of 2020, and ninth of his career, enabled him to leap-frog Bottas and take second, 30 points behind Hamilton in the drivers’ championship.