Symonds: F1 teams all struggling to understand tyres

All of Formula 1's teams are struggling to get a proper understanding of this year's tyres, reckons Williams technical chief Pat Symonds.

Symonds: F1 teams all struggling to understand tyres
Valtteri Bottas, Williams FW38
Pascal Wehrlein, Mercedes AMG F1 W05 Hybrid Test Driver
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari SF16-H
Pat Symonds, Williams Chief Technical Officer
Pierre Gasly, Red Bull Racing RB12 Test Driver
Santino Ferrucci, Haas F1 Team VF-16 Development Driver
Pascal Wehrlein, Mercedes AMG F1 W05 Hybrid Test Driver
Pirelli show tyres
Pirelli tyres
Pirelli tyres
Pat Symonds, Williams Chief Technical Officer

Huge performance swings from race-to-race – such as Red Bull's struggles in Canada and Baku and then strong pace in Austria and Silverstone – have been singled out by Symonds as evidence of the influence of tyres.

With Williams also experiencing highs and lows in recent outings, Symonds thinks that getting Pirelli's rubber to work properly has become the predominant factor in deciding the pecking order at each event.

"It's been funny," said Symonds. "If you look at the last few races, a few things are really quite symptomatic of this season.

"In Canada we had a great race there, as did Force India, while Red Bull struggled quite a lot. Ferrari were not quite where they should have been.

"Move on to Azerbaijan and it was a similar picture. We had a few peripheral things that were troubling us there, but generally speaking we were okay, Mercedes were okay, and Force India were okay. Red Bull were not where they should have been.

"Then go to Austria. Ourselves and Force India had really difficult races with the tyres – neither of us could get the tyres working

"While Red Bull, who had been struggling with tyres in Canada with cold conditions on a fast track, in Austria, with cold conditions on a fast track, all the same sort of things, led for a short while and were challenging Mercedes.

"It is all down to tyres. We all say these things we do with the tyres, but they continue to catch us out, all of us – Red Bull, Ferrari, even Mercedes."

Pressure limits

Although tyre pressure limits for this year have become a big talking point, Symonds thinks that is not the key issue teams have been facing in 2016.

"That has made it more difficult...but I don't think it is related," he said. "It is related much more to the compounds themselves. The fact that you no longer have that degree of freedom in tyre pressures makes it that little bit more difficult again.

"I don't think any of the teams are fully on top of their tyres – Mercedes have had their times when they don't have that 1-1.5% advantage that they like to enjoy. And that is because the tyres are not there.

"None of us understand them to the level we would like to – so all of us have to put resources in to understanding tyres."

Haas surprise

The struggles are not unique at the front of the grid either, with Haas team principal Gunther Steiner admitting that tyres had been the biggest challenge for his outfit this year.

When asked if the work on getting the tyres to work properly had been the biggest surprise of the season, he said: "Absolutely. I think I can just speak for us.

"I look at other teams trying to do different things and you guys have seen what Force India did. It is the main objective – to get the tyre to work and then be prepared for the race that you know what will happen so you don't have graining or the pressure blowing up.

"You try to prepare as much as you can. That is the biggest challenge at the moment, yes."

Steiner has said that Haas may have to consider a tyre specialist department for 2017, with it not having one at the moment.

"We are a small team," he said. "We have got our race engineers and our performance engineers looking into it. We don't have a specific tyre specialist, and it is something we need to look into next year because I don't think it will get any easier.

"We have got a few people coming in various areas but at the moment – it is just our people trying to understand how they work."

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