With the 2021 Formula 1 season getting underway this weekend in Bahrain, SWL profiles all the teams competing in this year’s championship, starting with Ferrari and Alfa Romeo.
When you think of Formula 1, it is natural to think of the red racing car that is Ferrari.
This is because Ferrari and Formula 1 racing have become essentially inseparable, with the legendary Italian manufacturer standing alone as the only team to compete in every season since the world championship began.
The Prancing Horses have dominated the sport with the most famous drivers, from Niki Lauda winning two world championships in the 1970s to Michael Schumacher’s dominance of the early 2000s, as the German claimed five straight titles donning the famous Maranello red.
When Schumacher and Ferrari dominated the sport for a then-unprecedented record of five consecutive world championship doubles, winning both the driver and constructor titles, the Italians became the most successful team in the sport – but now they are in limbo.
The 2020 season was Ferrari’s worst performance in four decades, as they failed to win a single race, finished on the podium on just three occasions and finished sixth in the standings.
Sebastian Vettel, a four-time world champion with Red Bull, was told before the season that he would not be signed on for 2021 and the German went on to score just 33 points, while Charles Leclerc scored 98.
The Monegasque driver burst onto the scene in 2019 during his first season with Ferrari, as he recorded 10 podium finishes, the most pole positions of any driver that season with seven, two wins and beat teammate Vettel in the world championship.
For 2021, Leclerc – widely tipped to be a future world champion – is paired with Carlos Sainz, who replaced Vettel.
The Spaniard signed a two-year contract from the 2021 and 2022 seasons after impressing during his two seasons with McLaren.
While car issues hampered his 2020 season, Sainz still registered career-highs in points scored (105) and top-five finishes (six).
The 26-year-old impressed at the Italian Grand Prix, qualifying third behind the dominant Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas before going on to finish second – his career-best race finish and second podium – just 0.4 seconds behind race winner Pierre Gasly.
Sainz’s move from McLaren certainly raised eyebrows throughout the sport, as the Spaniard appeared to have left a team on the rise in favour of a team on the decline – but the lure of Ferrari proved too much to turn down.
It sets up an intriguing narrative for the 2021 season, as Sainz will not only have to prove his worth against Leclerc but also to himself regarding the decision to leave McLaren. Only time will tell if the switch was a wise one.
Moving down the grid, Ferrari’s compatriots Alfa Romeo are hoping to improve on a tough 2020, in which they only scored eight points.
Under far less pressure than the Prancing Horses to deliver, Alfa Romeo have opted to retain their driver line-up from last season, opting to once again pair former-world champion Kimi Raikkonen alongside Italian driver Antonio Giovinazzi.
The 41-year-old Raikkonen has flirted with the idea of retirement for the last few seasons and 2021 may genuinely be the final time we see the ‘Iceman’ suit up.
Last season, he secured his four points at the Tuscan and Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, which is ironic considering the fact that Raikkonen drives for Alfa Romeo and has ties to Ferrari.
He was the last Ferrari drivers’ world champion in 2007, and represented the team for eight seasons across two separate stints.
Giovinazzi has his own links to Ferrari as he was the team’s third driver for the 2017 season, and he actually scored eight points in 2020 but penalties meant only four were officially registered.
The Italian proved his worth throughout the year, outqualifying his experienced teammate at nine of the season’s 17 races.
For 2021, it appears more likely that Alfa Romeo will be pitted against Haas and Williams in the battle at the back of the grid rather than in the lower midfield, however, the Ferrari engine used by the team will surely be an improvement on the 2020 version, which lacked the straight-line speed that it traditionally excels at.
As for Ferrari themselves, it will be interesting to see what new and inventive ways they conjure up to derail their 2021 season.
You can check out all of SWL’s Formula 1 coverage here.