Ahead in the championship, but Max Verstappen says Red Bull need to hit back against an improved Mercedes; Team boss Christian Horner also worried about championship leaders’ big straight-line speed advantage
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 11/10/21 2:27pm
Max Verstappen says Red Bull have to “step it up” over F1 2021’s final six races if they are going to beat Mercedes to the titles, with driver and team particularly concerned about their rivals’ straight-line speed.
Verstappen has moved back ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the championship after the Turkish GP but Sunday’s race was another where Red Bull were no match for Mercedes, with Verstappen a distant second.
The Dutchman, who holds a slender six-point title advantage and appeared to have the fastest car through the first half of the season, was also off the pace compared to the Silver Arrows in Monza and Sochi.
“Of course overall I think we have been at tracks that naturally were a bit better for Mercedes but then this track was a bit unknown and clearly they were ahead of us,” admitted Verstappen to Sky F1 at Istanbul Park.
“I do think we need to step it up a bit to be in the fight until the end of the season.”
Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player
Martin Brundle believes Lewis Hamilton ‘made a mistake’ by disagreeing with his Mercedes team over strategy at the Turkish Grand Prix
Much of Mercedes’ advantage in recent races has been on the straights despite Honda’s improvements over 2021.
“The straight-line speed of Lewis was 15 to 20kmh up after the kink on the straight, which is phenomenal,” said team boss Christian Horner, who also told reporters he was “surprised” by Mercedes’ recent pace.
Red Bull recently raised questions about their rivals’ engine to the FIA, although those appear to have been knocked back. Mercedes also insist nothing has changed on their latest Power Unit, which Hamilton debuted in Turkey.
“When you’ve got straight-line speed that’s greater than with a DRS open, that’s pretty impressive,” said Horner. “It’s down to the FIA to continue to look at these things.”
Verstappen meanwhile maintained that Mercedes have had a speed edge for “most of the season”.
“Of course they’ve sorted their car out so it’s a bit more obvious that top speed they have,” added Verstappen. “There’s not much we can do.
“It’s what we have to live with, it’s not going to magically disappear but of course we’ll try to minimise the damage on the straights.”
With Verstappen and Sergio Perez on the podium on Sunday, Red Bull narrowed Mercedes’ constructors’ title lead slightly, to 36 points.