Let’s take ourselves back to 2013, Red Bull had just come off a remarkable run of 4 championships in a row on the back of brilliant engineering and their lead driver Sebastian Vettel. Vettel dominated the 2013 season with 9 wins in a row to close out the season and helped Red Bull dominate the Lewis Hamilton led Mercedes by over 200 points. Yet the fortunes of Red Bull and Mercedes have flipped since the start of the Turbo Hybrid era. Mercedes have won 7 championships in a row largely without a fight due to a dominant car and one of the greatest drivers in F1 history in Lewis Hamilton. Meanwhile Red Bull have largely been off the pace and unable to properly compete for a title.
However, 2021 has finally seen the 2 titans compete in one of the tightest battles in modern F1 history. This season has seen a series of twists and turns the first real title challenge for Mercedes in the turbo-hybrid era. Both sides have primary drivers pushing for wins and secondary drivers trying to launch themselves up the grid to assist strategically and help fight for the constructor’s title. There have finally been cracks in the mettle of the previously unflappable Mercedes outfit as shown through Lewis in Azerbaijan with the brake magic incident costing him 25 points in the championship after Max’s tyre failure. Yet despite this, they lead the constructor’s championship over Red Bull by 5 points coming into the final two races.
A look at the matchups
Hamilton vs Verstappen
They are by far away the best drivers in the paddock with over a 140-point gap to their closest competitor in Valtteri Bottas. Max led proceedings early in the season and his consistency has really shone through in this season, proving to the naysayers that he was championship material. In races where he has not been affected by crashes or tyre blowouts, he has finished either first or second. Yet these issues have proved to be costly as Hamilton has capitalised in Silverstone and the Hungaroring with 33 points gained to Verstappen’s 2.
However, this last part of the season has been the closest yet as they have been separated by just a single point in the last seven races. Max still carries an 8-point advantage over Lewis going into the final 2 tracks. Yet recent advancements by Mercedes have seen them gain a significant advantage over their rivals and has translated into two wins on the trot for Lewis with Max minimising the damage by taking second in both. But it is presumptuous to assume that they will maintain this advantage, throughout the season we have seen upgrades from both sides that have subsequently switched the advantage and there is the potential for the upcoming tracks to suit the Red Bull package.
Perez vs Bottas
Perez was lagging the Fin in the first half of the season as he was coming to grips with the difficult Red Bull car that many of his predecessors struggled with. While he was able to claim a race win in Azerbaijan by capitalising on the mistakes and misfortunes of other drivers and followed that up with a podium in Bahrain, Perez was still struggling for consistency. Yet since the Turkish Grand Prix, Perez has seen 3 podiums in the last 5 races, and he potentially would have had another if Red Bull had not made a strategic error at the last race in Qatar. Meanwhile, Bottas’s season has been derailed by unfortunate and self-inflicted retirements. At 4 retirements, Bottas has the equal most alongside Nikita Mazepin. Hence despite the strong first half of the season for Bottas, a strong run of form for Perez since Turkey has seen the gap between the pair dwindle to a measly 13 points and has real implications on the constructor’s championship.
Overall, it’s been the most exciting season in the turbo-hybrid era and has been filled with drama, passion, and raw skill. Rather than a snooze fest with the champions decided well in advance, this season continues to entertain. But where to from here?
Will it be Lewis and Mercedes securing their dominance and further stamping their legacy? Or will Red Bull finally take reclaim the throne and finally end the seven-year drought?
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