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Red Bull frankly framed the driver. But Mercedes managed to do even worse.

Date: September 27, 2023 Time: 23:22:36

Lars Baron/Getty Images The Dutch Grand Prix turned out to be one of the highlights of the 2023 season – in changeable rain conditions, in theory, everyone had a chance to shine. However, in practice, many teams made some rather strange decisions. Some of them are difficult to understand, while others disappoint with their cynicism.

We take a look at Red Bull’s ugly act in relation to Perez and the completely confusing race run by Mercedes.

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How they fired Perez

Before the start of the race, few saw Sergio as a candidate for victory. Cheko qualified seventh and, as unsuccessful as his strategy was, losing 1.3 seconds to his teammate is a failure. However, perhaps this was what allowed Pérez to take the lead on the third lap.

At the same time that it started, it began to rain on the track and Sergio was the first (on the first lap) to mount intermediate tyres. The decision, as subsequent events showed, was absolutely correct. Verstappen, Alonso, Sainz and Ocon all got rid of the slicks later, losing around 15 seconds because of this. Sergio did not risk anything, his strategists did absolutely the right thing, but on the other side of the garage they hesitated.

Sergio Pérez with intermediate tires

Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

But in the second pit stops, when the rain stopped, the track dried up and the drivers had to go back to slicks, the Red Bull strategists called Verstappen into the pits first. Alonso had replaced the tires at the time, and to protect Max, Pérez was thrown under the bus, even though he was in front. The delayed lap cost the Mexican six seconds, while the team had the option of making a double pit stop: Verstappen returned to the track six seconds before the Spaniard, and this would be enough to service both cars. Among the Red Bull drivers, we remember, there were four seconds, more than the standard pit stop time.

In Formula 1 there is a kind of unspoken rule: the one in front goes to the pits first. If the cyclist is ahead of his partner, then it is he who has the right to more profitable tactics: it is believed that he has a better chance of winning. At Red Bull they judged differently, deciding for their drivers. The team had every right: the rule is not written, but it looks very ugly.

The team left Cheko no chance in the fight against Max

Photo: Lars Baron/Getty Images

It’s hard to say Perez had a real chance to outpoint his partner: From rounds three to ninth, Max played 9.3 seconds against Cheko. That is, on average, the Dutchman was 1.3 seconds from the circle (as in qualifying!) faster than his teammate and in a head-to-head fight, he would almost certainly have passed easily. One way or another, but by the tenth lap the Mexican was still ahead and the team had an even ghostly chance, but still. It can be assumed that Red Bull wanted to avoid the fight of its drivers and had no doubt that Verstappen was much faster. But this is even more humiliating for Perez – the team seems to emphasize that Cheko is weak against the background of a partner.

Before the start of the race, Max was ahead of Sergio by 125 points and Alonso by 165. That is to say, it is not that the Dutchman needs to count every point. In a way, the situation is reminiscent of the end of the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix, when Ferrari forced Rubens Barrichello to give victory to Michael Schumacher, even though the latter had an overwhelming lead in the championship. The Scuderia was hated then and even changed the rules, banning team tactics. However, it is impossible to get rid of it whether we like it or not, but team tactics are a part of motorsport.

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Mercedes couldn’t even do that…

Be that as it may, Red Bull won the race and dominates the championship, and the winners are not judged (they are judged, but in the previous paragraph). But Mercedes seemed to be completely lost during the race: almost everything the strategists of the German team did was wrong.

Neither Russell nor Hamilton switched to intermediate tires on either the first or second lap. Lewis pitted only at the end of the third, George – at the end of the fourth, only Stroll “changed shoes” later. This left the drivers in 13th and 16th places. When it was time to put the slick tires back on, Hamilton made a pit stop on time, and George was again maintained almost to the finish and changed tires later in the day. what Alonso, Sainz and Ocon had been in the pits. On lap 11, the Mercedes took 16th and 18th places.

Russell on slick tires in the rain

Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

But that is not all. When the dry tires began to wear out and the drivers pitted on lap 40 (Lewis pitted on lap 45), Russell stayed on the track. It can be assumed that in this way Mercedes divided the tactics: since George is behind, let him try to risk reaching the finish line without additional stops (this option, for example, was discussed at Ferrari).

However, already on lap 45 (Hamilton’s pit stop), Russell’s pace was below Sainz’s. Even if the team survived to the finish, the driver had no chance of scoring points. Rain saved the Briton, after Lewis regained the lead on fresh tires and moved ahead of his teammate. Then, unfortunately, there was a puncture that deprived the driver of the possibility of scoring points.

Russell goes to “hard”

Photo: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

However, the biggest mistake was at the start of the race, when Mercedes did not dare to switch the drivers to intermediate tyres. And it was at that moment that we had to separate tactics and leave Russell on slick tires until the end of the rain. Oscar Piastri himself managed to hold on with the “soft” and was eighth on lap 12. But Russell was seven seconds ahead of the Australian before the first pit stop, that is, on lap 12 he would have taken seventh position if he had driven at the pace of a rookie on a wet track.

From the point of view of the Dutch Grand Prix, contested by Mercedes, he looks completely toothless. It is impossible to understand the logic of the decisions of the strategists. On the bridge, they were unable to concentrate on their career and were slow to react to events. Red Bull in the case of Verstappen can afford it, but Mercedes does not have that luxury.

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intermediate heroes

If we talk about those who coped with the conditions, then first of all it is necessary to single out Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon. The Frenchman switched to intermediates on the first lap, managed to establish himself in the top five and even the slightly late second and third pit stops did not spoil the race. Yes, Pierre missed Sainz, but he managed to pass him before the fourth pit stop. Impeccable driving (out of the pit lane) was ultimately rewarded with a podium finish.

Gasly’s first podium with Alpin

Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

But an even more incredible race was led by Albon, who stayed on slicks until lap 44, and after switching to ‘medium’ he was ahead of Russell and in sixth by the time of the second rain. It is not a fact that the position could be held, but overtaking on the mainland in Zandvoort is not easy, so there were chances. One way or another, Alex, unlike the Mercedes drivers, had a clear plan that he clearly fulfilled.

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Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.

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