Mer­cedes in bat­tle to solve tyre trou­bles

Barcelona heat will be a test for team’s rub­ber this week­end Chief race en­gi­neer ad­mits that ‘we haven’t got the an­swer’

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Tom Cary

Mer­cedes have ad­mit­ted they are in a race against time to solve their tyre woes ahead of this week­end’s Span­ish Grand Prix.

Six-time world cham­pion Lewis Hamil­ton had to cling on to win the Bri­tish Grand Prix two week­ends ago, fin­ish­ing the race on three wheels af­ter a late punc­ture which he ad­mit­ted he had not seen com­ing.

And he lost to Red Bull’s Max Ver­stap­pen in the 70th An­niver­sary Grand Prix on Sun­day be­cause

Mer­cedes were again far harder on their rub­ber than their ri­vals.

Most wor­ry­ingly of all, from a Hamil­ton per­spec­tive, his team ap­peared at a com­plete loss to ex­plain why that was; in par­tic­u­lar, why they strug­gle when Pirelli sup­plies softer com­pounds of rub­ber, and track con­di­tions are hot.

“We knew that blis­ter­ing was an is­sue [with the car],” chief race en­gi­neer An­drew Shovlin ad­mit­ted. “We knew that [af­ter the first Bri­tish race] last week. We know what sort of tem­per­a­tures that it will oc­cur at. So that wasn’t news to us.

“What was news to us was we’re kind of at the very, very worst end of that prob­lem. And Red Bull ap­pear to be at the very best end of that spec­trum. And that’s the thing that we need to un­der­stand. Be­cause there have been other races where ev­ery­one’s been in the same boat, but why are we an out­lier? Right now, we haven’t got the an­swer.”

Hamil­ton was in rel­a­tively good spir­its on Sun­day night, his mood no doubt helped by the fact he banked the fastest lap bonus point and pro­tected his 30-point lead in the driv­ers’ stand­ings. He even said the re­sult was a good one from a neu­trals’ per­spec­tive.

“I think it’s great,” Hamil­ton said of Red Bull’s com­pet­i­tive­ness. “I want to have races when they’re chal­leng­ing, like to­day.”

He is un­likely to be quite so gra­cious if he en­dures a third suc­ces­sive week­end of tyre grem­lins, how­ever. Barcelona’s Cir­cuit de Catalunya will stage an­other hot, high-load race, the con­di­tions Mer­cedes strug­gled with at Silverston­e.

“There’s an el­e­ment of ur­gency here be­cause we’re go­ing to

Barcelona,” Shovlin said. “We’re fly­ing out there on Tues­day, run­ning on Fri­day, it’s fore­cast to be 30C, the track will be a bit like this. It’s a high-en­ergy cir­cuit.”

Shovlin con­ceded the fact that Pirelli would be sup­ply­ing teams with their hard­est C1 tyre in Spain might help to “hide” their is­sues a lit­tle bit. “But we’ve still got to run the tyre that to­day was caus­ing us grief, and that wasn’t solv­ing the prob­lem for us,” he added.

“We’ve seen Red Bull, they’re not that far off us in races, even when we’re look­ing at our best. If we don’t make progress, we’ll be in trou­ble there as well. So that’s kind of where this ur­gency to get a bit of a grip on it comes from.”

Shovlin said he was con­fi­dent Mer­cedes would even­tu­ally get on top of the is­sue and emerge stronger.

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