Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Baku City Circuit, 2021

Points leader Verstappen believes Mercedes are still the team to beat on “normal tracks”

2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Despite taking the championship lead at the Monaco Grand Prix, Max Verstappen believes Red Bull’s rivals Mercedes still hold the upper hand in performance.

Verstappen won the last race at Monaco, which is by far the slowest track on the F1 calendar. But he suspects Mercedes will be harder to beat at more typical venues.

“I do think they are still, on normal tracks, ahead of us,” said Verstappen ahead of this weekend’s race at Baku City Circuit. “But I think for us so far this season we have had a great start compared to the other seasons.”

Red Bull must ensure they do not fall behind Mercedes in the development fight, he added.

“We just need to keep it up and need to keep improving, to bring new bits to the car all the time to try and improve it,” said Verstappen. “Then I think we have a very good shot at it. But so far, of course, to be leading to the championship is very positive.”

“It’s great, of course, to be first, but it’s more important where you end up after the race in Abu Dhabi,” he added.

Red Bull’s flexing rear wing has been a focus of attention in recent races. Verstappen’s title rival Lewis Hamilton has suggested it could be worth up to six-tenths of a second per lap in Baku, as it could allow them to hit consistently high speeds on the straights without sacrificing cornering performance.

Verstappen said striking a balance between the conflicting set-up demands will be crucial at the high-speed Baku circuit.

“It’s never easy around here because of the long straight,” he said. “It puts you into a window where you run a bit less downforce for the rest of the track. But it makes it very interesting, big braking zones, it’s quite slippery always around here.”

The Azerbaijan circuit has a reputation for producing unpredictable grands prix. “I think we have had a lot of interesting races,” said Verstappen, “So I’m looking forward to the start of the weekend.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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17 comments on “Points leader Verstappen believes Mercedes are still the team to beat on “normal tracks””

  1. Points leader sounds so strange why not championship leader ?

    1. Possibly because he is the points leader?

    2. That one is reserved for sir Lewis.

  2. Coventry Climax
    3rd June 2021, 13:45

    This sums it up quite nicely as to why mr Wolff is so keen in his flex rearwing campaign.
    Verstappen is saying nothing new, nothing extraordinary. It’s just realism, hardly worth the fuss, but hey, it’s Verstappen talking.

    1. That’s true, mercedes is still favourites until red bull manages to outpace them in the race in a regular track, monaco is too much an anomaly to consider mercedes an underdog.

  3. Of course. Mercedes have been faster in almost every race this season, and here I would guess they are even more ahead, especially as their slight issue with qualifying tyre temp will not be an issue here as overtaking is a piece of cake, and the track usually throws up some strategy scenarios where the Mercedes better strategy comes more into play.

  4. Spain was the perfect indicator as to how faster than Redbull Mercedes is
    Redbull might challenge for the occasional pole position here and there when Max is pushing it to its absolute limit
    But Mercedes will have the car absolutely suited to the race tyres (mostly Medium) which allows them to comfortably plan out the whole race and strategies
    It will be a feat if Max manages to win this year

  5. Verstappen just need to keep his head down and focus in order to win, it’s a fact that Hamilton has lost every race start/restart to Verstappen this year and require scientific mammoth pit stop strategy to get ahead/timed the overtaking. No doubt Red Bull is the fastest car at the moment.

    1. Fastest car.
      Not if you look at the speed traps, number of poles and fastest laps.
      So, no Mercedes is still the fastest car on track.
      If Lewis stops making so many errors they will lead again.

  6. Davethechicken
    3rd June 2021, 17:36

    It is amusing all this “you’ve got the best car”, “no you have the best car”, “no I don’t ” “yes you do” ” no you do” etc etc , that rbr and merc and their drivers are engaging in.
    Like they are in the playground. So unsubtle.

    1. It’s mostly the media asking the same questions every time.
      Try to look through that.

      1. And it’s not like they (either one) are going to say ‘we’re the best’ and ‘we’re the fastest’ when not only does that seem to depend on the track/weekend so far, or even the session, it would also come across as arrogant and set themselves up for even more ultra-criticism. It is just generally best for all athletes of all sports to keep their arrogance in check and do their talking on the track, court, field, what have you. And for now Max is correctly taking the approach that Mercedes have been the benchmark for years now, and so he is respectfully ceding to that. He knows, as we all do, it is going to take a whole season to beat Mercedes and LH, so there is much much more to come, and only a fool would discount Mercedes and LH from the possibility of taking off with this thing yet. They’ve got the track record behind them for evidence.

        1. Davethechicken
          4th June 2021, 20:14

          It is their arrogance.
          They are claiming they are winning despite the opposition car being sooo much better ergo they are so talented they overcome by pure skill!
          It is pathetic tbh

      2. Jockey Ewing
        3rd June 2021, 20:01

        I guess they are doing so, because they want to draw new spectators in, and sadly not by being brave business model and creativiy-wise. But by providing the content that statistically sells well. Most often that not meets with the taste of the “experienced” fans, long term users, drivers. Yes, at F1 what is good and enjoyable for the drivers is likely would be very good for the spectators too. But the drivers are often raising words against changes. There is only a very little part of the population is capable of driving an F1 or F2 car to the limit, so more or less they are almost instantly see the consequences of the planned changes – at least ofen better than many decision makers.

        If they want to draw new spectators in, it would be easier not to zoom in so much at the broadcasts, to give more perception of momentum, and dynamism. Imo even if these cars are amongst the most planted ones ever, the sight would be still much more amazing from a greater distance. Showing close shots of one car at a considerable percentage of the whole event, is not really functional, as it is hard to see a lot of efforts, and what the drivers are trying to do.
        While of course, onboards are a bit too short and rare (but I guess this one method to sell the premium broadcast).

        I would experiment with drones, likely those will open a new perspective of broadcasting, and once they will be safe enough, they will be a cheaper alternative of helicopters for this purpose.

  7. Mercedes is undoubtedly the faster race car. It’s extremely close in qualifying however. Everything about Baku says it should be a Mercedes track, however, the only thing that may hold them back is the tyres. Mercedes have shown over the past few seasons that they struggle to get the same level of performance from the softer tyres as the harder tyres, which is probably also why they struggle a bit more in Q3 compared to the race. I expect once again, Red Bull and Mercedes will be neck and neck in qualifying, but Mercedes will run away with it in the race.

  8. Mercedes the team to beat? Who would have thought after 8 years of domination and showing the best race pace again this year with both cars of which one is driven by a very average driver.

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