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We’re just six races into the 2021 season, and what a rollercoaster of emotions I’ve been through! Despite having a couple of less than exciting races, there was enough action just in Azerbaijan to make up for that, let alone the rest of them. We’ve seen wet racing, tyres destroyed, and the closest championship battle we’ve seen for many years, and there are still so many races to come. Here are some of my favourite moments from the last 6 races, although it was impossible to choose.

Bahrain:

The season opened where it all but closed last year, in Sakhir, and it did not disappoint. We saw the first of what would be many Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton battles, this one going Hamilton’s way. Max tried desperately hard to overtake Hamilton when pitting onto fresh tyres, and he succeeded. It became clear very quickly, however, that Max got through off the track and, therefore, the place would have to be given back. This was the last opportunity for the young Dutchman, and he ended the race in P2 but would have won had he waited to pass on a less windy part of the track. This gave us the first glimpse of the biggest title fights in years, and we immediately knew the 2021 season would be different.

Italy:

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix came next and got us excited for different reasons entirely. A wet race! Within seconds of the race start, we could see it would be a dramatic one as none of the drivers could be seen through all the spray. If we couldn’t see them at home, it must have been impossible to see from inside the Formula 1 cars. Within a few laps, cars were beginning to spin and slide all over the track and while it, unfortunately, ended the race for Latifi, and we saw a horrific crash between Bottas and Russell, it also spun Hamilton off the track and almost into the wall, almost costing him a race finish. He came back from P9 to finish an impressive P2, much to everyone’s surprise. This race also brought one of my favourite driver/engineer moments in recent times. Mick also spun into the wall during the race, and the calm and collected nature of his engineer Gary saved him from panicking, and the F1 rookie’s race continued after a front wing change. We’re very used to hearing very technical and heated conversations between drivers and engineers during a race, and it was lovely to experience the supportive role these engineers also play.

Portugal:

The race in Portugal was far from the most thrilling but did have one moment, which was nice to see, again involving Mick Schumacher. The young German driver was able to overtake Latifi during the race, and therefore, his Haas car did not finish with only his teammate behind him. While, of course, the battle for the bottom places is rarely important or even noticed during the race, but it was nice to see. Knowing how underpowered the Haas car is compared to even their nearest rivals and the constant press attention the team has been subjected to, none of which is his fault, it was nice to see him take a place on the track. I’m sure that improved his confidence as a rookie F1 driver hugely, given he’d spun in the two races before this.

Spain:

Barcelona was yet another race showcased a Hamilton vs Verstappen showdown, as every race seemed to have at this stage. What made this race special was that the role of strategy became so much more obvious compared to most races. With the front running teams often going for almost identical strategies during a race, it is rare to see a strategic win as we saw in Spain. Hamilton pitted late onto fresh tyres to take Max Verstappen close to the end of the race, and that he did. It surprised everyone both in the paddock and at home as the pit crew appeared in the pitlane at the very last moment. This caught Red Bull completely by surprise, and they immediately knew they’d been outwitted on this occasion, and Mercedes were likely to take the win. Even if this was another race with the two drivers taking all of the glory, this one showed a different side to the sport.

Monaco:

The race in Monaco was surprisingly underwhelming, with very little surprise apart from the pace of Ferrari and the lack thereof at Mercedes. After weeks of Red Bull vs Mercedes rhetoric, it was interesting to see a different team on top. My favourite moment in Monaco was seeing Charles Leclerc on pole, even if it ultimately went disastrously wrong on Sunday. Seeing the Monegasque driver on top at his home GP was really exciting and knowing that Ferrari was on the path to fighting back was lovely to hear.

Azerbaijan:

Asking me to choose a favourite moment from the Grand Prix in Baku is totally impossible! I loved every second of the drama we saw during that race. Of course, I’m most happy that both Stroll and Verstappen were okay after such scary crashes, but the action was intense. We went from thinking the title would stay in Verstappen’s hands to thinking Lewis would take over after Max’s DNF to realising neither of them got points. From this, we got the most random but by far most exciting podium of 2021 so far. Sergio finally getting the Red Bull to work in his favour was thrilling, even if it was due to Max’s misfortune. What made it so crazy was seeing Vettel in P2, however. Aston Martin struggled throughout the season and seemed so off the pace, but the 4-time world champion pulled through. Hopefully, he has found some new confidence that will ensure he continues to fight at the front of the grid, as we know he’s capable of doing. I can’t ignore Pierre Gasly either, as he was strong all weekend and totally deserved that podium. Seeing Gasly succeed after all of the dramas of recent years will never stop making me very happy. He is such a talented driver and deserves to be a front runner in years to come.

It’s lights out and away we go in Baku!

Polesitter Charles Leclerc had a great start in the Ferrari and got away very quickly from the line and led in front of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. There were no incidents through the first few turns. Meanwhile on Lap 2, Sergio Perez has made a strong start to the race, moving up two positions to 4th place. On the other hand, Lando Norris has had a poor start and is already in 12th place, behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo. George Russell is the first one of the field to make a pitstop already. Lewis Hamilton makes it to P1 in Lap 3. The World Champion does not even need a DRS to overtake Leclerc, who could not stay in front of the Mercedes. It was a brilliant move. Lap 4 and the first retirement of the race is for Esteban Ocon. It appears that the Alpine has a gearbox failure as we heard Ocon on the team radio saying, “Lost power!”

We’re into Lap 7, and Max Verstappen hits the brakes late and overtakes Leclerc. Max obviously needed a few laps to get there. Lewis Hamilton complained about some balancing concerns over the Mercedes team radio in Lap 8, saying, “Balance is on the nose”, he also mentions struggling. Sergio Perez now closes in on Charles Leclerc and joins his Dutch Red Bull teammate in moving forward. Charles Leclerc is into the pit in Lap 10 and receives a fresh set of hard tyres. Charles Lecelerc rejoined the track before Kimi Räikkönen on P10. Lewis Hamilton says to be having struggles with his rears on the team radio in Lap 11. A disaster for Ferrari in Lap 12 after Carlos Sainz went straight through Turn 8 after his tyres blocked. As a result: the Spaniard is now in P15 after having to reverse back onto the track.

In Lap 15, we see Lewis Hamilton, the defending World Champion, make a slow pit stop of 4.6 seconds, and he loses his position on the track. One lap later, during Lap 16, Red Bull is capable of a pit stop for Max Verstappen in under two seconds. Sergio Perez is now leading the race with Sebastian Vettel on P2. Now Sergio Perez comes to a 4.3 second stop in Lap 17, but the Mexican stays ahead of Verstappen. Lap 19 and meanwhile Sebastian Vettel is leading the race, but he has yet to pit. It’s the first time the German has led a race since Brazil 2019.

Now, as it stands, we have P1: Vettel P2: Verstappen P3: Perez P4: Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel pits for a new set of tyres in Lap 21, and the former World Champion leaves the pit lane in 8th place. Aston Martin’s strategy of stretching out the first stint of the race seemed to pay off. Max Verstappen is now the new leader of the race with his teammate Sergio Perez on P2! Lap 22 and Valtteri Bottas hasn’t been mentioned yet. He’s still stuck in 10th place, where he started the race. He’s having trouble getting past Norris.

After a lock-up earlier in the race, the Spaniard had to work his way through the field, and he showed amazing courage by passing Giovinazzi into Turn 8 during Lap 24. He took the long way around after braking late. On Lap 25, Bottas drove off-track at Turn 16, losing him over a second and putting him further behind Norris. Nikita Mazepin makes a lockup and misses the corner in Lap 26. By 38 seconds, the Russian has dropped to the back of the field…

We hear a worrying Lewis Hamilton on the team radio during Lap 27 saying he cannot keep up with the Red Bulls. Mercedes have the best straight-line speed, but the Red Bulls have been the more balanced cars throughout the weekend. We’re into Lap 31, and we have the first Yellow Flag situation of the race.

Stroll had the longest stint in the race and was the only driver not to pit, and now he’s crashed into the wall after a rear puncture caused a massive accident on the run to the finish line. Eventually, the Safety Car has been deployed, and there is a significant amount of debris on the track. Michael Masi also decided to close the pit entry as a result. Still behind the Safety Car in Lap 34 and Lewis Hamilton mentions that a restart will be difficult on his tyres. Meanwhile, the pitlane re-opened, and Alonso, Giovinazz and Russell head into the pits. Mick Schumacher is also making a pitstop, but his tyre wasn’t put on properly by the team; they brought him safely to the pit and put on the tyre the right way, after all.

Finally, the Safety Car is ending in Lap 35. Max determines the pace, and we restarted! Lewis Hamilton considered going around Sergio Perez’s back but decided against it. Then Sebastian Vettel passes Leclerc before the Ferrari nearly collides with Hamilton’s rear end due to a lock-up! Sebastian Vettel’s tyres perform brilliantly as he passes Gasly, bringing the former world champion in 2nd place behind Hamilton.

We’re on Lap 44, and on the Mercedes team radio, Hamilton says, “I’m not getting any closer.” Despite having the fastest lap of the race a few laps ago in Lap 39. Now Max Verstappen has set the new fastest lap of the race in Lap 45.

Disaster for the race leader! Max Verstappen is in the wall in Lap 47. He looked set for victory, and the race was as good as wrapped up, but there has been a problem with one of his rear tyres. We saw something similar happen with Stroll earlier in the race. We see a shocking Christian Horner with his head in his hands at the pit wall, not believing what just happened with only a few more laps to go….

We’re now, unsurprisingly, behind the Safety Car in Lap 48, and there’s a good possibility this race will end behind the Safety Car. The problem seems to be with the Pirelli tyre probably becoming too soft. With only three laps remaining, the race stewards have decided that it’s preferable to stop the session with a Red Flag situation to clear the track with the cars staying in the pit lane. It has been decided that the race will resume. Later on, it has been decided that the drivers will make their second standing start of the afternoon.

Once again, the lights went out for a two-lap sprint race to the finish line, and Hamilton appeared to be in front of Perez. The championship leader had just said on the radio minutes before that he would not take any big chances because it’s still early in the season.  Then he completely locked up, crashing into the Turn 1 run-off area before finishing P15 and out of the points.

Sergio Perez takes the chequered flag and his first race victory as a Red Bull driver! Getting some crucial points for Red Bull in exceptional circumstances. Sebastian Vettel finished second from 11th with his Aston Martin, and Pierre Gasly took 3rd after holding off Leclerc’s repeated overtaking efforts, leaving the pole-sitter in 4th.

It has been eight years since Red Bull last won both the driver and constructor championship. In 2010, the four year back-to-back titles began for the team and their then driver, Sebastian Vettel – who now drives for Aston Martin.

Since 2014 when the Mercedes domination started, Red Bull haven’t looked anywhere near their former selves to challenge for the title. Of course, Red Bull have had some defining wins. With 2014 being Daniel Ricciardo’s “year that got away” and not to mention Max’s 70th Anniversary win at Silverstone last year. However, is this the year Red Bull can finally have a championship run?

From a constructors championship outlook, this year could be their strongest year yet. It’s no secret Red Bull have struggled with their number two driver since Daniel Ricciardo left. Kyvat, Gasly and Albon have all struggled to reach the consistency of Max Verstappen.

Alex Albon, fighting for 8th in most races last year, was never going to help you win a constructors championship so they had to replace him for the sake of constructors points. The obvious choice, as a proven race winner, was Sergio Perez, who is exactly what Red Bull need for consistent points. The Bahrain Grand Prix wasn’t the best of starts where a strategic error in qualifying landed Checo with a P11 start. However, Red Bull gives you wings and with Checo managing to get P5 – this is something Alex Albon couldn’t do. When Checo eventually gets the opportunity to qualify well, I think he can challenge Bottas on a regular basis in order to get the team points to beat Mercedes.

At the age of 23, Max Verstappen has broken records of the youngest driver to start at 17, and youngest to win at 18. It’s crazy to think this is Max’s seventh season already, so in terms of F1, he is extremely experienced against other drivers of a similar age. He has phenomenal talent, but will his hot-head be his downfall over the season?

Even with Red Bull having one of the strongest line ups they’ve had in years, one crucial issue will be the reliability of the car. We all know that the Mercedes is one of the most reliable cars on the grid with Lewis having zero DNF’s since 2018, whereas Max DNF’d in all 3 Italian Grand Prix’s last year alone. Generally speaking, starting in the second row you are more likely to be in amongst the ‘drama’ of the first lap, which Max has been a few times. Mugello was a great example of this, when he got hit by Charles and went straight into the barrier.

A strong driver line up will allow them to play team strategy battles with Mercedes and give them proper wheel to wheel action. They have a chance of beating them, whereas in previous years would have only been winning out of luck. The Bahrain Grand Prix shows Red Bull have upped their game and ready to take on the fight. I think fundamentally, the title will be won or lost on the reliability of the cars rather than the consistent wins Red Bull can get.

This weekend showed us the battle that all F1 fans have wanted for years. Max vs Lewis. Since Nico Rosberg left the sport, Lewis hasn’t been pushed to the same extent. Ferrari couldn’t push Mercedes to a fierce enough battle, with hopes given up mid-way through the seasons of 2017-2018.

If there was a year in which Red Bull could win it, it’s this year. Honda have made leaps and strides with their engine. They have to be at the top of their game and not making errors like Checo missing Q3. Crucially where Red Bull have their advantage is their pit stop speed. Another sub two second pit stop could really give them an advantage.

All I can say is, we will have to wait and see how it plays out as it looks like we are in for one hell of a season!

It was announced this morning that Sergio Perez would replace Alex Albon at Red Bull Racing for 2021, with an initial one year contract being signed.

For many, this is the news they have been waiting for – with Alex underperforming throughout the 2020 season and failing to meet Red Bull’s expectations. In an anticipated turn of events, for the first time since 2007 when Mark Webber joined the team – they are hiring a driver from outside of their own development programme. Does this mean that experience will be the answer to Red Bulls problems?

Perez has demonstrated throughout his career that he is an extremely reliable and consistent midfield driver, and possibly one of the most underrated. Throughout the 2020 Season in particular, his incredibly impressive portfolio of results prove why he deserves the seat for next year. Even without his maiden win at the Sakhir Grand Prix, the Mexican driver has racked up 125 points and finished fourth in the Drivers Championship, despite missing two races due to testing positive for Covid-19.

It’s no secret that Red Bull desire a second driver to push Max Verstappen to his limits and to strengthen their chances against the dominant Mercedes. Personally, we think if any driver is going to succeed in meeting these goals, it’s Checo. His superb race craft and ability to make the most out of opportunities – such as his miraculous recovery drive which took him from last and facing the wrong way, to a hugely admired victory under the lights at Bahrain are just some of the motives for the signing. Sergio’s ten seasons in Formula One should provide the experience he needs to manage Red Bulls pressure cooker environment, whilst still achieving much needed results.

Qualifying for Sergio isn’t always smooth sailing, however on a Sunday he pulls it all together and his ability to extract the maximum he needs from the car and his tyres is remarkable. Is this exactly what Red Bull have been missing?

Only time will tell if Sergio Perez is what Red Bull need to fight their way to the top, however we are confident that the team have made the right decision. We wish Checo all the luck in the world, and look forward to seeing what he brings in 2021.

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