After a two-week rest following the Turkish GP, Formula one has travelled to the other side of the Atlantic for an intense triple-header which starts in Austin with the United States F1 GP 2021. The Texan event returns to the calendar this weekend after being absent in 2020 due to the pandemic.
The COTA (Circuit of The Americas) is about to host another chapter of the intense battle for the World Championship Title. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) arrives in the USA determined to defend tooth and nail his 6-point lead of the standings over Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes). But it won’t be easy.
Mercedes seems to have regained its performance advantage following mechanical improvements on its black car, as demonstrated by its recent victories in Russia (Lewis Hamilton) and Turkey (Valtteri Bottas). At the latter, Verstappen himself admitted with frustration that he was unable to catch up with Bottas.
Mercedes: Favourites at one of their best-loved circuits
The RB16B is not only technically inferior to the W12 but also, the Austrian team will be competing in one of Mercedes best-loved tracks. The German team has won five of the last six races in COTA: 2014-2017 and 2019.
This overwhelming dominance bears the signature of Lewis Hamilton. He not only claimed those four consecutive wins with Mercedes in Austin but had also done the same previously with McLaren in 2007 and 2012. The Texan track is one of the seven-time champion’s absolute favourite venues.
If these factors were not enough to tip the balance in favour of Mercedes for the United States F1 GP 2021, the configuration of the track, with high speed corners and long straights, is also better suited to their cars.
Verstappen: Faced with the challenge of defending his lead
Verstappen and Red Bull will face the United States F1 GP 2021 with the enormous challenge of defending the first place of the Drivers’ standings, in the most unfavourable of circumstances. After his second place in Istanbul, the Dutchman has 262.5 points against the 256.5 of Hamilton.
Three Grands Prix have already passed since his last victory in the Netherlands, so Verstappen, who came in third in Austin in 2019, desperately needs to conquer the top of the podium again. However, it doesn’t seem like the wind is blowing in his favour right now.
If we look at the team’s ‘second’ drivers, Bottas is also clearly outperforming Checo Perez (Red Bull). Incidentally, the driver from Nastola is reaping the best results of the year since the announcement of his dismissal from Mercedes was made.
The Mexican racer, however, arrives in Austin in great spirits after his fabulous performance in Istanbul. Besides taking his third podium with Red Bull, he did a great team effort, preventing the comeback of Hamilton, who finished fifth in Turkey.
The midfield: McLaren must react to Ferrari’s comeback
Ferrari & McLaren will continue embroiled in their very own fight for the third place of the Constructors’ Title at the United States F1 GP 2021. La Scuderia has managed to shorten the distances with the English team over the two previous races thanks to Carlos Sainz’s podium in Russia and Charles Leclerc’s fourth place in Turkey and after introducing a very efficient engine update.
Both teams are now just 7.5 apart, the Italians with 240 and the Britons with 232.5. The team from Woking must react to the upsurge of the red cars if it doesn’t want to give up any more ground. The characteristics of the Austin racetrack should, in theory, play in favour of the papaya missiles, but the performance leap of the red cars heralds an intense fight between the two teams.
Images of the United States F1 GP 2021: Red Bull Racing.