Only three F1 teams have retained the same driver line-up from 2020. Mercedes, Alfa Romeo and Williams. We have three rookies for 2021 namely Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri), Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher (both HAAS). We have Mclaren changing PU supplier from Renault to Mercedes. We have Renault changing their name to Alpine and we see a return to F1 racing for Aston Martin after 61 years.
Daniel Ricciardo moves from Renault to Mclaren
Sebastian Vettel moves from Ferrari to Aston Martin
Fernando Alonso returns to Alpine
We have lost Albon, Grosjean and Magnussen. Albon to DTM and both ex-HAAS drivers are plying their trade stateside.
All things being equal, we should have 23 F1 races in 2021. I do not expect that we will achieve this number. I’m not being pessimistic but rather realistic. With Covid-19 still very much around, unless vaccine roll outs are improved significantly, I suspect that a few races might get the chop. I do hope that I am wrong.
Rule Changes for 2021
We should remember that 2021 was supposed to be the major rules change in F1 but due to Covid, this has been pushed out until 2022. The FIA and F1 have scrambled to implement some new regulations for 2021 to try and improve the spectacle of F1. I find F1 always spectacular but the Mercedes domination is getting rather tedious and boring. We need some spice and by that I mean closer racing and teams with equal power delivery. As George Orwell said “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others”
There are some significant rules changes for this year which should make the cars slower than 2020. I know what you are thinking, “but we want them quicker etc etc” Just btw, Pirelli recorded the highest ever turn in and exit speed coupled with G-force at Silverstone in 2020. These cars are incredibly quick, and we do not see the full perspective from our couches at home.
Here is a little anecdote about a friend of a friend who went to Abu Dhabi a few years back. He had watched F1 on TV in the past, but this was his first F1 live race. He was sitting at the end of the main straight and when he saw the cars coming at him, he got such a fright that he jumped away as he could not believe that the car would be able to stop in time to make the corner. He said he was astonished at the speed and braking of F1 cars. They are very very quick.
In a nutshell there is a graphic below to explain the Regulation Changes for 2021. The cars will be heavier, the tyres slower, the aero cut dramatically and there is the introduction of the budget cap. In theory this is all great news but F1 engineers are brilliant at working out ways to negate these rules legally. Although I do not expect huge development in 2021 from any team due to the 2022 regulations, I do anticipate that the 2020 cars will get significantly quicker as the season progresses.
2021 F1 Car Launches
We no longer have the flamboyant car launches of the 1990’s and 2000’s, rather we have dull car livery reveals. Besides 007’s Daniel Craig gracing our screens, the reveals have been awful and at times amateurish (Williams)
Here are the nine cars that have been shown to us thus far. Only Ferrari have yet to show us their livery. Only Mercedes showed us some significant changes to their car, the rest were rather secretive with HAAS just changing their livery to the Russian Flag colours and Red Bull not showing anything at all.
Most teams have opted to use their tokens for the season to re0desing the front wing and nose of their cars in lieu of the 2021 regulations. The floor has to be re-designed on all cars but these are rather difficult to see from the pictures so far. Mercedes again seems to be miles ahead of the rest.
Ferrari on the Podium
Before the Ferrari fans get too excited, let me explain. For many years Champagne has been the preferred drink to be sprayed on F1 podiums but in 2021 we see Ferrari Trento taking up that position. They replace Carbon as the preferred supplier.
Sprint Races – Super Qualifying
The current plan is to trial a “sprint” race at the Canadian, British and Italian GP’s during 2021. Is this a good idea? It is the lesser of the two evils and the second being reverse grids. This is F1 for goodness sake. We don’t need gimmicks.
What do I think about sprint races? Will this attract more viewers as opposed to qualifying?
I do agree with the decision to reduce Free Practise on a Friday from 90 minutes to 60 minutes. I am sceptical about Friday qualifying and a sprint-race on Saturday for the following reasons.
· F1 is about one race – Sunday
· Will the “sprint” race dilute the meaning of the main race?
· The teams are restricted in terms of PU for a season. This means more stress on the engines and perhaps more reliability issues. Will the FIA allow more engines?
· What if there is a big crash and many cars need to be re-built before the Sunday race? Will the teams be allowed to change parts without incurring penalties?
· What happens to parc ferme conditions?
· What if a team realises that they have gone for a wrong set-up, will they just retire a car and explain that they need to work on it?
I would like to know a lot more about these “sprint” races before I am convinced by its merits. At this stage I have too many questions that have yet to answered or perhaps even considered.
Teams and Drivers for 2021
Without a doubt the stand-out team since the introduction of the Hybrid-era of F1. This team is so professional and so focussed that in 2021 it will be difficult to beat them again. I know it might seem boring but they have managed to keep everyone motivated and hungry and that is a testament to how well this team is run. With Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas as their two pilots, they have consistency and a 7 time World Champion. Although Bottas and Hamilton only have one year contracts, don’t let this fool you into believing that either of them are ready to exit the sport. Can Bottas challenge Lewis? Unlikely but on his day Bottas is as quick as anyone. He needs consistency and perhaps a lot of luck.
The Pearl Harbour moment of 2020 was when Honda announced that there were withdrawing from F1 at the end of 2021. This left RedBull in a serious predicament. They had an acrimonious split with Renault a few years earlier and there was no way they were going to ask Ferrari or Mercedes for engines going forward. A deal was struck and RedBull now will continue with Honda Power Units for the foreseeable future after securing the IP from Honda. They have also managed to convince all the teams to agree to an engine freeze on development from 2022 until the end of 2024. That is another topic to be discussed in another article soon. By all accounts, Honda are going full tilt in 2021 and are supposedly providing RedBull with a 2022 spec engine.
Sergio Perez moves from Aston Martin to partner Max Verstappen at RedBull this year. Just as Bottas at Mercedes, Perez has the unenviable task of partnering one of the great drivers in F1. Perez, unlike Gasly and Albon comes with great experience and is not easily intimidated. I rate Max Verstappen as one of the quickest, exciting and greatest drivers I have seen in F1. It is up to RedBull to provide Max with the right tools in order to take the fight to Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes.
Besides the most jovial pairing in F1, Mclaren mean business and their improvement after the past few seasons shows what this team is all about. Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo have to step up this season and there should be no reason why podiums become regular for this team. One BIG caveat though: Mclaren change engine supplier and there are usually teething problems. I do hope that they are few and get sorted quickly. With Zak Brown at the helm and the likes of Andreas Seidl, Andrea Stella and James Key, this team has all the makings of being at the top again.
Ricciardo is quick enough to be a world champion. This could be his last chance and he needs to make the most of it.