Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver Valtteri Bottas believes the world title will eventually be won by superior car performance, rather than being decided by the tyre management battle that is currently in progress.
In the first few rounds of the season, Scuderia Ferrari have emerged as championship contenders, bringing the fight to the German squad at every race so far. This has in part been down to the SF70-H being much easier on the tyres than the Mercedes, allowing Ferrari to use strategy to their advantage and secure victories in Australia and China.
Many believe the Italian squad’s better understanding of the rubber, down to the pre-season testing of the 2017 tyres that Sebastian Vettel completed for Pirelli, albeit with a modified machine. That venture has given Ferrari valuable data and insight, which the other F1 teams have not been privy to.
Although Bottas does not feel the tyre war has taken anything away from the action this year, and it would be no bad thing should it continue, he also believes that once everyone else has got to grips with the new rubber, the momentum will switch, as he explained to motorsport.com recently.
“No, it’s not boring. I think it’s always been the case, but now tyres have changed.
“It’s more difficult to master every compound for every tarmac, and how they behave. I think it’s been always in F1 like that, but now that our car with Ferrari is so equal, then small things like tyres [can decide the outcome]. In the end, it’s the only thing in contact with the car and the ground.
“But my thinking in the future is it’s going to be less and less speaking about the tyres. Once people and teams learn more about getting everything out of the tyres in the right windows, in different conditions, then I think probably everyone is going to be equal in how they handle tyres.
“So there is going to be less speaking about tyres and it’s going to be more about the cars, and setups and car development.”
Ferrari’s improvements over the winter have shocked many, including Mercedes who thought if anyone was going to catch them it would be Red Bull Racing, considering the focus has switched to aerodynamics this year, with the new 2017 regulations.
Nevertheless, it is the red team that have taken the impetus, which is a good thing as far as Bottas is concerned, as pressure and competition makes them work even harder.
“We didn’t expect [it] really, so they’ve been surprisingly good. They had a very good winter and very strong car development since last year. A big step.
“They are managing their tyres at every single track, on every Sunday and they’ve been very much on top of every compound of tyres. They’ve done a very good job on that, and I think it’s a very good challenge to try to beat them.”
“For sure, we wanted to be ahead. We wanted this season to be so far better for us, but I think it’s very good in general having the competition. It makes us try harder.
“It makes every single race weekend, every single session very interesting, not only for us, but for everyone I think. So, in a way I think it’s good.
“This is Formula 1 and it should be about competition. But still we want to be ahead, and still we want to win.”