Former Formula 1 driver Ralf Schumacher found Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes a nervous impression after the Russian Grand Prix, in which Max Verstappen managed to finish second despite a grid penalty.
Lewis Hamilton took over the championship lead from Max Verstappen a week and a half ago by winning the Formula 1 race in Sochi, but the Briton’s lead is probably less than what he and Mercedes had hoped for beforehand. The Dutchman crossed the finish line in second, despite having to start at the back before switching to his fourth power unit of the season. The difference between Hamilton and Verstappen is only two World Cup points at the start of the Turkish Grand Prix.
Ralf Schumacher, Germany’s Formula 1 analyst Sky Sports, noted concerns at Mercedes after the race in Russia. “Both are riding at an incredibly high level,” says the six-time Grand Prix winner in a preview of the Turkish Grand Prix about the title fight. “I think Max Verstappen has taken an incredible step. He is driving much more intelligently. He still takes risks, but not like before. Lewis Hamilton sometimes makes a mistake under great pressure, but also handles the situation very well. They really are each other’s equals. You could also see how nervous Lewis was that Max managed to get such a good result in Sochi.”
In the meantime, it is starting to look like Hamilton will also need a fourth engine this season and will therefore have to take a grid penalty somewhere. Asked if Verstappen was the actual winner of the Russian Grand Prix, Schumacher said: “You could see during an interview with Toto Wolff after the race that he was worried because he hadn’t taken that into account. And it now looks like Mercedes will also have to switch to a fourth engine. The rumors circulating about it are very persistent. That will of course be a huge problem for Lewis.”
Wolff called it ‘a possibility’ earlier this week that Hamilton will take a motor penalty in Turkey next weekend. However, a decision on this has yet to be made. “It has turned out to be Mercedes country so far,” Schumacher says of Istanbul Park, the circuit where the race will take place this weekend. “But Red Bull has come significantly closer everywhere and they will be closer there too. So it promises to be an exciting battle between Max and Lewis. And Bottas was actually the stronger of the two in Monza and was also very strong in Sochi. At the end of the story, of course, he will drive ahead of his teammate, so it’s not going to be easy for Red Bull in terms of strategy.”
In addition, since a few races there are also privateers on the coast for the race victory. “McLaren I see (in Turkey) also participate in the front again”, says Schumacher about the team that surprisingly scored a one-two in Italy. “They have a Mercedes engine and a very efficient aerodynamic package.” According to the former driver of Jordan, BMW-Sauber and Toyota, Ferrari should also be considered. “Charles Leclerc was clearly in a better position with the new engine. They also have a small trump card up their sleeve,” said the German, who is enjoying 2021 to the fullest. “I believe that we are experiencing a unique season. To have so many drivers up front is something we haven’t had in a long time. It is no longer the case that it is already clear in advance that a Mercedes will win.”