Whether he is one hundred percent sure that he is in a fair fight with all the rumors about Mercedes’ rear wing? In any case, not one hundred percent, Max Verstappen made clear on Saturday after qualifying.
Verstappen was beaten by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, by a margin of more than four tenths. Last week in Brazil, the margin was also that large, at the short Interlagos. Since then, rumors about the Mercedes car have been buzzing. Red Bull mainly looks at the rear wing, to the so-called main plane: the fixed element that would be (or have been) too flexible at Mercedes. It thus bends, which results in more top speed.
“It’s hard to say”, was Verstappen’s answer to the above question. “Not only in terms of the future, but also in terms of what has been raced in the past races. We do have images of it,” says Verstappen, referring to Mercedes’ alleged trick. Some explanation in conversation with the Dutch media, including FORMULE 1 Magazine: “These are images from previous races.”
This weekend, Verstappen admits, Red Bull is also having a ‘difficult’ time. And okay, Hamilton has a fresher engine that will be aggressively tuned, but: “That’s not four, four and a half tenths.” So Red Bull has to find answers: “We have to look in the details to see what is going on.” Whether Red Bull can benefit from the video images? “I do not know.” According to team boss Christian Horner, the effect of Mercedes’ rear wing is already less in Qatar.
More aggressive Mercedes drivers
What Verstappen mainly hopes, he emphasizes, is that he and Hamilton – and Red Bull and Mercedes – can have a ‘good fight’ until the end of the season. The two had a nice duel in Brazil last week. Although Mercedes did want the stewards to take a closer look at Verstappen’s defensive action from lap 48. Verstappen forced Hamilton out against the rules, the German-English team stated.
The race management in Brazil did not consider it worth investigating and has also rejected Mercedes’ protest to review this decision. Several drivers stated that the decision of the stewards not to investigate this action is a kind of license to defend in this way. Mercedes drivers Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have also hinted at perhaps driving more aggressively, as this appears to be allowed.
For Verstappen, he reacts as expected, this does not change anything. He also says he doesn’t feel warned. “New. I just focus on myself. I just always want to do the best I can.” Verstappen will start on Sunday in a Mercedes sandwich, with Hamilton in front of him and Bottas behind. The Qatar Grand Prix starts on Sunday at 3:00 PM Dutch time.