The 2021 season is already set to bring a wave of radical overhauls to the sport of Formula One, the new rules could look to reset the current status quo, putting and end to the era of the ‘big three’ that we have seen rule supreme over the sport since 2014. It also means that teams will be designing their cars from scratch, rather than building on what had been done the year previous, which can often lead to a vast amount of shuffling within the pack.
However there are a number of changes that we could be seeing before the 2021 season begins, as a number of drivers are out of contract following the 2020 season, meaning we could see another off season similar to the one we had entering 2019. Just check out the list of drivers whose contracts expire at the end of next season:
- Lewis Hamilton
- Valtteri Bottas
- Sebastian Vettel
- Max Verstappen
- Alexander Albon
- Daniel Ricciardo
- Kevin Magnussen
- Romain Grosjean
- Carlos Sainz
- Lando Norris
- Kimi Raikkonen
- Antonio Giovinazzi
- Daniil Kvyat
- Pierre Gasly
- Nicholas Lafiti
For those of you that didn’t keep count, there are currently five drivers under contract for the 2021 season. There could be vacant seats at Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, with midfield teams all having potential gaps in their lineups. However how drastic the changes are could all fall on one man’s decision. Lewis Hamilton.
Lewis Hamilton is the key piece
Hamilton has spoken about his future on a number of occasions in recent weeks, as the media begin to speculate on what he may do next. When his contract has been up in previous years most have assumed that he would resign with Mercedes as they were still the dominant force in the sport at that time, but with the regulation changes in 2021 combined with the fact that Mercedes are no longer as far ahead, many are wondering if Hamilton may be making a change.
The six time world champion has been very open about his current mindset, saying;
“I think for many, many years I’ve never ever sat down and considered other options, because we’ve been just driving straight ahead into the path that we’ve been on. To be honest, I still think we’re on that path and I think there’s very little that’s going to shift it from that.
I know Toto is also looking at his options in terms of his future and only he will know what is the best thing for him and his family. So I’m waiting to see what he’s doing with that. I love where I am so it’s definitely not a quick decision to do something else, but of course I think it’s only smart and wise for me to sit and think of what I want – if it is the last period or stage in my career.”
If Hamilton were to leave Mercedes, assuming they don’t suffer from a drastic dropoff next season, the clamour for that vacant seat would be immeasurable. Max Verstappen has already been linked with making the switch on a number of occasions, with Hamilton even hinting that he has been one of the drivers calling Toto Wolff to enquire about the availability of a race seat.
It wouldn’t be a huge shock to see Ricciardo step up and fill that seat if Hamilton moved away from the Silver Arrows, potentially giving him the chance to fight for the title, which he has wanted for his whole career. Many wouldn’t be surprised to see Mercedes move on from Bottas if Hamilton walked. Potentially paving the way for a reunion between Danny Ric and Vettel? It’s assumed at this point that the only team the Brit would move to would be Ferrari, meaning he would partner Charles Leclerc, which would prove to be another incredible test for the young driver after he managed to beat Vettel this season.
The bigger shock in all of this would be seeing Verstappen move away from Red Bull, it seems as though that decision entirely falls on how the team performs next season and how confident Max feels heading into the offseason following 2020. If he did leave, it’s most likely that Red Bull would recall Pierre Gasly to fill that slot.
The midfield teams will be sent into a frenzy if the top guys begin to shuffle around, as one or two of their drivers will likely be moving up to the top teams, leaving them with gaps to fill. It always leads to some interesting results, such as we saw with McLaren this season.
It’s safe to say the world of Formula One is very excited for 2021.
If you’re looking for more F1 content to keep your fix up before next season, check out our 2019 season review.