FORMULA ONE 2021 – THE BIGGEST SEASON YET
The 72nd Formula One World Championship started with a bang in Bahrain, as Lewis Hamilton secured his 75th win for the Mercedes F1 team. Driven takes a look at all the teams, the drivers, and the highlights to look out for this season.
With 23 races in a little over nine months, the 2021 Formula 1 season will be the biggest of all time. Set against the backdrop of a tumultuous 2020, the new season promises to be an intriguing one, as Lewis Hamilton aims to become the most successful F1 driver outright, with the prospect of an eighth Drivers’ Championship elevating him above the legendary Michael Schumacher.
Despite Mercedes’ dominance of the sport in the last few years, Red Bull is turning out to be the closest challenger to Mercedes with the best chance of bringing the current era to a close.
McLaren welcomes Daniel Ricciardo as the team aims to continue its resurgence to the front of the pack, while two-time world champion, Fernando Alonso, takes a driver’s seat at the new Alpine team.
The doyennes of Formula 1, Ferrari, is expecting a boost in performance versus last year from its 2021 power unit, and the Schumacher name is back in Formula 1, as Mick Schumacher makes his debut at Haas.
2021 TEAMS & DRIVERS
Car: Mercedes W12
Drivers: Lewis Hamilton & Valtteri Bottas
Mercedes enters the final season of the current rules period undefeated, taking every single championship since 2014. Although Lewis Hamilton secured an outright win for the team in the first race of the season in Bahrain, the team might yet battle to maintain this pace, as it did not enjoy the usual metronomic start to the season, posting the least mileage of any team during testing. The W12 looks to be a bit more of a handful for its drivers versus its predecessor, but the team hasn’t won seven consecutive championships for no reason. Any issues it’s currently facing will surely be ironed out sooner rather than later.
Car: Red Bull RB16B
Drivers: Max Verstappen & Sergio Perez
A team that usually ends the season on a high note, Red Bull appears to have finally carried some of that speed into the new year. Max Verstappen topped pre-season testing, and the RB16B looked to be much more stable than the previous iteration that made the rear end unpredictable. Those ill-handling traits look to have been ironed out with the changes in regulations, and with the addition of Sergio Perez, the team looks like it might be a title threat to Mercedes from lights out.
Drivers: Daniel Ricciardo & Lando Norris
McLaren was one of the teams that left pre-season testing happiest of all. The team looked like it had migrated from Renault to Mercedes power seamlessly and showed promising pace on all three days. Daniel Ricciardo finished his morning sessions in the car fastest of all, so he appears to have also acclimatised to new surroundings right away, and Lando Norris has consistently built on his previous performances; 2021 is looking promising for the papaya crew.
Drivers: Sebastian Vettel & Lance Stroll
The team courted controversy with its Mercedes lookalike last year, and the 2021 AMR21 has continued that philosophy of design. Aston Martin uses a low-rake concept like Mercedes, though, on first appearances, this might be a point against it. The high-rake cars looked much more comfortable with the new regulation changes during testing. With the addition of four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel to its toolbox and a new factory under construction, the team under Lawrence Stroll means business.
Drivers: Fernando Alonso & Esteban Ocon
Much has been made of Alpine’s unique F1 management structure. With the departure of Cyril Abiteboul and the hiring of Davide Brivio from Suzuki’s MotoGP team, the team says it is fine without a traditional team principal at the helm. Can it manage the returning Fernando Alonso, though? The two-time champion makes his comeback in 2021 after Daniel Ricciardo’s departure to McLaren. The Australian grew disillusioned with the long-term project Renault had promised him; will the Spaniard be patient at Alpine?
Drivers: Charles Leclerc & Carlos Sainz
2020 was the worst season for Ferrari in over 40 years. The team slumped to sixth in the standings with just three podium finishes all season. The team suffered a fairly toxic atmosphere with Sebastian Vettel racing knowing he was out of the team at the end of the year, but the team’s main issues stemmed from its private settlement with the FIA over its power unit. This year, the team says its data suggests it has made gains in terms of top-end speed versus last year, and the arrival of Carlos Sainz could further re-energise those at Maranello.
Drivers: Pierre Gasly & Yuki Tsunoda
AlphaTauri is another team on the up, and was one of the stronger packages throughout pre-season testing. Pierre Gasly rebounded from his demotion from Red Bull to become a first-time F1 winner at Monza last season, and the addition of Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda makes for a promising line-up this year. Tsunoda has enjoyed a rapid ascent in the single-seater world, rising from Japanese F4 to F1 in just five years. He finished testing second fastest after some rapid times on the final day.
Drivers: Kimi Räikkönen & Antonio Giovinazzi8
One of just three teams to field an unchanged line-up in 2021, Alfa Romeo has stuck with what it knows for the new season. Its focus is very much on the 2022 regulation changes, and it says it did not want to deal with the challenges of welcoming a new driver in a crucial year for development. The experience of Kimi Räikkönen will likely be vital, but so too is the promise of more power from the Ferrari engine.
Drivers: Mick Schumacher & Nikita Mazepin
The Schumacher name’s return to Formula 1 is one of the key stories heading into the new season. Mick Schumacher took the F2 title last season but could be in for a tough debut year. Haas has made its intentions clear already and has already switched full focus to 2022. Since the beginning of the 2020 season, the car has received limited upgrades, but fresh investment from Dmitri Mazepin and new title sponsor Uralkali could turn Haas’s fortunes around.
Drivers: George Russell & Nicholas Latifi
2021 is the first full season without a Williams family member at Williams Grand Prix Engineering’s helm. Instead, Simon Roberts has taken over as team principal, with Jost Capito returning to F1 as team CEO after a brief spell at McLaren in the past. Dorilton Capital has high hopes for the team, but any significant improvements are unlikely until 2022. George Russell was a star performer last year, and with both Mercedes drivers out of contract at the end of the season, a drive at the top team looks there for the taking.
Compiled by BERNIE HELLBERG JR (Source www.motorsportmagazine.com) |
Images © MERCEDES / RED BULL / FERRARI / HAAS