MOTORSPORT 2021: FORUMLA 1 IS BACK!

Aidan Lomas

WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2021…SO FAR!

2020’s Formula One season saw history making and social shaking, but this year promises to see even more.

Cutting It Fine McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr. in action during practice at the F1 Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain giving an early tease of the all new 2021 look. (November 2020) REUTERS/Tolga Bozoglu

With 2021 lined up to be F1’s most interesting season for nearly a decade, questions are being asked about what’s in store for F1 veterans and new fans alike.

Let’s begin with the livery launches currently underway. So far, as of February 2021, F1’s fanbase has been exposed to McLaren’s new-ish livery, Alfa Tauri’s sensationally sexy new lick of paint and Alfa Romeo’s novel attempt to copy them. But what does this mean? In reality not much. It’s fair to say the vast majority of the F1 fanbase are excited for two things and two things only; Vettel in an Aston Martin and Fernando in an Alpine.

By virtue of launching their 2021 season campaign first, McLaren have expressed their confidence in both their 2021 Mercedes powered car and their ex-renault powered line up. This season will see F1’s most meme-able drivers paired up; Lando “Scared of Wasps” Norris and Daniel “More Smiles than Championships” Ricciardo. But the latter of these nicknames might be about to change. For the past few years, McLaren’s cars have been Renault powered and the engine has failed to deliver the oh-so-needed podiums it promised. Even with the talented drivership of Norris and Sainz over previous seasons, the team hasn’t been able to reconnect with its 80s, 90s and early 2000s championship winning routes.

On the fast track: New 2021 McLaren signings, Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris, pose by the new firebrand, Mercedes-powered MCL35M, bedecked with new livery. MotorSport Magazine

When you’ve seen Lando Norris’s stellar performance round Austria right at the start of last year’s season or Sainz nail biting battle with Gasly in Italy, it’s hard to imagine McLaren aren’t F1’s leading team. So what’s going to make this season different? In short, it’s Mercedes. Like Force India, or Racing Point before them, McLaren have realised that if they want to win again they’ll need a capable engine and Mercedes have, like GOD before them, provided.

Considering this engine, chassis and body is impeccably similar to Mercedes’ own last year, it’s clear the team wants to succeed and succeed they will. All it takes to realise the “you can copy my homework but make it looks different so we don’t get penalised or fined” approach has been adopted by McLaren is a quick glaze between the Mercedes 2020 car and the new McLaren MCL35M.  Who knew Hamilton’s championship pony would look so good in papaya orange?

But what about the other two?

This season’s Alfa Tauri line up sees Pierre “Torpedo” Gasly lined up with F1’s newest rookie Yuki Tsunoda of Japan. Gasly, an F1 veteran, saw his first victory at the 2020 Italian Grand Prix last year after a rather fortunate Mercedes set back saw him battle McLaren’s Carlos Sainz for the win; a touching tribute to the late Anthoine Hurbert. Gasly, a French driver, has seen considerable success in F1 despite his Red Bull set back and singular victory.

AlphaTauri has become the second Formula 1 team to reveal its 2021 on February 19th 2021. TheRace.com/Scott Mitchell

But what about Tsunoda?

Well, he’s started all 24 of the F2 races he’s entered. Not a particularly inspiring record. So allow me to indulge you with the reality that he’s achieved four pole positions for F2’s Carlin last year lone, along with a total of three race victories since his debut, as well as a total of 200 points in his last season. In other words, for a Rookie, Tsunoda is looking very good for Alfa Tauri. Will they win the 2020 season? Allow me to clear my teary eyes after laughing at such a suggestion before confirming the answer is NO! But does he have a chance to prove himself? ABSOLUTELY HE DOES!

Whilst many of us F1-natics haven’t seen him out on track, Tsunoda’s F2 season sets him up as a rival, at the very least, for F1’s future champions…perhaps if not a champion himself. If, like myself, you’re wallet is often emptied at the bookies betting on who’s going to win, I’d estimate that 2025 is the season you should stick your hard earned cash on Tsunoda; who knows which seat he’ll have come then.

Besides McLaren and Alfa Tauri, the only other team to show their new colours thus far is Alfa Romeo. Yes, they’re still in the championship. Despite being F1’s dedicated loosers, Alfa Romeo still have a strong pedigree in Formula One’s history and they’ve not indicated they’ve any interest in staying at the bottom. One can’t deny the majesty of the team that won the first two seasons of F1…EVER.

To consider yourself a successor to Juan Manuel Fangio, like Francis is the successor to St. Paul, must feel like one hell of a privilege…and a pressure. After all, most of Ferrari’s Titans can find their debut roots in the former Sauber seat. However, despite this post-release clause success, Alfa themselves haven’t topped the championship for a long time.

The Alfa Romeo team launched their 2021 Formula 1 car with the aim of improving on a disappointing 2020 season. PA Media/BBC Sport

The second team of the Ferrari empire, Alfa Romeo aren’t likely to get out of the “Fighting Williams for sure,” bottom tier league any time soon. Nevertheless, you have to appreciate that a simple livery swap has turned their race car from a basic, quite dull design to an eye catching work of art; albeit a work of art that competes for 19th place. This year’s car will see the now familiar Raikonnen and Giovinazzi line up take to the back of the grid. There’s not really much other news this year; the car will still use the Ferrari supplied engine and use the Finnish supplied world champion.

In short, this year’s F1 season, despite so few cars being unveiled so far, is looking to be a far sight more exciting than 2018, 2019 and 2020 combined. Why? Because the teams are committing to success. Be in no doubt that this year will see track records, championship win records, sexiest livery award records and much more being broken this time around. I would gladly predict, with a few hundred pounds on the wager, that Mercedes will take yet another world championship with them. But with Sir Lewis’s future in question, I think the McLaren era is on the return to Formula One…


Follow all the latest updates and developments from the Formula 1 track on both the Formula 1 official website and on the BBC Sport website.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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