Is this Red Bull’s best chance to beat Mercedes?
If the winner of pre-season testing can turn its early form into a season-long challenge, then the hegemony of F1’s top team could genuinely be under threat. Both teams are talking up the other as the 2021 season approaches its start, which could mean everything - and nothing
The 2008 Formula 1 season is now a very long time ago. Since that campaign ended, only two teams have won the drivers' and constructors' titles. One, as Brawn GP, picked up the championship double in 2009, the year after McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari had split the honours. The other dominated the next four campaigns, and since then the bought-out former Brawn squad has swept every championship.
In 2021, overall triumph for McLaren and Ferrari, or any of the crowded midfield, seems unlikely at best. Once again, Mercedes (formerly Brawn) and Red Bull are set to do battle. But, having been soundly beaten for the past seven years, Red Bull is heading into F1's latest campaign with perhaps its best chance of finally defeating Mercedes and reclaiming the crowns it last won in 2013. Such a turnaround is far from certain though, and both squads are playing up each other's chances.
Three points finishes from as many starts represents a decent opening innings on paper, but Daniel Ricciardo has endured a tough start to his McLaren career - only magnified his teammate's excellent form. Yet both he and the team have good reason to expect a turnaround soon.
OPINION: Going up against the dominant force of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton was always going to demand the best from Red Bull and Max Verstappen. But after making a couple more errors during the Portuguese Grand Prix, the Dutch driver showed there's a small gap he still needs to close in the 2021 Formula 1 title fight.
Red Bull's Portuguese Grand Prix fortunes were decidedly second best to Mercedes', but the result skews the potential that the team had at Portimao. With a new set of updates, the team looks good going forward into the rest of 2021's spicy F1 competition
Just as he did in 2020, Lewis Hamilton had to come from behind to win the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix. Only this time there were two rivals he had to pass, among the several challenges he had to overcome, on his way to securing a 97th grand prix victory
Lewis Hamilton topped the crucial FP2 session on Friday as F1 returned to Portugal, but his Mercedes team cannot be sure it has the edge on its Red Bull rivals. As cool temperatures and wind combine with the still-slippery surface to present drivers with quandaries over set-up and tyre warmup, there's still everything to play for come qualifying.
As a highly-rated Mercedes junior, George Russell is naturally billed as Lewis Hamilton's heir apparent where Britain's next Formula 1 champion is concerned. But he may face competition for that accolade from Lando Norris, fresh from a confidence-boosting run to third at Imola whose rise is being accelerated by his McLaren team’s revival
The news this week that F1 has green-lit 'sprint qualifying' races that will determine the grid for three grands prix in 2021 was met with a blend of excitement and scepticism. But before those in both camps can be vilified, F1 must first work out what its criteria is for success - and what will justify making them a more permanent fixture
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