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Formula 1

The first signs of F1’s blockbuster season

by Edd Straw
2 min read

To celebrate an action-packed year of motorsport that produced nail-biting title fights, thrilling racing, shocking twists and plenty of controversial moments, we’ve asked our writers to recount their standout motorsport memory of 2021. 

F1 writer Edd Straw recalls pre-season testing in Bahrain as the first signs of F1 2021’s sensational title fight are noticed by those crunching the data. 

Bahrain, March 2021, is imprinted on the memory. Not the weekend of the first grand prix of the season, but pre-season testing. Laptimes can lie in testing, but the poise and performance of a car on track cannot.

During various trackside sorties at that test, it became increasingly clear that Red Bull and Max Verstappen at least appeared to have the car to be in the championship fight this season.

The car absolutely looked the part on track, with Verstappen confident and able to carry the speed and the Mercedes drivers never looking anywhere near as comfortable with the car.

Testing is always a time for optimism for what is to follow. While no amount of analysis can paint a definitive picture, it’s the most relevant data that’s available at the time and all you can do is draw together the various threads – laptimes, long-run times, how the car looks on track, what team personnel are saying on and off record – to draw what conclusions are possible. And it was genuinely looking like Red Bull would be at the races

While there was every expectation Mercedes had more to come, this wasn’t like previous years. The feeling was there that Verstappen could be a factor, mitigated only by the fact that so many times before the challengers to Mercedes had flattered to deceive. Could this be the title battle we’ve been waiting for?

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day Three Sakhir, Bahrain

On those quiet, hot days in Bahrain we had no idea of the frantic title fight that was to follow, or the storms that were to rage during a dramatic season. Then, it was all about the hope, the expectation of a great championship fight that just might be to follow.

What followed was astonishing and lived up to those expectations spectacularly. But given the clashes, the controversies and the off-track politicking, that feeling of anticipation had a purity that perhaps reality could never quite match up to.

Roll on pre-season testing 2022!

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