At the start of the season, Mercedes had the advantage over Ferrari thanks in large part to how much kinder the W14 is on its tyres compared to the SF-23. Over one lap, the SF-23 is typically quicker than the Mercedes but on race day the Ferrari would fall, but as the season has progressed, Mercedes is worried that isn’t the case any longer.
Ferrari have improved their race pace dramatically over the season, so much so they’ve become the only team to win a race other than Red Bull this season (so far). Both drivers held onto their tyres in Singapore as well as Japan, with a Ferrari finishing ahead of both Mercedes at each race.
Things have gone so well for Ferrari recently that Mercedes trackside engineer director, Andrew Shovlin, believes they simply aren’t lacking in the tyre management aspect of their car any longer, although concedes that Mercedes’ performance in Japan was due to a lack of downforce.
“I think the performance deficit that was there in qualifying, where we have a bit less performance through the fast corners, it’s the same thing that was costing us in the race,” he said.
“I think really this track is just about how much grip you have got in the fast corners. A lot of that will be downforce. And we do look like we were a little bit behind in that regard.
“Ferrari did bring an updated floor. So maybe they’ve moved forward. But I think if we look at some of our recent tracks, that advantage we have with degradation, it’s not as evident now in the season as it was in the earlier races.”
At the Japanese Grand Prix, Ferrari team principal, Frederic Vasseur, acknowledged that Japan was risky for the team, especially considering the track temperature, but because things worked out despite that it suggests a reason for optimism.
“It’s sure if you have a look at the first couple of races of the season, the degradation or the tyre management, were not always our biggest skill,” Vasseur said.
“Coming to Suzuka with this track temp, we were a bit at risk. But at the end of the day, I think we did a good job on this side. The race was under control; the strategy was well managed. We did well. A clear step forward compared to the first part of the season.”