Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2018

Tyres are dictating title fight between Mercedes and Ferrari – Wolff

2018 British Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff believes tyres have become the single most important factor in the Formula 1 title fight between Mercedes and Ferrari.

Speaking after Ferrari ended Mercedes’ five-year streak of British Grand Prix victories last weekend, Wolff said Mercedes could no longer take for granted how well they would perform from track to track.

“I think what we’ve seen this season is a little bit of a different pattern,” Wolff told media including RaceFans.

“Everybody brings upgrades to every race and there is never the silver bullet that provides you three tenths or four tenths, and this was the difference between us and Ferrari last year.

“It’s just a constant learning of the tyre which is [now] the single most important denominator for performance. And you get it right, you get it wrong.”

Mercedes has tended to struggle with its tyres in hotter conditions, such as the unusually high temperatures seen at Silverstone last weekend.

“I believe that if we would have had 10 degrees less temperature in qualifying maybe we would have had more of a solid gap and the same [in the race],” said Wolff. “But this is like it is and we just need to learn and understand and try to get in control of the tyres in the best possible way.”

Mercedes has suffered a series of defeats in recent races at tracks they previously considered strong venues. Prior to this season they won the previous three races at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the previous four races at the Red Bull Ring and the previous five races at Silverstone. But they lost at all three venues this year to Ferrari or Red Bull.

Wolff previously said the team was aiming to shore up its points tally at tracks which suited its package. But following their latest defeat he admitted that view has changed.

“Yes, obviously I would have loved for us to build a gap in Austria and Silverstone and then lose some in Hungary and lose some in Singapore,” he said, referring to two tracks where the team has historically struggled. “But we need to just look at every single event now and try to score as many points as possible.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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50 comments on “Tyres are dictating title fight between Mercedes and Ferrari – Wolff”

  1. Gemma St. Ivans
    10th July 2018, 8:32

    Odd comments by Toto given Pirelli gave Merc its own bespoke tyre compounds

    1. Yet, at Austria Ferrari were the ones who didn’t suffer massive blisters on the rears lefts.

      Perhaps people should stop repeating Vettel’s tyre conspiracy claim and accept that even he backtracked and admitted the new compaounds worked better for Ferrari than the old ones did.

      1. @nikkit The ‘Mercedes Special’ Thinner Tread depth tyres weren’t used in Austria so your argument only goes to back up the claim.

        the new compaounds worked better for Ferrari than the old ones did

        It’s all relative and not about whether one works better than the other but about who GAINS more when the new tyres are used.

      2. @nikkit

        Vettel’s tyre conspiracy claim

        It wasn’t even that iirc

        new compaounds worked better for Ferrari than the old ones did

        VET didn’t say how it would’ve been for the Mercedes-Ferrari gap though (maybe the gains for Merc would’ve been higher?), so that doesn’t indicate much (if any) backtracking and admission from VET’s side. Not that the idea of a tyre conspiracy isn’t at least a bit silly, still.

  2. Come on Toto… You guys were clearly better on the tyres in the race. Especially with Valterri..

    1. Yeah Lewis was a lot better on the softs in traffic than Seb was in clean air, making them last at least.

  3. Mr. Toto complains about the weather. Then invite all the engineers of Mercedes to a ritual & prey the god for cooler weather Mr. Sly.

    1. It would have made more sense had he said “the weather is dictating there titles fight”. As the weather impacts the tyres, impacting the performance.
      But we all know that the weather and tyres are the same for all. The real determining factor is (strategy, yes Mr Wolff), and how the team understand the weather/tyre and how the car performs under those conditions. All of these above is in their own hands.

      1. Good point there @coldfly.

        To me it kind of shows that the chassis are now converging as well as the engines, which means that the smaller margins between them make these “external factors” like the exact track features, the weather and indeed how each car works its tyres be of relatively larger impact.

        1. Exactly @bascb. Can’t wait for RBR to join them and have a proper 3 way fight.

    2. It reminds me of Eltons story in about complaining about the weather…

  4. What stood out to me is how good the Ferraris seem to be on the tyres.

    1. Did we watch the same race? Vettel had problems at the end of his first stint with his front left.

      1. They had the same issue last year, and it seemed to be more an indicator of how they had the Ferrari’s set up.
        Either the tyres worked better for them this year or the set up wasn’t putting as much pressure on that front left because while the tyre had had it by the end of that first stint, it wasn’t a problem the rest of the race, or at least didn’t seem to be.

        1. @nikkit

          it wasn’t a problem the rest of the race, or at least didn’t seem to be.

          As Vettel said, he was nursing the medium tyres from the 1st pitstop onwards because he knew that they were having front Left problems. We didn’t get to see how well he did as the safety car allowed Ferrari to complete a second stop.

          1. @asanator he also said in interviews that he went too hard on his softs at the beginning of the first stint

      2. @warheart I meant in comparison with last year and in general.

        1. Yes they have been good on tires. I was wondering if the new floor and rear body would have any negative effects on the tires.

  5. Let’s have a look at the rest of the calendar then. Let’s assume hot = Ferrari > Mercedes, cold = Ferrari < Mercedes.

    Hockenheim and Hungaroring should suit Ferrari unless there are unusual cool periods in Europe at that time.

    Monza and Spa could be better for Mercedes given the cooler climates in both areas. However this is not accounting for Ferrari's vast improvements in their engine.

    Singapore is a tropical country, Ferrari were able to fight it out with Mercedes in previous years and this won't be any different, I feel.

    Suzuka should suit Mercedes – but it could suit Red Bull even better.

    It should be relatively cooler in Austin and Mexico City – again suiting Mercedes.

    Sao Paolo hasn't been great for Mercedes.

    Yas Marina at night, at an even later time in November should give Mercedes an advantage.

    Then there will also be more factors coming into play than last year – having one less engines to use, Red Bull is more race-win competitive and Ferrari's improvement.

    1. Also factor in that Mercedes tends to do better on the softs and mediums. Anything softer in the range and they usually suffer a lot

    2. I think using temperature only isn’t really a good way to go. Last year, for example, Ferrari were very competitive with Mercedes in Spa and Mexico. Given they are overall stronger now, there’s no reason to think both of these tracks will just suit Mercedes better.

    3. @RL You got some things wrong:
      – Firstly, Monza’s climate isn’t cooler than Hockenheim’s. Secondly, Austin is also still relatively warm in the 2nd half of October, and finally, the Abu Dhabi GP isn’t going to take place at a later time in November than last season (last season the race day was the 26th of the month while this season it’ll be the 25th), and even in the evening it’s still relatively warm. You should check the facts first before posting something, LOL.

      1. He may have gotten a few things wrong, but ending a post with “LOL” might bring into doubt your cognitive skills.

        1. @Postreader The ‘LOL’ is a reference to the fact how RL managed to get a few simple things wrong by apparently not bothering to check the facts first. It has nothing to do with my ability to think with logic.

  6. isn’t this all a bit master of the obvious? tyres have been the single biggest determinant of lap time since motorsport began. if you can’t make the car interact with the track in a predictable way, you are not likely to be winning many prizes.

    however, the biggest determinant in the championship fight will be reliability. with so few spare parts available for these power units we are almost guaranteed to see some penalties. seems a shame, but it’s the same rules for everyone.

    1. Of course it is obvious, but what he actually wants a special treatment from tyre supplier that favour their cars more. We can take this as a kind of cover preparation for defeat, or a slight threat to tyre manufacturer.

  7. It seems that the “break point” Ferrari made in Silverstone was a big blow for the whole Mercedes team. Hamilton, Wolf and Allison behavior after the race says it all. To come up with this comment after being beaten on track is just classless and plain stupid too. I don’t know who is trying to fool by saying that the tyres are the single most important denominator for performance.
    Ferrari supremacy this year is not down to the tyres. It’s down to their novel sidepods design, a trend that was copied by all teams ,Mercedes included (however it took them one and a half year to copy), a superior power unit and a very good chassis.Mercedes lobbied the FIA about the Ferrari ERS system, now the are complaining about the tyres. I think they just need to accept the fact that another team did a better job and get on with it.

    1. Correct me if I’m wrong but did Ferrari not, after an abysmal 2016, pressure the FIA into effectively outlawing Mercedes’ and Red Bull’s clever suspensions systems around which they had configured their new cars, not long before the start of the season. The same Ferrari that suffered a mysterious drop in performance after the FIA’s clampdown on engine oil burning midway through last season and whose cars now appear to be packing a BBQ under their engine covers. All this while continuing to receive a competitive advantage by means of their indefensible legacy payments.

      1. @tomd11
        The official purpose from the Ferrari query at the start of the 2017 season was to double check with the FIA whether it is legal to implement a suspension system that could replicate FRIC without a physical connection between the front and the rear of the car. Ferrari never put pressure on the FIA directly to outlaw Mercedes and RBR clever suspension systems, however they have shed light on the fact that the clever suspension system is illegal under the current regulations. The timing of the query wasn’t innocent at all, it was deliberate and that in order to scrap the development plans of both RBR/Mercedes, and that is exactly what happened since RBR who have already developed the system and based its car design philosophy around it has to redesign their car in a hurry which explains their disappointing start of the 2017 F1 season. Like I said earlier Ferrari asked the FIA whether they can implement their own version of the illegal suspension system and didn’t wanted to get it banned (at least officially) in the first place.

  8. It makes me uncomfortable how Pirelli can basically decide the championship with tyre choices. I don’t believe they are helping Ferrari or Mercedes, but is it even a good idea to give so much power to a company? Isn’t there a high risk of corruption?

    1. @francorchamps17 as said in another comment, it has always been this way, tires are just too inherently important. The fact is that everyone has access to the same supplier, same tires and more or less the same amount of testing. So it’s a teams duty to develop a car able to take full advantage of given tires. Or maybe you’re referring to the compounds choice Pirelli has?

      1. @m-bagattini Difference between now & in the past though is that the tyre supplier has a lot more power as it’s them that decides which compounds are used, What tyre pressures can be run & what camber levels are allowed. Since 2007 when tyre competition went away & especially since Pirelli have come team shave become a lot more restricted in what they can run & how they can run them.

        In years past teams could not only pick what supplier to use but they also had free choice of compounds & could run whatever tyre pressures, Cambers etc… they felt maximized the performance of there package.

        1. @stefmeister thanks for the insight, I didn’t know about the camber/pressure choice. I suppose they suggest they make suggestions for “safety reasons”.

          1. @m-bagattini Yes.

            In the past the tyre suppliers would have recommendations but teams were free to push the limits & go outside of those recommendations. I gather that the tyre suppliers went in expecting this & designed there tyres to be able to cope with been run beyond official recommendations so it never caused any big issues & if it did they tended to be caught in practice & teams would make changes to there setup.

            In 2013 (And on a few occasions before this) the Pirelli tyres didn’t seem able to cope with this as well & we saw quite a few issues over the first half of the season (Tyres were throwing the tread off) which culminated in several failures during the British Gp. After this Pirelli went to the FIA & insisted that there recommendations were put into the regulations so now if Pirelli recommend minimum tyre pressures be 21psi front/23psi rear or whatever then nobody can run below that & it’s the same with cambers.

          2. There was also the practice of ‘tyre swapping’ where the tyres designed for the left side of the car would be run on the right & vice versa.

            It’s something that teams had been doing infrequently for years as Gary Anderson spoke about doing it at Jordan in 1997 to help with blistering but was also something that was banned after Silverstone 2013. I believe the hubs/rims are now designed so that a tyre intended for one side of the car won’t fit on the other side.

          3. @stefmeister very interesting and informative. Thank you again!

  9. Champagne Papi
    10th July 2018, 11:24

    I have to say, Ferrari fans are showing far less class online (forums and Twitter) than Mercedes fans did after the red cars spate of disastrous races at the end of last year.

    I guess that’s what happens when you’ve gone a decade without a championship.

    1. Maybe that’s because Ferrari didn’t come out and accuse Mercedes of deliberately taking them out last year!

      1. What about Sebastian “He brake tested me” Vettel? Remember who started the accusations of foul play!

      2. Champagne Papi
        10th July 2018, 14:17

        But they have taken them out nevertheless. Show some humility or karma is going to give you guys a bunch of Singapore 17’s all over again!

      3. No but they did accuse Max of taking them out in Singapore and HAM of break-testing them in Baku.

  10. Peppermint-Lemon (@)
    10th July 2018, 12:13

    Toto moaning again.

    Tyres being an important part of the car and a big infuencer of performance and therefore race results and championship outcomes is nothing new in 2018.

    Many championships have been this way.

  11. My inner sceptical cynic & cynical skeptic, have led me over the past 2-3 years to the conclusion that the whole F1 show. Is just that, a show.
    Deep in the shadows of the money machine that F1 has been allowed to degenerate into, avarice has become the driving force.
    Bernie was the hard nosed cut throat entrepreneur who dragged F1 into the 21st century in a wonderful way. Yes he’s a billionaire on the back of his very strategic & awesome marketing. He deserves every red cent of his money.
    Current owners are a cheap showboating mockery of all that was so fine in F1.
    Their avarice for profit is now the driving force. Whatever tyres they use!

  12. Come on Toto, this tyres was made for you, its not Ferrari fault that they also understood how to work them.

  13. It is my view for a long time now that Pirelli have studied what tyres Mercedes are bad at and which Ferrari are good at in each circuit and always nominate the tyres that diadvatage Mercedes and gives an advantage to Ferrari. That Pirelli boss Mr Isola looks right shifty. Its my view after a long analysis of the races over the last couple of years.

  14. wasn’t there some kind of a problem a few years ago with Pirelli testing tires and only inviting Mercedes to do the testing?

  15. Once you di realize you

  16. Once you di realize you

    1. Sorry my typo..
      Toto you dominate for 4 years with almost all the races and starting grid 1 and 2, so you can afford to be very correct and pleasant with the opponents, stimulate them to do better and encourage them. Inside you are convinced that they will never catch you. haha…
      Suddenly, the shock! You do realized they beat you on your best ground and you can not believe on it ! It is not possible, the fault is outside of you, the tires, the weather, the heat, Ferrari that hits you on purpose! it must be down an illegal trick or conspiracy … but how did they do it? OMG!

  17. Hemingway (@)
    10th July 2018, 23:44

    As someone who’s sick of Mercedes domination, these sort of quotes from Toto really make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

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