The tyre problems Mercedes experienced in the race in Austin has since been revealed and explained by the team, reports Germany’s AMuS.
Most were expecting Hamilton to cruise from pole to victory having achieved the top spot during qualifying, whilst Vettel served a 3 place grid drop after being penalised for not slowing enough under red flag conditions.
Hamilton reported difficulties on Sunday and the TV pictures showed everyone just how blistered the rear tyres were with abnormally high degradation. Lewis himself confessing that “the car was a handful”.
Several days on, and at the cusp of the next round in Mexico, the Mercedes team reveal their reasons behind the tyre problems that hinder Hamilton’s progress during his 2 stop race in Texas.
After the race , the Mercedes mechanics found that the wheel loads were unevenly distributed. The right side of the car was heavier than the left. And that’s significant. The difference from right to left was a staggering 50 kilograms.
Bottas appears to have suffered slightly less imbalance, suggesting that Lewis may’ve been more forceful over the curbs than the Finn. The net result was that both cars were very difficult to steer left in turns.
Red Bull had apparently suffered a similar problem this year in Hungary, with a total of 40 kilos difference, one side of the car to the other. The rain spec tyres thus heated at differing rates, causing major headaches for the team expecting to perform well on the wet twisty track.
Mercedes were scratching their heads during the race in Austin, the suspicion being that something had changed between qualifying and the race on Sunday. And indeed, it appears there was a change, the Mercedes PR machine blames forced water pump changes during parc ferme to be the cause.
In order to make the changes, the entire rear had to be disassembled, and the end result was that the vehicles were not reassembled exactly as they were before. Since the repairs took place under Parc fermé conditions, the car was then no longer allowed to weighed and the error corrected as that would have meant a setup change. Something forbidden before the race.
Some might well call this a Mercedes own goal; a failure to correctly reassemble the car, but the truth is doing such a thing is very difficult and shouldn’t be a surprise when problems of balance appear. The more staggering thing is that both cars suffered a similar degree of imbalance.
It can likely be argued now that Ferrari’s advantage over the German team could be put into question, the win for Kimi was not based on true car performance difference. Certainly the Mercedes were compromised hugely by the imbalance, but the sealing of the holes in the wheel hubs must still not be ignored.
There must be a benefit to running the holes in the hubs, otherwise Mercedes simply wouldn’t bother trying.
That said, Ferrari’s assumption that the new wheel hub design was the key to Mercedes having better control over the temperatures of the rear tyres in the second half of the season could also be questioned as the Silver Arrows still suffered blistering to some degree at Spa, Suzuka and Sochi despite running the perforated hubs.
Mercedes will only revert to the perforated wheel hubs again if the World Federation confirms in black and white that they are safe from protests. The negotiations are going on in Mexico.