The 2021 Formula 1 Championship has shattered many bookmakers with surprising twists, such as the crash between rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone and Monza, which changed the history of GPs in Great Britain and Italy, or Esteban with Alpine Ocon’s unexpected win and Daniel Ricciardo with McLaren, not to mention Red Bull’s blown tire from Verstappen in the final laps of the Azerbaijan GP.
However, when everything went smoothly, it gave me an idea of who had the best set up. In most events and on circuits with more neutral characteristics, Red Bull has an advantage, no matter how small, when using a moderate level of downforce. But it is also true that this has been observed since at least the sixth race, but even after 14 GPs have been played, it is Mercedes who are ahead in the team championship. For drivers, Verstappen has a five-point lead over Hamilton.
There is also the issue of updating cars. Red Bull is nearing the end of its development program right now, while Mercedes made the last major changes to the car at Silverstone in mid-July. And Verstappen’s team knows it will have to replace its power unit at least one more time and suffer the penalty, starting from the back of the grid. In Hamilton’s favour, Mercedes has yet to decide whether to do the same. This is because the British are more comfortable with the engines they have, but will risk the final stages if they don’t make changes.
So who has a hand in the rest of the evidence? There are still some uncertainties about how many and which races will take place in F1 until the end of the year due to the pandemic, but the current calendar predicts eight more races to be held, starting with the Russian GP later this week.
Russian GP (26.09): Mercedes
Red Bull boss Christian Horner himself pointed to Russia as the damage limit race. This is because, since 2014, Mercedes has won every race held in Sochi, which has long straights, and in which Verstappen was 0s6 from pole position last year. The Dutchman goes to Sochi, knowing he has a three-place penalty on the grid for Monza’s crash, and there is a possibility that, knowing this, Red Bull will send Sochi to take the penalty for using a fourth power unit. Will choose
Turkey GP (10.10): Draw
Last year the race in Turkey was busy due to the condition of the track, as the asphalt was remodeled a few days before the race, and the grip was very low. And the low temperatures and rain didn’t help. Asphalt conditions should be better this year. If thermometers are reading closer to 15 degrees Celsius than they did last year, that could be good news for Red Bull, but it’s hard to pinpoint a favorite.
GP Two United States (24.10): Tie
After the Austin race, F1 moves to tracks that haven’t in 2020, not knowing if there has been any change in asphalt conditions and without reference to last year’s championship. On the US GP stage, a high load of aerodynamic pressure is used, generally favored by Red Bull, but also long straight lines.
Mexico City GP (07.11): Red Bull
Because it is a track located at an altitude of more than 2,200 m, oxygen is less dense, meaning that cars have to use a configuration similar to Monaco to “stick” the asphalt in the curve, even. That too to reach the same straight speed. In this scenario, Red Bull has always done very well.
So Paulo GP (14.11): Red Bull
Although the altitude is very low, around 600 metres, it’s high enough for F1 cars and engines to make a difference. And, as in another similar track, also smaller, and at the same height, Red Bull Ring, Interlagos is usually Red Bull’s stronghold.
Saudi Arabia GP and 20th stage, two unknowns (21.11 and 05.12)
It is very likely that, in the final stages of the championship, Formula 1 will move to two new tracks: one of them has already been confirmed, Saudi Arabia, a very long and high-speed circuit, appearing as a single track. There has been a new configuration in which the need for a lower aerodynamic pressure thus favors Mercedes. And the 20th race, which will be held before Saudi Arabia, appears to be “confirmed” and will likely take place in Qatar, another track F1 has never raced.
Abu Dhabi GP (12/12): Red Bull (closely)
The heat, smooth asphalt and a curved third area explain why Abu Dhabi favors Red Bull, although Mercedes can compete in the first two areas of the game. The track which may be the judging stage of the championship does not usually bring exciting races, but this year some points on the circuit will be modified to provide more potential for overtaking.