The McLaren Formula One car

There’s this palpable excitement that I get this time of year: Formula 1 is almost back. If you get excited about when pitchers and catchers report to camp, I get excited over F1 pre-season testing. Here are five things I’m looking for with this coming season.

1: Sebastian Vettel

Vettel has moved to Aston Martin (formerly Racing Point) for the new F1 season and fans have questions that need answering. Chiefly: Does this move revitalize Seb? At Ferrari, the fire seemed nearly snuffed out. This is a driver who competed ruthlessly while at Red Bull winning his four back-to-back Drivers and Constructors titles. Will we see that fire return or is Seb on the backside of his career?

F1 driver Sebastian Vettel in a green coat, hat, and earmuffs.

2: Who Brings It To Mercedes?

Frankly, I think Hamilton’s eighth title is essentially in the bag before anyone has turned a wheel in anger. The technical regulations have minor changes for 2021 and the level of professionalism, precision, and consistency that Mercedes competes at is second to none. That being said it’s not like other teams are resting on their laurels. Red Bull and Max Verstappen were consistently right up there, taking many podiums in 2020. Will the addition of old hand Sergio Perez add to that? One of the major issues with Red Bull in 2020 was the inability to consistently score a good haul of double points. Perez brings serious potential there.

3: Does McLaren’s Momentum Continue?

2020 was a fantastic year for the Woking-based team. They seemed to finally be firing on all cylinders and made great progress, including two podium finishes. The car’s consistency allowed them to frequently score double points, taking third in the Constructors championship in a car that was definitely not third fastest. For the new F1 season, however, McLaren returns to Mercedes power and shoehorning an engine into a chassis designed for a different make (Renault) is difficult. We also see Daniel Ricciardo move across to pair with Lando Norris. I hope McLaren’s forward progress continues even with these major changes.

4: A Long Season

With 23 races on the calendar for 2021 — the most ever — car consistency from week to week is key to winning the championships. Teams and drivers that consistently get in the points and stay there are the ones to look for. This year, F1 pre-season testing has been more important than ever. We are also still tackling Covid worldwide so there’s a possibility that we see races moved or cancelled still.

5: Tires, Tires, Tires

Prior to Covid, the new F1 season was going to introduce a massive new set of technical regulations. Cars were going to look very different, including much larger wheels with tires that look more like you see on your road car instead of the small wheel and large sidewall tires on Formula 1 cars that we have now. Those regulation changes have been pushed to 2022 and Pirelli have had to tweak their existing tire compounds in order to eke out another season of life. The FIA have also tweaked the regulations slightly to reduce downforce and (at least initially) be kinder on the tires, but teams always make up that loss of downforce as they develop the car through the season. Will the tires hold?

Those are the five big themes I’m keeping an eye out for through the F1 pre-season testing and 2021 season. Gear up for 2021 by grabbing your favorite team gear at

About the Author:

Jared Nichols has been a Formula 1 fan for a decade and a car nut his entire life. He is the host of the F1 Explained podcast where he and special guests make Formula 1 accessible to all. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.

April 13, 2021 — Jared Nichols

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