How Mercedes left Red Bull unable to respond to Hamilton’s victory charge in Spain

2021 Spanish Grand Prix review

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Preparation matters.

Lewis Hamilton overcame a 24-second time deficit to hunt down and pass Max Verstappen to win the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix. But Mercedes had laid the foundations of that victory long before the lights went out on Sunday.

Their big-picture view of the strategy for the entire weekend meant they were able to rely on a crucial advantage at the perfect moment, and leave Red Bull with no ability to respond.

But at a circuit which has always proved kind to the world champions, was losing this race really the blow to the championship underdogs that it seemed to be?

Mercedes have been so dominant on Saturdays in Catalunya that it is a wonder the circuit’s officials haven’t painted the front row grid markings silver in their honour.

Hamilton’s 100th pole put him in a strong position
Having secured pole in all seven Spanish Grands Prix in the V6 era – with six front row lockouts – it was little surprise to see Hamilton reach the milestone of 100 pole positions in qualifying which he missed in Portugal a week earlier. But with Verstappen less than half a tenth of a second behind, and sharing the front row of the grid with him, the threat from Red Bull was very much real, for the fourth consecutive race weekend.

“I think second for us here on this track was very good today,” said Verstappen on Saturday. “We know that they’re hard to beat around here, but to be that close, I can be happy with that.”

A carefully restricted crowd of 1,000 Spanish spectators had been allowed to attend the race on Sunday – enough to give Fernando Alonso “extra adrenaline” as he prepared to race on home ground for the first time in three years.

Overcast skies greeted the teams as they prepared for the fourth round of the 2021 season, but not even a light sprinkling of rain was enough to convince anyone that this would be anything other than a direct fight between the Mercedes duo and Verstappen.

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With Valtteri Bottas third on the grid in the other Mercedes, and Verstappen’s team mate Sergio Perez starting a relatively lowly eighth on the grid – well out of the picture for the front runners – Mercedes planned to neutralise Verstappen on the 600 metre sprint to the first corner.

Verstappen stayed close to Hamilton as the cars left the grid
As 19 cars correctly lined up on the grid for the start, Pierre Gasly was a little too eager to get to the first corner and drew to a stop beyond the boundaries of his 12th place grid slot. He would later be rewarded with a five-second time penalty for his eagerness.

When the lights finally went out, Mercedes’ planned pincer movement on Verstappen promptly backfired.

“Valtteri was obviously starting third and the goal was to work as a team,” later explained Hamilton. “So I’d stay to the left.”

But when Verstappen tucked in behind Hamilton for a slipstream boost, Hamilton kept to the left, as planned, hoping that Bottas would cover the inside, forcing Verstappen to yield under braking for the first corner.

The problem was, Bottas was not there.

Hamilton’s commitment left a gap to the inside small enough for most drivers to decide to back out, by easily large enough for a Verstappen to take without hesitation

Start, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021
Hamilton gave Verstappen room as the Red Bull dived past
Verstappen held firm to the inside and pushed his way through into the lead, almost forcing Hamilton to bail to the escape road. Bottas, who’d failed to get away quite as well as the pair ahead, could only watch as Charles Leclerc drove clean around the outside of him at turn three to take third position. What should have been their cars running one-two had instead turned into second and fourth for Mercedes.

With F1’s current-spec cars and the Circuit de Catalunya’s technical layout combining for notoriously poor overtaking opportunities, Verstappen and Hamilton quickly began stretching their legs out front, leaving a frustrated Bottas struggling to find a way past the Ferrari.

Over the opening laps, the leading pair pulled away to be almost ten seconds clear of Leclerc. But that would change on lap seven.

Running in 16th place, Yuki Tsunoda was asked to change to “mode six” on his Honda power unit. Whatever it was intended to do for him, however, instantly losing all life in his car and crawling to a stop on the exit of turn 10 was likely not the intended outcome.

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A full engine reboot did not solve the apparently fatal problem and with the leaders coming past the scene on their next lap, Tsunoda decided to abandon his machine, until being instructed to remain in the car while the field passed by.

Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021
Luckless Giovinazzi’s race was ruined in the pits
Unsurprisingly, the Safety Car was deployed to allow the stricken AlphaTauri to be removed. While still far too early for the leaders to consider stopping – everyone bar Kimi Raikkonen had started the race on soft tyres – towards the rear of the field Williams pair George Russell and Nicholas Latifi decided it was worth a gamble, as did Antonio Giovinazzi in the Alfa Romeo.

In a cruel stroke of luck, Giovinazzi’s new front-left tyre was discovered to be flat as he arrived into his pit box. He was eventually fitted with four correctly inflated tyres and released an eon later, but he was still over 10 seconds from the field when the race restarted on lap 11.

Verstappen made no mistakes in leading the pack away as Hamilton gave chase, while Leclerc continued to hold third in the Ferrari. With their new tyres, the Williams pair made light work of passing the Haas cars of Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher ahead.

Eventually, those still on the softs reached their pit window and the first round of stops began as the field looked to the medium tyres to try and take them, potentially, to the end of the race.

With the leaders hitting traffic and knowing that Verstappen could soon be in, Hamilton began to push, closing the gap to Verstappen within DRS range. After all the pre-race chatter had been on the effectiveness of the ‘undercut’, surely Red Bull would need to pre-empt Mercedes to hold track position?

Red Bull kept Verstappen out, content with his pace and confident in their own strategy. Then he suddenly appeared in the pit lane.

Verstappen “called himself in” for first pit stop
The Red Bull mechanics scrambled to fit a fresh set of mediums onto the car, leading to a delay of around two seconds that could easily have been much more. But was it a late call from the team?

“No, he called himself in,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner later revealed.

“We weren’t expecting it, which is why the pits weren’t ready. I think the boys did a phenomenal job to recover so quickly. We lost minimal time and managed to retain track position so managed to salvage it very well there.”

Verstappen put the confusion down to a “miscommunication”.

“I thought I had to pit that lap and clearly I didn’t,” he explained. “But luckily we didn’t lose too much time.”

Eventually, Verstappen rejoined the race, but the door appeared to be open for Hamilton and Mercedes to respond immediately. However Mercedes kept the new race leader out on track for the time being, as Verstappen quickly ate away any advantage he would have had over his rival.

Hamilton eventually pitted on lap 29, rejoining six seconds behind Verstappen before whittling the gap down to within just a few seconds.

But rather than go all out to find a way by the Red Bull, Hamilton was instead content to carry out some intense analysis of his championship rival’s strengths and weaknesses.

Hamilton studied Verstappen’s style
“It was actually a really good day as I learnt a lot about Max today,” he later explained. “As soon as he got past in turn one, I was like, ‘okay, switching in to a different mode.’

“When you are with people on track, you get to see different things and watch closely. And obviously I was following relatively closely. So I learnt a lot about his car and a lot about how uses it.”

While conventional wisdom suggested that a two-stop strategy was wisest, the lack of overtaking opportunities around the Barcelona circuit meant that a one-stop might be plausible. But making the mediums last for over 40 laps around the high speed, constant radius corners would be a tall order indeed.

“Even though a one-stop potentially looked better,” said Hamilton, “I know from experience here that a one-stop is very, very hard to pull off.”

It was at that moment when Mercedes chose to play the ace up their sleeve. Unlike Red Bull and Verstappen, who had one a single set of medium at their disposal for the race – the ones Verstappen happened to be on – Mercedes had deliberately structured their weekend to make sure they had options available for Sunday.

“It had been the plan all weekend for us to make sure we had two mediums to be able to do a two stop,” explained Hamilton. And on lap 42, Mercedes took advantage of that, calling Hamilton in for a second time.

“I was really conflicted,” Hamilton admitted. “Like, ‘do I come in or do I ignore the call and stay out?’ Obviously I did what the team asked and naturally that’s because there’s a great trust between us.”

The field had opened up enough behind the leaders that Hamilton was able to rejoin in third behind Bottas. He would have 24 laps to take 24 seconds from the leader and successfully covert another aggressive strategy call into victory.

Red Bull were cornered. They knew they were unable to respond – and that they were vulnerable.

“It’d be a hell of a bold decision to pit from the lead on lap 42 when all the predictions are that the tyres should – and they would – have got to the end of the race,” said Horner.

“We had a set of softs that wouldn’t have had the range that those mediums would have had. So I think the reality is whatever we’d have done, they just had a fast car with slightly less degradation than us today.”

As he had in 2019 at the Hungaroring, Hamilton began hunting down Verstappen taking chunks of time out of the leader’s advantage with every lap. Despite the rate Hamilton was catching Verstappen, both Mercedes and Red Bull’s projections suggested that he would be in striking distance on the final lap.

Bottas was told not to cost Hamilton time
All that stood between Hamilton and his target was his team mate. Now freed from Leclerc, Bottas did not make life easy for the much faster Hamilton, but eventually offered no defence as the number 44 Mercedes moved by on lap 52. Hamilton lost around 1.3 seconds dispatching his team mate – which would have been a crucial factor had he indeed caught the leader as late as the strategists predicted.

I definitely could have let him by earlier, but I was doing my own race as well,” Bottas admitted. “I was trying to get Charles off the pit window so I could stop again and try and go for the extra point [for fastest lap]. And so the main thing in my mind was my own race.”

But as the gap shrank further, a sense of inevitability began to creep in – both on the Red Bull pit wall and in the cockpit.

“I knew it was over because I was already struggling with the tyres and you could see that every lap he was getting closer and closer,” said Verstappen. “[I was] a bit of a sitting duck.”

Such was the scale of Hamilton’s advantage, that he was able to catch the leader by lap 60 – far earlier than both teams’ initial projections.

Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021
Verstappen had no chance to keep flying Hamilton behind
With much fresher tyres and the additional benefit of DRS, Hamilton slithered up behind Verstappen on the main straight as the pair began lap 60, before claiming his prey by sweeping by on the outside of turn one.

Defeated, Red Bull immediately pitted Verstappen, to give him fresh softs and a chance of taking the bonus point for fastest lap that he had been denied the previous weekend in the Algarve.

Out in front for the first time proper, Hamilton could afford to take it easy and wound down the remaining kilometres to claim his third victory of the season and his 98th career win.

Unsurprisingly, the plaudits of the victors went to their strategists.

“It was a long way to come back from 20-odd seconds back,” said Hamilton. “But it was a good gamble, really great strategy by the team.”

“Today was brilliant work from the team back home,” added Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff. “It was our head of race strategy, Rosie [Wait]’s, last race before going on maternity leave and I’m so proud.”

Hamilton’s Mercedes was too quick to beat, said Verstappen
For Verstappen and Red Bull, losing a race they had led for so long may have been disappointing, but it wasn’t surprising.

“It shows that we are not there, where we want to be,” admitted Verstappen. “So we have to push hard and catch up because at the moment, we are a little bit slower.”

Christian Horner was more magnanimous. “We’ve got to take the positives out of the weekend that we’ve managed to push Mercedes this close at this circuit, a track where they were a long way ahead of us last year and one that has been a strong point for them.”

Bottas finished third for the third time this season, accepting that losing track position to Leclerc at the start had “really compromised” his afternoon.

Leclerc himself was delighted with ‘best of the rest’ honours in fourth, with Perez finishing in fifth after another weekend where he just had not been able to put it all together.

Daniel Ricciardo led McLaren team mate Lando Norris home for the first time in 2021 with sixth place. “I’m happy, I don’t think any other scenario today we were getting better than sixth,” said a satisfied Ricciardo.

Carlos Sainz Jnr was disappointed in his inability to realise the full potential of his Ferrari at his home grand prix in seventh, while Norris accepted it had not been his best weekend after crossing the line eighth.

A weekend of mixed fortunes for Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly saw them converge on the final lap and sprint over the line with little to separate them as they claimed the final points paying positions on offer.

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021
Ricciardo had a better day in his McLaren
Despite Verstappen and Red Bull leading over 50 laps of the Spanish Grand Prix, only to be hunted down and passed in the final lap, the sting of defeat was lessened by the fact that they would have always expected Mercedes to prevail at one of their favoured circuits.

In the opening salvos of this long championship season, Mercedes and Hamilton had beaten Red Bull and Verstappen in three very different ways: Strategy won the day in Bahrain, they capitalised on Verstappen’s errors in Portugal, and outright speed told in Spain. Another reminder of how formidable is the winning machine Red Bull are striving to defeat.

Yet again, however, Verstappen had been in contention throughout the weekend – demonstrating that they will always be there to capitalise if Mercedes were to ever let their seemingly impenetrable guard down.

But if Red Bull really are to take the fight to such a disciplined, well-prepared stable as Mercedes this season, then Verstappen is certain of what they require.

“We just need a faster car. It’s very simple.”

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After his 100th pole position, Hamilton added the 98th win of his Formula 1 career

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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100 comments on “How Mercedes left Red Bull unable to respond to Hamilton’s victory charge in Spain”

  1. Strategy won the day in Bahrain, they capitalised on Verstappen’s errors in Portugal, and outright speed told in Spain

    I would change this to ‘Verstappen’s error and Hamilton’s sublime driving in Bahrain and outright speed in Portugal and Spain’.

    Even without Max’s errors, Red Bull weren’t quick enough to defeat an absolutely error free Lewis Hamilton in a fast Mercedes at Portugal.

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      10th May 2021, 7:33

      But Hamilton wasn’t error free in Portugal. The only reason he needed to pass Verstappen is because he got caught out in the restart.

      1. Was it an error or did Verstappen do well? It’s very hard for P1 to avoid towing P2 along those 600m from the grid to T1.

        1. It was definitely an error

          1. Bottas was supposed to be covering the inside line, that’s why Hamilton did not move over when approaching the corner. Bottas’ sins are adding up.

        2. @scbriml Hamilton himself admitted he made two errors on that restart. First he took his eye off Bottas at exactly the wrong moment, which meant his reaction was slow. Second he moved to the inside to defend which gave Verstappen the slipstream behind Bottas. You could tell in his interviews he was annoyed at himself for that restart, despite making it up for it later.

          1. @keithedin Yes, but that was Portimau, we were discussing Verstappen passing Hamilton in T1 at Barcelona.

          2. Ricardo Sousa
            10th May 2021, 15:52

            No, they were not:

            “But Hamilton wasn’t error free in Portugal. The only reason he needed to pass Verstappen is because he got caught out in the restart.”

    2. And the sublime gravel driving at Imola, dontcha fugget it

  2. By a pace advantage and exploiting the absence of Perez. Nothing more to it.

    1. Bless

    2. If Perez were there, LH would get past him. It would cost some time anyway… But would still be a good gamble. If it were not enough to pass Vestappen, at least would give him FL. But I really think mercs would stop Ham anyway. The silver made the mistake of stopping Bottas. Maybe RB wouldn’t stop Verstappen if Bottas were in a distance short enough to be ahead of him after pitting.

    3. I disagree. This was clearly a victory via a superior strategy with basically equal cars. When Verstappen pitted and Lewis stayed out after the next lap, I told myself that Mercedes had lost the race. But Mercedes was just pure genius in their strategy and racecraft. If Lewis had just mirrored Verstappen, he would have finished second.

      1. I think it was pretty clear (unfortunately for the season) that the Mercedes had a significant pace advantage, especially on the medium tyre (which covered the vast majority of the distance). Just look how easily HAM could follow VER in the opening phase of the race despite being in dirty air and still making the tyres last longer. As soon as he had clean air he just disappeared. Max knew this as well and therefore intentionally took a bit more risk in the first corners at the start. If Max would have come out 2nd in that corner, Lewis would have built a gap of 10-20 sec already when the first pits stops took place. It would have been a dreadful race to watch, as I fear many will be down the road. This was either way never going to be a win for RedBull. They should get their act together and stop fiddling around with 2nd drivers like they are no good. It is not them, it is Newey. With the disclaimer he still manages to do better than the rest of the field, they are still the only ones to challenge the Mercs… but still… not good enough.

  3. At this point, Mercedes could worry less about race performance. Their race performance appears to be way superior than Red Bull’s. Both cars can qualify in the first two rows of the grid, and they still have the upper hand for the race.

    1. On the other hand, this race really displayed the poor sector 3 of this track that prevents following. Next year’s cars better be more than capable of following in that sector. Otherwise, I think we should make a petition to bring the original final sector layout. Although, bringing back the final two original corners may cause more tyre wear on the cars.

      1. Yes, that last chicane has been too slow for F1 all along – the cars struggle to negotiate it. I understand why they needed to slow that section down and I don’t think we will ever return to the previous high speed corners, but that solution could have been so much more elegant.

        1. That last chicane is not just for cars but also for motorcycles. Luis Salom lost his life in that curve at turn 13(old F1 layout) after which even MotoGP installed the chicane(initially they used F1 chicane but later on had a different one) to slow down bikes.

      2. Or get rid of these micky mouse circuits where you can only overtake, aided by DRS, on the straight. Thats not a circuit, thats some asphalt laying around. I fear we have like 10-12 of them during a season. If you combine that with a 9 year dominance streak of Mercedes you are really ruining the sport. I have seldom seen less capable mngt than what surrounds this sport. It is run by children

    2. @krichelle We have to remember though that the cooler weather conditions and hardest C1-C3 tyre allocations have definitely been more to Mercedes’ liking in the last 2 races. The first two races when Max’s RB was at its most competitive we were using the softer C2-C4 range. I suspect that when the heat ramps up and softer tyre allocations are used particularly C3-C5, it could very well swing the other way.

      Not targeting you but I notice a lot of people saying that the Mercedes is just the outright fastest car plain and simple, but I think it’s more a case of both cars have an equal advantage over the other given the right weather conditions and tyre allocation.

    3. F1oSaurus (@)
      10th May 2021, 11:40

      @krichelle That’s actually the difference. Hamilton does cares about race performance. He puts effort on getting his car set up for the race. In this case he even made sure to have an extra set of medium available for a possible two-stop.

      That’s what you have to put in to win races. Not just to have the fast car. Verstappen has lost plenty of races even when he had the fastest car.

      Verstappen also has not helped his case by the fact that he has been putting in poor laps in Q3 more often than not of course, but still. Also putting a good lap together in Q3 is an important thing.

      It’s not all poles they need though. Like Hamilton showed in Portugal, with his car set up for the race, he still came close to Bottas, but didn’t get pole. While Bottas had been working on getting pole all week in the sim and indeed got pole “all the hard work paid off”, Hamilton’s superior race pace and better tyre management was what gave him the win in the end.

      1. In this case he even made sure to have an extra set of medium available for a possible two-stop.

        These are more likely team decisions that driver directed. There’s nothing to suggest that Lewis is the only one who cares about race performance, RB are probably doing all they can, they’re just struggling for that ultimate speed right now.

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          10th May 2021, 18:29

          There is actually a lot to suggest that Hamilton is much more focused on race pace than others. For one Hamilton says it and proves it with better race pace.

          1. Better race pace is purely a car thing. Verstappen did not made any mistake ( we saw a lot of oversteer slidings by Lewis and only one slight lockup in the last (soft) part by Verstappen when fighting for the fastest lap. A new record btw)

          2. F1oSaurus (@)
            11th May 2021, 7:28

            Yes it’s a car thing in the sense that it’s setup related.

            We saw Verstappen make a pitstop when he wasn’t supposed to. Which resulted in Verstappen running out of tyres before the end of the race. So really, just that pitstop blunder already went a long way in losing the race.

      2. F1trolloSaurus again ;)

        Verstappen has lost plenty of races even when he had the fastest car.

        Not this year as the figures show ( you know Facts, not your Fiction)

        putting in poor laps in Q3 more often than not

        It must be boring living in your dimension. Greetings to the Mad hatter.

        1. Yeah, but Verstappen didn’t start racing in 2021, even though you would like us to believe that.

          Never mind that better race pace is more of a SETUP thing, rather than simply a “car” thing.

          Besides, Lewis Hamilton has explicitly said numerous times that he prioritizes the race over qualifying and sets up his car for it.

          Facts not fiction.

        2. F1oSaurus (@)
          11th May 2021, 7:32

          Even if only looking at 2021, Verstappen had the fastest or at the very least equal car all season. He won only 1 race out of those 4.

          Verstappen had really poor Q3 laps in Imola and Portugal. Plus lets be honest, you thought Verstappen had pole in the back after FP3 and then Q2. He didn’t do the best job there either.

  4. Traffic lead to Max calling in early. He was about to defend under drs. the real reason RB was cornered is Bottas. RB would have retained the position over Ham had they pitted within 2 laps, the problem is Max would have had to overtake Bottas and a heap of traffic. RB has a much inferior car, they fought bravely but they had zero chance of pulling it off, in the end Mercedes was somewhat conservative, they didn’t need to ensure there was an offset between the cars moreover generally speaking the Pirellis don’t seem to provide much of a tyre delta late on stints. Ham had the pace for the overtake.

    1. @peartree Are you really suggesting that Verstappen would be unable to pass Bottas on fresh tyres? He set a fastest lap 1.4s faster than Bottas in almost identical conditions. The RB is not as inferior as you want us to believe.

      1. He set a fastest lap 1.4s faster than Bottas in almost identical conditions

        That is not really accurate, as the conditions were clearly not identical: Bottas did his fastest time on softs that were 12 laps old (on lap 65) and was 1.28 seconds slower. Max had made his best attempt on fresh softs, on lap 62, right after pitting for the second time, so his tires were only 2 laps old.

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          10th May 2021, 11:44

          @gechichan The situation is still the same though. Bottas would have been on old mediums and Verstappen on fresh softs. So the lap delta would actually be a lot bigger still.

          So the question was:

          “Are you really suggesting that Verstappen would be unable to pass Bottas on fresh tyres?”

          Are you? Really?

          Maybe also add in seeing how Bottas got past Leclerc? Or even how Hamilton got past Bottas who did not want to let him by?

          Are you still still saying this?

          1. The situation is still the same though. Bottas would have been on old mediums and Verstappen on fresh softs

            very the same.. i see ROTFL
            Come on man.. we trapped you on right out lies and Fiction you called facts.

            Are you still still saying this?

          2. F1oSaurus (@)
            11th May 2021, 7:34

            Lies like what? Was Bottas on old mediums? Yes he was. Would Verstappen be on fresh softs if he stopped right after Hamilton did. Yes he would

            It’s fine that you are unable to understand F1 strategy, but that’s not my fault.

      2. Lewis was that much quicker than Max at times and still couldn’t get by for much of the race. It’s not that easy

        1. Hamilton only managed to overtake Verstappen when he had a significant tyre delta on the mediums. I keep reading comments here how brilliant Verstappen is, yet those same people don’t seem to have much faith that he would easily pass Bottas with brand new softs vs old mediums.

      3. @scbriml Even if Max got past Bottas, blocking Max for a while would have played into Ham’s hands.

        1. @peartree Doing nothing played into Mercedes/Hamilton’s hands. Verstappen taking a second stop may have changed the result, but we’ll never know. RB’s attitude as soon as Hamilton pitted was clearly one of “We’ve lost it.” I expected more fight from them and Verstappen.

    2. RB is clearly within 0,2s of Mercedes. Give Hammilton a 0,2s slower car than anyone bar Verstappen and Norris and I’m sure he’ll win. Even in this condition, he can win these two in many circumstances. RB was a bit slower at Spain. But should have been faster at least 2 races. Monaco is better for RB… Not sure about Baku, but surely this isn’t as good to Mercedes as Spain. Or course that engineers are working to close the gap on both teams… But I seriously think Monaco should go to MV.

  5. Max summed it up nicely in his interview with Ziggo sport after the Spanish Grand prix yesterday about his options and being constrained by fighting alone and teammate’s performance. (Looks like he speaks his mind especially about his teammate only to Ziggo sport – Last year Bahrain 2020 when Alex finished 40S behind)
    Also, the tipping point for poor Gasly to lose the seat was Hungary 2019 just before the summer break..
    Maybe Uncle Marko will be thinking of rolling his dice soon!!

  6. Just realized a great statistic:

    Lewis and Max are the first have got 4 consecutive 1-2s between themselves this season. The previous longest streak (in last 30 years) of 2 drivers from different teams monopolizing the top 2 steps of the rostrum was 3. This happened 4 times:
    1) 1994 – Damon and Michael Rounds 5 to 7
    2) 2000 – Mika and Michael Rounds 12 to 14
    3) 2006 – Fernando and Michael Rounds 4 to 6
    4) 2017 – Sebastian and Lewis Rounds 1 to 3

    We should be in for a cracker of a season

    1. ColdFly (@)
      10th May 2021, 8:48

      Great one, @sumedh
      Maybe @KeithCollantine et al. can still include it in the Stats & Facts article (give you a shout-out).

    2. Wow that shows how bad this sport is ran. What an utter borefest.

      1. No one is forcing you to watch you know….

        1. Yes, sure but I watched the sport way before the current nutcases ran it. So I am hopeful things may turn around over time. And in the meantime I enjoy the midfield and the youngsters new approach to the circus and its media around it. I am confident better times are ahead. One or two years of borefest Mercedes and maybe then things will change. Lets see

          1. if you watched before then you know it was already a borefest. the major factor was car failures and stuff.
            Senna won 3/4 of his races just like hamilton does, leading untroubled from start to finish, yet it wasn’t boring.

            go figure.

          2. You are referring to that other era in history when the same car won everything 9 years in a row?

          3. your problem is to have the same team winning or to have boring races ? Because boring races were a part of this since day one, 70 years ago.
            Decide yourself.

      2. You can always watch the lotto draw instead, it’s way more unpredictable and there is a different winner every week…

        1. Hahaha, so true

    3. You forgot last 4 races of 2016: Lewis-Nico in exact 1-2 finishes each time.

      1. Ah, noticed that you mention “different” teams. Sorry. Ignore my previous post

  7. What really surprised me was the amount of tire deg Max had compared to Lewis in the first stint, even though the RedBull ran in clean air, doing its desired race pace. Max just couldn’t shake Lewis off or make his rivals tires fade quicker by running so close… that was a clear sign of the Merc being an incredible car around this track.

    1. Hamilton drove brilliantly, but it’s ominous that Max – with his exceptional speed – couldn’t pull a gap to Lewis who was running in dirty air. The Mercedes was superior around this track by some margin in racing conditions (same in Portugal) and doesn’t bode particularly well for the rest of the season unless Red Bull have some hefty upgrades coming.

      1. Mercedes have been tightly focussed on talking up the threat from Red Bull to prevent a repeat of the ’00s, when the predictable dominance of Schumacher at Ferrari had fans switching off. But the spin is starting to unravel. Lewis passing Max looked like he was taking out a back-marker.

        1. No. Virtually everyone in the media and on here have been “talking up the RB threat”

          It’s amazing how selective amnesia takes place

          i.e. Ferrari’s dominance of early 2017/18 is now airbrushed out of history as, apparently, the current rivalry is going to be the closest ever (blah blah)

          We were told that RB would be favorites if not clear favourites at Barcelona

          We’re told that the Merc has an issue in the heat, i.e. tyre wear

          All very recent comments – look em up and you will see that it’s an F2 community desperate for a different winner doing the hype

          1. @banbrorace Getting your spin to stick is always a lot easier when you’re telling people something they desperately want to believe. Mercedes’ dominance is based on a coalition of a large number of factors, and while they’ve goofed up in the past it’s very unlikely this will happen on a consistent basis. The problems the car faces now (e.g. following in dirty air) are little changed from previous years, though there may be some issues with rake that still need to be factored in.

            I have no doubt that Max will rack up more wins this year. But in terms of the championship as a whole a Merc victory looks like the safest bet going.

            Toto’s been talking up the other teams (especially Red Bull) for years now – it’s a part of his job to keep his own team on their toes so they don’t slip up.

        2. ian dearing
          10th May 2021, 12:30

          Well they really made spin into an art form then, because even Max, RB, the pundits and Jos have all been talking up the RB. Clever people those Mercedes lot.

          As Ham put it, RB have a car that’s capable of winning the Championship; and so do we. Or if you prefer, when Jos was asked how close the Merc and RB are, he he held his hand up with the finger and thumb almost touching.

        3. Lewis passing Max looked like he was taking out a back-marker.

          On tyres that were 20 laps newer.

        4. F1oSaurus (@)
          10th May 2021, 18:31

          @charleski How about Verstappen’s fastest lap being 1.3s faster than Bottas and 2.5s faster than Hamilton?

          1. Do we really have to tell you why that happened?
            I know there is a lot of fantast in your stories here, but try to follow a race or ask someone to tell you how it works.

    2. @gechichan Max simply can’t handle his tyre properly, yes he is fast but being isn’t the only quality you need to have, managing your tyre which Max lacks is another skillset.

      1. @noname that might be true, I agree, but we can’t really know for sure as it’s hard to compare to the 2nd car. If you look at Perez, who is regarded as one of the best drivers at preserving tires, Checo didn’t seem to do a better job at keeping tires in better shape than Max, while being a lot slower. And I’m not talking in general, not only this one race.

        1. It’s likely that the pace performances are similar, but in order for the Red Bull to keep up tyre wear is, say, 5-10% more

          Doesn’t sound a lot but that’s 1 to 3 laps more per tyre change

          Add in, the fact that Hamilton is clearly the best when it comes to tire wear and it’s perhaps becoming the significant factor

          RB need a red hot weather phase for the Austria / Silverstone / Hungary / Spa part of the season, for Max to have any chance

        2. perez had clear track ahead of him in a tiny portion of the 4 races until now.
          But when he had, in portugal, he kept up with verstappen pretty well.

          you can’t compare him being on ricciardo’s wake with verstappen running on free air, you know that, right ?

      2. It might just be the car is harder on his tyres.

        Lewis struggled hugely with tyres wearing out in 2013, but it’s not because he lacked the skill.

      3. That’s not universally thought to be the case. Besides, if you have a faster car you don’t have to push it quite as hard which means the tyres are better looked after. In the first stint Max clearly had to push harder than Lewis would to hit the same lap times.

        A car has a maximum speed it can lap round a circuit/complete a race (which would be ‘100%’ performance – albeit something that’s difficult to quantify for any car). The quality of a driver is determined by how much a driver gets from the speculated optimal performance. Lewis is typically considered deliver whatever the car can give, the same goes for Max (perhaps Leclerc too), with Bottas and many others being less able to extract the full performance of the car.

        Max appeared to get everything he could from the Red Bull yesterday. Lewis did the same from his Merc. But it is widely considered the Mercedes just had the pace advantage yesterday, so there wasn’t much wiggle room for Max to make up the ground. This is what people mean when they refer to Lewis being difficult to beat – he rarely seriously messes up, he’s very quick, and he has the best car.

    3. F1oSaurus (@)
      10th May 2021, 11:51

      @gechichan You should see Peter Windsor’s Youtube explanation on how Verstappen is taking much more out of the tyres for the same performance compared to Hamilton. Indeed it’s one of the differences between the two.

      1. @f1osaurus

        Have you got a link for that Peter Windsor link

        I’ve long thought that, contrary to what was thought would happen in his career, Hamilton is a master at looking after his tyres

        1. ian dearing
          10th May 2021, 12:58

          Peter has done a lot of these over the years on Hamilton’s and others skill in managing tyres. He takes advice on the car element from Scarbs and the driver side from Rob Wilson. Rob is an ex racer and now coach. Clients include Kimi, Webber, Bottas, Valentino Rossi, Montoya, Andretti, etc.

          Certainly makes the onboard shots more interesting when you understand what they are doing with the steering inputs and why

          1. Cheers. I’ll give it a watch

          2. F1oSaurus (@)
            10th May 2021, 18:16

            @banbrorace He’s usually quite the Verstappen fan so it’s telling that he’s so gushing about Hamilton lately

          3. @f1osaurus

            Watched it. But it’s what I’ve suspected for years. Nobody handles their tyres better than Hamilton

      2. You should see Peter Windsor’s Youtube explanation on how Verstappen is taking much more out of the tyres for the same performance compared to Hamilton.

        If these Verstappen nuts see it, they will still say Peter Windsor has no idea what he is talking about, and Max simply takes more out of his tyres because he is driving harder, because his car is not as fast.

        They are far too gone in their “cult of Verstappen” for any logic or rational thinking to get through.

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          11th May 2021, 7:38

          @kbdavies True. It’s always going to be the car that kept Verstappen back when he loses and the driver who is “otherworldly” when he does manage the occasional win.

  8. The problem was, Bottas was not there.

    One of the takeaways from this race is clearly that Bottas has realised this is his last year with Mercedes and that the image of being a meek team-player helping out Lewis isn’t the best way to get a drive with another team next year. But he’s going to need to do a lot of work to convince people otherwise judging by his performance in the first four races.

    1. ian dearing
      10th May 2021, 10:21

      You think ignoring team orders that did nothing to benefit him, Hamilton or Mercedes; but could have handed the win to your rivals is the best way to endear himself to another team?

      1. I was actually impressed with Bottas for not just letting Hamilton by and it revived my faith him. And I’m a Hamilton fan. Valtteri cleary realised that putting up a bit of a fight did no harm. Let’s say it continued to the start/finish line. So what? Hamilton takes a lap longer to catch up Max.

        I also think it’s a myth that Toto wants an obedient No.2 for Lewis to do what he wants. They are clearly a great team and that view that some have simply doesn’t fit that narrative

        Yes. Bottas will be going, simply because 5 seasons is enough if you’re not making progress – but a more steely Bottas is actually bad news for Max. If he starts to think that he can catch Max and develops an ‘I’ll show em’ attitude – actually the battle for 2nd could be the close one

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          10th May 2021, 11:52

          @banbrorace You are a Perez fan, that devalues any claim you make :)

          In this case particularly though, it was just stupid to hold Hamilton for no good reason. In fact it cost Bottas more time and tyre wear too.

          1. I agree. But I think it kind of re-establishes him as getting a bit of his mo-jo back

            Agree with you so far about Perez!! Maybe your instinct is correct and he can’t hack it in a top team. Whilst Alonso and Ricardo are currently underperforming as well, they’re are in teams where performance is unpredictable

        2. @banbrorace , if Bottas stood to gain by holding Hamilton up in any way, then the little fight he put up would have been worth it, but the reason he’s being criticised by majority is the fact that he chose absolutely the wrong time to show he had some cojones, and would stick it up to Hamilton and the team too. His race was already compromised by none other than HIMSELF by being way off Hamilton’s race pace.

          1. Look I don’t disagree at all. I was simply quite amused that he decided to show some bottle for the first time since, er, well ever

            I would have been less amused if he’d stopped Hamilton winning though!!

  9. It was a great strategic race, but a missed opportunity for Bono to call for Hammer time.

    1. 😂😂, yeah glad you noted that!!

  10. Yes preparation is good.
    It all happened ages ago when the Mercedes Engine/Aero/Chassis departments got together one day and designed something un-beatable till 2023. Unbeatable no matter who the lead driver was, so long as he was one of the better-ish ones, no more.
    Someone suggested an illegal tyre test just to iron out a few notches. Then they all had lunch: frankfurters and bratwurst with chilled Riesling.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      10th May 2021, 11:54

      Ha, ha, that’s good stuff you are using there. Is it from pills, injections or do you snort it?

    2. We’re still waiting for an answer to the nonsense you wrote about Hamilton’s 100 poles

      Any chance of explaining is 31, he had before the dominant 2014 onwards seasons? In a car which was never demonstrably the best and spent most time been distinctly at least 2nd best

    3. Mate, I think you are just here to wind people up!

    4. Ill have to rate this 2.1 rodbers*
      To much comedy not enough salt

      *SI unit of saltyness

  11. It was interesting to read comments after each session this weekend. People believing they have full knowledge of the pecking order, yet it was not known who would win until 10 laps left. Max might win next race, and the commentary will be in reverse! It’s so close from Hamilton and Vettel that the only conclusions I can make so far is that Hamilton is slightly faster with his 14 years experience at the top, that Mercedes are slightly winning in strategy, (though luck comes into that a bit), that small driver errors will likely decide this championship and that no one in reality knows which car is fastest, the other 3 factors have Hamilton leading the championship.

  12. You do realise all the other teams had opportunities to do all that as well don’t you? Your comments can be applied the same to McLaren mid to late eighties, McLaren 98-99. Williams 92-97, Ferrari 2001-2004. Redbull 2010-2013…. Etc etc. Don’t be jealous of success, someone has to succeed. Hamilton and Mercedes have been brilliant, in the full spirit of the outdated conservative/capitalist system of f1, which every competitor in F1 is part of the same racing ideaology. If you don’t want these one team dominant eras, push for change.. push for single chassis, budget caps etc, or just watch more entertaining racing series that were never as pretentious, political and full of corporate greed as the F1 world.

  13. Sometimes I wonder whether Mercedes just have a lot more left in their car that they can turn on half way through a race

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      11th May 2021, 7:39

      @joshgeake Verstappen set a fastest lap 2.5s faster than Hamilton’s fastest lap. If anything, Red Bull had a lot more reserves in the car.

      1. I’m not sure it’s fair to compare the RB with the Merc when VER:
        – had brand new tyres
        – that only had to last 5 laps
        – was going for the fastest lap point

  14. Defeated, Red Bull immediately pitted Verstappen, to give him fresh softs and a chance of taking the bonus point for fastest lap that he had been denied the previous weekend in the Algarve.

    I still can’t understand why Mercedes pitted Bottas right after Lewis overtook him.
    Had he stayed out – Verstappen wouldn’t have the luxury of pitting and retaining 2nd place. When Bottas pitted, he was around how much 10-12 seconds behind Verstappen?

    Meaning – had Verstappen pitted – he would have to cover the same 10-12 seconds to catch Bottas and then overtake Bottas, which is not exactly a given. All in 5 last laps.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      10th May 2021, 18:41

      It was the faster strategy to pit right away though. Bottas on the softs could have gained enough to make a pit stop for Verstappen impossible at the end of the race. He might have gone off the cliff completely and ended up behind Bottas.

      But then Bottas could not keep the pace up during his stint and Verstappen still had a free stop. Bottas gained 7 seconds on Verstappen, but that left a gap of 3 seconds still.

      1. Bottas gained 7 seconds on Verstappen,

        you noticed you are contradicting your earlier claims competely.
        But i guess in your dimension that does not matter ;)

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          11th May 2021, 7:42

          No I didn’t contradict myself. You just don’t understand actual logic Or you just have no idea what the discussion was to begin with and you just knee jerked some nonsense in because it had something to do with Verstappen.

          The discussion was about Verstappen making a stop right after Hamilton and going for the win easily breezin past Bottas. Rather than being a self proclaimed “sitting duck” with even Bottas getting 7 seconds closer.

          See? Two different scenario’s. Too much for you to contemplate? Ah well.

  15. ian dearing
    10th May 2021, 15:33

    Clearly Hamilton has not been looking after his tyres

    1. Ive checked, there not on ebay….

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