There may be a revised schedule for this year’s Formula 1 season, but with a record 23 races to look forward to, we have no doubt that it will be worth the wait.
Changes to the calendar have pushed the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne back to November, with negotiations still taking place as to whether the Chinese Grand Prix can go ahead. But it’s not just the schedule getting a huge shake up this year, as fans and experts are predicting some seismic changes both on and off the track, with different drivers and constructors tipped to make a major impact in 2021.
But nobody is predicting any big changes at the top. During the 2020 season, Lewis Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher’s record by clinching a seventh World Drivers’ Championship at the Turkish Grand Prix, and broke Schumacher’s record for career wins by nabbing his 91st title at the Portuguese Grand Prix. And on the constructors’ side, Mercedes won their seventh consecutive constructors’ championship, beating Ferrari’s record of six consecutive wins between 1999 and 2004. If this wasn’t enough, team Mercedes clinched silver as well as gold, with Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas ending the season in second place.
The season could be immediately off to a record breaking start at the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 28. Lewis Hamilton is once again the favorite to win, for what would be his third consecutive victory and fifth overall. If that does happen, he’s set to break the record for most wins in Bahrain, having equalized with Sebastian Vettel on four wins following his victory last year. And this bears more great news for Mercedes, who would clinch their sixth constructors’ win (tying with Ferrari) and seventh engine manufacturers’ win, becoming the record holders for the title. A few weeks later, the return of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix for a second year (after initially only being announced as a one off event for the 2020 season), could make Hamilton and Mercedes further carve out an impressive record that will be hard for any team to break.
For those betting at Draftkings.com, they will find Lewis Hamilton is the favorite, as the British racer speeds closer towards his 100th title win. Although his status is unlikely to be threatened, rival teams are giving it their all to try and narrow his lead in the upcoming season.
And this challenge is coming, somewhat unexpectedly, from team Red Bull. With the construction team carrying over most of their machinery over from the last season, don’t expect the usual slow start that plagues their chances of a strong finish from the beginning. They certainly are starting this season with an uncharacteristic momentum, with the surprise triumph at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix showing Max Verstappen at the peak of his powers - an underdog to watch as the season continues. Red Bull haven’t won the constructors’ challenge since 2013, but with Verstappen entering the season in fine form, they are set to pose their biggest threat to Mercedes in years.
Red Bull seem like a dead cert for a comeback in the upcoming season - but for other big players, it’s more of an uphill battle. For Sebastian Vettel, this year promises to plant the seeds for a major comeback after his most disappointing campaign yet as he raced for Ferrari for the last time in 2020. Vettel won four consecutive titles between 2010 and 2013 for Red Bull, and came close to beating Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes in 2017 and 2018, after switching to Ferrari. But now, racing for Aston Martin (who will be returning to Formula 1 after a 61 year absence), is set to give him a new lease of life, and he’s already kicking off the season with a touch of controversy, via some thinly veiled barbs at his former team.
Renault are also likely to return to the podium under their new guise Alpine, with Fernando Alonso returning to the circuit for the first time in three years as their star racer. As he’s still recovering from a cycling accident that broke his jaw, Alonso is realistically predicting that if he is fit and healthy to get back in the driver’s seat, he won’t immediately be returning to the top of the leaderboard. But early predictions suggest that while a slow start is to be expected, he could make a major impact as the season progresses - and coupled with team mate Esteban Ocon will ensure Alpine will be a formidable presence on the podium by the season’s end.
2021 is set to be one of the most exciting F1 seasons in years. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are in prime position to cement their status at the top of their game and break some more records from the start, while several major players are eyeing the season as the gateway to a big comeback. We can’t wait to see how this year shapes up on the circuit.