The 2021 Formula 1 season gets underway in March with uncertainty over how the campaign will begin thanks to coronavirus.
Australia was expected to host F1’s traditional season opener in Melbourne on 21st March but that date has now been pushed back to November because of the coronavirus.
It means teams will have an extra week to prepare for the beginning of the 2021 F1 season, with the first ‘lights out’ now taking place in Bahrain.
Thankfully, the teams should have their driver line-ups all complete by this point, with only Mercedes yet to confirm which pairing will be driving for them in 2021. That’s because we’re still awaiting news on Lewis Hamilton’s expected contract extension at the Silver Arrows – a deal that will put him on course to win a record eighth F1 world title.
We examine the full F1 driver line-up for 2021 and reveal who could impress and who might struggle over the campaign.
F1 2021 driver line-up and teams
All being well the Brit will sign a new contract – and Mercedes would love to have the seven-time world champion and defending title holder in their car once again. Hamilton, 36, joined Mercedes in 2013 and hasn’t looked back.
This could be Valtteri Bottas’ last season at Mercedes, with the 31-year-old’s deal set to expire at the end of the campaign. He has finished second in each of the last two Drivers’ Championship seasons behind Hamilton.
Ferrari’s No. 1 driver following the exit of Sebastian Vettel, Charles Leclerc has the hopes of the Italian nation on his shoulders. Yet the Monegasque driver failed to win a race in 2020.
Carlos Sainz Jr
Plucked from McLaren following Vettel’s exit, Ferrari have high hopes for Carlos Sainz Jr. Yet the Spaniard only has a two-year contract at the Prancing Horse and will have to prove himself straight away here.
Ten seasons into racing in F1 and Sergio Perez finally won a Grand Prix at the back end of 2020. The Mexican replaces Alex Albon in the Red Bull after performing wonders last term in the Racing Point.
Having arguably failed to meet up to the promise of his early years at Red Bull, Max Verstappen needs a good 2021. The man who is considered most likely to challenge Hamilton for titles managed just two race wins all last term.
The Canadian failed to win a single point for Williams in his debut F1 season in 2020 and Nicholas Latifi will hope for a better campaign this year.
Having stunned the F1 world by coming agonisingly close to winning the Sakhir Grand Prix in a Mercedes last year, George Russell is tipped for bigger things in this sport. But he’s unlikely to be competitive in the Williams in 2021.
At 31 years old there’s still plenty of energy in Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who joins McLaren for the 2021 season after two campaigns with Renault. Ricciardo hasn’t won a Grand Prix since Monaco in 2018.
A third full season in the McLaren could do wonders for young brit Lando Norris, who earned one podium place last term. Having Ricciardo alongside him will certainly aid the 21-year-old’s progression.
This is Sebastian Vettel’s ‘last chance saloon’ after failing to deliver the F1 title Ferrari so desperately wanted. Now at Aston Martin, Vettel is a high-profile face for the new kids on the Formula 1 bloc – but whether he can improve on a woeful 2020 remains to be seen.
Racing Point has rebranded as Aston Martin for this season but in reality the change makes little difference for Lance Stroll, who managed just two podium spots last year. The Canadian, 22, is certainly the secondary driver behind Vettel.
Son of a Russian billionaire, Nikita Mazepin has never raced in F1 and last season finished fifth in the Formula 2 Championship. It would be a stretch to expect much of him this year.
Mick Schumacher was around the Haas team last year but will get his first full taste of F1 action in 2021. The son of legendary driver Michael is tipped for big things but will need to prove himself in the Haas first.
The two-time world champion is back after skipping the last two F1 seasons to race in IndyCar and other formulas. Fernando Alonso certainly brings the celebrity to Alpine but at the age of 39 is not the driver he once was.
Renault got good results out of Esteban Ocon in 2020 and Alpine will hope for a familiar performance this season. Ocon’s best position last term was second at the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Little is expected from AlphaTauri this season but Pierre Gasly proved in 2020 with his race win at Monza that this team cannot be written off.
A newcomer to F1, Yuki Tsunoda finished third in last season’s F2 Championship with Carlin. The 20-year-old is considered the next big thing in Japan and will have a dedicated following during the season.
At 41 years old Kimi Raikkonen certainly is the grandfather of the 2021 F1 driver line-up – and not much is expected of the 2007 F1 World Champion this season in an uncompetitive Alpha Romeo car.
Italian Antonio Giovinazzi made slightly more of an impact last season compared to Raikkonen but remained at the back of the field. At 27, Giovinazzi will need to prove himself soon if he is to remain in the sport.
*To be confirmed