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’
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.