After years of mostly predictable race weekends, the 2021 Formula 1 season is proving to be one of the most exciting in a while.
Red Bull has shaken the formidable Silver Arrows and now no one can safely say they know who will come out on top going into Sunday’s Portuguese Grand Prix.
After two races, only seven points separate the two, with Mercedes at the summit with 60 points.
One might say that this a continuation of the same story that’s been going over the past seven seasons, but the constructor’s standings do not tell the whole story.
A look at the driver’s standings might give one a glimpse of the season ahead. Lewis Hamilton is on top, but Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is just a point behind him with 43.
Hamilton’s team-mate Valterri Bottas is in unfamiliar territory as he sits in fifth with 16 points.
Hamilton, who has won the World Drivers’ Championship seven times, believes Red Bull are in the lead.
“Red Bull are still ahead of us in performance,” he said, adding that Christian Horner’s team is only behind Mercedes because they have not managed to get the best out of their machines yet.
And Mercedes’ boss Toto Wolff seems to agree with Hamilton:
“We still do not have a car and power unit that can match the Red Bull-Honda package.”
Horner, on the other hand, is wary of assuming that they are the team to beat this year.
“We need at least two more races before we can get a clearer picture of this year’s pecking order. I always said it would take four races to get a clear picture of form, so now is the acid test,” Horner said.
He added that his team’s performance at Imola, Italy – a race Verstappen won after taking the lead in the first lap – proved that the good pace they showed in Bahrain was not a once-off.
Despite his win in Imola, Verstappen says that they need to stay on top of their game and get the best out of their cars to stay competitive.
“Every single weekend, you have to make sure you are on top of the car to try to get the best out of it. You need to get the best out of it to make a difference and that is what we will try to do again this weekend,” the Belgian-Dutch driver said.
Bottas will start Sunday’s race in pole position, followed by his Mercedes team-mate Hamilton.
The race starts at 4pm South African time.