2021 Formula One season preview

With new names on the grid, new stakes on the line and a new start on the horizon for all teams, the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship season is hours away from commencing.

Formula One is coming off one of its bizarre seasons to date, a season that was delayed until July and featuring a total of 17 Grand Prix events in 14 circuits due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With multiple Grand Prix events across several countries being canceled, the sport took on a new approach to the 2020 season by competing in familiar circuits like Silverstone Circuit and Bahrain International Circuit twice in two weekends while returning to historic circuits like Mugello Circuit and the Nürburgring. In the midst of a scrambling season, the highs and the lows experienced for every team and competitor during race weekends and the rivalry sparked between the teams both on and off the track, the sport was able to etch another season in the record books when the final checkered flag flew at Yas Marina Circuit in December.

Now with 23 Grand Prix events slated on the 2021 schedule, featuring the return of many countries, the Formula One teams and competitors strive to display every amount of power, speed and competitiveness towards one another to win it all and complete the entire season as scheduled.

With another pair of championships added to the team’s stable, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team enters the 2021 season with a continuous goal to extend their on-track dominance and leave their rivals in the dust for an eighth consecutive season. Having recorded the seventh drivers’ and constructors’ title for Mercedes, Sir Lewis Hamilton also made history on the track in 2020 by winning 11 Grand Prix events, becoming the all-time Grand Prix wins leader at 95 and tying Michael Schumacher for the most F1 championships in history with seven. While Hamilton sets his sights on winning his record-setting eighth F1 title in his 15th season in competition, teammate Valtteri Bottas, who won twice in 2020 and concluded the season in the runner-up position, aims to overtake Hamilton and leap into the spotlight with his first F1 title in his ninth season in competition. The 2021 F1 season will mark the fifth consecutive season where Hamilton and Bottas will represent Mercedes’ driver lineup as both fight with and against one another for the top spot on the grid and in the championship standings.

After concluding the 2020 Formula One season as victors in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and as the championship runner-up in the constructors’ standings, Red Bull Racing Honda enters the 2021 season with a simple goal of dethroning Mercedes from their dominance and reclaim their glory as champions since 2013. Leading the way for the team is Max Verstappen, who won twice in 2020 and concluded the season in third place in the final standings. Entering his seventh season in F1, Verstappen will continue his ongoing pursuit to intimidate his fellow competitors and become the next F1 champion. New to the team for this upcoming season is veteran Sergio “Checo” Perez, who is coming off a career-best season in F1 competition where he claimed his maiden Formula One victory at Bahrain in December 2020 and became the first Mexican F1 winner in five decades. Having been released from Racing Point despite a productive 2020 season that nearly brought his racing career to a halt, Perez was picked up by Red Bull Racing, replacing Alexander Albon, and has been given an opportunity to extend his on-track momentum and become a potential championship contender in his 11th season in competition.

Another team on the rise following a productive, consistent 2020 season is the McLaren F1 Team. With a third-place result in the constructors’ standings, their highest since 2012, McLaren aims to return as race winners for the first time since 2012 and as world champions since 1998. Returning for a third full-time season with the team and of his career is Lando Norris, who claimed his maiden podium result in the 2020 season-opening Austrian Grand Prix and went on to finish in ninth place in the drivers’ standings, though he strives to become the 20th competitor from the United Kingdom to win in Formula One this upcoming season. Like Red Bull Racing and a majority of teams on the grid, McLaren will feature a new face to its stable, this season being veteran Daniel Ricciardo, who spent the previous two seasons with Renault and recorded two podium results in 2020. Entering his 10th full-time season in Formula One, Ricciardo aims to return as a race winner for the first time since 2018.

Coming off a season surrounded with controversy off the track but an abundant of success on the track, Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team, rebranded from Racing Point, aims to take the next step from their fourth-place result in the 2020 constructors’ standings by becoming a regular contender for victories and the overall title in years to come. After claiming two podium results and a career-best 11th-place result in the drivers’ standings in 2020, Lance Stroll returns for a fifth full-time season in Formula One as he strives to become the third Canadian competitor to win in Formula One. New to the team is Sebastian Vettel, four-time F1 champion who spent the previous six seasons with Ferrari. After finishing 13th in the drivers’ standings in 2020. Vettel, who enters his 14th full-time season in Formula One, looks to rejuvenate his career and return to the top of the competition since winning his last title in 2013.

Next is the Alpine F1 Team, rebranded from Renault, a team that earned three podium results and concluded the 2020 season in fifth place in the constructors’ standings. Returning for a second full-time season with the team and fourth of his career is Esteban Ocon, who claimed his maiden podium result in the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix and finished in 12th place in the drivers’ standings, though he aims to become the 14th French competitor to win in Formula One. Joining Ocon as a teammate at Alpine this season is two-time champion Fernando Alonso. Regarded as one of the sport’s well-accomplished competitors, Alonso will also be making a triumphant return to the sport since retiring in 2018 and to Alpine, the team where he claimed his two Formula One championships in 2005 and 2006.

Following their worst recorded season in nearly four decades that was highlighted with on-track issues with speed and capped off with a sixth-place result in the 2020 constructors’ standings, the Scuderia Mission Winnow Ferrari team enters the 2021 season with a return to the top of the competition being the central focus. Remaining at Ferrari for a third full-time season is Charles Leclerc, who won his first two F1 career races in 2019 but only recorded two podium results in 2020. With Leclerc returning, Ferrari welcomes Carlos Sainz Jr. to its stable for the 2021 season. A rising star in Formula One, Sainz enters his seventh full-time season in F1, having spent the previous six seasons competing for teams like Toro Rosso, Renault and McLaren, and will attempt to become the second competitor from Spain to win in Formula One.

The Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda team is coming off its first full-time season since being rebranded from Toro Rosso, where the team emerged victorious in the 2020 Italian Grand Prix and settled in seventh place in the final constructors’ standings. The competitor who recorded the team’s first victory since being rebranded was Pierre Gasly, who became the first French winner in Formula One in over two decades and notched a 10th-place result in the 2020 drivers’ standings. The 2021 season will mark Gasly’s fourth full-time season in the sport as he aims to repeat the on-track success he experienced the previous season. New to the team and in F1 for this season is Yuki Tsunoda, a 20-year-old native from Sagamihara, Kanagawa, Japan, who settled in third place in the 2020 Formula 2 standings while competing for Carlin and replaces Daniil Kvyat as a rookie Formula One competitor.

Ending up in eighth place in the constructors’ standings last season and for a second consecutive season was the Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen team, which was rebranded from Sauber since 2019. Despite standing as a bottom mid-field team, Alfa Romeo is one of three teams retaining its driver lineup from the previous season for this upcoming season, featuring Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi. Räikkönen, the 2007 Formula One champion, will enter his 21st season in F1 competition in 2021 while Giovinazzi will be making his third full-time season start in Formula One.

Compared to a majority of Formula One teams that will feature one change to a two-driver lineup, Uralkali Haas F1 Team will enter the 2021 F1 season with a completely new driver lineup with hopes of being competitive and becoming a top midfield team on the grid. Following a ninth-place result in the 2020 constructors’ standings, Haas dropped the hammer by releasing fellow competitors Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean. Replacing them for 2021 will be Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, both of whom will also be making their inaugural presence in Formula One. Schumacher, the son of seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher, is coming off a Formula 2 championship-winning season with Prema Racing while Mazepin, the son of Dmitry Mazepin, Chairman of Uralchem Integrated Chemicals Company, won two 2020 F2 races with Hitech Grand Prix before settling in fifth place in the final standings.

After concluding the 2020 season with zero recorded points, the 2021 Formula One season will mark the first full-time season that Williams Racing will compete under Dorilton Capital and without founder/co-owner Frank Williams and deputy team principal Claire Williams. Despite a new ownership, the Williams team retains its driver lineup for the 2021 F1 season, featuring George Russell and Nicholas Latifi. This upcoming season will mark the third full-time season in F1 competition for both Russell and Latifi.

With 10 teams and 20 competitors on the grid, the 2021 Formula One season is set to commence on Sunday, March 28, at Bahrain International Circuit for the 17th running of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com


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