You Must Follow The 2021 Formula 1 Season. Here’s why
The 2020 Formula 1 season has been quite a roller coaster ride and, in our opinion, just the sort of refreshing change the fans needed. To be honest, if not for the Covid-19 crisis, we wouldn’t have witnessed tracks like Imola and the Algarve International Circuit on the calendar. Of course we missed out seeing races in new venues like Vietnam and Netherlands and even certain spectacular races such as the Azerbaijan GP but all in all, the current season has been nothing short of exciting.
As usual, Lewis Hamilton has almost sealed the deal for his seventh world championship title and Mercedes-AMG Petronas has already won the constructors’ title but the midfield has made up for it by giving unlimited racing action with Lando Norris finally finishing on the podium, Daniel Ricciardo with his amazing overtakes and occasional podium finishes and the fan favourite Kimi Raikkonen putting on some spectacular performances as well. Then there is Scuderia Ferrari. For the Tifosi, it is absolutely heartbreaking to see them struggling in so many aspects but Charles Leclerc has been a revelation in outdriving his teammate Sebastian Vettel and even extracting the maximum potential from the underperforming car. Red Bull Racing has never been closer to Mercedes in terms of lap times and race pace, and Max Verstappen has been his usual aggressive self and has done his best battling the mighty Mercedes. In the case of Williams, it is only fair to even acknowledge the talented George Russell for his qualifying performance and his undying spirit to finish in the points.
Apart from racing entertainment, F1 2020 has been giving us some good news with regards to the amount of changes going into the 2021 season. The line-up has changed quite a bit and few teams are even opting for new powertrains. Based on what we know so far, this is how the 2021 F1 season is expected to pan out like:
Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team:
After winning their seventh consecutive constructors’ title, Mercedes is now the team with the most consecutive constructors’ titles ever, showing no signs of slowing down. Lewis Hamilton is also leading for the driver’s championship this year and when that is officially done with (most likely, this weekend at the Turkish GP), he will equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles.
The team has already announced that Valtteri Bottas will be driving for them in 2021 as well, although there is no official word yet on Lewis Hamiton extending his contract. He has expressed his desire to stay with the team in the past but also mentioned about not being in the sport in 2021.
But that seems highly unlikely. Mercedes has been utterly dominant both in terms of performance and reliability and is expected to continue the same form going into the 2021 season as well. There are speculations that Toto Wolff might not renew his contract with the team and is already looking for a worthy replacement but that aside, expect no hiccups in Mercedes’ eighth victory next year.
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing:
Max Verstappen has been the closest to the two Mercedes cars this season despite having a comparatively slow car. Alex Albon, on the other hand, hasn’t done enough to be the team’s best option to bring in the much-needed constructor’s points. There were a few instances when he was close to podium finish but for the majority of his stint in Red Bull so far, he just hasn’t performed well enough. Red Bull has not yet announced who will be replacing Albon for 2021 but they were quick to deny that they might promote one of the AlphaTauri racers.
Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg are currently believed to be the frontrunners for the seat. If Max gets a teammate who can complement their points’ finishes, Red Bull can definitely improve and apply more pressure on Mercedes. The biggest challenge however is that Honda, the current engine suppliers to Red Bull, announced that they will be pulling out of the sport due to the transformation of the whole car industry away from ICE units. This leaves Red Bull and Scuderia AlphaTauri needing to find an engine supplier for the next year.
Even though Renault is doing well, given their history, it is unlikely that Red Bull will choose that option. However, Renault still remains their best option as per regulations because Mercedes and Ferrari are already sharing their power units with two other teams. Another option is that Red Bull takes the rights to run the Honda engines for 2021 and continue to finance Honda with respect to development of the engine and so on. This alternative would require significant Red Bull commitment as well as agreement from all parties, this could allow Red Bull rights over Honda’s intellectual property and create a continuation programme for its engines.
Even though their exit from F1 is confirmed, Honda has said that they want their exit to be “as painless as possible”. Adding to that, Honda F1 managing director Masashi Yamamoto told The Race that “Honda is happy to talk to them if they need us in any way, not only about the power unit but about other things as well. To support AlphaTauri and Red Bull for their programme after 2021 in any way, we’re happy to cooperate.”
Asked if there is a limit to how Honda would be willing to help and if it would stop a potential continuation project using Honda’s technology, Yamamoto said, “If that kind of request is made from the team, I am ready to speak to Japan. I personally want to support [what Red Bull and AlphaTauri do] as much as possible”. Creating the infrastructure required to take over development of Honda’s engine would be a significant undertaking by Red Bull.
However, it has grown its facility at Milton Keynes, has major technical resources and partners, and could use it to redistribute some staff given the incoming budget cap in 2021 will force it to scale back its race team. With the window to announce their decisions closing soon, Red Bull sure does have a lot on their plate.
Let us face facts, the Tifosi have to live with continuing disappointments for 2021 as well because Ferrari just doesn’t have the options to be a title contender for next year. However, the arrival of Carlos Sainz may open up a whole new world for the team down the line. The young duo of Charles and Carlos seems very good on paper and if anything, we can at least expect both of them to improve a lot under each other’s company and competition. Insiders believe Ferrari are signing Carlos Sainz as their 'second driver' to Charles Leclerc in 2021. However, a lot depends on Sainz’s performance for Scuderia to decide upon anything.
While 2021 will be Sainz’s seventh season, the Leclerc-Sainz pairing will nonetheless be the youngest full-season line-up ever assembled by Ferrari, with Sainz set to be 26 when 2021 rolls around, and Leclerc just 23, for a combined age of 49. The introduction of new regulations at the end of 2021 season means that all teams will have an equal playing field and Ferrari will definitely be hungrier to get to its glory days more than ever. So with two young bloods who have plenty to prove, Ferrari can only be moving ahead on the grid.
BWT Racing Point F1 Team:
The existing Racing Point squad will be rebranded as Aston Martin for 2021 after team owner Lawrence Stroll invested in the British manufacturer earlier this year. Lance Stroll was the obvious choice of driver for the team and Aston Martin has even signed Sebastian Vettel for four years. The quadruple world champion has not been at the very top of his game lately but that might be set to change as he starts the next chapter in his life with Aston Martin. The team will be using the Mercedes engines in the 2021 season and as 2020 has shown us, it definitely has a lot of potential with the setup slightly influenced by the Mercedes’ W10. This setup and the talent pool of the drivers might help them to take the fight to the likes of Red Bull and Renault. Aston Martin also revealed that the team has adopted British Racing Green as their colour for the 2021 season.
Renault DP World F1 Team:
Renault will be renamed Alpine F1 from the 2021 season and here is the big one: Fernando Alonso is coming back! And that shall give the Renault F1 teams a lot of hope to become the number three team on the grid. Now whoever knows Alonso knows that as spectators, we are in for a treat! The two time F1 world champion has two world titles with Renault and that history is set to continue when he’s back next year.
He will be partnered by Esteban Ocon as his teammate who has been pretty impressive so far in 2020. If anything, expect Alonso and Renault to bring more heat into the midfield battle and more importantly, Red Bull better watch out. Daniel Ricciardo has already proven that the car is good in its current setup and at the hand of a good driver, podium finishes can be fought for and won. I think Alpine F1 will be the team to watch out for in terms of midfield competition.
McLaren F1 Team:
Biggest change for the team is that starting from 2021, McLaren will be powered by Mercedes at least until the start of 2024 season. We all know how good the Mercedes power units are and it was just the right deal that McLaren was looking for to be a better team. Another exciting news for 2021 is that two of the funniest lads in the sport will now be in the same team.
With Carlos Sainz leaving to Ferrari, Lando Norris will be joined by Daniel Ricciardo who has signed a two year deal with the team. Ricciardo is best known for his late braking resulting in great overtakes. Lando on the other hand finally got his first podium finish in the Austrian GP by setting the fastest time in the last lap of the race.
Come race day, with his clever overtakes, Lando has proven to be crafty and fierce. With a good power unit and the combined talent of Lando and Ricciardo, McLaren may be on track to be a dominant team like it was before.
Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda:
Owing to the history he has with Red Bull, after the win at Monza, Italy, Pierre Gasly has achieved hero status in the sport and has continued to impress all through 2020. This success has even guaranteed him a seat at the same team for 2021. The team is yet to announce who would partner him for 2021. Daniil Kvyat has also been impressive in 2020 but not enough for the team to extend his contract.
With Red Bull denying that Daniil Kvyat is the front runner for the Albon replacement, his future in F1 still remains uncertain. Youngster Yuki Tsunoda has inched closer to securing the seat after he completed the 300km towards F1 superlicence in wet and dry conditions at Imola. Although he has completed 352km in testing, AlphaTauri stated that his performance for the remainder of the Formula 2 season and securing a top 3 spot in it will mean that he gets his F1 superlicence and will make taking the decision easier for the team. AlphaTauri has definitely proven that it can punch above its weight and will look to continue their performance in 2021 as well.
Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN:
The most recent driver confirmation for 2021 came by Alfa Romeo. Since Antonio Giovinazzi is backed by Ferrari, based on their decision, Alfa has retained him. As for Kimi Raikkonen, it was Alfa’s decision to retain him for 2021. Kimi has always been an entertaining racer and although we hear rumours of his retirement every year, he doesn’t plan to make a shift for another year.
We saw some amazing starts from Kimi this year and some good battles with former teammate Sebastian Vettel as well. Antonio has always been quietly improving year on year as well. Although we cannot expect them to be very competitive in 2021, there will still be some good racing for a points finish.
Haas F1 Team:
Haas has made a bold call to go for an all-rookie team for the 2021 season which leaves Kevin Magnusen and Romain Grosjean without a drive. The new drivers are yet to be announced by the team. Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin are currently considered the front runners. Since Mick is a part of Ferrari Driver Academy, their decision will also play a key role in Haas’ line-up for 2021.
The decision which is yet to come from Scuderia Ferrari regarding which junior driver will finally get a chance to be in F1 among Mick Schumacher, Callum Illot and Robert Schwartzman who are currently 1st, 2nd and 5th respectively in the current Formula 2 season, is probably the most awaited. With two more races left in the season, all three young drivers have proven to be worthy of an F1 seat. Ferrari’s call on choosing one for the seat at Haas would definitely be a carefully analysed one. Team principal Gunther Steiner said that the line-up will be announced only after the conclusion of the current season.
Even though the team was taken over by Dorilton Capital during the on-going season, George Russell and Nicholas Latifi have been working really hard to push their own boundaries without being distracted by the departure of the Williams family. Their performance in the qualifying sessions and George’s fight to finish in the points has been a treat to watch. Both the drivers will remain in the team for 2021.
Adding to the new and exciting driver lineup, there is a new sliding scale rule for aerodynamic development that will help the smaller teams close the gap on the front of the grid, as well as a change in regulations to limit downforce on next year's cars. The revised regulations also include details on a new and reduced cost cap – an innovation coming to the sport for the very first time and one which has now been taken even further because of the financial strain the coronavirus pandemic has inflicted on the teams.
Formula 1 has released a provisional 23 race calendar for the 2021 season which right now shows that the season is set to start on March 18, 2021 in Australia. Sadly, the Vietnam GP is rumoured to have been axed once again from the calendar. The speculation was triggered by the arrest on corruption charges of a key official responsible for the race in Hanoi. Formula 1’s new confirmed location is Saudi Arabia in 2021, which will be a night race around a street circuit in Jeddah. The race is set to take place in November, shortly before the finale in neighbouring Abu Dhabi.
Apart from the Mercedes domination at the front, the rest of the grid too has been spectacular for the entire season so far and hope that it will be closer next year with all the changes. It is amazing to see the sport survive and thrive through the pandemic and we hope that it will be back in all its grandeur and glory with its ever loyal fans cheering alongside in the stands in 2021.