Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Circuit of the Americas, 2018

Mercedes’ tyre struggles not due to absence of new wheel rims

2018 Mexican Grand Prix

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Mercedes’ severe tyre problems in Mexico were not down to the team’s decision not to use its new vented wheel rims according to team principal Toto Wolff.

The FIA stewards ruled ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix that the spacers it had added to its wheels were legal. However despite having used the rims earlier in the year, Mercedes decided for the second race in a row not to run them.

Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas struggled with their tyres yesterday, making two and three pit stops respectively as their tyres degraded rapidly. But Wolff said it “had nothing to do” with the decision not to use the new rear rims.

“The biggest problem today was the front-left,” he said. “It was nothing to do with it.”

“I don’t think that we had one single lap where we actually switched the tyre on,” Wolff admitted. “I don’t think that our car drove the tyre.

“I have no explanation and we will be asking for an explanation because these swings are just… difficult.”

Mercedes W09 wheel, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2018
Mercedes didn’t run their new wheels
FIA race director Charlie Whiting believes Mercedes did not run the rims in the USA because they feared a possible protest from one of their rivals.

“They were acutely aware of the fact that Ferrari didn’t agree with our interpretation,” said Whiting in response to a question from RaceFans.

“Given the slight antagonism between the two this year they felt that they may be under threat from a protest and they felt that the comfort of knowing that [the technical department] think it’s legal wasn’t quite enough for them.”

Whiting suspects Mercedes’ decision not to use the rims in Mexico despite gaining the approval of the stewards was because they “just wanted to be super, super safe”.

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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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12 comments on “Mercedes’ tyre struggles not due to absence of new wheel rims”

  1. My understanding was venting helped cool the rear tires, which helped balance the car as they were running hotter than the fronts.

    Could it be Merc simply decided the car would be better balanced without the vented spacers. Or perhaps they were concerned about changing a factor critical to the setup on such a unique track.

    1. I think it is safe to say that Mercedes just wanted to make sure they didn’t give Ferrari any chance to protest and put the win of the championship in doubt @slotopen.

      1. +1 it was basically that

        1. +2, my first thought too.

  2. Something related to the mandatory tyre pressures enforced by Pirrelli perhaps?

    1. If the tyres got hotter than when put on the car then the pressure would increase inside the tyre, which degrades performance. Improving air circulation may help the tyres to stay at the correct pressure, although being close to the brake disc there’s always going to be a lot of heat in that area. Improving air circulation probably reduces the effects of the hot brake disc and the hot air from that.

  3. The tyres were too cold in Mexico, they didn’t need further cooling.

  4. One thing I don’t understand here…
    If the stewards had passed these wheels they should have been legally useable, at least in Mexico. If another team still decided to protest the wheels their protest should be at the stewards/FIA, not MB (i.e. they protest the stewards’ previous decision, not MB for accepting that decision), in the hope the FIA will reverse their decision post-Mexico… in which case the Mexican result should still stand – because MB did nothing wrong in Mexico.
    Or is this too logical…?

    1. I agree with you. I was shocked to hear that they did not use the rims in Mexico.

  5. I can’t believe how excited I feel watching drivers drive like grand mothers to save fuel and spare tyres made from pencil eraser rubber.

    On the plus side. It’s probably very safe to drive F1 at the moment.

    1. I agree. It was appalling to see how bad the tyres were. They seemed to shred themselves to bits!

  6. So in Toto language that means: the car was slow because we decided to not use the new rims.

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