It’s finally here! We’ve reached the first F1 Grand Prix Sunday of 2021. For rookies Yuki Tsunoda, Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, it’s their first chance to impress on a Sunday since their Formula Two graduation.
All three drivers arrive in the sport after impressing last season. Mick Schumacher got to grips with the car, winning the championship in the final race after going toe to toe with fellow Ferrari protege, Callum Ilott. Earning himself a Haas race seat for 2021.
The Honda-backed Yuki Tsunoda has impressed many since moving over to Europe finished 3rd in the championship. His win in Sakhir being his highlight of 2020. This was enough to impress Helmut Marko who offered him a seat alongside Pierre Gasly at Alpha Tauri.
The final graduate this season sees Russian driver Nikita Mazepin slot in alongside Schumacher at Haas. Mazepin comes with a lot of baggage and is a controversial character both on and off the track. The Moscow based driver does have some speed, though. He impressed with two victories at Silverstone and Mugello respectively to finish 5th.
Mick Schumacher arguably comes into the new campaign with more pressure than the other two given his fathers name. But that hasn’t stopped him so far.
The 22-year old first came onto the radar in 2016, appearing for Prema and finishing 2nd in the Italian Formula 4 Championship. This earned him a move up to FIA European Formula 3, where it took him two years to become accustomed to the machinery. This two-year improvement would become a classic trait of his replicated in later years.
Schumacher won his first title in 2018. He won the aforementioned European F3 championship in dominant fashion. His move to F2 followed a similar two-season pattern. Mick failed to make much of an impression in his debut year, scoring a single win in Budapest.
This was followed up by the Formula 2 title last season. Despite being the outsider in early rounds, getting regularly outscored by teammate Robert Shwartzman, Schumacher eventually managed to fight off Callum Ilott to win the final race of the season.
Having previous F1 experience, driving his fathers F2004 no less, Mick Schumacher is no stranger to an F1 car. This year, however, he will be driving a car with far fewer capabilities. Haas will be languishing at the back of the grid. He qualified 19th for 2021’s season-opening Grand Prix. Finishing the race and battling the Williams will be considered a solid Sunday drive for the German.
Yuki Tsunoda has seriously impressed me since coming to my attention in 2019. His determination, hunger and passion for motorsport is resonating with fans. It’s clear to see why he’s already a favourite.
The Japanese driver comes with a raft of experience after dominating the Japanese Formula 4 Championship in 2018. This gave him the chance to jump up to F3, spending one season before getting promoted to the penultimate rung on the ladder.
Despite starting slowly, he managed to pick up three wins on his way to P3 in the championship. This was enough for the much sought-after Alpha Tauri seat.
Yuki Tsunoda started impressing as soon as testing got underway. He ended the three-day event second on the timesheets in a car that will suit his best attributes.
His first qualifying session also got off to a flyer by ending Q1 in second place. He eventually finished the session in 13th place. On reflection, Yuki could consider himself disappointed after his teammate, Gasly, put the car on the third row.
There is certainly much more to come from Yuki Tsunoda, and a solid Sunday will really confirm the hype around the 20-year-old. With bags of pace in that AT02, a push toward the top 10 is in his sights. A points finish on his F1 debut sets him up for an excellent season.
The son of Oligarch Dimitry Mazepin comes with a raft of driving experience thanks to his dads backing. But Nikita Mazepin never really impressed in junior single-seaters before arriving in F3 where he finished in a solid P2 for the ART team.
He continued the step up to Formula 2 with the same team. However, he only registered 11 points, finishing a disappointing 18th place in the championship.
2020 was a far better year and Nikita managed to demonstrate some of the pace at his disposal. His wins at Silverstone and Mugello were pretty impressive by anyone’s standards. However, his on-track behaviour repeatedly comes into question. Coupled with his antics away from the circuit, Nikita needs a solid and trouble-free 2021 to silence the doubters.
That won’t be easy considering he is driving the worst car on the grid. Furthermore, Nikita Mazepin didn’t start his F1 career in a great way. 20th on the grid, a couple of spins, and the breaking of the ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ means the doubters are getting ever louder. A trouble-free race will be a success for the Russian.