Written by Ben Langston
After a second delay in consecutive seasons, the FIA Formula 1 Championship will commence this weekend. Just like the start of the 2020 season, the Coronavirus pandemic resulted in the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne for a second time, pushing back the start of the regular season. As such, for just the third time, the Formula 1 season will get underway. This time, in Sakhir at the Bahrain International Circuit.
This will be the first time the teams measure up at a race weekend, after last week’s testing. Red Bull seemed to be at the head of the pack, with the usually dominant Mercedes struggling with a car that appeared unstable at the rear. Lewis Hamilton, the newly crowned 7-time world champion, made a series of uncharacteristic errors. At one point, spinning into the gravel at turn 13, beaching his W12. Leaving him with a long walk back to the Mercedes garage.
The Brackley-based team are looking to continue their dominance for a 8th consecutive year. Hamilton is also seeking his 8th drivers title. This would put him one clear of the legendary Michael Schumacher. Thereby securing his name down in history as the most successful driver in Formula 1 of all time.
After a long delay, Hamilton signed a 1-year contract extension with Mercedes. This was amongst a series of rumours around his plans for the future. With the Mercedes prodigy waiting in the wings at Williams, and following his supreme one-off performance with the team as a replacement for Lewis at the Sakhir GP last year, there are many who believe that he deserves a shot in the top team. With only a single year, could it be that Hamilton is considering a retirement after a successful 2021 campaign? Only time will tell…
This year will see many changes on the grid, both in the teams and in the drivers. Racing Point, affectionately known as the ‘Pink Panthers’, are moving on. Away from their bright colours to the classic colours of racing green, the outfit rebrands to the Aston Martin Formula 1 team. A return for the iconic brand who are once more joining motorsport’s elite field after more than 60 years.
After deciding to part ways with talisman Sergio Perez, the team picked up the 4-time world champion Sebastian Vettel. Vettel was inexplicably dropped by Ferrari last season, to accompany Lance Stroll as their driver line-up.
Stroll, the son of team owner Lawrence Stroll, has previously come under fire from F1 fans in the past. Many have claimed he was only racing as a result of his father’s deep pockets.
However his performances last season in particular provided ample evidence that he is deserving of his place. Most notably, a stunning pole lap in the treacherously wet conditions of the Turksih GP qualifying. Along with a suburb drive to a third place finish at the Sakhir GP. He joined his then team-mate Sergio Perez in Racing Point’s first ever double podium.
Following a strong performance last season, the Silverstone-based team will aim to continue their recent success, hoping to push further up towards the front of the grid after narrowly missing out to Mclaren for third in the Constructors Championship last year.
There is also a change next door in the Renault garage, as the French team returns as Alpine, sporting a striking blue livery with dashes of red and white. Following the departure of Daniel Ricciardo to rivals Mclaren, the team looked to the legendary Fernando Alonso to fill the void, following a three year absence from the sport. The 39-year-old Spaniard returns to the team with whom he won two world titles in 2005 and 2006 and looks to continue the team’s push back to the front of the grid.
There is also a name that returns to the F1 grid that has gotten everybody talking. Mick Schumacher, son of 7-time world champion Michael, makes his first venture into the top tier of racing as he begins his career with Haas. The young German showed great promise, as his consistent performances carried him to the Formula 2 title last year, and his entry to the sport is beloved by fans around the globe.
With a series of driver changes, and with this being the last year before major regulation changes come into play, this year is set to be an unpredictable one, that will no doubt be full of action. Catch the season opener this Sunday as the year kicks off in the desert of Bahrain.