Formula One 2021 season predictions: from drivers’ title to breakthrough stars

The wait is almost over for Formula One fans, but when the flag drops at Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix who will our writers be looking out for, and who do they think will win the drivers and constructors’ championships?

And will this year’s campaign be any more exciting than the last, who are the breakthrough drivers to watch out for, who is under threat with one eye on their rear view mirror, and what grands prix are we looking forward to most? Buckle up for Telegraph Sport‘s predictions for 2021.

Red Bull revival can take season down to the wire

By Oliver Brown

Will the two title races be any closer this year?
For F1’s sake, they have to be. What more can possibly be said about another processional Hamilton victory? Since 2018, he has wrapped up the title with at least two races to spare, but Red Bull’s revival is convincing enough to suggest Verstappen will extend the race until the finale in Abu Dhabi.

Who will be the breakthrough star of the year?
Lando Norris is a prized property for the sport, given his popularity among the Gen Z demographic. His third place in Austria in 2020 was a reminder of his immense talent, likely to be elevated this year by McLaren’s Mercedes engines and a fiercely competitive team-mate in Daniel Ricciardo.

The driver most under pressure is…
Valtteri Bottas. The Finn enters his fifth season at Mercedes knowing that even if he keeps Hamilton honest, it might not be enough to save him. One false move and George Russell, easily his equal in the same car in Sakhir last year, will be primed to take his place.

Race most looking forward to is…
Monaco. Often the least competitive grand prix but always the most sumptuous spectacle. Its cancellation last year due to the pandemic – its first absence from the calendar since 1954 – only makes the heart grow fonder.

Vettel in fight to save reputation — he has no excuses

By Luke Slater

Will the two title races be any closer this year?
Yes, they can hardly be any more distant. The lack of competition Mercedes and Hamilton faced throughout the season was painful. F1 badly needs at least one close title fight.

Who will be the breakthrough star of the year?
Yuki Tsunoda. A man – albeit only just – who was racing in Japanese in 2018 has made the leap to F1 after an impressive year in F4. Has not looked overawed yet.

The driver most under pressure is…
Sebastian Vettel. He faces a fight to save his reputation, which has dwindled with numerous mistakes in the last three years. Out of an unhelpful environment at Ferrari, there can be no excuses in 2021 at Aston Martin.

Race most looking forward to…
The first Dutch Grand Prix since 1985. The coronavirus pandemic robbed us of some fantastic circuits and events in 2020. The thought of hundreds of thousands of orange-clad fans cheering on a title-fighting Verstappen by the sea at the returning Zandvoort is a tantalising one.

Japanese rookie Tsunoda is one to watch

By Tom Cary

Will the two title races be any closer this year?
If testing is anything to go by, then yes. Red Bull finished last year strongly and carried that momentum into testing while Mercedes were not at the races. But the Brackley team surely won’t be behind for long. Some interesting line-ups at all the top and midfield teams, too.

Who will be the breakthrough star of the year?
Lots of hype about Yuki Tsunoda. Japanese rookie looked quick in testing and the AlphaTauri looks competitive. 

The driver most under pressure is…
Sebastian Vettel. After losing his mojo at Ferrari, the four-time world champion has moved to Aston Martin where he will be expected to show Lance Stroll who’s boss. The problem is Vettel’s boss is Stroll’s dad. Tricky.

Race most looking forward to…
British Grand Prix, July 18. After the weirdness of all the empty grandstands last year, it will be good to have the fans back (assuming they are allowed in by then). Plus they are bound to do something special to remember Murray Walker.

Red Bull hold keys to the season’s roller-coaster ride

By Uche Amako

Will the two title races be any closer this year?
That all depends on Red Bull. Mercedes are arguably the greatest racing team F1 has seen and their pursuit of excellence is unmatched. Can Red Bull live with them? They have two drivers who are quick and consistent on their day but reliability has been an issue in recent years. When Mercedes falter, Red Bull must be there to seize the opportunity.

Who will be the breakthrough star of the year?
It would be a wonderful story for the sport if Mick Schumacher can show some of the racing pedigree his father Michael demonstrated during his remarkable career. It is clear the German has the speed but competing at the highest level of motorsport is another challenge altogether. Comprehensively beating his team-mate Nikita Mazepin needs to be his first aim and if he can drag the Haas in Q2 regularly, a move up the grid next season could be on the cards.

The driver most under pressure is…
Valtteri Bottas. If the Finn cannot keep up with Hamilton every weekend, he faces the prospect of losing his seat at Mercedes next season. It is that simple. George Russell’s performance against him in Bahrain last year should be a wake up call.

Race most looking forward to…
Austria. Since the return to the Red Bull Ring in 2014, this race has always delivered excitement, great overtaking and drama. Also looking forward to the Portuguese Grand Prix in Portimao after a thrilling race in 2020.

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