After 105 days of waiting, Formula 1 begins their 2021 campaign on Sunday with the Bahrain Grand Prix. For the first time since 2010, F1 will begin their season at Bahrain after the Australian Grand Prix, which got canceled due to COVID-19 last year, was pushed to Nov. 21, the third-to-last race of the 23-race schedule.
This preview will give an overview of the 10 teams competing in the starting grid in 2021 in order of their finish in the 2020 constructor’s standings before previewing the race itself.
Mercedes once again comes in a new Formula 1 season as the kings of the sport. Team principal Toto Wolff and Mercedes have built an empire, winning the last seven constructor’s championships while one of their drivers have won the last seven F1 world championships. Lewis Hamilton, who has won six of the last seven driver championships, is coming off a dominant 2020 where he won 11 out of 17 races and won the championship over teammate Valtteri Bottas by 124 points. Bottas looks to break through and win his first F1 championship after finishing second in each of the past two seasons.
Red Bull Racing
Ever since Daniel Ricciardo left Red Bull Racing for Renault after the 2018 season, team principal Christian Horner and Red Bull have struggled to find a quality driver to pair with Max Verstappen, who has had to battle Mercedes all by himself and finish third in the driver standings in each of the past two seasons. Young drivers in Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon have struggled, consistently finishing in the midfield instead of at the podium positions. However, Red Bull’s chance to dethrone Mercedes has arrived as they chose Sergio Perez as their second driver for the 2021 season. Perez finished 2020 strong with a win at the Sakhir Grand Prix as he fought to earn his spot on the team after Racing Point chose to replace him with Sebastian Vettel.
McLaren’s renaissance continues into 2021 as their climb from a ninth-place finish in the constructor’s standings in 2017 to a third-place finish in 2020 shows the bright future ahead for the team. Lando Norris enters his third season with the team after a podium in the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix and a ninth-place finish in the driver standings in 2020. Joining him is Ricciardo, who joins after two years with Renault, replacing Carlos Sainz, who left the team to join Ferrari after the 2020 season concluded. Ricciardo brings over a decade of experience to the team and two podiums with Renault in 2020. With new Mercedes engines this season, McLaren looks to challenge Mercedes and Red Bull for racing wins consistently in 2021.
The rebranded Racing Point takes on a green form, allowing Aston Martin to return to the sport as a constructor for the first time since 1960. Despite Perez displaying his best career season in Formula 1 in 2020, they decided to bring in Vettel, a four-time world champion to mentor the young up-and-coming driver in Lance Stroll. Vettel had a rough final season with Ferrari in 2020, finishing 13th in the driver standings. Vettel will look for a fresh start alongside Stroll, who picked up two podiums and a pole position in 2021.
The second of two rebranded teams in Formula 1 sees a classic yellow-look being replaced for a crisp blue look. Alpine has undergone a transition in leadership as team principal Cyril Abiteboul left the team after the 2020 season, and is replaced by Davide Brivio. Esteban Ocon returns with one year remaining on his deal with the team, meaning he will have to improve his 12th-place driver standing placement if he wants a second contract with the team. Joining him is F1 legend Fernando Alonso, who came out of retirement after two years away from the sport to join Alpine for the 2021 season. He last raced for McLaren in 2018 before his two-year retirement.
2020 could not have been any worse for Ferrari. They finished sixth in the constructor standings and lost a ton of speed on straightaways, allowing other teams to use them for overtaking practice. The struggles were emphasized as in their home race at Monza in the Italian Grand Prix, both Vettel and Charles Leclerc were unable to finish the race. They bring back Leclerc, who won two races for the team back in 2019. Joining him is Sainz, who left McLaren after a successful sixth-place finish in the driver standings in 2020. Time will tell if 2020 was a fluke or if Ferrari has fallen from graces dramatically in the sport.
Despite being the “developmental” team for Red Bull, AlphaTauri last season did something not even McLaren and Renault could do last season and that is win a race. Gasly won the Italian Grand Prix. in thrilling fashion, giving him confidence moving forward as he works to regain his spot at Red Bull that he lost in 2019. He is joined by F2 phenom Yuki Tsunoda, who finished third in the F2 driver standings in 2020.
Alfa Romeo Racing
Once again, Alfa Romeo decides to go with a blend of youth and experience as young Italian driver Antonio Giovanazzi and long-time veteran Kimi Raikkonen were both brought back for the 2021 season. Each driver scored four points last season as the two held off their bottom competitors in Haas and Williams.
Haas F1 Team
This past offseason, Haas has dominated headlines but for all the wrong reasons. After letting go with long-time drivers in Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, Haas decided to bring in a pair of rookie drivers in Mick Schmacher and Nikita Mazepin to drive for them in 2021. While Haas got the financial backing from Mazepin’s father, Nikita has tainted the reputation of the team with numerous questionable decisions throughout the offseason. Despite this, he still has a ride and will battle it out with Schumacher, the son of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher.
Williams is keeping their same two drivers from last season, George Russell and Nicholas Latifi. Russell got his chance to race for Mercedes after Hamilton tested positive for COVID-19, gaining three points after a tire puncture ended his chance at a podium. He has yet to be outqualified by a Williams teammate in his two years with the team and will look to develop even more before his inevitable move to Mercedes in the future. Russell and Latifi will look to crack the top-10 in a race after each finished with zero points for the team in 2020.
Bahrain Grand Prix
Last season in the Bahrain GP, Grosjean survived a horrific crash as after he crashed through the barrier, he car was sliced in half while being engulfed in a ball of flames. After a red flag that lasted over a hour long, Hamilton came away with the victory with Verstappen finishing second and Albon finishing third after an engine failure caused third-place Perez to park the car.
Verstappen finds himself on pole for the second race in a row after finishing the 2020 season on pole for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, eventually dominating the race to end the season. Mercedes still qualified second and third with Hamilton and Bottas finishing off the top three.
Ferrari showed a lot of speed in qualifying, which was displayed in Q2 as Sainz and Leclerc finished one and two. While Q3 did not bring the same luck, Leclerc will start fourth and Sainz a couple rows behind him at eighth.
Gasly will start fifth in his best qualifying run since being the fourth-fastest for the 2020 Emilia Romagna GP.
Ricciardo and Norris will start sixth and seventh for McLaren in what looks to be a tightly-contested battle between the two this season.
Alonso and Stroll rounds out the top 10 with Perez missing out on Q3 after passing on the soft tires in qualifying.
If you are watching in the United States, coverage for the Bahrain Grand Prix will begin at 10:00 a.m. EST. You can catch the race on ESPN2.