The 2021 Formula 1 season kicked off on Sunday in the Persian Gulf, the opening round having switched from Melbourne to Bahrain after the Australian State opted to err on the side of COVID caution and move its Grand Prix to later in the year when the threat of the pandemic should have subsided.
Ahead of the race, Williams further strengthened its senior team by appointing Francois-Xavier Demaison as Technical Director. 52 year old Demaison worked with Jost Capito at Volkswagen, and now becomes his first appointment as CEO of Williams.
Williams headed to Bahrain with its FW43B – an update of last year’s car with its brand new, beach-towel/swimwear inspired livery prepared for a Grand Prix in the sand.
In pre-season testing it became clear that Haas not only found themselves with a poor car, but with their focus being on the major regulations overhaul in 2022, that they were most likely going to spend the entire season at the back, having seemingly failed to capitalise on their Ferrari engine’s improved turn of pace.
It was also apparent that Alfa-Romeo certainly had made the most of their improved power unit and more besides, and have made strides away from Williams – a team with whom they enjoyed some close battles last year.
Another potential rival for Williams – Alpha Tauri – seems to have prepared incredibly well for 2021 and might now be totally out of reach of the Grove Team.
And so it proved – in FP1, FP2 and FP3 George Russell finished with the 17th quickest lap time, in each case ahead of his team-mate with the Haas cars planted at the back.
But Mr Saturday worked marvels again on Saturday afternoon, securing his place in Q2 for the 15 fastest guys, eventually lining up 15th for Sunday’s Grand Prix, with Nicholas Latifi two places back in 17th.
The race passed largely without incident for Williams – George made a good start on his soft tyres at both lights out, and then the restart that followed as a result of a small off by Mazepin’s Haas, at one point in the race making it as high as ninth before having to pit and resettling back in 14th where he finished – just behind Ocon.
Latifi suffered problems with his boost from the off and was forced to retire on lap 51.
It is said that the car is quite temperamental and could work fantastically in some conditions and really not well in others.
If the Bahrain GP was one of the places it’s not totally suited to (it doesn’t like wind apparently) then we can expect a lot better to come in the remainder of the season.