Who Will Come Out on Top in 2021?
2021 Season Predictions
Most previews and predictions for the season are made before the actual season begins and are based upon previous form and testing form. However, both these are unreliable indicators as the picture doesn't start taking shape before the actual season starts. Therefore, I decided to make my predictions after the first round so that I can have a better idea of where all the teams stand.
Valtteri Bottas during the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
7-time World Champions Mercedes started 2021 on the wrong foot as they had the worst performance in pre- season test among all teams, racking up the least mileage and having reliability concerns throughout the three days. Another concern was the instability of the rear end of the car caused by the new rules that penalise low rake cars. However, there were positive signs in Bahrain as despite not getting pole, they managed to qualify second and third on the grid. In the race, they were off the pace of Max Verstappen's Red Bull but a stellar performance by Lewis Hamilton led to the Brackley based team starting the season on a high.
Despite them not looking like the team to beat right now, history suggests that whenever the Silver Arrows are down, they come back stronger than before. With this in mind, I still feel that Mercedes would edge Red Bull for their eighth title on the bounce. However, the battle should be the closest it has been in the turbo-hybrid era and might even go down to the wire in Abu Dhabi.
Constructors' Championship Prediction: 1st
Max Verstappen during the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Red Bull have been the team to beat since pre-season testing. Having won the final race of 2020 in Abu Dhabi, Red Bull posted the fastest time during pre-season testing and were the fastest car throughout the weekend in Bahrain. Verstappen managed to take pole position and was in prime position to win until Red Bull asked him to return the lead to Lewis Hamilton after Max had overtaken him by going off track in turn 4. Sergio Perez also did well on his debut for the team. Having started from the pitlane after a problem on the Formation Lap, the Mexican put in a fantastic drive to recover to P5.
Though they were the fastest team, Mercedes' ability to bounce back stronger and the fact that Sergio Perez will take a few races to settle in the team would make it difficult for them to take the title. However, they should be able to push Mercedes all the way if they can hold on to the pace they have started the season with.
Constructors' Championship Predictions: 2nd
Mclaren F1. Photo: Formula 1
Mclaren had a very successful 2020. Having managed to finish 3rd, they achieved their best finish in quite a few years. Now, with a Mercedes engine in the back of their car, they started 2021 in the same vein, having a very productive pre-season test, completing the most laps by a Mercedes powered car. They had a great season opener in Bahrain, with Lando Norris finishing 4th and his new teammate Daniel Ricciardo finishing 7th. The car showed great pace and there are promising signs that another third-place finish is on the cards for the team from Woking.
Form from pre-season testing and the first race in Bahrain shows that the writing is on the wall for another great season for Zak Brown and his team. With Daniel's experience and Lando's consistency, they should be able to finish 3rd without much competition from anyone except a resurgent Ferrari.
Constructors' Championship Prediction: 3rd
Sebastian Vettel shakes down the Aston Martin AMR1. Photo: Formula One
Racing Point underperformed last season by finishing fourth when they clearly had the third-fastest car. They seem to have gone backwards from last year's success. They notched up the fewest laps after Mercedes in testing and had a disappointing race in Bahrain with Lance Stroll finishing 10th and 4-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel finishing 15th on a disappointing Aston Martin debut.
Aston Martin no doubt have the quality of personnel to challenge the top teams. However, they don't seem to have a good car this season. They would need significant improvements if they want to challenge for third like last season. However, as they stand, it seems that they would struggle to finish higher than 6th.
Constructors' Championship Prediction: 6th
Esteban Ocon drives the Alpine in Bahrain. Photo: Alpine
Renault had a good season last year. They managed to get 3 podiums, however, they lacked the consistency to properly challenge for 3rd. This year marks the return of Fernando Alonso to the team for which he won his 2 World Championships. However, they haven't started 2021 on a good note. They had a decent pre-season test but had a disappointing season opener in Bahrain with Esteban Ocon finishing 13th and Alonso failing to make the chequered flag.
If the first race in Bahrain sets the tone for the season, Alpine might struggle to put up a decent fight. With Ferrari and Alpha Tauri improving, it looks like Alpine have the slowest car of the midfield pack and seem headed for a 7th place finish.
Constructors' Championship Prediction: 7th
Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari SF21. Photo: Motorsport Images
2020 was Ferrari's worst season in 40 years. They finished in P6 and only had 3 podiums throughout the year. This year, having spent a lot of resource on developing their power unit, they seem to be back on an upward trajectory. They showed decent pace in pre-season testing and had a good opening weekend in Bahrain. Charles Leclerc finished 6th and Carlos Sainz ended his Ferrari debut in eighth as the Scuderia got a decent haul of points from the first race of 2021.
Ferrari seem to be putting up a great comeback after a disastrous 2020. They should have the pace to regularly fight for the upper reaches of the top 10 and look like the only team who can challenge Mclaren for third place. However, I think that third would be a bit out of reach as they are behind Mclaren on pace and lack engine power compared to the Mclaren's Mercedes power unit. They really need to up their development pace if they want to finish in the top 3 again.
Constructors' Championship Prediction: 4th
Yuki Tsunoda shakes down the AT02 at Imola. Photo: Alpha Tauri.
Alpha Tauri had a lot of positives to take from their first season in their new guise. Pierre Gasly won his first race at Monza and had a few other solid performances throughout the season. This year, the Frenchman partners Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda as the duo look to move Alpha Tauri up the order. They had a great pre-season testing with Tsunoda setting the second-fastest time overall. In the season opener, Gasly qualified 4th but had to retire due to an engine issue while Tsunoda finished 9th and took his first points in F1.
Powered by Honda's final attempt at making a Formula One engine, Gasly and Tsunoda appear to be a formidable duo. Alpha Tauri seemed to have made a huge gain from 2020 and their performance in Bahrain suggests that the car might be faster than those of Alpine and Aston Martin. With such a strong car, they should be able to move up the table and finish higher than last year's 7th.
Constructors' Championship prediction: 5th
Kimi Raikkonen tests the 2021 Alfa Romeo in Bahrain. Photo: Motorsport Images
Alfa Romeo had a disappointing 2021 as they struggled for points because of a Ferrari engine that didn't have enough beans to be competitive. Despite the poor showing, they have retained their driver line up of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi as they hope to close the gap to 7th. They had a good pre season test and completed a large number of laps showing that the car is reliable. They had a great first race with Kimi and Antonio just missing out on the points by finishing 11th and 12th.
The Italian marque seems to have made decent progress from last year. With Ferrari making significant gains with their engine, they should be able to close up the gap to the rest of the field. However, finishing any higher than 8th seems to be out of reach for them at the moment.
Constructors' Championship Prediction: 8th
Mick Schumacher in the Haas VF-21. Photo: Joe Portlock-Getty Images
Haas, like Alfa Romeo, struggled last year due to the lacklustre Ferrari engine. However, unlike Alfa Romeo, they have gone in the complete opposite direction this year by going for a brand new driver lineup. The American outfit replaced their longstanding drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean with two rookies, Mick Schumacher and the controversial Nikita Mazepin. They struggled during testing and had a dismal first race with Mazepin crashing out on lap 1 and Mick finishing last on track in 16th.
With Haas announcing that they won't be making any upgrades to their car and with two rookies coming in, they are bound to have a very poor year and should struggle to finish anywhere higher than 10th.
Constructors' Championship Prediction: 10th
George Russell drives the Williams FW43B during the Bahrain test. Photo: Williams F1
Despite finishing 10th for the third season running, Williams had a very positive 2020. They significantly closed the gap to the rest of the pack and managed to get into Q2 multiple times. They had a very successful testing and set the fastest time by a Mercedes powered car. They had a decent pace in Bahrain, with Russell finishing 14th, ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Mick Schumacher while Nicholas Latifi had to retire due to an issue with his car.
Having made a lot of progress in the past two seasons, Williams should finally be able to finish higher than tenth with Haas completely giving up on 2021. This season should bring a lot of positives for Williams. With new management and new leadership, they should be able to achieve their first points finish in 2 years.
Constructors' Championship Prediction: 9th