Column | Mercedes proves to be much more efficient than Red Bull Racing in 2021 so far

Column | Mercedes proves to be much more efficient than Red Bull Racing in 2021 so far

03-05-2021 08:16

18 points is the gap between Mercedes and Red Bull Racing after three races in 2021. Where Mercedes managed to build such a lead in recent years by having the fastest car, this is not the case this year. Mercedes is simply more efficient than Red Bull, where the Austrians have often missed out on points.

Mercedes versus Red Bull Racing

The 2021 Formula One season is long, and that could well make for one hell of a marathon of a championship fight. For the first time in years, it's a real battle between two teams. The Red Bull and Mercedes cars are so close, that a hint of wind or a slightly different circuit could change the odds.

We've seen that over the last three race weekends. Over one lap, Red Bull seemed to have the fastest car in Bahrain, Imola and Portugal. However, Max Verstappen made a mistake on his fastest lap in Imola and Portugal, taking away one lap and making the other not good enough for pole. Mercedes punished this well both times, but more about that later.

Indeed, during the races the advantage went back and forth all the time. In Bahrain, Verstappen was the fastest on track, but Mercedes won due to a smart strategy. In Imola Mercedes seemed a bit faster in the race, but a good overtaking move by Verstappen and a mistake by Hamilton ensured Max won. In Portimao, Mercedes was the fastest, and it was also Hamilton who won the race.

It is all very close, and also in the standings nothing is lost. Verstappen is only eight points behind Hamilton in the standings, and Red Bull is eighteen points behind Mercedes. Much less than has been the case in recent years, but also less than it should be. Mercedes has been showing for three races that it is a step ahead of Red Bull.

Red Bull throws away points

Look at it this way. In Bahrain Verstappen took pole, he had the fastest car all weekend, but Mercedes are still two and three. With Perez on P11 and eventually even P20, Mercedes had the upper hand in the race. The Germans played this out nicely with an undercut strategy that Hamilton executed to perfection. Mercedes became one and three in a race where they did not have the fastest car. Red Bull is second and fifth with the fastest car and loses thirteen points.

It seems like nothing, but that pattern continues in Imola. There again Red Bull has the fastest car in qualifying, but it's Hamilton who takes pole. There seems to be no chance, because with Valtteri Bottas P8 Mercedes finally seems to be making a mistake. If Hamilton then runs into the wall and Bottas is out of the race, Red Bull can make a huge impact.

At the restart Verstappen was P1, Perez on P4 and Hamilton on P8. Given Verstappen's pace and the overtaking of Hamilton a 1-2 for Red Bull should have been possible. Perez made a mistake, scored no points and Hamilton drove to P2. Whereas Red Bull could have gained 28 points on a Verstappen-Perez-Hamilton podium, they now only gained six points.

Mercedes is much more efficient

So a win for Red Bull, but in this situation more could have been achieved. Mercedes shows how it should be done. After Bahrain, Mercedes managed to start from first and second in Portugal, while Verstappen had the best lap time in his car. That it is Bottas on pole can be called surprising, but in the end that doesn't matter in the race.

Because of the perfect starting position, Mercedes manages to score another 1-3 in the race, just like in Bahrain. Bottas loses from Verstappen, but wins from Perez. That is the most important thing for Mercedes. Including the fastest lap, Mercedes wins eleven points on Red Bull again this weekend and is now 101-83.

Team Verstappen must improve

The first three races have shown that Red Bull and Mercedes are very close to each other, and those who thought that Red Bull and Verstappen would become world champions are clearly wrong. In fact, in the first three races they have done better than Red Bull Racing.

That doesn't mean the end of the world, but Red Bull will have to make a move to beat Mercedes this year. If the team has the best car in qualifying or the race, they have to be able to pull it off. They haven't always been able to do that, which is why Red Bull is behind Mercedes in the standings.

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