The much-awaited Formula One 2021 season starts this weekend with the Bahrain Grand Prix. With no big changes, but the coronavirus pandemic pushing back the big aerodynamic rule to next season, there is plenty at stake for each team this season. But, every F1 team has something big riding on this year, and we run through the most pressing concern facing each team going into the new campaign.
The Alfa Romeo C41 team was a regular in the top six during pre-season testing and will be hoping to break free of the ‘Class C’ group of teams. However, the major worry is whether its driver line-up is strong enough. Veteran Kimi Raikkonen still gives outstanding feedback and executes races well, but he lacks the edge of pace that he once flaunted. Alongside his inconsistent form is fellow driver Antonio Giovinazzi, who can be brilliant at times but is far too inconsistent and needs to string in good results at weekends. Their performance is tied to an improved car, the drivers will be the difference between a relatively strong, or underwhelming, season.
Other than racing under new ownership, the new Williams FW43B F1 car is reported to be very wind sensitive. The team needs to battle out conditions at Bahrain after they decided to focus on peak downforce in the new car. They will hope it performs well on its best weekends and the car will be good enough for top 10 finishes, at the expense of some bad weekends. In the previous three seasons, Williams managed just four points finishes. In the upcoming season,if they achieve better results and can pick up points, that could be enough to lift them off to the last spot in the world championship.
While Haas is braced for a year firmly at the back of the order, but on paper, prospects for 2021 look fairly bleak. Pre-season testing suggests the Haas’ VF-21 is the slowest car by a margin and the emphasis is on building the experience of all-rookie driver pair of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin. With as many as 23 races to score in, the race team should be able to extract the most from the package and hope to pick at least top 10 finishes.
If Pierre Gasly’s victory at last year’s Italian Grand Prix was one of the highlights for the team last season, the new AlphaTauri AT02 was one of the standout midfield cars during testing this season. Particularly in terms of how well-balanced it looked on track, Gasly’s qualities and rookie Yuki Tsunoda’s contributions may earn them constructors’ championship finish. But given how tight the midfield, it needs to be seen if the younglings learn fast to score at the required rate.
Ferrari had a dreadful campaign as they finished sixth in the World Championships and did not win any Grand Prix in the 2020 campaign. And they would be keen to avoid a second year of struggling. Ferrari will challenge for the title this year right from the start with its expectations for its revised aerodynamics, rear suspension and power unit seem to be in place. The Italian manufacturers are happy with its correlation work so that they hit targets.
The British team is underprepared, and it recorded the second-lowest lap count at testing. They are down with frustrating reliability problems such as form of gearbox, turbocharger problems among other issues. Even with roping in star driver Sebastian Vettel and the big-money rebrand means there are no excuses for not producing pole position finishes. Due to such teething issues Vettel had fewer laps than any of the regular drivers and he made it clear that the team could not just blame engine and gearbox supplier Mercedes.
The team has seen major changes over the winter, with a new name and new livery. Post Daniel Ricciardo’ s departure Fernando Alonso in his comeback season will be driving the Alpine A521, knowing that it won’t allow him to fight for victories. However, with a new and unusual team structure, Alonso will want to pick up a few podiums and consistent points finishes. The team will be aiming to consistently reach Q3 and see them improving the car then it should be a satisfying season.
The star studded team is the only one to have switched engines this year. McLaren shifted from Renault to Mercedes, and also had to make a lot of revisions to the rear of the car to facilitate that change along the way. With the FIA giving permission to facilitate the engine change, the team had to sacrifice its development plans. McLaren will now be hoping that the Mercedes’ switch yields performance and the restricted mechanical work for the new MCL35M is not a defining factor in their quest to the top in 2021.
Building the fastest race car on the grid and to secure a championship with it are two different things that Red Bull needs to learn from Ferrari. However, their RB 16B with a new Honda engine gave impressive pre-season testing performances suggesting that Red Bull have finally nipped their biggest issue of failing to hit the ground running may finally be over. It was confirmed by team boss Christian Horner who admitted that they will be starting the new season with a good base instead of fixing an inherent problem.
Mercedes’ domination of Formula 1 is starting to look under threat as World champion Lewis Hamilton had two spins in testing, while teammate Valtteri Bottas called the car ‘quite snappy and unforgiving.’ Other than that, the team had to tackle the three days in Bahrain claiming they were behind Red Bull and confused over its lack of progress on lower fuel, as it sought to understand its rear instability issue. The team has also said that it will not find all the performance issues immediately or be ahead of Red Bull at the start of the season.