2021 F1 Testing: What It Means For The Season Ahead

Ian Morrison, Staff Writer

Formula One is a racing series held by the FIA or the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile. F1 features the top 20 drivers and 10 teams from around the globe competing against each other in the fastest racing cars in the world with top speeds over 200 mph. All the cars and teams comply with an agreed upon set of rules, yet each car is unique in its design. Over the course of 2021, the racing series will visit 22 countries and race at 23 tracks. Last season, Covid-19 interrupted the season, but with safety precautions and regulations, a condensed season was able to occur. 

This year, F1 is set to race a full season with the preseason testing ending a little over a week ago. Testing gives us a look at each car’s general race and qualifying pace, and it is a chance for teams to study their car before the first race of the season. Overall, this year’s testing went relatively smoothly with 3 days of unrestricted running only being interrupted by a sandstorm which drivers were still able to drive in. 

Now for a rundown of this year’s teams and drivers in last year’s championship order:



Lewis Hamilton and Valteri Bottas had surprisingly substandard tests. Although for the last 7 years the team has gone from subpar in testing to championship status in season due to their sandbagging efforts. This year seems different – from gearbox issues shortening day one with only 6 laps to uncharacteristic spins for 7 time world champion, Sir Lewis Hamilton. Overall, Mercedes looks to still be fast, but will come under challenge by other top teams. This year could be the first year that they don’t win the championship since 2014, when new engine regulations came into place. 


Red Bull

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen topped the timing sheets on day 1 and day 3 of testing while his new teammate Sergio Perez lingered behind on day 2 as they ran race simulations. (These give the teams an idea about tyre wear, fuel consumption, and overall pace). If Mercedes is beat, then Red Bull will be the team to do so as they have trailed Mercedes for the past few years after their V8 era domination. The two drivers look fast, comfortable, and competitive in this year’s car which could finally lead the team to more championship glory. 



Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo both had impressive drives over the 3 days with the new Mercedes power unit in the car. This engine swap meant that over the winter break, this team had the most to do as they had to redesign the latter half of the chassis and bodywork to fit and flow with the new engine. The performance of this similar, yet different, car will allow the two drivers to be at the front of the grid as they move away from the midfield. At the moment, the 2021 Mclaren looks podium worthy and possibly able to win races. 


Aston Martin:

The team formerly known as Racing Point has now transformed into Aston Martin with Lance Stroll and Sebastion Vettel taking the wheel of the car this year. Compared to their 2020 performance, the new AMR-21 was lacking behind in testing with gearbox and electrical issues, slowing down the testing process. Aston Martin looks to be quick, but they may drop back to the midfield for this year due to some issues with the practically brand new car.


Alpine (al-peen): 

The newly rebranded Renault team had arguably the most mundane testing on the grid with no major issues between their two drivers, Fernando Alonso and Estaban Ocon. The only thing of note is the design of the back of their car with an abnormally large airpox, reminiscent of 70s F1 cars. Just like Aston Martin, Alpine looks to be in the midfield this year with an average season. 



In 2020, Ferrari were easily the biggest disappointment as they went from winning races to scraping to get points. A scandal including their engine and fuel flow in 2019, made their 2020 season hard as the performance of the car was lacking. Luckily, drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have gotten a majorly improved car this season, as the engine and aerodynamics have improved. As for the 2021 season, it would be best to not keep high hopes for the Italian team as the performance gains haven’t brought them back to the front of the grid, only to the midfield. 



Alphatauri looks majorly promising with rookie Yuki Tsunoda and 2020 race winner Pierre Gasly in the race seats. Not only have they taken parts from their sister team (Red Bull) last year’s car, but they have also taken an improved Honda power unit just as Red Bull has. Overall, testing was very positive for Alpha, and their car could be on the podium once or multiple times this year. 


Alfa Romeo

The other Alfa on the grid also looks more promising than last year, as the Ferrari power unit has increased its performance marginally. Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovanazzi both drove well in testing as the pair had the most laps out of all 10 teams. Just like Alpine, Alfa Romeo had a pretty uneventful testing. It wouldn’t be generous to say that they may catch or even be in the midfield this year with how their car is looking. 



Haas’s story is a little different than the other teams. Not only did they bring in two rookies for this season, Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, but they also have no plans to bring upgrades to the car. This means the car they start the year with will be the same car at the end of the year, due to Haas putting their efforts towards the upcoming 2022 regulations, which will radically change the design philosophy of the cars. Due to their car already underperforming, this year looks to be the worst for Haas as they will most likely be the last team on the grid taking that title away from the next team.



Williams brought a somewhat improved car to testing this year that will hopefully bring them up the pecking order. The historic team has been struggling in the past few years, but with management changes, things are looking up for the team. They went along well in testing with minor issues along the way, but nothing that impared driving or how far they were able to drive. In the end, Williams will sadly still be at the back half of the grid, but it’s clear that improvements have been made, which will make it easier for the team to score points this year.


At the end of the day, testing doesn’t give us accurate results about where the teams will be, but thankfully the season is just around the corner as Practice 1 starts 7 AM on Friday the 26th. Hopefully this gave you an insight about how this season is shaping up and how exciting, chaotic, and competitive it will be once the championship gets underway.