Like all elite sport around the world, Formula 1 has not been sheltered from the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic. A difficult and complex operation on behalf of the entire sport to complete the 2020 season will go down as one of the strangest and most unique years in the sports’ history. Despite the impact, the storylines and drama became the focal point of attention in a year that saw Lewis Hamilton crowned once more at the summit of the sport as he, alongside Mercedes, claimed his seventh title.
Formula 1 racing is not for the feint hearted when it comes to sitting behind the wheel. Those in charge of the cars can accelerate from 0-100km/h in approximately 2.6seconds and reach 300km/h from a stationary start in around 10 seconds. With so much science and data involved in the sport, every last gram of weight on the car is carefully scrutinised, ensuring these death-defying speeds can be held whilst cornering as well as in the straights.
The sport has seen considerable exposure in recent years, with Netflix’s popular documentary ‘Formula 1 : Drive to Survive’ recently releasing its’ third series along with a dedicated F1 channel from Sky Sports to showcase the very best of the sport in the form of races, qualifying and talking points throughout the busy season.
2020 Formula 1 Season
For those unfamiliar with the sport, the Formula 1 season incorporates races throughout the world, jumping across country (and potentially continental) borders, sometimes in the space of 7-14 days. With the restrictions placed across international travel throughout 2020 due to the global pandemic, a truncated campaign saw 17 races (as opposed to the 21 of 2019 or 23 scheduled for 2021) take place. In unusual fashion, after pre-season testing in February, the first round didn’t begin until the start of July and did so away from Australia, the usual launch -site of the F1 season. With the race taking place in Austria, another unusual site was a lack of Lewis Hamilton on the podium, as he finished in fourth place, paving the way for Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas to claim the first victory of the season.
However, an astonishing 11 victories in the following 14 races effectively ended the drivers’ Championship as a contest as Hamilton once again dominated proceedings. With regular podium finishes throughout the season, his Mercedes teammate Bottas secured a constructors’ 1-2 as they claimed victory from Red Bull Racing Honda by a massive 254 points (a total that in its own right would have secured a podium finish) and achieving more than double the total of third placed McLaren.
Considering the impact of COVID on the traditional racing calendar, completing a competitive campaign was a huge testament to the work of Formula 1 as a whole and gave a platform from which fans were treated to another enticing season of racing. Hamilton and Mercedes further asserted their dominance on the field, proving the gulf in class between them and the next best. Outside of the top rankings, the middle pack were close throughout the season, especially with just a handful of races remaining, with Renault and Ferrari headlining a small group chasing a podium finish in 2021.
2021 Formula 1 Season
A new year and new spectacle has begun with a similar feel, although a slightly different approach with the considerations of the pandemic better understood. The first race of the year saw the same three drivers, all with the same teams, take the podium with Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing Honda separating the Mercedes pairing with Hamilton once again on top.
As in 2020, the opening race of the year did not take place in Australia, with the calendar influenced by the world’s response to the global pandemic. As a result, Bahrain played host to the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix as the curtain raising event at the end of March.
In the middle of April, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola, Italy, took place with rain falling in the hour prior to the start in what proved to be a determining factor in the excitement that followed. The wet conditions provided a blanket of spray from the outset, resulting in a safety car period on only the second lap. Despite this, Max Verstappen was out in front and not even a red flag coming after a heavy crash involving Williams’ George Russell and Mercedes’ Valterri Bottas.
Reigning Championship leader Lewis Hamilton recovered from losing control of his car to fight back into second place however Red Bull’s Verstappen claimed victory with a huge margin of over 20 seconds to narrow the gap between himself and the runner up to just one point in the drivers’ championship.
With Portugal next in for Round 3 at the start of May, the calendar sees 23 races throughout the year, culminating in Abu Dhabi on the 10th-12th December. Notably, the British Grand Prix, held at Silverstone once more, will take place on Sunday 18th July where Hamilton will once again be looking to extend his record of seven wins at his home event. The early signs make it difficult to look beyond Hamilton and Mercedes continuing their dominance of modern Formula 1 however a longer season in 2021 provides more opportunities for the chasing pack to narrow the gap between the podium and the rest of the field.
Domestic Racing in Britain
To many, Formula 1 racing can seem like another world; one that is apparently inaccessible without mainstream teams or clubs to join. The path to elite racing is a difficult one that requires time and commitment, like any elite sport. To begin with, Karting provides a competitive platform from which to hone racing skills. Go-Karting tracks around the country can provide a taste of high speed driving whilst offering competitive action in races for those that become more accomplished. From there, progressions through to Formula Ford, Formula 3 and Formula 1 creates a ladder through the levels of elite competitive racing. With British drivers such as Lando Norris, George Williams and the World Champion Lewis Hamilton all worked their way through the ranks of British Racing before earning their seat at the elite table of Formula 1.