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Column | Do Red Bull still have a chance at winning the final rounds?

Column | Do Red Bull still have a chance at winning the final rounds?

01-12-2021 08:31 Last update: 12:31
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Max Verstappen has put in a sterling performance this year, claiming nine race wins over the course of this season. However, the battle seems to have swung in his title rival’s favour, with Lewis Hamilton claiming the last two wins on the bounce. Will the Dutchman be able to hold up his efforts?

Teammate's and personal performances

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen & Mercedes’ driver Lewis Hamilton has put up fantastic performances this year, maximising their potential points haul while often finishing way ahead of the rest of the grid. With racing incidents and particularly strong performances by the two, the lead in the World Driver’s Championship has changed hands several times, leading to uncertainty coming into the final two rounds as to who will take the title. The run of form would suggest that Mercedes now has the upper hand, a major upset to the incredible string of results which Red Bull boasts from this season.

In terms of the second driver: Sergio Perez (Red Bull) & Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), they have both put up team performances to guarantee strong points finishes for their teammates and teams. However, Red Bull has shown periodic strategic failures with Perez, running him out on the circuit in pockets of traffic or moments where he is unable to capitalise on track evolution. Red Bull will need to ensure that similar mistakes do not occur in these final races, with teammate support to play a crucial role in defensive and strategic maneuvers to protect their teammate’s race.

 
 
 
 
 
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Engine & cars

With concerns over engine reliability and performance for the German marque, Bottas has taken on a raft of new engine components, relegating him to lower starting positions for the Italian, Turkish and Russian Grands Prix. Hamilton had taken a fresh new engine for the Brazilian Grand Prix, which reaped dividends, as the Mercedes driver had an extra performance boost for the start-finish straights and the straight after the Senna esses, allowing him to line up a string of overtaking moves to claw his way up the grid. Things were closer for the Qatar Grand Prix, yet it was clear to see that the momentum earned from Brazil allowed Hamilton to maintain his distance from the charging Verstappen.

On the other hand, Red Bull has put in significant effort to maximise engine efficiency and reliability with outright component changes, so as to protect their starting positions on the grid. With Red Bull now reporting that their rear wings are starting to face fragility issues, it’s clear to see that the cars are truly being pushed to the limit for this season as both teams duke it out for the constructor’s championship. The team will need to seriously consider their strategic and engineering options to ensure they remain within arm’s distance, else they may suffer reliability issues and not be able to finish in a points-paying position.

Verdict

The newly introduced Mercedes engine components remain in their selection pool and can be called upon if the occasion calls for it. Red Bull, at the moment, do not have as large a leeway. If the Austrian manufacturer could play their cards right by taking an engine penalty before the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, they could even benefit from it. With its expected high average speed of 253km/h, the penalty could be offset by the performance boost given by the new engine. With the fresher engine, the Abu Dhabi straights could be a significant zone for Red Bull to have incredible pace.

With the balance of probabilities suggesting that the championship could go down to the final race in Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia is a ground where one driver can land a decisive blow to greater secure their hold around the WDC trophy. Verstappen may have lost the run of form as of late, but he could easily regain it with some correct decision making within their camp. The battle has now elevated in stakes and gravity.

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