Mercedes: Rivals' push for tyre changes "opportunistic"
Toto Wolff believes Pirelli has been targeted by opportunistic lobbying to bring back its 2018 tyres in a bid to end Mercedes’ dominant start to the Formula 1 season.
During the Canadian Grand Prix weekend criticism from Mercedes’ rivals Ferrari and Red Bull has emerged over the thinner-treaded tyres introduced full-time for this season and the impact it has had on the competitive order.
Mercedes has won all six races so far, leading Red Bull motorsport advisor Dr. Helmut Marko to heavily criticise Pirelli’s tyre change.
In response to those comments, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told Sky Sports F1 that the “best thing would be if they went back to last year’s tyres”.
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Such a move to the older tyres, which have 0.4mm greater tread depth, would need the support of seven of the 10 teams or to be forced through by the FIA on safety grounds.
Asked by Motorsport.com for his thoughts on Marko’s comments and the prospect of a mid-season tyre change, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff called it “opportunistic actionism”.
“Every year we have new tyres from Pirelli,” he said. “Sometimes you manage to understand them quicker. Sometimes you struggle more.
“As fair competitors out there, we need to make the best of what’s been given to us unless it becomes a safety issue. Like we’ve had in the past.
“Pirelli’s been given an impossible task, telling them to give us tyres that degrade so that strategies become exciting. Once we have tyres that degrade people are asking to have tyres that last longer.
“I think we need to protect and support Pirelli in their task to give a tyre that hopefully suits everybody. This is what we’re doing and not letting ourselves to be distracted with voices that don’t matter.”
Several teams have complained about the difficulty of getting Pirelli’s 2019 rubber into an effective working window.
Mercedes’ rivals argue that the team previously had a weakness in overheating its tyres and the change of specification has handed Mercedes an advantage and hindered teams that developed a car to be kinder on the tyres.
When asked on Sky to address Marko's reported comments calling for a return to the 2018 tyres, Horner acknowledged that Mercedes’ rivals needed to do a better job with the new rubber.
However, he said: “[It] has actually worked into their favour and puts them in a really nice window. It’s for the rest of us to try to catch that up.
"The best thing would be if they went back to last year’s tyres. You’d probably find nine teams quite happy with that but one team fairly unhappy with that.
“In the interest of entertainment in F1, that would be a noble thing of Pirelli to do.”
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