Perez’s mistake leaves Verstappen vulnerable to a twin-pronged Mercedes attack

2021 British Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Unusually, we’ve already had a chance to see the drivers racing ahead of today’s British Grand Prix.

The sprint qualifying format means that, while the same two drivers will line up on the front row as they did yesterday, the pair have switched sides.

Lewis Hamilton took the top grid spot for sprint qualifying but Max Verstappen beat him to turn one. He remained ahead for all 17 laps of the new format, earning pole position for the British Grand Prix.

This was despite Red Bull making a set-up choice which has seen them trade away the straight-line speed advantage they have enjoyed in recent rounds.

“I think what we learnt today is it’s very close again,” said Verstappen yesterday. “It’s a bit different, it seems like we are quite quick through corners, they are quick on the straight this weekend.

“And of course, after only one practice session and then you’re not allowed to make any changes and you don’t hit it right then it’s stuck, so we [are] stuck on the straight. So that’s why we have to make up our time in the corners.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Silverstone, 2021
Verstappen beat Hamilton off the line yesterday
Hamilton’s best opportunity to regain his lost lead may come at the start of the race. But he said yesterday Mercedes have had lost some performance at the start compared to their rivals. It remains to be seen if that is something they can address overnight.

Mercedes’ efforts to deny Verstappen another win have been boosted by Sergio Perez’s struggles. A spin during sprint qualifying left him at the back of the field and led Red Bull to retire his car during the final lap. The two RB16Bs will therefore bookend the field, and it will take an enormous stroke of fortune for Perez to aid Verstappen in his fight with the Mercedes.

As was also the case yesterday, drivers have a free choice of which tyres to start on. Mercedes chose to split their drivers’ strategies yesterday and could do so again today.

Pirelli predict that starting on a medium tyre, running for between 18 and 25 laps and then transferring to a hard tyre will be the quickest strategy. However by putting one of its cars on mediums and the other on hards, Mercedes could give themselves the opportunity to attack Verstappen two ways, one car running longer and the other pitting earlier.

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Perez’s problems means Charles Leclerc will line up fourth again and will be entertaining the hope of finishing there are a surprisingly competitive run for Ferrari yesterday. The Scuderia have been rapid at street circuits but Silverstone was expected not to suit their cars, being a front-limited circuit similar to Paul Ricard where they were in all kinds of trouble.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Silverstone, 2021
Ferrari were surprisingly competitive in sprint qualifying
However Leclerc was able to match Valtteri Bottas on pace during sprint qualifying. The Ferrari driver admitted he didn’t expect this development, even as the Mercedes driver faded on a set of soft tyres.

“It was quite busy at the beginning, but then it was actually quite lonely for me, but in a positive way,” said Leclerc. “We managed to stay very close to Bottas in front, more or less the same pace, which is something that surprised us a little bit.”

Ferrari’s contest with McLaren over third in the constructors’ championship remains fierce. Both McLaren cars will start the British Grand Prix immediately behind Leclerc, while Carlos Sainz Jnr trailing them after a first-lap incident sent him down the order during sprint qualifying. If the two, starting in fifth and sixth, can pass Leclerc and hold position then they will gain a huge advantage over Ferrari – on the other hand, if Leclerc can keep them behind, with the pace he showed during sprint qualifying, and Sainz can catch up then there will be a truly fierce battle for the ‘best of the rest’ places.

However the assumption that the race will run to a typical one-stop strategy could be disrupted by the weather. Silverstone is experiencing a mini-heatwave this weekend, with the mercury nudging 30C. Fernando Alonso, who attacked yesterday’s sprint qualifying race on a set of soft tyres, predicted tyre management could be a bigger factor than many expect.

“It’s going to be a long race,” he said. “We saw blisters for many people, already, over 17 laps, so [it] is going to be a long race for everybody. Quite warm, as well.”

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Quotes: Dieter Rencken

Over to you

Will Hamilton use his home advantage to end Red Bull’s winning run? Who will come out on top between Ferrari and McLaren? And how many points can Perez salvage from the back?

Share your views on the British Grand Prix in the comments.

2021 British Grand Prix

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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24 comments on “Perez’s mistake leaves Verstappen vulnerable to a twin-pronged Mercedes attack”

  1. How effective is the undercut on silverstone? Because if that has a big effect, merc could put bottas in front using the undercut, slowing Max down, then have hammilton take the lead and they’ll be 1 and 2… provided verstappens start goes well.

  2. From the pace yesterday, I expect another Portimao/Bahrain/reverse France situation. Hamilton will keep within a couple of seconds of Max, reveal Mercs’ superior racepace in free air and then win on strategy with the two stop blocked for Verstappen by Bottas.

    1. Indeed the likely scenario.
      Merc has superior pace this weekend.

      Look at Lewis’ tire degradation; less than Max while Lewis was in dirty air throughout the sprintrace.

    2. Bottas blocking a Verstappen on fresh tyres around this track will be a tall order. Firstly because it’s Bottas, second because the tyres will offer Verstappen much better grip under acceleration and in the fast corners. He’d probably not lose a lot of time. The only way that really works is if Bottas can block Verstappen in the exact two or three laps where Hamilton puts in a series of fast laps and then takes new tyres himself. But that requires Bottas to be about 20 to 25 seconds behind Verstappen as the pitstops get underway, and it remains to be seen if he can afford to be that slow with the McLaren’s and Ferrari’s behind.

    3. The race will probably be a boring 1-stopper. Hamilton may enjoy better tire life in the race as a result of his low-downforce set-up, which may give him the edge at the end of the race, but will it be enough?

  3. I see Max turning up the afterburner and leaving the two Mercs so far behind that, the undercut won’t work. Redbull has this year’s WDC in the bag, as far as the WCC we will have to wait and see. Hopefully next year Hamilton will win the WDC and feel free to retire since he will have topped almost all the records in F1.

    1. There’s no way the RB is faster than the merc at Sverstone this year. If either Merc gets ahead of Verstappen they’ll just drive off into the sunset

      1. It’s much hotter, it’s earlier on the day and the Merc doesn’t like higher temps. I expect the Mercs to struggle faster with tyres than the Red Bull.

    2. Agreed, and don’t forget King Verstappen had shown he mastered the Brake Magic advantage at its MAX, meanwhile Hamilton overworked causing the brake lost function.

      1. Sorry, but are you some sort of spambot that is trying to post a few semi-coherent posts that are vaguely on topic before then launching into the product placement posts? The strange way you’ve written your posts would seem to give that impression.

        1. Is he suspicious? That suspicious like the banned former site member?

  4. Alonso gets a good start and overtakes both McLarens. Beats Leclerc through the pit stops and then gets 3rd after a dnf for 1 of the top 3

  5. Will Hamilton use his home advantage to end Red Bull’s winning run? – I doubt unless he gets ahead on lap 1, but more possible on pace than in recent events.
    Who will come out on top between Ferrari and McLaren? – Ferrari (Leclerc).
    And how many points can Perez salvage from the back? – P5-P7.

  6. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    18th July 2021, 13:09

    I will be very, very surprised if Hamilton doesn’t win this one.

    1. What will happen when Verstappen leading to win by over 15 sec, will UK fans making loud boo?

      1. Don’t mix up British F1 fans with football fans. The former are, on the whole, well-informed, respectful, and appreciative.

        1. Pretty sure I’ve heard booing at Silverstone before @paulguitar

          I’ve also encountered some on the internet over the years..

          1. I’ve never experienced it in my F1 trips, although I seem to remember there was a bit of it about in the Mansell era. I reckon F1 fans are a pretty decent lot, on the whole…:)

    2. @rocketpanda curious, how come? Red Bull seemed faster in race trim and with hotter temperatures. If the tyre deg is similar for both cars I don’t see how that works. Hamilton being possessed at Silverstone, now that’s a factor I can see play out.

  7. With the start probably deciding the race, it will be all elbows out and a crash between Verstappen and Hamilton could well happen.

    Even if they survive in the same positions, Bottas with almost the same speed is a trump card that’s almost impossible to get around like the article says, especially as he’s not even allowed to race Hamilton. Even the fastest lap point will be blocked.

    1. He’s been allowed to race Hamilton in the past, and Hamilton has even ceded position to him. @balue

      1. Maybe in the past, but Wolff said yesterday that Bottas is there to protect Hamilton @paulguitar We also saw in Austria now Bottas was ordered to sacrifice his race so that Hamilton could maximize his points haul, until somebody remembered Austria 2002 and reversed the decision.

        1. Ah, thanks, I had not heard Toto’s interview. To be fair to Mercedes, they’d be crazy not to try to maximize Hamilton’s chances by having Valteri help out. Possibly their only chance of overcoming Max today, although I suspect the WDC is a long shot unless there is a terrible run of bad luck for MV.

  8. I think we can say in retrospect that one prong was sufficient.

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