Formula 1’s Chief Technical Officer Pat Symonds says Mercedes’ long-standing problems with tyre management is being exposed by the closer performance levels between its front-running rivals, while he has also questioned the team’s recent strategy calls.

The former Renault and Williams technical chief joined the new-look F1 management team at the end of 2017 to help step up the sport’s research drive into potential 2021 rules to provide closer racing and greater team parity.

In an F1 media release, Symonds has given his early assessment on each team’s prospects after the opening three races and feels Mercedes is losing its dominance in the sport partly down to a long-term issue with tyre management which it has failed to address - which the team has often referred to as its F1 car's "diva traits" with varying performance levels dependent on tyre issues.

Symonds believes Mercedes was able to negate its tyre difficulties due to its vast power advantage at the start of the V6 hybrid era but with Ferrari and Red Bull closing the gap to the German manufacturer its weakness is coming into play.

“If you look back at the recent history of Mercedes, one thing that they've never quite got on top of is tyre management,” Symonds said. “We saw it a lot in the pre-hybrid era when they didn't have the engine advantage they enjoy now.

“If they didn't get their tyre quite right, they didn't have great races. I think things were masked from 2014 to 2016, simply because they had this big power advantage.

“Then, last year we started to hear the car being called a ‘diva'. What's that about? In my mind, the difference in performance you get from one weekend to the next is not really explainable in aerodynamics or vehicle dynamics or anything like that. With an aero/chassis package, getting your set up just right might mean you're hoping to pick up a tenth or so from Friday to Saturday qualifying. But when you get a big shift, when suddenly you're not competitive, it has to be down to tyres.”

Symonds still believes Mercedes will remain strong F1 title contenders this year despite failing to win any of the opening three races in 2017, its longest winless stretch in the V6 Hybrid era, but its tyre issues plus recent “imperfect” strategy calls – which saw Lewis Hamilton lose out on victory at the Australian Grand Prix after a software bug – is also hampering its fight.

“They're still strong and still very, very capable of winning the title this year but perhaps more than Ferrari, they are going to have races where they don't get their tyres into the right working range and therefore they will not be as competitive,” he said.

“Strategically, they've also had troubles. I won't call them wrong, but I would say some imperfect strategy calls. I think that's because there may have been imperfect calls before but with such a performance advantage you don't really see them.”



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