Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Baku City Circuit, 2019

Ferrari are “struggling more with tyres than in previous years”, admits Vettel

2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by and

Ferrari hasn’t been as competitive as it appeared to be in pre-season testing because it can’t get the best out of its tyres, Sebastian Vettel has admitted.

“We have the tools, we just need to put the package together, that seems to be the struggle,” Vettel admitted after finishing behind the Mercedes drivers again in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

“I think we struggle a bit more with the tyres this year than previous years.”

Pirelli has revised its tyre construction since last season and Vettel believes Mercedes has sussed the changes more quickly than Ferrari.

“It seems just easier for them to click and to happen whereas for us [it’s a] bit more difficult. I think the secret so far this year on average, if you’re fair, have been the tyres, and maybe we are missing something.”

Mercedes’ dominance of the first four races has been “boring”, he said. “It’s not just four races it’s been four years, more or less.”

“We are pushing as hard as we can but obviously you need to respect that they’re doing phenomenally well. Their car is most of the time in the right place. But I’m confident, I believe in this team and I know we can improve.

“We have a good car we just don’t manage yet always put it where it belongs so it’s difficult to have the trust and the feel but I’m sure it’s going to turn around.

“It’s like a magic cube or a Rubik’s cube, you just need to solve it. I think we have a lot of people that can do the Rubik’s cube under a couple of minutes, we have really clever people. But I think we’re working on a large size Rubik’s cube.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2019 F1 season

Browse all 2019 F1 season articles

36 comments on “Ferrari are “struggling more with tyres than in previous years”, admits Vettel”

  1. Gunther is right. So much talk about tyres cannot be good.

    Michelin makes all weather tyres for FE (guess what they are…yea road relevant), Pirelli can’t make a tyre that lasts 5 laps or operates normally.

    Tyres shouldn’t be a performance differentiator!

    1. Formula E is oversized go-kart. And spec series. As soon as cars aren’t identical tires will suit one car better than other.

      1. Formula E is oversized go-kart. And spec series. As soon as cars aren’t identical tires will suit one car better than other.


        I fully believe Mercedes are now seeing real benefits from James Allison’s expertise. His Lotus and Ferarri cars were quick yet kind to tyres and this seems to be his speciality. Like the Adrian Newey of tyres management, great job. 👌

      2. So you think Pirreli tyres are good? There is no problem with them?

        1. @johnmilk

          What makes you think Michelin tyres would be any different if they had to make them to the same FIA ditacted requirements that Perelli have to?

          Remember, these tyres are being made to degrade over a number of laps per FIA requirements. But there are so many variables that affect the tyres. Track temperature, surface abrasiveness, tyre temperatures, plus the cars themselves all affect the tyres differently based on how heavy they are at full pelt, how the direct the airflow etc. Short of having a car from each team testing the tyres at each track and then making tyre sets for eachs pecific track, I’m not sure how Perelli can do better.

          I honestly don’t expect Michelin or Bridgestone for that matter making tyres much different if bound by the requirements.

          I also guarentee that if it was Mercedes struggling on the tyres and Ferrari excelling, people would be banging on about how the tyres even the field, how great they are etc.

          1. O didn’t said they would. The F1 tyres are horrible regardless of who is to blame.

            For me, part FIA, part F1, part Pirelli.

          2. @nikkit The FIA only ever asked them to try & make tyres to ensure 2 stops, How Pirelli go about doing that is purely down to Pirelli & all of the thermal issues & small operating window that have been a characteristic of the Pirelli’s have been purely down to decisions made by Pirelli.

            Also the FIA actually stopped asking Pirelli to produce high degredation tyres in 2016 & since then they have been free to make tyres to whatever criteria they wish & were in fact asked by teams/drivers & aimed to make more durable, less sensitive tyres with a wider operating window from 2017. It’s debatable if they hit those aims.

            As to other suppliers. The tyres used in Indycar have been designed to wear faster for the past 2-3 years & Bridgestone have opted for a different philosophy to Pirelli & have come up with a tyre that loses performance over a stint at a predictable/linear rate but which doesn’t suffer from overheating, graining or blistering & also has an operating window wide enough to not cause problems or be a talking point.

            There are multiple approaches to creating tyres that wear at an increased rate. Pirelli went for an approach that created additional problems such as narrow working ranges while Bridgestone went a route that resulted in a tyre that suffers higher than normal wear with no additional negatives.

            Michelin were reluctant to go the high wear route at all but did put forward a proposal to help the racing without needing high degredation.

          3. @gt-racer a proper response with evidence and knowledge as always. Thank you for the insight and explanation. 👌

          4. everything that @gt-racer said leads to an issue that further enhances the differences in the field, and nullifies the very purpose these tyres were created for, close racing.

            Essentially whoever invests the most to understand the tyres would be the teams that will make them work, essentially making them performance differetiators and increasing development costs.

            I wouldn’t go as far as saying that Pirrelli is the only one to blame, FIA still asked them to make tyres that ensure 2 stop races, which in itself is a bit ridiculous, as are the rules involving the tyres, most notably the Q2 rule and the mandatory compound change.

            Teams should be given freedom and predictable high performance tyres. FE and Michellin were just an example of a different approach, that for me is much better

        2. Of course Pirelli is able to make great tires. They just build to specs FIA ordered.

    2. @johnmilk, the thing is, weren’t a lot of the Formula E drivers complaining that, in the recent race in Paris – which is the first time that they have had a wet race in Formula E – it turned out that those “all weather tyres” were actually fairly poor in wet conditions?

      1. as a all weather concept it is understandable that they won’t have the same level of performance in the extremes of the spectrum. They do pass however a much better image regarding tyre technology. In F1 there are complains every single weekend about slick tyres, and when it rains we still have those complains because the tyre specifically designed for that purpose doesn’t work either.

        I used the FE tyres as an example of how motorsport should approach the rubber issue, trying to improve technology instead of making bad tyres on purpose. It is ridiculous to say the least, the most advanced cars in the world hindered in their performance by the very thing that puts them in contact with the asphalt

  2. Tyres are a performance differentiator since day 1 of Grand Prix racing, check how Ferenc Szisz won the first GP.

  3. I like what he said in that article published by Autosport. Pretty honest, and understandable, I feel.

    1. Is he really struggling that much with the car though? Or is it just that he has become unnerved that he now has a teammate that can match him or even out run him? It sounds exaclty like what Vettel was saying in 2014 when Ricciardo came in to Red Bull.

      1. Given that he had just come off 4 WDCs and then in 2014 no longer had anything close to what he had become accustomed in the way of the necessary WCC car, no it was not that he was unnerved by DR but by a car that did not allow him to defend his titles. Similarly this year there is no indication he is anything but ‘unnerved’ by a car he isn’t confident in, as he is saying. As the Autosport article points out, SV has been the more consistent driver at Ferrari.

        The parallel I would draw wrt SV’s teammates in 2014 and 2019 is that neither of them has experienced WCC level cars and only know that they were/are in the best cars they’ve ever had. SV would be feeling more frustration knowing what WCC/WDC cars feel like, whereas DR and CL only know to be stoked at what they had/have. We saw DR bested by Kvyat once he had to ‘defend’ his 2014 showing. Let’s see how CL does if he really ends up mixing it up with LH and VB, and next year when he is perhaps less stoked about his car and more unnerved that it is a car needing to catch up to Mercedes and that is failing to allow him to compete for the titles. Let’s see how he adapts after his crash last weekend.

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          2nd May 2019, 17:10


          We saw DR bested by Kvyat once he had to ‘defend’ his 2014 showing.

          That was completely a different situation. Ricciardo was faster than Vettel in almost every race. Ricciardo was also faster than Kvyat, but DR had more technical issues and crashes than Kvyat which helped Kvyat to score more points even though he was much slower.

          1. @f1osaurus I think you’ll find that SV had his fair share of issues in 2014 as well.

          2. @robbie, to play devil’s advocate, are those mechanical issues enough by themselves enough to explain a 71 point gap between himself and Ricciardo?

            During the course of the 2014 season, Vettel retired from a total of three races – the Australian GP, the Monaco GP and the Austrian GP. In both the Austrian and Australian GP’s, Vettel had qualified outside of the top 10, so he was already a bit off the pace – now, he hit trouble quite early on in both of those races, so it’s hard to say quite how far up into the points he would have got, but I don’t think that he would have scored heavily even if he hadn’t retired.

            The most likely situation is that he’d have finished in the lower points places, probably somewhere between 6th and 10th at best. In that sense, it was probably only his retirement from the Monaco GP, where Vettel was initially 3rd before retiring, where Vettel potentially lost a large number of points due to a DNF.

            As for Ricciardo, he had two DNF’s due to mechanical issues (Malaysia and Brazil) and one DSQ due to fuel flow irregularities in the Australian GP – so, in that sense both drivers lost points in three races, evening up the balance between them.

            In terms of points lost due to DNF’s, Ricciardo lost a fairly significant number of points from his DNF’s or DNQ’s – his DSQ cost him 2nd place in Australia (although it’s fair to ask whether he’d have been there without exceeding the fuel flow limits in the first place), 4th place in Malaysia and 8th in Brazil.

            Now, tracking down the number of issues that Vettel had in practise and qualifying would take more time, but in terms of grid penalties, I believe that there are three instances – a five place grid drop in Spain for a gearbox penalty, starting from the pit lane in the US GP for an engine change and a pit lane start in Abu Dhabi for a non-compliant front wing.

            In the case of the Spanish GP, the grid penalty didn’t really cost him anything in the end – he finished in 4th, which is probably where he would have finished (maybe 3rd at best, but Ricciardo did seem a little quicker that weekend anyway) without the gearbox issues.

            In the US GP, I would agree that the penalty there did arguably cost him at least some points to Ricciardo, since he probably would have finished higher than 7th with a normal starting position, but how many exactly is hard to say – if we assume he could have at least finished in 4th, that would probably be a 6 point difference, and in the most favourable of circumstances perhaps 12 if he’d beaten Ricciardo to 3rd (an extra 9 points for Vettel and 3 less for Ricciardo).

            For Ricciardo, it’s true that he did have fewer grid penalties – just one, which was in Abu Dhabi when he was also excluded for the same front wing violation Vettel had. It could be noted, though, that both drivers ended up with the same penalty in that case, which was having to start from the pit lane.

            Overall, I would say that, whilst Vettel did lose some points overall to Ricciardo due to reliability issues, I would argue that the number of points which Vettel lost due to reliability issues still falls some way short of explaining the gap between the two.

            As for the Leclerc-Vettel comparison, I’m also a little wary of a few of the statistics quoted in the Autosport article, because they are based on a small number of races – just four races – and the qualifying statistic is skewed by Charles starting 8th in Baku. Prior to Baku, his average position was 3.33 – quite a bit closer to Vettel, and showing that Baku did rather skew the comparison when dealing with such a limited data set.

          3. @anon And my opinion is that the ‘unexplainable’ part, taking your literal technical issues analysis into consideration, is that SV was utterly dejected at having his WCC/WDC car that fit him like a glove ripped away and replaced by what must have felt like a Lada to him. The rules and indeed F1 had been changed in a major way, the hybrid way, in part to try to stem the RBR wave, as often has happened when one team’s domination starts to make F1 look too predictable and therefore boring… and it worked. RBR was no longer the WCC team they had been. SV’s car was nothing like he had become accustomed. Renault has been unable to be part of a WCC team since.

            Conversely, DR was promoted to what was, as far as he knew, the best car he had ever been in. No pressure…be bested by SV and it’s no surprise…best him and it’s gravy. Not unlike Leclerc now.

            Yes there were intangibles beyond the technical for SV, and I can’t ignore them whenever I hear somebody just try to make it a straight ‘DR is better than SV’ type argument. SV didn’t suddenly forget how to win races and WDC’s, nor the team WCC’s, and DR didn’t suddenly become a WDC beater. SV and the team was sent into a tailspin wrt defending their titles. DR picked up some scraps from this unique situation.

          4. F1oSaurus (@)
            3rd May 2019, 20:29

            @robbie Oh come on. Vettel did not have more issues than Ricciardo had.

            I’m not talking about points anyway, but about how Ricciardo utterly outclassed Vettel on Sundays. Vettel could cope reasonably in quali, but on race days it was embarrassing how much better Ricciardo was than Vettel.

            Only in something like two races did Vettel actually finish ahead of Ricciardo (on merit) over the whole season.

            Plus, Ricciardo won 3 races. IIRC in all of those Vettel was ahead of Riciardo before, but then fizzled out during the race. Pretty much the same picture we’ve been seeing the last few season from Vettel.

          5. @f1osaurus I haven’t tried to claim SV had more issues than DR. I think if we really analyze what happened in each race of 2014 for RBR, even beyond what anon has put together, there are some reasonable explanations as to what was technically going on for both drivers race by race and stint by stint. My main point continues to be that SV was off his game because he was dejected at the new F1 and at his winning car being ripped away from him and replaced with something unrecognizable to him. For DR it was the best car he’d had to that point and to SV it was rubbish.

          6. F1oSaurus (@)
            4th May 2019, 17:43

            @robbie You seriously want to pretend Vettel drove poorly because it wasn’t the best car he ever had? What kind of race driver is that? That’s even worse than admitting that Ricciardo was simply better.

            Either way, we do know for sure that Vettel got utterly trashed by Ricciardo.

            How is 2014 even an outlier? The same pattern has been going on already from 2009. Vettel can do a decent quali, but he’s just not that good in the races. Unless he drivers the fastest car (by a good margin), can start from pole and can cruise the whole race without any opposition.

            Break any of those conditions and he suffers from the “not in the best car he’s used to” syndrome.

          7. @f1osaurus As usual you seem to enjoy either intentionally or otherwise changing my wording to suit your argument. Just as at no point was I trying to count the exact number of technical issues SV had along with DR, for that was never my point although those were part of the story of course, I also did not claim SV suffered because he did not have the best car he ever had.

            You obviously just don’t like the man, or me, or like DR a lot, or whatever, but I’ll provide a link with quotes to support my point. I did not pull this stuff out of a hat. It is a simple fact that SV’s F1 life was turned upside down when he got in and immediately hated how different and difficult his 2014 car felt compared to what he had obviously hoped would be a car that would still be a great friend of his and able to take him toward defending his 4 WDCs with a fifth. And yup, get used to it but it is a fact that in almost every season of F1’s existence the WDC needed the WCC car. To castigate SV for having that is simply to show your bias.

            You want to twist my words and just continue to run the guy down, knock yourself out. I stand by my opinion as supported by the actual happenstance for SV for 2014.


          8. F1oSaurus (@)
            5th May 2019, 19:23

            @robbie I never said you did say that. You brought it up though and I clarified that it had nothing to do with the extent of the thrashing that Vettel got from Ricciardo.

            You are the ones twisting words here. Why on earth do you keep droning on about this technical issues claim anyway?

            Not sure what my “like” has to do with anything either. Facts are facts. Vettel got completely trashed and finished only

            That fact does indeed put into perspective what the value is of Vettel winning 4 titles.

            I stand by my opinion too. If Vettel truly is that weak that he cannot deal with a bit of adversity then he is worth even less than I already thought. He’s not worth his salt when he trows away a whole season just because he think he deserves better.

            The fact is that 2014 was not an outlier. He’s always like that. Give him some competition and he crumbles. Give him the fastest car when he’s pretty much alone on track and he flies. But then So did Massa.

  4. That is also Red Bull problem when the heat is out of the tyre they won’t switch on anymore

  5. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    2nd May 2019, 10:45

    There seems to be so much talk about the tyres from several teams its difficult not to take what he’s saying as truth. Would explain not only Ferrari’s erratic issues but also Haas, Red Bull and possibly Renault. If the tyres are this critical, and Mercedes have a greater understanding or ability to turn them on than the others, I don’t see how they can be beate.

    1. Well they all are forced into running Mercedes preferred thinner tread tyres now ;)

      1. BlackJackFan
        2nd May 2019, 18:19

        Oh no… Not the “thinner tread” conspiracy again…! :-(

        1. Disprove it and it won’t come up.

  6. Tyres tyres tyres tyres

    the Pirellis are too big if a factor between teams this year. Hopefully they get on top of it soon

  7. I don’t get all the fuzz about from Ferrari side or from anyone. This tyres where the ones where last year are used in some races and Mercedes where flying.
    The real problem is that they accepted the lobbying to use that tyres this year in all races.
    Kudos to mercedes who achieve this change and good luck to all the rest. After all everyone is using the same tires.

    1. Wrong.

      However, Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel admitted after the Spanish GP weekend, having suffered blistering on the standard, thicker tyre in the post-race test, that Pirelli had made the right decision.

  8. Pjotr (@pietkoster)
    2nd May 2019, 16:58

    If there is so much to talk about the Pirelli operating temperatures and wear that the conclusion is that they just did not build tyres good enough to race a formula 1 car. That Mercedes is doing well doesn’t mean they can’t do better, it just means that others are struggeling more.

    1. Agree entirely, this year’s tyres are rapidly descending into a farce.

      I don’t mind it when some teams are having a struggle with them but this year everyone (including Mercedes) is having issues with them and it’s damaging the racing.

      For those that say “just pit and take on a new set”, that doesn’t seem to work either – just look at the last race when Leclerc made next to no forward progress when he went on to a new set.

      I’d rather the blistering from the thicker tread than the farce we have this year.

  9. So we have a race formula where teams can differentiate in their chassis, engine, aero package, drivers, strategy, budgets etcetera. The tires are one of the few things that are the same for everybody, a level playing field. And that is the thing Vettel blames it on? For shame.

Comments are closed.