A Preview of the 2021 F1 Season


The Mercedes pairing of Lewis Hamilton (left) and Valtteri Bottas (right), look forward to continuing the team’s dominance in the sport with their eighth consecutive title. (Courtesy of Twitter)

For the first time in three months, I can finally say that it is race week.

This weekend is the season opener for the 71st Formula 1 season. This year instead of the usual opener in Australia, it will be held in Bahrain, where the preseason testing was. Before the season even started, there were many storylines of drivers switching teams, teams being rebranded and rookie drivers being given their shot to prove their worth in F1. This season is setting up to be one of the closest seasons ever, with the midfield appearing tightly packed, alongside a proper title fight that hopefully will last the entire season. All of this will be played out through a record 23 race season, the longest in F1 history. It will also include the inaugural race in Saudi Arabia. 

The race weekend obviously has the race on Sunday, but there is more to it than that. On Friday and Saturday, there are free practice sessions for the drivers and the teams to become accustomed to the track and to make sure that their cars are perfectly set up. There is also qualifying on Saturday which will decide the order of the grid for the race. 

As for the race, there are certain new requirements. There is no refueling during pit stops, so drivers need to manage their fuel so they don’t run out before the end of the race. They normally would under-fuel the car because the fuel adds weight to the car, which makes it slower. Another new regulation is that each driver must use two different tire compounds. Each weekend there are three compounds with varying durability and grip. The tires with the most grip have the fastest lap times but degrade at a rapid pace in comparison to the low grip tires. The teams have to perfect the strategy to balance what type of tires to put on the car and the number of pit stops since they can lose a massive amount of time and fall behind with each stop. 

If you have spare time, I highly recommend watching “F1: Drive to Survive.” It’s currently streaming on Netflix and with three seasons under its belt, it’s great at introducing the sport and providing a behind-the-scenes look at the teams during a race weekend and the season as a whole.

Now, let’s focus on the teams. Out of the 10 teams, one that I believe will struggle is Haas. Since the 2018 season, it has declined and it looks like it is in for another terrible season. Even the team manager Gunther Steiner said that Haas is not focusing on developing the car more for the season and is instead focusing on 2022 and the new regulations. And with the rookie pairing of Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time champion and one of the greatest drivers of all time Michael Schumacher, points will be rare. 

Another team that might struggle is Williams. It was one of the few teams to keep its lineup from last year, so George Russell and Nicolas Latifi are already accustomed to the team. However, even though they have admitted that though they have made major steps to become more competitive, they do not expect to be in the midfield battle. Another team that may also struggle is Alfa Romeo. It too retained its two drivers, Antonio Giovinazzi and former champion Kimi Raikkonen.

Now for the midfield, there are five teams that appear to be closely matched, and the balance may even shift from race to race as they try to get third in the Constructors’ Champions. One of these teams is Alpha Tauri with their drivers of rookie Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly. Last year, it got a shock victory in Italy with Gasly and performed above expectations throughout the entire season. 

Another team in the midfield is Alpine Racing, which was known as Renault last year. It still has Esteban Ocon from last year, and his new teammate is two-time champion Fernando Alonso, who hasn’t raced in F1 since 2018. 

Another team that will fight for third is Aston Martin, which is the new name for the Racing Point team. Its driver pairing is Lance Stroll and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, who departed from Ferrari last year. 

Another team that must have a good season is Ferrari. Last year, Ferrari had an abysmal sixth-place finish. Its driver lineup of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will focus on getting the team back to its former glory. The final team in the midfield is McLaren, which finished third last season. Its lineup has Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo who joined from Alpine. 

The two teams to look forward to as they fight for both the Driver’s and Constructors Championships will be Red Bull and Mercedes. Both of these teams have dominated these Championships since 2010, with Red Bull winning from 2010 until 2013 and Mercedes winning the rest. The Red Bull pairing of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez should be able to push Mercedes to the limit. Perez, joining from Aston Martin, has always produced excellent drives in lower cars, so it is exciting to see what he will do in a title fighting car. 

As for the reigning champions, they kept their line up of seven-time (and reigning) champion Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. Pre-season testing shows that Red Bull should have the advantage due to Mercedes encountering some difficulties during the test and never seeming to be comfortable with the car.

With all of that out of the way, it’s time for my season predictions. Haas will be last, with Williams slightly ahead. Alfa Romeo will finish eighth but far behind the midfield pack. Alpha Tauri will be the last of the midfield. The rest of the midfield is incredibly close to call, but Alpine will be sixth, followed by Aston Martin, Ferrari and then McLaren in that crucial third place. As I said, those four teams can be interchangeable. 

As for the title, I hope that this is the year Mercedes’ dominance will finally end, but I don’t think it will happen. Mercedes will win their eighth title in a row, with Hamilton winning his record eighth Drivers’ title. Red Bull will certainly push it, but Mercedes will fight back and narrowly win. 

However, all of this is a prediction based on preseason testing, a place where most teams don’t usually show their true pace. All we can do is tune in as the lights go out on Sunday at the Bahrain Grand Prix as the F1 season finally gets underway.