F1 Today – 26/10/2021

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Verstappen feared losing victory with “aggressive strategy”

Max Verstappen and Red Bull say they were fearing that they feared losing the United States Grand Prix following their “aggressive” early strategy call led to a late Lewis Hamilton charge and an epic head-to-head duel.

Throughout the weekend Red Bull and Verstappen appeared to have the advantage over Mercedes and following the start, the two title contenders battled until the end of the race. The race went down to the final seven laps, with Red Bull’s early pit-stops seemingly giving Mercedes a significant tyre edge in the thrilling closing stages.

Verstappen told Sky Sports, “It was tough – we were very aggressive. I of course knew how much Lewis was catching… but we managed to hang on.”

After being passed by Hamilton into the first corner, the dutchman stropped thirteen laps into the race which put the two title rivals on different strategies which would put them head to head in the closing stages.

Despite struggling on old tyres and Hamilton closing in on fresher tyres during the last seven laps Verstappen prevented the seven time champion from getting past. That allowed him to take victory which allowed Verstappen to extend his championship lead to twelve points.

He added, “Of course we lost out in the start so we had to try and do something else. The tyre wear is quite high around this track, we went aggressive and I was not sure it was going to work but the last few laps were fun.”

“A bit sideways through the high-speed corners but super happy to hang on. It was exciting. The whole race the pressure was on, not knowing how quick Lewis was going to get you. It’s incredible to win here.”

Following the race, team principal Christian Horner said he had “aged about 25 years” due to the late tension and expanded: “I really didn’t think he was going to pull that off.”

“Lewis had eight laps newer tyres, and the first set of hard tyres that came off were pretty much down to the canvas. We were thinking we’re not going to have much at the end here but Max managed that tyre in the last stint.”

The Red Bull boss said that Hamilton was strong at the end of the race and had long gone to find an advantage. Horner believes Verstappen losing it in the closing stages would have been “really painful”, but he did a smart and great job to have enough at the end to hang on.

 

Hamilton not sure what Mercedes could have done differently

Lewis Hamilton says he isn’t sure what Mercedes could have done differently to beat Red Bull at the United States Grand Prix, after losing more ground to his title rival Max Verstappen.

Hamilton took the lead from Verstappen at the first corner, but Red Bull undercut him at the first stop. In response, Mercedes extended both Hamilton’s stints attempting to create a tyre delta that would allow him to recover the time lost to Verstappen.

Hamilton sat over eight seconds behind the RBR driver after his second stop and used his fresher tyres to go over one second per lap quicker at one point, whittling the gap down to less than two seconds. But Hamilton could not get close enough in the final few laps to attempt a pass with the Dutchman stabilising the gap and going on to victory.

The seven-time champion now sits twelve points behind with a maximum of one hundred and thirty one points maximum still to claim with five races to go. Hamilton said after the race, “It was a fun race. We had a good start, and he seemed to be quite close throughout on the medium tyre. Then obviously they stopped extremely early, and just tried to offset myself after that.

“I was hoping that would give us a chance to fight late on, but I think track position was key today.” Hamilton says he felt the team could not have done anything differently and the team did a good job.

But recognised that Mexico City and Interlagos will favour Red Bull. Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff did not think the team could have pitted Hamilton as early as Verstappen but felt its hard-tyre pace was strong enough to have won the race.

He added, “I think we could have won the race, of course, because we were in the lead and we had a very strong pace on the hard. In a way, we need to retrace the weekend from Friday to Sunday, where did we misjudge, where did we get it wrong, what did we do well?

 

Mercedes say there are positives from Austin

Mercedes insists that there are positives to take from its defeat by Red Bull in the United States Grand Prix. The German manufacturer lost out to Red Bull and Max Verstappen when  Lewis Hamilton’s tyre strategy did not pay off, Mercedes thinks there are still grounds to be encouraged.

Throughout the weekend Red Bull appeared to have the competitive edge over Mercedes, who still managed to push its championship rivals hard.  Trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin says compared to what happened at the Dutch Grand Prix, where Verstappen was in a class of his own, the Austin performance was more heartening.

Shovlin explained in his regular post-race debrief on YouTube, “This is the toughest one that we’ve had for a long time. Since the [summer] break probably, only Zandvoort has probably felt as difficult as this one was.”

“On Sunday, Max had us beat, but I don’t think it was a comfortable win for them, and we were forcing them to take some risks. So if that is a bad race for us, then hopefully we can have more of the good ones and then we can still be in a decent position.”

The remaining races are expected to see performance swing between Mercedes and Red Bull, with its rivals expected to do well in Mexico City and Interlagos. But Shovlin expects that at circuits which are better its car, the advantage it has over its rival is bigger.

He added, “I think the pace that we showed in Turkey and Sochi, in particular in terms of the race pace, it probably puts us a bit further ahead of them than they have been ahead of us here.”

He said it comes down to how the cars stack up over the remaining races and who adapts well.

 

Alonso calls for stricter enforcement of the rules

Fernando Alonso believes that Formula One needs to be as strict with the enforcement of its rules like football is with penalty offences. The Alpine driver was frustrated in Austin when he believed that Kimi Raikkonen got away with overtaking him off track.

In their battle for a points-scoring place, Raikkonen made a move around the outside of the Spaniard at Turn One and kept his foot in as he ran wide across the kerbs to snatch the place. The stewards decided it was a legal move other similar moves were judged to be within the rule.

One of the controversies this season, has been about inconsistent stewarding, this has lead to a debate about whether or not F1 could do with a formal document that makes clear what is and is not allowed in the heat of battle. Alonso believes that a code of conduct isn’t needed, but the FIA needs to be more consistent in applying the rules.

Asked by Motorsport.com if he felt F1 drivers needed some clearer guidelines, Alonso said: “No, I don’t think that we need anything. The rule is very clear. We just need to put in place the rules. I think when you go in football, and you take the ball inside the area with a hand, it is a penalty. So there is no clarification of the rule [needed].”

“You just need to take the decision and say that this is a penalty. Because if not, everyone will be inside the area with the ball in his hand. We don’t need any modification. We just need to implement the rules when it [an offence] happens.”

Race director Michael Masi has admitted that the call on the Raikkonen incident was “marginal”, and the matter will be discussed with drivers at the next race.

The key problem in defining the circumstances is when a driver has the inside of a corner has the right to the racing line, and when he needs to give up ground on the outside.

Alonso has also once again suggested that incidents are being treated differently depending on who is involved, with him having previously suggested some rivals had got away with offences that others were punished for.

 

Austin “surprised” if contract wasn’t renewed

The promoter of the United States Grand Prix and Circuit of the Americas CEO Bobby Epstein says he would be “surprised and disappointed” if the circuit did not get a renewal to its rand Prix deal, which is set to expire at the end of the year.

The Austin race scheduled for 21 – 23 October 2022 is currently marked as subject to contract. Epstein says they are planning to release 2022 tickets in April, and Epstein said he is confident everything will be wrapped up by then.

Epstein told ESPN when asked about the negotiations, before the race, “We’d like to finalise it before we go on sale, although we’ll put some [2022] tickets on sale this weekend. I think it’s gonna get done. I’m highly confident that we’ll get there. I’d be surprised and disappointed if we don’t and I think [Domenicali] would say the same thing.”

After last years race was cancelled due to the pandemic, the weekend saw one of the biggest crowds since the start of the pandemic expected to exceed the record set in 2019 of 140,000 for race day alone. Epstein credits the enormously popular Netflix series “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” with the rise in interest.

“We were at a sellout point in 2019 but we added capacity since that point … let’s say the capacity we added is 35,000. I would suggest that a good portion of that came from the Netflix growth of interest because the series wasn’t racing here in 2020, so we didn’t have any races in our time zone, so how did fans become more engaged?”

COTA has developed over the last decade into one of the biggest race weekends of the season including concerts in the evening in the Amphitheater as well as other activities across the four-day event.

Asked about making an impression to Domenicali, Epstein said jokingly: “I intend to drive him around [the circuit] completely! I intend to drive him around a whole bunch and then have a conversation about ‘look what we’ve accomplished.'”

He added: “I think he already appreciates it. I think the teams and the drivers have all expressed that they enjoy coming here — which is really satisfying for us to hear — and I think we’ll get there.”

While COTA remains ‘STC’ Epstein said he was relieved of a five month break between Miami, as the race is often scheduled near Mexico City.

COTA has had ups and downs since its debut race in 2012, and Epstein said he believes surviving the difficult times and establishing the race as a highlight of the current F1 schedule has been key to securing its long-term future.

 

Mazepin’s “boring” and “painful” Austin

Nikita Mazepin says his “boring” and “painful” United States Grand Prix was not helped by his headrest coming off at one point. The Haas driver had a challenging weekend in Austin, where he was warned about track limits on numerous occasions as well as struggling for pace and finishing last of the classified finishers.

After the race it emerged that Mazepin’s hopes of doing anything of consequence on Sunday were dashed very early on after his headrest became dislodged on the opening lap, forcing an early pitstop.

Speaking about how his race was, Mazepin said: “Bad. My headrest came off on the first lap in Turn 2. It made the first lap very sketchy because I couldn’t see anything in my mirrors. It added an unnecessary pitstop. So yeah, very lonely, boring and painful race, degrading like fuck.”

Mazepin blamed human error for the problem with his headrest issue, believing that something was done differently for it to happen.

Team principal Gunther Steiner explained that the problem was caused by the locking pins not engaging when it was pushed back on during pre-race preparations on the grid.

Adding, “I don’t know exactly [why] it didn’t engage, but it came off and, because of safety reasons, the headrest is part of your protection here, we called him in immediately. Which again was difficult, because if the headrest is up, you cannot see the mirrors.”

Steiner believes Mazepin’s difficult afternoon was also compounded by complaints his feet were getting hot, a phenomenon the team has battled with all season. Adding “This is the same chassis as last year and we never had an issue with that. And also Mick [Schumacher]… I mean, I didn’t ask specifically Mick, but he never complained about it – and for sure he would.”

 

Brundle calls for respect on-grid walk

Sky Sports commentator Martin Brundle has urged celebrity entourages to show some ‘manners and respect’ after a Grid Walk spurn with rapper Megan Thee Stallion at the United States Grand Prix.

Bundle’s grid walk returned for the first time since Abu Dhabi in 2019 following the relaxation of some coronavirus restrictions in Austin, with the former driver doing his best to speak to some of the celebrities invited by F1’s organisers.

But an attempt to speak to rapper MTS was rebuffed, as her entourage tried to push Brundle out of the way. Brundle said “I think she’s happy… okay boss,” said Brundle to an aggressive bodyguard before asking the artist if she had any rap for F1.

After she replied saying: “I have no rap today, I’m sorry…” Brundle asked who she would be supporting, before another minder stepped in. One of MTS’s crew then told him that he ‘couldn’t do that’, before Brundle hit back and said: “I can do that, because I did.”

The incident played out live not just on Sky Sports, but on other networks which take the channel’s F1 coverage including ESPN, ABC, Fox Australia, TSN, that has led to fans to suggest that celebrities should not accept invites to attend F1 races if they were not willing to help support the show and be interviewed.

Brundle himself took to Twitter on Monday afternoon to make it clear he was not intimidated by celebrities – and urged them and their bodyguards to change attitude. The former driver wrote on Twitter “I have felt under pressure on the grid before but by people called Senna, Prost, Schumacher, Mansell, Piquet and so on.”

“Bodyguards visiting the grid for the first time don’t bother me, everyone’s got a job to do, but they could maybe learn some manners and respect on our patch.”

The MTS incident was not the only awkward moment on his Austin grid walk as he was also ignored by tennis star Serena Williams.

Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.