The 2021 Formula One season is just under two weeks away and with pre-season testing in Bahrain completed, various teams will be pleased with how their programmes went during the three days of track action, while some will be playing catch up come the start of the season.
Here at ParkLife Sport we’ve decided to go over the main talking points from the three day test and give our predictions on who will be leading the pack when the teams return to Bahrain in two weeks’ time, and who will be propping up the rear.
- Mercedes’ instability at the rear
Mercedes have been the dominant team of Formula One since the turbo hybrid era began in 2014 and have won the last seven constructors’ and drivers’ world championships.
However they completed just 304 laps in the three days, having been plagued by transmission issues and an instability at the rear which led to Lewis Hamilton spinning off during the morning session on day two and the afternoon session on day three.
While some teams believe the record champions are doing their usual sandbagging technique to disguise their true pace, World Champion Hamilton put to bed these claims by admitting that “we’re just not quick enough” and the new Mercedes W12 was “snappy and unforgiving.”
2. Red Bull finally come good
If you had said before this test that Red Bull would end it looking like the favourites for the opening race of the season, everyone would go back to Mercedes and the sandbags, however, the Milton Keynes based outfit genuinely look quick.
With the fastest lap of testing at a rapid 1m 28.960s on the C4 compound and with Honda bringing forward their 2022 engine to this season for their swansong year, Red Bull look in the best position to capitalise on Mercedes’ shortcomings and give everyone the two way title fight we’ve all been waiting for years.
At the forefront of this is Max Verstappen, the Dutchman looked in impeccable form as he topped the timesheets on day three with consistent race pace to back this up, and with Verstappen’s new team mate Sergio Perez having a fairly successful test himself, it finally looks like Red Bull can fight for their first title in eight years.
3. Technical problems hamper Aston Martin
Appearing on the F1 grid for the first time in 60 years, Aston Martin’s return to the sport did not go as smoothly as the Silverstone based team had hoped for. An electrical glitch, a gearbox issue and a problematic turbo had the car sitting the garage and hampering crucial testing hours for their drivers.
With 4-time world champion Sebastian Vettel joining the team alongside the ever improving Lance Stroll, Aston Martin have a fantastic platform to build on, but will need to iron out these technical issues to ensure they are best of the rest this season.
The car has shown to have decent pace after Stroll put the AMR21 through its paces during the ‘happy hour’ section of day one, but with Vettel getting relatively little running throughout the entirety of testing, it looks as if the only way is up for the team.
4. The midfield battle looks extremely tight
If you thought the midfield fight in 2020 was exciting, then 2021 looks to be even better, with gains for each team potentially bringing the midfield even closer together than ever before. Alpine have the return of Fernando Alonso to deal with, along with a radical airbox design, while Ferrari have to get the correlation between their newly design rear end and the rest of the car correct if their new driver pairing of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz are to have any success this season.
McLaren have made good progress thanks to the signing of Daniel Ricciardo and the return of a Mercedes powertrain, which looks to have been integrated into the car flawlessly, and Aston Martin, we mentioned previously on their niggles and pace potential.
However, what about AlphaTauri; Red Bull’s sister team, how was their preseason? With a new driver in young Japanese star Yuki Tsunoda and a radical redesign of the front end, the Fienza based outfit had, like Red Bull, a near flawless test, and look to have made significant progress compared to last season. They are the ones to lookout for come the start of the season.
5. 2022 is the year for Haas
Haas announced a few weeks ago that the car brought to Bahrain for pre-season testing will be the car they race with for the entire of the 2021 season. The American team have decided that there is no point developing the car further this season and will focus fully on the new regulations coming in 2022, where they hope the performance of the car will be much improved compared to the last couple of seasons.
While there are only a few updates to the car, including the ones to comply with the 2021 regulations, there is hope that the upgraded Ferrari engine will give the team a further boost, and having a pair of young, hungry rookies may help as well. But a year at the back of the pack looks to be the case for Gunter Steiner’s men.