Drivers | 44) Sir Lewis Hamilton, 77) Valtteri Bottas
Lewis Hamilton goes for his eighth world title as well as the first driver in Grand Prix racing to reach a century of pole positions and race wins. Following his seventh world title the Englishman appears to be growing still in the latter part of his career, this year he goes after new records.
Mercedes knows what they are in a strong position to go for the eighth drivers and constructors title, but pressure on Bottas following George Russell’s performance in Sakhir last year has prompted speculation that he could join replacing the Finn next year.
Bottas’s weakness in recent years has been his inability to sustain a challenge following incredibly strong starts, to Hamilton which has lasted throughout the season. This year, he will again try to reset and mount that challenge. Mercedes know they have a viable replacement if Bottas doesn’t manage to up his performance.
Hamilton knows he is at the peak of his career, but this year could define him further if he does set those incredible records. Does he know that with regulation changes next year this could be his final season? Who knows if he wants to risk his position when the regulations change next year.
Drivers | 16) Charles Leclerc, 55) Carlos Sainz
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz make up Ferrari’s youngest driver line up in half a century. Both drivers since entering the sport in the middle of the last decade have showcased their talents and started to deliver good results. This year they both are aware is a rebuilding year, but with Sainz’s last two seasons at McLaren, it could help Ferrari to start to become a force again.
Sainz has never had a car which has allowed him to challenge at the front, but while that appears unlike this season, we should see what Ferrari maybe able to offer if they get next years regulations right. Leclerc’s biggest challenge is stopping being so hard on himself when he makes mistakes.
I think it’s hard to say which one will emerge as the team’s leader, but Leclerc you have to say is the lead driver although there are no team orders in most circumstances. Ferrari is in a rebuilding phase. Sainz helped McLaren over
Ferrari is going to remain with ‘no team orders’ in most circumstances, it will be interesting once Sainz settles into the team whether he can constantly match Leclerc and that allows Ferrari to finish third in the constructors.
Drivers | 11) Sergio Perez, 33) Max Verstappen
Red Bull has made a bold move signing from outside their driver pool for the first time since 2006 bringing in Sergio Perez to partner Max Verstappen. The team hope that Perez allows them to be more of a challenge to Mercedes throughout the season, but can they build that success.
Perez, we know has always been a driver who can get more than you would expect from the car, and his reputation was slightly damaged by joining McLaren at the start of their decline in 2013. However, he rebuilt that reputation in his six years with Aston Martin (as its now called, previously Force India and Racing Point), including a maiden win in Sakhir in December.
Verstappen goes into his fifth full season with Red Bull, but he appears to have an equal which he hasn’t really had since Daniel Ricciardo’s departure in 2018. This is going to be one of the biggest challenges for Verstappen has he has had a few years effectively unchallenged by his teammate, does this unsettle him.
The Dutchman from what I have read and heard I think will remain team leader, but what the impact of having an equal again has on him that is a big question. I think this line-up will be back to what Red Bull had when Verstappen was partnered with Ricciardo. There is potential for a rivalry in terms of who is getting the role of team leader.
Both drivers have had collisions in the past with their teammates, both to me seem to be quite headstrong drivers. Perez I think can beat Verstappen and the thing we need to be warry off is an internal rivalry as we have seen in the past tensions between drivers boil over and we have seen accidents between teammates.
Drivers | 3) Daniel Ricciardo, 4) Lando Norris
Daniel Ricciardo joins McLaren and is already starting to impact the team as they look to win races as they return to Mercedes power this season. Ricciardo is a race winner and has already almost a decades of experience in F1 but he doesn’t know what it takes for a successful championship challenge.
One area where McLaren may have been lacking since Alonso’s departure in 2018 is having an experienced driver who has fought and won races. Ricciardo joins Lando Norris, while to some this may appear to be a fun line up, will the bromance between McLaren’s drivers continue? I still expect a close fight and both drivers to be pushing each other hard.
Lando Norris had a more consistent second season and scored his first podium at the opening race in Austria last year, this set him up to score almost double the number of points than in 2019. He has shown himself to be a solid points scorer with moments of great driving, but he is continuing to grow and Ricciardo should help him do that.
What McLaren need is to use this to its advantage, I think where they have maybe lacked over the last two seasons is having that race-winning experience. Ricciardo
Drivers | 14) Fernando Alonso, 31) Esteban Ocon
Fernando Alonso returns to Enstone for the third time with the two times world champion looking to lead the re-branded Alpine team to their first victory as a works team since he won in Singapore in 2009. The forty-year-old returns to F1 after two years out of the sport, admitting he missed the sport.
Alonso Alpine hope will help them return to the front of the field when the regulations change in 2022. The Spaniard who has driven for a variety of different teams throughout his two decades in the sport has a vast amount of experience which should help rebuild the team. They will be aware of controversies, Crashgate shortly before he left the team in 2009, and his divisive and outspoken nature at McLaren.
He will be partnered by Esteban Ocon one of the drivers seen as a future star, but he doesn’t have the same experience of developing a race-winning car as a driver. Ocon has however been with both the predecessors to Aston Martin and Mercedes as test driver, scoring podiums.
Both drivers however have had controversies and falling outs with teammates in the past, so can they retain a harmonious working relationship?
Drivers | 10) Pierre Gasly, 22) Yuki Tsunoda
Pierre Gasly will look to lead Alpha Tauri into the battle for the best of the rest following the strongest season of his career including his Monza win. Since returning to the team at Spa in 2019, the Frenchman has found some of the forms he may have lacked at Red Bull.
Alpha Tauri is no longer viewed by Red Bull as a junior team, Gasly has the challenge now of building the team further into a solid midfield team. The team has already set out plans for closer ties to the senior team, but they need to build on the successes last season.
Gasly is the team’s leader his challenge this year is to prove that it wasn’t a one-off and he could be a driver in demand if he continues to deliver at the same level. He has been linked to Alpine to partner Fernando Alonso next season, but do Red Bull want to lose him long term?
Gasly this year will be joined by Honda driver Yuki Tsunoda, he finished third in last years F2 championship after a season-long battle with Mick Schumacher. Tsunoda needs to continue to show progress if he is to be retained as Honda’s relationship with the team ending this year.
The Japanese driver has had a strong 2020 taking podiums in Styria, Sochi and double podiums across the double header at both Silverstone races and Sakhir, including wins in both weekends as well as at Spa. He should from the start you need to believe the team will be in a strong positive this season.
Drivers | 9) Nikita Mazepin, 47) Mick Schumacher
Haas have an entirely new line up with F2 champion Mick Schumacher partnering with Nikita Mazepin. The Schumacher name returning to F1 is a huge story and Mick makes his debut thirty years after his father Michael, but looking at his career his first season’s in new categories tend to be weaker than his second year.
Schumacher however looks to be an incredibly strong driver going into the next two decades and has the talent after dominating last season. He has delivered, but we need to give him time to adapt to grow as a driver. He has admitted that he isn’t friends with Mazepin.
Mazepin is a controversial figure and generated negative headlines for groping a women’s breast last year. But everyone deserves a second chance, however, this isn’t a second chance. His results over the last year are OK, but not ones I think which are exceptional or stand out.
On the track he isn’t a clean figure either, he was banned from the F3 Hungarian Round in 2016 after an altercation with teammate Callum Ilott. His results are average, but occasional blasts of brilliant, and he did win two races last year in an F2 season dominated by Schumacher.
Haas have taken a huge risk by signing two rookies, they may struggle in the first season of what is expected to be long term commitments to both drivers to develop the car going into next seasons regulation changes.
Drivers | 6) Nicolas Latifi, 63) George Russell
Williams has stuck with the solid line up of Nicolas Latifi and George Russell. Last year both showed that they were able to get the most out of the car and that the team is heading in the right direction.
Although he failed to score points with Williams, Russell certainly started to show leadership and consistency in the top end of the bottom ten just outside the points. His stand-in race at Mercedes in Sakhir I think confirmed a lot of what we thought we knew and where unable to say for certain.
Following that race, there was a feeling from what we were reading that Russell’s experience at Mercedes was going to help Williams move forwards. This year if they can make another step forwards with the car and get more consistency in the midfield I think we will see more from both Russell and Latifi.
Latifi did prove to be a close match to Russell in his debut season, but was out-qualified by Russell all season. He needs to show a step forward in his second full season and I feel 2021 Williams drivers backed by the new owners can make some progress, although I think the team are likely to be focused on next year with the regulation change.
Drivers | 7) Kimi Raikkonen, 99) Antoni Giovinazzi
Alfa Romeo has stuck with Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi, both drivers have managed sometimes to pick up points despite not having the Ferrari engine which held them back slightly last season. The team is one that throughout a season can pick up results if they are lucky, and they will be looking to get back into the midfield.
Raikkonen is the most experienced driver in F1’s history and despite being the oldest driver on the grid, he still as a role to play in helping Alfa recover from the difficult 2020. But the closer partnership with Ferrari should allow them to recover the lost ground.
Raikkonen still has flashes of his former self but that is rare, depending on whether the Ferrari engine has recovered the lost performance. I have a feeling that he is like driving because he enjoys it, with points and wins
Giovinazzi is a Ferrari driver and has been consistent throughout his career but has never had the chance to show his ability consistently in F1. Alfa needs to give him a decent midfield car to show his capability, the Italian appeared to show before getting into F1.
Drivers | 5) Sebastian Vettel, 18) Lance Stroll
Sebastian Vettel moves to the team formerly called Racing Point to partner Lance Stroll. The teams aim according to Otmar Szafnauer is to help the four-time world champion to rediscover and rebuild his reparation he had a decade ago before things when wrong at Ferrari in recent years.
Vettel has struggled with mistakes since crashing out at Hockenheim in 2018, meaning he has a lot to prove. The German has twelve years of experience in F1 and knows how to build a team, he has never had a car powered by Mercedes. If the team are building forward on last year’s car and Vettel doesn’t continue to make mistakes, they could become a real force in F1.
Stroll made a huge step last season with the strong car the team had which saw him take pole in Istanbul and score more points than in previous seasons. Can Vettel help Stroll to make the next step in his early career and build on his breakthrough pole, as well as challenging for victories this season.
I think the team have as they described it a ‘youth and experienced line up’ but Stroll has four years’ experience, but Vettel brings that knowledge of twelve years in the sport, four world titles and having driven for both Red Bull and Ferrari he has knowledge useful for the team. Vettel needs to try to avoid the mistakes and find the form he hasn’t had in recent years.