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New Season, New faces: The F1 2021 Driver Transfer Round-up

Ashwin Menon, Undergraduate Batch of 2022

2020 has been a year of ups and downs in Formula 1. We had several new winners and, of course, multiple new records were broken. With Sergio Perez and Pierre Gasly getting their first-ever F1 wins, and many new and old faces back on the podium, it has been an entertaining season if we look past the Mercedes championship win, which has quickly become the norm in recent times. As we gear up for the new season, The Edict decided to take a look at the driver transfers for next season as the grid gets its well-needed shake-up.

Sergio Perez Redbull Racing Honda 2020 had been an emotional year for Perez as halfway through the season, it was clear that Racing Point (now Aston Martin) had no intention of extending his contract, and he had to face the genuine possibility of not returning to the sport next season. But what followed were some of the best drives of his career, with a fourth-place finish in France and Russia, as well as a podium in Turkey and his maiden win in the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain. Yet with his seat at Aston Martin now going to 4 times world champion Sebastian Vettel, Formula 1 fans were eagerly waiting for any team on the grid to snap him up. And they did, with Redbull signing Perez for next season to drive alongside their prodigy, Max Verstappen. But this has come at the cost of Alexander Albon not having a seat for next season, which is disappointing in many ways. Considering Albon is six years younger than Perez and needs more experience, many question the need for this short-term move. In Redbull, Perez will have to accept a supporting driver to Max Verstappen, a role that does not suit the ambitious. It is the same role that pushed Daniel Ricciardo to leave Redbull a few years ago, and unless Perez does not mind spending his last few productive years playing second fiddle, things do look a bit icy.

Daniel Ricciardo Mclaren Renault No one can argue that Ricciardo is one of the most talented drivers on the grid. But since he left Redbull, we’ve never had a chance to see him in a competitive car until now. Mclaren has a real chance next season to establish themselves as the best of the rest after Mercedes and Redbull, and they have the talent to do so. Ricciardo and Norris look like a very threatening driver partnership, and Mclaren now needs to bring a good car to their preseason testing. Ricciardo might be finally able to show some of his earlier promises that F1 fans are rooting for, and maybe we are in for a season to remember for the late-breaking king.

Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin What a terrible year for 4-time world champion Vettel. During preseason testing 2020, when Ferrari brought out their car, Formula One fans were both laughing and in tears as the car was miles off the pace from the rest of the grid. With it being clear that the immensely talented Charles Leclerc is Ferrari’s preferred driver, Vettel was almost an outcast, and his driving seemed to be that of a man who simply didn’t care anymore. Fans were ecstatic to see him on the podium again after so long in Turkey and cannot wait to see what the future holds for Vettel at Aston Martin. Add to the mix a more competitive car and a Mercedes engine, next season could be the season for some vintage Vettel drives.

Sebastian Vettel endured a disappointing season last time out.

Fernando Alonso Alpine We won’t blame you if you haven’t heard it yet, but Fernando Alonso is back at the tender young age of 39. He shall take the seat left behind by Ricciardo next season alongside Esteban Ocon, and of course, this is to help develop the team further and to play a similar role to what he played at Mclaren earlier and what Raikkonen plays at Alfa Romeo. Alpine is not set to be competitive for the top spots next season, so sorry to disappoint those who were nostalgic about a Vettel-Hamilton-Kimi title fight. Yet, it will be worth looking forward to some classic switchbacks and round the outside, Alonso moves with some exciting and entertaining radio snippets.

Carlos Sainz Scuderia Ferrari This must be a dream move for Carlos as he follows his hero, Alonso, into Ferrari. But the dream may well turn into a nightmare after Ferrari’s massive decline in performance last season. Their car was hopeless last season, and he must have been feeling a deep pain pierce his heart as he flew past Leclerc and Vettel multiple times last season in his Mclaren. Nevertheless, Ferrari has two fearless and talented drivers next season, and if they get the formula right, they may have a good chance for third or even second place in the constructor’s championship. Last season, Sainz had some of his career’s best drives with one podium and consistent high point finishes. He showed us what a brilliant driver he can be, and maybe, just maybe, this would be the year he becomes a race winner.

Yuki Tsunoda Alpha Tauri Yuki is a brilliant young talent. He is extremely brave and makes some questionable yet brilliant moves on the track. Let’s be realistic, he is not going to turn in to the next Sebastian Vettel in the span of a year, but he does show promise. Alongside the extremely beloved Pierre Gasly, Alpha Tauri has an extremely talented lineup for next season. Danil Kyvat did have a productive second half of the season but the Russian’s seat was always in question. Coming in third in the F2 drivers championship last season, Yuki showed the world he was capable of some big races and all signs indicate a good future in Formula One. It’ll be interesting to see the dynamic that he shares with Gasly as they once again are on the quest to be the best of the rest. Expect Tsunoda to have a rough time, however, as he begins his struggle to pierce the midfield and get used to the pace of Formula 1.

Mick Schumacher Haas The champion of the 2020 F2 season, Mick Schumacher, will finally make that long-awaited arrival into Formula 1. Of course, some may have heard of this famous surname and his father, a certain Michael Schumacher, in many minds the greatest driver to ever get behind the wheel. His seven world championships and 91 wins, recently equalled by Lewis Hamilton remain a stellar achievement. It is an understatement then to say Mick has big shoes to fill. But he is a talented youngster in his own right and has shown a lot of promise. His time with Haas will be to learn the sport, and team principal Guenther Steiner will definitely be the perfect person to keep his youthfulness in check. Regardless, what a moment it will be for F1 fans to see the name ‘Schumacher’ on the grid once again. And what a moment for Mick himself, after all that has unfortunately happened with his father, he will get a chance to create a name for himself in Formula 1, and display his talent for one and all to see.

Mick Schumacher will look to light up the grid in the coming season.

Nikita Mazepin Haas When Romain Grosjean and Magnussen decided to leave Haas, we all thought that Mick Schumacher and Calum Illot were in line for the Haas seat. Surprisingly, Nikita Mazepin, the 5th place finisher in the F2 Championship won which keeps the Russian presence within the sport alive. Mazepin is talented, no doubt but the questions surrounding his temper and ego are always swirling around him. Again, Guenther Steiner will be perfect to keep him in line and will hope to keep that rash nature in check. His skills and reactions are always on point, but the doubt remains over his ability to pull back and his patience. F1 is a sport of acceptable margins, and you do not gain anything from trying to force moves other than endangering yourself and other drivers’ safety. Unlike in F2, his car won’t be as competitive, and he will have to get used to not being able to pull off moves as he pleases. Mazepin’s mark on the sport will be determined by how well he works with Mick and the team and he contributes to the development of the car on a budget. It also helps that his family make substantial financial contributions to the team, which will help the struggling franchise.

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