2021 F1 Testing Blog
Before we talk about the new cars, we’d like to pay tribute to Murray Walker who passed away over the weekend. At the ripe old age of 97, Murray led a wonderful life and will be remembered fondly by millions of fans world-wide. He was not the perfect presenter. His commentaries were often littered with malapropisms, sometimes highly amusing, and it was exactly this, coupled with his vivacious enthusiasm, which made him so perfect. RIP Murray.
2021’s pre-season testing seems to have come and gone in the blink of an eye. In its truncated form, the teams had only 3-days to find out how their new cars would fare out on track. We also had a different venue for testing this year, with Bahrain being chosen over Barcelona, meaning a lot of previous data gathered from Circuit de Catalunya would be out of the window.
Let’s start with the reigning World Champions. Mercedes suffered setbacks on the first two days of testing with both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas losing time out on track. Worse still, when they did finally get the W12 up and running, it looked slow. Explaining their position, engineering director Andrew Shovlin said: “We’ve made a bit of progress with the balance on higher fuel and the car was more predictable, but we can see from the data we’ve collected over the last few days that on race pace, we’re not as quick as Red Bull.”
Are Mercedes playing mind games? We haven’t forgotten the 2019 pre-season tests, where it was Ferrari who had the fastest car and were being touted to challenge the Silver Arrows. We all know how that turned out. The past few days didn’t go as smoothly as Mercedes would have liked but don’t be surprised if it transpires they were holding something back.
If any team can challenge to Mercedes, then Red Bull must surely be top of the list. Pundits were unanimous that the RB16B was the most impressive car on show. With the results in, Max Verstappen emerged as the fastest driver overall. More importantly though, his new team-mate Sergio Perez was the fastest in the first session on Sunday. Red Bull have lost out in recent years due to the performance of their second driver. If Perez can adapt quickly to the car and get some early podium finishes on the board, this will make a huge difference to their points haul come the end of the season.
McLaren were the other standout team. Lando Norris is no longer an F1 rookie, and alongside new signing Daniel Ricciardo, both drivers put in some impressive times on the clock over the first couple of days. The MCL35M has, however, attracted a fair bit of scrutiny. We don’t want to get too technical but basically the stakes on the McLaren’s diffuser appear to be longer than the new regulation changes allow. It seems that the team have found a loophole by attaching them to the centre of the floor, which has been lengthened. Anyway, the long and short of it is that the car looks quick, and McLaren seem quietly confident. Lando Norris summarised their feelings, saying: “It’s nice to be back at a track and I feel like I’m in a good place going into the race in a couple of weeks, so I’m excited to come back.”
So, McLaren have emerged as maybe the most likely outfit to fill third spot but as we get into the middle order it becomes increasingly difficult to tell where the other teams stand. Carlos Sainz has replaced Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari. Partnered with Charles Leclerc, this is arguably the most formidable pairing on the grid. Both drivers are incredibly talented, with bags of experience, and Ferrari will have no excuses if they do not score a decent number of points.
We love the racing green livery of the Aston Martin. The AMR21 suffered a few hiccups over the weekend, and they didn’t get as much track time as they would have liked, but new driver Sebastian Vettel was upbeat saying that the car was “fun” and that “there’s more to come”.
Alpine also have reason to be cheerful. Fernando Alonso makes his F1 return for them and, despite having two metal plates in his jaw due to a cycling accident, it seems he has not lost any of his pace. As for their car, the A521 sounds like a road in Stoke-on-Trent, but it looks the part with a bold new livery. Alpine’s executive director Marcin Budkowski expects closer competition throughout the field this year. He said: “I think it’s not a midfield anymore, it’s a field, really.”
We very much hope so, as seeing all the cars out on track has whetted the appetite for what promises to be an enthralling F1 season.
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