RACE DEBRIEF

    The first two Grands Prix of 2021 have witnessed tightly fought contests between Mercedes and Red Bull. But according to Valtteri Bottas, even if Mercedes continue to take poles and victories this season, he doesn’t expect to see the Silver Arrows dominate any race weekend this year in the way they have done in years past.

    Despite early season predictions that Red Bull would be the runaway favourites for the championship this year, both Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes hold the respective advantage in the drivers’ and constructors’ standings currently.

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    And while Bottas was certainly not writing off his team’s chances of adding an unprecedented eighth double title in 2021, according to the Finn, race weekend dominance from Mercedes was unlikely this season.

    “I think dominating a Grand Prix this year will be difficult seeing the starting point,” said Bottas, who endured a disappointing Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, crashing out of ninth place after contact with Williams’ George Russell. “We’ve seen quite big swings in performance track to track, but you never know. But I can’t see anyone really dominating this year.”

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    Mercedes and Red Bull look very closely matched this season

    Whether F1 fans witness dominance or not, what seems clear is that the battle in the constructors’ standings this season will most likely come down to a straight fight between Red Bull and Mercedes.

    And despite Red Bull having enjoyed their best start to a season in the turbo-hybrid era – capped off by Max Verstappen taking a convincing victory at Imola – Bottas still believed that Mercedes had the necessary firepower to try and out-develop their rivals.

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    “I still believe we can catch them,” said Bottas. “I still believe from the feeling in the car that there is more to unlock from it. If we can get the balance right, if we can get the car to be more drivable, the true corner balance more reliable – with understanding and fine-tuning the set-up, there’s more to come.

    “Twenty-three races is a long time to learn about the package,” added Bottas, “and it just means we need to be more efficient than the other teams. We know Red Bull are good at in-season development but we just need to out-pace them.”