It’s a question that could’ve been answered very quickly in the past few seasons. Of course, who else but Lewis Hamilton. And who would argue that?
Mercedes have had the most impressive set up for the past seven Formula One seasons, one of the best drivers winning world championships consecutively, more recently one of the best ‘wingmen’ alongside him in Valtteri Bottas and the fastest car out on track.
But I hear you cry, ‘Formula One has become so boring, it’s all the car!’
But, and stay with me, this season – I do genuinely think a change is in the air. After an epic battle at the end of the Bahrain Grand Prix with Max Verstappen that, yes – granted saw Hamilton win, it didn’t quite tell the full story.
Suddenly Mercedes have come into a season on the backfoot, and with the reemergence of Red Bull, it has given them more than just a slight course for concern.
Max Verstappen defended over Lewis Hamilton incident
Max Verstappen topped the timing screens in testing ahead of the season, and then – for the first time in his Formula One career was fastest in all three practice sessions and snatched pole position.
Undoubtedly that RB16 is a fast car, and on paper, it proved to be the fastest car out on track, something Mercedes hasn’t had to contend with for a while.
Winning championships is not a new thing for team principal Christian Horner and chief at the team Helmut Marko. Back in 2011 Red Bull were the team to beat, with Sebastian Vettel winning four world titles on the trot for them, until Lewis Hamilton moved over to Mercedes in 2014 – and subsequently won six world titles – only stopped in 2016 by his team-mate Nico Rosberg.
Verstappen however now needs his team-mate Sergio Perez to step up to the plate, after issues on the formation lap – we weren’t quite able to see the whole Red Bull package over the weekend. However, the Mexican did qualify P11, which doesn’t much help Verstappen out at the front.
Lewis Hamilton has dispelled Mercedes myth with Max Verstappen win – H
Lando Norris following in footsteps of Lewis Hamilton outside of F1
Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen verdict given by Hakkinen
And it’s not just Red Bull upping the pace this season. McLaren have easily looked one of the most comfortable teams out on track with Lando Norris now alongside Daniel Ricciardo – a seasoned pro and race-winning driver.
After qualifying seventh, Norris finished fourth in the race after some impressive overtaking throughout the race, despite coming into the weekend complaining he lacked confidence in the car.
Meanwhile, AlphaTauri – rapid. Not only did Yuki Tsunoda score points on debut with a new team and overtake two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, but he scored points on debut in Formula One in general – not something to be sniffed at.
He said: “I got a bit of an emotional thing when I passed Fernando.”
“My father is quite a big Fernando fan, especially his driving style – my father likes how he drives. I think the first time my dad saw Fernando was in Suzuka and he said that at the last corner, his acceleration, he was the best driver on the grid.
“So in Turn 1, I just trusted Fernando’s skills and I just launched it like a rookie!” Tsunoda laughed. “I felt a bit sorry, because I really came from quite far away but it was definitely a pretty emotional thing. Of course it’s not the same car, but I was happy for that.”
I’m not suggesting Tsunoda will win a championship in his first season, not even Lewis Hamilton managed to do that with McLaren back in 2007 (despite only losing out by a point) but what I’m saying is this looks to be one of the most open and competitive championships for a long time.
The fact is, we don’t know who will come out on top over a record-breaking 23-races, but the prospect of a Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Bottas dogfight has really upped the interest this season.
Could we see a new world champion crowned in 2021? Comment below with who you think will take home the honours.