2021 will see some teams start their season with either brand new names in the driver’s seats, or existing ones given a lifeline.
Max Verstappen will now have Sergio Perez as his co-driver, after Alexander Albon’s contract was terminated. Red Bull had given Albon plenty of time and assistance but sadly for the young Thai driver, it wasn’t enough. Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s Motorsport Advisor, had to make the call, and it was Perez, with his overall better results and late 2020 surge that sealed the deal.
Perez and his management had, apparently, reached out to Red Bull in the mid-season, and were effectively given a “wait and see” response as they watched what Albon might deliver. The other situation, it seems, is that Red Bull’s driver academy and potential drivers weren’t deemed to be at F1 standard, and therefore it made sense to select Albon’s replacement as someone already with F1 experience. That included looking and and ultimately not promoting either Pierre Gasly or Daniil Kvyat into Albon’s seat.
Interestingly, it also appears that Red Bull wish to see a driver go harder and push Verstappen. This would bring Verstappen up a notch, as mercurial in attitude he can be, as a driver and Red Bull believe that any extra improvement in Verstappen will bring them closer to the all-conquering Mercedes team. Albon now becomes the team’s reserve and test driver.
Veteran driver Fernando Alonso makes his return to F1, filling the seat vacated by Daniel Ricciardo after the Aussie’s move to McLaren. That team finished third in the constructors’championship, meaning a hefty slice of the money pie to boost both their and Ricciardo’s chances in 2021 and beyond.
Alonso spent some time, post Abu Dhabi, reacquainting himself with Renault at a post race test day at Yas Marina, lapping the track 105 times during the day. “It was good and very nice to be back in the car especially with the race team. I’ve been testing the 2018 car in preparation but this one felt a bit more serious and it ignited a little bit the competitive spirit.” he said.
Red Bull’s second tier team, formerly Toro Rosso, now Alpha Tauri, have shown Russian driver Daniil Kvyat the door. In a move seen by some in the media as an unfair and unnecessary move, Kvyat was given his marching orders just days after the final race. He’ll be replaced at AlphaTauri by upcoming Japanese driver Yuki Tsonoda. He does have pedigree, being the Japanese F4 champion in 2018, and this year was the Rookie of the Year in F2, with three wins and ultimately third place in the category.
Kvyat is without a drive for 2021, but the Russian is assessing options to work with F1 teams in a reserve, development, or simulator capacity. He did the latter for Ferrari in 2018, when on the sidelines, before returning with Toro Rosso for a third spell in 2019.
The Russian is understood to have unfinished business with F1, particularly after his strong end to the 2020 campaign, which included a fourth at Imola, and has tasked his manager Nicholas Tost with finding him a race seat for 2022, when the new rules are introduced.
Schumacher. Mick Schumacher. Perhaps the most famous name in motorsport returns to F1 in the shape of Mick, son of Michael. He’ll be racing with Haas in 2021, as one of the drivers replacing both Romain Grosjean and Danish born Kevin Magnussen who is heading to American based IMSA Racing with Chip Ganassi.. He’ll come to F1 as the 2020 F2 championship winner, and will be facing intense scrutiny over the first year of his contract.
However, should past form be a guide, it may be 2022 that his shine will show. It took a year in both F3 and F2 for his talent to be showcased, with his first year in F3 “inauspicious” and his first F2 season good, but by no means stellar. It was a deep and many topics covering talk with his F2 team principal, Rene Rosin, at the end of 2019, that relit the candle for Schumacher, with a championship in F2 against his name, and the call from Haas to join them in 2021.
He’ll partner Nikita Mazepin, a young Russian and son of a multi-billionaire chemical company owner. Mazepin started racing single seaters in 2015, competing in Formula Renault 2.0 before spending two years competing in European F3.
“Becoming a Formula 1 driver is a lifelong dream come true for me.” said Mazepin. “I really appreciate the trust being put in me by Gene Haas, Guenther Steiner, and the whole of the team. They’re giving a young driver an opportunity and I thank them for that. I’m looking forward to starting our relationship together, both on and off the track, and I’m naturally keen to continue to demonstrate my abilities after a strong Formula 2 season. The team will be looking to me for feedback and inputs in order to refine its package for 2021 and beyond. I will take that responsibility on and can’t wait to get started.”
On behalf of F1, yachtinglifestyle365.com, and myself, have a safe and enjoyable Christmas and New Year’s break.
We’ll be back in January of 2021.