Preview | Are Mercedes too strong for Verstappen in America?

20-10-2021 08:38 | Updated: 20-10-2021 09:15
by GPblog.com
F1 News
Preview | Are Mercedes too strong for Verstappen in America?

The United States Grand Prix has rarely disappointed since the inauguration of the Circuit of the Americas. This weekend the circuit in Texas is the next battleground in the exciting title fight between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. Who will come out on top? You can read all about the upcoming Grand Prix in this preview from GPblog.

American Grand Prix

In 1908 a Grand Prix is organised for the first time in America. In Savannah Frenchman Louis Wagner wins on behalf of the Fiat team the first 'Grand Prix of America' as the race is called at the time. Through the years also Milwaukee, Santa Monica, San Francisco and Riverside are visited for such a race, before the American Grand Prix really appears on the F1 calendar in 1959.

After an attempt at Sebring and Riverside, in 1961 Watkins Glen is found as a circuit where F1 will run for years. It's mainly a British affair, with only British winners of the American GP between 1960 and 1968. Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart are immediate winners at this circuit, but later on, James Hunt and Lewis Hamilton will also be successful in America.

At the end of 1980, Watkins Glen and the American GP are said goodbye, after which the F1-circus returns to Phoenix in 1989. They don't race there for long though, because after three years the plug is pulled. Again there is no American GP for eight years, after which Indianapolis is turned into an F1 circuit.

Indianapolis is a big name, but F1 is not alive in America. When the race is run with six cars in 2005 due to a problem with the Michelin tyres, the fans show up less and less. In 2007 the last race is held at the legendary circuit. The winner was the then young Lewis Hamilton.

In 2012, F1 soon returns to America, at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Hamilton continued his run and won the first edition. After one victory from Sebastian Vettel, four more victories followed from Hamilton, giving him six American victories to his name. This makes him an instant record holder.

Due to the coronavirus, Formula 1 came to America for the last time in 2019. In fact, the race was cancelled in 2020. In 2019, it was Valtteri Bottas who drove to victory on behalf of Mercedes. The Finn started from pole and did not relinquish that lead. Lewis Hamilton finished second and became world champion for the sixth time. Max Verstappen finished in third place.

Circuit of the Americas

The Circuit of the Americas is 5.514 kilometres long and has 20 corners. The circuit was designed by Hermann Tilke. The house architect of Formula 1 was assisted by Miro Rivera Architects. The circuit has some unique corners and also some height differences, so it is not the typical Tilke circuit.

The most striking of this circuit is the first sector. It looks like a mix of the technical sector in Japan and the Maggotts and Becketts corner combination at Silverstone. The height differences in this section make it a challenge for the drivers to drive here, but it also provides beautiful images for the viewers at home.

Besides the fast technical sector one, there is a second sector where the power of the engine is the most important factor. In the final sector, there is another technical sector with some slow off-camber corners and a long twisty section similar to the one in Turkey. The Circuit of the Americas thus contains an ideal mix.

Formula 1 in 2021

Mercedes won five of the eight races on the Circuit of the Americas and on top of that Hamilton's first win at this circuit was in a McLaren-Mercedes. So it's clear that power plays an important role here, as Kimi Raikkonen's 2018 victory for Ferrari also suggests. However, it doesn't mean everything.

Indeed, as mentioned, the circuit is also technically challenging. Not just for the drivers, but also for the cars and that could well be to Red Bull Racing's advantage. In 2021, Mercedes has had the upper hand on the high-speed circuits and medium and high-speed corners, but Red Bull is very strong in the slow corners and when more grip is needed.

Mercedes and Red Bull are much closer to each other all this year than they were during the last editions in Texas. However, despite the big difference back then, Verstappen was always able to perform well at the Circuit of the Americas. Despite the track showing signs of a Mercedes circuit, Red Bull and Verstappen can also be successful here.

Weather forecast

After many rain races, the drivers can finally prepare for a dry race again. At least, that seems to be the case for the time being. According to Weather.com the chance on rain in Austin on Friday is only seven percent and for Saturday and Sunday also only 24 percent.

In case of rain, there is still no problem, because during the last races in Europe it often didn't get warmer than 20 degrees. In Texas, it will be warmer than 30 degrees all weekend. If a few drops fall, the chance that it will have an effect on the race is zero.

Prediction for the American GP

With the last two Grands Prix in the back of their minds, Mercedes must be the favourite in America. The speed that Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton have been able to achieve with their new engines has raised many questions for Red Bull Racing. There is a small chance that Red Bull could close that gap now and at the Circuit of the Americas and that could hurt.

Although Mercedes are expected to be the strongest, Red Bull and Verstappen should not be ruled out as winners. Verstappen has done very well in the past in America and has also competed for victory with a less competitive package. Red Bull's car in 2021 is better than in previous editions, so anything is possible.

Another team to keep an eye on is McLaren. The team from Woking took a 1-2 in Monza and Lando Norris was leading for a long time in the Russian Grand Prix. In these warm conditions on a circuit where high speed is rewarded again, McLaren is again a team to keep an eye on for the top two teams.

Schedule for the 2021 United States Grand Prix

Friday

First free practice: 17:30-18:30

Second free practice: 21:00-22:00

Saturday

Third free practice: 19:00-20:00

Qualification: 22:00-23:00

Sunday

Race: 20:00-22:00

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