The 2021 Formula One season is about to begin.
It wasn't long ago that the engines stopped roaring at the end of last season - and what a season it had been, full of disruption, surprises and thrills - but in a flash, the winter is gone and we are back in the sunny climes of Bahrain for the first race of the season. If it all has a feeling of deją vu, it is because we seem to spend a lot of time here in Bahrain: by next Monday, three out of the four last F1 races will have been held in Sakhir, in addition to the three days testing on this very track less than a fortnight ago. But there is no such thing as too much of a good venue, is there?
Despite the short time span, a lot has happened since we last raced a car in anger: we are ready to take the track against new teams, new drivers, on new circuits. And yet, there is a reassuring, familiar feel within the team: Kimi and Antonio return to the cockpit, with Robert on testing duties; the faces in the garage and on the pitwall are the same; the spirit of the team remains unchanged, a family ready to take on this new season together.
The longest calendar ever awaits: it will be a test of stamina, mental and physical, between now and Abu Dhabi in December. We approach the season conscious of the challenge ahead, yet confident in our means and in the path we have taken over the break. The objective, in the words of boss, Fred Vasseur, does not change: to do better today than we did yesterday. As we open the first page of this new chapter, we're ready for the challenge.
Frederic Vasseur: "We are very excited about the start of the season - it's normal. Hopefully we will still be so after the first weekend! Jokes aside, we approach this race with confidence in ourselves: we have done a good job during testing, with excellent reliability giving us plenty of mileage, no mechanical issues and good feedback from the drivers, and we are eager to turn this positive start into a rewarding first race. The big question mark is, obviously, where we stand compared to our rivals: it's something only the track will say. We just need to give our best and have a flawless weekend, then we will assess the situation and have a clearer idea of what we can expect from the season. We expect a close fight across the whole of the midfield and we know the margins are going to be small, so we will need to extract all we can from our package: we have stability on our side, with an established line-up and no internal changes, so we need to make this advantage count."
Kimi Raikkonen: "The first race of the season is always a special moment, mostly because I have missed the racing. It's nice to be back in the car for testing, but what makes this sport fun is driving wheel to wheel and you only get that in races, so there is something to look forward to. I am not looking at the times from the three days we spent here two weeks ago, because there is no point trying to get any idea about what to expect: soon enough, on Saturday, we will have an indication of where everyone is and what kind of battles we have this year. So far, we just have to focus on our work, on improving what we had in testing and on making the most of every opportunity."
Antonio Giovinazzi: "I am really excited about the new season, my third full year in the sport. I feel ready, both in body and mind, and I can't wait to experience the feeling of a race weekend once again. I am not making any predictions on where we will be against our rivals, but I am confident we can have a good season. There is a really good spirit within the team, people are feeling positive and we're all walking with our heads held high, so we are approaching the first race with the right mindset. We all know how crucial the start of the season is: last year, we were able to score points right at the first race and they proved very important for the rest of the campaign, so the aim is to once again start with the right foot and boost the team ahead of this important year."