Preview: Definitely start or strategy Mercedes battle? Stage opportunity Verstappen, Albon creaks


The British Grand Prix on the Mercedes tailed Silverstone promises to be part of the two-way battle between Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, while Max Verstappen will once again take on Charles Leclerc. Further back on the grid is an excited Alexander Albon.

It’s a fight we’ve seen many rounds since 2017, especially last year. Still, the outcome is pretty much certain: when Lewis Hamilton takes on Valtteri Bottas, he almost always wins – be it on points or with a knockout.

Also read: Hamilton not clear on his way to pole British GP, Verstappen third in full second

In their time as teammates, Hamilton won 33 races (and three world titles) while Bottas’ counter ends at eight. Bottas won five of those eight from pole, but he is not on Sunday afternoon. And how many times has he really beaten Hamilton wheel-to-wheel?

If Bottas has to rely on anything at Silverstone, the wisdom is, it is the start or strategy. It is known that he can start quickly, although he stared too blindly at the lights on his steering wheel last race and then made a false start.

Strategic jousting?

His steering wheel has been adjusted, but Bottas still has to take matters into his own hands. If it fails with the start and on the track, the chances are nil that Mercedes will let him turn the team duel upside down with a strategic move.

Although Bottas himself suggested that an alternative strategy is an option, Hamilton said Mercedes is sticking to its overarching philosophy. And that is that it does not just let its drivers start a strategic joust.

“We do what we always do,” said team boss Toto Wolff after qualifying. “The car in front takes priority at the stops. If the second wants to go longer and the tires are good, you can. ” But then again, let Hamilton be the better tire manager. So Bottas has few chances …

Verstappen vs Leclerc

Where Hamilton and Bottas are the dead candidates for the victory, Max Verstappen is for the third and last podium place. The Dutchman was third in the qualifying against a second behind, but just a bit faster than Charles Leclerc.

That Leclerc’s fourth place came as a surprise – and how happy he was with it – says everything about Ferrari’s mediocre form. Moreover, I am concerned about the race paceLeclerc warned. “The pace there may be, but we are eating our tires. ”

A start up mediums can help, although this is the preferred rubber for the entire top four and number six Lance Stroll. Leclerc may therefore mainly have to defend itself against the rest of the top ten on soft start. Advantage So Verstappen, also because he always handles his tires well.

Also read: Verstappen: ‘You have a chance to fight if you start from third place’

Albon under pressure

Outside the top ten we find Alexander Albon, the teammate of Verstappen who could have just used a boost. The more experienced race engineer on the pit wall (Simon Rennie) was also unable to coach him from Q2 to Q3.

Of course, the latter cannot be blamed for Rennie: Albon lost precious track time by crashing hard on Friday and suffered another blow when he also lost a lot of VT3 time due to a problem with the ERS.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has not denied that it is ‘disappointing for Alex and the team’ that Albon did not make it to Q3. Undoubtedly, Albon can better imagine what Pierre Gasly went through last year. In any case, the situation seems increasingly the same from the outside.

Red Bull’s decision to bring Rennie back from the factory to the racing team is a testament to the potential it sees in Albon. However, he has to show that potential quickly. There is not yet a breaking point, but Albon is cracking under the pressure.

Also read: Albon: ‘We looked strong yesterday, but today just wasn’t right’

Stroll in de sandwich

No look ahead to a qualifying, race or weekend this year is complete without talking about last year’s Mercedes, aka Racing Points. Lance Stroll put his ‘pink Mercedes’ on P6, which makes you wonder what Sergio Pérez could have done if he hadn’t tested positive for corona.

With a set mediums under his RP20, Stroll has tire advantage in a duel with Lando Norris on P5, but with Carlos Sainz on P7, Stroll is in a McLaren sandwich, which offers that team opportunities with the differences that are old-fashioned in the middle bracket.

Just for the latter reason Nico Hülkenberg as a substitute in the other Racing Point does not leave. He has to come from P13 so that first podium place still seems out of reach, but a good points finish is certainly possible if The Hulk (perhaps for the last time) gets a little angry.

Also read: Hülkenberg is disappointed with missing Q3: ‘Needed an extra tenth and that was certainly in the car’


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