Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Albert Park, 2019

Thinner 2019 tyres not reason for Mercedes’ success – Pirelli

2019 F1 season

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Mercedes’ strong start to the 2019 F1 season was not due to the thinner tyres introduced this year, Pirelli’s motorsport director Mario Isola believes.

Pirelli brought thinner tyres to three rounds of the championship last year, two of which Mercedes won. The same tread is being throughout this year’s championship and Mercedes began the season very strongly, winning all of the first eight races.

This prompted some teams to lobby for the reintroduction of 2018-style tyres, though the move failed to win enough support to go ahead.

Isola pointed out the changes to the 2019 tyres involved more than just the thinner tread. He believes the reason for the variation in performance between teams is because some teams have adjusted to the changes more successfully.

“Obviously we know that Mercedes is very quick,” he said. “But forget Mercedes for one second: What can we say about McLaren? Toro Rosso, Renault sometimes is quick. So we have other teams that have been able to understand the tyres.

“If you look back at previous years we always have at the beginning of the season some teams they have to understand the tyre quicker than others. Sometimes it’s Mercedes, sometimes it’s Red Bull, Ferrari or other teams.”

The results from the three races where the thinner tyres were used last year do not suggest a connection between Mercedes’ wins and the thinner tyres, Isola added.

“In Barcelona we had a race where Mercedes was dominating. But then we had the in-season test after the race and Sebastian [Vettel] tested both the normal tread and the thinner tread and his comment was the thinner tread is better. His words, not mine.

“So we had Barcelona where it was clear that the thinner tread was better – I’m not talking about Mercedes. In Paul Ricard we had a race with some situation that are not telling us that one car was a lot quicker than the other. In Silverstone Mercedes didn’t win the race.

“So it’s difficult to say that the thinner tread was giving a clear advantage to one car or another.”

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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
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  • 37 comments on “Thinner 2019 tyres not reason for Mercedes’ success – Pirelli”

    1. A tyre being better or worst in an absolute sense has nothing to do with this tyre giving a team a clear advantage over its competitors.

      1. @paulk Indeed.

        I get that Isola has to defend their work and their decision, but do it without putting reason in question…

      2. Mercedes weren’t ‘given’ a clear advantage; they took it. It’s there for anyone to take and Merc seem to be doing the best job. Let’s not pretend that anyone has been deliberately or unfairly favoured (like when Bridgestone we’re making a custom tire for Ferrari for example).

        1. Bridgestone wasn’t making custom tire for Ferrari. Ferrari were they only major client they revolved around them.

        2. Merc and Pirelli conducting a secret tyre test in 2013 doesn’t suggest anything to you? What kind of corporate partnership do you think might exist behind the orchestration of an event like that??

          1. And yet, at the same time, Red Bull had been lobbying for, and eventually got, tyres which had a stiffer side wall structure that favoured their aerodynamic philosophy in 2013.

            Having a stiffer tyre side wall worked better for their diffuser design, as it reduced “tyre squirt”, or low energy air being introduced into the diffuser as the tyre deforms – it also reduced the problems they had with the rear tyres overheating due to hysteritic heating of the tyre side wall as it deformed.

            A big part of the reason why Red Bull utterly dominated the latter part of the 2013 season was, quite simply, because Pirelli was forced to bring tyres that were far more favourable for their chassis than for basically almost every other team on the grid (only Sauber gained more from that tyre change, and it so happens that Sauber had exactly the same issue as Red Bull). By that same line of reasoning, why aren’t you questioning why Pirelli brought in tyres for the latter part of the 2013 season that just so happened to perfectly fit with the operational requirements of Red Bull’s car?

            1. Because it doesn’t fit the “Mercedes is given a helping hand”, narrative.

            2. I don’t buy the “Pirelli favours Mercedes” narrative at all, although the secret test was rather suspicious, but are we forgetting that up to SIX tyres exploded in 2013 only in Silverstone?

    2. It is advantageous to mercedes but there’s nothing wrong with it, wrong is to change tyres mid-season, like last year. Hard to tell if it affected the pecking order, wouldn’t be hard if they had stayed still until this pre-season.

      1. They didn’t “change tyres mid-season”. The thinner tread tyres were used in three events in the first half of the season: Spain, France, Britain. The other 18 races, including the 11 rounds after the British GP, were run on the normal 2018-style tyres.
        You’d have to go back to 2013 to see an example of a true mid-season change (that affected the pecking order throughout the grid).

        1. The tire was changed due to Mercedes complaint. And Pirelli gave all different tyres for three rounds. That is a change.

          Speaking of 2013, what changed and how affected the pecking order?

    3. If Mercedes and McLaren can adapt to it, anyone can.

      Getting tired of Ferrari’s perpetual scapegoating, even if they could pick any tyres they want, Merc would still be miles ahead – literally, like they were in Hungary.

      As was said correctly above, the car is the single differentiator this year.

      1. Quite. Mercedes have had trouble with tyres for years, and so on successive cars have increasingly traded outright speed for the configuration options necessary to use the tyres well. This year the trade off has been well rewarded, but it’s also treated teams like Red Bull who have taken that approach for much longer.

        I don’t know why people are surprised that the extremely competent Mercedes team would have (successfully) worked on their biggest weakness.

    4. There is no escaping the fact that Mercedes had the most difficulties last year with blistering tyres of all the teams. This year they don’t have any issues. And on top of that they seem to be better in keeping the tyres in the operating window at all times where the other teams struggle to get the tyres there or to keep them there. That is why some teams can fight for p4/p5 at some tracks or even in some sessions and fall back outside the top 12 in other sessions/conditions..

      So yes to me it’s absolutely clear Mercedes has benefited from the move to the thinner tyres. And yes it’s a bad thing for the sport.

      1. Them doing a better job is not wrong, solving their tyre problems is not wrong, unless you don’t accept those facts anymore. Connecting this to them benefiting from thinner tyres and circulating those conspiracy theories is clearly coming from cry baby fans, especially from Ferrari fans.

      2. You’re also forgetting that they had found a solution to their tyres issue with their innovative rim. You know the same rim that the teams protested as being illegal.

      3. Find me 1 picture of a Merc tire that looks half as bad as Kimi’s tire in monza last year…

        The only thing bad for the sport are foolish fans who talk nonsense.

        Everyone tried and tested the thinner tires last year during and after the season and then again at preseason testing. If any of the teams got it wrong it is nobody’s fault but theres. We have seen hard, flat out racing this year without any blisters. The current pirelli tires are the best they have ever made for F1, and that is good for the soort.

        1. @megatron, as you note, there seem to be many who make that claim that “Mercedes had the most difficulties last year with blistering tyres of all the teams”, but often without being specific about what races that was supposed to have been the case or whether any other team had similar issues.

          Mercedes did have problems with rear tyre blistering in Austria, but they were not the only ones – Red Bull had fairly prominent tyre blisters too, with only Ferrari seeming to be immune. Mexico was probably one of the other venues where Mercedes had major issues – as you note, though, other teams did also have problems with blistering too, such as the aforementioned case of Red Bull in Austria or Ferrari in Monza.

          Does that necessarily mean that Mercedes did have more problems, or is it just the case that people keep repeating the claim because they’ve heard it said so many times, even though there aren’t any specific instances given?

          Equally, those same teams that called for the 2018 tyres earlier this season were the same teams that had argued in favour of using the thinner tyres for 2019 and had also voted unanimously for them to be used in 2019. Furthermore, now that Red Bull have got a couple of wins under their belt, it’s notable that they now seem to be rather happy about the tyres as they currently are…

          It also seems that people want to blame it on the tyres and on a conspiracy because that seems to be more palatable than the other option – which is that their favourite team got the design of their cars wrong to begin with.

          Both Ferrari and Red Bull have admitted that they got their aerodynamic philosophy wrong for this year, with the teams tending more towards a lower drag philosophy that also resulted in lower peak downforce figures – Mercedes, by contrast, accepted the slightly higher drag penalty that came with their aerodynamic philosophy and put a higher emphasis on downforce.

          In retrospect, both of those teams have now admitted that they made a mistake by going down that route and that Mercedes got it right – but, in the process, both teams also put themselves into a position where it would take time to rectify those mistakes. In the case of Ferrari, they’ve been further hurt by their front wing design, which offered quicker initial potential performance gains, but the potential long term development options are much more limited – and, in their case, it seems that it would take a substantial redesign to get their car closer to Mercedes’s philosophy.

          In the case of Red Bull, it seems their car was closer to Mercedes’s design philosophy, which it seems has the greater long term development potential – Mercedes seem to have made hay whilst their rivals were trying to redesign their cars, but over time Red Bull have moved their car closer to Mercedes’s aero design and have reduced the gap.

    5. Mercedes won the first 8 races because Ferrari failed to win at least 4 races, perhaps even more, through technical issues, crashes, strategies and penalties.

      1. At least 4? How do you work that out? They should have won in Bahrain and Canada, and had a chance in Baku had Leclerc not crashed in Q2, but I can’t imagine how Ferrari should have won Australia, China, Spain, Monaco or France.

        1. @mashiat
          That’s how historicisation works. Next time you blink, Ferrari will (retroactively) have squandered yet another opportunity to win a race that was theirs for the taking. Before you realise it, 2019 will have become the story of how Mercedes were really the underdogs, but prevailed through their own heroism and Ferrari’s incompetence.
          The same thing has already happened to 2018. It’s a compelling narrative, that much is true. Re-watching the actual races can be pretty weird, though, and may cause severe cognitive dissonance.

          1. @nase
            Whoa ! Spitting Beer again !!
            + It looks like its happened at Silverstone recently too.

            In Silverstone Mercedes didn’t win the race.

          2. Ok, so how about Red Bull? They’re clearly catching up because Ferrari have been rubbish in all departments, throwing away good results on weekends that suit their car better.

          3. To nase, 2017 2018 and 2019 Mercedes were clear favorites and at no point they were underdogs, except the times they wanted to look that way :) thats all there is.

        2. Verstappen caught Leclerc napping. Dove on the inside with two laps to go. Does that count?

          1. Does that count?

            Well, no. Austria was not one of the first 8 races in question here.

        3. I think he is referring to Australia where Ferrari missed a dominant 1-2.

          1. True that. And by almost a minute!


    6. Could we all just let this go already? Stop these accusations of favoritism/bias towards one team.

    7. meh… this counter-argument is not nearly as convincing as the argument itself, if you ask me

    8. Maybe the tyres are also not optimal for Mercedes as well, maybe they would have won with even more margin if the tyres suited them better. You never know. But one thing is clear, Ferrari is ATM just a horrible team, and RB is doing great.

      Merc always did great, so just take the hit and let it go, enjoy the race until 2022.

    9. We’re clearly scraping the bottom of the barrel for things to write about during the break.

    10. All the teams who want 2018 spec tyre, please remind us simple minded folk who won 2018 WCC & WDC? Also please visit doctors to get tested for short term memory loss.

    11. georgeboole (@)
      19th August 2019, 17:56

      Why don’t they just let them mix the types of tires like they do in Moto GP and WRC?
      That will spice up things a bit.

    12. I don’t understand why fans always assume that the dominant team has gained some type of favoritism that will equal an unfair advantage. I’m positive that everyone knows that the sport is about making money. Viewers/fans complain of one team dominance to no end so why would the powers that be choose to purposely enable one team to dominate, knowing that it hurts viewership which hurts sponsorships payouts. Ticket sales, etc etc

    13. I’ve never thought that Pirelli develops a tyre to favour a particular team.

      However the fact that this year pretty much every team (including Mercedes) is having to spend so much time and effort chasing a very narrow optimum window suggests that once again Pirelli have managed to deliver a product that really isn’t of the standard we’d expect. Surely F1 has to be about more than chasing tyre performance week in week out.

    14. It was clear since last year that the thinner tyres favors Mercedes most.
      We all saw that, so the Ferrari moaning for me is unacceptable for many reasons.
      1. You knew and you raced this tyres in 3 events last year and you didn’t counted them in your 2019 car design and you opted a low drag low downforce design.
      2. You have the power of veto where you never used it. If you felt this tyres will favor Mercedes then block the rule.

      Its 100% Ferrari incompetent and nothing except hard work will save them or else they will loose as it seems even the 2nd championship position from RedBul

    Comments are closed.