Reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton believes that increased tyre pressures rather than the quality of Pirelli's tyres were the cause of both Max Verstappen's and Lance Stroll punctures at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix a fortnight ago.
In a race full of drama, both Stroll and Verstappen suffered rear tire failures as they approached the main straight of the Baku City Circuit, with Verstappen losing his third race win of the season and an increased lead in the driver's championship with Stroll losing a potential podium after a strong first stint.
On the eve of this weekend's French Grand Prix, Pirelli revealed that their investigation had concluded that a break on the inner sidewall caused both tire failures rather than debris initially blamed for the tire failures.
Despite both Red Bull and Aston Martin releasing a statement that they operate their tires using Pirelli's prescribed parameters, Hamilton suggested during today's pre-race press conference that the punctures may have been caused by teams increasing their tire pressures.
"As you know, every weekend, whenever there is a failure, they always put the pressures up - so that tells you something, more often than not, it's that the tires are not being run at the pressures that are being asked. We didn't have a problem with our tires. "
"I think they've done a great job with the tires this year, they're more robust than before, and I think in this particular instance, I don't think Pirelli are at fault."
Hamilton also welcomed the news that the FIA would increase their checks on tires for this weekend, with the Mercedes team leader also questioning why the sport's governing body had not been tougher on checking tires in the past.
"At the end of the day, safety is always the priority, and 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 to see that the FIA had to clarify those, which obviously, you can take what you want from that."
"I'm happy that they have acknowledged that they need to clarify it, and I think what's really, really important from now is how they police it, because they've not been policing how the tires are being used, tire pressures, tire temperatures, and we need to do better. "It's great that they've done a TD, 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. "
Mercedes have also made a slight change to the steering wheel of the W12 after Hamilton accidentally pressed the team's 'brake magic' button at the restart, causing the car's brake balance to move forward, which made Hamilton lock up his front tyres and dramatically lose a potential race win.
However, the team has not moved the button when Hamilton spoke to The Race ahead of this weekend.
“We haven’t moved it the button; we’ve just put a shroud around it just to make sure that I can’t accidentally touch it in future. But that’s for the short term. The steering wheel’s not so easy to change or to move buttons because it was all designed carefully. So we’ll look for a longer-term solution probably in the future.”