Mercedes – Can a team that has won 102 out of 138 races in the hybrid era suddenly lose their crown? The fact that many car parts have been frozen going into 2021 suggests not.
The last two seasons have seen the Silver Arrows at their very best and even when they appeared under threat, they came out on top. This can well be another season of domination, even if testing in Bahrain wasn’t particularly smooth.Embed from Getty Images
Lewis Hamilton – Coming off a dominating season in 2020, Lewis Hamilton is obviously the favourite going into 2021. Ever since Nico Rosberg beat him in 2016, nobody has been able to bring him a fight until the end.
However, will his motivation and his focus keep solid in the longest season Formula One has ever seen? Reaching title number eight, plus claiming victory number 100 can be important milestones he will want to achieve.
Delays in his contract renewal brought up questions in the heads of many: will this be Hamilton’s final season?
- Fun fact: Since 2009, he has only won the opening race of the season once, in 2015.
Valtteri Bottas – By sharing the same machinery, Valterri Bottas is obviously the best-placed driver to take a fight to Hamilton. But, the fact that most people indicate Max Verstappen as the Briton’s major threat, indicates that Bottas’s chances are low.
The Finnish driver will need to start the season strongly, quickly taking a fight to Hamilton to avoid slipping too far back and taking the second driver status. Consistency, but most importantly mentality will be key to take a fight for the title, as he has never really managed to do so.
|Gap to Hamilton||58||161||87||124|
Red Bull – Is this the year that Red Bull come to life and make a title challenge? The Austrian team finally took Ferrari’s place as Mercedes’s direct contender, but only rarely they have collected victories.
The addition of Sergio Perez can be a great asset, but in recent years it appeared like only Max Verstappen could handle this car. There will be two major questions going into 2021: can they challenge Mercedes and how will Perez deal with the step up?Embed from Getty Images
Max Verstappen – The Dutchman is only 23-years-old, but is set to start his seventh season in the sport. He developed exponentially in maturity during the latest years, being on the podium in all but one race he finished last season.
Will he have to contest another season as second best, or will he finally bring a real challenge to Hamilton? The feeling is it will very much be down to the car rather than driver performance.
Sergio Perez – After spending years excelling in the midfield, Perez finally gets his well-deserved chance in a top team.
Pressure will be on, especially after his strong season in 2020, which saw him win a race at Racing Point. Perez will need to adapt quickly to what is apparently a difficult car, which has seen his predecessors fail to score noteworthy results.
If he is able to carry his form into 2021, he could even be a threat to Verstappen.
- Fun fact: No driver has driven more races before collecting their first win than Sergio Perez (190), at least 60 more than anyone else.
McLaren – A switch to Mercedes engine power means that, on paper, McLaren should have made an improvement. The signing of an expert and consistent driver like Daniel Ricciardo also puts some expectations on McLaren’s shoulders.
It will be very difficult to challenge for victories and keeping at the top of the midfield will once again be their aim. They will need to carry on their solidity from last season, as they have always kept improving after parting ways with the Honda engines at the end of 2017.
Lando Norris – Now being in his third season, Lando Norris will be expected to deliver top performances in a consistent manner. He has shown strong peaks in his first seasons but always finished behind his former teammate Carlos Sainz at the end.
Now facing Daniel Ricciardo, Norris is set to a difficult task, but new race experience, plus continuity with the Mclaren team mean that he could start with the upper hand on the Australian.
- Fun fact: Despite beating Sainz on head-to-head in races (9-8), qualifying (9-8), and scoring more points finishes (13-12), Norris still finished behind the Spaniard in the standings.
Daniel Ricciardo – He is a veteran of the sport and years are slipping by without achieving a world title. There are no doubts that Ricciardo is a top driver and last year’s campaign with Renault only enforced it.
After joining the French team to try and take a fight to Red Bull, Ricciardo is trying to find better fortunes with McLaren. Race wins will be hard to achieve, but if he respects the expectations, he could find himself fighting for podiums at times.
- Fun fact: Ricciardo is entering his 11th season in Formula One and hasn’t won a title. Only Nigel Mansell has managed to become champion after contesting more seasons than him (13).
Aston Martin – Rebranded from Racing Point, the team will be looking to improve on the fourth-place finish of 2020, where they featured a copy of the 2019 Mercedes. Should they have the same treatment in 2021, there is a high chance that Aston Martin can make that step forward.
Whilst they lost Perez, they welcomed a four-time world champion to partner up Lance Stroll. In 2020, errors and inconsistency cost them the top three, but it gave them a huge chunk of experience of racing at the front of the midfield.Embed from Getty Images
Lance Stroll – Last season proved that Stroll isn’t just a pay driver, but that he has got raw talent and speed among his assets. However, after a promising start of 2020, he dropped at distance.
It was his first real chance to drive with a very competitive car, which means that he might have learned a lot. If the midfield is once again tight, Stroll could make a large step forward.
|First eight races in 2020||Last eight races|
|Standings||4th||13th (In the partial)|
Sebastian Vettel – This season will truly reveal if Sebastian Vettel still has the ability to compete at the front, or if his poor form will continue. He can start from scratch with a new team and alongside a teammate that appears less of a threat than Charles Leclerc used to be.
Let’s not forget that he is a four-time world champion, but in the last few seasons his level has dropped. This could be his last chance to compete at the top and the German will need to take it in order to avoid his common psychological breakdowns.
- Fun fact: In the hybrid era, only Hamilton and Rosberg have managed to win more races than him (14).
Alpine – The major talking point will be the return of Fernando Alonso, as the Spaniard makes a come-back after two years out with the rebranded Alpine. Can he lead them back towards the top, or will Alpine fall back?
During the off-season, Aston Martin, Ferrari and McLaren have been tipped as midfield favourites ahead of the French team, which has gone under the radar. Their program to get back to winning ways within five years of their return has failed, can they win the midfield battle to at least compensate?Embed from Getty Images
Esteban Ocon – Considering how well he did in his seasons at Force India, last year’s experience with Renault was disappointing. Similarly to Stroll, he can advance forward by making good use of what went wrong.
It’s never easy to partner Alonso and it will definitely be a tough season for Esteban Ocon, which will reveal a lot about the Frenchman’s quality. It can be a do or die year for him.
- Fun fact: He has the longest streak of consecutive race finishes from a race-debut (27).
Fernando Alonso – There are no doubts about Alonso’s absolute qualities, as even in his sabbaticals, he went on to win in other categories. But, two years without competing in Formula One can have huge repercussions and Alonso’s performance will be unknown until we see him on a race weekend.
How will he behave? Let’s not underrate the fact that the team’s performance will hugely influence Alonso’s results and should Alpine not be as competitive as expected, how will he react? A 39-year-old’s patience may not be long lasting.
- Fun fact: His last win came in May of 2013, which means that no active driver has a longer open streak of race starts after their last win.
Ferrari – 2020 was their worst season in 40 years. By featuring an underperforming engine and witnessing individual driver mistakes, it will be hard for Ferrari to do worse.
There were positive notes with Charles Leclerc proving that he is mature enough to be a leader and some isolated great performances. The team seems more positive going into 2021 and Sainz’s addition makes them a threat for the midfield contenders.Embed from Getty Images
Charles Leclerc – Ferrari’s young star came to the rescue in 2020, establishing himself as the leading figure. He got two podium finishes, which was a strong number considering how disappointing the car was.
It’s difficult to predict what 2021 has for him, because as it’s the case with Verstappen, it will largely be down to car performance. He showed all his talent since Ferrari got him, so he will have to keep showing that he is the man the team should back.
- Fun fact: He is the only driver in the grid who has never finished behind a teammate in the championship.
Carlos Sainz – Two great seasons with Mclaren, where he achieved consecutive sixth-places earned him a call from Ferrari. It may not be the situation he expected, as the Italian team is a long way off from winning races and he is set to face Leclerc, who is yet to be beaten by a teammate.
Featuring in what is still the team with the highest appeal and alongside the Monegasque, Sainz will show what he is really made of. If he can maintain the form reached with Mclaren, there is no reason why he could not challenge to be Ferrari’s number one.
- Fun fact: He is only the third Spanish driver to race for Ferrari
AlphaTauri – In the last few years, AlphaTauri has closed the gap to the top of the midfield, but being a junior team to Red Bull doesn’t make it easy to contest against big manufacturers. In 2020, Pierre Gasly regularly featured in the top 10 and it can be said that only Daniil Kvyat’s poor results prevented them from finishing higher.
Yuki Tsunoda is a very promising driver, but we saw that details make the difference in such a tight battle and featuring a rookie may not help their constructors fight.Embed from Getty Images
Pierre Gasly – He is coming off a strong season, which means that eyes will be on him. Gasly has shown signs of improvement through the years and proved that his blackout with Red Bull was temporary.
Finishing in the top 10 for the third consecutive year would be a great achievement, but his ambitions are even higher and if he keeps growing there is no reason why he won’t be able to do be a protagonist.
- Fun fact: By winning the 2020 Italian GP, he became the first Frenchman to win a race in the 21st century.
Yuki Tsunoda – Being a rookie, his adaptation to Formula One and his speed can be unknown, but Tsunoda is coming off a strong third-place finish in the Formula 2 championship reached in his first season.
Although he hasn’t won in every category, his results in junior classes are interesting and there is a lot of positive talk that back Tsunoda’s talent. It will be curious to find out how he does alongside Gasly.
- Fun fact: He is the first Formula One driver to be born in the new millennium.
Alfa Romeo – 2020 showed that the gap from the midfield is massive and doing better than eighth place will be a serious challenge. Additionally, they need to watch their back from the return of Williams, which could push the team even lower in the standings.
Improvements in the Ferrari engine are what can save Alfa Romeo from another anonymous season. Being the only team other than Mercedes and Williams which retained both drivers, will mean that the inter-team battle can decide Antonio Giovinazzi’s and Kimi Raikkonen’s future.Embed from Getty Images
Kimi Raikkonen – Now 41-years-old, Raikkonen keeps racing because he loves the sport. He always does a diligent job and finished ahead of Giovinazzi in both his seasons at Alfa Romeo.
The question will be rather about his motivation, should Alfa Romeo once again struggle to score points, but the Iceman offered spectacular moments in 2020. Will his level remain consistent or will it age like his ID card?
Now the most experienced driver ever in Formula One, 2021 will reveal if Raikkonen still has what it takes.
- Fun fact: In 2020, he surpassed Rubens Barrichello’s record of most race starts, now 329.
Antonio Giovinazzi – His third full season will be the decisive one. Whilst Giovinazzi had a decent year in 2020, he will need to increase his level to prove that he has got something special in his pockets.
The minimum that is required from him is to beat his teammate, something he has always failed to do and then, considering Alfa Romeo’s expectations, everything else will be seen as a bonus. Another anonymous year may cost him his place in favour of other young drivers.
- Fun fact: In 2020 he was the driver that gained the most positions on the opening lap (50).
Haas – “The development on the 2021 car will stop in January”. That’s what Team Principal Guenther Steiner said, hinting that this season may be a struggle for Haas. A pair of rookie drivers will not help their cause, which means that they may be condemned to the last places.
Haas’s task will be rather to nurture Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin to have greater chances in the future. Focusing on 2022 may not be a poor idea, but 2021 will be a mountain to climb.Embed from Getty Images
Mick Schumacher – The Schumacher name returns to Formula One and the new Haas driver knows that a lot will be expected from him. Quite clearly, the task of a rookie will not be to outperform the car, but Schumacher will need to show improvement throughout the season and prove that he does have some qualities.
Beating his F2-promoted teammate Mazepin will be his first challenge, plus aiming to get some points on occasions can show everyone that he is made for Formula One.
- Fun fact: He is the most recent Formula 2 world champion
Nikita Mazepin – His Formula One career failed to begin the normal way, given that Mazepin was rather spoken out for his behaviour, making everyone forget that he is a race winner in junior categories. The Russian is an interesting character on track, very aggressive and determined, sometimes too much.
He was also on the verge of being fired, before Haas spoke out to confirm his place, despite requesting more mature conduct from his side. Driving fast and cleanly will be the best method to let everyone forget about his moments and show what he is made of.
Coming up against Schumacher will be an interesting show and surely Mazepin will do all he can to beat his more famous teammate.Embed from Getty Images
Williams – Too many seasons have been spent at the bottom of the grid. Williams need to find their way back up, at least taking a fight to Alfa Romeo and Haas. Last year, inexperience cost them vital points, but continuity in their driver line-up can help on that.
George Russell has shown his pure talent and will now have the task of delivering on race-day, whilst Nicholas Latifi will have to show improvement from 2020.Embed from Getty Images
George Russell – Nobody doubts Russell’s qualities, but we cannot omit to say that on the occasions in which he could deliver for Williams, he made crucial errors. Russell is a very fast driver and proved that when he had the chance to drive for Mercedes.
It’s almost mandatory to have high expectations of him and the Briton will need to improve on raceday. Driving for Williams is never easy, but another positive season would likely convince Mercedes that Russell is the right driver for their immediate future.
- Fun fact: When competing in a Williams, he has never been beaten by his teammate in qualifying.
Nicholas Latifi – 2020 wasn’t a great season by any means, being off the pace and making errors. He has the great opportunity of having another year to prove the critics wrong and considering the recognition Russell has, should the Canadian take a challenge to his teammate, it would make his season noteworthy.
Last year he was a long way off, so Latifi is called to do a miracle, but never say never in Formula One and with the experience gained he could make a step forward.
- Fun fact: In 2020, no driver finished 11th on more occasions than him.
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