Lewis Hamilton was unable to hold his title lead on Sunday as Max Verstappen was on ‘another level’ as admitted by the British driver. The 2021 Formula 1 Dutch Grand Prix was a Max Verstappen show from start till the end.
Verstappen had the pace on Friday, he led the qualifying on Saturday and he led the whole race on Sunday, eventually winning the Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton started besides Max in P2. Both drivers had a great start and were looking fast.
Max Verstappen slowly ended up building the gap to over 4 seconds as Mercedes started exploring strategy options. The Silver Arrows called Hamilton to the pits after 20 laps to put him on mediums.
They initially decided on a two-stop which later turned into a three-stop strategy. This strategy error is one of the reasons why Lewis was unable to catch the Dutchman. Red Bull made sure that they make no mistakes and had an easy weekend with great results.
How Mercedes messed up the strategy?
Both drivers started the race on soft tyres. The expected strategy for the top contenders would have been a two-stop race. The two teams had an unmatched pace to the rest of the grid and were competing with each other.
Mercedes decided to go for a two-stop as they called Hamilton in after 20 laps and sent him out on used mediums. They decided to call him in again in order to undercut Verstappen. However, as Lewis came out of the pits on new mediums, he had traffic and was unable to do much.
Verstappen pitted the very next lap and came out in clean air on hard tyres. The gap between the leaders still remained to be about 3 seconds. Lewis was extremely displeased with the strategy and was extremely vocal about the same on the team radio.
Being on medium tyres, Lewis Hamilton had to protect his tyres and try to overtake the race leader Max. However, Lewis’ tyres were giving in as he was unable to catch up to the Dutch 23-year-old.
Mercedes admits to the strategy blunder
Lewis Hamilton pitted again near the end of the race to ensure his fastest lap point. Valtteri Bottas was also made to pit for new softs in the final stint of the race. As Bottas was going for the fastest lap point, he was radioed by the team’s strategy director James Vowles to abort.
Bottas still managed to get the fastest lap point as he had impeccable first two sectors. Lewis, however, did get the point back in his last lap of the race. Hamilton admitted that their strategy was not the best, but the uncertainty made it difficult.
Lewis also showed his admiration for Max Verstappen and Red Bull as he admitted that they were too ‘just too quick’. Hamilton added that Red Bull was on it during the race and he could not match up and respond to the lap times Verstappen was putting in.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff also admitted to the mishap as he said that they misjudged the window. They ended up mistiming Hamilton’s pitstop. Max Verstappen made no mistakes and ended up stealing the Drivers’ Championship lead from Lewis.