Lewis Hamilton predicts 2021 will be a Formula 1 season of unknowns

Hamilton Formula 1 unknowns
Andy Hone/Getty Images
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The decision by Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes to sign only a single-year contract last month was surprising, but there are a lot more unknowns to be discovered in the 2021 Formula 1 season according to the seven-time champion.

Citing a bout with COVID-19 that impacted both Hamilton and Mercedes’ team principal Toto Wolff late last year, the decision was partially credited to the lateness with which they broached the contract.

But there was more that factored into the decision. Not least was the fact that Hamilton has already achieved most of what he set out to accomplish in his career.

Another factor may be the uncertainty of what will happen in Formula 1 in 2021 and beyond as Hamilton and the rest of the sport faces a series of unknowns.

“Firstly, I’m kind of in a fortunate position where I’ve achieved most of the stuff that I’ve wanted to achieve up to this point,” Hamilton said at Autosport.com. “So there’s no real need necessity to plan too far ahead in the future.

“I think we live in quite an unusual period of time in life, and I just wanted one year. Then we can talk about if we do more, and keep adding it if we have to.”

With his 92nd Formula 1 victory last year in the Portuguese Grand Prix, Hamilton ascended to the top of the all-time wins list. He went on to win the next three races and closed the season with 95. The 100-win mark is well within reach for a driver who has scored 10 or more victories in six of the last seven seasons and nine the year he did not score double digits.

Hamilton wrapped up his seventh Formula 1 title in Round 14 of 17 in the Turkish Grand Prix to tie Michael Schumacher for the most World Championships. Six of these titles came in the past seven seasons, including the last four consecutive. If he is able to win again in 2021, there is really no other mountain to climb.

As part of his one-year contract, Hamilton and Mercedes jointly launched a charity to foster inclusion and diversity in all forms of motorsports. Hamilton expects that goal will take up increasing amounts of time.

But another factor in his decision to sign for only a single season is that Hamilton does not know what racing in Formula 1 will be like in 2021 and beyond.

Hamilton predicted that Formula 1 would have a slower car this season in a tweet.

“I don’t know if the fans know but we’ve had a downforce adjustment that’s been made for this year, which does mean the car won’t be as fast – at least at the get-go.” Hamilton said.

Will that provide closer, more competitive racing?

“Who knows? I don’t know really why they’ve done that except to bring the cars closer,” Hamilton continued. “And we have tires that are not as fast as previous years. It adds a new element to the mix. The tires: We don’t know how they will perform – what the limitations are.

“And looking at these other teams, you’ve got a stronger setting I think that you’ll see at Red Bull. Ferrari has a really great new, fresh setting and then you’ve got Sebastian (Vettel) taking over with his great experience and expertise and they are ramping up. They nearly won at Turkey last year.”

‘Nearly won’ was a generous statement. Vettel finished third within three-tenths of a runner-up Sergio Perez in the race that sealed Hamilton’s championship. Vettel’s teammate Charles Leclerc finished fourth.

But Hamilton won that event by more than 30 seconds over the field.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III