By Oscar Lucas | Contributor
Formula 1 is returning to normality, or as close as it can, with the proposed 23 race calendar starting at the end of March. This year sees the return to many fan favourite tracks which we missed out on last year. Suzuka, Canada, Monaco and Brazil to name a few are all back and the prospect of seeing fans again raising the excitement levels more and more.
We are returning to the iconic and beautiful Imola (Italy) and Portimao (Portugal), both circuits which appeared on the calendar last year and were fan favourites.
The cars will be a slightly evolved version of 2020’s car, with a few tweaks to the aerodynamics regulations in the hope to slow the cars down slightly. What makes this year more exciting is the number of off-track decisions heading into this season. We have new driver lineups, new team names and new engine partners all of which are enhancing the sport.
We have plenty to look forward to, the return of Aston Martin, taking over from the team formerly known as “Racing Point.” Their drivers are Lance Stroll, son of Lawrence Stroll, the owner of Aston Martin, and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel who left Ferrari after a tough year where he struggled to impress.
Then we have Alpine, formerly Renault, who have had a strong preseason test and look like they are building on their 2020 success which brought them their first podium for nearly a decade. The loss of Daniel Ricciardo is huge but replacing him with Fernando Alonso, who looks like he hasn’t been away for the past 2 years, will not be a step down for the team. Estaban Ocon will need to step up and compete against Fernando for him to stake his claim as a proper talent as his overall performance last year wasn’t good enough.
Williams have had a significant makeover over the winter, with the team choosing to have three different shades of blue across the back half of the car. They go into 2021 having finished at the bottom of the constructor’s championship for the past two years, and they look like they are on an upward trend now. George Russell and Nicholas Latifi are embedded in the team and looking at the pace from testing they look much closer to the midfield than the past few years. Major changes have seen them incorporate more Mercedes parts into the car and with Russell’s talent, I would not be at all surprised if the Williams catches up to the pack.
For Haas, the offseason has been a rather mixed bag. Firstly their driver line up, the choice of Mick Schumacher, reigning F2 champion, brings back the love affair of the Schumacher family and F1. However, their choice to hire Nikita Mazepin has not been widely resented. Many fans have been protesting his arrival to the sport with the hashtag #saynotomazepin, due to some off the track events. The Russian has brought much-needed money into the Haas team that has come at a cost to the team, they decided to have a blue, white and red livery which coincidentally looks like the Russian flag, which Is banned from international world championships by WADA, which has called general disgust amongst fans.
Another year of pain could be set for the Tifosi and the Ferrari team. Last year they ended up a record low sixth in the constructor’s championship and were plagued by low straight-line speed and driver errors. Carlos Sainz, formerly of Mclaren, is known to be a consistent driver who grinds out results so a positive move for the team, but many fans think that he might clash with Ferrari golden boy Charles Leclerc who has taken the team by storm over the past few years. They both have a lot against them as the car doesn’t look like it will be a title contender, it looks to have made some progress, but this year seems like another year in the midfield for the Scuderia team.
Red Bull have had an about as promising start to a season as you could have, arguably they have massively improved their drivers’ lineup, the stability and quality of Sergio Perez, which will help the constructor fight much harder, he is a race winner at Sakhir 2020, which will help Red Bull bring the fight to Mercedes. With Max Verstappen, there is a driver with future world champion material, all he has been lacking is the car, and testing last week shows that the car is quick and reliable. They look like a formidable title challenger.
Alpha Tauri, Red Bull’s sister team look quick, They impressed over the preseason test, showing good speed and reliability like Red Bull. Pierre Gasly who has looked like a new man since he was dropped by Red Bull in 2019, was ever impressive and will be a great influence on his rookie teammate Yuki Tsunoda, who looked extremely gifted and had great control over the car.
The Mclaren team finished 2020 in an impressive third place and they look to be building something special. With the addition of Daniel Ricciardo, their team will be hoping to stay at the front. Many are fascinated to see how Daniel compares to their own Lando Norris. Ricciardo is more than capable of winning titles but hasn’t had the car to do it in; They could be a surprise package.
With the new Mercedes power unit adding to the already very good Mclaren chassis they look
to be a real threat after a successful preseason test. Many are applauding the new diffuser which seems to be legal and adding a lot to the downforce of the car. A dark horse for the title I might suggest.
Finally, the reigning champions seem to have some work to do after testing. Lewis Hamilton, arguably the greatest driver of all time, partnered with Valtteri Bottas seems to be nowhere near Hamilton’s standard and was over a hundred points down last year. Trouble in paradise is something I keep thinking, demonstrated by the stall in Hamilton’s contract negotiations. Despite the troubles, the team has been so dominant for the past seven years it is impossible to rule them out.