One of the biggest reasons Mercedes failed to do well in the Chinese GP qualifier is because they could not get the tyres to the optimal state.
Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen had a relatively undisputed run in the qualifying round on Saturday noon while Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton struggled to stay close to the day’s pacesetter.
Mercedes team manager Toto Wolff blamed the tyres for the problem. He believes the team could not get the tyres to the optimum form on the track and that was the reason the cars could not challenge their Italian rivals.
“I think it’s tricky,” Wolff told Sky TV. “We’re lacking grip, and you can fall out of the window by the tyres getting too hot, or by the tyres being too cold.
“The two extremes like we had in Bahrain. I think this is what happened. I think it’s a tyre issue.”
But there are other questions that need to be answered, like how did Ferrari get so strong on this track.
“They’ve been really strong all day, already in the morning,” he said. “Qualifying performance, they put one on top. It’s really… we have something to think about.”
He added: “Tomorrow it’s expected to be much warmer, so I hope that we’ve done the right thing set-up-wise and we’ll have better pace in the race than Ferrari.”
This is not the first time the Silver Arrows squad is having trouble with its tyres. Last year, the German outfit struggled to find the right setup to balance out the wear on their rear tyres when using the softer compounds.
When Bottas was asked if they are experiencing the same problem as last year, he said: “Yes. We saw in the race before that we’ve been better in general with the harder compounds and that is something we’re still working on to get more out of.
“Ferrari is doing something better on that.”
But the tyres can’t be the only reason Ferrari is stronger than them at Shanghai track, Bottas insisted.
“There was nothing in the lap we could have gained that much,” he said. “Maybe a little bit in terms of getting the tyres absolutely perfect for the lap but it’s not half a second.
“They [Ferrari] have a really strong car, you can see especially in the long corners – Turn 1, 2 – they make some good gains to us.
“Obviously now without a big difference on the straights, they can keep the gains they make in the corners. We definitely have work to do.
“Tomorrow is a different day. A long race ahead, like we saw last weekend it will be close, hopefully, we can make up tomorrow what we lost today.”