With two electrifying races already ticket off the F1 calendar, plenty of teams have impressed in the early stages of the season.
Ferrari’s impressive fourth and fifth finishes in Emilia-Romagna and McLaren’s Lando Norris first podium of the season looked to prove as a word of warning for the likes of Red Bull and Mercedes; reiterating that this season will not be a straightforward two-horse race like previous years.
Despite impressive runs from Ferrari and McLaren in Imola, it was still Red Bull and Mercedes taking the top two positions, with Max Verstappen winning in Italy and Lewis Hamilton taking second after an impressive recovering drive.
Final Top 10 📊
Lance Stroll and Kimi Raikkonen both suffer penalties in hours following the #ImolaGP 🇮🇹
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) April 19, 2021
However, despite the momentous improvements made by teams chasing the pack, the age old question has arose once again.
Can Red Bull win this year’s Constructors Championship? Will Max Verstappen finally get the better of seven time world champion Lewis Hamilton?
In recent years, Red Bull have arguably become the ‘best of the rest’, failing to properly challenge the dominating ‘Silver Arrows’, who with the help of their current drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have won the last seven Constructors Championship.
In spite of Mercedes and Hamilton’s recent reign of supremacy within formula 1, early results from the two opening races of the season has left fans wondering if Red Bull will be the team that finally beat Mercedes to the 2021 title.
If Red Bull were to ever get the better of Mercedes, this season would be their best opportunity.
One of Red Bull’s biggest issues in recent years has been consistency, more noticeably within the drivers seats. The hierarchy at Red Bull have made no secrets in the belief they have in Max Verstappen in returning the first Constructor Championship since 2013, but have struggled to find a suitable second driver compatible with Verstappen, who’s been nicknamed as ‘Mad Max’ for his fiery personality.
Arguably, Red Bull haven’t had a championship threatening pair of drivers since their last championship winning season in 2013, where the combination of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel beat runners up Mercedes (Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton) by 236 points.
However, Red Bull look to have addressed this ongoing issue through securing the services of highly sort-after F1 veteran Sergio Perez to replace point shy Alexander Albon, after the Mexican lost his seat at Racing point (now known as Aston Martin) last year to Sebastian Vettel.
Whilst the 30-year-old hasn’t set the F1 world alight with his performances in the opening two races (finishing 5thin Bahrain and 11thin Emilia-Romagna), the Mexican is highly rated within the formula one community and is exactly what Red Bull need to contend with the likes of Mercedes.
It’s important to realise that Perez’s slow start to this year’s campaign can be down to simply adjusting to life at a new team and coming to grips with a different car.
After all, 2020 was an outstanding season for the Mexican, winning for the first ever time in the Sakhir Grand Prix at Bahrain and boasting a career-high finish in the drivers standing – finishing fourth with a career-high 125 points.
The addition of Perez shows clear intent from Red Bull in trying to claim their first constructors title in eight years as both of their previously appointed drivers (Alexander Albon and Pierre Gasly) came through the ranks at their sister team Alpha Tauri formally known as Toro Rosso, which is seen as a feeder team for junior drivers at Red Bull. With Perez in place, Red Bull will finally have a driver that has a real possibility of applying that much needed pressure on Mercedes’ second driver Valtteri Bottas, which is something that’s proved the difference between both teams in past seasons.
The narrative between Red Bull’s RB16B and Mercedes’ W12 has already been set following the opening two races with Red Bull noticeably quicker on the straights, and Mercedes considerably better when it comes to handling round corners.
Interestingly, the key to the early success of the RB16B has been down to building on what Red Bull already had in the garage. Ahead of the current season, senior writer at Formula1.com, Lawrence Barretto predicted that improvements would be made by Red Bull before the opening race:
“Every year since their title triumph in 2013, they’ve started on the backfoot with a new car they struggled to understand. This season, there will be no blank sheet of paper, with Red Bull carrying over 60% of their car.”
Red Bull have also worked on their biggest problems from the previous season, which was unstable handling which the team blamed on a ‘correlation issue’ in which the data from their aerodynamic tests did not match up with their on-track data. With the problem finally resolved, there’s no reason why this years Red Bull car cannot give the fans the closest competition that Mercedes have had in recent years.
Another factor that could work in Red Bull’s favour this season is Lewis Hamilton’s contract situation at the ‘Silver Arrows’.
Eager Mercedes fans were demanding the announcement of Lewis Hamilton’s contract extension before the start of the season, but where surprised when the deal was finally announced. Unlike previous multi-year contracts that the Brit has signed with Mercedes, the current deal only lasts a year.
This is a peculiar situation for Mercedes, with no guaranteed seat for their star driver for next year, will Toto Wolf and Mercedes already be planning on securing a different driver for next year or will Hamilton be spearheading their efforts for an eighth consecutive Constructors Championship this year?
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) April 22, 2021
With Red Bull and Mercedes each taking a win in the opening two races, it’s all shaped up for the 2ndof May where the F1 will be at the Algarve International Circuit in Portugal. Will Red Bull dominate and overtake Mercedes in the Constructors Championship, or will Hamilton and Bottas have enough to keep their rivals at bay?
Tune into Sky Sports Formula 1 at three o’clock on the 2ndof May to find out.