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Race time: What drives F1’s new season

The 2021 Formula One season is all set to take off in Bahrain on Sunday

Elora Sen Published 26.03.21, 04:13 AM
Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton Shutterstock

The Telegraph takes a look at what will make this season, coming off the pandemic affected 2020, more interesting and exciting.

Last hurrah?


Defending champion Lewis Hamilton, driving for Mercedes, is chasing a record eighth title to move ahead of the legendary Michael Schumacher. Hamilton has won 95 races and 98 pole positions — both F1 records. However, since he signed only a one-year deal with Mercedes, questions have been raised as to whether this is Hamilton’s final season in F1.

Ferrari’s resurrection

By Ferrari’s standards, the last season had been nothing to write home about since they finished a lowly sixth. But team boss Mattia Binotto insists a return to the top three is the “minimum objective” for the Scuderia in 2021. They will be racing in their new model SF21, featuring a new engine, revised rear suspension and reworked livery. Although the Prancing Horse’s famous red will remain, the team’s livery has been notably reworked with a burgundy shade at the rear and green branding for sponsorship reasons on the engine cover. And a lot will be in the hands of their young drivers, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

Focus on rookies

The season will see two rookies grabbing a lot of eyeballs. Mick Schumacher, son of the legendary Michael, will be seen in action for Haas while Yuki Tsunoda is in the Scuderia AlphaTauri team. Mick will have the burden of living up to his family name. Tsunoda has to shoulder the expectations of his country Japan. He was the 2018 Japanese F4 champion and is a member of the Honda Formula Dream Project and the Red Bull Junior Team. He finished third in the 2020 Formula 2 Championship.

Alonso return

Fernando Alonso returns to the F1 grid, driving for Alpine, the debut team. Alpine is the re-branded Renault team with whom Alonso had won his two world titles, in 2005 and 2006.

McLaren’s punch

McLaren finished third last year, backed by the unreliable Renault engine. For 2021, they have opted for a Mercedes powered engine — a proven winner which has supported Mercedes’ eight straight titles. The move may give McLaren a chance to put up a real fight against Mercedes for the top spot. Apart from the engine, they also have talented young driver Lando Norris and the warhorse Daniel Ricciardo.

Back on track

The Monaco Grand Prix, which wasn’t run in 2020 for the first time since 1954 due to the pandemic, will return. The Australian Grand Prix, which was dramatically cancelled last year, will also see action in November. This year will also see the first-ever F1 race in Saudi Arabia.

Vettel’s goal

Sebastian Vettel is looking to rediscover his mojo as Aston Martin return to F1. Vettel had his worst F1 season in 2020, finishing 13th and losing his place in Ferrari. The four-time champion will definitely look for a reversal of fortunes with Aston Martin, who are returning to the sport as a works team for the first time since 1960.

Rule changes

  • The biggest change coming in 2021 is the introduction of F1’s first-ever cost cap, set at a baseline of $145 million for this season – although it will actually be $147.4m, with teams afforded an extra $1.2m per race in the regulations.
  • Another new development will be the introduction of sliding scale aerodynamic testing regulations (ATR) – an especially important factor given that this year will see the teams finalising the cars they’ll field when the 2022 regulations kick in next year.
  • A change in the regulations will see a standardised tyre allocation being brought in for 2021, with drivers – “unless otherwise determined by the FIA and with the agreement of [Pirelli]” – set to receive two sets of hard tyres, three sets of mediums and eight sets of softs per race weekend.
  • F1 will allow new ‘green’ materials to play a part in the sport.
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