The Braking Point: It’s finally time for the talking to stop

McLaren ricciardo norris

Like many Formula 1 fans I enjoy plenty of aspects of the off-season but after covering nine car launches in the last month I am looking forward to finally seeing some F1 cars out on track.

The past week has seen Alpine, Mercedes, Aston Martin, Haas and Williams launch their 2021 machines and with only Ferrari to come before pre-season gets underway on March 12, we are closing in on a return to action.

We have heard endless questions about how the teams plan to recover the downforce loss from the new floor regulations and why balancing 2022 development will be a challenge, but the teams will soon have to start doing their business out on track.

With the pandemic not yet in the rear-view mirror and the new sporting regulations looming large, the 2021 season is something of lame-duck campaign, but nonetheless, there are still plenty of fascinating storylines to follow.

While Lewis Hamilton’s bid for an eighth world championship and contract situation has been a major source of headlines, it is the midfield battle that continues to pique my interest. With McLaren transitioning to Mercedes engines, Aston Martin and Alpine undergoing significant rebrands and Ferrari quietly looking to recover lost ground on the power-unit front, we could be in for another frantic battle for that “best of the rest” position.

McLaren are the team currently in possession of that title, but with a Mercedes power-unit in the back, there is more pressure on the Woking outfit than in the past. Daniel Ricciardo too brings with him a sense of expectation, so anything but a strong start to the year could see the positivity surrounding the team right now begin to evaporate.

The respective rebrands at Aston Martin and Alpine bring their own pressure, with both marques hoping to justify their entry into the sport with early some success. Aston Martin in particular have had a lot of fanfare this off-season, but it remains to be seen how well they can begin to imprint their own ideas onto last year’s “Pink Mercedes”.

Finally, Ferrari cannot afford a repeat of 2020. For the most successful team in the history of F1, last year was nothing short of embarrassing and they will be desperate to regain some of the mystique that the prancing horse usually commands.

In each case, the excuse of the looming new regulations will be close at hand, but as soon as the season begins the pressure will ratchet up like it always does. None of these teams looking to crack the Mercedes hegemony come 2022 will want to go backwards, even if 2021 has little baring on the future.

The new era of F1 is important and I am not arguing that teams should not have a strong focus on coming out of the blocks as fast as possible next season. But before we reach that point, there are races to be won and points to be earned and I personally am looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.