2021 US GP: A premature Mexican standoff, with a predictable winner

Max Verstappen took a closely fought win at Austin, but his Red Bull was good enough for him to get the 25 points, with the strategy being the tip of the iceberg.

The US Grand Prix proved to be less of a write-off for Red Bull and Verstappen than they thought. Coming in to this week’s race, team principal Christian Horner, team advisor Helmut Marko, and even Verstappen himself didn’t believe that their car had any chance beating the Mercedes at COTA – and for good reason.

Before last Sunday’s race, Mercedes had only lost twice at that track: in 2013, to Sebastian Vettel, and in 2018, to Kimi Raikkonen. Lewis Hamilton had won four times, with Valtteri Bottas getting the win in 2019.

Kimi Raikkonen took what is likely his last ever win in Formula One at the US Grand Prix in 2018 – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Press

All the odds were in favor of a Mercedes win once again, but it did not pan out that way.

The reason for this ‘upset’ – if you can call anything an upset during this up and down season – lies primarily in the temperature of the track.

Red Bull are known to be able to hold their tires in a better shape even in hot conditions. Austin proved to be one of those occasions where the sun blasted on the track for the whole three days of the event, and especially on Sunday, when the forecasted rain never came by – not even a cloud!

As a result, Verstappen was in an advantageous position, since he was able to maximise the potential of his tires, without worrying to much about their longevity. He, of course, managed his pace in order to preserve the tires’ life, but he didn’t hold back when he didn’t have to.

Verstappen drove a superbly consistent race to hold off Hamilton for the victory on Sunday – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

On the other hand, Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes had to play it safely for the better part of the race. They knew that they had to get Verstappen at the start, and they succeeded, since that was the only way that they could win the race given the circumstances. But they saw that Verstappen had the pace to keep up with Hamilton, staying below the one second-mark during the first 10 laps of the race, and that he pitted earlier than predicted. They then understood the necessity of going longer on their stints to try to combat the Austrians’ undercut attempts.

“I had a great start. The goal was to get in the lead and I finally got a good start – I’ve not had as good a start as that for a long time so I was really happy with it,” said Hamilton.

“Then it was just about staying clean and coming out ahead and holding onto it. It felt good at the time, to get into the lead, I thought ‘okay, this is step one’ but, as I said, they were just too quick.”

Hamilton took the lead on the first lap, before being pegged back by the rapid Verstappen – Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

Indeed they were.

It was the confidence of Verstappen to keep a competitive pace with a semi-worn set of tires, especially on his last stint with the hard compound, that won him the race.

Based on the teams’ calculations, a car that wanted to overtake another car in front of it had to be at least 1.2 seconds faster than it. Hamilton was at the very best 0.6 seconds faster than Verstappen in the latter stages of the race, and when he got close to DRS range, he lost some of the downforce due to the Dutchman’s wave of dirty air, and the tires not gripping for Hamilton as much as they did before.

Red Bull played it out beautifully, but they did have the odds with them – even though they didn’t think they did until Saturday afternoon.

Mexico Grand Prix Preview with Austin Taste, Ariba Ariba

GP MESSICO F1/2016 – CITTA’ DEL MESSICO (MESSICO) 27/10/2016
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

Last back to back race of the season, directly tickets from Texas to Mexico City were booked by the Formula 1 staff, some had to climb Trump’s wall in order to arrive in Mexico, but everything is almost ready for the 18th race of the season.

Max Verstappen as another Speedy Gonzalez, will have to control his nerves and the “stab in the back” pain from FIA, must race as a normal racing driver under the official rules. Kimi Raikkonen from the other hand, the cool type that we all love, will go to Mexico with one purpose, to support Sebastian Vettel from Friday till the chequered flag. The Finn, was second in Austin and was looking very comfortable, but suddenly Ferrari discovered that he was going to run out of fuels, the order was clear “Save fuels, Kimi” and to our big surprise, Kimi stepped aside and let Vettel pass second, he almost lost the third place from Max, but as many said on the social media, one Finn supports the other, and Mika Salo advised the stewards to give 5 second time penalty to Max Verstappen after the chequered flag.

Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, United States of America.
Sunday 22 October 2017.
World Copyright: Steven Tee/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _R3I1833

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the 3.7-4 world time champion Lewis Hamilton. The Brit had an easy weekend in Austin, no pressure for him, he read the script and followed exactly Mercedes’ plan. The track suited perfectly to Lewis and his sixth victory in COTA proves that, now the Champ has to finish fifth or above in Mexico in order to celebrate his fourth world title.

AUTÓDROMO HERMANOS RODRÍGUEZ

Laps: 71

Circuit Length: 4.304 km

Race Distance: 305.354 km

Lap Record: 1:20.521 (Nico Rosberg – 2015)

Mexico Grand Prix re-appeared in the Formula One calendar in 2015, after a long absence. Nico Rosberg was the driver who took the chequered flag in that year. Last year Lewis Hamilton won the Mexican Grand Prix, and he will try to repeat his success this season as well.

It is a home race for Sergio Perez, the fans will cheer for him and hopefully he will not complain about Oconstistency’s pace.

Sergio Perez – “Racing at home means a lot for me. It’s always a busy week, both for me and the team, but being at home makes all the hard work we put in for our fans and our partners worthwhile. It’s definitely the most enjoyable weekend of the year for me. It’s a great race for everyone involved in Formula One. There’s so much passion and the whole week is a big celebration. Everyone in Mexico City is looking forward to the race.The track is quite fun to drive and being on those long straights is special. Because of the altitude, even though you’re running high wings, you still achieve very high speeds and it’s really hard to stop the car under braking – in that sense it feels like a bit like Monza.I am lucky I get to race in my country in front of my fans. Their support means so much to me and it’s inspiring to see fans waving the Mexican flag in every grandstand. I really want to give them a special result to celebrate.”

GP MESSICO F1/2016 – CITTA’ DEL MESSICO (MESSICO) 30/10/2016
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

Felipe Massa – “First of all, it’s a shame to see what’s happened, it’s so sad to see the people losing their lives and also their homes from the earthquake so that’s really, really sad. I think we need to help them and get as much support for them. We need to pass the message to people around the world. That is the most important thing. Secondly, they are really in love with Formula One and they go crazy for the race. When you see the people in the grandstand and around the roads, they are proper Formula One fans and I think it’s fantastic to race there. I always enjoy it, I go with some friends, my father and we always enjoy the atmosphere there. It looks very similar to São Paolo so you also feel at home. I really hope we can have an important race for them in this difficult moment.”

In the American Grand Prix, Mercedes AMG celebrated their fourth consecutive constructors’ title, despite their bad start this season, the team managed to overcome their problems and the hard work paid off for them as they won the world title, massive congratulations to every member who contributed to the success.

Max Attack – Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen On How To Overtake & Win Races In F1 | M1TG

Twitter – @FP_Passion