The Formula One season is almost upon us. An optimistic 23 race calendar has been published, despite COVID unknowns, with push-off scheduled in Bahrain on March 28th.
You would think the big news is the postponement of the 2021 rules and the carry-over of 2020 regulations, with a few aero tweaks, to help spice up the show. The silly season has pretty much overshadowed the regulation freeze that began last May. Let’s get your 2021 play card up to date with who, where and why.`
Williams Racing saw a major change in 2020, being acquired by Dorilton Capital, ending 43 years of ownership by the Williams family. Their driver line up remains the same, with the super-talented George Russell alongside Nicholas Latifi.
Haas F1 is where the excitement begins, with both 2020 drivers gone. The replacements are Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin. Schumacher is the reigning F2 Champion and, oh yeah, son of 7 time World Champion Michael Schumacher. Even with a more powerful, updated Ferrari power unit coming, expectations are not high for the ‘21 season.
Alfa Romeo is pretty much status quo, with an unchanged driver line up. The always chatty Kimi Räikkönen is again joined by Antonio Giovinazzi. As with Ferrari engine customer teams, Alfa Romeo will benefit from increased performance from its power unit.
Scuderia AlphaTauri had a good 2020 season, resulting in a win for Pierre Gasly at the Italian GP. His win ended a 24 year drought for French drivers winning a GP - the last being Olivier Panis in Monaco in 1996. Gasly will partner with 20 year old Japanese sensation Yuki Tsunoda, who replaces Daniil Kvyat.
Scuderia Ferrari had what can only be described a horrible season in 2020, after the FIA clamped down on some questionable aspects of the team’s power unit. And, if getting clipped on your power unit irregularities is not enough, last May saw the announcement that 4 time World Champion Sebastian Vettel would be leaving the Team at the end of the 2020 season. I am not sure that dumping your driver at the beginning of the season is the way to ensure the best performance from him, but I guess Ferrari’s HR department knows best. Vettel will be looking for greener pastures (no pun intended) this season and a return to form. The 2021 line up keeps the incredibly fast Charles Leclerc with former McLaren driver Carlos Sainz joining the Scuderia.
Alpine F1 Team, formerly known as Renault F1, had a somewhat lackluster season in 2020, with Daniel Ricciardo and team-mate Esteban Ocon only visiting the podium on 3 occasions. For the ‘21 season, team principal Cyril Abiteboul is gone, McLaren-bound Ricciardo is replaced by returning 2 time World Champion Fernando Alonso, who joins Ocon this year. Renault has had a somewhat cautious approach in the past; hopefully the Team rebranding and car color change are not the only updates for the coming season.
For 2021, Racing Point F1 has been rebranded Aston Martin F1. Despite a brilliant first double podium for the Team and a victory for Sergio Perez at the Sakhir GP, Checo is gone. Joining the team will be 4 time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, looking to regain his form after a miserable last season with Ferrari. The ever-improving Lance Stroll remains with the Team, which will be trying to move up from its 4th place in the Constructors’ Championship.
Personnel changes at McLaren see the departing Sainz being replaced by Daniel Ricciardo, partnering with the talented Lando Norris for the upcoming season. Perhaps the big change at McLaren is the switch to Mercedes power from Renault, with the Team looking to regain some of its former glory.
Red Bull has always been a challenger, but fell short the past few seasons. 2021 will see a “B” spec version of the RB16, and they may hit the ground running instead of having to play catch up, as in past seasons. Arguably the most exciting driver, Max Verstappen, remains for the ‘21 season. Alex Albon, like Daniil Kvyat, unfortunately is a victim of the unforgiving Red Bull system and has moved from F1 to the German DTM series. Replacing Albon is the ousted Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez, given an F1 life-line by Red Bull.
Since the formation of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 in 2010, the Team has notched up 7 Constructors’ Championships. Will 2021 be rinse-repeat or will another team have the ability to knock this powerhouse off of the top step? Perhaps a secret to their success is the lack of drama, apart from Lewis Hamilton’s late signing for the upcoming season. Valtteri Bottas remains as Lewis’ team-mate, but waiting in the wings is Mercedes Junior George Russell, whose performance last season subbing for Hamilton was nothing short of brilliant.