Car W12 Engine Mercedes Principal Toto Wolff Debut France 1954 GPs 227 Titles 7 Last season champions
Endured a trying testing as mechanical problems dogged an unstable car, so are potentially at their most vulnerable for years. Yet enormous strength in depth and a proven capacity to address issues with alacrity means that while Mercedes face their greatest challenge since the turbo-hybrid era began they remain favourites.
Lewis Hamilton (GB, age 36) No 44 Debut Australia 2007 Wins 95 Poles 98 Titles 7 Last season champion. Attempting to secure a record eighth title, Hamilton remains in exemplary form. He crushed all the opposition last season and appears as motivated as ever despite expressing concern about the car’s characteristics. He cannot afford to be distracted by consideration of when he might end his career.
Valtteri Bottas (Fin, 31) No 77 Debut Australia 2013 Wins 9 Poles 16 Best finish 2nd Last season 2nd. Roundly beaten by Hamilton in 2020, the Finn has to find another level this year to have any chance of retaining his seat. Whether he can do so remains moot but he cannot allow the world champion to break him psychologically in the opening races. Consistency from the off in matching and beating Hamilton will be vital.
Car RB16B Engine Honda Principal Christian Horner Debut Australia 2005 GPs 303 Titles 4 Last season 2nd
Enjoyed great pace and reliability in testing. Red Bull look to have their strongest ride to open a season since 2013. Honda’s engine (brought forward from planned use in 2022) looks finally right up to speed and the chassis has none of last season’s squirrelly characteristics. With a formidable driver lineup, if they can put Mercedes on the back foot from the start, Red Bull have a real shot at ending their hegemony.
Max Verstappen (Neth, 23) No 33 Debut Australia 2015 Wins 10 Poles 3 Titles 0 Best finish 3rd Last season 3rd. Pronounced testing the best of his career and goes into the season buoyed by the hope of really fighting Mercedes. Has no fears of taking on Hamilton and is definitively a potential world champion. If he has the car, Verstappen will make it count, but he must prove he can do so across an entire season.
Sergio Pérez (Mex, 31) No 11 Debut Australia 2011 Wins 1 Poles 0 Best qualifying 3rd Titles 0 Best finish 4th Last season 4th. Finally given a drive in a top car, this is the opportunity of his career for Pérez. Has undoubtedly outperformed previous rides and after a decade racing has experience and touch to match his pace. Qualifying can be improved but his race pace and tyre management are second to none and he will be a key player every Sunday.
Car MCL35M Engine Mercedes Principal Andreas Seidl Debut Monaco 1966 GPs 880 Titles 8 Last season 3rd
Continued their comeback with third last season and expectant of being in position to defend that place. They looked good in testing with an ingenious diffuser design and now boasting a Mercedes engine, the driver lineup is strong and the team are operating at a high level. A tough act to follow in the midfield.
Daniel Ricciardo (Aus, 31) No 3 Debut GB 2011 Wins 7 Poles 3 Titles 0 Best finish 3rd Last season 5th. By switching from Renault the Australian showed he clearly believes in McLaren’s ability to return to fighting for titles. One of the grid’s top drivers, he is determined this season to show off his overtaking skills again and in a tight midfield scrap Ricciardo is a major asset.
Lando Norris (GB, 21) No 4 Debut Australia 2019 Wins 0 Best finish 3rd Poles 0 Best qualifying 4th Titles 0 Best finish 9th Last season 9th. Into his third season, Norris has repeatedly demonstrated both pace and judgment. Going up against Ricciardo is his greatest test yet. Comfortable at the team, he will be confident he can do so and will return points with relentless consistency. Completes a driver pairing of real quality.
Car AMR21 Engine Mercedes Principal Otmar Szafnauer Debut Netherlands 1959 GPs 5 Titles 0 Best finish N/A Last season 4th (as Racing Point)
The Aston Martin brand’s return after more than 60 years comes courtesy of Lance Stroll’s father, who has purchased the manufacturer. Arriving on the back of a strong 2020 as Racing Point, signing Vettel was a statement of intent but the car was not quite where they wanted it in testing. Have the resources now to develop hard and will be targeting third.
Sebastian Vettel (Ger, 33) No 5 Debut USA 2007 Wins 53 Poles 57 Titles 4 Last season 13th. Dropped by Ferrari after some poor seasons and unhappy in a car that did not suit him, the German will be hopeful Aston can deliver machinery more to his liking. Unforced errors peppered recent seasons and Vettel has a point to prove that he still has the consistency and touch that delivered four titles.
Lance Stroll (Can, 22) No 18 Debut Australia 2017 Best finish 3rd Poles 1 Titles 0 Best finish 11th Last season 11th. Put in his best season last year in a car that was highly competitive but now needs to perform with greater consistency, especially in qualifying if he is to throw off the dismissive pay-driver tag. Has shown great promise in race pace and it will be intriguing to see if he can vie with Vettel.
Car A521 Engine Renault Principals Marcin Budkowski and Davide Brivio Debut 2021 Last season 5th (as Renault)
Rebranded for Renault’s sports-car wing, their goal of fighting for the championship remains the same. Progress has been slow, however, and painfully incremental. No giant leaps will be made this year but challenging for third and fourth is realistic. Management has been restructured and Fernando Alonso will punch above his weight.
Fernando Alonso (Sp, 39) No 14 Debut Australia 2001 Wins 32 Poles 22 Titles 2 Last season N/A. Returning after a two-year absence during which time he won Le Mans twice and the Daytona 24 as well as competing at the Indy 500, the double world champion has lost none of his eagerness to race. Comfortable back with the team where he took his F1 titles, Alonso could prove the difference in a tight midfield scrap.
Esteban Ocon (Fr, 24) No 31 Debut Belgium 2016 Wins 0 Best finish 2nd Poles 0 Best qualifying 3rd Titles 0 Best finish 8th Last season 12th. Delivered a solid debut season for Renault last year that included a best of second at the Sakhir GP. Expected to build strongly on that performance with confidence. He is quick and if he can outperform Alonso it would be a major marker.
Car SF21 Engine Ferrari Principal Mattia Binotto Debut Monaco 1950 GPs 1,008 Titles 16 Last season 6th
After their worst season since 1980 last year the Scuderia can only improve. The engine is clearly stronger and they have addressed the draggy aerodynamics that plagued their car. The improvements appear to be successful but they need a major step to make a target of battling for third. Bringing Carlos Sainz on board was a bold step in committing to a return to the front.
Charles Leclerc (Mon, 23) No 16 Debut Australia 2018 Wins 2 Poles 7 Titles 0 Best finish 4th Last season 8th. Battled his recalcitrant ride with impressive determination last season, which will have endeared him to the team. He outperformed the car and his teammate and possesses the talent to go much further. A tight fight with Sainz, which is on the cards, is likely to be a highlight of the season.
Carlos Sainz Jr (Sp, 26) No 55 Debut Australia 2015 Wins 0 Best finish 2nd Poles 0 Best qualifying 3rd Titles 0 Best finish 6th Last season 6th. A huge opportunity for the Spaniard but he may struggle to be battling his former McLaren team this year. A top-end driver, if he can stay with Leclerc where Vettel failed it will be an impressive achievement. Has the ability and will come up to speed at Ferrari quickly.
Car AT02 Engine Honda Principal Franz Tost Debut Austria 2020 GPs 17 Titles 0 Best finish 7th Last season 7th
Pierre Gasly’s win at Monza last year was a huge fillip and there is real belief Alpha Tauri can mix it at the front of the midfield. Gasly is a proven talent and Yuki Tsunoda is fearsomely quick. The Honda engine is finally firing and they tested well. Consistency of points for both drivers (lacking last season) will be key in taking the fight to the wire.
Pierre Gasly (Fr, 25) No 10 Debut Malaysia 2017 Wins 1 Poles 0 Best qualifying 4th Titles 0 Best finish 7th Last season 10th. Absolutely superb at the Italian GP to win in 2020, the Frenchman is the known quantity and experience the team need. Delivers points regularly and often beyond what might be expected. Will lead well and if he brings Tsunoda with him it will be a formidable lineup.
Yuki Tsunoda (Japan, 20) No 22, rookie F1 season Last season 3rd, F2 Championship. The Red Bull junior has made a lively march through the feeder series. He is quick and possesses a deft touch that makes him a marvellous prospect. Close to Verstappen’s times in testing; if he can deliver while staying out of trouble as well, will likely be the rookie of the year.
Car C41 Engine Ferrari Principal Frédéric Vasseur Debut Britain 1950 GPs 148 Titles 0 Best finish 6th Last season 8th
Achieved the most laps in testing and optimistic that Ferrari’s new engine is an improvement, but the gap to the midfield may still be unbridgeable. With Kimi Räikkönen able to eke out more from a car than it deserves, Alfa will expect to be on top of the back three and target points finishes but may start to look towards 2022 sooner rather than later.
Kimi Räikkönen (Fin, 41) No 7 Debut Australia 2001 Wins 21 Poles 18 Titles 1 Last season 16th. The 2007 world champion is still unafraid to put in a shift, delivering 166 laps on the final day of testing and pronouncing the car to be a definite improvement on last year. Can still outperform expectations given the right circumstances but this year may be his swansong.
Antonio Giovinazzi (It, 27) No 99 Debut Australia 2017 Best finish 5th Poles 0 Best qualifying 7th Titles 0 Best finish 17th Last season 17th. Now in his third season, the Italian matched Räikkönen on points in 2020 but might have easily been replaced by one of the many strong young talents from the Ferrari academy. Has to target beating his teammate consistently to make the case for retaining his seat.
Car VF-21 Engine Ferrari Principal Guenther Steiner Debut Australia 2016 GPs 100 Titles 0 Best finish 5th Last season 9th
With an evolution of last year’s poorly performing car, Haas have already set a low bar. They will not develop this year’s model during the season, instead focusing on the 2022 model, making them prime targets to be beaten by Williams and Alfa Romeo. Having two rookie drivers further complicates their predicament but slender hopes lie in the Ferrari engine at least delivering more grunt.
Mick Schumacher (Ger, 22) No 47, rookie F1 season Last season 1st, F2 Championship. Michael’s son will face scrutiny like no other rookie and must do so in a car struggling at the very back. Every indication is he will bear up well and has proved with title wins in every feeder category that he deserves his shot in F1. Usually takes a season to get to grips with a formula, so will rightly treat this year as a learning experience.
Nikita Mazepin (Rus, 22) No 9, rookie F1 season Last season 5th, F2 Championship. Attracted attention for the wrong reasons last year after a video was posted showing him inappropriately touching a woman. He needs now to make sure attention is on his skills on track. Both drivers must avoid tangling with one another if they are to avoid a Steiner hairdryer session.
Car FW43B Engine Mercedes Principal Simon Roberts Debut Spain 1977 GPs 744 Titles 9 Last season 10th
A new era for one of F1’s most successful teams with Dorilton Capital now in charge after the Williams family stepped down. Financially stable and building once more, moving up from last place is a feasible goal. The car was solid in testing, they have brought Jenson Button in as adviser and Haas and Alfa Romeo are their targets.
George Russell (GB, 23) No 63 Debut Australia 2019 Wins 0 Best finish 9th (for Mercedes) Poles 0 Best qualifying 2nd (for Mercedes) Titles 0 Best finish 18th Last season 18th. Executed an outstanding replacement drive last year for Mercedes in Bahrain and has been consistently leading Williams as its quickest driver. His talent is clear and he will relish a chance to genuinely fight if they can move up the grid, but has his sights set firmly on a seat at Mercedes.
Nicholas Latifi (Can, 25) No 6 Debut Austria 2020 Wins 0 Best finish 11th Poles 0 Best qualifying 15th Titles 0 Best finish 21st Last season 21st. Enjoyed a solid if unspectacular rookie season last year but with that experience under his belt he can expect to improve. Stability in the team will be to his benefit so he needs to make the step forward, particularly in getting closer to his teammate in qualifying.