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GP Week : Issue 148
Despite having a quick car on Saturdays, Mercedes have yet to be able to deliver a good result when it counts on Sundays. While there have been reports that the Silver Arrows have set-up their car to favour qualifying over the race, senior team figures deny the rumours. “Our objective is to build the best car we can for the race – and our qualifying performances are a consequence of that,” team principal Ross Brawn said in the run-up to the Chinese Grand Prix. “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.” “In both races, our problems have been related to getting the tyres into the correct working window,” he continued. “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.” Part of the problem is that the W03 has a very narrow optimum operating window where its rubber is concerned, making the challenge of setting up the car in less than ideal conditions more complex than it needs to be. “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,” Brawn said. “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.” Of course, the Malaysian Grand Prix was run in highly unusual conditions. The heavy rain that began to fall as the cars were lining up on Sunday’s grid flipped the presumed difficulty with the tyre – keeping the rubber from getting too hot in the tropical heat – on its head. “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,” Brawn said. “The cooler conditions reversed what was needed from the cars.” Looking ahead to China, tyre management remains the primary concern at Mercedes. While rain is not unexpected in Shanghai at this time of year, it is highly unlikely that we will see a second race red-flagged by a mini-monsoon. The Silver Arrows have spent the inter-race break studying their tyre data from the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend, and the team are confident that the work done in the factory over the past two weeks will help with their tyre management going for wards. MERCEDES GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THEIR TYRE TROUBLES 5 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> NEWS