Looking for the best Formula

More and more teams are set to release their 2021 challengers in the next month. But who’s racing for which manufacturer? The 2020 silly-season is finally overThe 2020 silly-season is finally over and we’re ready to give you a rundown of it all. 

Photo credits: Getty Images

By Daphne Seberich 

As the first Formula 1 race in Bahrain is getting closer, the excitement of the fans surrounding the start of the new season is beginning to show. The different teams are preparing to launch their new 2021 challengers ahead of pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit. Many drivers have found their way to their new homes during the winter. Last year’s silly-season was full of surprise announcements, delayed contract signatures and unknown futures. Who’s exactly racing for which team you may ask? Let us give you a rundown of it all.

The first one to release their 2021 challenger is McLaren, who will publicly announce their MCL35M on February 15th. British sensation Lando Norris, who started competing in F1 with McLaren in 2019, will begin his third season with the Woking-based team. 

The new addition to the 2021 McLaren driver-lineup will be Aussie superstar Daniel Ricciardo, who left Renault F1 team after securing them their first podium since 2011 at the Nürburgring. He then also scored third place in the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, proving to be in top shape when it comes to performance. Many will have high expectations for Ricciardo in the MCL35M. Hopefully, he’ll adapt to his new drive soon enough to challenge the other midfielder for points.

Photo credits: Soymotor & Motorsport Magazin

Daniel Ricciardo’s move to McLaren was finalized as former driver Carlos Sainz left the Woking team to race for Scuderia Ferrari. Shortly after Mattia Binotto, Ferrari’s team principal, announced that the Scuderia would not renew Sebastian Vettel’s contract for 2021, Sainz’s transfer was disclosed to the fans. The unsettling part of all this silly-season unfolding is the fact that by then, the 2020 championship hadn’t even started. Sebastian Vettel had to race with a team that abandoned trust and hope in his abilities.

Photo credits: Revista Car

Ferrari’s focus shifted midst the 2019 season towards youngster Charles Leclerc, who has a long-term project ahead with the Maranello-based team. He signed a contract with the prancing horse through 2023. Will he stay until then? Ferrari hasn’t done too well in 2020 and if the Scuderia can’t engineer a title-challenging car for the Monegasque star, he might choose a different route in the future. 

The rejected four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel found himself in a tricky situation. The German sensation’s dream to win the Driver’s Championship with Ferrari was crushed to pieces. In addition to that, not many competitive seats were left for him to fill. 

Photo credits: EzAnime & Motor.es

When Monza came around, rumors surrounding the German champion moving to Aston Martin Racing arose in the paddock. The problem was that there were no available contracts at the former Racing Point manufacturer. Team owner Lawrence Stroll’s son, Lance Stroll, would’ve never lost his seat. Stroll Sr. bought the company for his protegé to be able to compete in the circus. That was clear to everyone. The one who had to go, even though he had a contract until 2023 and was deserving to stay in Formula 1, was Checo Perez.

Perez, who saved the ex Force India team from bankruptcy, was forced to find a new home. As the season went by, Checo proved to be consistently at the top of the field, securing second place in Turkey. Most importantly, he triumphed in the Sakhir GP, recovering after an incident all the way from last place. He earned his maiden victory with the insecurity of being able to compete in the 2021 season. 

Photo credits: News24

As the championship ended, Perez’s future was still uncertain. Red Bull Racing was the only team that could’ve offered him a seat in 2021. Helmut Marko, Red Bull and Alpha Tauri’s driver consultant, saw the opportunity to finally sign a competitive teammate for Max Verstappen, one capable of pushing the team to the top of the standings. 

After Sebastian Vettel’s last championship title win in 2013, the Milton-Keynes-based-manufacturer never managed to come close to Mercedes’s dominance in the field. Verstappen’s 2020 teammate, Alex Albon, couldn’t keep up with the pressure he was under and was dropped at the end of the season to make place for Perez. Sister team Alpha Tauri was set to sign Yuki Tsunoda to replace Daniil Kvyat

Photo credits: Marca

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes decided to keep everyone on their toes. His contract with the Constructor’s Championship titleholders expired at the end of the 2020 season. No one thought Hamilton was gonna retire, especially ahead of the 2022 FIA regulation change. Contract negotiations went down for over a year at Mercedes with the British champion only signing at the beginning of February. Lewis Hamilton is officially giving becoming the most successful Formula 1 driver ever a shot. He equaled Michael Schumacher, can he beat his seven titles as well?

Photo credits: Sky Sports

Speaking of Schumacher, his son Mick will make his debut in the pinnacle of motorsport with Haas F1 Team. After having Romain Grosjean since their first appearance in the sport in 2016 and Kevin Magnussen since 2017, the South Tyrolean team principal Günther Steiner decided that the American manufacturer needed a refreshed driver lineup. It will be the first time after 2012 that F1 will see the Schumacher last name on the grid. Mick will be paired with the troublesome Nikita Mazepin, who has had controversies surround him in recent times. Will Haas score better results with an all-rookie driver lineup?

And last but not least important, Fernando Alonso is making his F1 return after leaving McLaren in 2018. The Spaniard will be joining the team that aided him to win his two Driver’s Championship titles, Renault. The French manufacturer will be called Alpine from 2021, their supercar brand department. 

Photo credits: Diario AS

A full-circle moment. Ricciardo leaving Renault pushed Alonso towards rejoining the pinnacle of motorsport. We never know what to expect from the silly-season. What can we await from the manufacturers? We’ll find out in March when the 2021 championship will finally get underway. 

The uncertain future and fate of Perez and Russell

Sergio Perez won the Sakhir GP after being involved in a first-lap incident and having to recover from P20. Will his performance convince Red Bull to give him a seat for 2021? George Russell dominated the race, but a fatal mishap done by Mercedes put an end to his victory hopes.

Photo credits: The Telegraph

By Daphne Seberich

Checo Perez’s maiden victory feels like revenge. After being kicked out of Racing Point (former Force India, which survived a financial crisis thanks to him) and being replaced by Sebastian Vettel, even though he was under contract until 2023, the Mexican proved to deserve a seat in Formula 1. Why did Racing Point even consider ending Perez’s contract after all he did for the team? Why did Vettel not take Stroll’s place? Why did Racing Point not choose the strongest driver lineup they could possibly have?

The answer is easy: Lance Stroll is the son of team owner Lawrence Stroll. Even though the Canadian proved to be in good shape this season, being awarded third place in Monza and Bahrain at the Sakhir GP, as well as a pole position in Turkey, he can’t even come close to what Checo has achieved. He was the runner-up at the Turkish GP and almost earned a back-to-back podium last week in Bahrain if it wasn’t for his Mercedes engine failing on the second-to-last lap.

Are other teams interested in signing him? His options are only two: Red Bull offering him Alex Albon’s seat or taking a sabbatical. 

Formula 1 can be cruel and unfair. That is the case for Checo Perez. Helmut Marko and Christian Horner will have to rethink their driver lineup after today. The Mexican deserves to stay in the circus. They would be insane to keep Albon after the disappointing season he had. Yes. He did get on the podium two times this season, but his consistency can’t compare to Perez’s.

It’s time for Red Bull to look outside of their driver pool and give Max Verstappen a challenge. If they really want to be a championship contender next season and finally end Mercedes’s winning streak, the Mexican is the answer to their dilemma.

Photo credits: MomentoGP

There were talks already between Horner and Albon, which, in the case of Red Bull signing the nr. 11 driver, would become the Austrian Formula 1 team’s reserve driver, which is probably what he deserves anyway. The call the Thai driver got to the top, replacing Pierre Gasly at Red Bull, was premature. 

A sabbatical could mean the end of Sergio Perez’s career in Formula 1. Nico Hülkenberg, another racer rejected by the circus, portrayed his qualities, jumping in for Checo when he tested positive for Covid-19. Still, he didn’t get any offer to drive for a team next season. 

On the other side, George Russell, which replaced Lewis Hamilton in his W11, proved to deserve the promotion to the championship-winning team. After qualifying second, only 0.026 behind teammate Valtteri Bottas on his first drive in the new car, the Brit had a brilliant start overtaking the poleman to take the lead of the pack, an unusual scenario for the Williams driver. His dominance was unthinkable. Russell started from the dirty side of the track, which usually disadvantages the drivers that qualify as an even number. 

At some point, I was wondering if Hamilton was driving the car. Russell’s pace was unmatched. Lap after lap, the Brit proved consistently to be faster than Bottas, opening the gap to the Finn to three seconds in twenty laps. His first tire change advantaged him substantially, even though there was a scary moment when his Mercedes lost power, a sensor problem that thankfully got easily fixed.

What changed the Brit’s fate was the double pit-stop that the Mercedes mechanics didn’t manage well. Russell stopped first, but due to an oversight of the team, the tires that were mounted onto his car weren’t the correct ones: he was driving on a set of mediums that belonged to Bottas. The Mercedes mechanics soon figured the mishap out. Instead of following the same mistake with the Finn’s car, they just remounted the same tire he used for his previous twenty laps. What a mess.

Due to the incorrect tires that were fitted onto the W11, the Mercedes Junior driver had to pit once again to not have to undergo a penalty. Russell lost the lead of the race and found himself behind the nr. 77 driver in 5th place, although on a fresher set of tires. He quickly swept through the field to regain his merit, but the odds were not in his favor. A rear-left puncture forced the former Williams driver to switch to another set of tires and to work his way up the field from P15. What a pity.

Although Lady Luck wasn’t on George Russell’s side, he demolished the drivers ahead of him, finishing the race in P9. 

Photo credits: Corriere

Fate was on Perez’s side today, but both drivers deserved the win. What does the future hold for the two drivers? Will Checo stay in Formula 1 next season? In my opinion, he deserves to be part of the pinnacle of motorsport.

Will Russell get the call up to Mercedes for 2021? Not likely, but he proved the whole world to merit to drive in Formula 1 and for a top team. George is a brilliant driver and can withstand the comparison to other youngsters like Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc. They are the future of racing.