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How Mercedes could have won the Dutch GP

Lewis Hamilton lost the lead of the championship to Max Verstappen at the Dutch Grand Prix. RacingNews365.com takes a look at whether the win was possible for Mercedes at Zandvoort on Sunday.

Race Start Zandvoort 2021
To news overview © Mercedes

There may not have been the wheel-to-wheel action we've become used to in Formula 1 in 2021 at the Dutch Grand Prix, but it was a strategically fascinating race.

Mercedes decided to keep two sets of C2 Medium tyres in their bank going into qualifying and the race, whilst Max Verstappen only had one set.

It was clear that Mercedes were looking to do something different if they needed to. With Verstappen taking pole position and pulling clear at the start, Mercedes needed to put the Dutchman under pressure.

They tried, but ultimately failed, as Verstappen won on home soil. RacingNews365.com takes a look at how things could have played out differently.

Bottas' lack of pace

Valtteri Bottas simply could not go with the pace of Hamilton and Verstappen at Zandvoort. But Mercedes were still able to use both of their cars to give Hamilton a chance of victory.

Bottas went long in the first stint, whilst Hamilton and Verstappen pitted early. This gave Bottas the lead and the key moment of the race came when Verstappen caught the Finn.

"The most important part of the race for us was for Max to make that pass on Valtteri and he did that quickly," Christian Horner told Sky Sports. "Then after that we were able to just cover Lewis.

"We were worried about Valtteri backing him [Verstappen] up and then Lewis getting the undercut on both of them, so that was why it was crucial to get past really quickly."

When Verstappen got within one second of Bottas, to use DRS, Hamilton was three seconds behind due to the lapped traffic.

Bottas did hold Verstappen up for one lap and Mercedes were unfortunate that Hamilton was not able to capitalise when it was clear that he had pace.

A small mistake from Bottas at the Turn 11-12 chicane made life very easy for Verstappen as he coasted by down the main straight to the delight of 70,000 Dutch spectators.

That was the first big opportunity for Mercedes, where a small mistake from Bottas and bad timing for Hamilton handed Verstappen a lifeline.

			© Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images
	© Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images

Pitting Hamilton at the wrong time

Mercedes got the timing of Hamilton's second pit-stop completely wrong. When Verstappen overtook Bottas, the team could have pitted Hamilton since he was just seven-tenths behind his rival at the end of that lap.

It would have been a bold move, but the undercut was powerful on Sunday and the Hard tyres would have made it to the end.

When Mercedes did pit Hamilton, the seven-time World Champion was around three seconds behind Verstappen due to traffic.

Ideally, when trying an undercut, drivers want to be a lot closer to give themselves a good chance of jumping the competition.

More traffic on Hamilton's out lap completely ended his hopes of jumping Verstappen. Mercedes should have known where Hamilton was going to emerge on the pit exit, and whether he would have traffic.

"We had to be perfect to even have the slightest chance of getting past them through strategy, for example," Hamilton told RacingNews365.com and other select members of the press.

"Pit-stops needed to be on point, [the] strategy needed to be on point, and [the] traffic. But none of those three were ideal today."

Just like the first pit-stop, Verstappen pitted one lap later and covered Hamilton relatively comfortably.

			© Mercedes
	© Mercedes

A three-stop attempt missed?

It's been a long time since a front running driver has tried a three-stop strategy in a race without any Safety Cars in F1. But this was a possibility for Hamilton at the Dutch GP.

With 20 laps to go, Mercedes had an opportunity to put Hamilton on the Soft tyres to go for a late-race charge, as we've seen at other races this year.

Even if Verstappen reacted, he would have come out behind Bottas. This would have set up a similar scenario to earlier in the race, giving Mercedes another chance to put Verstappen under serious pressure.

If the Red Bull driver decided not to pit, Hamilton on fresh Soft tyres against Verstappen on worn Hard tyres would almost certainly have been 'game on' in the latter stages of the Grand Prix.

			© Mercedes
	© Mercedes

A day of missed opportunities?

Red Bull strategically got Verstappen's race spot on and the new championship leader executed it perfectly. But there were definitely chances for Mercedes to at least put Verstappen in a very difficult position.

Mercedes gave themselves extra stress by pitting Bottas for a second time on Soft tyres, even though Hamilton had the fastest lap of the race.

Despite Bottas backing of, he still set the fastest lap of the race to take the extra point away from his teammate. Thankfully for Mercedes, Hamilton retook that accolade at the end of the race.

However, had there been a yellow flag, or if Hamilton made a mistake on the final lap, Mercedes would have looked a little silly. It was unnecessary from the World Champions.

This year's championship will be won by limiting mistakes. Strategy is part of it and Red Bull had the upper hand in this department at the Dutch GP, despite having only one car to fight with for the win.

Mercedes will analyse the race in thorough detail, but they have to deliver when the pressure is on. The intensity will only ramp up and it will be key to make the right decisions when it matters most.

F1 2021 Dutch Grand Prix RN365 News dossier


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