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Why Red Bull need a win this weekend

Alex McCarthy
Alex McCarthy

11:23 16 Apr 2021

If we are to see the thrilling battle we expect from Red Bull and Mercedes, Max Verstappen needs to capitalise on opportunities like the Imola Grand Prix this weekend.

After a three-week break since the opening race of the 2021 Formula One season, the action continues this weekend at the ‘Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix’, which will take place in the north of Italy.

The opening weekend of this year’s F1 proved that Red Bull has closed the gap to Mercedes and has a car that can compete with the ‘Silver Arrows’ this season.

Despite that, it also proved that Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton are capable of winning races. Verstappen failing to win the Bahrain GP from pole position could be a crucial moment for the season.

Mercedes’ strategy gave them the edge despite having the slower cars. Red Bull cannot afford to let that be a recurring story this season.

Trailing by 13 points in the constructor’s championship already, Christian Horner and his team have to begin reducing the deficit immediately.

Red Bull’s advantage

Verstappen and Sergio Perez head into this weekend’s race expecting rain. Most forecasts predict a reasonable chance of rain on Saturday to affect qualifying, while the track will almost certainly be wet at some point during the race.

The pair have excelled in wet conditions in the past, and are driving a car with more downforce compared to their Mercedes rivals.

Rule changes have changed the floor and rear of the cars this season. The high-rake angle of the Red Bull car design means their cars have lost less stability than their Mercedes opposition. The effect of this will be amplified by any rain that falls on the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari this weekend.

Along with improved horsepower from the Honda engine this year, Red Bull appears to have the best opportunity to take points this weekend.

After an impressive rise from P20 to P5 during the Bahrain GP, Perez looks likely to support Red Bull’s title challenge with points this weekend and throughout the season.

Verstappen, previously dubbed ‘Mad Max’ due to some hot-headed moments on track in the past, looks calmer and more mature this year. Returning to second place at the end of the Bahrain GP after an illegal overtake is something he may not have done a few years ago.

Red Bull must begin how they mean to go on

There has been a feeling among spectators in recent years that if Red Bull did not leave themselves with too much to do, they could be competing with Mercedes near the end of the season.

With this year being arguably the best opportunity for the Austrian team to win a world championship since the 2013 season, that can not be the story again.

A team that has won seven constructors championships in a row will develop throughout the season and get closer to Red Bull’s speed.

If Mercedes have a lead in the championship by the time they have caught up with Red Bull’s performance level, it is difficult to imagine them being caught.

This weekend is an opportunity for Verstappen to break his ‘Italian curse’ and make a statement. The 23-year-old cannot be playing catch-up to Hamilton. Red Bull cannot be playing catch-up to Mercedes.

A big performance from Sergio Perez is also necessary. He needs to be on the podium regularly this season. He will not have many better opportunities than this weekend.

This weekend can be a sign of things to come for better or for worse for Red Bull. Few races will carry such importance for them this year.

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Read more about

Autodromo Enzo E Dino Ferrari Christian Horner Emilia-Romagna GP Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix Formula 1 Formula One Imola Imola Grand Prix Lewis Hamilton Max Verstappen Mercedes F1 Red Bull Red Bull Racing San Marino GP San Marino Grand Prix Sergio Perez Toto Wolff Valtteri Bottas

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