It has been just over a month since the flag came down on a fairly boring season finale at Abu Dhabi but such a unique and exciting season. 2020 threw us a lot of curve balls in Formula One. The pre season announcements kept everyone talking through a global pandemic, the calendar seemed like a step back in time and the racing kept us glued to our tv screens. Nico Hulkenberg returned, George Russell got a drive at Mercedes for one race and the midfield battle added extra spice to the short 17 race calendar.
2021 will also look a bit different. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic, and the start of the season has already been delayed, with the season opener now planned in Bahrain on 28th March, with the Australian Grand Prix moved to the back end of the year. But for those of you concerned that this may he a sign that we may lose some races this year due to the ongoing pandemic, there are still lots of reasons to get excited.
The calendar this year will consist of 23 races, providing that none of them are cancelled. This is extremely ambitious from Formula One, especially with the second wave of the pandemic upon us, and travel restrictions and safety measures much tighter. However, we have two new circuits to look forward to this year. We take to the streets of Jeddah at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in December, and we head to Zandevoort for the first time since 1985. After returning to the calendar for a one off race last year, Imola also returns in April. With the Vietnamese Grand Prix controversially cancelled, it is looking likely that Portimao will fill the gap in early May. Portimao was a disappointment for me last season. I expected a lot more from it, which is why I am surprised that it will more than likely return. Did they not see the Turkish Grand Prix?
Formula One are hopeful that fans can return to the circuits this year. I am not so confident that they will or that they should. The majority of the world are fighting a second wave of this pandemic and as much as we want to get back into the circuits to support our heroes, most of us would be happy to watch from home. A 23 race calendar is something that has never been done and with three triple headers at the end of the year, it will out a lot of pressure on everyone involved.
With McLaren powered by Mercedes this year, they also have a powerful driver line up in the form of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo. The Aussie has signed for the Woking outfit from Renault and I expect the pair to mean business when they turn a wheel after an impressive 2020 campaign from both drivers. McLaren will also be looking to build on their third place in the constructors standings. It seems with this driver pairing and a competitive car, McLaren seem to have found their way again.
Red Bull certainly fancy their chances at challenging Mercedes this year after bringing in Sergio Perez from Racing Point to partner wonderkid Max Verstappen. The 2020 season showed they were more competitive with Verstappen regularly gracing the podium. However, the lack of competitiveness from his team mate Alex Albon, ultimately cost the team valuable points to close the gap to Mercedes. Perez had his best ever year in Formula One, claiming his first ever win at the Sakhir Grand Prix and secured 4th in the driver’s standings. The Mexican has a wealth of experience and is still hungry for race wins, and a seat at a top team could be the making of him.
After a disappointing run at Ferrari, German ace Sebastian Vettel moves to the newly rebranded Aston Martin team this year to partner Lance Stroll. The Silverstone based squad, returning to the paddock as Aston Martin for the first time since 1960, are thinking like a championship winning team, meaning they wanted a championship winning driver. Four time world champion Vettel, thrives in a British team environment and will help the team move forward to race at the front of the grid. Hopefully some of Vettel’s maturity and experience can rub off into his hap hazard team mate Stroll.
Support Series Shake Up
For the first time in the sports history, we will be seeing an all female support series enter Formula One. W Series, the established all female single seater series, will support eight races this year, bringing a new talent pool to the grid. This is especially exciting for me, as a big W Series fan. But it also shows that Formula One is open to becoming more diverse and entertaining the idea that it will be possible for a female driver to enter Formula One in the near future. I have seen these amazing women race, and I am looking forward to watching Jamie Chadwick defend her title.
F2 and F3 have also had some changes made to their schedule, not because of the introduction of W Series, but in an attempt to cut costs. F2 drops to an eight race calendar, but is increasing to three races per weekend. F3 will run a seven race season.
New and Returning Drivers
This year sees the return of the Schumacher name to the grid since 2012, with Michael’s son Mick taking a seat at Haas. Despite what some might say, this is not a PR exercises, the 21 year old has earned the drive in his own right, after winning the F2 championship last year. Another young rookie on the grid this year will be Yuki Tsunoda, who takes the drive at Alpha Tauri. He is the first Japanese driver to race in Formula One since Kamui Kobayashi in 2014 and has been on the path to the sport for two years, being backed by Red Bull and Honda. Notoriously known for their revolving door policy, I hope that Red Bull are able to give Tsunoda the time to settle in and adapt.
The return of Fernando Alonso does not excite me one bit. Tne Spaniard, who left Formula One at the end of the 2018 season, will be returning to the rebranded Renault team, Alpine F1. He seems fired up to be coming back to the grid, and returning to the team where he won both of his world titles has got most of us excited. Not me, I have always thought Alonso was a bit of a bully, pushing his weight around. Yes he is a great driver but I feel that so much has changed in his two year absence, he hasn’t got it anymore. I hope he proves me wrong.
Image Credit: formulaone.com, wseries.com
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