Following accusations that Mercedes were given a performance advantage by tire supplier Pirelli. Unsurprisingly, the German marquee have vehemently denied the claims.
Pirelli amended their tyres by reducing the amount of tread on the compounds. This move was taken, especially with this weekend’s Spanish GP in mind. It will also be in effect at the upcoming races in Britain and France.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel said: “Obviously we have different tyres because Pirelli reacted to the issues Mercedes had and Red Bull had in testing.”
Later on, pole sitter Lewis Hamilton was asked if Pirelli had altered the tyres ‘to help Mercedes’. An unimpressed Hamilton responded: “That was a stupid question really, so I don’t really have an answer for it.”
Mercedes had initially suggested the tire alteration as they suffering from overheating in winter testing at Barcelona. But, Pirelli affirmed that they took the decision independent of any teams’ influence.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said, “It is rubbish. All the teams had very heavy blistering in testing – Red Bull, Ferrari and ourselves. The tyres wouldn’t have lasted in the race and the ambience and track temperature was arctic [in winter testing]. For that reason, Pirelli changed the thickness of the tyres to prevent the blistering, and they have been successful because we haven’t seen any blistering today.
“I don’t know where this rumour has come out from that we have been influencing Pirelli and the FIA. I’ve never seen anything like it. Why would they do it?”
He continued: “In the past, when we have not performed we have taken ourselves by the nose and looked to find performance on our car. We didn’t have a default mode of asking what are the others doing that was wrong.”
Mercedes were backed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who said that only 0.4mm of tread had been shaved off. The Dutchman added: “On this track in testing you could see the supersofts weren’t behaving as well as the softs.”
Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen said: “Sometimes it works for one team better than others. It’s pretty difficult to say how different it would have been had we had normal tyres.”
Raikkonen said that the change was apparent with the supersoft tyre, the same compound that Ferrari abandoned for their final Q3 runs.
Mercedes have struggled to read the 2018 Pirelli tyres so far and Hamilton’s pole position was a big relief. It is also interesting to note that Mercedes tend to perform better in cooler climates.
“It’s very complex to understand,” Wolff said. “This is a track where we were quick in winter testing, which has been resurfaced and the ambience is cold. So you could say that it suited us.
“We have had races where we weren’t as competitive as we wished so there is an additional set of data we can look at and try to filter what is important and what is not.”