Mercedes aim to crack tyre temperature problems in China

2012 Chinese Grand Prix

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Sepang, 2012Mercedes hope to get to the bottom of the tyre problems they experienced in the first two races of the season next weekend in China.

Team principal Ross Brawn said the team experienced contrasting problems in Australia and Malaysia: “In both races, our problems have been related to getting the tyres into the correct working window.

“However, at each race it was at different ends of the scale: in Melbourne, we overheated the tyres – it was under control on Friday, then we developed the set-up in a direction which did not prove helpful in the warmer conditions.

“In Malaysia, having done a lot of work in practice to make sure we didn’t suffer from the same problem, the cooler conditions on Sunday dropped us out of the window again.”

At Sepang, temperatures fell from the mid-40s on Friday and Saturday to around 30C in the rain-hit race. “In the dry at the end of the race, we got the car working more effectively and our pace was more respectable,” said Brawn.

“But I still don’t feel we really got the tyres working well, gripping hard and operating at optimum temperature.”

He added: “Like other teams at the front of the grid, we spent two days getting tyre temperatures down – and then, in the race, found that we needed to work the tyre harder. The cooler conditions reversed what was needed from the cars.”

W03 not a ‘qualifying car’

Brawn said the team’s difficulties with its tyres was symptomatic of wider problems with the W03: “We have too narrow a window in which we are operating the car – and we have to broaden that, and build more tolerance into how we are using the tyres.

“When we encounter challenges like this, we look at all areas of the car and we challenge ourselves collectively to find the solutions we need. But our qualifying speed tells us that the fundamentals of performance are there: you can’t do the lap times if you don’t have enough downforce, horsepower or a good chassis.”

Much attention has been focused on the team’s ‘front wing F-duct’, which increases their performance in qualifying but does not have as great a benefit during the race when the use of DRS is restricted.

Brawn denied the team had purposefully built a ‘qualifying car': “Our objective is to build the best car we can for the race – and our qualifying performances are a consequence of that.

“Nothing has been consciously done to focus on making the car quick in qualifying, and not so good in the race, because under the current rules – with DRS and the number of pit stops – there are no real rewards for doing so. Using the tyres properly is vital for success, and it depends on a number of factors, including set-up, the downforce the car is generating and the drivers’ approach.

“Within the set-up variations we can choose, we have the opportunity to find the right solution. But it’s a learning process, and we missed the mark at the first two races.”

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31 comments on Mercedes aim to crack tyre temperature problems in China

  1. Ken said on 5th April 2012, 11:41

    I hope they get it right this time around and also bring some slight upgrades to the car,cause i´ve heared that other top teams will do that…

  2. Eggry (@eggry) said on 5th April 2012, 11:49

    Isn’t it Mercedes who changed the set-up under red flag and after restart gains some advantage in 2010 Korea? the rule has been changed? How’s other teams? I don’t think almost all of them expected heavy rain for sunday but except Mercedes no one particularly struggled.

    I guess Mercedes yet finds the solution for tyre management. Ferrari was suffered from it last year and Mercedes was either. If the first two races hadn’t been just mistakes, we know it wouldn’t be solved quickly…

  3. Bigbadderboom (@bigbadderboom) said on 5th April 2012, 13:29

    Hope Brawn and team can unlock these tyre issues, I think the Mercedes may be the car with most potential but not being able to switch the tyres on and then making them last any length of time is a real issue. Don’t think they will be able to do much until Barcelona, it sounds like a fundemental with the car and will require some deep engineering to overcome. The problem for them as potential front runners is RB and McLaren will be moving at fall pelt with their development programs. Unless Ferrari and Mercedes get a move on this season will become a 2 horse race pretty quickly. No I haven';t dismissed the Saubers or Renaults entirely, but its the development muscle and experience of Red Bull and McLaren that leads me to think this way.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 5th April 2012, 13:48

      Me too @bigbadderboom, I would like the Mercedes guys to mix it with the top and make for a great season of mixed results for everyone.

    • hmrkovic (@hmrkovic) said on 5th April 2012, 19:47

      Agree.Tyre manangement is allways in the basic design on the car, so there would be no quick fix.
      If we dismiss DRS-F Duct and the performance gain in qualifaying, mercedes pretty much stayed where he was last year, only midfield move much closer to them.

  4. d3v0 (@d3v0) said on 5th April 2012, 14:12

    The drivers have the talent, thats for sure. Would be great to see them in a car which doesnt fall out of the points on race day.

    • d3v0 (@d3v0) said on 5th April 2012, 14:13

      And furthermore, that picture in this article of the W03 is simply gorgeous. Its a great looking car, even with the duck nose. No wonder its quick.

      • Mike (@mike) said on 5th April 2012, 14:26

        Even the duck noses can have their moments :D

      • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 6th April 2012, 11:51

        @d3v0 It’s stunning. Always thought that. I love how the drivers helmets contrast so well against the livery too.

        • d3v0 (@d3v0) said on 6th April 2012, 14:32

          @andrewtanner Theyre brightly colored so as to allow no question who’s driving. If its a person muscling by someone – we know thats Michael. If its a car giving the car a gentleman’s amount of room – thats Nico.

          The quasi-matte quality of the silver makes me look at my team – Mclaren, and think – “looks like a tin can, or like some rapper’s spinny wheels” in comparison to the Merc.

  5. dkpioe said on 5th April 2012, 14:33

    its not just the first too races, its all through pre-season testing. it seems to me mercedes were too busy working out how to make the car fast over one lap, and built the car around the f-duct, but have lost out badly in long run performance.

    • AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 5th April 2012, 17:13

      all through pre-season testing. it seems to me mercedes were too busy working out how to make the car fast over one lap

      I don’t think so. All through winter testing, Mercedes were nowhere near the fastest times (even though their car is clearly capable of it), indicating that they weren’t focusing on single lap speed.

      • dkpioe said on 5th April 2012, 17:54

        yeh, but dont forget they also didnt use the drs system in pre-season , they were hiding the f-duct – it was only in melbourne practice and qualifying that they finally used it and showed the advantage it does. but in all their long fuel runs in pre-season, the tyres wore out faster then other teams – going by their deteriorating lap time, indicating a real fundamental flaw in the car. the drs activated f-duct is giving them an artificial advantage in qualifying (where drs can be used all through the lap), and that advantage is eradicated in the race, and compounded by their high tyre wear rate puts mercedes in a bad position compared to other top teams for race results.

        • Ken said on 5th April 2012, 18:26

          Brawn thinks there is nothing wrong with the fundamental of the car and they haven´t yet found the perfect set-up for the car.I hope he is right and Mercedes can contain their Qualifyng pace and improve their race pace :)

          • dkpioe said on 6th April 2012, 16:49

            but brawn talks like a poletician so you never know if he is telling the truth. i lost faith in brawns oppinions after he said Juan Montoya was not a classy driver – because he did an overtaking move on michael schumacher. Brawn lucked in when he bought the Honda built 09 car and renamed it Brawn. but his track record since then has not been good. he hasnt been able to develop his cars throughout the year like redbull, mclaren and ferrari do, eveb with the massive mercedes financial backing

        • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 5th April 2012, 19:47

          dont forget they also didnt use the drs system in pre-season

          They did. There have been many pictures showing them with their DRS open in testing.

  6. Matt (@agentmulder) said on 5th April 2012, 14:47

    I really do hope Merc get their tire issues sorted, but I’m not so sure that their performance in the last two races was down to setting up the car for different conditions.

    The problems we’ve seen so far in 2012 are the same as those seen in 2011, namely, the car chews through them in record time. I’m not exactly sure why this is. The car doesn’t seem to run very high downforce, Schumacher and Rosberg aren’t driving banzi-Hamilton style, and yet the tires die. Judging from their pace in the slow corners, their mechanical grip seems respectable, but nothing so extreme that tire deg should be a major issue.

    So if it’s not aero related, or mechanical grip related, what is it? Maybe they are overheating their brakes, and by proxy overheating the tires, I don’t know. But for now, despite what Ross says, Mercedes do have a qualifying car. It’s almost as if Dome came to F1. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if the team can get a more respectable race pace, and they can hold their position, but if the FIA caves to pressure from Horner and bans or releases info on the front wing duct they are screwed.

    Bottom line, Mercedes need to work this issue out quickly. Using the FWFD to try and circumvent the problem isn’t working, as the tires don’t allow for enough pace to hold their quali position. They have potential, and with Schumacher they have a driver capable of great things. Solve this, and they can be back to winning races. Until then, Merc are damned to that same no-mans land they’ve been in for two years.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th April 2012, 15:41

      With NR they have a driver capable of great things too. I do find it quite interesting that Brawn is saying this is not a qualifying car, and I’m not saying I disagree with him for he is the one that knows first-hand their intentions with this car which is no doubt the same as everyone else’s…to win races, but I was saying all winter long that MS would not be able to get away with his poor quali’s this year in a tighter field. I guess there is still some argument to say that the rules and DRS still allow some forgiveness for a poor Saturday. Being able to start well, like NR has done so far this year, is a help.

      It’s going to be fun to see where they go from here because for now it is amazing how stark a difference there is for them from Saturday to Sunday.

    • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 5th April 2012, 19:41

      @agentmulder

      So if it’s not aero related, or mechanical grip related, what is it?

      Suspension geometry? Weight distribution? Chassis rigidity? There are LOADS more things that could affect this.

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th April 2012, 20:05

        And I’m reminded that after one of the stints in the last race NR came in and got new tires expecting them to tell him his were shot, as he thought they must have been, and yet they reported to him that they looked brand new…what’s with that? As some said on another topic on this…that has to be very worrying for the team.

        I guess that points to them not getting them to the right temps to perform like they can. Wrong temp equals poor performance but not necessarily the chewing up of the tires.

        • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 6th April 2012, 2:48

          @robbie Basically they overheated the tyres in Melbourne. Then they set out with setup work to compensate for that; and apparently found a setup which put less energy through the tyres. Problem was it was cold come race day; which then caught them out again because it meant in the cold, they couldn’t heat their tyres enough.

          Which really shows one thing – the W03 needs to be set up very specifically for a certain ambient/track temperature; certain track layouts, etc. The 22 other cars on track were also racing on setups that should’ve kept the heat just right in the dry – and the wet cold weather didn’t affect them.

  7. Mooph (@mooph) said on 5th April 2012, 15:41

    hang on a sec, was it not Mercedes who brought the 2011 car to the first test so that they could “understand” the new tyres off all the more, or was this some other team…. well looks like that didnt quite pay off, still i think it will be a quick car when they finally get it within that temperature window,

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th April 2012, 16:39

      Yeah, that’s a good point…they so far have not translated that decision to run last year’s car in the first test session to compare and learn about the tires…that said, the other reason they put off bringing the new car to the first test was to further develop it back at the shop rather than bring it out ‘unfinished’ or lacking in some way.

      So on a couple of counts they seem not to have learned about the tires enough to help them, nor has forgoing that first test session with the new car translated into being a wise decision. But anyway, that is for now…they have the data they have based on how they played it with the off-season testing…that may or may not pay off in the long run, and who knows…maybe if they had rushed their new car for the first test session they’d know even less about the tires and the car would be missing some other ingredient besides it’s tire temp/wear issue, and would be worse off.

  8. abscrazyfast (@abscrazyfast) said on 5th April 2012, 18:45

    Same old same old excuses. Mercedes have once again built a useless car – with just one innovative piece that’ll soon either be copied or banned.
    The rest of it is completely worthless, giving Schumi or Nico no chance to fight for victories. Again. What a shame.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 5th April 2012, 19:46

      Well that certainly seems possible, but it is early days…that said, while fighting for wins might come their way this season, it seems like they won’t be fighting for a WDC that’s for sure…you can’t start out a season the way they have when there are strong cars like the Macs out there, and expect to catch them up for the WDC…starting out with 1 point in the first 2 races.

      It just seems like a tightrope they are walking trying to find exactly the right setup for exactly the right track/air temp…if the car is that sensitive to it I think they will miss the mark more days than they will nail it. Unless of course they find the secret to nailing it every time and that’s not an impossibility either.

  9. markp said on 5th April 2012, 20:53

    Just get the tyres to work and the car will moce from 8/9th best team in the race to podium. All Ferrari have to do is get their exhaust working, HRT just need to make their car 5 seconds a lap faster etc etc. We will see.

  10. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 6th April 2012, 11:50

    I wasn’t expecting them, or anyone for that matter, to do much between Australia and Malaysia. Back to back races right at the beginning of the season was always going to cause a headache. I’m hoping that in the gap to China they have managed to go someway to sorting problems out, doesn’t bode well otherwise.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 7th April 2012, 14:57

      And even at that, these are still the initial ‘fly-away’ races…many teams will have scheduled upgrades slated for when they get back closer to their home bases for the first European stint of races. ie. if Merc still doesn’t have things sorted out in China I won’t be surprised nor will I think that is how the rest of their season will go…I think at a minimum, even if they continue to be mystified as to the optimum setups for the optimum tire useage, they are still destined to nail it at least on occasion by accident, or, as Brawn said, given a weekend of stable weather conditions throughout the 3 days. Stable will help but they still have to find the optimum setup based on said stable air and track temps, whatever they may be, and then do it again at the next venue which may have different air and track temps to throw a curve ball at them, even if stable.

      Some have argued though, that the changing temps throughout the last 2 races didn’t affect other teams as much, and Brawn does speak of needing to broaden their range of optimum tire useage, so it will be very interesting to see what shakes out. In general though I say let’s see what the trends are after 6 races when they’ll have been back to Europe for a few and circumstances will have averaged out moreso.

      • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 8th April 2012, 20:41

        @robbie Yep, pretty much an extension of what I said and you’re right. Thing is though, it’s all well and good getting on top of the issues after 6 races, but it only leaves you 13/14 races to get some major points back! In a sport of consistency that’s absolutely crucial.

        • Robbie (@robbie) said on 9th April 2012, 13:15

          For sure, and especially if one team starts walking away with the lion’s share of the points, like Mac may do…even a walk, not a run like Red Bull last year, will be detrimental to several teams.

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