PREDICTING THE 5 TAKEAWAYS FROM THE 2021 FORMULA 1 SEASON
Will McLaren win again? Will Williams score a point? Will Vettel rekindle former glory? I think these will be the main talking points come December 2021
McLaren Will Return To Winning Ways
McLaren picked up the ball dropped by Ferrari in 2020, finishing P3 in the standings thanks to the consistency of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris; things are different this season, however, as Carlos Sainz has departed the team for Ferrari and in his place, McLaren have signed a proven race winner in Daniel Ricciardo. McLaren have also retuned to Mercedes power units after a 6-year estrangement from the supplier. The Mercedes PU is undoubtedly the best on the grid and a huge step up from the at times unreliable Renault powertrain. Prime Daniel Ricciardo in a Mercedes powered car is a scary prospect for rival teams and it is very likely the Australian will add to his 7 wins in 2021. Daniel Ricciardo is a safe bet to getting 5th place (4th if red bull don’t accommodate Perez and he struggles) in the WDC after being 6 points away from topping the ‘Formula 1.5’ Driver’s Championship in 2020 despite being hindered by the inferior Renault car. It has been 8 years since McLaren’s last win, and the Woking outfit will be determined to not allow their streak to reach 9 years and to get their MCL34M on the top step of the podium. Ricciardo isn’t the only driver in papaya to potentially get a win this season, as Lando Norris will be entering into his 3rd F1 season and that maiden win is looking ever more likely after taking a maiden podium in Austria last year. McLaren have gained serious investment from American consortium MSP Sports Capital towards the end of last year, and the reported $185 million they invested will go well with the 3rd place prize money McLaren earned last season; this influx of cash should be a way for McLaren to return to the top and could be exactly what they need to take advantage of the new regulations in 2022. This season, however, McLaren are the team most likely to put the sword to Red Bull and Mercedes and capitalise on any errors they make and if another grand prix is as dramatic as Sakhir or Monza, it’ll be a McLaren driver most likely to take home 25 points.
Williams Won’t Finish Last
Williams have had an awful past few years, since the departures of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, Williams have employed pay driver after pay driver in order to balance the books (with the exception of George Russell, who is technically employed to Mercedes anyway) and this had led to a spiral to the back of the grid. Williams had their first ever point-less season in F1 last year as, despite having a better car to 2019, luck wasn’t on the team’s side in 2020 and they spent their 3rd season in a row in 10th place. It was arguable that Williams didn’t have the worst car last season with that honour going to Haas who had rear suspension issues all season and were saved only by the quality of their 2 drivers. According to Haas themselves, the 2021 season is a write off and barley any improvements will be made to their car in preparation of the 2022 regulations; with 2 new rookie drivers replacing Magnussen and Grosjean, Haas have lost the crutch of 2 excellent drivers to carry the car to points. This is good news for Williams, whose new owners have stated they will invest in the car in 2021, as they now have a steadfast chance of getting points this season. These new owners, Dorilton Capital, have saved Williams from their financial problems having already written off a lot of debt and invested around £5 million into car development. Williams are headed for a resurgence, being dark horses to capitalise on the 2022 regulations and shoot up the standings and a good 2021 campaign for them wouldn’t hurt in achieving that. Alfa Romeo are almost guaranteed to keep their status of 8th in the championship, but 9th place is all to play for and Williams are looking the most likely to take this spot with rumours of Gene Haas wanting out of F1 and not investing as much into the team and Dorilton Capital doing the exact reverse and investing millions.
Räikkönen’s Legendary Career Will Come To An End
21 race wins, 18 pole positions, 46 fastest laps, 103 podiums and 1 world championship. Kimi Räikkönen’s F1 career will go down in the history books. With the record for most race starts (329), the Fin’s career seems to be endless, having made his debut in the 2001 Australian Grand Prix; Kimi’s lengthy career has gave him the ability to say he is the only driver to win a race in the V10, V8 and V6 engine eras. Kimi himself famously said that F1 is “just a hobby” for him, meaning that he can give up F1 whenever he wants, in last year’s season of Netflix’s Drive To Survive. I believe that he will give up the hobby after this season as he has broken the race starts record and has nothing else to do, and Ferrari will be pressuring Alfa Romeo to bring in a new Ferrari Academy driver such as Callum Ilott or Robert Schwartzman. Kimi leaving the sport will be noticed, as on his day, Kimi proves he still has it and can produce some monumental drives (such as in Portimao last year). Räikkönen beat Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso by 1 point to grab the 2007 World Driver’s Championship yet it seems like you could give that title to either of the McLaren driver’s and Räikkönen would leave the exact same legendary legacy on the sport. His deadpan personality has become an iconic feature of the paddock and some of his interviews still get shared around social media every so often despite having taken place more than a decade ago. The F1 world will miss Kimi but if he does hang up his gloves, there is a heap of young talent waiting to take his place.
Hamilton Will Retire On Top Of The World
8 World Championships, more than any other driver in the history of the sport. Achieving that would cement Sir Lewis Hamilton as the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time, and it’s all but certain he will do it. With the 2021 regulations changing to only allow minimal development on the cars, Mercedes’ all conquering W11 car will essentially be raced for a second season, albeit without their revolutionary DAS system. Mercedes will cruise to their 8th WCC and it is highly unlikely Bottas will manage anything close to a title charge after 3 years firmly behind Hamilton. Lewis signed only a 1-year contract extension earlier this month, allowing him to keep his options open after 2021. The Brit equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of 7 WDCs in Turkey last season with one of the best drives of his career and now the 8th is on the horizon. 8 WDCs isn’t the only record Hamilton is after though, as he can surpass both 100 career poles and 100 career wins (currently sitting on 98 poles and 95 wins) this season. Hamilton is also 4 hat-tricks (getting pole position, winning the race, and getting fastest lap) away from equalling Schumacher’s record of 22 and it’s very possible he can achieve it this season, Hamilton managed 3 hat-tricks in 2020 when the calendar was 6 races shorter than the proposed 2021 calendar. Hamilton claims that he will retire when he “loses his smile when getting in the car” and loses motivation, and what motivation could there be when you have broken almost every record possible and cemented yourself as the GOAT. Hamilton has other interests outside of F1 also, such as his Extreme E team X44 and his music ventures, which he can fully focus on when he isn’t spending 9 months a year travelling the world to race. An F1 paddock without Lewis would be very unusual; however, him leaving the sport would be the sign of the new era of Formula 1, with the likes of George Russell, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc ushering in the new generation and fighting for world championships.
Ferrari Wont Bounce Back
Ferrari had their worst season in 40 years last season as they fell down into 6th thanks to having to modify their engine after being found to have cheated on their 2019 engine. Ferrari have spent all of their 2021 development tokens on the engine this year and are not being shy about the fact they expect to be at the front of the grid again. All teams mutually agreed to bringing the F1 engine freeze a year forward, preventing any engine development from 2022 up until 2025 and it’s hard to imagine that Ferrari or its 2 customer teams would’ve agreed without assurances or belief that the engine would be competitive. But the engine wasn’t the only problem for Ferrari last year. Ferrari built an aerodynamically poor challenger last season, which would’ve struggled to even get 3rd. By spending all of their tokens on the engine, they can’t work on any of their aerodynamics, which in modern F1 is just as important as fixing an engine. It’s all but impossible for Ferrari to make an engine close to their 2019 powertrain without cheating again either, as they have had only a year to fix it. With a power unit that may be competitive but most likely closer to the Renault PU than Mercedes and subpar aerodynamics, it’s quite unlikely that Ferrari will be able to stick their noses into McLaren and Aston Martin’s fight for 3rd place. Ferrari would be smart to write off 2021 now that they have improved their engine in order to actually mount a challenge for their first championship in 14 years in 2022. The Tifosi will be in for another season of frustration this year, as neither McLaren or Aston Martin will be willing to let anyone disrupt their own battle and Ferrari will only be able to one up Alpine and grab 5th place in the championship. 5th in the championship is a bad result for Ferrari but is acceptable if it allows them to become true title challengers in the 2022 regulation era.