Why you should be watching more than just F1 this weekend
- F1 stars of tomorrow set to start new season this weekend
- Epic racing in store from 22 drivers
- Equal cars, tyres and engines for every driver
The 2021 Formula One season gets underway in Bahrain this weekend, but there’s more than just the main event that you should be paying attention to.
The new Formula Two season also starts at the same Bahrain International Circuit over the next three days, and this is very much the ‘finishing school’ for drivers on their way up to top-line motorsports.
Putting aside that this is one of the most exciting forms of racing on the planet, F2 is the ideal series to do a bit of talent spotting, as this is the place to see future F1 stars do battle. Of the 20 drivers on this year’s F1 grid, over half competed in F2 (or its predecessor GP2) on their way up, including Lewis Hamilton.
In fact, GP2/Formula 2 graduates are responsible for a total of eight F1 World Championship wins, and hundreds more race victories and podium finishes.
The cars are sensational to watch, very closely resemble F1 machinery, and race rather better as they feature less complex aerodynamics, allowing cars to follow each other better, leading to better action.
All three rookies in F1 this year have graduated from Formula Two, and this year’s grid looks to contain plenty of talent that should force their way into F1 should results fall their way.
Ferrari-backed Russian driver Robert Schwartzman will start the season as one of the favourites. He was a four-time winner last year and remains with the same Prema team he competed with last year. Consistency is key in the lower categories, so he could hold all the aces heading into the weekend.
Another driver to keep an eye on is China’s Guanyu Zhou. The world’s most populous country has never produced an F1 driver, so Zhou is the closest they’ve got. He’s now in his third season, is also backed by an F1 team (Alpine) and remains with the F2 team he raced with last year (UNI-Virtuosi). With it being his third season, he needs to perform in 2021 to have any chance of an F1 graduation.
Estonia is another country yet to see an F1 driver, but Juri Vips is a very promising talent, has major backing from Red Bull, and is hotly tipped heading into his first year of Formula Two.
British driver Dan Ticktum has courted controversy almost everywhere he’s raced. But when push comes to shove, he’s a very exciting driver and is part of the Williams F1 academy. He’ll probably need to find a way to control his mindset in order to make the F1 jump, but he’s shown increased maturity in recent years.
Indian contender Jehan Daruvala is another with Red Bull backing, and has a year of experience under his belt, as does Ferrari-supported Kiwi Marcus Armstrong.
Brazilian Felipe Drugovich claimed three wins last year and is expected to be a major contender this time around, while Dane Christian Lundgaard was a double race winner in 2021 so should build on that this time around. Meanwhile, Frenchman Theo Pourchaire, aged just 17, is one of the youngest drivers ever seen in the category and is very highly rated, having won the F3 title last year.
In reality, there’s a dozen drivers who should be in with a shout of winning the championship this year, and the racing has been further spiced up for 2021, with three races at each event. Two exciting ‘sprint’ races with partially reversed grids will take place on Saturdays, with a longer ‘feature race’ on Sundays.
As well as Bahrain this weekend, the series will visit Monaco (22-23 May), Azerbaijan (5-6 June) and Silverstone (17-18 July) in the first half of the season. Italy (11-12 September) and Russia (25-28 September) follow after a summer break, before moving to a debut showing in Saudi Arabia (4-5 December) and the final event in Abu Dhabi on 11-12 December.
F2 can be followed in the UK on the dedicated Sky F1 channel.
Richard Randle is a motorsport PR professional working with the UK’s top racing circuits and the UK’s premier single-seater category, the BRDC British F3 Championship.