Pirelli boss hits back at Toto Wolff’s “Italian mystery” line after Monaco F1 defeat
Vettel, Wolff
Posted By: James Allen  |  30 May 2017   |  10:55 am GMT  |  315 comments

The president of F1’s tyre supplier Pirelli has responded to Mercedes’ boss Toto Wolff’s line that the reason why Ferrari is able to master the tyres and Mercedes cannot is an “Italian mystery”.

Mercedes lost the Monaco Grand Prix badly, not even sending a driver up to the podium for only the fourth time since the start of 2014 and afterwards Wolff made a mischievous comment about the way Ferrari is always able to find the right operating window for the tyres. This was a particular problem in Monaco last weekend for many teams as the tyres were too hard for the track and its surface, which meant that getting the front and rear tyres to the right temperature was a problem for many.

Then in the race, the etiquette around blue flags for backmarker traffic meant that both backmarkers and leaders slowed and that was all it needed for the tyres to fall out of their operating window. It was hard to bring them back.

Ferrari has had the edge in this area all season and we saw Mercedes struggle on the supersoft tyres in Bahrain, for example. Wolff claimed on Sunday night that they have yet to do a race where both Mercedes cars have the tyres within their ideal range at the same time, implying that Mercedes is trying different set ups across the two cars to scrabble for answers on some tracks.

Marco Tronchetti Provera

Tronchetti Provera went on Italian TV yesterday and had the following to say about Wolff’s comments:

“The tyres are the same for everyone. Perhaps Mercedes, have been used to lots of success and now face an uphill task, but they will come back. However, with engineers that have worked like a team, Ferrari has done something that no-one expected. You have to give them credit and you have to be satisfied by the work of an Italian team.”

This comes back to the debate we had last season about the seriousness with which the top three teams took the 2017 tyre testing programme with mule cars, based on old designs with higher downforce to simulate 2017 levels.

Most of that work on Mercedes’ side was done by Pascal Wehrlein, while Sebastian Vettel took responsibility for the bulk of the work on Ferrari’s side. He also paid several visits to Pirelli, which is within the rules. The drivers were not told what tyres or details of compounds and constructions they were using, but a driver of Vettel’s experience and feel would have gained a lot of intelligence from these tests on the directions for 2017 and would have been able to work with Ferrari’s engineers to address what kind of set ups would be needed to work the tyres in their ideal operating range.

Lewis Hamilton Sebastian Vettel

“It was a very serious piece of work on the part of Vettel and Ferrari,” said Provera. “Vettel was always ready with humilty, to test when others were ‘not available’ and the results are the fruit of a lot of passionate work from a team that is totally focussed on winning.”

The implication is clear; Mercedes became complacent in 2016 after years of domination and didn’t take the tyre development test work seriously enough, when it has turned out to be mission critical to race outcomes in 2017. When the Mercedes is working the tyres within their operating window it is very fast, as we have seen in several races this season.

In this respect Vettel is like Michael Schumacher, who transformed Ferrari for a decade from 1996 to 2006, through hard work in detailed areas, especially looking for areas that other teams were not taking care of. Schumacher went much further, stacking the odds in his favour wherever he could in the ‘intangible’ areas of racing with relationships with the tyre suppliers and the governing body and other stakeholders that could influence outcomes.

But in the current era, it’s clear that Vettel has learned from him and is leading from the cockpit at Ferrari.

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Ouch, Wolff is a sore loser. Is this Italian mystery the same reason Mercedes have won the last 3 world championships on Pirelli tyres? Ridiculous.


In my opinion, the driver with Mercedes developing the car was Rosberg. He was devoted to maximizing the performance of his ride. Now he is gone and we can see this in their results.


It looks to me as though Wolff is channeling his inner Hillery Clinton. Perhaps the tire problem isn’t his fault at all but is caused by the Russians/FBI/CIA/Trump/DNC/CNN or some unknown Email hacker. 😉


Mr. Provera said it the way it is and has been with M. Schumacher. Michael did many improvements on his Ferrari not just tyres. he knew his car inside out and an important point, if drivers want to improve their skills they have to be acquainted with their machine from one end to another. Just like a tradesman.


Maybe they are missing Paddy Lowe more than they expected at Merc


If I remember rightly, Mercedes has always had tire warming troubles – even back when they were Brawn.

Grey-beard Dave

The testing information was supposed to be shared to all the teams, not just those testing. Obviously this hasn’t happened if only Ferrari can get the tyres to work. And that is a poor reflection on Pirelli that once again their tyres haven’t met the standard of the cars. I won’t be buying their brand for my Golf.


(part2, sorry ’bout that)
… as did Vettel. Turns out he was right and the (arrogant) attitude of Ham & Ros towards those tests was wrong.
What I also noted was before/during winter testing .. “key for this year will be understanding the new tires. Whoomever does the best job at that, ‘s got a foot ahead. Seeing that Merc ‘s got a recent history of getting the tires fully figured out, they should be smart enough in that area … it’s all about collecting as much data now during testing .. get those data-tables filled and have the analytics work hard”.
Yep .. turns out Merc did not do such a good job on this as I expected they would … (thnk god .. now at least we have 2 horse (team) races!)

2017 ‘s been awesome so far, no ?


As I said back when mule-car testing was ongoing: “I do not understand why Ham and Ros dont even bother to do those tests … MS would’ve been there 100% of the time he could.” …


As soon as Ferrari start winning all the conspiracy theorists come out. That can win on their own merit it has to be some “Italian mastery” hint hint collusion. Merc – sour grapes!


Anyone who remembers the Mercedes/Pirelli secret tyre tests of 2013 will have no sympathy. Even before sitting through 3 years of total Merc domination.


What the public is dying to hear are words of wisdom from Niki Lauda. Will the real slim shady please stand up!


Who was it that said that Monaco, ‘is a sunny place for shady people’.?


Will someone please ask Christian Horner about his thoughts? Fans need to know!


I keep saying those strange tyres kill the F1 show. Just not up to the job pirreli . Boycott them. Tiny temp window, camber and presssure restriction and 2 laps only real grip on quick track.


Hamilton’s apparent dislike for testing doesn’t seem worthy of a mention here, yet it seems extremely relevant…


Pascal Wherlin actually said his knowledge of the 2017 tyres was a good reason to get the Mercedes drive, before it went to Valtteri. He may have been right, judging by his performance so far, especially in Barcelona where he did a one stop.


While not a massive Vettel fan, one has to admire the work ethic . The guy is a mule, always reading and willing to test at a moments notice. Lewis could learn a thing or two but its his life to live as he sees fit. Two masters perfecting their craft. One requiring monotonous, singular focus and the other – a more relaxed, whimsical approach. The results are largely the same, respect both.


Both are happy that way, two very different characters. And so their fans.
Don’t ever think Vettel’s life is monotonous, on the contrary, his life is the life he is happy with. Would be a real waste of life hoarding with Rihanna or the likes.


Wasn’t it Mercedes who only got their titles after tyre tests before any other team could do them?
And soon Bottas will feel like Rosberg: ‘Lewis is copying my input and setups.’ Copying and not working them out, that is Lewis’ misery,


And lewis doesnt like to share data/setup!


That’s his loss no doubt…don’t see him going cap in hand ‘Please sir can i have some more [data]


Great article, I guessed as much when I always saw Vettel testing the tires last year.


For those who don’t remember Ferrari had hard time getting tires into operating window throughout the whole of last year. For what it is worth there is one common denominator, BRITISH ENGINEER James Allison 🙂


@3498 … I think the last bit is a touch unfair.

Whilst Ferrari losing Allison is not the disaster everyone assumed it would be, and the new technical structure is obviously delivering, its not to say that he isn’t a great engineer.

As for the “British” comment – it would be more classy to take the moral high-ground and not stoop to the level of all the idiots who were saying that Ferrari’s hapless Italian engineers were doomed without Alison 🙂


Foolish statement from Toto Wolff. I suppose with that line of thinking we can call in to question the parity of engines among Mercedes supplied teams. Not to mention whether Bottas is getting as much support as Lewis H.


Toto’s comments aren’t outside there realm of possibility. Recalling 2015, spa to be specific – vettel suffered a monstrous tire blow out that cost him a podium and almost his life. The subsequent backlash affected ferrari/pirelli relations. Fast forward 2017, ferrari seems to be the only team able to work the tires perfectly, in all conditions, throughout the range.

Something similar happen in 2013 with mercedes and their “secret” tire test.

Maybe Ferrari simply got it right and mercedes didn’t but formula one is a complicated sport with many layers. It wouldn’t surprise me if something untoward is happening.


Even if the statement were made in jest, he knows what he is talking about. Unfortunately, a very cheap statement from someone who has achieved a lot in the last 3-4 years, winning nearly all that could be won.

Ashish Sharma

Where is Red Bull on the tire situation, given their focus.


The very same place as Ferrari. It is after all a Newey thing!


Thank God Adrian Newey is energized about these new rules otherwise RB would’ve probably been 3rd in the pecking order.

Stephen Taylor

I think the comments from Toto were tongue in cheek and Pirelli should not take things so seriously. James also I’m drifting off topic but after Sunday does the paddock seem to think that after what happened on Sunday that Kimi is a now near certainty to retire at the end of the season? Is this the end Seb and Kimi’s cordial relationship? Your thoughts James?


No the opposite, I think Vettel likes having him there and he’s staying so he’d like Kimi to stay

If he goes Perez will replace him


Kimi a doormat, perez another possible doormat in the pipeline for vettel to enjoy.


JA, so you aren’t technically breaking any confidences can you answer the following multiple choice question:
a/ that’s your hunch;
b/ that’s the word “this week” in the paddock;
c/ it’s still conditional, based on x,y,z;
d/ you know definitively and it’s a done deal;


So Perez and Bottas are just placeholders until end 2018? When the real musical chairs begins!


I hope that you’re wrong james. Perez?


Jules Bianchi we miss you a lot now then ever.


@James.. Wait WHAT really? 😀

Is Perez plus Vettel an Ok Mix for the Ferrari ideology of non clashing drivers? Even though i would prefer the fire works with Perez, does Carlos not seem like the Ferrari like choice??

I would love to see Carlos go to Mercedes atleast. But what about Kvyat? Which team would be remotely interested in Kvyat at the moment you think?

Stephen Taylor

Yes but will Kimi’s feelings towards Vettel have changed? I know Seb’s fine Okay with having Kimi around but what about the other way around? On a side note Ferrari if they want Perez to replace Kimi will have been a bit bewildered by Checo’s rubbish race performance in the principality given he’d been so consistent before that.

Tornillo Amarillo

Kimi wants to win in Montreal however.

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