Following the action-packed Azerbaijan GP, we grabbed Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin to answer some of your questions.
Richard Fardon on Facebook asked:
- Why is it so difficult to get the tyres to work (not just for Mercedes)? It hasn't really been an issue in the past. Are the tyres the real Divas?
Andrew Shovlin: "It has been tricky, especially the last couple of races. In China, we had extremely cold conditions. It was 14 degrees ambient in qualifying and the track was only 16.
"Baku was a little bit warmer in the race, 16 degrees ambient and the track was sitting in the mid-20s. But the problem in Baku is there are no fast corners and fast corners give you a lot of energy. So, that's why we have had these problems in the last couple of races.
"There's also an element at the start of the year where teams are really understanding where they need to get the tyres in terms of temperature, and how they need to run their cars.
"It was completely dominated by warm-up and temperature. The drivers were doing everything they could to get them started and you saw a lot of teams were taking 15 or even 20 laps to get the best out of the tyres."
Freddie Barry (@freddieb121) got in touch on Twitter asking:
- What elements of the car design influence tyre temperatures and is there any way for the driver to mitigate these issues?
AS: "The biggest one is the speed of the car. If you have a fast car, it generates a lot more tyre temperature just because of the energy that's going into them through the corners.
"That's number one. But the other thing you'll see is teams using the cake tins (round brake drums) at the front of the car. They've got cutaways and some have got louvred elements.
"These brake discs are running at 600 or even 800 degrees centigrade. That hot air sits between the drum and the rim, heating the tyre. So, they can use those to get it started.
"You'll also see the drivers doing a lot of weaving. Again, the cornering content generates the energy, which generates the temperature.
"So, there are a number of different factors that we can play with on the car trying to drive them up. But in Baku, everyone was in the same boat.
"You saw Ferrari with good warm-up. But even they were still struggling to get the tyres up to the absolute perfect temperature."
Matt (@19mjoll82) on Instagram had a query:
- Did the SuperSofts not show to be as fast and reliable on Friday during practice? And if they did why was it not ideal to start on the UltraSofts to gain an advantage then switch to the SuperSoft that apparently just kept getting better throughout the entire race?
AS: "What we'd seen on Friday was that the Ultra was actually quite a weak tyre in Baku. I think that was a surprise for a number of teams. But we were seeing some abrasion on the fronts, where it starts to tear and open up, losing grip.
"You also saw some teams had a bit of damage on the rears. But, the net effect of that was that through the stint you were losing a bit of grip.
"Those teams that were fast enough to get through Q2 on the SuperSoft chose to take it. We saw that with Ferrari, Red Bull and us. Kimi (Räikkönen) had the issue where he locked up and scrapped that set, so he had to start on the UltraSoft.
"The concern with the UltraSoft was the degradation would bring you in early and you would lose control of the race. That's why the front teams were choosing to start on the SuperSoft.
"At the time, I think most people were thinking it would be SuperSoft and straight onto the Soft tyre, running the whole race on that.
"What emerged on Sunday, though, was the warm-up issues, which was why we saw more people jumping back to the UltraSoft. If they can manage it and can look after it, the tyre should be OK, but at least it will have better warm-up."
Nicolette (@Silverarowangel) on Twitter asked:
- Was Valtteri keeping a large gap to Lewis in the first stint on purpose and was the plan (if Lewis hadn't locked up) for them both to switch to UltraSofts at their pitstops after a long first stint?
AS: "No, it wasn't really. They were both struggling with the warm-up, Valtteri perhaps a bit more than Lewis in the early stages.
"It's difficult because when you haven't got the grip and you're on a street circuit, the walls are super close and you don't know how hard you can push the car without making a mistake. You saw people make mistakes and it normally puts them out of the race when they do.
"Valtteri was feeling the grip, bringing the tyres in. He had dropped a bit but then he started to push harder, he found that the grip came up and he was able to do very good lap times and sit with Lewis.
"But, it was difficult for him to close that gap down even when his tyres were worn because Lewis' were working well and he was in a good position.
"Without the lock-up, were we going to leave Lewis out and go UltraSoft at the end? We had certainly started talking about that. We expected Red Bull to do the same, they were struggling on the SuperSoft and didn't think they'd want to go to the Soft.
"So, we were leaving it as an option but there was nothing really driving us to make a decision at that point. It was only when Lewis locked up that we had to come and take the Soft, because the UltraSoft was never going to get to the end."
Ryan Chua (@Ryanjhchua) commented on Instagram asking:
- Were you hoping for a Safety Car and that's why you pitted Valtteri late?
AS: "Absolutely, that was what we were hoping for. It's Baku, there's a pretty good chance of getting a Safety Car.
"When Sebastian came in, he left this window whereby he's sufficiently far behind us that if we stop under SC or VSC, and you get the shorter pit loss, we could actually take the lead of the race.
"They are there hoping there isn't one but it's one of those strategies that you play for.
"It's actually quite difficult to lead the race and control it because you are protecting against people undercutting you, but also this issue with the Safety Car.
"You can't do both, so that's where it does create opportunities for whoever is behind."
Nate Siewert (@Purebfn) queried on Instagram:
- What was the approach if the SC didn't happen? Would it have looked like an easy 2nd/3rd finish?
AS: "If there hadn't been a Safety Car, we'd have come in with Valtteri and taken the UltraSoft about 10 laps from the end of the race.
"The SuperSoft wasn't degrading, it was going really well, and we could've run it as long as we'd liked.
"Those 10 laps would've given him just enough time to catch up with Seb and battle him for the win. He would've done that with a couple of laps remaining.
"With Lewis, we had less options. The default would've been to run to the finish on the Soft, saving position.
"The Soft would've lasted. It wasn't really getting any worse but it wouldn't have had the same grip as the UltraSoft."
Stuart Mackenzie (@sstuartmackenzie) asked on Instagram:
- Did Valtteri have warning from the team about possible debris before he got a puncture?
AS: "The answer to that is no. We didn't give him warning because we couldn't see it.
"The first time we saw it was just as he came over those bumps, that's why he was also blind sighted.
"You could see him heading towards it but there was about half a second or so - not enough time for us to get on the radio and tell him there is debris on the track.
"If we had seen it, we'd have warned him - as we were doing on a lot of other laps with the other accidents, trying to guide them as to the best piece of track to avoid it.
"Unfortunately, on this occasion it was all too late."
Justin McLauchlin (@JustinMcLauchli) replied on Twitter asking:
- Looking forward from Azerbaijan, how much valuable information did you gain from this track, that you will bring to Barcelona?
AS: "The reality is there isn't a lot of information you can take from Baku to Barcelona in terms of how the tyres were behaving.
"We have good information from winter testing in Barcelona but going there for the race will be a lot hotter. So, you'll be dealing with different conditions.
"Baku and Barcelona are almost opposite ends of the spectrum so it's quite hard to use the learning from one and apply it to the other."