LEWIS Hamilton begins his campaign to achieve a record eighth Formula 1 world championship this weekend in the 2021 season opener in Bahrain.
Hamilton comes into the season having matched Michael Schumacher’s record for most championships, seven, last season. In the 2020 season Hamilton also broke Schumacher’s record for most wins and the record for the most races finished inside the points.
In what is predicted to be a close championship, Hamilton’s competition comes from his teammate Valtteri Bottas, who starts his fifth season with Mercedes. Red Bull look to put in a serious title contest in their final year partnering Honda, who leave this season as engine manufacturers.
Max Verstappen will see this as his best opportunity to date to challenge for a world title. His new teammate Sergio Perez will also aim to capitalise on his promotion from Racing Point and score more victories having achieved his first win in the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix.
The Bahrain International Circuit hosts the season opener for just the second time, mainstay season opener Melbourne has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is the first time that Formula 1’s pre-season testing session has been held at the same circuit for the season opener, having been moved from Barcelona to Bahrain due to the pandemic.
Mercedes struggled with reliability and setup issues throughout the testing session. Where mileage is so key, Mercedes covered the least amount of ground compared to other teams in the three-day session. Compared to Red Bull who looked comfortable throughout and secured the fastest lap during the testing session.
Mercedes admitted that they had issues that needed to be fixed within the two weeks between testing and the first race. Red Bull having looked comfortable in testing need to come out of the blocks quickly and set the pace for the season, which promises that the Bahrain race is a must-watch.
Driver to look out for:
The first driver born in the 2000’s makes his Formula 1 debut with AlphaTauri. The young Japanese star took third in the 2020 Formula 2 championship and gained a promotion to AlphaTauri having been a Red Bull junior driver since 2019. The 5’2 star showed his star potential during the final session of testing, trading fastest laps with Verstappen. Expect to see Tsunoda battling for some points come Sunday.
Team to look out for:
Last year’s Bahrain GP was dismal for the Scuderia. They come back to Bahrain with a new team as Carlos Sainz makes the leap from McLaren to partner Charles Leclerc. More importantly, they have a new engine which team boss Mattia Binotto claims: “Will not be the worst on the grid,” like it was last year. They have already proved this by setting a faster speed during testing than they did during 2020’s qualifying session. The hungry pairing of Leclerc and Sainz with a faster engine could result in both Ferrari’s picking up points, something that only occurred five times last year.
Qualifying – Max Verstappen
First – Max Verstappen
Second – Lewis Hamilton
Third – Daniel Ricciardo
Fastest lap – Daniel Ricciardo
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FP1 – 11:30 – 12:30
FP2 – 15:00 – 16:00
FP3 – 12:00 – 13:00
Qualifying – 15:00 – 16:00
Race – 16:00