‘Mercedes knew after Max’s first stop Hamilton couldn’t win’

Date published: October 26 2021 - Michelle Foster

Lewis Hamilton hands on hips while Max Verstappen exits his Red Bull. United States, October 2021.

Christijan Albers feels Max Verstappen was the deciding factor in the United States Grand Prix as Mercedes had the “faster car”.

Arriving at the Circuit of The Americas with a six-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship, it was widely predicted Verstappen would leave with a deficit – the only question was how big would it be.

COTA is a track where Lewis Hamilton had dominated, taking five out of eight wins before this year’s race. That is now five out of nine as Verstappen put in an incredible drive to take his first win at the United States Grand Prix.

Starting from pole position, he lost the lead to Hamilton before Red Bull played the strategy game to put him back up to P1 with an early pit-stop.

The undercut worked, so Red Bull went for it again with Verstappen’s second stop.

Mercedes decided not to react to the Dutchman’s very early second stop, leaving Hamilton out for another eight laps, the game plan being that he would have fresher tyres in the final laps.

But according to Albers, having fallen behind, Hamilton was never going to pass the 24-year-old for the lead.

“I thought it was a bit boring because you kind of knew in advance what the outcome would be, despite Lewis fighting back well at the end of the race,” he told De Telegraaf.

“Lewis of course had a very good start and Max had a poor start. Then you see such a race can actually be controlled by Lewis and then Max has every opportunity to do an undercut.

“You are always much faster when you drive out of the pits with new tyres. Mercedes knew of course after that first stop that Lewis would never get in front of Max Verstappen again.

“They took a new strategy and they went a different way to be able to drive as long as possible, to be able to fight at the end of the race.”

The former F1 driver reckons Mercedes had the faster car at the weekend, although he concedes one cannot say for sure given Verstappen seemed to be holding something back for the final few laps.

While Hamilton chased him down in the final stint, Verstappen put in several personal fastest sector times to stay just ahead of his title rival.

Seeming to have held back a few tenths, the Red Bull driver was able to cling on to take the win by 1.333s.

“The big problem with Mercedes is,” continued Albers, “if you start looking at the whole performance, you see Mercedes basically had a faster car from lap one until the last lap.

“But then again it’s also hard to say that for sure, because you don’t know how much Max held back.

 

“If you look purely at the results, the Mercedes was the faster car. In qualifying, Verstappen was optimal again.

“It’s incredible how Max has been so on top of things lately. It seems like it comes so easily to him and that he is so relaxed.”