The pre-season testing is over, and we are just a few days away from the new season. This new season brings about new regulations that will bring the most changes we have seen to F1 in a long time.
Many of the teams tried different features during the testing sessions in Barcelona and Bahrain. From the unveilings to the practice sessions, it is clear that each team has taken a different approach for the upcoming season.
Driver line-up: Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell
Mercedes may have won the constructor’s championship, but last season was a down year for their standards. They had a lot more difficulty reaching the pinnacle last year than they have had throughout their eight-year title streak.
Their car last year was just about even with Red Bull’s car for most of the season. They did not gain the edge until the last five races of the season, which saw them make a crucial engine change that sealed the constructor’s title and nearly tipped the scales in the driver’s championship.
The team’s priority was getting Hamilton his eighth driver’s championship, but they failed to do so after a controversial ending in Abu Dhabi saw him come in second to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
The team brought on the promising young driver George Russell to pair alongside Hamilton this season, replacing Valtteri Bottas.
The most interesting development to come from their camp was that they changed the initial sidepod design they had when they unveiled the car to a sleeker design that looks like it is almost non-existent.
Besides their sidepod changes, Mercedes have been saying their car, the W13, is going to have trouble winning races this season, but the rest of the paddock has not bought it.
“I think it’s typical Mercedes,” said Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz.
“Just hype up the others and then come to the first race and blow the competition away, which is typical.”
In pre-season testing though, the W13 car did not look like the world-beater the previous iterations have been. The team faced a lot of inconsistency in both Barcelona and Bahrain’s testing sessions. However, it would be foolish to count out the five-time reigning champions and a motivated Hamilton.
Look for Mercedes to be fighting with the frontrunners as usual.
Driver Line-up: Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez
Red Bull has experienced years of being second-best behind Mercedes in both the driver’s and constructor’s championship. Last season though, they finally managed to bring home the driver’s championship as Verstappen managed to beat Hamilton in the final race of the season.
Not only did Verstappen manage to win the driver’s championship, but the team also gave Mercedes a run for their money in the constructor’s. They came in second place by a thin margin of 28 points.
Red Bull will be looking to continue the momentum from last season. Honda left as Red Bull’s engine manufacturer following last season, but they left the team with the tools, data and staff to continue improving on the engine.
The RB18 car has looked great in pre-season testing, with Verstappen setting the best time on day three at Bahrain with an electric lap. The team also introduced new sidepods and floor for the car on day two of testing which made a notable difference in their testing times.
Red Bull is poised to continue competing at the top of the sport for many years to come.
Driver line-up: Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc
Ferrari saw a massive improvement last season finishing third in the constructor’s standings after their poor sixth-place finish in 2020.
The highlight of their season last year was new signing Carlos Sainz. The Spanish driver had a brilliant first season in red finishing fifth in the driver standings ahead of both his former McLaren teammate Lando Norris and his current teammate Charles Leclerc.
The brand-new F1-75 car looks beautiful and has the performance to back it up.
Both drivers have been delivering consistently excellent performances throughout both pre-season testing sessions. They have finished around the top of the grid in almost every day of testing while holding back for the sake of collecting data, which is great news for Ferrari fans.
With a new engine that has a different philosophy from the Mercedes standard seen throughout the paddock and one of the best driver line-ups to boot, Ferrari looks like they are finally ready to fight with Red Bull and Mercedes at the top.
Driver line-up: Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo
While the team did not accomplish their goal of finishing third in the constructor’s standings, they still had a good season finishing fourth.
The highlight of their season was Monza where the team had the only one-two of the season its first one-two finish since the Canadian Grand Prix in 2010. It was a much-needed win for both the team and Ricciardo who struggled most of the season before this race.
Norris was their strongest driver finishing sixth in the driver’s championship and being in the top five most of the season.
The team should expect around the same results in the constructor’s standings with both fourth and third place being within reach. They can be a dark horse for a top-two finish should the teams at the top falter.
Ricciardo looked a lot more settled into the team following Monza last year which should translate to this season. Norris has improved every single year and this year should be no different.
The MCL36 car looked good in Barcelona but struggled in Bahrain. Their Bahrain struggles can be chalked up to brake issues primarily. Norris said the team is on top of the issue, but that Bahrain has been disappointing.
Driver line-up: Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon
The team had a great season last year getting fifth place in the constructor’s standings.
They managed to achieve a Grand Prix win with Ocon winning the Hungarian GP with help from arguably the best performance of the season from his teammate Alonso who held off Hamilton for 11 laps.
Alpine struggled in Barcelona but fared much better in Bahrain with the highlight being Alonso getting the third-best time on the grid on day 3.
The A522 has looked like a true midfield car and has not had many mechanical concerns come up throughout testing.
With money coming in from new investors BWT, Alpine should be competing firmly in the midfield.
Driver line-up: Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda
AlphaTauri did not quite meet the expectations they set to come in fifth in the constructor’s, finishing sixth.
Tsunoda struggled to find his footing most of the season crashing a few times and finishing in the back half of the grid quite often. Gasly though had one of the best seasons of his career with a podium at Azerbaijan.
The AT03 car has seen the most mileage throughout the pre-season testing sessions, but technical director Jody Egginton has said they still do not know how their car will do this season. The car faced a few issues in testing, but nothing alarming.
Tsunoda should improve this season and Gasly should sustain his good form from last season. AlphaTauri is another team that should be firmly entrenched in the midfield, with perhaps a little bit of magic from Gasly on a good day.
Driver line-up: Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll
Aston Martin had a disappointing inaugural season finishing seventh in the constructor’s standings.
One of the worst moments of their season happened when Vettel finished a season-best second place at Azerbaijan, but the points were taken away because the car did not have the required amount of fuel at the end of the race.
The new AMR22 car looks a lot better than the AMR21 of last season both in appearance and performance.
They had a low-key pre-season testing performance, but that is no surprise as that is what the team has done in the past under its previous iterations Racing Point and Force India.
The team should be a midfield contender this year with occasional moments of brilliance from any of their drivers.
Driver line-up: Nicholas Latifi and Alexander Albon
Williams had a good season for their standards, finishing eighth in the constructor’s standings above Alfa Romeo and Haas respectively.
George Russell gave the team the highlight of their season when he qualified second at the Belgian GP and since it was canceled, ended up giving the team its first podium in many years.
Williams will most likely be at the back of the grid this season after a shaky pre-season testing performance.
The FW44 car has looked like a decent offering, but it does not stand out in any way. It will be interesting to see what new signing Albon can do but expect Williams to not make too much noise.
Driver line-up: Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou
While they scored more points than they did in 2020, Alfa Romeo had a disappointing season considering they finished ninth.
They did not have many highlights or low points to speak of with their most exciting moment being the unveiling of their special Monza GP livery.
With a completely new driver line-up featuring the talented veteran Bottas and the much-touted rookie Zhou, Alfa Romeo could have a more exciting season than the last one.
While they will still be a back-of-the-grid team, they have shown flashes of something more in preseason testing. Bottas had an incredible lap on day three at Bahrain on slower C3 tyres.
Keep an eye on them to have some surprising performances next season.
Driver line-up: Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen
Haas was at the back of the grid last season as they expected to be.
The team was primarily focused on survival, signing Nikita Mazepin as part of getting his father’s company Uralkali to sponsor the team. They have since abandoned this sponsorship and got rid of Mazepin due to the Ukraine-Russia crisis and their ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Schumacher was the best part of their season though as the son of the great Michael Schumacher did about as well as anyone could in a car that was simply not good.
The Haas VF-22 has been one of the biggest surprises of the pre-season testing sessions. The car has looked good and consistent, especially in Bahrain.
The team has a respectable new line-up and a decent car that can potentially launch them into the midfield fray this season.