Toto Wolff brushes off Lewis Hamilton Chinese GP tyre comment in honest Mercedes verdict

Thomas Maher
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2024 Chinese Grand Prix.

Toto Wolff has downplayed the impact of the tyres on Lewis Hamilton's race in China.

Toto Wolff said it’s Mercedes’ performance behind their race results in China, not the tyre pressures as Lewis Hamilton suggested.

Hamilton came home in ninth place in Shanghai, having started the race from 18th on the grid – the seven-time F1 World Champion having taken the gamble of starting on soft tyres for the first stint.

Lewis Hamilton suggests high tyre pressures contributing factor

Speaking to media after crossing the line to take ninth place, Hamilton suggested some of the weird behaviour of the car could be down to high tyre pressures – Pirelli having prescribed a minimum starting pressure of 26 psi on the front tyres, and 22 psi on the rears.

The front tyre pressures are the highest seen in the season so far, with Bahrain’s race seeing a prescription of 22 psi on the fronts – climbing steadily during the first five races of the year.

Asked for his thoughts on the car’s handling, Hamilton said: “I mean, I think one of it is that the tyre pressures are so high. These are the worst I think we’ve had.”

Explaining his perspective on the soft tyre stint, which he switched from during a stop on Lap 9, Hamilton said he had thought his car was damaged – so bad was the understeer he was encountering.

“I was the only one, I think, on the soft and it fell apart after Lap 1. It was very difficult,” he said.

“I thought maybe, at the beginning, I tapped someone because I’ve never had so much understeer in my life.

“I was turning in at low speed and just waiting, waiting, waiting and so I thought maybe I had damaged something. There was debris blowing everywhere at one point, but it was just the setup I chose.”

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Toto Wolff: It’s down to our own performance

Speaking to the media after the race in Shanghai, Wolff dismissed the idea that tyres – pressures or compounds – were to blame for Hamilton’s difficult race on Sunday in Shanghai.

“No. I think, on paper, starting with the soft gave him… the theory said he should have a strong start with softer rubber and the grip just wasn’t there on the soft,” he said.

“I would more put it down to our own performance that we couldn’t really make the steps that we expected and, obviously, then it becomes very difficult.”

The Austrian also went on to explain why he expects there are such big fluctuations in performance, given that Hamilton had qualified second for the Sprint race and came home in the same position at the chequered flag – only to qualify just 18th for the Grand Prix a few hours later, following a change in setup direction.

“I think the car is difficult, a difficult car to set up and a difficult car to drive,” he said.

“That’s why you have these oscillations in performances, in my opinion.

“I think where Lewis’ car [was] today was certainly far, far away from the optimum and then it’s just driving on the knife’s edge. So what is it?

“This is where we are. Let’s see for Miami, we were bringing some new bits, which are interesting to see how they’re going to perform on the car.”

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