The 2021 season is well underway, with the first race due to take place in Bahrain tomorrow afternoon.
After a blazing Qualifying session, tomorrow’s opening battle will be led by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in P1, with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas taking up P2 and P3 respectively.
In light of tomorrow’s start, we put a number of questions from our Instagram page to Peter Collins following pre-season testing:
@gazzaoneill: Can Bottas really challenge Hamilton this year?
PC: “Make no mistake, Bottas is remarkably quick and has on occasion shown he can get the better of Hamilton, but Hamilton’s consistency has delivered title after title and even in his 36th year there has been no sign whatsoever that the British driver’s speed has diminished in any way and if anything, experience has only improved his racecraft.
“He also has the psychological edge, having dominated his teammate for the last four seasons. So yes, Verstappen is the driver most likely to bring the battle to Lewis, especially if the Red Bull is as good as the Bahrain test suggested.”
@Just___pc: Do you think Alonso will be feeling the effects of racing more than ever after two years?
PC: “Fernando Alonso is tough as nails and despite his lay off from F1 the Spaniard shouldn’t have any real difficulty coping with the physical demands of the Grand Prix season.
“The broken jaw he suffered in that pre-season cycling accident hadn’t fully healed when the Bahrain test took place, but Alonso seemed to get through his schedule with Alpine without much difficulty.
“It’s great to see him back, lets hope Alpine can provide him with a competitive car.”
@conmcp: When will teams stop development on the ‘21 car to focus on the ‘22 regulations?
PC: “Each team will have a different timeline as far as car development is concerned this year. The well-resourced teams will make whatever tweaks the rules allow to their 2021 cars throughout the season.
“But given the significant regulations changes that will be introduced in 2022, work has already begun on designs for the cars that will contest next year’s championship.
“It’s likely that for some, like Ferrari for instance, the main focus will be on the 2022 car.”
@saira_k01: Although testing doesn’t show much, do you think Red Bull can bring the fight to Mercedes?
PC: “You’re right, in fact sometimes testing can be a bit misleading. But on this occasion, I think we saw enough from Red Bull at the Bahrain test to suggest they have a really good car on their hands.
“Max Verstappen has said the RB16B is faster and more predictable than its predecessor and that sounds like the recipe for success, particularly in his hands.
“Mercedes had problems in what was limited pre-season testing, but in the past, the team has proven very adept at solving problems quickly. Can they do so this time around?”
@alan_tobin_1: A question for the team. How can Formula 1 as a spectacle be improved?
PC: “The new regulations, now to be introduced for the 2022 season will almost guarantee closer racing and that’s what we’ve all wanted for years.
“F1 cars punch a huge hole in the air and create massive turbulence in their wake. As a result a car following one car length behind for example, loses 45% of its downforce and as a result grip and so is compromised when it comes to trying to make the pass.
“Next year’s cars will be more reliant on the so-called ground effect generated by the car’s floor.
“This combined with the change in regulations for aerodynamic parts such as front wing, rear wing, barge boards, and end plates, etc, will mean cleaner air for closer racing.”
@sludds: Is this McLaren’s year? Danny Ric is fast, can he take a win?
PC: “Back in their hay day, with Lauda, Prost, and then Senna, it was impossible to ever imagine there would be a time when McLaren would struggle in Formula One.
“They were the barometer by which everyone else measured themselves. But by their own lofty standards, McLaren has been below par since 2013.
“Last year there were encouraging signs that McLaren was heading in the right direction once more. Now with the Mercedes power unit in the back of the new MCL35M, race wins could very well be on the cards again.
“Daniel Ricardo is a proven race winner so given the opportunity he still has the ability to deliver.”
@thekeiranbracken: Could Lewis win a championship in a Red Bull car, or is the car winning the championships for him?
PC: “A good question, but difficult to answer. It would all depend on who was driving the Mercedes.
“The silver arrows have been so dominant in recent years, I don’t think even Lewis could have beaten them in a Red Bull.
“The top drivers do have an influence on how a car is developed, Michael Schumacher was the master of providing feedback to the engineers so the cars were developed very much to suit his driving style.
“You could speculate that If Lewis was doing likewise at Red Bull, maybe things would have been different….but that is just pure speculation.”
@cailimrice – Could Ireland ever host an F1 race, either a street circuit or track?
PC: “It’s a very good question, one that was broached many many times when Ireland had a strong presence in Formula One with Jordan and Eddie Irvine.
“I once took the opportunity to ask Bernie Ecclestone if Ireland would be granted a place on the Grand Prix calendar if the money and facilities were in place?
“His answer at the time was a resounding no. In Bernies opinion, Ireland did not have the infrastructure to host an event of such magnitude.
“But that was in the late nineties and Ireland has changed a lot in the intervening years. The biggest obstacle to hosting a race would be money. Costs run into the hundreds of millions.”
Racing resumes tomorrow in Bahrain for the season opener, with lights out at 4:00 pm Irish time.