The 2020 season saw two new race winners, a first-time pole sitter, and some awe-inspiring performances in challenging conditions. Pierre Gasly ensured an Italian constructor on the Monza podium’s top step by holding off Carlos Sainz Jr. to win the Italian Grand Prix. Meanwhile, Sergio Perez did the unthinkable and climbed from 20th in the first lap to win the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Meanwhile, Lance Stroll mastered the treacherous wet conditions in Istanbul and took the pole position for Racing Point F1 in the Turkish Grand Prix. Other impressive performances include sensational podiums for Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel with an unimpressive Ferrari, Daniel Ricciardo with two podiums, and last lap Lando sneaking into his first podium in the Austrian Grand Prix.
The 2021 season will be long and arduous, with 23 races scheduled from the USA to Australia. There will undoubtedly be more such moments of madness/genius with limited scope for improving cars from 2020 to 2021. Here is our take on the five drivers to look out for for the 2021 season.
After a tough 2019 with Red Bull, Pierre Gasly has been on a path of redemption. It all started with him beating Lewis Hamilton in a drag race to the finish line, grabbing the 2nd position, and earning his first podium in F1. He then went one step further and held off a quicker McLaren of Carlos Sainz Jr. for almost fifteen laps to win the Italian Grand Prix.
2021 will bring some stability and continuance, with Pierre continuing with the same team he started within the previous season. Gasly is driving a car that can compete for points every race, with his tyre management and late-race overtaking being one of the highlights of the 2020 season.
Carlos Sainz Jr
Carlos Sainz is walking into a challenging situation. Asked to replace a four-time F1 champion in a car nowhere close to competing for podiums, Sainz has his task cut out. He had a terrific 2019 season and continued the same form in 2020. After a frustrating first half full of reliability issues, Sainz turned his season around, with his exploits at the Italian Grand Prix almost landing him the first win of his F1 career.
Sainz needs to get up-to speed with his new car in 2021 quickly. He has to compliment Charles Leclerc’s performance to earn Ferrari’s trust and help them compete for the extremely open race for 3rd. These are exciting times for Sainz, with his first season at Ferrari being a test of his race-craft and technical prowess. His first win in F1 and with Ferrari could all hinge on his performance in 2021, with 20222 bringing in new cars and greatly shuffling the pack.
Haas have roped in arguably the most exciting driver from F2. The reigning F2 champion and son of the legendary 7 times F1 winner Michael Schumacher, Mick is a fiercely competitive driver. 2020 was a coming of age season for Mick, with his two wins and ten podiums winning him the F2 title. Signed up by the Ferrari driver academy in 2019, Mick has taken his next big step-up the ladder, with Ferrari placing him with their customer team Haas for 2021.
Mick enjoys a great relationship with Sebastian Vettel and hopes to follow him and his father’s footsteps to win the coveted seat at Ferrari. Mick made a name for himself in F2 thanks to his recovery runs and impressive tyre management. He is walking into a tough situation with Haas going through their worst year in F1 in 2020 and replacing both their drivers. The only positive for Mick would be that he can only go up from here and be an exciting prospect to watch, even in an uncompetitive Haas.
Sergio Perez was the hot topic at almost every race weekend as Sebastian Vettel shunted him out of his seat at Racing Point; Sergio Perez looked set to have a year on the sidelines. It was Red Bull or bust for him, and things changed dramatically after the Sakhir Grand Prix. Sergio Perez qualified a strong fifth and looked set to compete for the podiums. But a series of unfortunate events saw his car be the hapless recipient of a 180 degree U-turn.
He dropped to the bottom of the pack and had to pit in the first lap. What ensued was a masterclass in guile and race-craft. Perez climbed up the order and was helped by a couple of Safety cars and mix up at the Mercedes pit lane to grab the first position. His victory in Sakhir landed him the Red Bull seat, and it will be interesting to see if the wily Mexican is the ace in the hole helps Red Bull take the fight to Mercedes.
He’s back after a brief hiatus with the team that won him his titles. Renault have found probably one of the few drivers capable to fill the shoes of Daniel Ricciardo, with the two time F1 title winner with Renault returning to the constructor under the name of Alpine. Alonso is regarded as one of the best drivers in the history of F1, capable of extracting extra pace in any weather.
Legendary Sky Sports pundit Martin Brundle described Alonso as “Senna-like in his intimate feel for where the grip is” on the circuit. Winner of the Le Mans (two times) and FIA World Endurance Championship, Alonso will be looking to continue the upward trajectory displayed by Renault in 2020, with their three podiums a considerable step in the right direction. In all honesty, F1 is a more exciting sport with Fernando Alonso in it, and his multi-year contract in Alpine is a big boon to all F1 fans.
Let us know the drivers you are really excited about this season in the comments section below.