The 2021 Formula One season starts with Practice 1 & 2 on Friday night and qualifying on Saturday night, before the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday night, LIVE on Kayo.
The Formula One season kicks off this weekend with the Bahrain Grand Prix in what is the most highly-anticipated season in years with new names, new teams, new teammates and new rivalries all kicking off.
And ahead of the season curtain-raiser, we’re looking at the biggest burning question each team will be hoping to answer, both this weekend and for the rest of the season…
Stream Every Practice, Qualifier & Race of the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship™ Live & On-Demand on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
Were they sandbagging, or are Mercedes really going to struggle this season?
If Mercedes were sandbagging during the pre-season testing in Bahrain this month, then they really are as good at it as they are at everything else in Formula One at the moment because it was awfully believable.
But if they weren’t sandbagging, and seeing really is believing, then we could be in for one of the closest title races in years, because they are, by their own admission, “quite a way behind” their rivals.
Mercedes will be desperate to win the championship for a record eighth consecutive time this year, rounding out the most dominant spell in F1 history by winning every single year of the hybrid era.
Hamilton too will see it as his best chance to become the outright most successful driver in the sport by winning his eighth championship to surpass Michael Schumacher’s record of seven, who the Brit is currently tied with.
Mercedes have been caught sandbagging before but the difference this year is that the testing and the first race are both held in Bahrain and they were one of the teams which really struggled with the conditions on track, so it might not be such a dramatic change in performance.
Is this the season Red Bull are finally ready to service Max Verstappen’s needs?
In short, if everything which we saw at this month’s pre-season testing is true, then yes, Red Bull are ready to give Max Verstappen a proper title push.
But we already know not to read too much into testing times.
Verstappen is a lot of people’s pre-season tip to win this season on the back of his performance coupled with that of Mercedes and it is part of the reason why so many people are excited for what this season has in store for us.
Verstappen has been desperate for a car that can put him on par with the one which Mercedes has given Hamilton and early signs are that not only the one-lap speed is there, but also that pace across longer distances and a greater reliability.
With a now proven race-winner in Sergio Perez joining him in the Red Bull garage this year, Verstappen will also have some in-team competition for the first time since Daniel Ricciardo, which should only act to push him harder and faster than before.
We saw how much that competition with Ricciardo spurred him on which the two were together, with the rivalry becoming almost toxic by the end, but it is the hardest either man has been pushed – and it showed.
Can Daniel Ricciardo get back on the podium amid fierce teammate challenge?
Early signs are that this is a well calculated gamble by Ricciardo, in deciding to jump ship from Renault after just one season, before even seeing what they had in store for his second year.
As it turned out, they had two podiums in store for the Aussie, but Ricciardo was also driving close to his best ever and just by looking at then teammate Esteban Ocon, it was clear that he was making the car look even better than it was, rather than the other way around.
If Ricciardo can bring that sort of form into 2021, while driving a car that finished third last year and is now equipped with a Mercedes engine to boot, there is no reason why there won’t be more podiums in store – and standing higher than the first step of it too.
McLaren’s success last year was divided pretty evenly between their two drivers, so much so that Ricciardo actually beat both of them in the driver standings despite being in a worse car.
He joins another impressive junior driver this year after comfortably seeing off the challenge of Ocon last year, but Lando Norris will prove a tougher challenge having spent two full seasons at McLaren already and scored a podium too.
Off the track, there will be plenty of jokes and smiles between F1’s two most likeable characters, but on the track the Honey Badger alter-ego is sure to come out.
‘Daniel Ricciardo – eight-time race winner’ is certainly a statement not out of the question this season as McLaren hope to end their nine-year wait to claim the chequered flag again.
New name, but can Aston Martin carry on Racing Point’s huge progress?
It’s all change at Aston Martin, formerly known as Racing Point, formerly known as Force India. And with every new name comes new hope of improvement.
Racing Point managed it when they became only the fifth team to win a race in the turbo-hybrid era after Pierre Gasly ended the Mercedes-Red Bull-Ferrari stranglehold earlier in the season for Alpha Tauri, and now Aston Martin are looking to improve on that.
Improvement doesn’t necessarily mean another race win, it means competing for podiums every so often and moving to the front of the midfield.
It won’t be easy, with McLaren in particular looking strong, but with a four-time world champion now aboard in Sebastian Vettel, they have the experience to match the ambition.
Vettel is now out of that toxic atmosphere at Ferrari and will cut a much more relaxed figure in the midfield, with much less pressure on him to win. And it might just bring the best back out of him.
How will Fernando Alonso cope after two years away from F1?
How do you soften the news that you’ve just lost your lead driver and seven-time racer winner in Daniel Ricciardo to your biggest rivals in the paddock? Signing a two-time world champion and one of the best drivers of the current century is a pretty good place to start.
But how will Fernando Alonso fare after two years away from F1?
Will he come back with a fresh mind, a fresh outlook and renewed hunger to win? Or will he come back ill-fitting and out of practice but still with the ruthless attitude which has caused disruption with fellow teammates in the past?
Early suggestions from testing hinted towards the former, as it looked like the Spaniard hadn’t skipped a beat as he took his new Alpine around the Sakhir Circuit.
Judging by last season, Alpine will be leaning heavily on Alonso’s experience in the hope of getting the best out of Esteban Ocon who, despite claiming a second-placed podium, was largely outperformed by Ricciardo last term. Renault would have been a lot further back in the midfield battle if not for the Aussie.
Both Alonso and Ocon have had big blow ups with teammates before and are both competitive, combustible and quick. It could be one of the best teammate battles of the season.
Can Ferrari avoid another massive disaster?
Ferrari have flirted with failure for a number of seasons while still managing to remain in the top two or three of the constructors championship but last season saw them drop further down than anyone could imagine.
It was disastrous.
But they will be hoping that this is a new Ferrari. Gone is the toxic relationship with Vettel and the attitude that Ferrari are entitled to success in F1, rather than earning it like the rest of their rivals.
They know only hard work and togetherness can get them back to where they want to be and it appears they are going in the right direction from testing.
It won’t be a quick fix and it will be a tall ask to stand on the top step of the podium at some point this season. It will be as fierce a midfield battle that we’ve had in F1 for a number of seasons and Ferrari’s target has to be to be near the front of it.
How did Alpha Tauri look so impressive during the third day of testing?
Alpha Tauri are one of just five teams to win a race in the turbo-hybrid era and now have another exciting young driver to join the impressive Pierre Gasly in the garage, who looks completely over his traumatic Red Bull experience of 2019.
Rookie Yuki Tsundona put in some stunning times in testing earlier this month, lighting up the timing screens with purple sector after purple sector during the final session.
He was vying with Verstappen for the fastest lap and eventually ended up second fastest of the entire session – although his times were not entirely accurate.
It turns out that Tsundona was activating his DRS between 100 and 200 metres too early, thus providing false results, but there were still plenty of positives as Gasly completed more laps than any other driver across the three days.
The target for Alpha Tauri is placing in the top five often, but they are not expecting a repeat of Monza 2020.
Will this year be Kimi Raikkonen’s final season in F1?
We ask this every season and every season he just keeps on deciding to race for another year.
Kimi Raikkonen will be 42 years old before this upcoming season ends and the question has to be asked how long he will continue to defy his age and keep racing.
He is still bringing in the most points of those in the battle of the bottom three teams and Alfa Romeo are unlikely to push him out so the answer will be whether the motivation to keep racing still remains beyond this year.
He put in some promising times in pre-season testing but he is likely to find himself in a similar position on the grid to last season, with perhaps increased competition from those behind him.
How will Mick Schumacher fare in his first F1 season?
Haas threw out the baby with the bathwater at the end of last season of another disappointing campaign and Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean are out and two new rookies are in. And one of them bears the name of the most famous F1 driver ever.
There will be more interest in what is happening at (probably) the back of the grid this season than ever before as Mick Schumacher makes his F1 debut with Haas.
It will be important not to let comparisons with his father become commonplace as so much pressure on such young shoulders rarely ends well.
He will be joined by another rookie in Nikita Mazepin as the duo look to pull Haas back into the midfield battle after two years far closer to Williams than anyone at the American team would have liked.
His involvement will provide plenty more entertainment and we can expect some fascinating battles with George Russell’s Williams in qualifying and in racing throughout the season if both teams are where we expect them to be.
Will this new ownership finally end the demise of one of F1’s most famous teams?
Everyone is desperate to see Williams be competitive again, no more so that their new owners who took over from the family last season.
They’ve retained their two drivers and will be looking to George Russell especially to push the team back up the constructors’ championship.
The initial target this season will simply be to be closer to the pack, even if still at the back of it, and improving the reliability to an extent that if there are a number of other drivers that crash out in a race akin to some of the chaotic ones we saw last year, they will be in a position to pick up a point or two.
Pre-season tests seemed promising for that, and actually having a car to test this year would have been a big relief after the disaster of two years ago.