Mercedes lost ground in the second half of the Formula 1 season because it overreacted to its early tire degradation problems, reckons team boss Toto Wolff.
Although Mercedes hung on to second in the constructors’ championship behind the dominant Red Bull, it could not repeat its early grand prix wins after the summer break. Nico Rosberg won the Monaco and British Grands Prix, while Lewis Hamilton triumphed in Hungary, but those successes were interspersed among events where Mercedes tumbled down the order as it overworked the Pirellis.
Wolff believes the changes Mercedes made to try to address this issue then worked against it once Pirelli had switched tire construction following its British GP dramas.
“Looking back, you always tend to oversimplify,” Wolff said. “We had some moments in the first half of the season, we had a very, very difficult Bahrain race, we had a difficult Barcelona race, we had a dreadful Nurburgring race where we fell back, and then we were very good so it wasn’t a clear-cut good half of the year. But where we got it wrong was after the summer break, with the introduction of the new tires.
“From a car that was very aggressive on the rears, we developed the right things to manage the rears, so when the new tire was introduced probably we over-managed. Our car almost had a Lotus phenomenon afterward. It was too gentle on the tires we could not switch them on; we could not warm them up in the appropriate way.
“This is where you decide to take some junctions with the development and sometimes you have to retrace them. It is a difficult process and that is where we have to improve.”
Wolff said Red Bull’s utter command of the second half of 2013 was not just due to the revised tire suiting its car, but underlined how well the champion team could respond to changes.
“They just took intelligent decisions,” he said. “The tire came with which they won last year’s championship, they knew the tire very well, and they took the right path and the right decision. If a team is complete in the way that Red Bull is complete, it just rolls.”