Lewis Hamilton kicks off his bid for a record eighth Formula One championship in Bahrain on Sunday however Red Bull rival Max Verstappen can strike an early blow on the floodlit Sakhir circuit.
The 23-year-old Dutch driver was the final winner of 2020 in Abu Dhabi, ending six years of Mercedes success at Yas Marina, and has an excellent likelihood of kicking off the brand new season the place he left off.
“Now I have to deliver and the team have to deliver so we can try and mount a title fight,” stated Verstappen. “I like the Bahrain track and it will be exciting to see our performance. It’s time to see who has got what.”
Verstappen was quickest on two of three days of testing at Bahrain’s Sakhir circuit whereas Mercedes appeared unusually off-form.
While Red Bull are adamant that Mercedes stay the favourites, Mercedes say their rivals are actually forward on efficiency.
“The W12 wasn’t as stable, predictable or planted as some of our rivals,” stated Mercedes group boss Toto Wolff. “Red Bull appeared sturdy on each the lengthy and the brief runs, however as all the time with testing, it’s troublesome to make sure of true efficiency.
“The only thing we know for sure is that we must prove our ability to react.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 24, 2021
Bahrain will give some early indications of any change within the pecking order, with Mercedes profitable 5 of the final seven races there on the common grand prix circuit and Hamilton the final two.
Verstappen’s new Mexican group Sergio Perez received the newest race at Sakhir, nevertheless, on the outer format used for the primary time in December — that means Red Bull’s newest lineup have received the final two races.
The final time Mercedes misplaced three races in a row was in 2019, when Ferrari have been their closest rivals.
Hamilton’s Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas has received the final two season-openers, in Australia and Austria, and can be longing for a hat-trick. This 12 months’s Australia race has been postponed to November due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mercedes are one in all solely three groups with an unchanged line-up — the others are Williams and Alfa Romeo — and Sunday will see a string of firsts.
The Schumacher title, and the display abbreviation MSC, can be again for the primary time since Ferrari nice Michael’s farewell in 2012 as his 22-year-old son Mick debuts for Haas.
Our first ever winner within the desert 🏆
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 22, 2021
Russian rookie Nikita Mazepin additionally strains up for Haas whereas Japan’s Yuki Tsunoda makes his first race look for Red Bull-owned AlphaTauri.
Four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel can be racing for Aston Martin, making a return as a constructor for the primary time since 1960 as the rebranded Racing Point, after leaving Ferrari.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo has switched from Renault to McLaren instead of Spaniard Carlos Sainz who has joined Ferrari as Charles Leclerc’s teammate.
“This season looks like it’s going to be a competitive one, but I’m looking to hit the ground running, leave nothing on the table,” stated Ricciardo.
Renault have morphed into Alpine, with double world champion Fernando Alonso returning after a two-year absence from the beginning grid to make his 312th begin.
Bahrain would be the first step of a marathon, record 23-race season — pandemic allowing — after 17 rounds final 12 months confined to Europe and the Middle East.