Mercedes denies suggestions it influenced Pirelli on tires

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Mercedes denies suggestions it influenced Pirelli to use a tire that better suits the Formula One team at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Team boss Toto Wolff called ”rubbish” suggestions from its competitors that it was involved in the tiremaker’s decision to bring a modified tire to the race in Barcelona.

”I don’t know where suddenly this rumor comes out that we have been influencing Pirelli and the FIA to change any tires,” he said after Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas topped qualifying on Saturday. ”I’ve never seen anything working like that. Why should they do it?”

Mercedes was one of the teams which struggled with the tires provided by Pirelli in preseason testing in Barcelona. Pirelli decided to bring a thinner compound to the Spanish GP to try to avoid the problems that affected the teams in the winter.

”All teams had blistering, very heavy blistering, at testing in Barcelona,” Wolff said.

”Red Bull, Ferrari, ourselves. McLaren I think also. And the tires wouldn’t have lasted in the race. For that reason, Pirelli changed the thickness of the tire to prevent the blistering and they have been successful in preventing the blistering because we have not seen any on any car today.”

Wolff said the suggestions that Pirelli might have favored Mercedes ”proves that we have had a good day today.”

Mercedes hadn’t scored a pole position since the season-opener in Australia. It was the first front-row lock up for the team this season, and 51st all-time.

”When we haven’t performed well in the past we have taken ourselves by the nose and have looked for performance to be found on our car, and not go on the default mode, turn around and say, `What are the others doing that is wrong?” Wolff said.

Hamilton leads Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by four points in the drivers’ standings. Vettel, who won the last three poles and won two of the first four races, will start third on Sunday, followed by teammate Kimi Raikkonen. Mercedes trails Ferrari by 14 points in the constructors’ standings.

Wolff on Saturday also praised Bottas’ recent performances.

”Valtteri has been upping his game through the last races and has been very solid indeed,” he said. ”That proves us right with our decision (to hire him) back in the day.”

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