Mercedes W09 wheel, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2018

Mercedes stopped using wheel “spacers” due to championship concerns

2018 Brazilian Grand Prix

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Mercedes did not run its controversial rear wheel design in the last three races because it wanted to secure the points it needed to deliver the championships without the threat of a protest.

The design, which features ‘spacers’ within the wheel, was removed from the car at the United States Grand Prix because the team feared a protest from rivals Ferrari over their legality.

Mercedes successfully lobbied the stewards at the Mexican Grand Prix to rule the design was legal. Even so they chose not to run it at that race or in last weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

Team principal Toto Wolff said that given the situation in the championships they did not want to risk the threat of disqualification from multiple races if they had used the design.

“We didn’t want to leave any variable in the championship where we had to just drive it home,” he said. Prior to the United States Grand Prix, with four races remaining, Lewis Hamilton needed 33 points from a possible 100 to secure the drivers’ title and the team needed 78 from a possible 172 to take the constructors’ championship.

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“We didn’t want to have a protest with a possible quad-ruling weeks down the line, when we deem these spacers not to be fundamentally responsible for performance,” said Wolff.

Mercedes, Interlagos, 2018
Mercedes and Hamilton have now won the titles
“And I can assure that you that our assessment is that the problems that we had these three races were not linked to the spacers. It’s a more overall concept.”

While the disappearance of the ‘spacer’ wheels coincided with Mercedes experiencing greater tyre management problems, Wolff pointed out other teams suffered the same in Brazil.

“Many of the other cars: Sebastian [Vettel] was struggling tremendously on these other tyres today. Kimi [Raikkonen] was a little bit better but not much. Red Bull is the only team that is looking strong in the race but they are looking weak in qualifying, so it’s maybe a compromise that they have achieved.”

FIA race director Charlie Whiting said the ruling from Mexico means the matter is “settled” in the eyes of the sport’s governing body.

“It’s just a technical opinion that we’ve given and we will continue to use that opinion in any similar cases. But in the meantime I imagine we will, once the dust has settled on this season, we’ll attempt to do something in the {Technical Working Group] about it.”

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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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6 comments on “Mercedes stopped using wheel “spacers” due to championship concerns”

  1. Pointing at others having problems doesn’t mean that those ‘spacers’ would not have been beneficial for Mercedes. Can a team ask rule clarification without the other teams knowing during the winter break?

    1. The outcome of any rule clarification is shared between all teams.

    2. For the winter break, I imagine they would test it and try to figure out the benefits and either be ready to inquire at the start of 2019’s season, or find pretty much everyone else also using something similar. At that point, either a general ruling would ban it for all, or find it OK for Mercedes and everyone who can benefit from it will run it.
      Not everything that works for one team is good for every other, like the article quotes about Red Bull making the tyres work, probably at the cost of Quali.
      I think that’s one of the great things about F1. Everyone doesn’t run the same car, with just a few set-up changes. It’s as much a clever development race as it is a driver’s.

      PS: Did anyone explain the smoke coming from Hamilton’s car?

  2. now that everything is done and dusted are they going to use them in abu dhabi

    1. They probably will need them in the desert heat.

  3. How often this topic comes up is weird to me, and the whole story bends logic a little bit, very similar to the ice bag on the Ferrari.

    >Team thinks this is legal.
    >The stewards ruled it as legal for a race.
    >Team decides to not run it in that race anyway.
    >Team keeps talking about the fear of a protest for using it.
    >Team says it’s not about aero, it’s about temperature management.
    >Team struggles with tire temperature.
    >Team says not having the spacer is not the reason for tire temperature struggles.
    >Team says other teams also struggled with tires.
    >Other teams also don’t have spacers.

    Of course it’s not like Toto starts this conversation every minute, most likely it’s just another journalist asking the same boring questions over and over.

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