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Red Bull and Verstappen are the favourites for victory at these tracks

Red Bull and Verstappen are the favourites for victory at these tracks

01-10-2021 09:00

With seven races to go and the difference between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen only two points, the GPBlog editors of both the Dutch and English edition look at the circuits to come. Which team has the advantage at which circuit and what can we expect from the new circuits?

Several editors contributed to this article. On behalf of the Dutch edition of GPblog, here are pieces written by editors Jordi Smit (JS), Femke Notermans (FN) and Nicole Mulder (NM). For the English edition, editor-in-chief Matt Gretton (MG), and editor Aryaan Jena (AJ) wrote their take.

Grand Prix of Turkey

FN: My favourite for Turkey is Red Bull Racing. Last year Max Verstappen was dominant in almost all sessions, but due to rain in qualifying, it was Lance Stroll who took pole position. I expect Red Bull to have a strong result again this year, but who knows what teams like Aston Martin and McLaren can do when it rains.

MG: The upcoming race at the Istanbul circuit is a bit of a mystery. Last season the new tarmac created an ice rink for the drivers and when it rained it got even worse. This made for a messy grid. But what we do know is that a Mercedes car started on pole and Lewis Hamilton had the race pace to fight his way through the field and win from eighth on the grid. The other Racing Point finished second. It seems that Mercedes has a slight advantage, but don't be surprised if this changes in October. Perhaps Hamilton can replace his engine here, as he proved last year that overtaking is possible.

JS: The Austrian racing team was the underdog in Italy and Russia, but things are different again in Turkey. While Hamilton took the world title in the country last season, Red Bull seems to have a good chance of competing with Mercedes for pole position this year. A victory for Verstappen and Sergio Pérez is certainly in the pipeline, although Hamilton will not be out of place.

United States Grand Prix

NM: No fewer than five of the six recent editions of this Grand Prix have been won by Mercedes. Red Bull, and specifically Verstappen, however, are doing anything but bad. In 2018, Verstappen drove from eighteenth to second place. He also finished on the podium in 2019, just eight tenths behind Hamilton. It will be particularly close at the Circuit of the Americas, which seems to suit both teams well. Judging by Red Bull's form in 2021, including at circuits historically dominated by their rivals, I think the advantage will fall just their way.

MG: The Circuit of the Americas is also a bit of a mystery. It has a number of fast corners which would suggest it is in Red Bull Racing's favour, but they haven't won at the circuit since 2013. Given that Ferrari were on top in 2018 and should have won in 2019, all recent indications point to it being a power circuit and therefore Mercedes are slight favourites there.

FN: The last Grand Prix of America was in 2019, where Verstappen finished behind the two Mercedes drivers. My expectation is that Mercedes will also be strong at this circuit this year due to its fast corners, but with Red Bull's significantly more competitive car, Verstappen may be able to make things more difficult for Mercedes this year.

Mexican Grand Prix

NM: If there's one race where Red Bull is the firm favourite, it's Mexico. The team has always been particularly strong there in previous years and managed two wins with Verstappen. It's also a home advantage for Perez, who will be more motivated than ever to get on the podium. Red Bull will undoubtedly have the best chance of winning the race in Mexico City.

AJ: In Mexico City, I expect Red Bull to have a strong advantage. The circuit is more than 2,200 metres above sea level, which means the air is thin. Historically, Red Bull has been stronger at higher altitude circuits, as Mercedes struggles with cooling issues. This advantage bodes well for Verstappen and Perez at his home race in Mexico.

JS: The race at the Mexico circuit is not only a favourite for Pérez, who is taking his seat in a Red Bull car for the first time, Verstappen also has a good connection with the country. The Dutchman crossed the finish line as the winner in 2017 and 2018. Hamilton landed on the top podium just as many times, although this season he seems to be at a bit of a disadvantage compared to his rival.

Brazilian Grand Prix

AJ: At Interlagos, I expect Red Bull to have a strong advantage here. Although not to the same extent, Interlagos is around 700 meters above sea level. In fact, when F1 last raced in Brazil, two Honda cars finished on the podium. Race winner Max Verstappen and Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly. Hamilton finished third, but he picked up a five-second penalty for his contact with Albon, which promoted a Renault powered car to the podium.

NM: From Mexico, the Formula One circus heads straight to Brazil. Another race weekend in which the public will largely rally behind Red Bull. For Verstappen it's a symbolic home race: after a number of spectacular performances at Interlagos, a huge fan base has developed for the Dutchman. The track suits him particularly well, and thanks to Red Bull's good form he's the favourite here as well.

MG: The Sao Paulo Grand Prix is another interesting one. There’s a little bit of altitude at Interlagos which would seemingly favour Red Bull, but they’ve only won one race at the venue in the current era. And that was the 2019 edition which was crazy. Overall, with a much improved car, Red Bull should be on top here but expect it to be close. 

Qatar Grand Prix

MG: The Losail International Circuit is perhaps a slightly more complicated version of the Bahrain outer loop. Without much data here, it’s very difficult to predict but there are a few long straights that would seemingly favour Mercedes.  

FN: Mercedes is the favourite for the new addition to the calendar. The circuit has some similarities to Paul Ricard and Sochi but also resembles Bahrain in layout. My expectation is that the gap between Mercedes and Red Bull will be small, but that Mercedes will be slightly faster because of the high-speed corners.

Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia

JS: The Formula 1 track of Saudi Arabia is on the calendar for the first time this season. Looking at the street circuits that were on the programme earlier this season, Red Bull once again looks to have a great opportunity to get the full points. Although surprises may arise in Saudi Arabia as well.

AJ: As of now, Red Bull draw most of their advantage over Mercedes through high speed corners, courtesy of a high rake design; therefore the RB16B will theoretically be faster at tracks like Jeddah. This is tipped as the fastest street circuit in the world. Given the speed of the corners, particularly in the second-half of the lap, we expect Red Bull to really benefit from this.

NM: The Jeddah circuit is another new addition to the calendar. A fast street circuit with no less than 27 corners, where it will once again be close between Mercedes and Red Bull. In terms of aerodynamics Red Bull has the advantage, but in terms of pure speed it is still Mercedes. It is difficult to predict, but it could well fall to Mercedes.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

AJ: Yas Marina has been a typical Mercedes stronghold in the past (and is expected to be a strong circuit for them this year too). Apart from Verstappen's impressive win last year, Mercedes won every race in the turbo-hybrid era.

JS: The final race of this season will take place in Abu Dhabi, as usual. There is a chance that the championship will have been decided by then, but nothing is certain this year. The circuit seems an ideal place for both Mercedes and Red Bull to score at least 25 points. Although Verstappen won last year's race, rumours still circulate that Mercedes scaled back their engine at the time. Red Bull will therefore not be cheering too soon.

NM: Given the history of the Yas Marina Circuit, Mercedes is the favourite here. However, the last edition was won by Verstappen, although there was the possibility that Mercedes had already reduced their engines. Still, not everything comes down to engine power, so I expect Red Bull to be close. Mercedes is the favourite as far as I'm concerned though.

MG: And then we head to Abu Dhabi for the season finale. This has been a Mercedes stronghold. Verstappen set the ball rolling by winning the 2020 edition, but Hamilton was under parr following a recent bout of COVID-19 and the contract politics probably provided a distraction. I’d expect Mercedes to continue their fine form here.

FN: Last year Red Bull showed they can have a competitive car at the Abu Dhabi circuit, to the surprise of many. It was the first positive step towards this year's competitive car. I think Red Bull can do it again this year, although we shouldn't forget Mercedes. The changes to the track mean that there are more fast corners, which Mercedes can take advantage of.

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