Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has conceded that Max Verstappen was the “only” driver this year to get the most out of Pirelli’s tyres, which in return meant the Dutchman was able to get more performance out of his car.
Verstappen’s tyre management in 2023 was exemplary, with him having often been one of the last drivers to complete their first pit-stop.
Whilst being in the clean air in the lead would’ve made a difference, Verstappen was even able to look after his tyres when fighting through the field.
This is exactly what happened at the Miami Grand Prix where he started in ninth and opted to get going on the hardest compound, before nursing his tyres for 46/57 laps.
Verstappen ended up winning at the Miami International Autodrome, which kick started his run of 10 consecutive victories.
Ferrari in particular really struggled to preserve their tyres early in the season, something which often cost them several places.
Sergio Perez is another and was often a second slower than Verstappen at certain circuits, a feat which Wolff believes must be down to “tyre grip”.
The Mexican driver is often one of the best on the grid at looking after his tyres, as is Lewis Hamilton.
Despite this, every driver except Verstappen failed to perform at a consistent level in 2023, with Wolff putting this down to the three-time World Champion having understood how to get the most out of Pirelli’s rubber.
“It’s difficult to comprehend that good drivers in various teams have these oscillations of performance,” Wolff said, as reported by The Mirror. “You’ve seen it this [in Abu Dhabi] with [Carlos] Sainz and [Charles] Leclerc, you’ve seen it with George and Lewis, Oscar [Piastri] and Lando [Norris].
“And the obvious one is Perez and Verstappen. Perez is not a second slower than Max. So, what is that? We have seen it swinging in both directions.
“So fundamentally, I think it’s all around the tyre grip. If you are able to have the car in a sweet spot, a stable platform that you start the work with the beginning of the weekend, then you can extract performance.
“I think if you’re not, there’s just no performance. You’re falling off the cliff, literally. So I have no explanation for that. I think the only one this year who has understood how to drive these tyres is Max.”