F1’s Class of 2021: What can we expect?
Whilst Nicholas Latifi won this season’s rookie of the year contest by default, the 2021 Formula 1 rookie class looks set to be far more exciting. There’s a total of 3 drivers confirmed to make their Grand Prix debuts in Australia next year.
Haas have announced an exciting all-rookie driver pairing of F2 champion Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin. Whilst AlphaTauri confirmed last week that F2’s star rookie of 2020, Yuki Tsunoda, will drive alongside Pierre Gasly.
Following in his father’s footsteps?
Being the son of 7-time F1 world champion and sporting legend Michael Schumacher has undoubtedly helped Mick attract attention from sponsors and the media during his junior career. However, Schumacher Jr has earned his spot on the 2021 F1 grid through sheer talent and performance.
Just like his 2018 European F3 title triumph, this year’s F2 championship came after a slow start to the season. After the fourth round of the season, Schumacher was already 40 points behind teammate Shwartzman, who was at the top of the table. A run of 7 podiums in 9 races from Catalunya to Sochi, though, sent the German flying towards the title and a spot in the Haas team for next season.
Given Mick’s record for slow starts in new categories, it would be wise to set low expectations for his first season in Formula 1. Haas and Ferrari clearly believe in him to potentially be the next Scuderia superstar in years to come, but this will take time and his development in the American outfit over the next couple of seasons will be crucial.
The Schumacher name being back on the grid will be one of the biggest stories of 2021. But just like how Mick has been his own man throughout his junior career, he will soon create his own story and legacy for his sadly still stricken father to be proud of from back home in Germany.
F1’s New Bad Boy?
Nikita Mazepin may be supported by a wealthy father, and whilst some may argue that Callum Ilott was more warranting of Haas’s other 2021 F1 seat, Mazepin clearly has the speed to be successful at the top level.
Where the Russian may fall down is in his own character off the track. Mazepin has been internally investigated by Haas for an incident on social media a couple of weeks ago, where he appeared to post a video on Instagram groping a woman’s breasts without consent.
Whilst the woman in question initially came to Mazepin’s defence, it has since emerged on her Instagram story that she indeed felt sexually assaulted, leading to the #WeSayNoToMazepin campaign trending amongst fans on social media. Fans have been furthered angered by the Russian receiving no punishment from his new team.
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On-track, Mazepin is known for his aggressive combative style. There’s no doubt he will ruffle some feathers in wheel-to-wheel combat next season, with a bet on multiple super licence penalty points seeming like it’ll be low odds.
His battle against Mick Schumacher to establish themselves as the star rookie at Haas will be intense. But with Ferrari reserve driver Ilott waiting in the wings, the most important thing for Mazepin is that he doesn’t beat himself in 2021.
The Next Red Bull Superstar?
Red Bull have had a problem ever since Daniel Ricciardo walked out on them, filling the seat next to Max Verstappen. Pierre Gasly buckled under the pressure, whilst despite showing promising early signs, Alex Albon also struggled to put the Red Bull where it should be.
This has left Red Bull looking outside their academy in 2021, with Sergio Perez to fill their seat in the short-term. AlphaTauri rookie, Yuki Tsunoda, may soon be the driver to solve their second driver conundrum long-term.
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Tsunoda’s pace in his only F2 season was beyond question. Had the season been made up solely of feature races, the Japanese man would have been champion. In fact, by season’s end, Tsunoda was clearly the class of the field and in one of the deepest F2 grids for talent ever, that is some feat.
With Honda’s involvement with Red Bull ending after next season, Tsunoda could turn out to be their long term legacy. A Japanese driver has never won a Grand Prix before, but if anyone is able to break that unwanted record, Yuki may just be the most likely candidate yet.