For the first time in the hybrid era, the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team have gone four races without a victory, after Lewis Hamilton finished second and Valtteri Bottas third at the Styrian Grand Prix.
There was nothing either Mercedes driver could do to stop Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen who cruised to victory, in what was possibly the most dominant Red Bull win in recent years. It was the first real sign for Mercedes as to how far behind Red Bull the team are, as Hamilton could do nothing but watch Verstappen drive away into the distance.
The team did well however to have both drivers beat Sergio Pérez and be on the podium, a surprisingly poor Red Bull pit-stop allowed Bottas to overcut the Mexican, putting the Mercedes driver in control of third place.
The result see’s Hamilton now eighteen points behind Verstappen and the team forty behind Red Bull. Team Principal Toto Wolff knows that his team will fight with everything they’ve got, despite their main focus now being on 2022!
“A double podium with the second fastest car was the best damage limitation we could do today – we fought with everything we had but it wasn’t enough. Red Bull clearly had the quicker package this weekend, and we didn’t have the pace to apply strategic pressure to Max who could have covered every move we made; he simply controlled the race from the front.
“With Valtteri, we picked the pocket of Red Bull to claim P3, and he did a fantastic job to eke out the tyre life to the last corner and stay ahead of Perez. We knew the time would come when it became tougher for us – and it’s here right now. We will need to analyse the race, see what more we could have squeezed out of the package, and keep on chipping away each weekend.
“We can see that Red Bull are still developing strongly, while our focus is now primarily on 2022, but that doesn’t mean the championship is over – far from it. We will be fighting with every weapon we have, and the battle is still full on.”
“Unfortunately the car lacked the pace to challenge Max” – Mercedes’ Andrew Shovlin
Verstappen did appear to be in a complete class of his own, the Dutchman was able to pull away from Hamilton whilst still managing to look after his tyres better than the world champion.
It does appear that Red Bull are still putting a lot of development into this season’s car in a bid to take both titles. Mercedes Track Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin hopes the team can use the next few days to find a way to close the gap, before the Austrian Grand Prix back at the Red Bull Ring.
“We’ve had a solid race and the team worked well but unfortunately the car lacked the pace to challenge Max. It was clear in the first stint that we couldn’t put them under pressure; Lewis had a little more degradation and we decided to stop when the rear was starting to move around a bit on exits. Lewis stuck with Max on the first part of the second stint but it was clear we weren’t able to get close so backed off to make sure we didn’t run out of rubber.
“The only thing left was to go for fastest lap at the end. Valtteri had a more interesting afternoon; he played the tyre advantage well on the first stint and looked poised to pass Sergio on track but he came in before losing position. We were planning to go long and offset but their pitstop issue meant we could bank the position on that lap. Later in the race were looking at a two stop but it wasn’t clear cut and we didn’t want to risk the podium place so we stayed on the one-stop.
“The end of the race was a little tense but our tools had it spot on; that Sergio would catch on the last lap but wouldn’t have time to pass. The softer tyres will mix things up a bit next week and we’ve clearly got a bit of pace to find but we’ll use the next few days constructively to try and do everything we can to close that gap.”