Losing ground to Ferrari in every one of the grands prix since the summer break, Andrew Shovlin fears Mercedes have lost their tyre advantage amidst Ferrari’s upgrades.
Mercedes went into the summer break 56 points ahead of Ferrari but in all of the four races since the season resumed, they’ve lost points to the Scuderia with the gap down to just 20 points.
While at the Dutch Grand Prix Lewis Hamilton wasn’t able to close those final metres to Carlos Sainz, in Italy and Singapore the Mercedes team-mates were again chasing Ferraris with the latter able to hold onto their tyres long enough to stay ahead.
Mercedes’ tyre advantage is ‘not as evident now’
That for Ferrari is a huge improvement on their early season woes as the SF-23 ate through its tyres with high degradation costing the team race pace in the latter part of almost every stint.
That meant Mercedes, with the W14 being kinder to its tyres, had better race pace even if they lost out to Ferrari in qualifying sessions.
That has changed of late with Ferrari’s tyre management improving along with their understanding of the SF-23.
That culminated in a Japanese Grand Prix, a weekend in which all the teams complained about high tyre degradation, where both of the Mercedes team-mates lost out to a Ferrari driver.
Shovlin believes the reason for that was two-fold with Mercedes’ W14 lacking downforce and Ferrari resolving their tyre issues.
“I think the performance deficit that was there in qualifying, where we have a bit less performance through the fast corners, it’s the same thing that was costing us in the race,” said the Mercedes trackside engineering director.
“I think really this track is just about how much grip you have got in the fast corners. A lot of that will be downforce. And we do look like we were a little bit behind in that regard.
“Ferrari did bring an updated floor. So maybe they’ve moved forward. But I think if we look at some of our recent tracks, that advantage we have with degradation, it’s not as evident now in the season as it was in the earlier races.”
Ferrari team boss applauds improvement
Shovlin may be ruing the situation but it’s a very different mood over at Ferrari were Fred Vasseur has applauded his team for resolving the issue.
“It’s sure if you have a look at the first couple of races of the season, the degradation or the tyre management, were not always our biggest skill,” he said as per Motorsport.com.
“Coming to Suzuka with this track temp, we were a bit at risk. But at the end of the day, I think we did a good job on this side.
“The race was under control; the strategy was well managed. We did well. A clear step forward compared to the first part of the season.”
Ferrari’s step forward means they’re just 20 points behind Mercedes with six races remaining in the battle to finish P2 in the standings.