Mercedes fear Ferrari has mitigated tyre degradation issues

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Mercedes believes that Ferrari's development of late has mitigated the tyre degradation issues that have weighed on its SF-23 this season and allowed the Scuderia to draw level with the Brackley squad in tersm of relative performance.

While Mercedes' absolute pace and especially the handling of its W14 have challenged it drivers this season, tyre management has been one of the team's main assets relative to its direct rivals.

But that advantage, especially versus Ferrari, appears to have melted away in the past few races thanks to the Scuderia's progress.

In Singapore, Carlos Sainz relied on smart tactics to halt Red Bull's relentless dominance. But in Japan last weekend, on a more conventional high-degradation track, Charles Leclerc outpaced both Mercedes' cars on race day while Sainz finished in between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

Mercedes trackside engineer Andrew Shovlin noted that overall degradation was higher than usual at Suzuka, due to the track's surface and to high temperatures.

But Ferrari's relative performance in Japan did not go unnoticed by Shovlin.

"Part of it is linked to the temperatures. Some of that [tyre] degradation you get is just as the tyres get hotter and hotter over the first eight laps," explained the British engineer.

"I think the performance deficit that was there in qualifying, where we have a bit less performance through the faster corners, is the same thing that's costing us in the race.


"Really at this track, it's just about how much grip have you got in the fast corners, a lot of that will be downforce, and we do look like we're a little bit behind in that regard.

"[Ferrari] did bring an updated floor, so maybe they've moved forward. If we look at some of our recent tracks, that advantage we have on degradation is not as evident now in the season as it was in the earlier races."

In Suzuka, Red Bull was crowned Constructors' champion, but behind the Milton Keynes-based outfit Mercedes still holds a 20-point advantage over Ferrari.

However, Shovlin reckons it's going to be tight between the two teams in the final leg of the season, with six races left on the docket.

"There’s sort of too many variables to really work out exactly where they sit," Shovlin said, referring to the Scuderia's performance level.

"We’re looking at things that we can do in the next few races to try and bring a bit of performance.

"I think it’s going to be tight, but I’d rather be 20 points ahead than 20 points behind.

“Fundamentally, it’ll be how much performance can we bring.

"The quickest car will win over the next six races, or whatever we’ve got remaining, so we need to try and make ourselves the quicker of those two."

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