Mercedes have reason for optimism despite Hamilton losing championship lead


For the fourth time in the last six Grand Prix, we have a new leader in the F1 Drivers’ Championship

Lewis Hamilton’s one-race stay atop the standings ended after the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, as the Briton’s engine penalty and late pit stop means Max Verstappen leaves Istanbul with a six-point lead.

It’s certainly a welcome development for Red Bull, as the Dutchman kept his nose clean en route to a second-place finish, while Sergio Perez and his P3 showing made it a double podium for the team. 

Although Verstappen’s last victory dates back to the Dutch Grand Prix at the beginning of September, his performance in wet, damp and tricky conditions was the kind that’s needed from a driver searching for his first title.

It likely won’t jump off the page once the story of the 2021 Formula 1 season is written, but every point matters considering nobody has led the championship by more than eight points over the last seven races. 

It’s all the more important given Mercedes’ performance as Istanbul Park as well. Yes, Hamilton may have lost valuable points with his late pit stop. However, given what’s at stake, Mercedes’ decision to bring him in – regardless of timing – could prove valuable, as Pirelli said after the race they didn’t think his tyres would have held out until the end.

Unhappy Hamilton

Hamilton, who was clearly upset about how his race ultimately ended once he stepped out of his car, likely won’t agree with that statement. Whether Mercedes should have pitted him earlier or not at all will be hotly debated in the days to come. It will likely be debated within Mercedes as well, though the seven-time world champion will have the next two weeks to clear his head before the United States Grand Prix.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton celebrates with Valtteri Bottas after qualifying in pole position for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix REUTERS/Umit Bektas

However, even with a grid penalty that saw him drop from first to 11th on the grid, there’s no denying Hamilton and his Mercedes were extremely quick in Turkey.

You only have to look at Valtteri Bottas and his performance for further proof of that. The Finn took his first victory of the season by 14.5 seconds over Verstappen, but by the time the chequered flag was waved, it almost felt as though that final gap could have been even larger. The Dutchman never came within striking distance of the Mercedes driver, dropping well behind him once it was clear Bottas was locked in.

Super quick Mercedes

Mercedes were clearly the fastest car over the course of the entire weekend, but the fact that Bottas – a driver that struggles in wet weather conditions – only cements that further. Considering the Finn finished last season’s Turkish Grand Prix down in 14th place after spinning six times, Sunday’s result can only bode well for the team moving forward.

Adding to that is the worried statements coming out of Red Bull following the race. While the likes of Christian Horner and Helmut Marko were happy to see both their cars finish on the podium, it seems they’re also concerned by Mercedes’ straight-line speed advantage.

Marko suggested Mercedes were as much as 15km/h faster down the straight at Istanbul Park, a figure so big, it was as if they were driving with DRS open for the entirety of the race.

F1 – Turkish Grand Prix – Red Bull’s Max Verstappen reacts after qualifying in third position REUTERS/Umit Bektas

While it’s possible that advantage was more apparent due to Istanbul Park favouring Mercedes, the fact Red Bull suggest this development has been ongoing since Silverstone suggests that wasn’t the only factor at play.

Advantage USA

With F1 heading to the Circuit of the Americas, a track Mercedes have won five of the last six races at, don’t be surprised if Red Bull are once again chasing the Silver Arrows in two weeks time.

Given Hamilton changed the more worrisome components of his engine in Turkey, don’t expect him to be hindered by another grid penalty. It’ll be up to the Briton to deliver however, something he’s done in spades over the course of his record-breaking career. 

With the battle for the 2021 championship coming down to the wire, and the tension only set to increase until someone is declared the winner, don’t bet against a new name being atop the standings for the fifth time in seven races once the chequered flag is waved in Austin, Texas. 

John Smith
John Smith
Editor at and all round Motorsport journalist specialising in Formula 1, IndyCar and Formula E.
- Advertisment -


Daniel Ricciardo of Visa Cash App RB during Sprint Qualifying ahead of 2024 Chinese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

What time does 2024 Chinese Grand Prix Start?

The anticipation builds for the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix, an event that promises high-speed action and strategic battles at...
Felix Rosenqvist IndyCar 2024 Grand Prix of Long Beach pole position | Penske Entertainment: Chris Owens

Felix Rosenqvist takes tight pole position for IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach 

Felix Rosenqvist secured pole position for the 2024 IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach by the smallest of margins,...
Fernando Alonso defends from Carlos Sainz in the 2024 Chinese GP Sprint | Peter Fox / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Why the Chinese GP battle behind Red Bull will be intense

Anything but a Max Verstappen victory at the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix would be a huge shock as a...
Max Verstappen celebrates pole position after qualifying for the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull reach new heights with 100th pole – Horner should savour dominance while it...

Red Bull haven't won many fans with their continued dominance of Formula 1 since the arrival of the 2022...

Wolff rubbishes Hamilton claim after Chinese GP exit

Toto Wolff hit back at Lewis Hamilton at the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix, claiming his Q1 exit was due...
Carlos Sainz during the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix weekend | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

Aston Martin protest over Carlos Sainz Chinese GP qualifying crash dismissed

After a sprint Saturday at the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix, the drama went on a little longer as the...
Fernando Alonso during 2024 Australian GP | Aston Martin F1 Team

Fernando Alonso reveals Aston Martin’s true pace compared to F1 rivals after Chinese GP...

Fernando Alonso believes Aston Martin are slower than Ferrari, McLaren and potentially even Mercedes despite outqualifying all of them...
Max Verstappen of Red Bull leads Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes during the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix Sprint | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen admits to qualifying confusion after Lewis Hamilton caught out

Max Verstappen revealed he was confused by his opening run in Q3 before eventually improving to take his fifth...
Lewis Hamilton looks on in a press conference at the 2024 pre-season test in Bahrain | Mercedes / Jiri Krenek

Lewis Hamilton upbeat after Mercedes disaster in Chinese GP qualifying: Sh*t happens

Lewis Hamilton admits his changes made to his car prior to qualifying for the Formula 1 2024 Chinese Grand...

Christian Horner: Perez driving for Red Bull future

Christian Horner praised Sergio Perez's recovery after a chastening 2023 Formula 1 season, as the Mexican completed a Red...
- Advertisment -