Verstappen fires 2021 warning shot as Mercedes suffer surprise Abu Dhabi defeat

2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix review

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Beyond the benefit of keeping a convenient early-afternoon start time for European viewers, the twilight setting for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix acts as a visual metaphor for the concluding of each Formula 1 season.

But after the most unorthodox and eventful year the sport has seen in its seven-decade history, the season finale around the Yas Marina circuit likely left many of those watching contemplating sleep, even if the sun remained high above their heads.

After 55 uninspiring laps had elapsed, the same groups of six drivers that started on the front three rows of the grid had finished in the top six positions – with only two having swapped places.

While the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix may have been distinctly lacking in action, it still served as the final stanza for a number of chapters in the sport and signalled the end to a season which was remarkable in many ways.

On his 17th attempt, Max Verstappen had finally broken through the silver ceiling in qualifying to take his first pole position of the season in the final race. With Verstappen, Red Bull had threatened many times this year to offer a genuine challenge to Mercedes but had only triumphed once. The key question heading into the final Sunday of the year was whether Red Bull would be able to convert their first pole of the season into their second win.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2020
The season finale began two weeks later than planned
The Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas lined up alongside Verstappen as, behind, world champion Lewis Hamilton returned to the grid following his one race absence caused by contracting Covid-19 in Bahrain. Despite having full medical clearance to race, Hamilton admitted he did not feel at his best as he returned to the cockpit.

“I’m not 100%,” he warned on Saturday. “It definitely won’t be the easiest of races, physically, but I will manage and give it absolutely everything I’ve got.”

As the conventional wisdom in the paddock before the race was that Pirelli’s soft compound tyre was to be avoided if at all possible, the top three had all successfully qualified on medium tyres to try and make a one-stop strategy viable. With overtaking notoriously tough around the luxurious yet languid Yas Marina circuit, Verstappen would have a genuine shot at victory should he keep the Mercedes at bay at the start.

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As the final race of 2020 began, Bottas was only able to draw within a metre of Verstappen on the short shoot down into turn one as the Red Bull swept into the lead. Bottas’s car twitched under throttle at the exit, offering Hamilton behind a brief sniff of second place, but was able to hold on through turns three and four.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2020
Verstappen simply drove away from the two Mercedes
Verstappen duly led away, pulling 1.7 seconds to the chasing Mercedes by the end of the opening lap in a manner unlike anything we’d seen over the previous 16 races, barring the highly unusual Turkish Grand Prix. Further back, the two Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc swapped positions while, on the second lap, Esteban Ocon was passed by Pierre Gasly for ninth place on the run into turn eight.

Lando Norris – who had equalled his best qualifying of the season with fourth – found himself under pressure from Alexander Albon’s Red Bull from the moment that the lights went out. As the pair blasted down the back straight for the sixth time, Albon used DRS to great effect and was able to close down a gap of multiple car lengths to dive past the McLaren into turn eight and up into fourth.

By lap eight, Verstappen’s advantage stood at three seconds over Bottas behind. Mercedes were becoming increasingly aware that if they were to beat Verstappen, they needed to take the fight to him.

Bottas was given the hurry up. “Show us your pushing level,” he was told. “Let’s start to close that gap.” But despite the order to push, Bottas began losing further time to the Red Bull ahead.

Towards the back of the field, Sergio Perez was making his way up the order after starting from 19th place and falling to last on lap one. Formula 1’s newest grand prix winner was in the midst of a rollercoaster farewell from Racing Point having scored a long-awaited maiden victory the previous weekend, before being doomed to the back of the grid thanks to an engine penalty.

Sergio Perez, Racing Point, Yas Marina, 2020
Perez walked in after just nine laps
With the knowledge that this could well be his final grand prix for some time – and potentially even the last of his career – Perez was on a mission to demonstrate that his talents were still deserving of a place on the grid for 2021.

On lap nine, however, that mission was cruelly cut short when his Mercedes power unit shut itself off automatically having detected a loss of oil pressure. Perez was left to cruise under the elaborate Yas hotel until he could find a place to pull off circuit and climb out of his Racing Point for the final time.

As a dejected Perez cursed his misfortune, the race was suspended with the intervention of the Virtual Safety Car. With 46 laps remaining, it was still too early for the hard tyres to comfortably last the distance, but with one-stop strategies the order of the day, most of the field streamed into the pit lane.

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Verstappen, Bottas and Hamilton all switched onto the hard tyres and retained their positions. Having started on hard rubber, Daniel Ricciardo opted to stay out as it was still far too early for him to pit. Ferrari also chose to keep both Vettel and Leclerc out on circuit, figuring they had nothing to lose being trying something different to the rest of the field.

With Perez’s stricken car stuck on circuit and requiring a recovery vehicle, a full Safety Car was deployed, bunching the field back up again. The majority of the 19 remaining participants were now on new hard tyres with no further scheduled stops, making the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix a 40-lap ‘sprint race’ – or, more realistically, ‘tyre nurse’ – to the flag.

At the restart, Verstappen made no mistake and led the field out once more. Carlos Sainz Jnr used his fresh rubber to immediately challenge Leclerc along the first back straight and slipstreamed by the Ferrari before the pair had reached turn eight to move into eighth place.

Verstappen wasted no time in reasserting his dominance out front, setting a new fastest lap of the race on his first green flag lap to move 1.5 seconds clear after just a single tour. Unbeknown to the chasing Bottas and Hamilton, Mercedes had opted to turn their power units down on both their cars to help shield against possible MGU-K reliability issues.

“It’s not fully understood yet but there have been failures related to the K on Mercedes engines in the last couple of events,” Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin explained later. “We are operating the power unit in a way that’s as conservative as we can be in order to try and avoid a problem.” However he said it probably cost them less than a tenth of a second per lap.

With no further pit stops planned, the question was now whether the hard tyres would hold until the end of the race. Verstappen had doubts. “I think, for everyone, it will be quite difficult to get to the end,” he opined. Hamilton agreed. “I don’t think these tyres are going to get to the end.”

By now, Verstappen’s lead was increasing at a steady, consistent rate every lap with Mercedes having no answer to the Red Bull’s sheer pace.

The main intrigue came in the three-way scrap between Racing Point, McLaren and Renault for the prize of third place in the constructors’ championship. Racing Point’s hopes of holding onto the place had been dealt a heavy blow in the loss of Perez and were compounded further when Pierre Gasly dived by Lance Stroll into turn 11 to take ninth place.

Daniil Kvyat, AlphaTauri, Yas Marina, 2020
The race was a processional affair
Ricciardo was doing an admirable job in fifth place keeping ahead of the two McLarens on old tyres. But with the Renault due to stop, his future team McLaren looked increasingly likely to snatch third in the final race of the season. Ricciardo eventually pitted on lap 40 and was able to rejoin behind the McLarens in seventh.

With Verstappen pulling ever further away and Hamilton seemingly unable to mount any challenge to his team mate in second place, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was already looking like a foregone conclusion.

On the world feed broadcast, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was briefly shown to be far more absorbed in what was on his phone than by any of the data or live TV feeds in front of him. “The amount of messages I got during the race with the sleeping emoji was the most I ever got,” he later admitted.

Someone else on the Mercedes pit wall clearly wanted more action, however, and so Bottas was given encouragement to try and close the gap to the leader and “give everything you’ve got”. And for the second time in the race, that order was met by Bottas falling even further behind from the leader. Almost immediately, Bottas dropped from lapping in the 1’41s into the 1’42s, falling further adrift of Verstappen who continued to drive with almost robotic consistency.

Alexander Albon, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2020
Albon had one of his better drives this season
As the final few laps monotonously ticked by, the only person able to match Verstappen’s pace was his team mate, Albon. Over the course of the final 15 laps of the race, he gradually eroded Hamilton’s 10 second advantage. At the end of a tumultuous season for Albon, the racing gods were presenting a final opportunity for him to stake his claim to his seat for next season.

With five laps remaining, the gap was just five seconds and fell to just two with three laps to go. Feeling racy, Albon asked for pointers as to where the Mercedes look weakest, but, in typical Yas Marina fashion, any potential for an actual battle failed to materialise by the time the chequered flag was in hand.

It had been a frustrating season in many ways for Verstappen, despite being arguably his strongest and most consistent year-long performance so far. But once more, the 23-year-old had made the most of an opportunity for victory when it had presented itself and he crossed the line to a shower of sparks as he closed out the 2020 season with his second win. Having led every lap from pole, it was as dominant a performance as any from Hamilton this season.

Beyond the satisfaction of victory, Verstappen had given Mercedes something to think about as they head into the winter. For Verstappen, who hailed Red Bull as having done “everything right” that weekend, the result just showed how important it is that Red Bull are able to mount a similar challenge to Mercedes from the moment the team arrives at Melbourne next season.

Lando Norris, McLaren, Yas Marina, 2020
Norris briefly ran ahead of Albon, but had to settle for fifth…
“I just hope that we learn from previous years that we have to be stronger in the beginning of the season to be able to give them a little bit of a harder time,” he said.

Despite another uneventful race in second where he was unable to put up a fight for the win, Valtteri Bottas was satisfied with his weekend’s work. After another season of securing second in the championship, far adrift from his team mate’s points tally, Bottas took solace from beating Hamilton, even if the world champion may not have been performing at his peak.

For Albon, fourth place was perhaps one of his strongest results of the season and the kind of performance Red Bull both expect and need to be able to offer a more genuine fight to Mercedes in 2021. Albon described his weekend as his best of the season in terms of performance and will be encouraged to learn team principal Christian Horner echoed that sentiment. With a decision still to be made over the fate of the team’s second seat for next year, Albon had finished the year as strong as he could.

Some 40 seconds further back, the two McLarens of Norris and Sainz were greeted with jubilation from their team upon reaching the chequered flag, thus securing third in the constructors’ championship. A post-race investigation into Sainz driving too slowly in the pit lane under Safety Car quickly acquitted the departing Spaniard and confirmed the team’s best result since Hamilton’s final season with the team in 2012.

Sainz later credited McLaren CEO Zak Brown for the team’s turnaround in fortune, but said that after celebrating that evening with the team, his focus would turn immediately to his future with Ferrari.

Carlos Sainz Jnr, McLaren, Yas Marina, 2020
…while sixth for Sainz secured third in the points for the team
With Sainz incoming, Vettel’s bittersweet final season with the Prancing Horse had come to an end. Vettel was magnanimous about his tenure with the team he holds so dear to his heart and expressed special gratitude to the team’s mechanics.

For Ferrari, the chequered flag signalled the end of the team’s worst season in 40 years. Sporting director Laurent Mekies described the season as “extremely difficult”, but claimed their midfield exploits had emboldened the team by forcing them out of their comfort zone.

Ricciardo took sixth in his final race for Renault before his move to McLaren. He admitted that his evening’s work had “felt like a time trial” rather than a race, but was still satisfied with securing fifth in the drivers’ championship after his strategy had been compromised by the early Safety Car. Ricciardo signed off in style, producing the fastest lap of the race to bag an extra point on the final lap.

Renault’s pain at missing out on third in the constructors’ championship paled in comparison to Racing Point, who had come agonisingly close to their best ever result since the team’s initial guise as Jordan. It was also a heartbreaking way for the team’s stalwart driver Perez to reach his end with the team he had helped to save from collapse just two years before. After 10 seasons in the sport, the question of whether Perez will be on the grid for an 11th will surely be answered soon.

Out of all drivers, Gasly likely had the most fun on his way to eighth place. On a track regularly pilloried for being preclusive to overtaking, Gasly had made more on-track passes than anyone – and later claimed to have prepared especially for it.

“We practised a couple of things in testing last year particularly for this track,” explained Gasly. “I had the chance to really put it on track now in real racing and it helped us to pass today.”

Esteban Ocon, Renault, Yas Marina, 2020
Ocon passed Stroll for ninth at the end
Arguably the most satisfying pass of the day was performed by Esteban Ocon, who sliced past Stroll on the final lap on the run to turn 11 as the pair rounded out the final points paying positions of the year. It was a frustrating end to a year of ups and downs for Stroll, who had suffered many setbacks throughout the years as well as having shown flashes of true ability at times. His demeanour when Ocon greeted him in the television pen after the race made plain his discomfort at ending the year being passed by the driver he replaced two years ago.

At the back of the field, Haas had decided to bid farewell to a truly forgettable season by gifting both Kevin Magnussen and Pietro Fittipaldi the opportunity to enjoy their likely final laps in Formula 1 on fresh rubber. While Magnussen had nothing but well wishes for the team and said that he would be “rooting for them” in the years ahead, he also could not hide his excitement at the prospect of fighting for wins in IMSA GT next season.

And so, the 2020 season had come to an end. The history books will forever mark this year as one of Lewis Hamilton’s most crushingly dominant campaigns where he both equalled and surpassed Michael Schumacher’s most prestigious achievements. But under the extraordinary circumstances of this year, 2020 was always likely to live long in the memory.

Despite the greatest logistical challenges the sport had ever seen, Formula 1 had still succeeded in producing a full season’s worth of racing. The unexpected inclusion of a wealth of new venues on the calendar had only served to make the voices calling for more ‘traditional’ circuits in the sport louder. The soporific conclusion at Yas Marina pressed that point home harder.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2020
The lifeless race had a spectacular sign-off
Until Covid-19 intervened, this was intended to be the final race under the current aerodynamic regulations. With 2021 set up in many ways to be ‘part two’ of the now concluded championship, Verstappen’s victory provides a tantalising tease for what could be a fascinating prospect for next season, already less than 100 days away.

But as the two Mercedes filled the pit grid with tyre smoke in synchronised celebration of their season-long success, it was, in many ways, a tribute to everything the sport had achieved. In a year where the world had been brought to a standstill, Formula 1 had found a way to continue on, safely and respectfully.

Hopefully we won’t be left to wait quite as long for the next season of racing to begin.

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Will Wood
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56 comments on “Verstappen fires 2021 warning shot as Mercedes suffer surprise Abu Dhabi defeat”

  1. Yesterday’s race has a rating of around 3.3/10 —the lowest on racefans/f1fanatics. !! (as voted by us fans through the rate the race article)

  2. > Verstappen fires 2021 warning shot as Mercedes suffer surprise Abu Dhabi defeat

    Verstappen won a race in a car that has been developed until now vs a car which development stopped months ago, against a team that won everything three races ago, against an Hamilton that couln’t even hold the “champagne” bottle with his post-covid, on a track where the same quali positions are expected on the finish line and… well, against Bottas. Won’t call it a warning shot. I absolutely hope he’ll be there to fight for the championship next season, but we’ll need a miracle for that.

    1. @m-bagattini agree 100%, Red Bull finishing the season strong is almost analogous to Bottas winning the first race of the season. I doubt very much that Melbourne will be anything short of a Mercedes blowout and even if this doesn’t happen it will probably be down to specific circumstances rather than a changing of the guard..

    2. Jose Lopes da Silva
      14th December 2020, 12:01

      And unfortunately we’ll have to watch “The Return of Valtteri Bottas 4”. It’s admirable for the mental strenght revealed, but after 4 straight defeats we should have some sort of rule mandating the driver to give his place.

      1. Came here to post basically this. Next year’s Merc will be as much ahead at the start of the season as this year’s one was.

        1. I don’t think so. Maybe they have the same advantage that they had at 2020 opening. Yes, I know they’ve been working a 2021 aero since few months ago, but they are losing DAS. With a bit of luck RBR will be in strike range.

          With a lot of luck Ferrari could close the gap, but I think their problems with the chassis are harder to overcome than the PU. Realistically they’ll celebrate if they trade blow with McLaren.

          So, I really hope we have some fights for the 4 first positions and for the midfield.

    3. Oh and as @krichelle said, Mercedes has also limited their PU output because of a problem at the MGU-K!

    4. +1 Plus Mercedes were clearly being ultra-conservative in giving up track position of both drivers with the SC pit stop. Even Horner was surprised/relieved. Why on earth did they do so? Presumably because putting their drivers on different strategies carried the risk of Hamilton finishing ahead of VB. And that in Mercedes-world is ‘unfair’ even if it meant one of their cars actually winning the race. Or – going deeper down the rabbit hole – the whole weekend was built around Bottas winning the race, or finishing second if Max was too good, to ensure he won second place in the WDC.

      The reality is a fit Hamilton in a Mercedes that hadn’t been tuned down (I’m sceptical about the 0.1 second a lap reduction Mercedes claimed given the relative performances of both Red Bull and McLaren) would probably have got pole and won the race from there with Verstappen second or third. So no, not really a Red Bull renaissance.

      1. the whole weekend was built around Bottas winning the race, or finishing second if Max was too good, to ensure he won second place in the WDC

        Needless, fourth was enough

  3. I am looking forward to a closer contest next year, not just between RB and Merc but RP, McLaren, Ferrari and Renault. They will have some of the best drivers on the grid and with the cars being largely the same as this year, I would think/hope the contest will be cut throat.

  4. Yesterday’s race has a rating of around 3.3/10 —the lowest on racefans/f1fanatics. !! (as voted by us fans through the rate the race article)

    1. Which I’m impressed by, I thought people would welcome a race where performance isn’t dictated by mercedes, sure not a lot of action but for the track it wasn’t even bad, in the midfield.

      1. @esploratore Abu Dhabi showed that the problem is not if one driver or one team wins all the races, but the way in which they are won. You can have different winners in almost every race but if they are not competitive victories it becomes boring and just, well, random..

        1. @fw11b Ditto. Lewis winning on 3 wheels was a bang even if it was the usual Lewis winning.

          1. petebaldwin (@)
            14th December 2020, 16:57

            @m-bagattini – Totally agree. That’s why a lot of Lewis’ domination has felt a bit boring and hollow to me. It’s like watching Usain Bolt easily win the 100m in 15 seconds against a bunch of 7 year olds.

            The stats look great but when you count the moments where he really shone, there aren’t as many as there should have been. It’s not his fault at all but it’s a real shame his legacy is coasting to titles unchallenged rather than the excitement and aggression we saw in the early part of his career.

      2. petebaldwin (@)
        14th December 2020, 16:52

        @esploratore – It’s not down to Lewis winning or not – it’s whether the race is exciting. Lewis cruising around winning without having to put 50% effort in is boring but this time, it was Max winning easily as Hamilton backed off and Bottas wasn’t fast enough to keep up with the pace.

        The race scored lower than usual because the GOAT crew rated it low as well due to Max winning. They saw what the rest of us see in F1 most weeks….

        1. @petebaldwin you are focussing just on what was happening at the front, but given that quite a few posters here talk quite a bit about the midfield scraps as offering the best entertainment, I would say that your scope is a bit too narrow there.

          In this case, the early safety car and the relatively low drop off in tyre wear for the hard tyres meant there was little variation in pace and almost no strategic variety, whilst most drivers seemed to be taking the approach of just wanting to get the car to the end to ensure they finished and wanted to get the best results for their teams.

          For example, if you look at the case of Ricciardo, he was able to do a long first stint on the hard tyres, then ran a shirt stint on the mediums near the end. Now, normally you would have expected a driver whose tyres were 30 laps fresher than his rivals and also one compound softer would have been closing up to his rivals at a rapid rate, but Ricciardo struggled to make much headway – he was only gaining a few tenths of a second per lap on the McLaren’s ahead of him (with Norris able to set his best lap time on lap 53, despite his tyres being 42 laps old).

          It was more of a case of most teams and drivers taking little risk, almost no strategic variety and excessive field spread that meant nobody was really in a position to attack or was really making an effort to attack.

    2. Extremely boring race, not helped by the safety car.

      I can understand we have few tracks where overtaking is not possible, Monaco, Bacelona, Abu Dhabi; and it is good to have races where qualifying is very important.

      But at least Monaco has 1) the thrill of going between close walls and hence a constant threat of safety car and 2) a fair chance of rain in some of the years. Barcelona doesn’t have the 1st but at least the 2nd. Abu Dhabi has neither.

      The most exciting thing about the weekend was honestly Alonso’s R25 run

      1. I agree, there are tracks which hard but to overtake but at least seem challenging or have the capacity to produce unexpected results like Monaco, Spain, Hungary or even Baku. I doubt Abu Dhabi will ever be a challenging track.

        From what I’ve heard the original circuit had a different layout but subsequent changes made to the project, in part to placate the owner’s wishes, led to its current form. If that is case (which is something that probably happens in every circuit), assuming money is not the problem, why don’t they change it? I mean, it’s the most beautiful circuit on the map and all, but it just seems like a shame to waste so much money on such a boring track. How anybody enjoy the race?

  5. On a really serious note: I really don’t think we should get over ourselves with Verstappen’s win. It was a great and calm performance. However, as a comment above said, Mercedes stopped developing the W11 version of 2020. In addition to that, it took Mercedes turning down the power units of all cars due to MGU-K issues and Hamilton coming back from the virus. From the get go, it already looked like that overtaking and following was going to be horrible. One must wonder if the result would have changed if Mercedes decided to leave one of their cars out during the safety car period.

    This track layout is great for driving, but not for entertainment. FIA better find a balance for this circuit in the future.

    1. @krichelle Better to wait until the next set of technical regulations that intend to make following other cars easier before considering any changes to the track itself.

      1. Hm, @jerejj, in general, I would agree with you that changing it now, ahead of the rule changes is not a good idea. But this track was bad before since the first race we had here. None of the “best practice” things Tilke incorporated ever worked as he planned them for F1 cars, and while it is not quite as bad for some series, the track doesn’t give good racing in any category. And no, I don’t even think it is good, let along great for driving @krichelle, otherwise we would have more drivers actually remarking about that, like they did about Imola, Portimao and Mugello after the respective saturdays, before telling us they expected a bit of a boring race.

        The biggest problem probably is that the worst parts of the track cannot be easily changed.

        1. It can be changed and the Hotel would still have good views of the circuit

          1. @doctorlovesexy The runoff area of the hairpin is insufficient for the approach speeds without the chicane. Extending the runoff below the North grandstand (the same as West) is something that should’ve been done in the construction phase back in the day. The same with the last corner runoff in your alternative configuration space-wise.

        2. I don’t know why I can’t write this link of the alternate layout of Yas Marina

  6. Rather than disparaging a race which Ham finished 3rd… what a coincidence. sky could have already prepared filler for this wonderful GP, review the season, talk next year, talk drivers, talk stats and trivia. all but one sky covered abu dhabi gp had something on the line. It is always like this. Sky tried to improvise but failed, “we love this place but” rubbisbudoes not cut it, no amount of croft giggles can liven things up. f1 is awful, is a talk no one wants to have when your favourite driver wins. No one wants to devalue that, besides crofty claiming that max supporters probably loved the race is infuriating since, this max procession is preceeded by 70 Ham processions.

  7. There are no warning shots here, championship done and dusted, merc engines turned down, Hamilton had covid-19 days before and wasnt asymptomatic and Bottas likely just wanted to go home and reset for next year.

  8. Unusually sensationalist headline for Race Fans, must be said…

    As others have pointed out, this result wasn’t exactly “surprising” – Unwell Hamilton, Mercedes turning the wick down, track that doesn’t lend itself to position changes, no extenuating race circumstances mixing up the strategy.

  9. Mercedes admitted they have turned the engines down as soon as it became apparent Bottas has secured 2nd in WDC.

    1. No they did not. All merc engines lost about 0,1 sec a lap.

  10. So Red Bull to be behind by nearly a second in Australia when Mercedes are actually competing again :-D

  11. Mercedes stopped developing their car a few months ago, to concentrate on the 2021 car. So assuming 2021 is like 2020 Mercedes will dominate at the start and Red Bull will have caught up by race #19 or something.

  12. Max….one gust of wind does not make a storm. You think the Mercs won’t twist their knobs to 12? Your success will improve the response from the bigger better team. So maybe a good finish only riles the Dragon to be restless. Nice win Max but you’ve shot your team in the foot as it is said. Expect retaliation that you and the rest of the teams will feel in Australia. You deserve it now that you have earned it.

    1. Hmm maybe Max should have let Bottas and Hamilton pass him then. So RB will stay out of trouble in 2021.

  13. Dave (@davewillisporter)
    14th December 2020, 14:58

    While I agree that the race that wasn’t was a combination of track layout and the other best driver being off his game, Mercs performance from the MGU-K problem was according to James Vowles only 0.1 second per lap deficit in the raceand and in qualy they used the full beans. This was a race where A. Redbull finally found the Eureka moment with their car after months of trying new parts and binning them and B. where Merc just couldn’t get the car to work and had constant understeer and balance issues.
    Given the minor design changes allowed next year and the aero tech restrictions for the rear of the car, having a good 2020 base model the team understands well and works well will help. It would appear Redbull are finally there.
    I expect Merc to be ahead again at the start of the 2021 season but Redbull should not take long to start to be competitve, at least not as long as they took this year. Add to that a certain Mexican tyre whisperer bringing up the rear for Max and, in theory at least, we should have some proper fights at the front.
    That said, the amount of highly entertaining races we had in 2020 was pretty damn good. The numbers don’t tell the full story. Whacky year!

  14. Have to chuckle at the predictable comments. TW says LH’s illness would not have stopped Max from winning in a strong RBR car on the day and over the weekend. Mercedes says their conservative running of the car for preservation sake only cost them .1 seconds. You’d think they would have exaggerated that a bit more to excuse their performance and yet they chose to make that sound insignificant and not an excuse. But of course as soon as these comments don’t favour LH or Mercedes, and in fact make it look like Max and RBR won on merit, suddenly LH fans beloved team is lying. Nice fans. As soon as they get beat their comments are not to be believed and the fans’ excuses come out in droves. Suddenly Merc is in the business of just cruising it and foregoing their usual 1-2 effort, because well you know…meh. Let’s just crank it down and orchestrate the weekend to ensure VB doesn’t get embarrassed by Max coming second in the WDC even though Max doesn’t care if he comes second or third.

    Imho, if LH wasn’t up to it he shouldn’t have raced. But yet he was up to it and he did race. No excuses there. He decided to race and the team and FIA gave their blessing, end of. Max wins and suddenly it’s oh ya well Merc stopped developing their car months ago so nah nah na nah nah. Ok, so what did that get them? RBR have perhaps caught up a bit in recent races and Merc lost the last race and from their own talk seemed helpless to do anything about it this weekend. Ah but they cranked their car down for conservation. Ok, so the fact that they had to do that is not cause for praise. RBR didn’t have to. Perhaps Merc should have kept working and developing more than fans seem to think they did, rather than just stopping and coasting and thinking about next year. Is it a fact that RBR kept developing this year to the detriment of next year’s car? Nobody from their armchair can know that.

    Oh of course I don’t take their win as anything other than a ‘warning’ that they got stronger as the season went along, and will take some momentum from this weekends race. But do I think Mercedes feel warned or threatened? No I don’t. I think it will now be up to the teams to all ply their trade to the new cars that by virtue of the fact that they will have less floor, and thus less downforce, and will thus seek ways to make up for that, will certainly mean they will all be learning about their cars next year like they were new and redesigned, which they will be, and therefore setup work will change, as will learning how to get the best from whatever tires they have change from this year. It will be a bit of a clean slate for next year for all of them. Of course as usual I always give the nod to the team that goes into a new season as the reigning WCC Champs. They have earned to be the benchmark target and are the favourites until we see where they all stand amongst each other once they race in anger again next year.

    For now let’s all hope Mercedes has some closer competition next year for that is what your beloved LH seems to crave (as long as he can say it from a position of dominance), because we know that VB will not provide the show vs LH. It might very possibly be up to Max again next year to provide the show. And if he does provide a strong challenge I’m sure many will simply claim it is the car, just as yesterday to many he simply had the dominant car so what were we to expect, just as is not allowed to be said of LH when he wins.

    1. Wait a second.

      It’s contract time and Lewis comes back yesterday to stamp out George Russell’s amazing results in HIS CAR. Competitive Smart Clever Crush of a future champion at the very time it was most effective.

      Smarter than snot huh?

      1. I don’t think the family of a team called Mercedes, that surrounds and supports LH as their own, would play games with him like that. LH didn’t need to stamp anything out. He didn’t need to prove anything to ensure he gets all he needs and wants in a new contract. He didn’t need to shut GR out of yesterday’s racing in spite of not feeling 100% for fear of being shown up, which I assume is what you are implying. They wouldn’t hold him getting Covid against him. Surely Mercedes doesn’t make him feel that insecure about his position there. GR is a great up and comer for them, but that has nothing to do with the time LH still has and has earned on the team, other than I think they should hire GR for 2022 to start learning from LH. GR has everything to prove yet in F1 particularly about leading Championships under pressure, which remains to be seen as to how much pressure he will be under from other drivers once he’s in that seat beside LH. Besides…did LH really stamp out GR’s performance anyway? LH’s weekend was meh by his standards.

        1. The future is George Russell not Bottas. Paring him with Lewis now has the promise of establishing him already in place when Lewis hangs it up in three seasons. Bottas has been an exemplary teammate but Lewis needs a new follower a new number two, to attack the youth movement in the sport today. Mercedes will need to get ready for the end of Lewis and there isn’t anybody better suited at the moment. Thanks to Bottas his role was important. Mercedes needs too look deeper into their own future. GR is that answer

    2. @robbie Phew! And breathe :o)
      I’d just say it’s about Red Bull not Max Verstappen. Max drove another great race, pretty much Lewis-esque in fact, getting poll and leading from the off. No mistakes, excellent, consistent pace. The question is whether he pushed the Red Bull even further than he’s done all year, or some other factors intervened. Albon’s (relative) pace and those of other teams suggest that the difference was down to Mercedes losing performance with the car. Max capitalized on the cars being (perhaps) roughly equal and beat both Bottas and Hamilton, no excuses. But is that a realistic ‘warning shot’ for 2021? That’s the question posed by the article. And no, I don’t think so. We already know MV is good enough to match LH and promise a fantastic fight in equal-ish cars. But are Red Bull really any closer? Doubtful. I’d say it’s more likely Ferrari make a leap forward.

      1. @david-br Lol re the Phew, and breathe. Fair comment. Yeah as to next year for sure Mercedes will be Mercedes, and apparently Ferrari has a new pu or is it ICE? And certainly they have the most to gain since they are a top team and likely won’t/shouldn’t stay for long out of the top 3. But Honda is supposed to have a new pu/engine too, and there is also the Newey factor. So yeah, I think even if Ferrari makes a leap, which indeed they can do and need to do given where they are coming from, I hope that the different floor and the adjustments they make for that will end up having Newey/Max much closer to LH than this year.

        1. @robbie I think we’ve all been hoping for a Newey miracle since even the Dan Ric days, but it just hasn’t seemed to materialise.

          Every year RBR seem to finish strong and closer to Mercedes and every year I’ve thought “at last they’ve gotten it sorted” only to be disappointed immediately when they start testing the following year.

          Less changes “might” make a difference but I just can’t get the confidence that I used to have. Still hoping for the best though even though it won’t benefit our Perth driver any more.

    3. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      14th December 2020, 18:57

      @robbie Despite an underlying understanding of the dynamics of what we have seen and probably will see, I find your bizarre rants about Lewis fans kind of eradicates any sensible points you make. You sound like a cult member talking about another cult. As a fan of Lewis and one who sticks to facts, if you have a problem with a particular take, point out why it’s wrong. Ranting inanely just means people stop reading halfway through your post and label you a nutjob. There are a lot of dumb takes on this site from people who either don’t understand what they are watching or just want to troll. You want to deal with them? Deal with THEM!
      This for example from @broke84

      There are no warning shots here, championship done and dusted, merc engines turned down, Hamilton had covid-19 days before and wasnt asymptomatic and Bottas likely just wanted to go home and reset for next year.

      1. Merc engines were not turned down, the MGU-K duty cycle was limited causing a 0.1 second deficit per lap on race day only. (Quote James Vowles)
      2. Yes, Lewis was off his game but he couldn’t get the car to handle how he wanted it to. His end of race physical condition had no bearing on that. Merc didn’t get to the bottom of the set up problems.
      3. Valtteri clearly wanted to win, he even asked Toto to give him a pep talk before qualy. He just couldn’t, and neither could Lewis.
      Max drove clean away from both Mercs by 0.5 to 1 second per lap and the DNA of the cars stays relatively unchanged for next year. The reason Merc have won the development race for 7 years is because they treat these events as warning shots. If they had your take they would have lost a few instead of breaking records.
      Speaking as a Lewis fan, Max bossed it, just like Lewis does.

      1. @davewillisporter Fair comment. Yeah I did rant a bit and I don’t usually do that and I was actually responding to the ‘them’ that you refer to in general. I acknowledge I could have communicated the sentiments of your 3 points without the rhetoric, but I guess with Max’s win and the instant excuse factory that then evolved, it twigged me. It’s not my usual style.

        1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
          14th December 2020, 19:51

          @robbie No probs man. Infinitely better response than some posters! At least I could pick out the facts and get that you get it, unlike some, shall we say fantastical, delusional, hopefully trolls if not I feel sorry for them people!

    4. I think Hamilton just wasn’t good enough. COVID made no real difference.

      He was fine in the interviews after the practice sessions. That’s two 1.5 hour sessions, he wasn’t exhausted in the slightest. He was already talking about it taking until half way through the second practice session to feel comfortable in the car again. I don’t know if I buy that excuse. He went two weeks between races. Isn’t that the standard break between most race weekends?

      Qualifying is not an endurance test in the slightest, yet Hamilton was still behind Bottas and Verstappen.

      Hamilton is often only a tenth ahead Bottas at most. When Bottas is quicker it’s usually by a similar margin. They have the closest average qualifying gap on the grid. It seemed like a standard margin in qualifying.

      If Hamilton was genuinely affected by the affects of COVID (despite it being 10 days from being diagnosed to being completely cured), he wouldn’t been able to hang onto the back of Bottas during the race.

  15. Often the end of one season tells us the what should happen in the next season.
    I see three 2020 teams winning again in 2021. With Aston Martin winning three times and RedBull winning five times. Add to that one or possibly two breakout lucky wins by ?? Like AlphaTauri in 2020.
    The rest goes to the Black Mercedes assuming F1 continues the racism campaign. So the Title does go to Mercedes and number eight for the great one. Pretty much completely accurate.

    Look 2021 is just waiting for the next gen 2022 race cars. Unlikely 2021 will give us any major surprise with regards to racing cars nothing outside impacting. Racing in 2021 will follow as predicted hoping all will make it through to race the future machines of 2022.

  16. Still no article on a four-time World Champion leaving a legendary team graciously, setting up an example for any great driver after him? No, of course not, pointless braggings about turning your engine down are apparently far greater hit among the British.

    1. It’s never the car/team’s merit when He owns the race, but it’s always the car/team’s fault when He doesn’t

  17. Verstappen fires warning shot for 2021

    Mercedes stopped developing their 2020 car and focused on the 2021 car early. Red Bull continued to introduce upgrades because they had more at stake namely trying to get Max into #2 WDC. I do not understand the headline. This was a great performance by Max but this kind of performance wasn’t too out of the ordinary for Max. It is not surprising that he wiped the floor with Mercedes after they let their guard down.

  18. Mercedes will be as dominant next year as this year.

    Let’s not forget that in the Sakhir race (which was supposed to have seen Mercedes advantage nullified), the two Mercs locked out the front row and were leading 1-2 before shooting themselves in the foot.

    The Merc is so dominant that George Russell could jump into the car and within 48 hours was set to comfortably take his first F1 win. His two recovery drives were spectacular as well.

    The best hope for a closer championship is probably a Hamilton-Bottas combination next year rather than Russell-Bottas or Russell-Hamilton. The Russell combinations are the far better lineups. Given that within 48 hours he was already dominating Bottas, it’s scary what Russell would be doing if he had team backing as a number one driver.

    1. @deanfranklin What on earth? Sakhir was supposed to show how much engine advantage Mercedes has over the other teams. Indeed it showed that it isn’t that big.

      1. Mercedes typically run higher downforce. Strongest car in slow corners too.

  19. Unusually sensationalist headline from racefans….. Going by what has happened over this season.

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