Max Verstappen already seemed unlikely to win after qualifying in Qatar. He was trumped by a significant difference by Lewis Hamilton and to make matters worse, he was given a five-place grid penalty.
In the race he worked his way up quickly and was in second place behind the Brit in no time. The planned tactic was soon tossed overboard by Red Bull when the speed of Mercedes and Hamilton became apparent.
“We started the race with the idea of a one-stop,” explains team boss Christian Horner to, among others RacingNews365. “But we soon saw that Hamilton was fast, so we pushed harder. In the first stint Lewis had a pace advantage, but in the second stint we were able to keep up with him.”
The bright spot in Verstappen’s race
Still, Verstappen managed to smuggle an extra point from Qatar. He did that by making an extra pit stop. Nevertheless, he already had the fastest lap before that pit stop.
That ‘purple’ lap time was constantly changing between the two ruffs. Twenty times during the race in Qatar, but in the final phase it was Verstappen who improved his time three times in a row.
It provides Red Bull with positive hope in the run-up to the last races of the season. “Even before Max made an extra pit stop for the soft tyre, he already had the fastest lap in his hands. That was very encouraging, very encouraging”, the team boss sounds good-humoured.
Moreover, the difference between Hamilton and Verstappen was not very big. It was only one corner where the Mercedes car was better in Qatar. “There was only one corner where Hamilton made the difference. That was turn six, where Mercedes won two tenths of a second from us from Friday to Sunday. So we have to understand where we have to improve,” said the team boss.
Hamilton without a flexible rear wing?
According to Horner, Hamilton will also no longer use the rear wing with which he and his team gained so much ground in Brazil. Now that the FIA has introduced new tests, Mercedes seems to no longer use the rear wing.
“I am happy that it is now being checked by the FIA,” said Horner. “I am convinced that the tests that have now been introduced ensure that Mercedes can no longer move around the rules.”
“In any case, we have seen Mercedes have had an abnormal speed on the straights in previous races. It is encouraging to see that we can tap Mercedes’ top speed for the first time since Silverstone,” said the Red Bull leader.
Verstappen must hope for a miracle from Red Bull and Honda
Although Max Verstappen is heading for the last two races as leader in the Formula 1 championship, the Dutchman will have to hope for a small miracle from Red Bull and Honda.