Despite the Covid-19 Pandemic, the Formula One season was able to get underway with 17 races being held last year and now the sport is set to have a record 23 races. But what other things should fans be looking forward to ahead of the start of the season?
Racing Point become Aston Martin
For the first time since 1960, Aston Martin have returned to the F1 grid and they are back with a bang; wanting to get amongst the top two and battle for wins and championships.
LOFTY AMBITIONS: Aston Martin are well placed to build a solid foundation in their aim of championship glory.
The luxury British car manufacturer have taken over from Racing Point, previously more commonly known as Force India, have big ambitions to become a leading F1 team. Aston Martin inherit a great car which should have finished in third instead of fourth last year and they will be running Mercedes power units.
With loads of investment, a new factory scheduled to be opened in August next year and an exciting driver pairing of Four Time World Champion Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll, Aston Martin have got all the essentials to have a successful venture in F1.
The return of a familiar face
Double World Champion Fernando Alonso will return to the F1 grid this year after taking a two year sabbatical. The Spaniard, who won the F1 championship in 2005 and in 2006, left the sport at the end of 2018 to pursue his other motorsport ambitions that included competing in the Dakar Rally and in the famous Indy 500.
BURNING DESIRE: The El Matador returns and is very eager to fight at the front with many of his old rivals still present.
Alonso returns to Renault, now known as Alpine, as the team where he spent most of his F1 career. With 32 wins, 97 podiums, 22 pole positions and 1,899 career points to his name, Alonso is a force to be reckoned with and is regarded as one of the most determined drivers’ the sport has ever seen.
Alonso’s return to the sport means that there will be Four World Champions on the grid this year. They include Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen, Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
And the return of a familiar surname
Following in the footsteps of his famous father Michael, Mick Schumacher makes his F1 debut this year. Having won the F2 Championship last year after an impressive second season in the junior series, the Ferrari Academy Driver has landed a seat with the American based Ferrari affiliated Haas team.
COPING WELL: Given the Schumacher name, Mick has dealt with the attention extremely well.
Mick is the son of Seven Time World Champion Michael Schumacher who won championships for Benetton and for Ferrari in the mid-1990s and early to mid-2000’s. There’s no doubt that Mick has earnt his spot on the F1 grid given his past championship-winning performances in European F3 and in F2 but he’s is looking to build his own F1 legacy.
Fascinating intra-team battles
This year hopes to continue the ultra-close racing that fans were treated to last year and it could get rather spicy between several team-mates with intriguing storylines while drivers try to manage their egos.
After getting rid of Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari pounced and signed Spaniard Carlos Sainz Jr to partner the Scuderia’s superstar Charles Leclerc in the team’s youngest line-up since 1968. Sainz moves from McLaren and is the first to move between the historic teams since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007. Over the years, Ferrari have ran a clear strategy of a number one and number two but from his Toro Rosso day of partnering Max Verstappen, Sainz is not going to be pushed aside. Team Principal Mattia Binotto says both drivers will have an “equal opportunity” but watch this space as the Scuderia try to manage what is one of the best driver line-ups on the grid.
After 190 attempts, Sergio Perez finally claimed his first F1 victory at the Sakhir GP last year - a race that pretty much guaranteed his place on the F1 grid this year. After losing his contracted seat at Aston Martin for this year to Vettel, Perez was given a lifeline by Red Bull when they decided to drop Alexander Albon. Now teaming-up with Max Verstappen, Perez has vowed to deliver solid performances in order for Red Bull to challenge Mercedes. The interesting factor will be how quick will Perez be up against Verstappen and how much of a headache will he cause Verstappen given that this is finally his time to shine?
Can this be the year that Valterri Bottas finally beats Lewis Hamilton in a fight for a World Championship? The Finn has partnered the Brit since 2017 and has failed to stop him from taking all the championships since but with young Mercedes protégé Williams’s George Russell, (who stood in and starred at the Sakhir GP when Hamilton tested positive for Covid-19), waiting in the wings, Bottas’s time at the Silver Arrows could be running out.
Meanwhile at McLaren, another ‘bromance’ is blooming between Norris and Australian Daniel Ricciardo. After the departure of Sainz to Ferrari, Ricciardo moves to McLaren from Renault to partner Norris which is a very exciting line-up. For McLaren, it’s a PR’s dream with both getting along so well so expect a lot of comedy, laughs and some exhilarant racing between then.
McLaren return to Mercedes power
Talking of McLaren, the Woking based team are reuniting with Mercedes as their engine supplier. After their disastrous stint with Honda, a switch to Renault exposed the team for the failures of producing a competitive car and now the hope of renewing their partnership with Mercedes will allow McLaren to fight at the top once more.
CONTINUED RISE: McLaren returned to the top three of the championship last year for the first time since 2012.
McLaren’s last Mercedes partnership lasted from 1995 to 2014 which yielded Championships for Mika Hakkinen and Lewis Hamilton while it allowed the team to consistently fight at the top during the 2000’s and early 2010’s.
Founded by the great Bruce McLaren in 1963, the team have rebuilt themselves over the past couple of years and the improvements have shown having finished last year in third place with multiple podium finishes. With a cracking driver line-up, the hope is that the team can continue on their trajectory to success.
New race locations
A revised calendar of a record 23 races are scheduled to take place this year with the season starting in Bahrain in March and finishing in Abu Dhabi in December. Many teams and pundits have argued that 23 races is just too much of a push while the likelihood of all the planned races scheduled happening this year is somewhat sceptical
In between Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, F1 returns to the races which didn’t get to hold a race last year such as Monaco, France, Canada, Japan and the United States while the sport returns to the Netherlands for the first Dutch GP since 1985.
A second race in Italy has been confirmed to take place at Imola which welcomed the F1 paddock last year for the first time since 2006.
The first ever Formula One race in Saudi Arabia on the Jeddah Street Circuit and will truly be a spectacle to watch as it will take place at night under the floodlights.
The start of the 2021 Season will start on the 28th of March in Bahrain.