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F1 in 2021: Lewis Hamilton on target for title No8

Mathematically at that point, Hamilton could still have been beaten to drivers’ crown No7. But such is his dominance and that of his Mercedes car that his former McLaren team-mate thought he was a shoo-in to make it eight before a wheel of the 2021 season had even been turned. 

It is easy to see the sense behind Button’s projection. This season, no other team really came close to Mercedes, a few dipping in for a one-off race win while Mercedes had an off-day or, in the case of Hamilton, its lead driver had Covid-19 so was missing altogether. 

And next season it is hard to envisage anything but more of the same.  The reason for that lies in the aforementioned Covid. A whole new raft of sporting regulations were set to come into play next season but, as a result of the pandemic and the entirely revised season, all the teams on the grid agreed to delay such an overhaul by another 12 months. 

So, in essence, what that means is a winter of evolution not revolution on the cars, the outcome being that realistically only marginal gains can be made in the chasing pack in their quest to catch Hamilton and Mercedes, which is not enough. 

The ripping up of the rulebook and an effective blank canvas for the 2022 campaign looks likely to be the only way to end the Hamilton hegemony. 

And yet there are reasons to be positive that next season won’t solely be another procession for Hamilton to that eighth title, and to become the first man in history to get past 100 career grand prix victories. Plus, an expected knighthood to boot.

The closest challenge will admittedly come from the man in the other Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas, although the evidence of the past four seasons as Hamilton’s team-mate suggests the Finn will do little more than pick off the occasional win rather than push him in the title race. 

Red Bull look comfortably the best of the rest and should be closer yet again in 2021. Part of that will be down to an improved Honda engine in 2021 before the Japanese supplier leaves the sport after next season. 

The other factor is in arguably the most exciting driver line-up on the grid with Max Verstappen joined by Sergio Perez, who effectively sealed the deal by clinching his maiden F1 win at the Sakhir Grand Prix. 

Verstappen is quick – perhaps the quickest driver on the grid – but Perez does not lack for pace either, and both have spoken of relishing the opportunity to go head to head. 

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Perez celebrates success at Sakhir

/ Getty Images )

Perez should, once he gets to grips with the Red Bull, be a more consistent challenger to Verstappen’s status as No1. The Dutchman, for his part, has said he welcomes the rivalry, a seeming step-up from having Alex Albon on the other side of the garage. 

As for the rest of the grid, it will be intriguing to see if Sebastian Vettel can get his mojo back at Perez’s old team, the now revised Aston Martin. 

Other moves of intrigue see the Schumacher name back in Formula 1, Michael’s son Mick making his debut with Haas at the Australian Open. Schumacher Sr’s former championship foe in Fernando Alonso is back with Renault a few months before turning 40, while fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz Jr is in Ferrari colours and Daniel Ricciardo taking his place at McLaren. 

But in truth, as it stands it looks like they will be scrapping for the minor placings with Hamilton set to dominate once again. 


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