New faces in new places - who can prosper with new teams
The Formula 1 grid has seen one of the biggest shake-ups in recent history with rookies joining the big time, a champion returning and four drivers all swapping places.
Whilst some of the driver swaps are preparatory exercises for the future, it is clear there are those who will need to hit the ground running for their respective teams as results will be required for constructors' championship charges - Sergio Perez at Red Bull being the prime example.
With new regulations being implemented next season, this year can act as a basis for cementing places at various teams so with that in mind, let's take a look at each of the new drivers' chances in 2021.
What an opportunity for the Mexican this season. Replacing Alex Albon as Max Verstappen's partner is exactly the opening Perez has been fighting for since his forgettable season with McLaren in 2013.
Hopes are high that after his inaugural victory at the Sakhir Grand Prix last season, Perez will hit the ground running with Red Bull and give the team a two-pronged attack for the first time since Daniel Ricciardo departed at the end of 2018.
If the team has any aspirations of beating Mercedes this year, Perez at best will have to finish fourth in every race. He is absolutely capable of doing this and more.
Pressure, however, has told at the team before so there is nowhere to hide. Just ask Albon, Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat. But you would think Perez's experience will stand him in good stead on this occasion.
On 2020 results alone, Sainz has taken a step back from McLaren to Ferrari. Of course, the Scuderia is the team most dream of driving for so the Spaniard will not see it as such a bad decision. In many ways, the pressure is off him following Ferrari's woes of last season.
Perhaps the unluckiest driver on the grid last season, Sainz has shown he has an abundance of talent and will be expected to challenge Charles Leclerc from an early stage.
It will help that team boss Mattia Binotto has already ruled out Leclerc being the number one driver, so at least the team already have parity between the drivers.
If the new engine for 2021 delivers, fighting Red Bull should be the aim, meaning plenty of podiums for Sainz.
What an intriguing move for both parties. Aston Martin jettisoned Perez for a much-maligned four-time champion. The good news for the team is that Vettel showed glimpses of his best at the Turkish Grand Prix en route to a podium finish, but in reality, last season was a shocker.
The team, however, has expressed a willingness to show its new recruit some love as they look to build for the future. This is exactly the type of challenge that could bring the best out of Vettel.
With minimal pressure in a car that, on last year's basis when under the Racing Point banner, looks like it will be competitive, podiums are definitely on the agenda.
Daniel Ricciardo - McLaren
With Sainz making the move to Ferrari, McLaren had a seat vacant. After two years at Renault, Ricciardo makes the switch to fill that void and what a pairing the Australian could make with Lando Norris.
McLaren finished third last season to cap its best season in F1 since 2012. So what can Ricciardo do?
It is fair to assume he is in the top bracket of driver that is always a tenth-or-two quicker than his contemporaries, so there is no doubting that he will be in with a chance of picking up the pieces of any mistakes from Mercedes and Red Bull. A season of fun is guaranteed.
The return of a legend
Fernando Alonso - Alpine
Two world championships in an initial four-year stint with Renault. Then an additional two victories in 2008 - the last for Renault in F1. Now, Fernando Alonso returns to the Enstone-based team in time for the Alpine rebranding.
The team looked strong last season with podiums for both drivers. Changes to the hierarchy as the switch from Renault to Alpine takes place could disrupt progress in the short-term but the cars are fundamentally the same as last year so effects should be minimal.
The real question is how much of a hindrance two years out of the sport will be for the Spaniard. He is usually fast in everything he drives so, in theory, there is no reason to worry about his prospects.
The newcomers looking to make a mark
Yuki Tsunoda - AlphaTauri
What a brilliant talent the Japanese appears to be. A stellar late-season charge put Tsunoda at the thick end of the Formula 2 championship with victories scattered throughout.
His signature for AlphaTauri was the worst-kept secret in F1 last season and there seems to be little doubt he is probably the next in line for a move to Red Bull. But what can he do this year?
Judging by team-mate Gasly's performances last season, consistent points finishes will stand Tsunoda in good stead heading into the tricky second year that will be F1 2022.
Momentarily push all of the controversies to one side. For pure driving ability, as much as you can argue other drivers could have been given a seat ahead of Mazepin, the Russian did perform well in F2 last season. From a pure performance-based stance, you cannot say he doesn't deserve a drive.
If he can keep his head clear then certainly he will be aiming to beat the Williams and the Alfa Romeos. Of course, he first needs to tidy up his act...
Mick Schumacher - Haas
Much the same as his new team-mate, the goal will be to better Alfa Romeo and Williams. The fact Haas will cut development before the season gets underway will be a blow to the team's competitiveness, however.
Schumacher has had a quirky trait throughout his junior career, where he learns and absorbs information throughout his first year in a championship before launching an offensive thereafter.
So this year may well be one of gaining experience ahead of the new regulation set next season. The F2 champion has bundles of talent and is definitely not on the grid because of his surname. He has earned every bit of credit he has received.
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