What to look out for in 2021
Rookies, driver swaps and an uncertain calendar. It's lining up to be a cracker.
The constantly revolving world that is F1 never seems to stop spinning. It's already been a chaotic winter and with only two months until lights out in Bahrain, here are some of the things to keep an eye on this year.
Four drivers who didn't race in F1 last year will be taking to the grid in 2021. The three rookies who have graduated from F2, Mick Schumacher, Nikita Mazepin and Yuki Tsunoda - as well as the returning two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso.
The battle at Haas will be one to monitor between Schumacher and Mazepin, with the German coming out on-top in 2020, winning the F2 Championship.
Additionally, can Tsunoda challenge Pierre Gasly at AlphaTauri? Last season's Italian Grand Prix winner had a superb 2020 and looks very comfortable at the Faenza-based team. However, the Japanese driver also had a brilliant season last year, taking three victories and four poles, as he finished third during his first and only season in F2. Tsunoda is also a favourite for a Red Bull seat in the near future.
Then there's Alonso. One on F1's greatest-ever drivers returns to the sport two years after he left. Since he's been away, Alonso won the 24-hours of Le Mans and attempted to win the Indy500. Now aged 39, he will be up against the much younger Esteban Ocon and it will be intriguing to see how the Spaniard fares against his new teammate.
Tsunoda will become the first Japanese driver in F1 since 2014, when Kamui Kobayashi raced for Caterham.
An Ever-Changing Calendar
F1 announced that 2021 would be its longest ever season at the end of last year, with a proposed 23-races. But, the Coronavirus pandemic is far from over and it has already caused a reshuffling to the provisional calendar. China has already been postponed and Australia has been moved away from its traditional role as season opener, to a slot nearer the end of the year.
Imola has already been confirmed as round two for this season, with F1 likely returning to Portimao two weeks later.
Many other races are also in doubt, especially those held on street circuits. It looks unlikely that Monaco, Baku and Montreal will be hosting F1 this season. This leaves gaps to be filled, so expect to see some of the substitute races from last season making their way back onto the calendar.
Daniel Ricciardo's podium at Imola ensured Renault had achieved podiums in consecutive races at the track, in 2006 and 2020.
Well, not quite. But there will be two new names on the grid this year: Alpine and Aston Martin.
Renault and Racing Point are out, with their liveries appearing to go with them. It is likely that Alpine will go with a light blue design, while Aston Martin will use their iconic shade of green.
Alpine have had quite a turbulent time already, with Cyril Abiteboul leaving the Renault group, relinquishing his role as the head F1 operator of the team just after it was rebranded.
Aston Martin return to the grid for the first time since 1960. Since Lawrence Stroll bought out the Silverstone based team in 2018, it has been on an upward trajectory. This was proved last year by Lance Stroll's pole in Turkey and Sergio Perez's victory at the Sahkir Grand Prix, but will they be able to continue this form with a four-time World Champion behind the wheel? More on that in...
Ocon and Alonso will have the largest age difference between teammates on this season's grid.
Drivers at new teams
One of the biggest shakeups in recent years will see four drivers racing in different colours this season compared to 2020. Sebastian Vettel will be hoping of a return to form after he struggled during his final year at Ferrari. The man replacing him, Carlos Sainz will be hoping to inherit a more competitive car than his predecessor as Ferrari attempt to challenge further up the grid. There's also Daniel Ricciardo who will be joining Lando Norris at McLaren.
Yet the biggest move of the year has to be Perez to Red Bull. When the chequered flag dropped at Abu Dhabi last season, it looked likely that the Mexican was going to be having a hiatus away from the sport, with Red Bull seemingly retaining Alexander Albon for 2021. But, the Thai driver struggled last season and with Perez impressing, especially after his win at the Sahkir Grand Prix, the Austrian outfit decided to select the departing Racing Point driver.
Perez will be hoping to become the second driver, after Ricciardo, to beat Max Verstappen across a season.
F1 controversially added another race in the Middle-East on this season's provisional calendar: Saudi Arabia. Jeddah looks set to play host to the penultimate race of the year on a Hermann Tilke designed street circuit, yet no official layout has been published. The grand prix will also take place at night.
It is more evidence of F1 choosing to race at locations which will pay them the biggest fee. Saudi Arabia has been criticised for its poor human rights record, especially with F1's new 'we race as one' slogan.
Let's just pray this new circuit isn't as bad as Sochi.
Saudi Arabia already hosts a street-circuit in Diriyah, which plays host to Formula E.
The World Championship Battle
Can Red Bull put an end to the dominance of Mercedes? Can Valtteri Bottas finally dethrone Lewis Hamilton? Will Hamilton even be in a Mercedes this year?
Despite Hamilton and Mercedes comfortably winning the last four World Championships together, the only seat that has not been officially confirmed for 2021 is the one occupied by the Briton.
Despite this, it is expect the seven-time World Champion will sign-on for this season. With a new rule change coming in for 2022, this could be the final season that Mercedes dominate and Hamilton will certainly be aiming to go clear of Michael Schumacher with an eighth title.
But can Bottas finally stop him? The Finn often starts the season well, but fails to maintain the consistency needed to become champion. If this continues in 2021, then Hamilton will break yet another record, rewriting the history books yet again.
In the previous two seasons, Bottas has won the season-opening race.
Let me know your predictions for this year!