Cover image credit: Racefans.net
Oh yes. It’s race week (or rawe ceek if you work at Ferrari), and we are heading to Monte Carlo for the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix, to see if Mercedes or Redbull, Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen, will come out on top. Over this weekend however, I couldn’t help but think about the current situation of the championship, and how the odds seem to be favoring our friends at the Silver Arrows. So today, you and I are going to talk about why.
If you watched preseason testing in Bahrain, you were probably with me when you thought this was Red Bull’s year. The RB16B was a great fit for the new floor regulations, with it’s high rake angle giving it extra performance. Mercedes’ W12 however, wasn’t doing so well. During testing in Bahrain, Lewis managed to spin it twice I believe, which isn’t something you see often from the 7-time world champ. It was in that moment we knew, Mercedes has a lot of developing to do on that car.
And for those first couple of races, it really seemed like Red Bull was the better car. But after the performance Mercedes and Lewis put on in Portugal, I thought “dang, it was fun thinking Red Bull was on top”.
After Spain, I think I can safely say the W12 and the RB16B are an even match, two worthy opponents. They both have their strengths and weaknesses (like the Red Bull heating up tires better, while the Mercedes can preserve them for longer), but as of right now, they’re both extremely close in terms of performance.
We’ll start with the defending champs. Mercedes have signed Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas as their drivers for the 2021 season.
I could write an entire post on why Lewis is so good. Like him or not, you cannot deny, he is one of the greatest drivers we have ever seen grace the sport. And like he proved to us in Spain and Imola, his team can put him in impossible situations, and he will still deliver.
Valtteri needs to get credit for what he does as well. Sure, he might not have the pace of Lewis and Max, but he does everything the team asks of him. He almost always finishes close behind them (if we ignore Imola), can support the team in the race strategy, and can bring home consistent results. He is everything Mercedes needs, a true asset that they will keep around as long as they can.
Red Bull have opted for Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez this season.
Max is a rising star, no doubt about it. His pace in qualifying and the race is matched by only one, he is hyper-aggressive in wheel-to-wheel combat, and when he sees a gap, he will fully send it to make his move. He is Red Bull’s pride and joy, and with his motivation to win, he is their best shot at the Driver’s Championship in a long time.
Checo cannot be ignored. The latest participant in Red Bull’s game of musical chairs, he has more years of experience behind the wheel than Max, and he absolutely proved that to us last year. He 100% deserves that seat. But as of right now, he’s struggling to drive that Red Bull, having to unlearn everything from his Racing Point days, and “completely adjust” his driving style. And it’s costing his team a lot.
Since both cars are pretty well matched, and the teams have great driver lineups, strategy becomes even more important during a race.
You already know which team has the leg up here.
Winning as the slower car in Bahrain, managing their pace well in Portugal, and pulling off a masterclass strategy that left Red Bull with nothing to do in Spain, the Silver Arrows’ only failure came in Emilia Romagna, and they still managed to take 2nd. They’ve won every championship of the turbo hybrid era, and they know pretty well how to fight for wins.
Red Bull has been the main victim of the mighty Mercedes strategy. And, looking back on what I said about their performance in Spain, I have to take some of it back. There really wasn’t much they could do there, and gotta be honest, with the current state of their team, they don’t have a lot of strategy options.
Because they’re in a fistfight with only one good arm.
Checo Is The Key
Yep, you read that right. Sergio Perez is the best solution to Red Bull’s championship problems.
Returning to my fistfight analogy, think of Mercedes and Red Bull as two boxers, and their drivers like their arms. Except now, picture Red Bull with one arm learning how to punch.
I’m not saying Checo’s stupid, he’s an incredibly talented driver. He’s just learning how to extract the max performance out of his Red Bull. The thing is, as he’s doing this, he can’t support Max upfront, because he hasn’t learned enough about the car to drive at the pace of the leaders.
For example, let’s look back at Spain, where Mercedes pit Lewis to hunt down Max on very fresh tires. If Checo was in fourth, within that pitstop gap, Mercedes wouldn’t be able to pit Lewis, because they would sacrifice track position to Checo, who would hold them up. I genuinely believe that if Checo was there to stop Lewis from pitting, Max would’ve won that race.
But if Checo isn’t able to keep up, Red Bull will absolutely lose the Constructor’s Championship, and be at a severe disadvantage in the Driver’s. The Red Bull is a different animal, and we’ve seen great drivers like Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon struggle at the reins. However, I do think Checo can figure that car out, because of his skill and most importantly, his experience. The deciding factor in the championship will be how long it takes him to do so.
So what do you think? Do you agree that Sergio Perez is the key factor in Red Bull’s title shot? And how long do you think it’ll take him to drive that car to the max? Send me a message, shoot me an or email, or just drop a comment down below. Because like I always say, I love hearing from you!
I’ve been Miles Stewart, and I’ll see you in the next one, take care!