2021 Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix Preview

This weekend is set to see both Formula 2 and Formula 1 begin their 2021 seasons in Bahrain.

Formula 2

Last season’s Bahrain Grand Prix saw Felipe Drugovich win the feature race, driving for MP Motorsport, while the sprint race was won by Robert Shwartzman, driving for Prema Racing. The pole position for last season’s event was claimed by then UNI-Virtuosi driver Callum Ilott.

Naturally in Formula 2 plenty has changed within the series since last season with Drugovich having taken Ilott’s place at UNI-Virtuosi alongside Guanyu Zhou. Shwartzman is still at Prema but has the reigning Formula 3 champion, Oscar Piastri, alongside him. These are just some of the many moves that drivers have made during the off-season, whether it be Formula 3 drivers such as Theo Pourchaire or Lirim Zendeli moving up into the series, or others such as Dan Ticktum and Marcus Armstrong moving team.

Either way it will hopefully be another entertaining season in Formula 2 which, at the time of writing, will see it contest eight rounds. It is worth pointing out that there has been some big changes to the race weekend for the series, with three races now being held across a weekend, rather than two. There will be two sprint races on one day followed by a feature race the next day.

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As part of the weekend format changes the series will no longer be on the same support bill as Formula 3, with the two series ‘alternating’ as to when they support the main Formula 1 series. This is in part to accommodate the W Series coming in to support Formula 1 at eight events this year. It also means that drivers have the possibility to compete in both Formula 3 and Formula 2 in 2021. One such person is Matteo Nannini who will compete in both categories with HWA Racelab, having competed in Formula 3 last season. It will be interesting to see how he does during the year and whether anyone will follow his example in the seasons to come.

The 2020 Formula 2 season saw 12 different drivers across seven different teams win a race. It will no doubt be another exciting season in 2021, especially if Formula 2 gets close to those numbers of different race winners.

Formula 1

The early expectation from some for the upcoming season is that we could be in for a close championship battle between Mercedes and Red Bull, and therefore between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. This after Mercedes appeared to struggle during the three days of pre-season testing while Red Bull ran strongly.

However some things are unlikely to change this season with there still being three separate ‘classes’ within Formula 1 during 2021. Nevertheless after an intense battle in ‘Class B’ in 2020 there is the expectation that there will be more of the same this season, with it perhaps being even tighter. The main protagonists are once again expected to be McLaren, Aston Martin (formerly Racing Point) and Alpine (formerly Renault).

AlphaTauri AT01 / Pierre Gasly / FRA / Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda” by Artes Max is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Added to this is the intrigue surrounding AlphaTauri and Ferrari with the former showing some strong pace during preseason. Meanwhile the form of Ferrari in 2021 could depend whether the ‘Class B’ teams are fighting over third in the Constructors’ Championship once again or whether they will return to battling for fourth instead.

Then there are the ‘Class C’ teams of Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams. Like AlphaTauri and Ferrari, there is some intrigue over how well Alfa Romeo, and Williams, could go during the upcoming season. Alfa Romeo in particular caught some peoples attention during pre-season and could find themselves closer towards the ‘Class B’ battle than they were last season. It will also be interesting to see how Williams will perform across the season having intentionally made their car ‘peaky’ in the hopes of scoring points at select Grand Prix, while sacrificing performance at other circuits.

Last season’s Bahrain Grand Prix was won by Lewis Hamilton ahead of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon. This after Sergio Perez suffered an engine issue in the latter part of the Grand Prix, denying the Mexican a podium finish. Also to note that this was also the event where Romain Grosjean had his horrifying accident on the opening lap, and here is hoping we don’t see something similar during this coming weekend.

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It will be important for all the teams to start the season strongly if they wish to have a successful 2021 as each one of them weighs up when to fully switch their resources to the 2022 cars which are being designed around a new set of technical regulations. It is even more important this season considering the budget cap and limited amount of wind tunnel testing each team will have during the year.

Five different drivers won a Grand Prix last season and there were 13 different drivers to visit the podium across the season (including the race winners). Seven different teams were represented on the podium last season and, like Formula 2, it will be intriguing to see whether 2021 will see a similar level of variety when it comes to the race winners and podium finishers. Even if this doesn’t materialise it looks like we could be in for a closer battle at the very front, and even if that fails to deliver there is always the ‘Class B’ battle.

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