The 2021 F1 World Championship commences this weekend (March 26-28) with the celebration of the Bahrain GP at the Sakhir circuit, where will start of the most extensive championship calendar in F1 history with a total of 23 races.
Unfortunately, the threat of COVID disruptions remains very present. Because of this, most of the GPs are still to take place behind closed doors or with a very small number of fans in the stands.
Mercedes, the absolute monarch of the hybrid era, will be seeking its eighth consecutive drivers and manufacturer’s crowns. The German team, however, will not have it as easy as in previous years in the face of a stronger than ever Red Bull. On a personal level, Lewis Hamilton is set to break the seven-title record that he currently shares with Michael Schumacher.
There will also be some new faces on the track. 2021 will be the debut year for Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri), Mick Schumacher (Haas) and Nikita Mazepin (Haas) while Fernando Alonso (Alpine) will return to action after a two-season hiatus.
Mercedes: After their eighth crown
This pre-season has been more complicated than expected for the German team. A number of mechanical faults as well as a general instability in the behaviour of its cars have made Lewis Hamilton visibly uncomfortable and prone to make mistakes.
The Englishman, however, still remains the top favourite for the title. Before the possibility of being pushed out by Red Bull, the road to the eighth Constructors crown is paved with challenges.
Red Bull: On a mission to dethrone Mercedes
The best team of the winter tests left a great impression as well as great expectations. The most remarkable improvement was the behaviour of the RB16B, which seemed a lot more docile than its predecessor.
To the new stability of the blue car, we have to add an increase in the power and reliability of the Honda engine. The Milton Keynes force will feature Max Verstappen and newcomer Checo Pérez, one of the best driver pairs on the grid.
Sainz and Leclerc: In charge of restoring Ferrari’s former glory
The SF21 has finally solved its drag and oversteering issues as well as having gained power in relation to the SF1000. To help Charles Leclerc guide Ferrari back to the top of the standings where it belongs, will be Spaniard Carlos Sainz. The pair will join forces with a clear objective in mind: to achieve third place in 2021, after finishing sixth in the previous year.
McLaren: The great revelation
Along with Red Bull, McLaren was the other team to rise above the rest during the winter tests. Thanks to their trusty MCL35M, the team from Woking continues on their upward journey. The technical challenge of using a new Mercedes engine doesn’t seem to have held them back in any way or form.
Furthermore, McLaren has one of the strongest driver pairs of the season. Englishman Lando Norris has become faster and more consistent with every passing year and in 2021 he will have Daniel Ricciardo as a teammate.
Aston Martin: The great unknown
A number of problems prevented Aston Martin from completing a full testing programme making it very hard to predict what the performance of the AMR21 is going to be. If money is any indication, the Aston Martin project should provide good results.
Sebastian Vettel will lead the team after his farewell year at Ferrari where his performance was notably poor. Next to him will be the team owner’s son, Lance Stroll, who did demonstrate some progress over the course of last season. Their financial solvency should in theory make them one of the best in the middle zone.
Alpine: Alonso is back to stir things up
The arrival of Fernando Alonso to the Alpine F1 Team (formerly Renault F1) should be enough to revive a project which is destined to grow over time. The Spaniard was relatively satisfied with the car’s performance after the preseason tests, although he acknowledged that it lacks some speed. To help him along the way he will have his French partner, Esteban Ocon.
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 12, 2021
Images of Bahrein GP: F1,com