Verstappen wary Mercedes have “stepped it up” despite taking points lead

2021 Turkish Grand Prix

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Despite re-taking the lead of the drivers championship at the Turkish Grand Prix, Max Verstappen warned Mercedes raised their game at the last round of the world championship.

Verstappen finished second in yesterday’s race, three places ahead of championship rival Lewis Hamilton, who had qualified fastest but started 11th after exceeding his allocation of power unit parts. The Red Bull driver now has a six-point lead in the title fight.

However after Valtteri Bottas put on a commanding display to win from pole position, Verstappen is concerned by the pace Mercedes showed at Istanbul.

“They were definitely quicker this weekend,” he said. “We just didn’t get it together and also in the wet they seemed to have a bit of the edge as well.

“So we’ll have to analyse of course why we weren’t that competitive here and I definitely do think they probably stepped it up a bit more.

“So even with the points it’s not going to be easy. But I think I even said it before we even started the weekend, so far we’ve had a really good year so it’s not going to change the world for me if we finish first or second at the end of the day.”

Following yesterday’s race Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said Mercedes have made a clear improvement with the straight-line speed of their W12.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Istanbul Park, 2021
Radio transcript: How Hamilton’s plan to delay his pit stop backfired
The next round of the championship is at the Circuit of the Americas, where Mercedes have won five of the last six races, and Red Bull hasn’t taken a win since 2013.

“I’m always going to give my best and we’ll see again in Austin how it’s going to go,” said Verstappen.

“We won’t give up, we’ll always try to do the best we can and hopefully, of course, at the end of the championship it’s going to be enough but if it isn’t I’m not going to sleep less.”

Verstappen suspects other tracks after COTA will suit his car better. “There’s lot of flat-out sections, tyre wear is quite high as well, so there are a few things to look into. I think maybe at some other tracks we can maybe be a bit better, but it’s never going to be very easy.

“The whole year already has been quite close, of course. Sometimes it looked like maybe we were a bit better but then sometimes also they were quite quick. I just hope that from the remaining races a few tracks, or more than half, are better for us but we’ll find out.”

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2021 Turkish Grand Prix

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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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25 comments on “Verstappen wary Mercedes have “stepped it up” despite taking points lead”

  1. Hm, well, it certainly looks like Mercedes have levelled the playing field and caught up with Red Bull in the last few races overall. But then, let’s wait and see how it goes at Austin (probably pretty close) and Mexico (likely to be advantage Red Bull) and just be happy that even with Mercedes being faster you gained a double podium and regained the lead in the championship.

    1. My impression was always that Mercedes have a better car (especially taking Perez’ performance into consideration relative to either Merc driver). On a few occasions Red Bull seemed better, more often than it’s usually the case, but very soon I’ve realized it’s almost the same story as every year. The difference is halved but is still there. Now either Max is a better driver than Hamilton (why not) or that car really suits his driving style. I’d like to see them change places for the rest of the season, then we’d get the real champion. Everything else is a guessing game as always and most people see what they want to see, if they are fans.

      1. I’m a Lewis fan, but have to say Max has been marginally better

        And is also getting a little bit of luck now. Deserved, given the early season bad luck.

        Reverse the weather conditions between Russia and Turkey and Max is probably 12 points behind – no way is he making up all those places on a damp track at Sochi and Lewis would have would have been in a better position to pounce at Istanbul if that deluge had occurred.

        Something in me thinks that Lewis ‘Sunday Tiger’ Hamilton is back, though and I’m now more confident than ever that he will win.

        1. I agree, Hamilton and Merc are looking really strong now.

          For the last three races atleast they have had the best car/driver package but not been able to put together a clean weekend.

          5th place was really the absolute minimum he could have expected in Turkey – a sure win lost if they had decided to delay the new engine.

          Win in Sochi but Max maximized his weekend – something Lewis did not do with roles reveres in Turkey.

          Monza – Merc comfortably faster, zero points.

          When Bottas is comfortably second fastest you know Merc has a sizeable advantage.

          It is abit like football, dominating the procession but not scoring… sooner or later he needs to convert his advantage. At the moment it seems inevitable he will.

          Must be said Perez put it on the line beautifully to play his part in Turkey, while.Bottas in Turkey….

        2. I would go further than marginally, he has clearly been better (not necessarily faster but rather much less mistake prone), Lewis is lucky to still have a real chance of winning the championship. But I agree, in these closing races I think that Lewis might have the advantage and is going to cope with the situation a little better than Max. Plus, the momentum seems to be with the Mercs right now.

    2. Yes that Red Bull was on Fire at the beginning of the Season

  2. Yes it seems Mercedes was better car during Turkish GP, especially in the clear air… But but but, Hamilton failed an overtaking attempt on Perez, that explained the performance delta between both teams is not too huge.

    1. Not so sure, Hamilton played it safe – Perez put it on the line. Hamilton seemed to be atleast a car length ahead going into to the breaking zone after out dragging Perez.

      Plus Hamilton had worked his tires much harder Maki g his way upto Perez, who had been in Tyre management mode the whole race…

    2. In dry conditions Hamilton would have DRS and that would be enough to overtake Perez in one attempt.

      Reply moderated
  3. Since Mercedes Silverstone update and Pirelli’s change of tyres the advantage is with Mercedes, but this track was a bit of an outlier since other cars were close as well and somehow hurt Red Bull a bit, exposing an understeer they couldn’t get rid of.

    Reply moderated
  4. I think Austin will be an easy win for Hamilton. It will even be difficult for Max to beat Bottas there. But i think Max has good chances to win in Mexico and Brazil because RBR always does well on tracks on higher altitudes (Austria, Mexico and Brazil). This is because of Honda’s turbo. Max already won Mexico twice and Brazil he should have won twice if not for Ocon ;). After that it is only 3 more races. I really think the WDC will be decided in Abu Dhabi .. so exciting!!

    1. If max ends up winning hopefully it’s by more than 5 points after that horrible “non-race” at Spa which IMO should not have been run and no points awarded.

      1. If Lewis ends up winning hopefully it’s by more than 18 points after that horrible incident of Lewis teammate Bottas who made a mistake and ruined Max his race in Hungary.

      2. If we’re playing this game, Lewis easily needs to win by more than 50+ points for the potential win to be purely on merit (Imola, Baku, Silverstone, Hungary just off the top of my head). Might actually be closer to a 100.

        1. Absolutely, 50 points is what hamilton needs to win by and unless something big happens, including a return to merc domination, I don’t see that happen, any less than 50 is gonna be a tained title, worse than 2016 rosberg.

          Having said that, maybe we could say 45, verstappen recovered a little luck wise in russia.

      3. Ohh, and also, giving no points for that race would be again hamilton luck: he underperforms in quali and doesn’t get punished.

  5. By the looks of it, the close fight is over. New Pirellis tyre icw some reliability patches shows a return to dominance. While I personally find that a pity, it is again quite an achievement of the team and Lewis is once again a very very lucky

    1. I wouldn’t go that far. Look at McLaren they are very competitive at certain tracks but in Turkey they were nowhere. Same applies to RBR. They will be much stronger and in my opinion will beat Mercedes at Mexico and Brazil!

      1. And hopefully at austin, cause they’re normally good there.

  6. They did look exceptionally faster – in no session did either Red Bull look capable of fighting either Mercedes on equal footing and we were back to 2020 levels of dominance. There was a constant 4-5 tenth gap. In wet conditions we’ve seen Verstappen excel, and we’ve seen him dispatch Bottas with ease in the past but he couldn’t close the gap and Hamilton looked like he was driving a car in a different formula. Perhaps this is just the pendulum swinging from one to the other and in the next race it may swing back again, but if that kind of advantage persists throughout the remainder of the year the championship fight is toast.

    1. Yeah but it can be track related because look at the poor performance of McLaren compared to their races in Monza and Sochi. If you don’t have a good balance in the car you can lose a lot of time. I still think Max can win Brazil and Mexico due to the high altitude of those tracks which suits RBR because of Honda’s turbo

      1. Also RBR seems to do better at higher track temperatures. Compared to the last tracks in Europe the rest of the season we go to places where the temperatures are on average much higher!

    2. IF the advantage persists, they need to use some hungary tactics: they got perez, tsunoda, gasly, so. That is taste your medicine imo.

  7. Mercedes has been sandbagging since 2017. They learned from Schumacher era that sweeping the field would only make FIA introduce changes to avoid dominance.

    But now it’s hammer time.

    Reply moderated
  8. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
    12th October 2021, 7:54

    Is the rest of the calendar confirmed i.e. Brazil, Mexico or are we expecting more cancellations?

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