Max Verstappen’s two straight victories in the Formula 1 championship in the United States (the track that used to be Mercedes’ stronghold) and Mexico led many to imagine that the drivers’ championship was decided in favor of the Dutchman. But a card from Lewis Hamilton’s team at the So Paulo GP returned to balance the game, with three races left: the Englishman was flying at Interlagos, after replacing his combustion engine, and a disqualification and replacement in time. For overcame his own punishment. Engines to win the Brazilian stage, and is now 14 points behind Verstappen in the championship.
There are still 78 points at stake in the three final stages, and the twists and turns that mark this championship make it difficult to predict the outcome of this feud. But after Interlagos, the question lingering on Red Bull’s mind was how did Mercedes improve so much and what can they do to answer it?
Two different factors explain what happened in Interlagos. On the one hand, it is known that the Mercedes engine suffers much more damage from use than the Honda used by Red Bull. Therefore, although the new Mercedes is more powerful, it has been surpassed by Honda throughout its useful life. And that is why Verstappen, even having overtaken Hamilton at Interlagos, does not believe that his engine change will be decisive for the championship.
He last changed it six races ago in Russia. Since then, Hamilton has had new engines on two occasions. “Honda engine performance is very linear, while their engine produces a lot of performance when new. But I expect this advantage to wear off very quickly.”
Verstappen’s theory is covered by what was seen in the final stages: Hamilton replaced the combustion engine in Turkey five races earlier and did it again in Brazil, confirming the notion that this additional power, especially With Mercedes using the mapping more aggressively, goes extinct.
But this does not justify Hamilton’s all-out pace at Interlagos, when, in a historic weekend, the driver crossed 24 cars over the weekend, played in a sprint format, that is, with a mini-race on Saturday (in which he went was 20 to fifth) and a normal GP on Sunday (where he started tenth to change engines and won). The Red Bull car’s behavior once again showed its weak point, with drivers having difficulty handling the front end, slipping tires and making them worse off than Mercedes drivers.
This has to do with the characteristics of the track as well as the temperature. So far this season, Red Bull has outperformed Mercedes when the asphalt was hot, but this will not be the rule in the final stages of the championship: the final three races will be played in the evening, in places where the temperature drops greatly when throughout the afternoon. .
To make matters worse, for both teams, the next two races will take place in uncharted territory: this weekend’s stage in Qatar will take place on a track that has never been used by Formula 1, and the next will be branded in Saudi Arabia. new. It’s the perfect setting to surprise for the comeback championship.
Qatar’s GP debut will take place later this week.