Mercedes is not the only Formula 1 team struggling to extract maximum performance out of Pirelli’s tyres, according to chief strategist James Vowles. 

The reigning world champions are yet to win a race in 2018 - marking the first time in the V6 hybrid turbo era that Mercedes has failed to claim a victory in three races. Following its latest struggles at the Chinese Grand Prix, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admitted the team is “not in a good place” in managing Pirelli’s F1 tyres this season. 

While Vowles conceded Mercedes has had difficulty in finding consistency across different compounds in all conditions, he insisted the German manufacturer’s title rivals Ferrari and Red Bull are also struggling to find a sweet spot with Pirelli’s 2018 tyre range. 

"The tyres are having a bigger impact this year," Vowles said in Mercedes’ post-Chinese Grand Prix debrief. 

“But more so than that there's a second aspect as well, which is you've got three teams - Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull - that, depending on what tyre and what track it is, are all able to have different levels of performance to each other.

"And what that's creating is different cars with different levels of performance depending on what the track temperature is, what the conditions are, and what tyre they have fitted to the car. 

“As you go to a track and it becomes windy or not windy, or cold or hot, you can see a swing of up to a second in lap times because of those environmental factors."

Vowles cited Ferrari’s struggles to find the optimum working performance window during qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix - in which Lewis Hamilton stormed to pole position by 0.7s - as well as its struggles on harder compounds in Bahrain, as proof that both teams have faced issues in getting tyres to work effectively. 

"In Melbourne we were able to get the car working on the tyres. In Q3 we set a time that was extremely fast with Lewis. 

“If we go forward to Bahrain, the medium tyre worked very well on our car, and the degradation on the Supersoft looked good as well. So there are little vignettes of information where we've been able to get it to work.

"In the Chinese GP in Q2 we did a [1m]31.9s with Lewis, and that would have put us in contention for fifth place on the grid, on a Soft tyre. So you get this evidence of the tyres working. And conversely the same for Ferrari. In Melbourne they weren't quite there.

"On the Supersoft in Bahrain they were just outside the range, and degrading too much, and on the Medium, a little bit slower than us.”

Vowles believes temperatures are having a greater affect on tyres and said Pirelli’s aggressive approach to its 2018 tyre range - taken with the aim of shaking-up strategies - has caused added headaches for teams to consider across race weekend. 

"It looked like Ferrari in the cold conditions, and very warm conditions, were faster than us. The way the tyres work, they are very sensitive to temperature on the front and the rear, and you need all four tyres working roughly on the right temperature at every single corner round the track.

"At some corners, where they're tight and twisty, you generate a lot of temperature. "Other corners like the back end of the straight into Turn 14 [in China], you cool the tyres right down.

"Pirelli have provided compounds that provide multiple different strategy options on the table. Ultimately it's creating racing all the time, and enough for us to think about all the way through the race."


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