Hamilton: Mercedes “losing three-and-a-half tenths on straights” to Red Bull

2021 French Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton said there was no way he could keep Max Verstappen behind when the Red Bull driver caught him at the end of the French Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver lost the lead of the race when he made his first pit stop two laps later than Verstappen. Hamilton admitted Red Bull had got the better of Mercedes strategically, but also pointed out their rival’s car was significantly quicker in a straight line.

“Undeniably they were just much quicker than us this weekend,” said Hamilton. “We’re losing three and a half tenths just in a straight line.

“So you saw him fly past me down the straight. There was nothing I could do to keep him behind.”

Unlike Mercedes, Red Bull fitted new engines to their cars this weekend. Under Formula 1’s rules these must be of the same specification used throughout this season. Hamilton said this will make it difficult for Mercedes to reduce their performance deficit to Red Bull’s engine supplier Honda.

“It’s difficult because the engines are homologated,” he said. “They’ve obviously brought an upgrade here so we’ve got to dig deep and try and see if we can figure out how to get quicker.”

Verstappen was the second-quickest driver through the Paul Ricard speed trap during the race, registering 337kph. That was 16.3kph quicker than Hamilton, who was slowest.

Speaking in the press conference after the race, Hamilton acknowledged that deficit may not be entirely down to differences in their engine performance.

“We’ve got to find some pace, that’s for sure,” he said. “Most of the time we lost today was just on the straights. We’ve definitely got to dig deep, try to find out what that is – whether it’s power or drag.”

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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
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42 comments on “Hamilton: Mercedes “losing three-and-a-half tenths on straights” to Red Bull”

  1. I thought low downforce setup was slower in simulations?

    Maybe Verstappen was just faster.

    As is often the case in DRS era, faster driver will win regardless of strategy.

    Bottas was again sacrificed.

    Lewis tols the team he wanted plan B, Bottas said the same….

    But it is Red Bull who listened to their driver.

    1. Where is the Paul Ricard speed trap? That 16kmh might be misleading, Lewis never overtook anyone in the race to get a big tow. I think it was 5kmh in qualifying.

      Surprised Lewis wasn’t complaining about their flexing wings… Almost as if Mercedes know it isn’t an issue worth drawing attention to any more…

      1. Sorry that was meant as a comment but a reply

        1. Broccoliface
          20th June 2021, 23:15

          This comment section is deadly for that. Scrolling down on mobile, you’ll get sent to ‘reply’ every few flicks downwards without realising.

      2. @David Shortly before the Mistral straight chicane.
        Race maximum speeds:
        VER 337.0 kph
        PER 336.4
        BOT 321.2
        HAM 320.7
        Mercedes drivers had the lowest top speeds overall, while NOR had the highest at 349.2.
        QLF:
        VER 328.7 (highest in the session)
        PER 327.7
        HAM 326.6
        BOT 326.4

        1. @jerejj Is that a typo for Norris? Shouldn’t that be 339.2? It just appears to be dramatically higher than Verstappen…

          1. @maddme No, his highest was indeed 349.2. 12.2 higher than the next highest.
            Source: https://www.fia.com/events/fia-formula-one-world-championship/season-2021/french-grand-prix/eventtiming-information – Race maximum speeds.

          2. It could well be that Norris had DRS and a good slipstream to get to that speed @maddme, @jerejj.

          3. @bascb @maddme
            Yes, he had DRS activated as he was close behind Gasly. A combined DRS/slipstream effect.
            Another contributor was using maximum ERS discharge.
            Explanation in this onboard video: https://youtu.be/x1tCrU8lISg

      3. Red Bull changed their rear wing. Probably already for Baku even. So what would there be to complain about?

        1. The funny thing is, both Red Bull drivers remarked that while their setup with the skinny wing (which they took because the old wing which also had low drag due to being “dynamic” would not be allowed anymore) helped their straight line speed, but made it tricky for them especially on the green track at the start of the race.

          So there really is no mystery nor open question on why Red Bull were faster. It does point to the Mercedes this race to be running optimal with higher downforce levels (to be able to get the tyres working for them) compared to Red Bull, so that might play out in Austria again. But then, in Austria there are no areas where higher downforce would help you to get a better laptime really.

  2. That doesn’t make sense. Why would Red Bull taking a new engine give them a performance advantage? Was it just that they felt comfortable turning it up to the max? Grateful if someone could explain please. Thank you.

    1. Yes, normally more confidence to run a new engine hard, older engines are run more gently to try and.get the maximum life out of them.

      Also some rumours that Honda have been confident to run their engine at maximum for the first time this season after playing it safe earlier in the season.

      1. very interesting, can you provide source?

    2. Rearwing also played a part. Before race analysis showed RedBull using a low downforce rearwing and Mercedes opting for more downforce. Thats why Verstappen managed to keep the Mercedes behind on the straights but not being able to pull away from them.

      1. That’s an interesting explanation, I noticed that part and my take was simply that merc was faster with even tyres in race pace.

        1. Well, that’s my opinion too and I think we are right: Mercedes was slightly faster in race pace with even tyres.

  3. Coventry Climax
    20th June 2021, 22:28

    We’ve had to put up with Mercedes being faster than anyone for the last seven years, so to me, a change every now and then is very welcome.
    Any DRS overtake on the straight is just ‘flying by’ Lewis. I know it didn’t happen a lot to you these past years, but to claim they’re that much faster is an exaggeration.
    Different setup, different tyres, made possible by an extra stop. 16 km/h is about 4 times walking speed, so not that much, actually.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. I came to say the same thing. Back in 2014 the Mercedes PU thumped everyone and they reaped the rewards, they can’t cry foul now they are on the receiving end…

      1. They are not crying foul. Just explaining and giving answers to questions. I think Osaka was right – maybe press interaction should be banned!

  4. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    20th June 2021, 22:52

    This is a titanic battle. One truly for the ages and I’m absolutely loving it, we’ve waited so long for this. It’s definitely advantage Max so far, he seems a little faster on raw pace and has made the less significant errors so far. A long season to go and we know Lewis usually has a stronger second half to the season.

    1. The Red Bull is faster. It is not Verstappen. Except this “raw pace” is something he has come just recently.

      Even Perez, a driver not known for his raw pace or qualifying powerss, has managed to beat the Mercedes a few times this year

      1. Michael Wilcox
        21st June 2021, 5:46

        @kbdavies i disagree with a few things above. In race trim and on this type of track the red bull and Merc are very evenly matched, redbull selected the optimal strategy of max taking the second pitstop after lewis and bottas had pushed their hard tyres following him, at that point, just as max had to in Barcelona lewis just had to hang on and hope max wouldn’t catch. It could easily have happened the other way around as in Barcelona, if Merc had pulled the trigger sooner, so not down to redbull simply being faster.
        On Perez, he is closer to Max than albon or gasly had been and that’s why he’s competing with the mercs not because the redbull is faster. And in Paul Ricard he was able to utilize his well established skull of tyre nursing to good effect.
        In any case it’s great to see redbull and Merc compete and Perez being involved, my guess is that we’ll see both teams win due to clever strategies going forward not just raw pace.

        Reply moderated
      2. This must be a troll comment.
        Hamilton as Verstappen are in a league of their own. The delta at the end of the race with their teammates again and again proves as much.

  5. In the second stint with hards, after Max’s undercut, both Mercs were hard on his tail. This means their pace was better (but not enough for the overtake). Dirty air is a clear disadvantage, and if the car ahead has more pace it simply scampers away. But Max couldn’t because he had not the pace. A tiny mistake by Max and both Mercs would have gone by and left him way behind. Or at least Lewis’, Valtteri might have stayed just ahead of Max to slow him down.
    At the end Max was clearly faster, due to his fresher medium tyres, while the hard tyres in both Mercs were on the cliff by the end. With the slipstream and DRS there was little that Lewis could do. And Perez was not on the cliff yet because his hard tyres were much fresher (he did a superb last lap).
    Long story short: Mercs had clearly more pace, at least on the hard tyres. Lewis should have won, and had Merc not dropped the ball calling him in too late, he would have won.

    1. I’d say it is also a factor where on the track your car has an advantage and where it has a deficit. RBR took off wing and it looked significant in pictures. Therefore they chose to have an advantage on the main overtake point(s) on the track. I’d say RBR judged that one better.

      The first half of the second stint was absolutely great to watch by the way…

      1. The first half of the second stint was absolutely great to watch by the way

        Yes it was. Great defenses against a faster rival are very hard to come by in these wretched DRS times (outside of Monaco), Leclerc’s superb defense in Monza 2019 comes to mind.

    2. Good analysis, there’s something in that. Max couldn’t get away from the Mercs. Hamilton was gifted the lead and Mercedes threw it away by pitting Bottas first and then compounded the error by not pitting Lewis immediately after. Then they were back with the problem of lack of pace on the straight to overtake and dirty air. I don’t think Hamilton would have taken off into the distance, but he could have built up a reasonable gap on the hard tyres maybe.

      1. Yeah, before the race, Dutch television analyzed the qualifying lap and the places where Verstappen was faster. Also showed why, which was because of Redbull bringing a low downforce rearwing and Mercedes not.
        Which gave them more speed on straight but less in the corners. The race showed exactly that, so Hamilton is playing mindgames.

        1. Q: How do you know the guy is not lying?
          A: His mouth is shut

          1. This is a juvenile comment. Just saying.

          2. I’m over 60 so I’ll take that as a compliment

    3. Agree with this, melanos, I think mercedes made a tiny strategic mistake (using the undercut), but honestly didn’t expect them AT ALL to lose the place on verstappen, then imo red bull made a bigger strategic mistake, they almost threw away the win, verstappen was quite safe ahead when he boxed.

      1. red bull made a bigger strategic mistake, they almost threw away the win, verstappen was quite safe ahead when he boxed.

        Well, RBR won, so on hindsight it was not a mistake. But it could have been, if Merc’s hard tyres could have lasted a few laps more, or if there would have been a SC (or a red flag). Sacrificing position is always a gamble.

        Was Max quite safe ahead? well, he said, we cannot go on like this to the end (or something like that). As long as he could avoid a mistake he was pretty much safe, but driving flawlessly for some 35 laps with the Mercs within DRS distance is a very tall order. And lapping the backmarkers was going to create more opportunities for the Mercs.
        Having pitted a little later AND driving in cleaner air RBR could expect Max would hit the cliff later than the Mercs but they could not be sure. To tell you the truth, before Max pitted for the second time I was expecting Checo to maybe win the race, as he was on much fresher tyres. With both Mercs plus Max hitting the cliff near the end and needing a second pitstop or else bleeding time massively, Checo could expect an easy win.

      2. @esploratore1 I wouldn’t say Red Bull made a mistake. If Hamilton pitted and Max stayed out, he may have had the pace to catch and overtake Max. Neither team had a massive pace advantage over the other so it would have been close either way.

      3. I think with the tyre failure of Baku in mind, they would not let Verstappen carry on when he clearly indicated his tyres were not going to last. It worked out, and the comments of Bottas and Lewis seem to indicate all drivers thought a two-stop would work better. Tyre degradation was more than expected. So I think it was still the right call, even if Max wouldn’t have won.

  6. Well, I guess Lewis and Merc now have a real fight on their hands. People may disagree, but it isn’t an exaggeration to say that they’ve had it relatively easy with respect to the competition in the hybrid era. Sure, Ferrari have turned up with a quick car on some occasion, and one ca argue that Vettel should have done better in 17 and 18, but either way, Mercedes always had enough in their back pocket.

    On the surface, as things stand, Red Bull appear to be operating as a better unit. Their drivers are delivering, as Perez appears to be coming into his own; the team are making good decisions and their pit crews have been close to flawless. All in all, they appear to be a cohesive unit. Mercedes on the hand, havent had everything go to plan, and for the first time in a while, they have a rival teams that there to capitalise at any given moment. Hence, any small error from Merc has been punished.

    I have no doubt that Mercedes will recover soon. However, Red Bull are a seasoned championship winning outfit themselves, and will prove to be a much more formidable threat than an occasional quick Ferrari.

  7. This is getting old already. “The flex-wing is giving Red Bull an advantage on the straights!”. FIA decided to alter the tests, nothing happened. “They ran with lower tyre pressure!”. Pirelli upped the pressure, gave a new manual, nothing happened. “The new PU is giving them three tenths on the straights!”. Guess nobody will come in with new rules or tests for that one, but I’m guessing Red Bull will not run away with it in Austria. They didn’t with the wing, they didn’t with the tyres, they didn’t and won’t with the new PU.

    1. The gap would have been even bigger if Red Bull still had that flexing rear wing.

  8. Didn’t Lewhine say RedBull had a six tenths advantage?
    Or am I pulling a Rosberg and just blabbing my mouth for attention?

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