Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021

Like Ferrari, Red Bull have found they need more than a quick car to beat Mercedes

2021 F1 season

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Four races into the 2021 F1 season, Max Verstappen has spent almost twice as long at the front of the field as his championship rival Lewis Hamilton.

That obviously contrasts sharply with the state of play in the championship. The Red Bull driver has a single win to Hamilton’s three, yet the reigning champion has led 75 laps to Verstappen’s 144.

On the fact of it that seems to prove Red Bull are throwing the championship away. After all that effort creating a car and power unit which can rival the dominant team of the V6 hybrid turbo era, they’re falling short when it matters. Is that view accurate?

Verstappen saw it differently when he climbed from his car at the end of last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix and declared they were “too slow” to win. (In fact, he said it before he got out of the car as well.)

Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021
Analysis: ‘We’ll discuss what went wrong’: Hamilton and Verstappen team radio transcript
Last year it was undoubtedly the case that, the vast majority of the time, Red Bull were not quick enough to beat Mercedes on merit. The exceptions were the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, where Mercedes rooted their tyres and Verstappen won as he pleased, and Abu Dhabi, where after a year of gradually closing the gap to their rivals, Red Bull finally put one over them.

This year the picture is more complicated. Red Bull have been especially competitive over a single flying lap: Verstappen took pole in Bahrain and arguably should have done so at Imola and Algarve too.

In the races, Mercedes tend to perform better. “I still have the feeling that we haven’t got the pace on Saturday that we should, but we seem to be quicker on Sunday,” said the team’s CEO Toto Wolff on Sunday evening.

Picking apart what we have seen over the opening races, there appear to be a couple of trends at work. One is that after being troubled by their performance in pre-season testing, Mercedes made progress, and were in much better shape once the serious business began.

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“It’s fair to say that following the Bahrain test we were struggling a bit with the car,” explained the team’s head of trackside engineering Andrew Shovlin. “We hadn’t got it into a good window.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Mercedes made gains with their car before first race
“The drivers were talking about how they didn’t have the confidence to carry the speed into the corners, the car wouldn’t even turn well into the corners, it was difficult to get it round some of the tight corners there and we were losing time. And then also the rear end was struggling when we got on the power, it was quite oversteery, so we had a lot to put right.”

Through “really hard work and fine-tuning” plus “numerous sessions in the simulator trying to get everything in the right window”, the team made strides. “When we went back to Bahrain, while we weren’t the quickest – that was clearly Red Bull and we saw that in qualifying – but we did have a car in a place where we could actually compete with them. We had improved the long runs significantly and that was really the thing that allowed us to win that first race in Bahrain.”

That progress has continued over the following races. “We also had an update kit on the car in Imola,” said Shovlin. “We are looking for small improvements really, there is so little between us and Red Bull that every few milliseconds we are chasing after.”

The race-by-race development is one trend. Another is the team’s performance in different weather conditions – Mercedes have thrived in cooler temperatures since returning to Europe – and on different tyre compounds. Mercedes’ car seems to work better on the harder rubber, which goes some way towards explaining why they usually look better in race trim these days than in qualifying.

This appears to be the continuation of a trend in cars which are closely based on last year’s models. During 2020 Red Bull seemed to prefer the softer rubber. They won the second event at Silverstone, when Pirelli brought compounds which were one stage less hard than those used for the previous race. Pirelli only brought their softest tyre, the C5, to two races last year: Verstappen won one (Abu Dhabi) and finished just seven seconds behind the winning Mercedes in Sochi.

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That will make the coming races at a pair of venues which were dropped from last year’s schedule especially fascinating. Pirelli will bring its softest tyre selection for the first time this year to Monaco and Baku.

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Monaco, 2018
Red Bull have strong form at Monaco
Tyre requirements aside, these are as different as two street circuits can get. While Red Bull have often been competitive in maximum downforce trim at Monaco, the long straights of Baku will be a real test of whether that Honda power unit can hold a candle to a Mercedes. The “bendy” rear wing Hamilton drew the world’s attention to at the Circuit de Catalunya may also help on the straights – new load tests targeting the design won’t come into force until after the race.

Red Bull may have been “too slow” to win at Catalunya, a Mercedes stronghold track where Pirelli always brings its hardest rubber. On paper they have cause to feel more confident about the coming races.

But if Red Bull are going to turn that 3-1 score-line into 3-3 by the first weekend in June, they need to be at their best. Throughout last season, when wins were too seldom a possibility, the refrain from Verstappen was that he’d “maximised” each weekend, often by getting in among the Mercedes.

The same claim can’t be made about some of his performances this year, even his sole win at Imola, where he lined up third on the grid in a car which was good enough for pole position. Victory in Bahrain started to get away from him when Red Bull let Mercedes get the jump on them in the pits. Track limits errors marked his weekend at Algarve. The upshot is Hamilton has a 14-point lead after the first four races and it’s no exaggeration to say Verstappen could be in the same position had he “maximised” all his opportunities.

Hockenheimring, 2018
Ferrari failed to grab chances to beat Mercedes
After last weekend’s defeat, Red Bull CEO Christian Horner consoled himself with the view that as many as 19 races remain on the record-breaking 2021 F1 calendar (cancellations notwithstanding). “We need to make sure that we’re there for the second half, that’s been generally where we’ve been stronger,” he said.

That was certainly true last year. But Red Bull should pay heed to Ferrari’s experience the last time Mercedes were seriously tested.

Sebastian Vettel was leading the points standings halfway through both the 2017 and 2018 championships, yet a resurgent Hamilton and Mercedes took the titles. Many victory opportunities squandered by Ferrari were collected by Mercedes: Hamilton only took five pole positions in 2019, yet won 11 races.

Mercedes haven’t only won titles by being too fast for their rivals, and Red Bull aren’t behind in the 2021 contest solely because were “too slow” at one race. And while it’s far too early in a long season to start talking about ‘must-win’ races, the coming rounds look ripe for Red Bull to gain some ground.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

2021 F1 season

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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98 comments on “Like Ferrari, Red Bull have found they need more than a quick car to beat Mercedes”

  1. You need a quicker race car or the quickest race car by some margin if in the hands of someone like Bottas.

    1. Ooopppssssss
      13th May 2021, 16:16

      We need to investigate whats the hidden deal between merc and fia to keep merc faster than others.

      Reply moderated
    2. You also need a reliable car. I honestly can’t remember Hamilton having a race ending failure after Malaysia 2016, Verstappen in the other hand had quite a few. I hate to say it but if things stay this close probably reliability will be enough for Mercedes to secure another WDC, WCC combo.

      1. Garv Sabbarwal
        13th May 2021, 18:11

        He did retire in Austria 2018.

        Reply moderated
      2. There’s been one, not sure if more, but definitely the 2018 austrian gp (which I really liked, not only cause of mercedes’ troubles but also cause of varying performance from mercedes, red bull, ferrari, each team looked faster at different times of the race, and unpredictability) he had a fuel pump failure and retired, was 4th, last of the front runners, and 1 lap ahead of grosjean I think he was, he was still ahead by the time he got out of the car even though it took him ages to get out!

      3. This championship is not even going to be remotely close. If RB can’t win at Monaco they won’t win again in dry conditions this season. No wonder Ham wants to re-sign, no need to oook elsewhere.

        1. way too dramatic, man. this way, every race they win, and they will win other races this year because the car is quick, you’ll be here saying Verstappen operated a miracle and stuff like that.

          Dramatic and predictable.

          1. Friend,Hahaha

        2. I, unfortunately, have to agree. Many where fooled by Wolff and Liberty believing this year would be different.

      4. Iosif:
        That is exactly the point:MAX does exactly that,ride the car to its maximum capacity and more;hence abusing the car.
        Hamilton ,on the other hand;always have plenty on hand;by nursering the car;keeping some comfortable marging;always.
        This from his first year in F1 in 2007.
        With a season 23 races long,there is absolutely no chance of anyone having a more reliable car over 23 races than Lewis,no one.
        If there are no accident,covid19 or other unforeseen difficulties,8 championships are in the bag already.
        What we can do,fans,haters and all F1 maniacs is enjoy and ;appreciate a truly exceptional champion while we still can.
        In short,Max abuse the car while lewis does the opposite;90%of time.

        Reply moderated
        1. 100% agree, Very difficult to determine who is best between Lewis and Max, but as you said, Lewis can afford to nurse the car a little while Max has to drive the C**p out of it to make it competitive. I guess that is the luxury of being in the superior car/team.

          Reply moderated
    3. Diana De la Garza
      13th May 2021, 17:50

      with margins so close, you need a great strategy to outsmart your closest competitor…and a reliable second fiddle. Right now MERC has shown better strategy .

  2. Red Bull prefers the softer tyres because Mercedes build their car taking into consideration the majority of the tyres, circuit types and temperatures. We only have a few tracks where Pirelli bring the softer allocation of tyres. As such, there is no point in building a car whose performance will be biased towards 2-4 races when the season is composed of 16-20 races on a different set of conditions than the ones in those 2-4 “one-off” races.

    Although in saying that, as I said earlier in the season, the winners in both championship will be determined by the least amount of mistakes. I don’t think either team will break away from each other.

    1. Indeed @krichelle. Hamilton got a bit lucky (in Imola – with being able to get back on the lead lap due to the red flag), Mercedes outdid Red Bull on strategy, and they made a few fewer mistakes.

      It is good to see it is close between Hamilton (and Mercedes) really at the top of his game and well aware he has to perform this level to win and Verstappen, who is an exceptional driver as well, but still made a few too many mistakes already this year. And can probably learn quite a few more lessons Hamilton has already learnt.

      1. @bascb I think it underlines how well Hamilton is understanding and exploiting his car to get close and pass without losing much time and/or tire life.

        Actually in previous years, it might have been worth for some teams like RedBull or Ferrari to optimize on the edge of the window as Mercedes was so dominant that they had no chance if their cars had similar characteristics/behavior as the delta would translate to most tracks. By being out of sync, it allowed them to have better shot at wins at some venues and during Mercedes dominance, the non Mercedes wins had pretty good exposure. But as @krichelle mentioned, now that RedBull is closer, it isn’t true anymore.

        The start of this season is really great for us watching and in addition to the winner is going to be the one with the least mistakes and technical problems, I will add it might depend on how good their teammate are doing. The relative position of Bottas and Perez was key in the previous race and it might be the case a few more times before the end of the year (either for strategic options or taking of points from the rival).

        1. Some really good points you made there @jeanrien!

        2. @jeanrien

          The relative position of Bottas and Perez was key in the previous race

          That is just Horner propaganda throwing everything and everybody under the bus for why they yet again didn’t win a race they should have had in the bag. The engine is crap, the car is crap, the #2 driver is crap, the track limits are crap, engine modes are crap, DAS is crap, the moon cycle is crap etc etc etc

          The fact is they lost that race on merit. They had it in the bag, but Verstappen stopped unannounced and too early and they were on the back foot from there. Then they missed to cover the undercut immediately after Hamilton stopped and stay ahead or otherwise stop a few laps later try and overtake on brand new softs vs worn mediums. Instead they opted to be sitting ducks with apparently never a chance of the win.

          So they want us to believe that P2 was all they could get and they opted not to go for the win. Really? I have some bridges I would like to sell. Interested? They simply misread the tyre wear on medium even though Verstappen already stated that they wouldn’t last till the end.

          The argument that Hamilton would not be able to pass Perez if he would have been closer behind or that Verstappen would not be able to pass Bottas is laughable. On much fresher tyres? Verstappen had a fastest lap that was 2.5s faster than even Hamilton’s fastest lap. But sure, he would not be able to pass Bottas.

          Leclerc being close behind Bottas didn’t keep Bottas from making a stop for softs and ending up behind Leclerc.

      2. @bascb

        Agree about Hamilton being a bit lucky. Honestly, that was a race ending mistake, he was incredibly lucky that the red flag came out just moments after he got stuck in the gravel. If he wasn’t that lucky, he’d probably end up finishing the race in P7 or P8. They would probably be tied in the points so far.. or really close to it.

        In terms of driver errors, Max has made a few small ones – failed overtake in Bahrain and poor Q3 lap in Portimao. Lewis made a bigger mistake in Imola. I’d say they are even in terms of driver performance.

        The big differentiator has been Mercedes’ strategy in the championship so far. A strategic advantage they could deploy because they have Bottas in the mix as well. So, to be honest, if we had a Verstappen-Ricciardo line up at Red Bull right now, I don’t even know if we would be having this discussion. Red Bull would be as on point with their strategy with a strong number 2 driver. Perez is the weak link in the Red Bull team right now. If they want to win the WDC or WCC they will need to get Perez up to speed or recruit/poach a driver that outperform Bottas on a regular basis.

        1. I agree with you that having Bottas close enough to matter is a big advantage for Mercedes since it allows them more strategic options (and possible better imput for optimizing the car too).

          I do think that Perez might get into it, and he could have been in there if he actually had been with RB for a longer time now @todfod, but it really looks like the combination of hardly any testing, the restrictions on travel to get into the simulator and back out and the shorter sessions during race weekends this year make it a really bad time to need a driver to get familiar with the car/team.

          Even if he eventually gets at the consistency of Bottas. Or even starts doing some really impressive driving, it will likely be too late, too little for the team to offer Max that rear gunner backup.

  3. A fair analysis, I think.

  4. On race pace, the situation should be 2-2 if not for Verstappen having to give back the position. At that race, by the way, RBR pulled the reverse trick by putting Verstappen on new rubber to chase Hamilton.

    Hamilton was oh-so-lucky to climb back to second after being almost out of the race and Mercedes was lucky that Perez didn’t do much better than Bottas DNF in the same race.

    Barcelona was pure competence and force by Mercedes, but I wouldn’t call the other three races a Mercedes strategy success. There was situations out of control for both teams, and Russell taking bottas out is what put Hamilton leading the championship today.

    Monaco is Verstappen’s to loose, and Baku is Hamilton’s to loose. And it will be like that the whole year. Spa, Monza, USA are in Mercedes bag, Hungary, Austria and Mexico in RBR’S bag.

    The sooner RedBull realizes they need to play the mind game right (and keep the car fast) the better. They are already being played by Wollf, calling the shots with race control and using his top driver to accuse RedBull of cheating. Telling Verstappen “Remember Ferrari?” wasn’t just a chat between fellow drivers…

    Bottom line, I agree. It takes more than a fast car to defeat today’s Mercedes.

    1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      13th May 2021, 18:33

      Hamilton could have raced back to at least 5th at Imola without the red flag. That would still put him in the lead in the championship. Don’t forget he went a lap down to Max, not the rest of the field.

      1. This is probably true, performance compared to other cars than red bull and mercedes was insane and starting several seconds back doesn’t stop a mercedes with a capable driver (not bottas) from catching up and overtaking people, remember hamilton in monza 2020 after the stop and go.

      2. The Merc needed major repairs which could only be done under the red flag, it wasn’t only a matter of a gifted lap. The red flag decision (and yes it was a decision, by no means a necessity) was a 18 point gift.

        1. What major repairs? They only needed to replace the front wing.

          1. It took him about a minute to reverse out the gravel, another 30 seconds lost getting to the pits and another 30 seconds to repair the nose. There’s no way anyone’s making up that time even in a Merc.

        2. Davethechicken
          14th May 2021, 14:02

          You seem to be suggesting that they should have kept racing after the Bottas Russell crash? Just pull a VSC or SC???
          Surely you’re not serious?

          1. That crash was ordered by Mercedes so Hamilton could get back in the race. Everyone forget how dirty Mercedes can be ?

  5. I think it’s a testament to the level Lewis & Max are performing at right now, that this very fair article doesn’t even mention either of their teammates. If one of them (Lewis or Max) wasn’t on the grid, the other would walk the championship regardless of whether their car was marginally quicker or slower than the rival machinery.

    1. Hear hear.

      I do think the RBR is the real diva though. All decent drivers need to adjust and then still struggle to get close to Max. Gasly, Albon , Perez. All in the same 2nd tier as Ocon, Hulk and Bottas.

      Compare that eg to last year how Stroll and Perez performed in the copied Mercedes. I still think that with leclerc or Max in that pink car, they would have had multiple race wins in 2020.

    2. It is a team game, so of course.

    3. one teammate is certainly closer than the other.

      1. @peartree Let me guess. Is it the one that has been part of the team for years? Or is it the one that was pretty much left without a seat (because he’s just that great) and by his own admission does not know how to drive the car properly?

        1. @f1osaurus Bottas was closer to Hamilton at the start of his Mercedes career than he is now.

          1. @mashiat So you are saying Hamilton has gotten better? because that is peartree’s argument.

        2. @f1osauru Stop putting words in my mouth, and involve @mashiat in your fan@tycysm
          Bernasaurus pointed out that teammates don’t seem to feature on this opinion piece. I added that one teammate is closer than the other, because like Bernasaurus I believe this is something worth discussing.
          What I was actually saying is that teammates reflect how fast a car is, if both drivers are quick, no questions about the car.
          You wrote on the round-up Perez is wasting his career on RB, implying Perez is better than what he is doing right now. You say it is RB’s fault then, here you say it is because Perez is new to RB and Bottas is not. Perez is not a top driver and never was, Bottas likewise. Last year Russell stepped in and almost won a race for Mercedes, so being new is not an excuse. The teammates don’t reflect how good the #1 driver is but rather how good the car is, that is what I meant, not whatever fantasy you are forcing down everyone.

          1. @peartree

            Stop putting words in my mouth,

            So when you say:

            one teammate is certainly closer than the other.

            You don’t mean to imply that this team mate “being closer” means anything? You’re just randomly blurting out nonsense? Is that it?

  6. Embassy Hill
    13th May 2021, 14:43

    The Merc is faster on a Sunday over a stint as it’s more versatile with its tyre usage. The only time it wasn’t considerably faster this year was Bahrain and even then Max cooked his tyres allow lewis to pull away at the end.

    Lewis plays a big part of that and extracts more than Bottas but you can even see it in Bottas who isn’t performing at anywhere near the standard you should expect.

    Imola was a beautiful example of the point. Slower tyre warm up on the inters meant Lewis lost ground early on but soon started to catch as the RBR over heated its tyres. This repeated itself many times that day and again in the following 2 races. Lewis would of passed Max with another lap at the end of the first stint in Spain.

    Merc & Lewis are along way ahead currently. Fair play to them.

    1. ^ This.. spot on.

    2. Not necessarily, In both of Max’s stints he took a lot out of the tyres early on, trying to build a gap at the start which was nullified by the saftety car and pushed again at the safety car restart. After the long pitstop, he pushed hard again, trying to force the undercut which, it turned out, wasn’t so immediate because of Hamilton staying out for a longer first stint.

      Also, Hamilton pushed quite hard on his 2nd stint to catch Verstappen up. After 14 or so laps of catching and following Verstappen, he reported the tyres as still good then everyone was surprised that he pitted. But this stint told Mercedes that they would be able to pit and chase down Verstappen once more and still have tyre left to overtake when Verstappen was struggling round on VERY worn tyres. Verstappen could have done both of these stints without having wear issues as well.

  7. Max does not seem to realise how weak and vulnerable Lewis is to mind games.
    So here is a small suggestion for Max (it worked a treat for Rosberg):
    – get a football
    – take it to the Merc motorhome
    – kick it against the door underneath Lewis’s cubby hole where Lewis is resting. In Monaco that is often right above the Merc garage
    – keep kicking every hour on the hour, till Lewis complains
    – then, keep kicking even fifteen minutes

    Lewis will crack up mentally and the world title will be yours Maxy. (Just ask Rosberg).

    Reply moderated
  8. Unless it has been circuit specific so far, Redbull need to find some more race pace somewhere. Max has led into turn one in 3 out of 4 of the races, and been ahead of the race winning car in the other, but only once been able to hold on for the win. Even in Imola, when the circuit was drying Lewis looked to have more pace than Max, so could well have won that race if not for going off. It’s a long season ahead but it looks like Mercedes still has the edge, and i hope Redbull can develop as strongly as they have in previously years to keep the championship alive into the latter stages (and hopefully the changes to the rear wing testing requirements don’t set them back too much).

    1. Indeed, hamilton’s mistake eventually cost him almost nothing, but the one thing it cost him was his chance at winning: he was catching up with verstappen and had a chance, but after he overtook the various cars he was like 20 sec back and had to settle for 2nd.

  9. Red Bull may have strong form in Monaco, although not every season in the hybrid era. They weren’t outright fastest in 2014, 2015, 2017, or 2019. We shall wait and see what Monaco brings this season.

  10. For the fans it’s a far better situation for the car on pole to have slower race pace than the cars behind on the Sunday (not by a huge amount but enough). That way we are basically guaranteed action. For the most part that seems to be the case this year.
    What we are (continuing to) learn this year is that Hamilton and Verstappen are just on another level entirely to their teammates. In my opinion Russell and Leclerc are in that league, but we will have to wait until they get the car to fight for wins/championships.
    If Verstappen wasn’t in the Red Bull or Hamilton in the Mercedes, fans everywhere would be talking about how dominant the other’s car is – ironically they need each other to show how good they are! It just shows the difference having the right driver in the right team can make. For me, there really hasn’t been anything in it and if you ran the same races again you could get the complete opposite results. It’s going to come down to who makes the fewest mistakes and a bit of luck here and there.
    With slightly better one lap pace and softer tyres, I expect Verstappen to get pole in Monaco and win (where track position is sooo key). He really needs Perez to qualify up on the front row with him

    1. Indeed, hard to see how Hamilton could win in Monaco if Verstappen’s on pole, which form would suggest he should be.

      I suspect there might be a joker in the pack in Monaco though, in the shape of Leclerc. I think he could split, or even beat both of, the title contenders….you heard it here first!

      1. With Perez on 3rd row in Monaco , Max will be victim again to the strategic options of Merc.
        Bottas might win it though as RB will try to focus on track position versus Lewis.

        1. @trib4udi
          There’s little in the way of strategic options in Monaco though, the only consideration is to maintain track position.
          The 2 versus 1 dynamic doesn’t work in Monaco, other than having double the opportunity to luck into a safety car.

  11. Sebastian Vettel was leading the points standings halfway through both the 2017 and 2018 championships, yet a resurgent Hamilton and Mercedes took the titles. Many victory opportunities squandered by Ferrari were collected by Mercedes: Hamilton only took five pole positions in 2019, yet won 11 races.

    2017 and 2018 were close, but 2019 was an entirely different beast. Ferrari could use their extremely strong qualifying engine to secure pole, but on race day they didn’t have that engine advantage to compensate for their chassis deficiencies, so they usually lost out to Mercedes.

    1. And Lewis had quite a few scrappy qualifying sessions that year. Let’s not forget that.
      Even Bottas was ahead of him in many sessions.

      1. @trib4udi Hamilton was setting up his car for the race more than Q3 yes. Because he realized that was more important than getting closer to a Ferrari taking pole in Q3.

    2. I thought they lost usually cos their strategies and teamates uck.

  12. Considering the circumstances that led to this year’s championship being run with the cars as they are, if anything Red Bull and Verstappen deserve credit for keeping it close so far rather than criticism for not leading the championships.

    It should also be noted that Hamilton, and Mercedes to a lesser extent, were hugely lucky at the Imola race to come away with as many points as they did. Had Bottas and Russel (awkwardly, but certainly entirely coincidentally, the other two Mercedes drivers) not crashed into each other we might have even seen articles written about how Verstappen’s pressure was causing Hamilton to make mistakes that all but amounted to him crashing out of a wet race.

    Let’s hope Red Bull can keep Mercedes honest throughout the coming races. So far so good.

    1. Yeah they all get lucky sometimes. Some when they lose the car behind the safety car: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjpR3uk4NKE

      1. @f1osaurus
        Max’s window to get passed when he lost it was incredibly small, whereas Hamilton lucked into maybe 4 or 5 positions, so about 10 points’ worth.

        Reply moderated
    2. I agree I think the article has a point on Bahrain but I see it as Max doing something his utmost and no the other way round. Ham got away easy with Imola, as usual but he delivered the goods elsewhere.

  13. Exactly, you can be as fast as you want on Sunday, but if you can’t make the tyres last then that’s where it ends. Or if you can’t make the fastest strategy work (Bahrain). Or if you let yourself get scared into a strategy that really doesn’t work at all (Spain). In all of those cases, indeed the “speed” in the car is not going to come out.

  14. I’ve said this many times, but it strikes me the Red Bull car is hard to drive.

    I think this is like the legendary Porsche 917. The car was originally built with a streamline tail. It was wicked fast but undriveable. The car only became dominant after they redid the aerodynamics for more stability.

    I think it’s similar thing maybe it play with the Red Bull. It may be fast, but even Verstappen seems to struggle with it in qualifying.

    However, I’ve never been convinced the Max is an exceptional qualifier. I’m convinced he’s equal to Hamilton during races. But I get the impression he isn’t as exceptional in qualifying. Perhaps he is too impatient or something.
    .

    1. That could be, I mean, he’s usually a faster driver than ricciardo, already as of 2018, yet he lost the chance to get the youngest pole sitter record because of losing poles to ricciardo whenever the opportunity presented itself, and I also remember losing poles to vettel himself in the weekends red bull had most performance. Hard to say in that case how much it was the car and the driver.

  15. It reminds me of when Ferrari finally had a car to challenge McLaren, There was a certain nervousness about losing,
    and the McLaren had slightly better race pace.

    1. Guessing you’re talking about 2000?

  16. This article should have the title…

    ‘Like Ferrari, Red Bull have found they need more than a quick car to beat HAMILTON IN A Mercedes’

    Hamilton makes the difference and can always up his game, if needed. He hasn’t looked as motivated in years. He destroyed Vettel, both on the track and psychologically. I wonder how long it will take him to do the same to Verstappen. Max is a tougher competitor, but I can’t help but feel that the cracks and are already showing, from his despondent on board messages to his defeated body language. Hamilton is a force of nature and the greatest driver ever and Max is starting to find this out – the hard way!

    Reply moderated
  17. Dave (@davewillisporter)
    13th May 2021, 18:45

    Lewis beats Max in race management and Valtteri beats Sergio in consistency. Redbull will need a faster car than Mercedes in both qualifying and race to win either title. With an equally fast car the Mercedes pair beat the Redbull pair.
    The only way this train gets de-railed is if Valtteri gets the boot and either drops off in performance or gets his elbows out in awkward situations in the latter stages of the season and refuses to yield to Lewis.
    Absent of that, Redbull will need to out develop Mercedes to win. Given that they are going to have to redesign their rear wing for the last two thirds of the season and Mercedes actually have a good chassis power combination when set up is refined, it’s going to be an uphill struggle for Redbull.
    Will be fun to watch in any case!

  18. Ferrari nor RB ever had a better car than Mercedes during this hybrid era. Ferrari had a better chassis for 4 races in 2017 and RB probably had a better car in Bahrain, 5 races out of 200.

    The same claim can’t be made about some of his performances this year, even his sole win at Imola, where he lined up third on the grid in a car which was good enough for pole position. Victory in Bahrain started to get away from him when Red Bull let Mercedes get the jump on them in the pits. Track limits errors marked his weekend at Algarve. The upshot is Hamilton has a 14-point lead after the first four races and it’s no exaggeration to say Verstappen could be in the same position had he “maximised” all his opportunities.

    very debatable, as you judge this chances running away as proof better could be achieved but you don’t consider that perhaps RB had no right to win in Imola and Portimāo in the first place.

    Mercedes haven’t only won titles by being too fast for their rivals, and Red Bull aren’t behind in the 2021 contest solely because were “too slow” at one race. And while it’s far too early in a long season to start talking about ‘must-win’ races, the coming rounds look ripe for Red Bull to gain some ground.

    Again Ferrari had no right to contest with Mercedes, Ferrari made many mistakes but they simply did not have the car. RB lost one race where maybe they should’ve won. Lots of people read pre-season wrong, as usual, and I reckon they are trying to justify their mistake by blaming Rb for failing to win. Just look at both cars!

    1. Yes, I didn’t read the testing wrong, I know how much mercedes sandbag, so was pleasantly surprised to see a competitive red bull, however the trend seems pro-mercedes so far.

      1. @esploratore Indeed, when I saw how cheerful merc’s pitwall was in the middle of a supposedly torrid winter testing, I knew they had the pace on the car as expected. Mercedes they downplay things, it is probably better than racing to win as an obligation.

  19. While both teams are at the top of their games, especially Mercedes, their two top drivers, LH and MV, are in my opinion who need, more than anything else to be easier razor sharp throughout. And in this case, LH just has that edged on Max in race execution, which shows even in the championship standings. True LH had that mistake in Imola, which he minimised the impact as much as possible with a little bit of fortune (fortune favors the brave), but his mistakes are far between whereas as for Max, sometimes little mistakes just hinder his race weekends, (Barhain, Portimao).
    What I can say for certainty, Mercedes and LH will win this year’s championships, constructors’ and drivers’ from recent history. When Ferrari pushed Merc and LH, both rebounded with such a gap to their rivals that most of us scratched our heads wondering how they found that much performance from.

    1. Mercedes winning both championships, how unpredictable, I wonder when fans will be able to watch a season and not immediately guess the driver and constructor’s champion again.

      1. When Ferrari, McLaren or RB pull their finger out?
        Or if Max is continually let down by RB and goes to Mercedes I reckon about another 15 years.

      2. @esploratore , it’s not that I don’t know they Mercedes and Ham will win this year’s championship, what I mean is that, whenever Mercedes and Ham have been pushed to the limit like Ferrari did in 2018 and 2019, they came back with a margin to their rivals that mirrored 2014 levels in 2020. Redbull and Max will find that out very soon if they haven’t yet.

        1. @lems I expect Verstappen to get poll and from there he should win it. Even if Mercedes are a bit faster in the race, less likely, it’s difficult to pass, as Max knows.

  20. I get the critisism at Red Bull for all those small errors which cost them quite a few points, but it does irritate me that everyone seems to forget that Hamilton made a big mistake at imola and should be behind in de WDC because of that. He was a lap behind and wouldn’t have scored many points if he wasn’t that lucky with the red flag.

    1. Absolutely, red bull’s mistakes together probably amount to less than hamilton’s mistake would’ve cost him, let’s not forget that example spain was always an uphill battle for red bull, chances are they’d have lost no matter what.

    2. Everyone seems to forget Imola? Its been mentioned 6 or 7 times on this thread alone. And you can probably find a mention of it on yesterdays threads; and the day before that if you need a further reminder.
      And if the championship continues this close you can rest assured that you will get regular reminders throughout the season. Until one of them makes a bigger, more costly mistake. Which could be Monaco turn 1.

      1. Exactly. Hamilton’s mistake(s?… I keep seeing it said that his slower-than-Max start last weekend was a “mistake”, too… never mind the fact that the support races left more than a decent amount of very visible rubber down on Verstappen’s side of the grid…) is mentioned almost every other comment thread by at least a few Verstappen fans. As for Lewis being a lap down & should be behind Max on points, that’s not entirely accurate either: Lewis wasn’t a lap down on the entire field. He still would have fought back to at least 5th & would still lead the championship. Besides, it’s not as if it’s any consolation for Max & Red Bull, taking pride in making “smaller” unforced errors that still cost them race wins & more points than their title rivals.

        1. But then Verstappen had a ton of wheelspin and actually lost his better getaway in the second phase of the start. It’s the tow and then the “crash or let me pass dive bomb” that got Verstappen ahead.

  21. Red Bull should be favourites to be fastest in Monaco due to the circuit characteristics and the tyres (and their bendy wing). If they get a 1-2 on the grid (that’s what Perez is there for, right?) and presuming Hamilton in third, the championship will be back to equal or in Max’s favour with a 14-16 points swing. That’s all feasible. If it was Mercedes with the anticipated track advantage, it would be expected. I’m saying this because the chances are it won’t be smooth for Red Bull. Hamilton (or Bottas) could still nick poll, given they have done so already this season when Red Bull have been quicker over one lap. And Perez isn’t going to get second on the grid, is he?
    Leaving aside Red Bull’s failure to optimize their chances, or find a decent second driver yet (maybe Perez will get there, I doubt it), the other factor has been Hamilton’s skill with the tyres over a race distance. Put simply, he has no peer currently in Formula 1. And with the close margins, that has to be one of the factors placing him ahead of Verstappen thus far. But Monaco, I fully expect Max to win, maybe Baku too. If that carries on over the season, with Verstappen and Hamilton trading wins, then the most likely scenario is that a collision or a big mistake from one of the drivers, or a number of such incidents, will have the biggest impact on the driver championship. Even at this stage, I don’t see either team running away with the title, they are too closely matched, Mercedes have all their experience, while Red Bull usually improve over a season, balancing each other out.

    1. Oops, forget the useless maths. It would need Max in first with FLAP and Hamilton in 4th to bring them level.

      1. @david-br , whereas I expect MV and Redbull to be strong at this circuit, i won’t rule Merc and Ham out for pole and victory. Redbull’s car characteristic of switching on the tires much faster but not being kind on them over a race stint is what worries me, which is precisely why they lost the Spanish GP. On the other hand, track position is king in Monaco, so a pole and win is what to expect from them. It’s their race to lose.

  22. Mercedes accuses every team that threatens them… why nobody is accusing them of cheating with something?, whatever but dont stay watching with your arms crossed… and by the way the incredible recovery they had from preseason test was incredible fast, too fast in my opinion

  23. I think this season the Red Bull is competitive enough to beat Mercedes. Whether it’s good enough to beat Lewis is a different matter.

  24. Gearhead Berger
    14th May 2021, 5:39

    The Mercedes is still by far the fastest car on track. Just see the straight-line topspeeds… Red Bull are closer but not yet enough.

    Reply moderated
  25. What a ridiculous fandom article. Trying not too make it too obvious by saying it’s also a lot do with tyre performance, as if tyre use is not due to the car.

    1. lexusreliabilty?
      14th May 2021, 9:38

      @balue
      You seem to compklain about every article on this site, more so on the ones that even remotely criticise Red Bull and Maxc. Which begs the question, why are you here? I am sure there is no shortage of Dutch echoe chamber sites that ululate over Verstappen at every turn?

    2. I think you’ll find that tyre use is down to the car and driver.

    3. @balue

      What a ridiculous fandom article

      Thank you balue thank you. Reasonable people are few and far between. My comments were to jo avail more diplomatic. you said it all.

  26. Redbull have given the car to Max to win the races and championship. Lewis is a proven winner. Now let’s see if Max is up to the challenge. I think Max is the person who doesn’t admit mistakes. I just hope both teams stay competitive till the last race so we have a proper Lewis vs Max fight.

    1. The car is probably further behind Merc than we think. Max is taking it to levels close to Merc.

      1. lexusreliabilty?
        14th May 2021, 20:10

        @Mike

        Whaqt evidence are you basing this on? Alternatively one can say the Red Bull is so far ahead of the Merc Lewis is showing up Max Verstappen- hence why he is beating him 3-1.

  27. It’s odd how there is this small yet extremely vocal group who pretends that this article is nothing but fandom and that Verstappen is really doing so much better than Hamilton, but that he’s kept back by whatever excuse you can come up with.

    Yet for the driver of the weekend vote, really not a lot of people are voting that Verstappen is doing so great. He’s not been DOTD even once. Not even close.

    I guess it’s good to see that the large silent majority here does understand F1 better and they see drivers like Hamilton, Norris and Leclerc doing a great job. Just a shame that there are not more of their fans coming out voicing opinions to keep the Verstappen fan deluge in check.

    1. lexusreliabilty?
      14th May 2021, 9:53

      @f1osaurus

      Well said. Even if the Red Bull is behind the Merc (which I don’t believe) it’s not by much. Lewis proved in 2008 that he can win a championship in the second best car that was close enough- Max is in the same position at the very least. So that excuse frankly isn’t and won’t wash as Hamilton is proving he is the most complete driver on the grid.

    2. @f1osaurus +1
      The problem is recalibration. Over his years at Red Bull, some of his less grounded fans have been cultivating the illusion that Max is some kind of untouchable racing god, if only he had a faster car… Finally he’s been given a car capable of poll and, with judicious racing and strategy, capable of the win at least half the races so far, maybe all. Certainly he should have won Bahrain along with Imola. The fact is RB+Ver and Merc+LH are so far as even as you get between two different teams. Which is how everyone supposedly wants it. The continual bleating that Mercedes is ‘still faster’ is against all evidence or perception of how advantage always changes to some degree from race to race. Red Bull and Verstappen have a clear chance this season, just as clear as Mercedes. If they don’t win, it will be down to driver and team. No excuses.

      1. @david-br Indeed. Plus it’s not like there isn’t a score of mistakes that were made that caused those races to be lost rather than a small margin in “pace” either way.

        How Hamilton supposedly had the faster car in Bahrain, when he was clearly much more a sitting duck than Verstappen was in Spain. Hamilton clearly had the slower car and had to struggle on a less optimal strategy to gain the undercut. Yet he made it work. While Verstappen threw it away with an ill timed and poorly executed overtake when he actually had all the time available to do it better. Then to make matters worse he picked the worst spot to give the position back.

        At least in Spain Verstappen had options to cover the undercut or to go for the stop on fresh softs a few laps later and use that extra speed to take back the place. When it was also his own unrequested early stop that put them on this too long second stint anyway. Or they could have prepared for a 2-stop race like Hamilton did when he kept a set of mediums available to give himself even more options..

        There is a long list of things Verstappen could have done better in these races and taken the win, but nah, it’s simply that they cars needs to be even faster.

        60% of the readers here do see that Hamilton did actually performed best in Spain though. So I should be happy with that, but it’s just jarring to see these few repeat the same lame excuses over and over and then attack me for pointing out that it’s not that simple.

  28. We all have to wait until this Mercedes era is done. No team that has the Mercedes engine actually has the same engine at all. Same fuel? Same oil? Not the same engine and never will be until they use the same fluids. Fact. Get over it. McLaren do not have a chance in hell to win a championship whilst Mercedes are there “giving them the same engine”. Never. This is entertainment people. Money. Mercedes attempting to make out that without Hamilton they would not be so dominant. Complete rubbish. The guy that Button beat? The guy that Rosberg beat? Now they have a driver with him that can not even stay on the same lap at times? Really? Damn you look good Hamilton. Far better than you really are. Don’t get me wrong the man is great but not this great. :-) It’s all entertainment people. It’s all about money people. You lot are in it for the ride and what a ride you are being taken on. I’ll come back around 2028 when finally everyone will have said enough is enough. That’s a long wait.

  29. Mercedes has pace in the bag they don’t show and only if they really have to, like Paddy admitted about 2014. I don’t think it stopped. This should get a lot more media attention. The reliability of Mercedes have been bulletproof almost, this is a sign of hidden pace. In 2018 and 2017 Ferrari tripped over themselves, so to speak, so Mercedes didn’t need to fully open the flood gates of pace, but they did a little to hone in the season in the 2nd half of 2017 and 2018 which is another sign of hidden pace.

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