Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Baku City Circuit, 2018

Vettel: Mercedes and Red Bull prompted Pirelli’s tyre change for Spain

2018 Spanish Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel claims Pirelli’s change to its tyres for this weekend is a response to problems two of Ferrari’s rivals experienced during testing at the Circuit de Catalunya.

F1’s official tyre supplier has reduced the tread depth of its compounds for this weekend’s race, as well as the upcoming rounds at Paul Ricard and Silverstone. Pirelli said this was done to allow teams to manage their tyre temperatures better.

However Vettel believes the change was made in response to problems two teams encountered in pre-season testing.

“Obviously we have different tyres because Pirelli reacted to the issues Mercedes had and Red Bull had in testing, so we’ll see how that goes,” he said.

Vettel has previously indicated his suspicions about the change. Before it was announced the Ferrari driver said rival teams had been “[trying] to get the tyre supplier in the direction that suits their car best.”

Ahead of this weekend’s race Vettel said the margin between the leading teams is very fine and small changes could tip the balance.

“In Australia Mercedes was the fastest car, the best package. After that I think in racing it was a tie between us, Mercedes and Red Bull to be honest.

“In qualifying we did what we were supposed to do and I think other people maybe had some trouble. I don’t understand sometimes the form on Friday versus Saturday. For example in Baku, why Red Bull were so quick on Friday, then not quick on Saturday, then for some laps at least they were on the pace on Sunday.

“But going through our weekend sometimes you feel more comfortable in the car, sometimes less. You are always trying to fine-tune the set-up. I think it is very tight at the top and small things can make a difference on the day.

“Now for here I think we get a round of updates for everybody, we’ll see where it takes us. But I think it’s quite nice, you can start first or even sixth and you know that you can fight for a win in terms of pure pace. That’s also, I guess, good for people who are watching because you don’t always know what’s going to happen.”

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27 comments on “Vettel: Mercedes and Red Bull prompted Pirelli’s tyre change for Spain”

  1. The overarching question is – why would Pirelli favour Mercedes and Red Bull, if they indeed made such a request?

    1. @phylyp I think it was known Mercedes wanted this but thought Ricciardo made a snarky remark towards Mercedes that ‘our car just is better on the tyres’ so they didn’t need the change either.

    2. @flatsix – quite true, I too heard the rumour that it was Mercedes who pushed for this.

      But, what I’m not clear on is this – what advantage does Pirelli get by favouring Mercedes in such a manner? Unless a team comes out with some evidence indicating that Pirelli stood to gain by acceding to such a request from a particular team (e.g. Merc commits to fitting only Pirellis on their roadcars), it just seems like complaining by a team that is having an advantage eroded.

      1. @Phylyp Maybe it isn’t about what advantage they get by favouring Mercedes but more about what risks of disadvantage a scorned Mercedes poses. That could be about OEM – contracts, but can be just as good about not wanting bad publicity after a blister-infested race…

        1. George – good point about bad publicity.

          Although… by avoiding bad publicity due to blistering, Pirelli are now getting such unwarranted publicity of apparently favouring a team! They just can’t win :-)

          1. @phylyp, the thing is, you could then turn around the point that George makes and point out that those incentives would also work with trying to keep teams such as Ferrari on board, given that Pirelli also has some quite lucrative contracts with them too (such as being the sole supplier to the Ferrari Challenge series).

            Besides, let’s be blunt, every single team has been accused of trying to trick Pirelli into making changes that would give them an advantage over other teams.
            After all, last year there were accusations that Ferrari and Red Bull had been lobbying Pirelli in the earlier part of the season to shift the tyre allocations towards softer compounds because they knew that Mercedes preferred the harder compound tyres, whilst both of those teams were more comfortable on softer compound tyres instead. Funnily enough, those who throw about accusations of pro-Mercedes favouritism now were rather quiet when the accusations of being pro-Ferrari and pro-Red Bull were raised last year.

      2. Of course Ferrari is complaining because they have tyre management advantage, but the fact is if a car has its tyres blown up due to a poor management, everybody will blame Pirelli (like in Silverstone 2013 if I’m not mistaken). So I believe it’s convenient for Pirelli to give way to Mercedes’ complaint.

        1. FlatSix (@)
          11th May 2018, 8:12

          That’s a surprise considering so many people were very adamant it was due to Vettel his ‘bad’ driving he had punctures in both the British and Belgian GP a couple of years back.

        2. Matteo (@m-bagattini)
          11th May 2018, 9:13

          They can make 5 pit stops if they can’t manage their tires temps, or park the car in the garage like in US some years ago.

  2. I thought all the teams were having problems getting heat into their tires so far this year?

    So really, is this something Pirelli did for Mercedes and Red Bull, or is this something Pirelli did that favors everyone but Ferrari?

    1. Only at Baku did all the cars had problems with putting heat in their tyres.

  3. Older fan will appreciate the irony

    1. Indeed.

    2. So either I’m not that old or I’m too old to recollect that reference.

        1. When Pirelli changed compounds to favor RB?

    3. Although it’s only for one race weekend and not the entire season like it was in 2013. That tyre change took Ferrari out of the championship that year.

  4. Neil (@neilosjames)
    10th May 2018, 21:18

    Two teams that we know of.

    If a tyre problem affects two cars with fairly different design philosophies, different engines, downforce levels, and so on… I’d be surprised if it didn’t also impact on a few of the other eight teams.

    1. The tyrew are the same for everybody, if cars are affected it is performance wise, it should be up to the teams to make the best of the situation.

      Now it is just ridiculous if they are changing the structure of the tyres mid-season because some teams have issues with them.

      1. You should have made this quote in 2013.

        1. I probably did too as well @todfod, I don’t remember if I was a RaceFan back then if I’m honest

  5. It makes me uncomfortable how much influence Pirelli has over the championship. It seems to me like they could decide the winner between the 3 top teams if they wanted to given how much tyres are important in modern F1.
    Bring back tyre war!

  6. Bring back multiple tyre manufacturers

    1. FlatSix (@)
      11th May 2018, 8:20

      How exactly would you envision that? No real track testing is allowed and even Pirelli now struggles with that. On top half the grid is struggling financially and a tyre war would be the second biggest cost in the season after actually building the car. It would also drain all competitiveness from the field as you’d never have Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull with the same suppliers unless they get no1 treatment.

  7. Wait, is this coming from the guy that Pirelli consulted regarding the 2017 tyres?

    And if I’m not mistaken, all Pirelli has done is to reduce the thread depth due the resurfacing of the track. The construction & compound are the same & they presented their case to the FIA who approved it.

  8. Same thing happened in 2013, and Red Bull went on to dominate the rest of the season…
    Teams know the regulations. Build your car to fit them, build your car to work properly with the tyres, if they don’t, then it’s your problem, don’t go whining to Pirelli to then change them. Ferrari nailed it better than the others and are now, if anything, at a disadvantage despite making the best car for the tyres. Don’t change regulations mid season when some teams have spent all of pre season perfecting their design, it’s unfair and frankly ridiculous. Change them for next year, sure, but not mid season. I can’t believe this has happened again, especially after what happened last time…

  9. Richard (@)
    14th May 2018, 5:20

    It does seem VERY strange that pirelli would change its formula after a few races . There was a long period of off season testing and all teams had the chance to adjust their cars to the tires that would be available yet because the power house team,mercedes and two of the three riches teams complained and got what they want some stoill maintain that there was no foul play . Are you kidding me-this is F1 the most corrupt circuit in the world.
    What did Niki lauda say about cheating in F1 ? He case you don’t know he said that : IF YOU WANT TO WIN IN F1 YOU CHEAT .
    With the non-executive head of the most successful team in the circuit ( I say ” circuit ” because its foolish to think of F1 as a sport ) admitting publically that teams and drivers cheat is it hard to accept that this team and its very rich and powerful competitor would pressure the lone tire supplier to make changes that would help their teams and hurt the only team that has been real competition to both of the teams who benefitted from the early season change ?
    There are two answers to the tire issue ,I prefer the 1st:introduce multiple tire manufactures.. let more than one tire manufacturer make and offer tires to the F1 teams. This way it is more likely that each team can get what they want from a tire , it makes collusion less likely AND anyone who knows anything about free market economics will tell you it will drive DOWN the cost of tires ! This will help the teams who don’t have Mercedes $ which is everyone else .
    Someone said it would make tires cost more -really ? Since when does competition among suppliers drive costs UP ? Having a monopoly on tires cannot be good for F1 . It is only good for Pirelli and for the teams ,apparently Mercedes and Red Bull, who pull Pirelli’s strings . Further and just as important a tire manufacturer’s monopoly is not good for the fans . It is like a Power – unit monopoly . Let’s say that only Porche could make PU’s ,how would that help the circuit ? Having only one tire manufacture is the same and just as bad .
    The 2nd option which could answer the problem of having a tire monopoly and one which apparently is influenced by two powerful and wealthy teams would be to have the negatively effected team,that is Ferrari ,use ITS muscle to force F1 to cause Pirelli to bend to Ferrari’s will much in the way mercedes and red Bull have done but, instead of using the carrot of contract to be had or lost Ferrari could use the power of the Tifosi .
    If Ferrari were to petition the millions of loyal followers to threaten to boycott F1 races and broadcasts and even sponsors unless and until Pirelli made all tires to Ferrari’s specs F1 would have to pressure pirelli to do so cause as we all know -without the Tifosi there is no F1 .
    Were signore Arrivabene to come close to Niki Lauda’s belief about cheating in F1 he could and would use the power of the Ferrari massive fan base to make F1 adjust the tire formula pirelli uses to favor Ferrari and only Ferrari and maybe he should do just that . After all Lauda has implied that he would do such a thing.
    I for one favor the free-market approach .Have multiple tire manufacturers . It is fair and for once perhaps will let us see what all true fans want to see : who is really the best but,

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