Losing ground to Ferrari in every major race since the summer, Andrew Shovlin fears Mercedes have lost their tire advantage amid Ferrari’s improvements.
Mercedes went into the summer break with a 56-point lead over Ferrari but in all four races since the season restarted, they have lost points to the Scuderia with the gap dropping to just 20 points.
While in the Dutch Grand Prix Lewis Hamilton could not close those last meters to Carlos Sainz, in Italy and Singapore the Mercedes teammates were chasing the Ferraris again while the latter managed to hold their tires long enough to stay ahead.
Mercedes tire advantage ‘not obvious now’
That for Ferrari is a big improvement on their early season woes as the SF-23 ate through its tires with high damage costing the team’s race pace in the latter part of almost every stint.
That meant Mercedes, with the W14 having more speed on its tyres, had good race pace even if they lost out to Ferrari in the qualifying sessions.
That has changed recently as Ferrari’s tire management improved along with their understanding of SF-23.
That culminated in the Japanese Grand Prix, a weekend in which both teams complained of extensive tire damage, where both Mercedes teammates lost to the Ferrari driver.
Shovlin believes the reason for that was a double whammy of Mercedes’ W14 lack of power and Ferrari solving their tire issues.
“I think the lack of performance that was there in qualifying, where we have a little bit less performance through the fast corners, is the same thing that was costing us in the race,” said the Mercedes engineering director.
“I think really this track is about how you hold on in the fast corners. A lot of that is going to reduce power. And we look like we were a little bit behind in that regard.
“Ferrari brought an updated floor. So maybe they’ve moved on. But I think if we look at some of our recent tracks, the advantage we have of humiliation, it’s not as obvious now in the season as it was in the previous races.”
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The Ferrari team boss hails the improvement
Shovlin may spoil the situation but it is a very different situation at Ferrari when Fred Vasseur has praised his team for resolving the issue.
“It’s for sure if you look at the first two races of the season, the damage or tire management, it wasn’t always our strongest skill,” he said according to Motorsport.com.
“Coming to Suzuka with this heat of the track, we were a bit vulnerable. But at the end of the day, I think we did a good job on this side.
“The race was controlled; the strategy was well managed. We did well. A clear step forward compared to the first part of the season.”
Ferrari’s move to the front means they are just 20 points behind Mercedes with six races remaining the battle to finish P2 in position.
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