Having won 8 Formula One constructors’ titles in a row, Mercedes are not having their most glorious season. Their car whilst a more radical design than the others has failed to deliver one lap pace on Saturday and long run pace in the races to match the Ferrari and Red Bull competition. One of the problems for Mercedes is this years W13 car struggles to ‘switch on the tyres’.
Basically this means as a general rule warmer tyres give better grip. This is why the teams pre heat the tyres in warmers before fitting them to the cars. These tyre warmers are were set to be banned in 2021, though the teams refused to agree the change. They are set to be dropped either in 2023 or 2024 though at this time no statement from the FIA has confirmed this.
The Mercedes W13 has demonstrated it is slow to heat the tyres into the optimum operating window this season. In Silverstone Lewis pitted under the safety car late in the race and couldn’t initially pass Charles Leclerc at the restart who was on older and harder tyre compounds.
This was evident in the wet practice 3 in Hungary. Russell and Hamilton propped up the session timesheet as their wet weather and intermediate tyres failed to warm up sufficiently.
Russell and Hamilton had struggled all day in Friday practice despite the track temperature which helps to warm the tyres approaching 50 degrees.Yet in dry qualifying Mercedes looked a different car despite the track temperature having dropped to around 30 degrees. The lower track temperatures should make the tyres more difficult to warm up and Mercedes should not have grabbed pole position.
Anthony Davidson who is Mercedes simulator driver gave his thoughts on the matter.
“My theory on this is that in these cooler conditions, the track grip comes up. Everyone was struggling for grip yesterday [Friday practice] in this hot conditions.
We talk about tyre temperature building up [that the Mercedes car requires] but maybe they needed the track grip to be better [not the tyres warmer].
Mark Hughes believes “the big drop in tyre temperatures from Friday into qualifying (and the more grainy track surface from being washed clean of rubber build-up) allowed the Merc’s front tyres to grip properly immediately for once?
And what if that same temperature drop had made the normally happy fronts of the Ferrari overworked?”
There will be fears in the Mercedes motorhome that despite grabbing pole position with George Russell that tomorrow could yet be a disaster. On Friday, George Russells long run pace was 1.7 slower than Carlos Sainz’s and on par with the Alpha Tauri’s. Lewis Hamilton didn’t even complete his race simulation as he damaged the floor and had to abort.
Track temperature for Sunday’s GP will be similar to qualifying though without rain overnight the track is again “rubbered in” from qualifying. So the grip again may not be there for the Mercedes in the race and the Ferrari’s may be served better by the lower grip which does not overwork their front tyres.