It’s been just under three months since we last saw a Formula 1 car blast it’s way round a track, but after the long wait the FIA Formula 1 World Championship is back on 12 – 14 March for pre-season testing at Bahrain Circuit.
Going into the 2021 season, Covid-19 is still an ongoing pandemic and we’ve already seen various different changes to the upcoming season. Because of this, testing is a little different this year from previous season. First is the change of location from Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya to Bahrain, due to the season stating at the track, and secondly, the duration has been cut to just three days from its usual six.
Last year, we saw Bahrain circuit used for two races in two different track layouts. So, which one have they opted to use for testing? The test will be sticking to the traditional 5.412km, 15 corner layout, the same layout that will be used in the season opener.
Who will be driving at the F1 tests?
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team
Mercedes have kept the same driver line up as 2020 with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. The team will still be on a high of gaining their seventh World Championship and driver Hamilton gaining his seventh World Title, smashing records along the way. Let’s see what’s in store for them the season ahead.
Friday – Bottas AM Hamilton PM
Saturday – Hamilton AM Bottas PM
Sunday – Bottas AM Hamilton PM
Red Bull Racing
Red Bull have a change to their line-up. Max Verstappen is continuing on charging with the team. Alexander Albon was not so lucky in keeping his seat and was dropped in favour for Sergio Pérez. This upcoming weekend will be the first time Pérez will be able to show off his driving skills in the RB16B.
Friday – Verstappen all day
Saturday – Pérez all day
Sunday – Pérez AM Verstappen PM
McLaren F1 Team
McLaren also see a driver change for 2021. Lando Norris will be joined by Daniel Ricciardo, who chose to switch after the past two years with Renault turned Alpine. Ricciardo has given a McLaren model out for a drive but he’ll get a real taste of what McLaren is all about this weekend.
Friday – Ricciardo AM Norris PM
Saturday – Ricciardo AM Norris PM
Sunday – Norris PM Ricciardo AM
Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team
Not only do Aston Martin have a new driver, but they are also a new, rebranded team. Aston Martin, previously known as BWT-Racing Point Formula One Team, have brought back the British green to a Formula 1 track. Lance Stroll is still part of the team with four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel joining after being ousted by Scuderia Ferrari.
Friday – Vettel AM Stroll PM
Saturday – Vettel AM Stroll PM
Sunday – Stroll AM Vettel PM
Alpine F1 Team
Alpine are the second team on the grid to rebrand. Alpine, formerly known as Renault DP World F1 Team, have traded the yellows for a blue, red and white livery scheme. With Ricciardo leaving for McLaren, Fernando Alonso is making his return to the grid after a two-year hiatus. Esteban Ocon continues with the team and will be hoping to bring in more trophies after his second-place finish at the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Friday – Ocon all day
Saturday – Alonso all day
Sunday – Ocon AM Alonso PM
Ferrari traded Vettel for a younger driver in Carlos Sainz Jr. Sainz had impressed the Italian team in recent years and opted for him to join the Tifosi and partner alongside Charles Leclerc. After what can only be described as a poor season for Ferrari last year, they have all cylinders blasting this year.
Friday – Leclerc AM Sainz Jr. PM
Saturday – TBC
Sunday – TBC
Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
AlphaTauri have also decided to go to the FIA Formula 2 Championship for a driver. Japanese Yuki Tsunoda has been promoted up to the big seat after a solid F2 campaign. F1 race winner Pierre Gasly continues on his role in the side and will be a strong competitor to Tsunoda.
Friday – Gasly AM Tsunoda PM
Saturday – Tsunoda AM Gasly PM
Sunday – Gasly AM Tsunoda PM
Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN
Alfa Romeo is one of the three teams on the grid to have an unchanged driver line-up for the 2021 season. There were rumours swirling that a Formula 2 driver would take Antonio Giovinazzi’s seat, but Alfa Romeo have put their trust in him for another year. Veteran Kimi Räikkönen soldiers on in his nineteenth F1 season.
Friday – Räikkönen AM Giovinazzi PM
Saturday – Giovinazzi all day
Sunday – Räikkönen all day
Uralkali Haas F1 Team
Haas have completely changed their line-up, deciding to opt for all youth talent. F2 Champion and protégé Mick Schumacher joins the team, following his dad’s footsteps into F1. Nikita Mazepin has also joined the side after impressing in his F2 campaign.
Friday – Schumacher AM Mazepin PM
Saturday – Mazepin AM Schumacher PM
Sunday – Schumacher AM Mazepin PM
Williams have decided to let their reserve driver Roy Nissany take a day of testing to drive the car, the only team on the grid so far to do so. The three days are being split equally with continuing drivers George Russell and Nicholas Latifi taking a day each to try out the new FW43B.
Friday – Nissany all day
Saturday – Latifi all day
Sunday – Russell all day
What should I look out for?
This year, we have plenty of new faces on the grid. Mick Schumacher, Yuki Tsunoda and Nikita Mazepin will have to show they have what it takes to be a F1 great. Testing will be their first chance to really show they have what it takes and give them their first taste of a f1 car.
Four seasoned drivers have joined new teams and will be given their first taste in the teams 2021 car. Pérez will get his first test in a Red Bull, Vettel in the all-new Aston Martin, Riccardo in McLaren and Sainz Jr. in the red of Ferrari. We’ll also see if returning Alonso has still got his world-class skills.
It’s expected that Mercedes will continuing on being the powerhouse that they are but will a mix of podiums from Red Bull, McLaren and Alpine last year, expect them to be closer than ever to their times. Mercedes have also given their engine to McLaren, could that make them a thorn in their side?
What is the schedule?
Each day will be running the same timings. The AM session will start at 10:00 Local Time / 07:00 GMT and the PM session will start at 15:00 Local Time / 12:00 GMT.
How can I keep up with the action?
You can watch all of the testing live on F1 TV and follow all the action at The Checkered Flag with our extensive coverage, quotes and analysis of every session of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship testing.