Details are going to make the difference between Hamilton and Verstappen at this stage

15-10-2021 10:44 | Updated: 15-10-2021 12:13
by GPblog.com
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Details are going to make the difference between Hamilton and Verstappen at this stage

With six races to go, and six points difference between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, everything is still possible in the 2021 Formula One championship. However, the next five races are either new or were not held in 2020. What do we know about these tracks and are Red Bull Racing or Mercedes the favourite?

United States Grand Prix

Red Bull Racing have only won the United States Grand Prix once and that was in 2013. This was Red Bull's most dominant year, with Sebastian Vettel winning almost everything. All other editions in Austin were won by Mercedes and once by Ferrari and McLaren(-Mercedes).

Ahead of this Grand Prix, Mercedes are highlighted as the favourites, but they don't seem to have a clear advantage. After all, Max Verstappen has achieved good results in America in the past, while he didn't have a dominant car at his disposal between 2017 and 2019. Now, he does have a competitive car and could easily be competing for victory. For example, the Dutchman was very close to a victory once already in 2018.

Mexican Grand Prix

The Mexican Grand Prix is universally designated as a Red Bull circuit and that's not surprising. Verstappen already managed to win here twice without a title competitive car. The altitude at which the cars are raced is Mercedes' biggest problem, as the 2021 Austrian Grand Prix proved once again.

Brazilian Grand Prix

Interlagos also belongs in the list of circuits at altitude. Again, Red Bull is the favourite, but with a race weekend that includes a sprint qualifying, it's harder to predict this year. Each time Verstappen has won the duel against Hamilton on the Saturday, he encountered problems on the Sunday. 

However, the speed Mercedes showed in the last few races on the straight is a problem. Although the circuit is at altitude, it plays less of a role here than in Mexico. Still, Mercedes had the best engine in 2018 and 2019 as well, but in both cases Verstappen emerged as the best on Sunday. In 2018, however, things went wrong due to a collision with Esteban Ocon.

Qatar Grand Prix

The Losail International circuit is completely flat and located in the middle of the desert. In terms of track and environment, it is very similar to the Bahrain International Circuit, where Red Bull was very competitive at the beginning of this season. However, Mercedes won the race with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas driving to a third place. Ahead of this race weekend, then, also given the developments of this season, the advantage seems to fall slightly towards Mercedes.

Saudi Arabia Grand Prix

In Jeddah we find a street circuit and that could well be to Red Bull Racing's advantage. Not only in Monaco, but also in Azerbaijan, Red Bull were able to find much more grip on the street, while Mercedes had much more trouble with it. In Azerbaijan, the difference was not expressed in points due to Max Verstappen's blowout, but the Dutchman did have a clear advantage.

Still, the advantage here doesn't go entirely to Red Bull, as the circuit also has many high speed corners, where Mercedes have proved to be the best team by far once again this season. Also, a lot of time has passed since the last street GP, so it could be that Mercedes have already found the solution here.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

There is a good chance that the 2021 title fight will only be decided in Abu Dhabi. Verstappen is currently six points ahead, but all season it has been back and forth between Lewis and Max. The expectation is that this will also be the case for the rest of the season. As described above, apart from Mexico, there are not many circuits that can be assigned to one team in advance.

The same applies to Abu Dhabi. Mercedes was the master there for years, but in 2020 Verstappen took pole and victory. At the time there was talk of a 2021-floor at Mercedes with which they deliberately gave up victory to test the new floor, but this has never been confirmed.

Mercedes are slight favourites due to their fast corners, two long straights and past results. However, in 2020 Red Bull showed that they can be competitive here. The track has also been modified to make overtaking easier. Especially sector one has been changed. It remains to be seen in whose favour this is.

Conclusion

It is actually impossible to make any predictions for 2021. Prior to the British Grand Prix, everybody was sure that Verstappen would win the world title, while now after the Turkish GP people are pointing at the speed of Mercedes. The teams and drivers keep each other in balance and that makes it exciting.

Looking at the next six races, Red Bull is the top favourite for Mexico and with a slight lead for Brazil and Saudi Arabia. Mercedes is not the top favourite for any circuit, but with America, Qatar and Abu Dhabi they have three circuits that should suit them well. So it's pretty close, and the details will make the difference.

The setup, pit stops and strategic decisions now need to be perfect for each weekend if we are to win the world title. A mistake at this stage could be fatal. Therefore, both teams will be pushing for car and engine reliability, but Hamilton and Verstappen will also need to keep their heads up to be successful.

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