Formula 1 is set to return for the 2021 season in March, with the coronavirus pandemic once again casting a cloud over the racing.
Albert Park in Australia was expected to host the traditional Formula 1 season opener on 21st March but the race weekend has now been pushed back to November.
Bahrain is now scheduled to host the first race of the campaign on March 28th, with the 23-race calendar due to conclude in Abu Dhabi on December 12th.
A budget cap has been introduced as F1 bigwigs attempt to level the playing field, although the significant rules and regulation changes expected to shake up the sport have been postponed until 2022.
Despite limited alterations on the engineering and technical front, there are plenty of personnel and team changes set to make the new season all the more exciting.
We take a look at the teams and their driver line-ups ahead of lights out at the Bahrain International Circuit.
F1 2021 teams
Drivers: Kimi Raikkonen, Antonio Giovinazzi
Last Year: 8th (8)
One of the few teams on the grid to stick with the same old, same old in 2021.
Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi have been kept on despite scoring just eight points last season.
It was a less-than-stellar year for the team, although they did get the better of fellow Ferrari engine customers Haas.
Alfa Romeo’s C41 will be an evolution of last year’s car but significant progress is needed to get into the midfield battle.
Drivers: Pierre Gasly, Yuki Tsunoda
Last Year: 7th (107)
Pierre Gasly emerged as one of the drivers of the season after landing his maiden win on the way to a 10th-place finish in the championship.
The Frenchman scored more than double Daniil Kvyat’s total points, so the Russian driver has been replaced by Japanese prospect Yuki Tsunoda.
AlphaTauri suffered eight retirements in 2020 and Gasly is targeting improved reliability in a bid to creep up the constructors’ standings.
A switch to Red Bull’s wind tunnel to help design their 2022 car shows the team already have one eye on next season.
Drivers: Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon
Last Year (as Renault): 5th (181)
The first of two teams to be racing under a new name in 2021. It really is all change after Renault finished fifth in last year’s constructors’ championship.
In addition to the rebrand, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso has been brought in to replace Daniel Ricciardo after a two-year absence, while Cyril Abiteboul has been axed as team boss.
Ricciardo’s form was key to Renault running Racing Point and McLaren close in midfield so Alonso will be expected to fire from the off and more will be demanded from Esteban Ocon.
Ambitious Renault bigwigs will no doubt be hoping the restructure brings more success in 2021.
Drivers: Sebastian Vettel, Lance Stroll
Last Year (as Racing Point): 4th (195)
The easy-to-spot pink panthers will be replaced by a green livery in 2021 after Racing Point rebranded as Aston Martin.
A second major change is in the driver line-up, with Vettel replacing Sergio Perez to partner Lance Stroll.
Aston Martin are expecting four-time world champion Vettel to take the team to ‘a new level’ after a cracking 2020 season.
Perez nabbed the team’s first ever win at the thrilling Sakhir Grand Prix while Stroll scored two podium finishes.
Winning the midfield battle is the aim, with Stroll finding consistency in his results potentially key to that being achieved.
Drivers: Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz Jr
Last Year: 6th (131)
The Tifosi would probably rather the 2020 season hadn’t happened after the team suffered its worst year since 1980.
It was announced that Sebastian Vettel would be replaced by Carlos Sainz Jr before the coronavirus-disrupted season began.
Vettel subsequently had a shocker, managing to score in just seven of the 17 races, but Ferrari’s great hope Charles Leclerc managed to extract 98 points from the SF 1000.
Ferrari have one eye on 2022 but team boss Mattia Binotto has set an ambitious target of finishing third in this season’s constructors’ championship.
Drivers: Mick Schumacher, Nikita Mazepin
Last Year: 9th (3)
It’s all change on the driver front for Haas after a disappointing 2020.
They say goodbye to Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen and hello to rookies Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.
The roll of the dice represents a shift in strategy for the American team, with the budget cap and 2022 rule changes in mind.
Haas are likely to be racing at the back of the grid, so the battle between Schumacher and Mazepin will be as entertaining as it comes.
Drivers: Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris
Last Year: 3rd (202)
McLaren’s return towards the front of pack continued in 2020 by winning the midfield battle.
Sainz Jr’s departure to Ferrari left the Woking-based team with a seat to fill – and they’ve recruited one of the best in the business in Ricciardo.
The Aussie continues to thrill with his daring overtakes and he got the maximum out of last season’s Renault to finish fifth ahead of Sainz Jr and Lando Norris.
McLaren’s sights will be focused on maintaining third place in the constructors’ championship and earning their first race win since 2012.
Drivers: Lewis Hamilton (TBC), Valtteri Bottas
Last Year: 1st (573)
The all-conquering Brackley-based outfit are hunting an eighth consecutive constructors’ championship.
But they head into the season with doubts surrounding the future of Lewis Hamilton, who has yet to agree a contract extension.
George Russell won plaudits for his stand-in performance for the COVID-stricken Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix, which has many thinking the Williams driver could make the step up on a full-time basis.
Russell outshone Bottas in that race and the Finn is under pressure to make the last year of his contract with Mercedes count.
Bottas finished a long way behind Hamilton in the 2020 championship and just managed to fend off Verstappen’s challenge for second.
Despite the uncertainty over their driver line-up, the Silver Arrows are expected to dominate the track once again.
Drivers: Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez
Last Year: 2nd (319)
The aim is clear for Red Bull in 2021: take the fight to Mercedes.
Max Verstappen came within a whisker of beating Valtteri Bottas to second in the drivers’ championship but Alex Albon was regularly stuck in the midfield battle, so the Silver Arrows pulled well clear in the constructors’ race.
Albon has paid the price for his middling displays, with former Racing Point driver Perez taking his place.
The Mexican enjoyed his best year in F1 to date in 2020 – despite missing two races after a positive coronavirus test – and even picked up his maiden win in the penultimate race of the season.
If Perez can replicate the sort of form that earned him the spot alongside Verstappen, Red Bull could mount a serious challenge to their rivals.
Drivers: George Russell, Nicholas Latifi
Last Year: 10th (0 points)
The only way is up for Williams after a pointless 2020 season.
It was all change behind the scenes midway through the year as Dorilton Capital completed a takeover which saw Claire Williams and Sir Frank Williams step down from their management roles.
On the track, there were glimmers of hope as George Russell repeatedly got the FW43 into the second round of qualifying while Nicholas Latifi achieved three 11th-place race finishes.
Any improvements made to the car could result in a first point since the 2019 German Grand Prix.
Regularly beating Haas and Alfa Romeo would represent significant progress for the Grove-based team.
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