The Phuket News Novosti Phuket Khao Phuket

Login | Create Account | Search

Pistons at dawn ahead of the US Grand Prix

Pistons at dawn ahead of the US Grand Prix

FORMULA ONE: With six points separating the title protagonists with just six races to go, Red Bull Racing is fighting for every inch in its quest to keep Max Verstappen ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

By Michael Lamonato

Wednesday 20 October 2021, 08:15AM

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are fighting each other for the championship. Photo: AFP

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are fighting each other for the championship. Photo: AFP

The scale of Mercedes’s domination at the Turkish Grand Prix on Oct 10 surprised everyone, but for Red Bull Racing it was a particularly rude shock.

Though the difference between the two teams has waxed and waned through the season, ahead of the final run of races the two cars had arrived at a more or less equal place, promising a thrilling conclusion to the battle between reigning champion Hamilton and challenger Verstappen.

Even the spread of races should offer both teams opportunities to excel. Red Bull Racing is still counting on the high altitude of Sao Paulo and Mexico City to favour the RB16B, while the long straights at the brand-new Saudi Arabian street track should benefit the Mercedes W12.

The previous round in Istanbul should have been a neutral venue, featuring corner variety that would allow both teams a chance to play to their respective strengths and meet in the middle. Yet it ended as a Mercedes whitewash.

From the very first practice session Verstappen struggled to string together a lap that could compare to best Mercedes time. By qualifying he had closed the gap to less than 0.4 seconds, but in the race he was blitzed by Valtteri Bottas while Lewis Hamilton slogged through the field with an engine penalty.

There are mitigating factors to the Austrian-backed team’s uncharacteristically poor performance, with the combination of cold and damp conditions and an unexpectedly abrasive track surface catching several teams off guard.

Yet the team clearly isn’t satisfied to write off its bad weekend as a mere coincidence of factors, and Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner instead turned the spotlight back on Mercedes.

“Their straight-line speed has taken a significant step recently,” he said. “We could match them with smaller wings previously; now we can’t get near.

C and C Marine

“As I say, it’s surprising that they’ve made the step that they have with the power unit.”

Each team’s 2021 power unit cannot be upgraded this year on cost-saving grounds, and though Red Bull Racing has stopped short of suggesting impropriety, it has lodged queries with the regulator about the legality of tricks it believes Mercedes may be playing with its internal combustion engine.

Any straight-line speed advantage will serve Mercedes well in this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, which offers a similar challenge to Turkey but with a bias towards engine performance.

Mercedes has rebuffed the speculation, pointing instead to the fact Hamilton was running a brand-new motor in Turkey and to general aerodynamic efficiencies boosting straight-line performance.

But the finger-pointing is neither surprising nor unprecedented. In the first half of the season, when Red Bull Racing stole a march through the trio of races in France and Austria to open a points gap, Mercedes made similar noises about apparent power gains from the Honda engine, which the Japanese brand similarly brushed off.

And it was almost certainly Mercedes enquiries that prompted the FIA to tighten rules around pit stop automation in the middle of the year. Red Bull Racing’s processes were the fastest in the pit lane, but under the stricter rules the team has been slowed and forced into several race-defining errors.

It’s all indicative of the titanic nature of the struggle between the two most successful teams of the last decade. It isn’t enough to squeeze every millisecond of performance from one’s own machinery; slowing down a rival’s car is equally important. Appealing to the governing body to uncover another team’s secrets or have new technology outlawed has always been a crucial element of a sport that is as much technical as human.

And with just six rounds to go, the tighter the screws are wound, the more protesting we’re likely to hear.

Comment on this story

* Please login to comment. If you do not have an account please register below by simply entering a username, password and email address. You can still leave your comment below at the same time.


Be the first to comment.


Have a news tip-off? Click here


Phuket community
Kalim Beach restaurant fined for obstructing traffic

A fine of 1000 thb only? Great example of how you make yourself as law enforcement organisation ri...(Read More)

Phuket police deny ‘robbing’ foreigners, defend traffic checks

Kurt@ have to agree with you for a change, I have been stopped many times around Chalong and Patong,...(Read More)

Patong venue operators cautioned as Bangla cases rise

....'To be consumed between 11-14 and 17-23 hrs'.... That are the hours Covid-19 virus + he...(Read More)

Patong venue operators cautioned as Bangla cases rise

allowed or not allowed in patong and all around the island there is no bar/restaurant that really gi...(Read More)

Patong venue operators cautioned as Bangla cases rise

Precautions DO work. Without them, the hospitals would have shuttered over a year ago from inundati...(Read More)

Phuket Opinion: Same old games

why would the police no check all local busines instead? the 4th wave is coming and hope this time w...(Read More)

Phuket police deny ‘robbing’ foreigners, defend traffic checks

Hating opinions is a far bigger problem to some than expressing them is to me. It's so easy to b...(Read More)

Frenchman faces deportation for Facebook posts

Chris UN are as point.. if they really would listen they would already have arrested tha...(Read More)

Frenchman faces deportation for Facebook posts

Just Deport him and make sure he never can come back. Foreigners should never make any comments on ...(Read More)

Phuket Opinion: Same old games

They need their tea money to buy their Ferrari ........(Read More)