The 2021 Formula One season in a nutshell
By Daphne Seberich
It has been seven years of Mercedes dominance in the world of F1. Lewis Hamilton has matched Michael Schumacher for the most Driver’s Championships in F1’s history. The Silver Arrows have annihilated their competition for seven years in a row. Fans want to see a change. The 2021 season might just offer that.
Red Bull and Max Verstappen are for the first time in title contention. Never since the V6-turbo-hybrid era there had been such a tight race for any championship between two different teams. Mercedes had an internal fight in 2016 when teammates and old best friends Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have fiercely battled for the title. The German came out on top in the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi but decided swiftly after his incredible achievement to end his career on a high. Besides that, the fans were lacking the outstanding fights they were used to see in the 2000s.
There are many reasons to watch Formula One:
- The avant-garde engineering developed and introduced for future consumer cars,
- The exciting race weekends where 20 drivers risk their lives every time they climb into their cockpits and
- The beyond belief show F1 provides at different tracks around the world.
I reckon this season might become the most exciting one to watch of the last decade. Why? There are three main reasons why you should keep up with Formula One now more than ever.
- The rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen
No one ever thought someone could match Michael Schumacher’s record of seven driver’s championships. Lewis Hamilton managed to do just that. Not only has he outclassed many of the records set by the German (most pole positions, most GP wins, etc.), he has also got a strong chance to become the most successful driver in Formula One history.
There is only one driver capable of ruining Hamilton’s celebrations. His name is Max Verstappen. The Flying Dutchman is one of, if not the most talented driver on the grid. Red Bull has finally caught up with Mercedes, which have lost the advantage they gained during the 2020 season thanks to their Dual-Axis-System (DAS). It was banned from 2021 onwards. The Red Bull-Max Verstappen pairing this season could bring the Mercedes domination era to an end.
During the Bahrain pre-season testing, Mercedes was in no man’s land. Their cars looked tricky to handle and the rear-end seemed to be very nervous. Meanwhile, Red Bull was crushing it on track, setting fastest laps and conquering all of the sessions ahead of the race. Track limits at the first race of the season punished Verstappen, who had to hand over the win to Hamilton, but it was clear that the seven-time world champion would not have it as easy as in the past four years to clinch his eighth title.
Lewis Hamilton has never had a real challenger at the top since 2016. His Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas lacks the consistency to give a real fight for the title. Even though the Silver Arrows driver have had the most dominant car in the past four years, at no time we have seen a fight for the championship between the two.
The two title contenders for 2021, on the other hand, have spiced up the competition and dramatically changed the outlook of how the season would turn out for fans at home. People truly believe there can be a change at the top. This idea has rekindled the passion and interest for Formula One, and it is one of the main reasons why people should tune in on race weekends. Beating the reigning world champion is never an easy task, but if anyone could do it, it’s Max Verstappen. History can be made in 2021.
- The season before the revolution
The 2021 season should have seen the FIA introducing completely renewed regulations to tackle some of the many issues of F1 racing in current times. Unfortunately, the current state the world is in has pushed back the implementation of these new rules to 2022, making the current season a transitioning one.
Some teams have completely stopped the development of the current generation of cars (ex. Haas F1 team). Others will stop further along the season to concentrate time and resources on perfecting the new principles of racing.
After many years of not seeing any major changes to the regulations, the playing field has leveled itself, creating more exciting and unpredictable racing. The new regulations were consolidated to bring exactly that: fairer and more thrilling competition. Could there be, although, a chance of restarting the vicious cycle of dominance F1 has been known for when the new 2022 regulations will be introduced?
Mercedes have had the upper hand since 2014 due to the introduction of the new hybrid V6 engine technology that is still currently used in F1 cars today. The Silver Arrows engineers have created a masterpiece power-unit, which was miles ahead of the competition. Its power and speed was beyond anyone else’s.
Ferrari even ‘bent’ the regulations to try to regain their competitiveness in the sport. They were involved in the Fuel-Flow Gate before the start of the 2020 season, with the FIA and the Scuderia signing a secret agreement to keep accusations of cheating the previous year at bay. The prancing horse was strongly penalized by this accordance and suffered from their worst season in Ferrari’s history since 1980, closing off the constructors’ championship in sixth.
This season, Mercedes seems not to be the fastest car on track, as Red Bull and other manufacturers have caught up on the technological advances found on the Silver Arrows’ car. All teams have had enough time to perfect their challengers while still conforming to the regulations, managing to level the playing field and creating more competitiveness in the sport. What could happen with the introduction of the 2022 regulations?
The possibility of another dominance era after 2021 is very likely, although it is not sure it will be Mercedes again at the top. In F1’s history we have seen many times a dominating car at the top after a regulation change (ex. Mercedes in 2014, Ferrari in 2000). As the new generation of cars will be in front of us sooner than we think, do we want to see another seven years of nine constructors playing catch-up with one team at the top? Let’s enjoy the fierce battles Verstappen and Hamilton are offering us while we can.
- This current generation of F1 cars will stay the fastest we will see for some years
With the introduction of the 2022 regulations, F1 will switch from an intricate aerodynamic approach of bargeboards and complicated front wings to a more accessible and simple ground-effect principle for future cars.
F1 has struggled with the concept of ‘dirty air’ for many years now, claiming it to be the cause for the lack of close and exciting racing in the past couple of years. Therefore, the introduction of ground-effect powered challengers should reduce turbulences present due to the current aerodynamic approach to only ten percent.
While this seems like good news, the ‘simplified’ Formula One car will be heavier, less aerodynamically advanced and therefore slower. Engineers will have to figure out the grey areas of the regulations to try to gain a significant boost of performance, but that takes time. That is why we won’t see drivers breaking the fastest lap records for some years.
2021 will make it into the history books as one of the most exciting title race seasons in the last decade. The fastest cars in the world will battle it out until the last race, with either the current Mercedes era becoming the most successful one in F1’s history or the seven-year domination coming to an end. One thing is for sure: this season is the one you do not want to miss.