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Formula 1

Why test days are even more important in 2021 than ever before

Pre-season testing is an annual feature of the Formula 1 schedule. But in 2021, the test taking place in Bahrain has an added level of importance to it.

Hamilton Bahrein
To news overview © Pirelli

For F1 fans, the annual pre-season testing offers an exciting opportunity to see the new cars on track for the first time, assess who is looking strong and get an idea of who might potentially be facing difficulties. It is a regular feature on the calendar, but in 2021 these test days - which take place in Bahrain from 12 March to 14 March - are even more vital than ever before. Here are the reasons why.

Lack of development over the winter

Unlike in previous seasons, Formula 1 teams have not had much opportunity over the winter to greatly develop their cars from the 2020 model. This is due to the fact that planned rule changes for this year were pushed back to 2022 owing to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, meaning that the 2021 cars are essentially updated versions of those that ran last season.

With this limited scope for drastically changing the cars, the test will help teams and drivers to find ways that they can get the most out of what they already have and work on any further tweaks that might be needed.

Results of the token spend

As part of the freeze on development during the winter, a token system was introduced which has allowed each F1 team two development tokens to spend on updating their 2020 car design. Some teams have had less flexibility than others when focussing on areas to spend the tokens on; for example, McLaren were forced to use their tokens in integrating their new Mercedes engine after switching supplier from Renault.

For others there has perhaps been more choice. The test will allow teams the opportunity to see if they got it right - or wrong - in the areas that they chose to spend their tokens on.

Tyre changes

Pirelli's full range of F1 tyre compound will be available to the teams during the Bahrain test. In an attempt to slow the cars down after some record-breaking speeds last year, Pirelli have made changes to the structure of the tyre.

The test will be important in giving the teams the opportunity to adjust to the new tyre and find the optimum tyre working window. Those who are able to do this quickly will arguably be at an advantage.

Longest season ever

The 2021 Formula 1 season is set to be the longest ever, with 23 races to take place between March and December. This will be a tough schedule for all of those involved in the sport, and as a result it may be challenging for some drivers and teams to maintain their momentum throughout such a lengthy calendar.

Having the opportunity to start the season in a positive way at the test will surely be helpful in ensuring that this demanding year will be an exciting prospect for the drivers and teams. For those who have a not-so-positive experience, the thought of 23 races ahead might be a concern.

			© Haas
	© Haas

A new group of rookies

This year, three rookies will make their F1 debut, a marked difference from 2020 where there was just one new driver on the grid at the start of the season. Haas has a complete rookie line-up; Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin both make the step up from Formula 2, where Schumacher won the 2020 title. Meanwhile Yuki Tsunoda also arrives from F2 to become Pierre Gasly's teammate at AlphaTauri.

With this group of new drivers joining the ranks in 2021, the test will be vital in allowing them to get used to the car. However, given that this year's test is shorter than in previous years, this could prove challenging.

Driver changes

As well as the arrival of more rookies than in 2020, 2021 has also seen more drivers switch teams. The likes of Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz and Sebastian Vettel have all made big moves, not to mention the fact that Fernando Alonso is returning to the sport after a two-year hiatus. In fact only three out of the 10 teams have retained their complete driver line-up from last season.

These drivers will be keen to have their first proper run with their new car, as well as having the opportunity to continue to gel with the team and become familiar with any new ways of working.

So much to do, so little time

And finally, perhaps one of the biggest issues for 2021 testing is the fact that ultimately there is less of it this time around. In 2019 and 2020, the test lasted for eight days and six days respectively. Now there are just three days for the teams and drivers to get through their programmes.

This will mean that there is no time to waste; everyone involved will have to work hard to get as much out of this limited time as possible. It certainly puts the pressure on, and for some it will be an opportunity to thrive, for others it might be less so. One thing's for certain - it will definitely make things very interesting.

You can follow F1's pre-season testing live, including live timing, and the latest news on RacingNews365.com. We will also have exclusive interviews and analysis pieces throughout testing and in the run up to the opening race at the Bahrain International Circuit.


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