How crucial marginal calls will decide the Red Bull vs Mercedes battle in F1 2021
The longer Red Bull can maintain a performance edge over Mercedes, the better the odds will be in the team’s favour against the defending world champions. But as the Bahrain Grand Prix showed, many more factors will be critical in the outcome of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship
“We just have to make sure we have a faster car,” Max Verstappen tells Autosport.
In essence, the Red Bull driver is correct – having the fastest car on the grid will make any team the favourite to win races and titles. But things are rarely so simple in Formula 1.
The championship is only two weeks on from a thrilling season opener in Bahrain, but it was Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton that triumphed on the day, not Red Bull and Verstappen, who at least confirmed they have succeeded in producing the fastest car of 2021 so far. This advantage will be much harder to unpick than in a conventional campaign, with the development rules significantly more restricted. But that equally does not mean that Mercedes cannot tweak its package or improve performance in what it has currently got and the same is true of Red Bull.
In Max Verstappen's Formula 1 career to date, he has been cast as the 'pretender', an acknowledged top-line performer without the car to regularly challenge Lewis Hamilton. But that no longer applies in 2021, and the start to the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was the most telling signal yet of what we can expect from their duel this year
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Rain before the start of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix promised to spice up the action, and the race certainly delivered on that. Max Verstappen got the best launch to win from Lewis Hamilton, but both got away with mistakes that could have had serious consequences
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