Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admits that the team has been struggling with its tyres at Spa this weekend, and has not been able to get the supersoft to last.
While Nico Rosberg ultimately took pole with the softest compound he was not much more than a tenth faster than Max Verstappen, which represented a much smaller gap than has been usual this season. However Rosberg won’t have to use the supersoft in the race as he got through Q2 on the soft.
“We seem to struggle more than other teams with overheating and blistering,” said Wolff. “As a consequence the normal one second gap from the soft to the supersoft doesn’t materialise, because the supersoft just gives up. The drivers said that after Turn One you could feel that the rear was going on the supersoft. Our performance on the soft was what we deem as normal, but we are not able to extract more from a softer tyre, because the tyre just gives up.”
Wolff said there was no single reason why Mercedes was having problems this weekend.
“It is always a combination of all the factors, there is not one factor that makes it go out of control. The asphalt is a very abrasive asphalt, and it’s very “stoney.” That uses the tyre much more. It’s a bit of a vicious circle, because the more downforce you put on the car, the more you use the tyres, the better you put them in the window.
“We’ve had races where that’s given us a great benefit, such as Baku, for example. But then if all odds go against us, that particular tarmac, the heat, high energy corners, and the supersoft tyres, then the consequence can be like we saw today. I think when you look at the calendar in general, in 21 races you will never have a car that is perfect for all races. It is always a compromise, and trying to achieve the best possible performance on average. Maybe we have to live with that.”
Wolff said he had no regrets about choosing Spa for Lewis Hamilton’s power unit grid penalties.
“At a certain stage we needed to take it. If you look at the gaps now it’s probably very difficult for him tomorrow to recover to a good position. In hindsight if we would have known, which we didn’t, then Monza would have been a better choice.
“But I’m 100% convinced that given the parameters and information we had before Spa, taking the engine penalty here, taking it early, getting a new engine early into Lewis’s car, was the right decision. But, if it’s hot tomorrow it’s going to be very difficult for him to recover to a sensible position.”