The season may be shorter this year, but the amount of news certainly hasn’t been, and could easily fill three regular seasons.
The latest changes I’m discussing are Fernando Alsonso’s return to F1 next season filling the seat vacated by Daniel Riccardo who’s moving over to McLaren, and Honda’s decision to exit F1 for the 2021 season.
Both changes had been announced weeks earlier, but I’ve been ruminating over the implications until now.
I’m excited about Fernando returning to F1, and it seems the timing is good particularly since the latest evidence suggests that Renault may be on the ascendency. The team of Alonso and Ocon could be very successful, but like so many things that loo good on paper or the internet the proof is on the podium. With Fernando returning, and Vettel changing teams I’m left with a sense of hope that both Sergio Perez, and Nico Hulkenburg, who subbed so superbly for Sergio and Racing Point in 2020 (soon to be Aston Martin for the 2021 season). Both drivers made excellent cases in 2020 for permanent seats in 2021.
The news that Honda will be leaving Red Bull as its engine supplier is exciting because it allows me to speculate who will fill the void. It’s also sad because Honda has a storied career in F1. Honda had only been supplying power units to Red Bull since the 2019 season, and that was a rocky start. This season they have been the only consistent engine manufacturer to challenge Mercedes. Since its founding in 2005, Ferrari and Renault have both provided power units with Renault, branded as Tag Heuer, being the last before Honda began providing them in 2019.
With Mercedes, in my opinion, not wanting to provide units to its closest rival that leaves Ferrari and Renault as the existing options to partner with Red Bull. Of those two, Red Bull and Renault had a messy breakup in 2018, and Ferrari would almost certainly view Red Bull as direct competition in the first tier of grid. It should be noted that unless Red Bull negotiates their own deal for a replacement Renault would be forced to supply power units as they have the fewest customers of the 3 engine manufacturers under the current F1 regulations.
That leaves two very exciting, if lower percentage, possibilities. The first is Red Bull builds its own power units. The second, Aston Martin, their sponsor, develop and provide the power units. It’s sad to see Honda leave this time because I think variety in F1 is important to its success. The less options teams have in selecting power units it makes the sport less interesting, and I feel less competitive.
It’s also worth noting that 2021 will usher in new engine regulations that will potentially shake up the grid, for better or worse only time will tell.