Verstappen's Momentum Just as Important as Points Lead After 2021 Mexican GP
Verstappen and Red Bull are picking up loads of momentum at just the right time with only four races to go...
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Mexico City, Mexico - The thin air of Mexico City didn't do much to slow down Max Verstappen as he sprinted to victory at the 2021 Mexico City Grand Prix. After a disappointing Saturday in which Red Bull missed out on pole, Verstappen and company delivered on their expected form heading into the weekend and secured a 1-3 finish. The result delighted the home crowd as Sergio Perez became the first Mexican driver to finish on the podium at his home race and also the first Mexican to lead a lap at home. As the fiesta of celebrations commenced and the tequilas started flowing, it was all smiles in the Red Bull camp as they walked away from Mexico with an extended lead in the drivers championship and they also narrowed the gap in the Constructor's to just one point. As important as a 19 point lead is at this stage of the season, the momentum that Verstappen and Red Bull are gaining at the moment might be even more critical with 4 races to go.
It wasn't necessarily the perfect weekend for Verstappen but it wasn't far off especially considering the disappointment of qualifying on Saturday. After struggling for grip and running into some unfortunate traffic issues, Mercedes locked out the front row of the grid for the first time in 2021. It was quite a shocking result considering Red Bull's form up until Q2, but Mexico is a circuit in which starting from pole isn't always favored. Come race day Sunday, Verstappen made the most out of his P3 start as he picked up the tow and made a bold no-nonsense move on the outside of both Mercedes going into turn one. This was the race-winning move as Verstappen never looked back and took one of his more dominant wins of 2021. Verstappen's victory in this dominant fashion just adds on to the momentum he and Red Bull have been building since their struggles at the Turkish Grand Prix. They've gone 2-0 so far in the Americas with a win at a Mercedes stronghold in Texas and now a commanding victory in Mexico in which Hamilton had no answer for Verstappen's pace. With next week's action heading to Interlagos, (another strong Red Bull track) the momentum is fully behind Verstappen and Red Bull which is just as important as his points lead.
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Although Max Verstappen doesn't believe in momentum swings, it's hard to ignore the positives stemming from Red Bull's past two race weekends. With Mexico being the first race of another demanding triple header, form and momentum are naturally key. And so far in 2021, Red Bull have absolutely nailed the triple-header challenge. If we think back to the summer, Verstappen swept the France, Styria, and Austria triple-header while going two for three in the last triple-header of Belgium, Holland, and Italy. It is a good omen for Verstappen and Red Bull as they kicked off this triple-header with another impressive win and set the tone for the rest of this stretch. At such a crucial time in the closing stages of this championship, there is no doubt that their is psychological advantage in addition to the advantage in the points table. Momentum is an important thing for any athlete or sports team and it can play an important role in their success. When a driver has momentum on their side, everything starts to go their way and even luck can end up going in their favor. Mercedes have struggled to grasp onto any momentum in 2021 and have relied so heavily on the skills of Lewis Hamilton in order to keep them in the fight. Since the summer break, Hamilton has only claimed one race victory and one pole position and he hasn't won consecutive races since Portugal and Spain back at the start of this season. Although the 2021 Mexico City Grand Prix wasn't great for Hamilton, he did put on a good defensive drive and held onto P2 which was important considering the pace of the Red Bull's. But a losing margin that looked like it would have swollen to over 20 seconds had Verstappen not become entangled in Bottas’s late-race fastest lap effort, is far greater than Hamilton or Mercedes could have anticipated prior to the weekend. The turnaround for Brazil is incredibly quick as FP1 in Interlagos is just days away now and with this being the final Sprint Weekend of 2021, Hamilton and Mercedes will need a stellar weekend to seize back momentum before the Middle-Eastern swing to end the year.
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With each passing Verstappen victory, Lewis Hamilton is being put more and more in a 'must win' scenario with four races to go. Hamilton is still well in control of his own fate but if Verstappen finishes second in every race, he would need to win the next three straight to take the championship lead before the season finale. That is a big ask considering the recent form of Red Bull and the lingering questions of reliability still loom large over the Mercedes camp. To make matters worse if you're a Mercedes fan, the Constructors championship hopes also took a huge hit this weekend for the Silver Arrows. With Bottas' unlucky lap one collision with Ricciardi, Red Bull gained a pile of points to move within only one point of Mercedes heading into Brazil. So not only does Verstappen have the momentum, it also seems to be with Sergio Perez as well as his Mexican GP podium was his third straight podium finish which he has never done before in his career. As Verstappen said post race, things are 'looking good' in the championship but the Dutchman knows very well that this is far from over. Momentum and form aside, there are still 107 points on offer in the next four races that will help us decide the 2021 Driver's World Champion. As we know in Formula 1, anything can happen so let's see what the on-track action will bring us in Brazil. For now, Verstappen can enjoy another masterclass of a victory in Mexico and a championship lead extension that won't be easy to overcome for his title rival.