Verstappen: Hamilton’s absence won’t increase Red Bull’s victory chances

2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen doubts Red Bull will have an easier time winning this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix despite Lewis Hamilton’s absence.

The world champion has won 11 of the 15 races so far this year, but will not race this weekend after testing positive for Covid-19.

His place in the team’s line-up will be taken by George Russell. The Mercedes junior driver has won praise for his performances at Williams, and Verstappen expects strong competition from him and Valtteri Bottas.

“There is no Lewis but there is still Valtteri and George driving the fastest car in the field,” said Verstappen when asked Hamilton’s absence will give Red Bull a better chance this weekend. “So it will still be very tough and not easy, especially with the layout we have.

“Lap times will be very close with the guys behind us from last week. I don’t expect it to be easy out there.”

Formula 1 is racing on the Bahrain International Circuit for the second weekend in a row, but using the shorter ‘Outer’ circuit, which has fewer slow corners.

“It will only help the cars which have more power,” Verstappen predicted. “I expect it to be a little more difficult for us.”

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Lap times lower than 54 seconds have been predicted for the circuit. where drivers may touch the brakes just four times per tour. Verstappen said the circuit is unusual by F1 standards.

“I think it’s definitely a bit of a stand-alone layout,” he said. “It’s quite sandy and it’s not used a lot, that area. But it’s a new challenge, it’s different, so let’s see what it gives us.”

Due to the many acceleration zones on the track, teams are expected to run Monza-style low-downforce set-ups for the race.

“I really hope it’s not going to be like Monza, but we have to wait and see,” said Verstappen, who qualified nine tenths of a second off the pace at the high-speed Italian circuit three months ago.

“The track is a bit different compared to Monza,” he explained. “There are still a few kind of corners where you can make a bit more of a difference.

“At Monza you run really low downforce, everyone runs very low downforce, so you just really lack on the straights. I think here there will be a bit of difference in terms of downforce levels. But let’s hope and pray it’s going to be better.”

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40 comments on “Verstappen: Hamilton’s absence won’t increase Red Bull’s victory chances”

  1. The chicane is the only place for braking in the outer loop section. I expect him to finish third behind the Mercs despite the Monza style nature of the track configuration alternative.

  2. With Lewis sidelined, Max steps up to the sandbag and takes a swing.

    1. LOL. He should have said it in his best Austrian accent and copied usual Toto’s normal look of deep concern about RBR running away with the race.

    2. A low profile swing at Hamilton really. Verstappen says he will be in third to imply ANYBODY could drive that Merc to victory. Hamilton is just there to help the car meet the minimum weight requirement. No reason Russell shouldn’t adapt to the new car and drive off into the sunset.

      Maybe he is flattering himself too. Of course a good driver can get in the car and win races, he did at Red Bull.

      1. And ANYBODY could’ve driven his RB to pole and victory in Turkey. Max had the quickest car -messed up

        1. Anybody? only a select few (those who can drive in the wet) could do it.

          1. @macleod Well looks like at least Hamilton, Perez and Vettel could have, but yeah it’s the same “anybody” when it’s said that “anybody” can win driving Hamilton’s car.

  3. That’s not the right attitude. Anyway, he could totally win this thing. The points table doesn’t lie, not this late in the season. There is a reason Verstappen is just behind Bottas even with the unreliability Verstappen has had. Verstappen is exceptionally good in his car and Bottas just has some unbelievable stinkers on Sundays. Like, say, last Sunday, even with his puncture, he was not exactly mowing down the midfield on his way back to the leading pack.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      3rd December 2020, 21:04

      It’s an attitude that has worked perfectly for Mercedes over the last 7 years…

    2. @dmw It’s funny how he claimed after the first race that he could perhaps have won that with a better strategy.

  4. Somehow I think he’ll be the main and only challenger to Bottas for victory, and I’d rate his chances of beating Bottas as much higher than beating Hamilton.

    1. @rocketpanda I think it’ll be Russell v. Verstappen. Which would be a fantastic tail end to the season.

    2. I’m not so sure. If overtaking at this layout is as simple as breezing past with DRS I think he can’t mess with the Mercs. And because Russell won’t beat Bottas it will actually seal Bottas second place in the championship

      I do hope I’m wrong and we have an actual exciting race though

  5. Saw the headline, read the article, headline doesn’t reflect the article. Sorry.

    “So it will still be very tough and not easy, especially with the layout we have”

    He doesn’t say it won’t increase his victory chances at all, he’s just saying it will still be tough. That’s quite a few clickbait headlines now that have been pretty dubious, sorry to say guys.

    1. @john-h

      He doesn’t say it won’t increase his victory chances at all, he’s just saying it will still be tough

      To clarify, Verstappen response about it “still” being tough was to a question asking whether Hamilton’s absence would give Red Bull a better chance to win the race, so this is what he meant. That could have been made clearer in the original article so I’ve amended that line accordingly.

      1. Thanks for explaining @keithcollantine and taking the time to clarify. I’m often torn between whether to raise concerns or not, I know what this site has given to me over the years and I very much appreciate it, but also sometimes I have to be honest. Thanks for listening, as always!!

  6. I think Max will suffer the Imola sabotage.

  7. Looking at the track layout, there’s a bigger chance of Racing Point beating Red Bull than Red Bull beating Mercedes.

    1. @kingshark RP were slower than Renault and McLaren at Spa and Monza respectively. The car seems to work better at more corner-y tracks like Hungary, Spain, Sochi, Nurburgring etc.

      1. @wsrgo Perez beat Verstappen in Monza during Q3 though. But then Verstappen was again unable to find a proper setup for Monza. Just like in Hungary.

        Hulkenberg seems to have helped them with some suspension setup tips which seem to have been brought in a few races later and have moved them more clearly to the front of the midfield.

        1. @f1osaurus

          But then Verstappen was again unable to find a proper setup for Monza. Just like in Hungary.

          Or the more rational explanation is that Red Bull simply wasn’t as quick as Racing Point around there.

          Let’s not forget that Verstappen is the only driver other than Russell to have outqualified his teammate at every race this season, so we can safely assume that he extracts the absolute maximum out of the car.

          1. @kingshark Lol, yeah they suddenly hopelessly slow at tracks where they got pole or were fighting for pole a year before. combined with the drivers complaining of not being able to find a working setup. But yeah “racing point is “faster” explains it all.

            Do you even read the nonsense you write?

          2. @f1osaurus

            Lol, yeah they suddenly hopelessly slow at tracks where they got pole or were fighting for pole a year before.

            Meaningless argument, the RB15 and RB16 are different cars with different characteristics. Red Bull just wasn’t very fast around Hungary in 2020. Despite that, Verstappen finished 2nd which was the best possible result in that car.

          3. @kingshark Seriously, just stop being this ridiculous. That car is easily the second or first fastest. They just were so at Spa before Italy. Then they were massively slow at Monza and the drivers were complainign all weekend about not getting a setup. For Hungary exactly the same complaints all weekend while before the race they Horner was talking about winning the race.

            You can only question who was to blame for that mess. Either the engineers or the drivers. Or both.I say it’s the drivers that should be able to tell the engineers what needs to happen.

          4. @f1osaurus
            If one driver cannot get accustomed to the car, it’s the drivers fault. If both drivers cannot get accustomed to the car, then it’s the engineers fault. Monza is a unique circuit anyway.

            That car is easily the second or first fastest.

            Lmao, nowhere near.

            Mercedes is by far the dominant car of the field. When a guy like Russell can come into a weekend without ever driving the W11 before and easily dominate the race until Mercedes implode, that just shows you how dominant the car is.

            I also remember when you tried to sell Bottas as a top driver. His career has been ended by Russell today.

            Today truly showed that any good driver would dominate in that Mercedes.

          5. @kingshark It’s the drivers who need to tell the engineers what to change.

            Today truly showed that Russell is actually better than Verstappen. Most likely he will dominate in that Mercedes from 2022

          6. @f1osaurus
            Bottas has 16 race weekends and thousands of miles of experience in the W11. Russell drove his first laps on Friday. Russell did not fully fit in his seat and was wearing boots one size too small. Despite all that, he still outclassed Bottas on race day and would have won easily if Mercedes did not implode.

            What today showed is that:

            1. Dominating in a Mercedes is not a special achievement worthy of praise
            2. Bottas is a truly mediocre driver and most of the grid would probably beat him
            3. Hamilton needs Mercedes a lot more than Mercedes need Hamilton

  8. I don’t expect driving a Mercedes will instantly transform Russell into podium challenger… Top 10 finish would be more realistic. In anything Russell might have a shock after discovering the Mercedes is not as easy to drive as playing ping pong.

    1. A win it will be or a 2nd place. What on earth are you talking about. Max won straight out of the box with a race winning car. No reason at all why Russell would not.

      1. Max won because the 2 cars ahead crashed into each other and Red Bull went out of their way to get Ricciardo behind Verstappen to get Verstappen that youngest race win.

        In a normal race Verstappen would have finished 4th.

        1. Oh, that race…

  9. Thinking about it, this is disrespectful towards Hamilton. Yes the car is strong and has been for years but strong drivers will maximise strong equipment.

    George I rate highly but I fully expect Bottas to win this weekend, where ever George ends up will be interesting to see.

    However, Max has been driving well , except Turkey, so should remain positive anything can happen.

  10. Verstappen once got a Red Bull mid-season and with only a week’s preparation won his first race for that team.

    So I would imagine he of all people knows not to outright discount a talented driver like George.

    1. @aiii Couple of things here though, he benefited greatly from the Mercedes clash on lap 1, and a poor strategy call for Ricciardo. He did manage to be just behind Ric in quali, and held off Kimi in the race, and had to work for those. If the cards fall his way Russell could do it too, I don’t doubt. But a win on merit would be tough.

      1. Russel has a bigger chance winning this than Max had back then in Spain. After all, he is driving the fastest car.

    2. I expect George on the podium if he is the same as Max. Winning i think Bottas will take this.

  11. Everybody seems to forget that if Bottas didn’t have a bad start and suffered that puncture, Max probably would’ve ended up third.

    1. That’s the thing though. Mercedes seems to have a poor start system again. Or at least for starting from P2. Both Bottas and Hamilton suffered, starting from P2. More so than drivers in other cars starting from the dirty side of the track.

  12. Bottas topped practice and was also on form in qualifying, storming to his third pole of the season and h overall by clocking 1 minute 25.269 seconds in cold temperatures. Hamilton was .256 seconds adrift and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen trailed by .293 in third as he failed to end Mercedes’ perfect run of season poles.

  13. Елизавета
    7th December 2020, 6:39

    The track is a bit different compared to Monza, he explained. There are still a few kind of corners where you can make a bit more of a difference. I m not so sure. If overtaking at this layout is as simple as breezing past with DRS I think he can t mess with the Mercs. And because Russell won t beat Bottas it will actually seal Bottas second place in the championship

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