It’s race week, and the Bahrain International Circuit marks the first round of the 2021 Formula One championship season as Lewis Hamilton fights for an unprecedented eighth world title.
Pre-season testing has been and gone in the three days it was held at Bahrain, two weeks ahead of the season opener. Regulations have impacted the teams with changes to the car floor, removing critical downforce as the officials attempt to bunch up the field together.
While Red Bull Racing and McLaren showed good potential in the pre-season, will the changes end the dominant Mercedes outfit?
Myself and Hannah Carr have looked into the upcoming season and predicted our top three finishers in the constructors and driver standings this year, and here are our results.
Unsurprisingly, we both decided Hamilton will charge towards a record-breaking eigth world title this season. While Mercedes had a shocking pre-season test with issues on the first day of testing and Hamilton spinning off towards the back straight, they may come fighting back when it matters the most – providing Hamilton with another world title to his name.
We also decided that Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, will finally pip Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, to second in the championship. The Dutch driver suffered five DNF’s last season, three vehicle-related issues, one accident and one collision. If the Dutch driver hadn’t collided in the Tuscany GP or crashed into the barrier at the Sakhir GP, Verstappen could have clenched second in the drivers standings.
Bottas may buckle under pressure again this season if he starts to under perform – as we saw last year as Hamilton started to walk away with the 2020 championship. While his mindset might be focused on beating his teammate, pressure may mount around George Russell’s speculated move to Mercedes in 2022 as the season progresses.
Once again, it will be unsurprising if Mercedes are able to walk away with their eighth consecutive world title in 2021. Despite the changes to the floor, the Brackley outfit will have – no doubt – ironed out their pre-season woes for the first round. We should expect the defending champions to at least put up a fight for this seasons title.
However, taking it with a pinch of salt, Red Bull look promising to give fans a worthy title battle – even if the result turns out to be the same as last year. While Mercedes had a nightmare during pre-season, Red Bull excelled. With a strong driver line-up of Verstappen and Sergio Perez, they’ll hopefully give the Silver Arrows a fight late into the season.
On the other hand, myself and Carr do not believe Red Bull will be able to manage to topple the dominant Silver Arrows.
Similar to that of Red Bull, McLaren were strong during the pre-season test in Bahrain. After the departure of Carlos Sainz to Ferrari, Daniel Ricciardo filled the vacant seat at the Woking outfit, alongside Lando Norris. The papaya coloured outfit just beat Racing Point (now re-branded Aston Martin) to third last year and seemed to out-perform Aston Martin during testing.
With that, and Ferrari’s unlikeliness to return to a top-three spot this year, we decided McLaren would be able to build upon their success from last year and complete a second season third in the constructors.
Who do you think will be top three in both the constructors and drivers championships this season?