F1 2021: Is Mercedes back on top?

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Pole position qualifier Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP walks in parc ferme during qualifying for the F1 Grand Prix of Spain at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Photo: Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
Pole position qualifier Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP walks in parc ferme during qualifying for the F1 Grand Prix of Spain at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Photo: Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

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Looking back at last weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix, one might think we are back to the same old Mercedes domination we have seen in the past seven years.

Like in the previous year, the Mercedes cars led the pack in qualifying. Valtteri Bottas was in front, Lewis Hamilton followed and the Red Bulls came in third and fourth – typical.

The race result also had a similar pattern: Hamilton won the race, and Max Verstappen followed with Bottas coming in third; sort of typical of what has been happening over the past few years.

But the Portuguese race itself tells a better story of this season.

Yes, Mercedes won the race, but it took a lot more effort from both the team and Hamilton to get the victory than we have seen in previous years. Hamilton had to push himself to even greater lengths to get the win.

After the safety car restart in lap seven, Hamilton slipped to third place. Bottas’ restart caught him by surprise and Verstappen took second position.

READ: It’s Mercedes versus Red Bull again, this time in Portugal

The seven-time world champion proved his mettle by taking back his position just four laps later. He went on to take the lead from his team-mate at lap 20. Going into this afternoon’s Spanish Grand Prix, the season is still up for grabs. 

And again no one can say who will come out on top. One man who is looking for a perfect and reliable race car is Bottas.

The Fin was in striking distance of Verstappen in last weekend’s race when a sensor issue cost him power and he had to settle for third place.

Bottas, who is 37 points from Hamilton in the driver’s standings, said he was looking at making up some points.

“There are still 20 races to go, which is a huge number of points, and I am not giving up on the goal this year,” he said. There were reports in the British tabloids that Bottas would be replaced mid-season by George Russell.

We don’t do that. There is only one team that does that kind of thing in Formula 1 and we’re not that
Valterri Bottas

But the Fin said he was going nowhere.

“We don’t do that. There is only one team that does that kind of thing in Formula 1 and we’re not that,” Bottas said.

Hamilton sits on top of the driver’s standings – eight points ahead of Verstappen – who has scored 61 points. Mistakes are arguably what have kept Hamilton on top.

On the other hand, Verstappen’s exceeding track limits has cost him. He had to give back the lead in the opening race in Bahrain after the stewards decided that he had passed Hamilton by exceeding limits.

They also cost him pole position at the Emilia Romagna Grand  Prix, after it was decided he had exceeded the track limit in his fastest qualifying lap.

I always try to get the best possible results out of it. I went twice outside of the track limits, where it cost me
Max Verstappen

“I always try to get the best possible results out of it. I went twice outside of the track limits, where it cost me,” Verstappen said.

“We finally have a car which I think is capable of having good results every single weekend,” he said, adding that he was enjoying the racing this season.

“So far we’ve had some good results. From my side, I’m happy, but things can always go better.

“But from both sides, from the car and myself, it’s never good enough even if I would have won three races so far,” he said.

  • Today’s race starts at 3pm


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Sthembiso Lebuso 

Journalist

+27 11 713 9001
Sthembiso.Lebuso@citypress.co.za
www.citypress.co.za
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park

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