This weekend the lights go out for the opening Grand Prix of the 2021 season with the first race taking place in Bahrain.
And after one of the more challenging seasons in living memory in 2020, organisers and fans alike will be hoping that this one is memorable for all the right reasons.
Formula 1 has revealed a revised calendar for the 2021 season with a record 23 races, all getting underway with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 28, with the Australian Grand Prix moving later in the year.
Due to the ongoing travel restrictions, the 2021 Chinese Grand Prix will not take place on its planned date, with Imola returning to the F1 calendar in that slot.
So whether it’s the additional circuits, new drivers, or the return of a familiar face – here are just some of the reasons to be cheerful on the eve of the new Formula One season…
Hamilton can make history
Britain’s Lewis Hamilton broke nearly every record going in 2020, beating Michael Schumacher’s tally of 91 victories as well as taking the record for the highest number of victories for a single manufacturer from the German – his tally currently standing at 74 with Mercedes).
All of which helped him to claim a dominant seventh championship, matching Schumacher’s record, but 2021 could see Hamilton move to the absolute top of the tree with his eighth title triumph.
Of course, all this is assuming that Mercedes can produce another brilliant car with many believing that the 2021 season could be one of the most competitive for years.
More races than ever
In 2020, Formula 1 headed to new circuits in Portimao, Mugello and Bahrain’s Outer Track – as well as return to the Nurburgring, Istanbul Park and Imola, and this year there will be new additions to the season.
The Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, to be held on September 5, will mark a return to the classic circuit in the Dutch dunes for the first time since 1985 where the likes on Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet did battle.
Then on November 28, we will see the first-ever race in Saudi Arabia, with the Jeddah Street Circuit set to host the 22nd of 23 races in 2021, as part of Formula 1’s biggest ever calendar.
A Schumacher on the grid
An iconic name will return to the grid for the first time since 2012 this year when Michael’s son, Mick Schumacher, makes his F1 debut with Haas.
Comparisons to his dad and seven-time F1 champion, Michael, are both inevitable and unfair and there’s no doubt that Mick has more than earned his spot on the grid through his own achievements.
He won the 2018 European F3 title before a ruthlessly consistent 2020 F2 campaign saw him crowned champion in the F1 feeder series, succeeding the likes of Charles Leclerc and George Russell – so it will fascinating to see how he fares in his debut year in the big time.
Having left F1 in 2018 before sensationally signing up to come back with Renault in July of 2020, double world champion Fernando Alonso will return to F1 next season with Renault – who for the purposes of this year will be called Alpine.
Having left F1 in 2018 before sensationally signing up to come back to the French team in July of 2020, the Spaniard will replace Daniel Ricciardo, who is moving to McLaren, and will partner Esteban Ocon.
Alonso had stated he would only return to F1 in a competitive car and has his sights set on the major regulation changes in 2022, with some expecting that Renault will actually be able to challenge the likes of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari.
A Ferrari Fightback?
Red Bull might be going all out to stop Mercedes in their tracks in 2021 – but could Ferrari be contenders too?
Okay, it’s an argument that’s put forward every year, but they have plenty of reasons to be confident from a driver point of view, with Charles Leclerc joined by Carlos Sainz – who has blossomed in the previous two seasons spent with McLaren.
Ferrari have also opted to rip up their power unit and start again – and will have high hopes of the new unit propelling Sainz and Leclerc back to the front of the pack, after the team finished P6 in the 2020 constructors’ standings – their lowest finishing position since 1980.
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