Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes Pirelli’s 2018 range of Formula 1 tyres have become the “single most important denominator of performance” this season. 

As was the case last season, Mercedes’ struggles with tyre management compared to main rivals Ferrari and Red Bull have continued this year, especially on Pirelli’s softest compounds. 

Lewis Hamilton stormed to pole position in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix but the gap between F1’s leading three teams has been much closer at every race since, with Mercedes facing particular issues over one lap in Bahrain, China and Canada. 

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Hamilton recorded his fourth pole of the season by just 0.044s at the British Grand Prix as Mercedes failed to replicate the kind of margin over Ferrari from the previous season at a circuit the team has dominated in recent years, though Wolff reckons higher temperatures hindered Mercedes’ ability to extract performance from the tyres. 

“I think what we’ve seen this season is a little bit of a different pattern,” Wolff explained. “Everybody brings updates to every race and there is never a silver bullet that provides you three tenths or four tenths, which was the difference between us and Ferrari [in 2017 British GP qualifying]. 

“It is just a constant learning of the tyre which is the single most important denominator of performance. You get it right and you get it wrong. I believe that if we would have had 10 degrees less temperature [on Saturday], maybe we would have had a bigger gap and maybe the same [on race day].”

Pirelli introduced thinner gauge tyres for races in Spain, France and Great Britain after a number of teams reported concerns about severe degradation and blistering to the Italian F1 tyre manufacturer. Mercedes appeared to struggle less with tyre management at those events, with Hamilton turning in a dominant performance in Barcelona

Wolff said he is keen for Mercedes to understand Pirelli’s latest range of tyres as soon as possible, considering the team is braced for difficult weekends at upcoming races in Hungary and Singapore.

“It is what it is and we just need to learn, understand and just try to get in control of the tyres in the best possible way,” he added. “I would have loved for us to build a gap in Austria, Montreal and Silverstone because we lose some in Hungary and we lose some in Singapore. But we will look at it now and try to fight and score as many points as possible.”

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