After losing out on victory to Red Bull at the Circuit of the Americas for the first time in the current rules era, Mercedes will need to try and hit back at one of two tracks considered a stronghold of their rivals in the past
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 25/10/21 11:41am
Lewis Hamilton has admitted Mercedes face a “tough” challenge to hit back against Red Bull in either of the next two grands prix after Max Verstappen increased his points lead in the USA.
Verstappen held on to win a tense race around the Circuit of the Americas on Sunday as the Dutchman overcame the blow of losing the lead to Hamilton at the start by making an “aggressive” tyre strategy work to perfection.
The win, Red Bull’s first at that circuit in eight years and Verstappen’s eighth of the 2021 season, means Verstappen now leads the standings by 12 points heading to circuits, Mexico City and Brazil’s Interlagos, where his team have gone at in the past with less-competitive machinery than they possess now.
“At least the next two tracks for sure, very strong circuits for Red Bull so it’s going to be tough, for sure,” suggested Hamilton.
Verstappen’s lead of a dozen points is the largest either title contender has enjoyed since after the sprint race at Silverstone in July, when the Dutchman had briefly moved 33 points clear.
However, while certainly useful at this stage of the campaign, 12 points remains a relatively slender advantage given it is the equivalent of a single fourth-placed finish, while there are still 133 points still up for grabs in the final five rounds.
Whereas the Circuit of the Americas has been regarded as a stronghold of Mercedes in the past, both the next two venues – which are located at high-altitude, where the air is thinner and engines have to work harder – have been considered to better suit Red Bull’s car and engine combination in the past.
F1 2021’s final five races
|November 7||Mexico City GP||Mexico City|
|November 14||Sao Paulo GP||Interlagos|
|November 21||Qatar GP||Doha|
|December 5||Saudi Arabian GP||Jeddah|
|December 12||Abu Dhabi GP||Yas Marina|
Mercedes did not qualify on the front row in Mexico on F1’s last three visits, although Hamilton still won from fourth on the grid when the sport last raced at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodríguez before the pandemic in 2019.
Verstappen won the most recent Brazilian GP two years ago.
Speaking after finishing a close second in Sunday’s Austin race, Hamilton said: “Unfortunately we weren’t quick enough to win the race today but yeah, we just look forward and take it one race at a time.
“We have no idea… they are two circuits that are strong for Red Bull so we just try to minimise how strong they can be compared to us and see if we can do a better job.”