AFTER THE eventful Italian GP — with a much-discussed crash between championship rivals Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen — all eyes turn to this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix at Sochi Autodrom.
Though there was disruption to Saturday’s running due to heavy rain, with final practice cancelled, qualifying went ahead on a drying track and proved to be a classic — McLaren’s Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz in his Ferrari and Williams’ George Russell gambled on slick tyres in the dying moments to take first, second and third on the grid, setting up a tantalising Russian GP.
Max Verstappen is now five points ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the 2021 F1 driver’s championship, after the Dutchman picked up two points in the Sprint Race at Monza, though neither driver scored in the main Italian GP and Verstappen will start from the back of the grid at Sochi, after a power unit change.
So while the 2021 F1 calendar has been shaken up by the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to affect both the schedule and the ability for spectators to attend races, we have a full season of racing and it’s proving to be one of the most exciting and dramatic we’ve seen in many years.
While the fight between Red Bull Racing and Mercedes is intense, the likes of Ferrari and McLaren are much closer to the top teams this year and fighting it out for best-of-the-rest honours… with the chance to surprise the leaders at certain circuits. McLaren scored a sensational one-two at the Italian GP, for example.
Here’s our regularly updated guide to the 2021 F1 season.
Want a guide to the teams and drivers of the F1 2021 championship? Click here
What time is the 2021 Russian Grand Prix?
The Russian Grand Prix is scheduled to start at 1pm UK time on Sunday, September 26.
There’s no Sprint Qualifying at Sochi, so we return to the traditional format of two Practice sessions on Friday (September 24), which started at 9.30am and 1pm respectively.
Third Practice was due to begin at 10am on Saturday, September 25, but torrential rain, thunder and lightning disrupted all on-track activities so the morning session was cancelled. Qualifying for the Russian GP began at 1pm, however, after the clouds parted and the track began to dry.
Where to buy Russian GP tickets
Tickets and hospitality packages for the Russian GP are sold out at most websites, including the Sochi Autodrom site, Motorsport Tickets and the official F1 Tickets site, as only 55,000 fans are being allowed into the venue.
F1 calendar 2021
Coronavirus-related disruption means that, as in 2020, we are seeing cars powering around tracks that don’t usually appear on the Formula 1 calendar, such as the race in Portimão. The calendar is also subject to change throughout the year.
However, the 2021 season sees the return of some races that weren’t possible last year, including many of the far-flung “flyaway” venues. These include USA, Mexico and Brazil.
We also got back the jewel in the crown of F1: the Monaco GP, which was won this year by Max Verstappen.
After initially being abandoned due to travel restrictions, the Turkish Grand Prix is now back on the calendar, and is scheduled to take place on October 3 to replace the cancelled Singapore Grand Prix.
One venue, due to host a GP on November 21, is still to be confirmed after the Australian GP was cancelled for the second year in a row.
Upcoming F1 grands prix
September 26: Russian Grand Prix, Sochi
October 3: Turkish Grand Prix, Istanbul
October 10: Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka
October 24: United States Grand Prix, Austin
October 31: Mexican Grand Prix, Mexico City
November 7: Brazilian Grand Prix, São Paulo
November 21: TBC
December 5: Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Jeddah
December 12: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina
Completed F1 races
March 28: Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir: In a thrilling season opener we saw the rivalry between Hamilton and Verstappen as close as it’s ever been, with the two drivers swapping the lead throughout the race. Verstappen attempted a pass Hamilton on the 53rd of 57 laps but was forced to give the place back after being deemed to have contravened track limits. Hamilton eventually won the race by 0.7 seconds, leading Verstappen and Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas.
April 18: Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Imola: Another action-packed race saw Hamilton start on pole, only to fall victim to a second-gear lunge from Verstappen on the rain-soaked first lap. Attempting to lap George Russell on the 31st lap of the race Hamilton fell further back, after struggling to find grip on a still-wet track, ending up in the gravel and dropping to eighth. However, a high speed collision between Valtteri Bottas and George Russell, which saw each driver blame the other, brought the pack back together and Hamilton recovered to second. Fellow Brit Lando Norris completed the podium after an ace drive that took him from seventh to third.
May 2: Portuguese Grand Prix, Portimão: After a poor qualifying performance in San Marino, Valtteri Bottas earned a spot at the front of the grid for the Portuguese Grand Prix in Portimão. Both Mercedes started well, with Bottas building a comfortable lead over second-placed Hamilton until a crash between Alfa Romeo teammates Antonio Giovanazzi and Kimi Raikkonen brought out the safety car. On the restart Hamilton hesitated, allowing Verstappen to overtake him, but regained second place just a few laps after, and moved swiftly up to first on the 20th lap. Things were made worse for Bottas when a sub-par pitstop allowed Verstappen the time he needed to enter the DRS zone, with the Finn falling down to, and finishing, third.
May 9: Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona: Hamilton earned the 100th pole position of his career in Barcelona, but duly gave up first position on the first corner of the grand prix, having no option but to sacrifice the spot to an aggressive move by Max Verstappen. A tense, race-long battle then commenced, but it was ultimately Hamilton and Mercedes, making excellent use of a two-stop strategy, who came out on top, overtaking Verstappen with six laps of the race to go for his third win in the season’s first four races.
May 23: Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo: It’s unlikely that 2021’s race will go down in the annals of Monaco Grand Prix history. Qualifying was cut short by a Q3 crash by pole-sitter, Monaco native and Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, causing a drivetrain issue that would ultimately prevent him from starting the race. That left Max Verstappen on pole, enabling him to take a lead from the start that he never looked like relinquishing. It was a notable off-day for Mercedes, with world champion Lewis Hamilton finishing seventh (in doing so allowing Verstappen to overtake him in the standings) and Bottas forced to retire after mechanics were unable to remove his front-right tyre during a pitstop. The Ferrari of Carlos Sainz came in second while Lando Norris claimed his second podium of the season, in third.
June 06: Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku: The drama dutifully returned on the street circuit of Azerbaijan’s capital, with a joint-record four red flags brought out during Saturday’s qualifying session. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc managed to grasp pole position for the second race in a row but failed to keep it beyond lap two, when he was overtaken by Lewis Hamilton. After that the Monegasque went backwards down the order but recovered to fourth. However, the real drama came in the latter part of the race, when leader Max Verstappen suffered a tyre blowout at high speed on lap 45 of 51, becoming the second driver after Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll to suffer the same issue. That triggered a red flag, with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton lining up on the first row of the grid. However, a lock-up from Hamilton sent him into the turn one run-off, and he could only manage to recover to 15th, leaving Perez to take the win. It was a stellar day for former champion Sebastian Vettel, who claimed second place in his Aston Martin, while Pierre Gasly once again proved he can make it count on race day with the third podium spot.
June 20: French Grand Prix, Le Castellet: Max Verstappen equalled Lewis Hamilton’s trio of wins in the 2021 season at Le Castellet, in a race that defied many people’s expectations — the track, located near Marseilles, is often cited as one of the most boring in the F1 calendar. After initially ceding his place at the front of the pack to Hamilton on the first corner of the race, the Dutch driver overtook Lewis Hamilton with just two laps of the race remaining, thanks to the utilisation of a two-stop strategy by Red Bull that left Hamilton attempting to fend off a fresh-tyre-clad Verstappen on worn tyres. Verstappen took an extra point for snagging the fastest lap time, and was also awarded the Driver of the Day award. Hamilton had to settle for second, with Verstappen’s teammate Perez completing the podium.
June 27: Styrian Grand Prix, Spielberg: A more sedate race followed the French Grand Prix, with Max Verstappen dominating proceedings across the weekend. The 23-year-old took his third win at the Red Bull Ring, with his RB16B comfortably outpacing Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes throughout the race. The seven-times world champion again had to settle for second place, although he did snatch an extra point for the fastest lap thanks to a late pit stop. Mercedes Boss Toto Wolff admitted that, for the first time in the turbo-hybrid era that his team has dominated, Mercedes had “no weapons in our armoury”. Hamilton agreed, estimating that Red Bull had an advantage of a quarter of a second on every lap of its home circuit.
July 4: Austrian Grand Prix, Spielberg: The second of the back-to-back races at the Red Bull Ring saw Verstappen pick up where he left off, delighting the Austrian crowd with pole position and then leading every lap of his team’s home grand prix. A huge number of Dutch fans also mad there way to Austria to watch their hero dominate proceedings. Behind Verstappen, things were a but more complicated. At turn three, Esteban Ocon’s Alpine was squeezed between Mick Schumacher and Antonio Giovinazzi, damaging his suspension and bringing out the safety car. Lando Norris had surprised everyone with second place on the grid in his McLaren, just a fraction of a second off Verstappen’s lap time, and he did well at the restart but was soon after handed a five second stop-go penalty after Red Bull’s Sergio Perez tried to overtake around the outside of turn four and ended up taking a trip across the gravel. It was a controversial stewards’ decision that later Perez himself was handed after Leclerc, in his Ferrari, tried a similar move and also ended up run off the road. The Mexican finished sixth as a result of his tumultuous race. Lewis Hamilton had started fourth but struggled after picking up damage, and failed to capitalise on Norris’s penalty, finishing fourth. Mercedes team-mate Bottas had a better run from fifth to finish second, while Norris managed to clinch the third podium spot.
July 18: British Grand Prix, Silverstone: At a hot Silverstone circuit, temperatures in the cockpits were high on race day. After the first Sprint Qualifying trial on Saturday, Verstappen lined up on the grid first with Hamilton second. The Brit got the better start but couldn’t edge fully in front and continued to pressure the leader all the way round the first lap before sending his Mercedes down the inside at Copse, clipping the rear of the Red Bull and sending Verstappen heavily into the barriers. Red flag and race over for the Dutchman. Hamilton received a 10-second penalty as a result but raced his heart out from second to chase a superb Charles Leclerc, who had led in the Ferrari from the restart. Hamilton hunted down Leclerc a second a lap over the final 10 laps before diving down the inside of the Ferrari at Copse on lap 51 of 52, in a brave repeat of the first lap incident. This time his opponent yielded, Leclerc running off the track to avoid contact, allowing Lewis to take the lead and his eighth British GP victory. Bottas completed the podium after a strong drive but with the championship in mind was asked to let Lewis past in his pursuit of the win. With Verstappen picking up just three points from his Qualifying Sprint win, Hamilton’s win put him nine points behind in the driver’s championship.
August 01: Hungarian Grand Prix, Budapest: After the first lap drama at Silverstone, we had carnage at the start of the Hungarian GP. Rain fell just before the formation lap and after a slow getaway from second, Bottas locked up into turn one and hit the back of Lando Norris who ricocheted into Verstappen. Bottas also managed to slide into Perez. Meanwhile Stroll was by the accident ahead and drove into the side of Leclerc. After a safety car, teams were told there would be a standing start from the grid, but just beforehand all the drivers except leader Hamilton dived into the pits for slick tyres, as the track was drying. The Englishman started from the grid alone, with fellow countryman George Russell somehow getting the jump on everyone else in the pitlane. Russell’s Williams slowed halfway round the lap, though, allowing Ocon’s Alpine to lead while Hamilton pitted, putting him in 15th on lap five. Verstappen made the restart but also had work to do from 12th position. A masterly undercut pit stop on lap 20 allowed Hamilton to pass both Verstappen and Ricciardo into 10th and in clear air started producing fastest laps to claw back a fantastic result, finishing third (after a classic battle with Alonso), though it took everything out of him — he was checked out by doctors after feeling dizzy following the race. His championship rival, though, in a damaged Red Bull had a worse afternoon and only scored a single point. It was Ocon’s day to shine, though, winning the race from eighth on the grid in his Alpine after a close battle with Vettel, who finished second in the Aston Martin, though his result was later deleted due to there being below the required litres of fuel in his tank post-race, which promoted Hamilton to second and Sainz to third.
August 29: Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps: This race will go down in history for all the wrong reasons. It’s the new shortest ever F1 grand prix, lasting just three laps over eight minutes, all run behind a safety car with no overtaking, due to torrential rain. It was “won” by Max Verstappen, who had qualified on pole, with a delighted George Russell in the Williams finishing behind him after a sensational lap on Saturday. Lewis Hamilton, who qualified third, completed a podium that many fans argue should never have taken place; the cars seemed to have been sent out on track purely to complete the two laps necessary for the event to be classified as a race, meaning the organisers needn’t refund spectators’ tickets. Hamilton called it a “farce”. As less than 75% of the race had been run, only half points were awarded. Lando Norris deserves a mention for being easily quickest driver in the wet in Qualifying 1 and 2, before a heavy crash at Eau Rouge at the start of Q3 ended his session, and the chance of points in the race.
September 5: Dutch Grand Prix, Zandvoort: Max Verstappen delighted his home fans, who turned the Zandvoort grandstands into a sea of orange, by taking pole position and the race victory on Sunday. He led almost all the way on Sunday, only dropping to second behind Bottas after his pit stop. On ageing rubber, the Finn’s job was to slow Verstappen’s progress to allow Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, running in third, to catch and perhaps outmanoeuvre the Red Bull driver, though Verstappen was only slowed momentarily and retook the lead before his championship rival had a chance to pounce. The final podium order was Verstappen, Hamilton and Bottas, with Hamilton taking an extra point for fastest lap. It was a tough weekend for McLaren, particularly Norris, with Alpha Tauri, Alpine and Ferrari mopping up the best-of-the-rest-honours.
September 12: Italian Grand Prix, Monza: The return of Sprint Qualifying saw Valtteri Bottas lead from the front, with Max Verstappen second and Daniel Ricciardo third in his McLaren, so those drivers picked up 3, 2 and 1 points respectively on Saturday. Sprint Qualifying then determined the grid for the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday, though Bottas was forced to start from the back due to changing his power unit, putting Verstappen on pole. He was outdragged to turn one by Ricciardo, though, who managed to lead until his pitstop. Verstappen came in a lap later but a wheel change issue lost him time, and after Hamilton pitted the two championship rivals arrived at turn one side-by-side. Wheels touched and the Red Bull mounted the Mercedes, with replays showing Hamilton’s life was clearly saved by his rollover loop and Halo device, as Verstappen’s rear wheel came down on the British driver’s cockpit. The Dutchman was later penalised for the incident, with a three-place grid penalty to be applied at Sochi. With both those cars retired, McLaren swept to a very popular one-two victory, with Ricciardo taking the win and finally showing his form of old. Bottas drove superbly through the field to clinch third place on the podium.
F1 driver standings after the 2021 Italian GP
- Max Verstappen (NED) RED BULL RACING HONDA 226.5
- Lewis Hamilton (GBR) MERCEDES 221.5
- Valtteri Bottas (FIN) MERCEDES 141
- Lando Norris (GBR) MCLAREN MERCEDES 132
- Sergio Perez (MEX) RED BULL RACING HONDA 118
- Charles Leclerc (MON) FERRARI 104
- Carlos Sainz (ESP) FERRARI 97.5
- Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) MCLAREN MERCEDES 83
- Pierre Gasly (FRA) ALPHATAURI HONDA 66
- Fernando Alonso (ESP) ALPINE RENAULT 50
- Esteban Ocon (FRA) ALPINE RENAULT 45
- Sebastian Vettel (GER) ASTON MARTIN MERCEDES 35
- Lance Stroll (CAN) ASTON MARTIN MERCEDES 24
- Yuki Tsunoda (JPN) ALPHATAURI HONDA 18
- George Russell (GBR) WILLIAMS MERCEDES 15
- Nicholas Latifi (CAN) WILLIAMS MERCEDES 7
- Kimi Räikkönen (FIN) ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI 2
- Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA) ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI 1
- Mick Schumacher (GER) HAAS FERRARI 0
- Robert Kubica (POL) ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI 0
- Nikita Mazepin (RAF) HAAS FERRARI 0
F1 team standings
- MERCEDES 362.5
- RED BULL RACING HONDA 344.5
- MCLAREN MERCEDES 215
- FERRARI 201.5
- ALPINE RENAULT 95
- ALPHATAURI HONDA 84
- ASTON MARTIN MERCEDES 59
- WILLIAMS MERCEDES 22
- ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI 3
- HAAS FERRARI 0
What is Sprint Qualifying?
Another exciting new element of the 2021 F1 season is the debut of Sprint Qualifying races. The 100km races determine the starting grid for Sunday’s grands prix and also award championship points to the top three drivers, which could prove vital in a tight championship battle.
Sprint Qualifying is being trialled this year, with the first taking place at the 2021 British Grand Prix and the second at the Italian GP, with a final instalment at the Brazilian GP.
F1 management will decide whether or not it should stay for good, based on feedback from drivers, teams and fans. For more info, read our Sprint Qualifying guide.
How to watch F1 races in the UK this year
Sky Sports F1
You’re able to watch every race, as well as the qualifying and practice sessions, live on Sky Sports F1, which costs £18 per month for people already paying for Sky TV, or £43 per month alongside Sky TV. As part of the package you also get exclusive documentaries and interviews from the Sky Sports F1 team, as well as historic races.
You can also watch using Sky’s Now TV on demand service, which offers Sky Sports Day Passes for £9.99 or monthly passes for £33.99.
Channel 4 coverage
For those on a budget, once again there are extended highlights of all F1 races on Channel 4, with additional live coverage of the British Grand Prix in July. Highlights are also available on the channel’s on-demand service, All 4.
Formula 1: Drive to Survive
Also, don’t miss the third season of Netflix exclusive series Formula 1: Drive to Survive. The 2020 recap went live on March 19, 2021. It’s a brilliant behind-the-scenes look at the sport, showing much more of the drama, tantrums and tears that are often unseen by the regular TV cameras.
The third season covers the shortened 2020 F1 championship, focusing on Lewis Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo and other top drivers as Covid-19 turned the world upside down.
Just hearing F1 team members swearing was quite the revelation when the first series aired, and the emotions captured make the characters involved in the sport seem much more human than the sanitised live coverage suggests.
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- In March, the world of Formula One paid tribute to the late Murray Walker, the voice of the sport for more than two decades.
- Aston Martin has revealed that it will supply safety and medical cars for the 2021 season.
- Enjoyed our 2021 F1 calendar and start time guide? You might be interested in Lewis Hamilton’s five best Formula One wins