After a one-sided contest final yr, will the 2021 F1 season present a extra satisfying battle for the championship? The primary race of the brand new yr in Bahrain will give the primary reply to that and different very important questions on the season forward.
What are Mercedes as much as?
The speak of testing was when the world champions would reveal their true tempo, and whether or not they have been in as a lot hassle because it appeared. Mercedes gave little or no of their kind away, prompting hypothesis they’ve some form of improve deliberate for the early phases of the championship.
Purple Bull had good trigger to be happy with their efficiency, setting aggressive occasions seemingly each time they happy and finishing loads of operating. New hiring Sergio Perez seems to have settled in properly regardless of having solely a day-and-a-half on the wheel of his 2021 machine.
F1 returns to Bahrain simply 4 months because it final raced there. Max Verstappen certified four-tenths of a second behind pole-winner Lewis Hamilton on that event.
Have a mix of Honda energy unit positive factors and tweaked technical laws allowed Purple Bull to slender and even overturn that deficit? Qualifying on Saturday will give the primary indication whether or not Hamilton and Mercedes have a title combat on their fingers this yr.
Are Ferrari again within the sport?
Rumours of main positive factors within the Ferrari engine division are a regular a part of any low season. However after the startling step backwards the staff made final yr, and with engine specs resulting from be frozen in 12 months’ time, it has change into crucial for the staff to make progress on this space.
Luckily for them, they seem to have executed so. The vehicles confirmed higher straight-line pace in testing, as did prospects Alfa Romeo, whereas Haas targeted extra on mileage than efficiency.
“The engine has made a big step ahead,” sporting director Laurent Mekies informed RaceFans on the check. If that’s the case, the three Ferrari-powered groups might emerge from the winter in significantly better form.
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Has anybody dropped the ball over the winter?
Whereas Mercedes appeared to not have an particularly productive pre-season check, prospects Aston Martin have been additionally beset by occasional automobile issues which can put them at an obstacle going into the opening race.
Haas, who made the fewest adjustments to their vehicles and have mentioned that selecting up one or two factors this yr could be “implausible”, appear resigned to a troublesome begin to the brand new championship. Nonetheless it gained’t be till the groups push their vehicles to the restrict for the primary time that we get an impression who’s genuinely aggressive – and who isn’t.
Can Alonso push Alpine ahead?
The contingent of world champions on the grid this yr has swelled to 4 this yr with the return of Fernando Alonso to Alpine – previously Renault, the staff he gained his two titles with.
20 years on from his debut, Alonso stays as intensely targeted as ever. He grabbed each alternative to drive the Renault final yr, even exhibiting up on the younger drivers’ check, to the chagrin of some rivals.
Nonetheless his preparations took a literal knock final month when he was concerned in a collision with a automobile whereas biking, which left him with a fractured jaw. A steel plate was inserted throughout surgical procedure and can stay there till the top of the season.
Alonso has made it clear his focus in returning is to organize himself for the brand new technical laws which can arrive for the 2022 F1 season. However in a automobile which was good for a handful of podiums and fifth within the factors final yr, count on him to ferociously pursue any probability to attain a giant end result.
Are ‘Dash Qualifying’ races truly going to occur?
Over six weeks since RaceFans revealed F1’s plans to introduce dash races – to be generally known as ‘Dash Qualifying’ – at three rounds this yr, the ultimate plans are but to be confirmed. Whereas paddock chatter has persistently indicated it’s a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ the proposal can be authorized, the actual fact stays it nonetheless hasn’t with the primary spherical now simply days away.
Dialogue have encountered that common sticking level – cash – as groups are demanding remuneration within the occasion they endure important injury in a dash race. Providing to cowl these prices might show costly for F1’s house owners, as Romain Grosjean’s monumental crash at this circuit final yr confirmed.
Provided that the additional races are anticipated to pay factors, it’s outstanding F1 is on the verge of starting its new season with out having firmed up such an necessary a part of the laws.
Which rookies will impress?
Three of the highest 5 drivers from Formulation 2 have made the step as much as F1 this yr. Champion Mick Schumacher brings again one of many sport’s most well-known names – and timing display abbreviations – and is inevitably an enormous focus of consideration.
Schumacher’s Haas staff mate Nikita Mazepin has, to place it very mildly, not lined himself in glory. Fifth place in F2 final yr was a good return on his second yr within the collection, although he virtually collected sufficient penalty factors for a ban. Of even higher concern was his conduct exterior the cockpit which earned widespread criticism, together with from his staff, although not far sufficient to think about benching a driver intently linked to their new title sponsor.
Yuki Tsunoda, third in F2 final yr and high rookie, is a fast and thrilling driver who made clear progress all through final season. He has an excellent surroundings to study at AlphaTauri alongside Pierre Gasly.
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Over to you
What do you count on from the primary Formulation 1 race of 2021? Are Mercedes genuinely in hassle? And which of the various new mixtures of groups, drivers and engines have you ever bought your eye on?
Have your say within the feedback.
2021 Bahrain Grand Prix
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