Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2021

Mercedes not shocked by deficit to Red Bull on softest tyres

2021 Austrian Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has put his team’s qualifying defeat, and deficit to Red Bull, down to not making the most of Pirelli’s softest compound tyre.

Lewis Hamilton qualified fourth and fifth for the Austrian Grand Prix, behind both Red Bull drivers and Lando Norris’ McLaren.

The pace advantage Mercedes and Red Bull have over the midfield meant both could have made it through the second segment of qualifying without issue using the C4 tyre. But running in the pole-deciding final segment was exclusively on the soft C5.

Max Verstappen’s best lap from his first run put him on pole by 0.048 seconds over McLaren’s Lando Norris, while Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were 0.270s and 0.294s back respectively in fourth and fifth. Wolff attributed the margin to his team’s use of the tyres.

“I think that it’s C5 tyre is [seemingly] where we struggle on performance,” he said.

“You can see that McLaren and Lando seem to be going really well on that specific compound and we struggled, and we felt we were underperforming on the C5 in qualifying, too. Nevertheless, there’s quite some learning and the gap to Max isn’t shocking.”

During the Friday practice sessions, Hamilton and Bottas had said they expected Verstappen to have a pace advantage of a few tenths, and both were also unqualified by Verstappen’s team mate Sergio Perez who was 0.024s faster than Hamilton in Q3.

“It’s just that over the whole lap we struggle to somehow find lap time,” added Wolff.

“And so there isn’t a silver bullet that we would have as an answer, but simply that overall we need up our performance in every single area, and that is not only chassis but it’s PU, everywhere.”

Red Bull has been notably strong in the final sector due to superior tyre management of a lap, while McLaren has optimised their Mercedes power to match Red Bull in the sector one speed traps and even set the fastest sector times, but Wolff doesn’t think there’s any specific part of the track where Mercedes is losing out.

“We are losing time in turn one, turn three, turn four… you couldn’t even pinpoint one corner, or two corners that are responsible for most of the time loss, it’s tiny bits everywhere.”

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2021 Austrian Grand Prix

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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11 comments on “Mercedes not shocked by deficit to Red Bull on softest tyres”

  1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    3rd July 2021, 19:13

    Mercedes is wasting too much time trying to create fuss about nothing with Red Bulls rear wing, engine upgrade, fast pitstops etc.

    As Mclaren demonstrated, it seems more that Mercedes screwed up and didn’t do their work right, so the better focus on their own stuff what is wrong than continue raising false claims.

    I am actually surprissed that the FIA is not taking action against Mercedes for creating controversies and bringing the sport in bad spot light.

    1. Here’s the FIA’s telephone: +33 1 43 12 44 55

      Please raise your very pressing issue with them.

      1. Teams have been threatened with penalties for breaking ‘putting the sport in disrepute’ -clause for not much more before

  2. Politics is half the sport :) What else would we be reading articles about?

    1. There is an ocean of knowledge to be learned about the sport and the cars and the enterprise of getting performance on the track. Much more interesting than trying to reduce it to a telenovela.

  3. Glorified Paddy Lowe out of his depth

  4. Well Mercedes know they are in trouble and they have been knowing it just after the first tests. It’s not just the C5 that they can’t turn on as they claim.. It’s their low rake profile (and the years of development of it’s rear area that changed for this year) that they couldn’t just change for the last year of that formula.
    I was comparing times. Of this year’s Styrian GP and last year’s Austrian GP. The fastest times of Q3 were both with the C4 compound.. Last year, fastest Mercedes did a 1.02.939. This year Mercedes lost a whooping 1.196 seconds… Someone would argue that that was (or somewhere close) the amount of time that FIA wanted 2021 cars to loose. But on the contrary, The fastest Redbull last year did a 1.03.477 compared to the 1.03.927 of this year. That’s just 0.364 seconds lost. So it’s not just the C5 tyre.
    Mercedes knows this and my guess is that now that Hamilton signed the only updates Mercedes will have for this year, will be those already in the pipeline and nothing more…
    My guess is that they need to buy some more time (pride, face, Redbull?) before they announce that they have shifted their focus and resources to next year’s car…

    1. I think that same analysis generally holds for the other tracks we have had. Mercedes is losing the most compared to last year.

    2. Henk Schuurman
      4th July 2021, 9:36

      Fully agree. Will be interesting to see if the low versus high rake is still there in next years designs.

  5. I doubt that Mercedes care at all about the softs. They won’t be using them at all during the race.

  6. Shovlin: we need to question whether we were getting the soft tyre in the right window
    Bottas: all the developing we’ve done with the car setup is aiming a bit more towards the race

    So it was all about getting a working race setup, but seems they got too focused on it.

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