Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Interlagos, 2019

Red Bull pin hopes on high altitude tracks after “Hamilton stronghold” COTA

2021 F1 season

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner expects Lewis Hamilton will be hard to beat in next week’s United States Grand Prix but tipped his team to come back strongly at the following two rounds.

Max Verstappen took a two-point lead over Hamilton in last weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix. However Mercedes were the class of the field at Istanbul Park, where Hamilton was confined to a fifth-place finish in part by a 10-place grid penalty for exceeding his allocation of power unit parts.

Mercedes have won five of the last six races at Circuit of the Americas, scene of next weekend’s race. But Horner believes Red Bull will hold the upper hand at the following venues.

“We know the next race in Austin has been a Hamilton stronghold for quite a few years now,” said Horner. “But then Mexico, Brazil hopefully the higher-altitude races tended to be quite strong for us in the past.”

Red Bull have tended to fare better than Mercedes at higher-altitude venues, where the reduced air pressure alters the performance of the cars’ power units and aerodynamics. While most F1 tracks are close to sea level, Mexico City’s Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is the highest venue the series visits, at 2,200 metres.

Interlagos in Sao Paulo is the next-highest, at 764 metres. Red Bull won both races at the Red Bull Ring, F1’s third-highest track, earlier this year.

After its trio of races in the Americas, the season will conclude at two new venues – Losail International Circuit and Jeddah Corniche Circuit – and the remodelled Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.

“I’m really not sure what to expect from the last three,” Horner admitted, joking “we’ll go to church every other Sunday and see what happens.”

“We’ll do our simulation, we’ll do our homework and we’ll do the best job that we can,” he continued. “You do as much research you can into the venues and go from there.

“I think that we’ve got to take it one race at a time. We’ve maximised points at tracks that Mercedes have been incredibly strong at the last three venues. So that’s been a positive.”

Recent winners at next three venues

Circuit of the AmericasAutodromo Hermanos RodriguezInterlagos
2017Lewis Hamilton, MercedesMax Verstappen, Red BullSebastian Vettel, Ferrari
2018Kimi Raikkonen, FerrariMax Verstrappen, Red BullLewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2019Valtteri Bottas, MercedesLewis Hamilton, MercedesMax Verstrappen, Red Bull
2020Race not heldRace not heldRace not held

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43 comments on “Red Bull pin hopes on high altitude tracks after “Hamilton stronghold” COTA”

  1. I really feel like Mercedes have unlocked something that has given them a smudge of an advantage. I really think Valtteri could decide this title as much as Max and Lewis, if he has a quicker car than Max he can stay with him and disrupt Red Bull no end. I’m starting to make Lewis favourite, especially off the back of Turkey.

    1. I doubt it, I’m seeing a Lewis that has a lot of “pressure mistakes”. Either you go for a 0 stop, or you come in when your engineer tells you…
      I agree Merc seems the stronger car now, but Max has less pressure than Lewis, as it looks.

      1. “pressure mistakes” is such a nonesense term.

        1. “Choking” or making more mistakes when the pressure is high or the stakes are high is a very real phenomenon that has been studied fairly thoroughly.

      2. I agree with both and it sums up the season. Mercedes quicker car, but more pressure accident prone… which in the end made it a season where one of the RB’s could play catch-up.

    2. If we go by the respective efforts of Bottas in Sochi, and Perez / Tsunoda in Turkey, Max would appear to be the safer bet.

      1. Or if you go by Bottas’s performance at the Hungarian Grand Prix, then Lewis might be the safer bet?

    3. The key advantage in the last race was Redbull running with more downforce because of the Turkey track. The high Altitude should in theory mean thiner air, requiring more downforce, its all about how much additional grip the track demands. Also if Redbull are running a better battery system then that might become the key factor as the thinner air takes its toll on the engine.

      1. key advantage to Mercedes.

  2. Mercedes is back on its form. They have the fastest car by far and obviously are willing to sacrifice the “most reliable engine” name for the sake of more power.

    Interesting to see if a engine blows under that pressure.

  3. Horner seemed to forget that in previous years Mercedes had its titles decided earlier. So they could just put their engines on safe mode and let Hamilton and Bottas race just for fun.

    It’s completely different now. They already gave both of them new ICEs so they can keep pushing. We can expect a knife fight to the end and Verstappen will have to win this one driving the second best package.

    One last point: Verstappen performance in Turkey was as strange as it can be. Bottas and Perez even looked better than usual. Maybe it’s a chassis thing, maybe RBR being over cautious. Anyway, it’s hard to believe that Mercedes suddenly is one second faster per lap. If that’s the case, championship is over.

    1. I do think that Mercedes have made substantial progress since Silverstone. I’ve no idea what but somethings changed. That hving been said I got the impression Red Bull were running Verstappen’s engine in a lower mode during the race knowing they couldn’t beat Bottas but were happy with P2.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        15th October 2021, 14:48

        That was my thought as well – Bottas had the pace to stay in front so Verstappen/RB protected the engine and sat back hoping to get lucky with a bit of rain or a mistake.

    2. Mercedes was around half a second faster long runs in dry Turkey practice, and that’s like the old days. On top of that they have the top speed advantage as well, so it doesn’t look good for Red Bull.

      But as Wolff said before Silverstone, all they need is a DNF and things will change..

    3. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
      16th October 2021, 2:35

      Red Bull underestimated the grip levels and came to the circuit with a wrong setup. You could tweak it to minimize the losses but you couldn’t change the whole downforce package.

      1. Agreed, they were going by he stats for Turkey in the previous year’s new track / wet race conditions. Im not sure the higher altitude will be much better, the cars will move faster through the thinner air but whether they’ll have the same grip, has yet to be seen.

    4. I hear Max get a new chasis (maybe his was more damaged then they thought in Monza) for this CotA circuit.
      We will see if the new Honda Turbo (designed by Honda Aerospace) is working much beter in the high altitude then Mercedes turbo…..

  4. Merc team or Lewis made mistakes in all of the last 7 raceweekends in which they have the strongest race car .

    Yes, even in Zandvoort where Lewis could easily follow Max in the dirty air while saving his tyres but where they failed an undercut opportunity twice.

    This championship is Merc’s to lose now, and it would be a small wonder if Max runs away with it.

    1. Merc team or Lewis made mistakes in all of the last 7 raceweekends in which they have the strongest race car

      Yep, that’s called pressure

    2. Nell (@imabouttogoham)
      15th October 2021, 21:20

      That’s a strange recollection of things
      I don’t remember Mercedes having ruined pitstops for their drivers in consecutive races.

      If the narrative is going to be “Mercedes are the dominant car”, I’m keeping up the energy in talking about “Red Bull being unable to keep up”

      1. All I said either Merc made an error or Lewis (or both ).

        Take Monza: Lewis messed up the start of the sprintrace, otherwise he have started from pole in Sunday and probably a grand chelem. Then on Sunday the slow pitstop of 4sec created the situation for the collision with Max.
        2 mistakes.

        If they would have been flawless , they would have won each race since Silverstone.

        Also in Spa , Lewis disappointed in the rain qualifying.
        Socchi, Merc got lucky with the rain but should have been ahead on merit long before the rain happened. Poor qualifying by Lewis.
        Etc etc.

    3. That sums it up

  5. I agree with Horner that Red Bull will be the favourites in Mexico and Brazil. But this is missing one crucial factor. Brazil has a sprint event. So far, every sprint has led to a wild race, and more crucially, a collision between Lewis and Max. If I was Red Bull, Id be very wary of that. A DNF at an event they should dominate could be decisive.

    1. Then I will find myself throwing things at the TV

  6. That Interlagos picture was good IMO

  7. I am hoping the two Mclarens and The Ferrari can be thorn in RedBull’s side in COTA. That should give LH100 a hopeful 19 point lead coming out of COTA.

    1. Or a thorn in lewis shoes.. specially norris

    2. Jelle van der Meer (@)
      15th October 2021, 17:06

      Why would you wish anything or anyone to come between the 2 championship contenders?
      It is not like Lewis needs anymore help in Austin with his new rocket ship engine.

      1. @jelle-van-der-meer Because of ‘LH100’

      2. Because Max has Gasly and Tsunoda to come between the 2 championship contenders.

      3. Because Max deserves it ;)

  8. I thought this season there would be no power upgrades to the engines. Despite that Mercedes seems to have upped their game quite a bit. So where does that extra horsepower come from?

    1. @petterson I believe both Red Bull have asked FIA exactly that

      1. ..and Ferrari

    2. Ask Lewis, he knows it when a red bull is fast.

    3. The were allowed reliability updates. One can run a reliable powerunit more aggressive.

      1. I think this is why they unleashed the engine more…

      2. @Ferdinand. I understand and it makes sense. But isn’t it a conceiled way to make your engine produce more power? In other words you can look at the improved reliability as a power upgrade, which is not allowed.

  9. Nell (@imabouttogoham)
    15th October 2021, 21:21

    I had fellow armchair analysts tell me the rest of the calendar is going to be favouring Max and Red Bull, now all of a sudden, track by track, it becomes a “Lewis/Mercedes track”

    Turkey was supposedly more Red Bull friendly than Sochi???

    1. Before these races came I’d have thought red bull had chances to beat mercedes on merit in: surely brazil and mexico where they’re usually stronger, then definitely austin and turkey cause on pace they were very competitive last year in turkey and in austin they put in great performances the last few years, and then maybe in abu dhabi, after all verstappen would’ve beaten even russell or an in form hamilton last year there, and then no idea about the 2 new races ofc.

      So austin to me is a track red bull can try something, but I also thought they’d be stronger in turkey: if they got outdevelopped that can affect several tracks, normally red bull is better in development but mercedes probably stops developing at some point cause they already won, while this time with all on the line they seem to be doing better at that.

    2. I think that was based on the last year performance but where Mercedes couldn’t get heat in their tyres and Red Bull did. But with the different tyres Mercedes could get heat in to their tyres and it’s just fast. The low rake works very good on those high and medium corners (if the tyres are working)
      But it was very clear how fast Mercedes was.

  10. Verstappen just had several races where he failed to set up the car properly. Hungary should have been a walkover for Red Bull, but he struggled to get the car to work to it’s potential. Exactly the same happened in Turkey. It’s not that Mercedes has gotten faster, but in those cases you see Red Bull slip back a few tenths against the entire field.

    Only Sochi and perhaps Monza were a case where Mercedes were actually relatively faster due to their low rake long wheel base cars.

    Plus the same happened with Verstappen in Q3 Silverstone when he couldn’t get a good lap together. And despite all that they were still close behind and he would have won both Silverstone races if it hadn’t been for a mistake and then overly aggressive defending a lost position he would have won that race.

    Mexico and Brazil should be easy Red Bull wins indeed (if he manages to get a working setup) and I guess for the other tracks we just have to wait and see if it helps Mercedes get somewhat closer. Overall I can’t imagine they actually worry that their car is actually slower.

  11. Max Verstappen took a two-point lead over Hamilton in last weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix.

    @keithcollantine, is Max lead not 6 points? you probally copy the other article as it had the same error in it.

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