THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO Formula one in 2021
As the 2021 season gets underway this weekend, we at DIVEBOMB have put together an article detailing all the big changes to look out for in this new season. From new tracks and drivers, to new teams and regulations. 2021 may seem as a stop-gap before the new era 2022 cars, but there is much more change than first meets the eye. This is why 2021 may just be the most exciting season in recent memory.
Written and edited by Aiden Hover & Sam Stewart & Bruna Brito
Firstly, many significant changes have taken place within the driver market over the past year as the 2020 silly season kicked off surprisingly early due to the international lockdowns that were taking place thanks to the global COVID 19 crisis. Many teams have also undergone large changes as they prepare for the future of Formula One.
To start things off, 2021 will see a big name in the Formula One world return to the grid with the newly rebranded alpine team. Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso will make his return after a two-year absence from the sport to partner Esteban Ocon at Alpine, the reincarnation of the highly successful Renault team, who Alonso won his championships with in the mid-2000s. The Spaniard, however, is modest about his chances this season. Alonso said in an interview on Thursday, “Obviously it would be nice to be fighting and to have that adrenaline of big fights and win possibilities on Sundays, but let’s take one step at a time.” Alonso has gained a reputation of being a somewhat egoistical driver, so it will be interesting to watch how he develops in this new Alpine car. Pre-season testing was relatively successful for Alpine, setting 396 laps in total, despite only managing to set the 8th fastest time of all teams.
This year will see another new team entry, in the form of Aston Martin. The British car manufacturer last raced in the sport in 1960 with Roy Salvadori and Maurice Trinitgnant at the wheel. This year, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel will partner one-time pole-sitter and rising star Lance Stroll. Team principal Otmar Szafnauer is optimistic about the team’s chances this season. “[being a top team] will be the target for us,” Szafnauer explained, “But I don’t think it will be easy – we’ve got some formidable competitors there.” German Sebastian Vettel is one of the most loved drivers on the grid, and after a difficult few seasons with Ferrari, many will be hoping for him to achieve great things. Aston Martin are also providing the safety car at certain events, sharing the responsibility with Mercedes to help with the financial burden of the COVID 19 pandemic.
With Vettel leaving Ferrari, a vacant space was opened in the Scuderia, which was quickly taken by 26-year-old Spaniard, Carlos Sainz Jr. Sainz has spent the last two years driving for British team McLaren alongside youngster Lando Norris. Sainz has proven himself to be a great driver and also a great team player, something Ferrari have been in dire need of over the last few seasons.
Vettel moving to Aston Martin meant that Sergio Perez was forced out of a drive for the 2022 season. Red Bull happened to be looking for a strong second driver to partner ten-time race winner Max Verstappen. Alex Albon had been struggling over the 2020 season to keep up with the Dutchman, meaning Perez seemed like a perfect replacement for the Thai-Brit. Perez will be looking to match Verstappen after a very successful 2020 season, including a race win at Sakhir.
There will be three rookies taking to the grid for the 2021 Formula One season, in Mick Schumacher, Yuki Tsunoda and Nikita Mazepin. Mick Schumacher has been a highly anticipated future Formula One driver throughout his feeder series career, being the son of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher. Mick has the Formula Three and Formula Two titles under his belt, and going into the season being the reigning champion is bound to give him some confidence in the difficult Haas. Nikita Mazepin has had a controversial rise to the top, with a video surfacing online last year of him sexually assaulting a female friend. Mazepin has, however, had some success in the feeder series’, finishing fifth in Formula Two last season. The final rookie this season is Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda. Tsunoda got promoted to Formula One after just one season in F2, following in the footsteps of the likes of George Russell and Lando Norris and will be looking to prove himself to Helumt Marko in the Alpha Tauri alongside Pierre Gasly. There is no doubt that all three of these drivers will be exciting to watch out on track.
The 2021 calendar has also undergone some changes with the addition of a race in Saudi Arabia. The new track is situated in Jeddah, the nation’s second biggest city, making Saudi Arabia the 33rd country to host a Grand Prix. The 3.8 mile street circuit will boast 27 corners with an average speed of 155 mph, making it the fastest street circuit in Formula One and second longest only to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. Despite the criticism faced by Saudi Arabia, accused of ‘sport washing’ the country’s human rights issues, the organisers seem confident they can hold a successful and popular sporting event, with the incredible backdrop of the Red Sea.
Also, Zandvoort will make a return for 2021 to host the Dutch Grand Prix. The track was expected to make its return last year for it’s first Formula One race since 1985, but was cancelled due to the COVID 19 crisis. Returning this year, the track situated on the Dutch coast, just west of Amsterdam, has undergone several renovations to prepare it for modern Formula One including new bankings in the last turn and in the first sector. The Grand Prix will be much loved by the ‘orange army’ who will now have a home venue to support their man, Max Verstappen.
This season will also see the return of Portimão and Imola following their successful substitutions in last year’s calendar. All these additions make for a record breaking season with a whopping 23 races – the longest in Formula One history.
Also this year, the FIA will be trialling sprint races at specific race weekends with the first being held at Silverstone. The idea is to have a ‘super qualifying’ on Friday which will set the grid for ‘sprint qualifying’ on saturday to determine Sunday’s grid. Points will be awarded for the saturday race, but there will be no podium celebration as that will remain after the main race on Sunday.
Away from the track, Formula One will continue to push for sustainability and diversity within the sport. Their popular ‘We Race As One’ initiative will continue to be supported by all ten teams as they strive for a better future with more inclusivity within the pinnacle of motorsport. In terms of sustainability, the FIA continues to fight for net zero carbon by 2030 in order to have a more positive impact on the global stage.
Pirelli have made some significant changes to the tyre regulations for this season, with more robust compounds being introduced. The 2020 British Grand Prix saw some scary tyre failures, causing Pirelli to look into introducing more ‘integrity’ into the structure of the tyres. Another big change to the tyre regulations for this season is that teams have a set tyre choice for each race, rather than the selection of different compounds they previously enjoyed.
The FIA have introduced some new regulations this year regarding the car’s aero package. Namely, the complicated nature of the diffuser and floor has been reduced. The diffuser vents sucks air from under the car and push it towards the other side at a higher speed. Because of the pressure difference that this causes, this process creates downforce, but also drag and the complicated winglets that teams use to prevent this drag have been reduced to improve the ‘dirty air’ effect. One of the reasons for this new aero restrictions is to reduce downforce to prevent teams being significantly faster than last year and to slow the cars down. The winglets on the rear brake ducts, which create downforce from air fed directly to the wheels, have been limited to 40mm.
Due to the hefty financial impact of the global pandemic, and the FIAs wish to convince new teams to enter Formula One, 2021 will see the introduction of a cost cap. Each team will have $145 million dollars to spend on all aspects that affect car performance, with the exception of marketing costs, driver salaries and the teams top three paid personnel. This budget will be lowered going into next season and will continue to be lowered as time goes on in order to encourage new teams to join the sport. The FIA have also introduced a sliding performance scale to give advantages to slower teams in order to close the pack an example of this is the fact that wind tunnel time will be limited to those teams at the front. All this brings hope for a more competitive Formula One championship.
With that, we have finished our ‘Ultimate Guide to Formula One in 2021’ and we eagerly look forward to the start of a blockbuster season… and we didn’t even have time to mention that Sir Lewis Hamilton could beat the all time record of World Drivers Championships this year! That’s how excited we are. The season opener in Bahrain takes place this weekend, be sure not to miss it.
Check out our featured article written by Bruna Brito on the legendary Ayrton Senna, click here.