Fresh from picking up the clues on where each team stands following pre-season testing, predicting what will become the trends and what will be remembered come the end of any F1 season is a near-impossible task – but it hasn’t stopped us trying!

Crash.net's F1 Digital Editor Lewis Larkam and journalist Connor McDonagh give their answers to some of the biggest questions ahead of the 2021 season, which starts this weekend at the Bahrain Grand Prix. 

2021 F1 drivers’ world champion?

Lewis Larkam: While I’m hoping we actually get to see a proper title fight this season, I believe Lewis Hamilton will prevail to glory and ultimately clinch an unprecedented eighth drivers world title, surpassing the record he currently shares with Michael Schumacher

Connor McDonagh: Max Verstappen’s progression over the past couple of seasons has been frightening. His sheer consistency and raw speed, in conjunction with Red Bull looking to have got its act together over the winter makes Verstappen my tip for the title this season. 

2021 F1 constructors’ world champion?

LL: I expect Mercedes to bounce back from its testing troubles and go on to maintain its remarkable run of success in the V6 hybrid era by taking yet another constructors’ world championships, though this year will prove to be its toughest fight yet, with a revived Red Bull pushing the German manufacturer all the way. 

CMD: The Lewis Hamilton-Valtteri Bottas combination has been bulletproof since 2017, but Red Bull's decision to drop Alexander Albon in favour of Sergio Perez changes that. The Mexican’s race day performances, immense tyre preservation and ability to maximise race weekends makes him the perfect foil for Max Verstappen and a line-up that will hand Red Bull its first constructors’ title since 2013. 

One wish from the 2021 F1 season?

LL: Ultimately I’d like to see a real title race, ideally consisting of both Mercedes drivers and the Red Bull duo. We’ve been teased a heavyweight title bout between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton for a few years now, so I hope 2021 finally delivers the first round. 

CMD: Like Lewis, a genuine title battle is something we’ve longed for. Besides that, a nostalgic podium of Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso at some point in 2021 would be a great throwback to the early 2010s and a celebration of the three most successful drivers of the last 15 years.

Biggest shock of 2021?

LL: Daniel Ricciardo will claim McLaren’s first win in F1 since 2012.

CMD: Lance Stroll will beat Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin. 

Biggest storyline of 2021?

LL: Hopefully the on-track title fight, but I have a feeling it will end up revolving around Lewis Hamilton’s future. It is likely to be a talking point at every race until an announcement comes, and whatever Hamilton decides to do will have major repercussions for the 2022 driver market.

CMD: With the major 2022 regulations on the horizon, how the title contending teams balance 2021 versus 2022 car development will be crucial. If Red Bull is a serious title contender, will it continue updating the RB16B for a longer period than originally planned to ensure it takes the title? In 2008, Robert Kubica emerged as an unlikely title contender but mid-way through the season, BMW switched its focus to the 2009 regulation changes. Inevitably, Kubica dropped out of 2008 title contention and then BMW finished a mediocre sixth in the 2009 constructors' championship before pulling out of the sport at the end of the season.

The driver to impress the most?

LL: I’m going with Yuki Tsunoda. F1’s first driver to be born in the 2000s was hugely impressive in testing and if he can carry that confidence and his F2 form into the season, he’ll certainly be one to watch. Sure, they’ll be some mistakes and crashes along the way, but I’m backing Tsunoda to highlight exactly why Red Bull believes he is the real deal in his rookie campaign, even if Pierre Gasly ultimately comes out on top in this particular intra-team battle. 

CMD: While he continues to impress year on year, I expect Max Verstappen to take it up another notch in 2021. It’s easy to take for granted Verstappen’s performances given the rhetoric surrounding his teammate’s struggles with the Red Bull car. The Dutchman is only going to get better and better with experience, and Sergio Perez’s arrival to the team will only put Verstappen in a better light given the Mexican’s proven F1 credentials.

The driver under most pressure? 

LL: Valtteri Bottas is definitely up there, but I’m going with Antonio Giovinazzi. The Italian made solid progress through 2020 but Alfa Romeo will expect to see a big improvement this year if he is to retain his seat for 2022, with plenty of promising Ferrari juniors aiming to take his place. 

CMD: After an abysmal 2020 campaign, Sebastian Vettel has zero excuses alongside Lance Stroll at Aston Martin. There’s no doubting Vettel’s accomplishments up until this point but failure to dominate Stroll in 2021 will surely put the last nail in the coffin with regards to Vettel being talked about as one of the all-time F1 greats. 

Bahrain GP pole position and race winner? 

LL: Based purely on pre-season testing, I’m going to say Red Bull’s Max Verstappen will claim both pole and the win while Mercedes continues to get to the bottom of its rear-end stability issues. 

CMD: It’s hard to look past Red Bull and Max Verstappen based on pre-season testing. We’ve yet to see the Mercedes party mode in full force just yet, so Lewis Hamilton for pole with Max Verstappen taking the win on race day. 

Winner of the F1 midfield battle?

LL: This is the million-dollar question that right now seems impossible to answer. But I think McLaren - now powered by Mercedes engines and with Daniel Ricciardo spearheading its charge - will just edge out this battle, which I predict will be even more entertaining and intense than in 2020.

CMD: If we’re classing Ferrari as part of F1’s midfield then the Scuderia is my pick. Charles Leclerc churned out some spectacular performances in 2020, which I expect to continue into 2021. Carlos Sainz’s arrival to the team means Ferrari now has two drivers capable of big points each race weekend.

Most intense inner team fight?

LL: There’s plenty of intriguing driver pairings in 2021, but I can see the intra-team fight at Ferrari getting very interesting. With Ferrari insisting that both of its drivers will begin the season with equal status, it will be fascinating to see how quickly Carlos Sainz gets up to speed and how he shapes up against Leclerc as they vie to establish authority. This has the potential for some fireworks, so watch this space…

CMD: While Haas may be towards the back of the grid, the battle between Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin will be intriguing. Schumacher has the backing of Ferrari, while Haas’ main sponsor Uralkali has links to Mazepin’s father - Dmitry. As the pair embark on their rookie seasons, they will be keen to impress as both drivers look to build the team around them longer term.

Final 2021 constructors’ championship order (1 to 10 finishing order): 

LL: 1) Mercedes 2) Red Bull 3) McLaren 4) Ferrari 5) Alpine 6) Aston Martin 7) AlphaTauri 8) Alfa Romeo 9) Williams 10) Haas 

CMD: 1) Red Bull 2) Mercedes 3) Ferrari 4) McLaren 5) Alpine 6) Aston Martin 7) AlphaTauri 8) Alfa Romeo 9) Williams 10) Haas 

What do you make of our predictions? Let us know in the comments below…