Formula 1: 7 predictions for the 2021 season includes record-breaking Lewis Hamilton

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As the sporting world welcomes the new year with open and hopeful arms, social media is predictably awash with speculation for the next 12 months.

In Formula 1, the case is no different and ahead of the quickest turnaround to a season yet, the 2021 campaign has arguably the most intrigue attached to it in some time.

Whilst Lewis Hamilton will be driving toward immortality, the paddock also welcomes back familiar, and indeed familial, faces.

So, just over two months away from round one at Albert Park in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix in March, what might be on the F1 horizon? 

Here are our predictions for the year ahead.

Hamilton primed for immortality

It's now seven World Drivers' Championships for Lewis Hamilton, but 2021 could finally seal his place as arguably the greatest driver in the sport's storied history.

With four consecutive crowns now to his name, the 35-year-old from Stevenage currently shares the honours with Michael Schumacher, but can go out on his own to eight come December.

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At the outset of last season, many suggested the season to follow would be his most difficult one to date - even before the outbreak of COVID-19.

But after a shaky opening round in Spielberg, however, Hamilton's dominance was in greater force than in any of his six prior championship wins.

A rather different-looking paddock will again test the flying Brit, but there are few indications of any problems on the horizon.

Given the superior AMG unit and an evolving DAS steering system, the Silver Arrows will surely again be ahead of the game.

Though it should be noted that Hamilton is yet to officially sign on for another year at least, the next 12 months for the newly-knighted driver will surely be his crowning moment.

Red Bull on Mercedes' heels

Again, the biggest threat to Hamilton and indeed Mercedes appears to be Red Bull, who with Sergio Perez thrust into the seat, presents something of a unpredictable element.

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After the Mexican signed on with Christian Horner and his team in the wake of much speculation, they will surely stand as the chief pretenders to the throne.

Not since 2013 have Red Bull stood atop the F1 mountain, but as Max Verstappen plots another shot at king Hamilton, Perez could become a big player for the Dutchman and for his team.

Notching his first race win at Sakhir in 10 years of trying only a matter of months ago, Perez has matured like a fine Cabernet, given the greater tools his car offered him in recent years.

With the Red Bull Honda engine at his disposal this season, just what Perez could achieve in 2021 is a tantalising thought.

Regardless, Red Bull will be a threat to Mercedes, perhaps, with an even greater, dual menace.

Power issues pending, Ferrari will rise again

Last year for Ferrari was by some distance Scuderia's most difficult campaign in recent memory, given the fact their problems were quite simply unexpected. 

In a pandemic year, a shake-up of the grid was always likely with 17 races crammed into five months, but notwithstanding, Ferrari's power issues were just staggering.

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Aside from their own car problems, Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc were again set to spearhead an Italian assault on Mercedes, but the fallout from 2019, however, was still being felt behind the scenes.

So much so, the decision was made that the Prancing Horse would not renew Vettel's contract at the end of the year, which made for a rather awkward divorce.

With relations having completely broken down between Vettel and his team, Leclerc was left holding up Ferrari ambitions.

Despite a car that was suffering unprecedented performance issues, the Monagesque remarkably managed five top-four finishes.

This year, paired with the relentless and charismatic Carlos Sainz Jr, Ferrari could again be going places, if their much-publicised engine complaints are resolved during the winter.

Should they indeed be rectified, with a tag-team of Leclerc and Sainz, Ferrari will surely rise again in 2021.

Mick Schumacher will thrill

One of the biggest attractions of this season will be the return to the paddock of the Schumacher name in the form of Mick Schumacher.

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Having passed the proving grounds of Formula 2 to win the title last year, the 22-year-old will line-up for Haas F1, bringing along his F2 mate and somewhat loose cannon in Nikita Mazepin.

A Ferrari driving academic since January 2019, hopes are high for the prodigious Swiss-born German for his maiden season in the big leagues.

Team principal Mattia Binotto believes Schumacher's first season will be a steep learning curve, but Ferrari - powering the Haas unit - are already earmarking his place for Scuderia by 2023.

Despite reservations about the raw Schumacher, with karting in his blood, his talent is irrefutable.

With his chance to shine on the big stage, expect Mick to live up to the family name in his first year in F1.

McLaren could be a force

McLaren's 2020 saw the return to form for the British manufacturer, having fallen far from the graces after their years of dominance during the mid-80s and early 90s.

Spurred on by the rise to prominence of Lando Norris, the burgeoning talents of Sainz also put McLaren back on the map.

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Though, without the latter's service after his switch to the Prancing Horse, his boots will be filled by the ever-capable Daniel Ricciardo in 2021.

After an awkward stint at Red Bull with the antagonistic Verstappen, 2020 was a mark of progression for the Australian, with two podiums in his final seven races.

Together with Norris this term, McLaren could surprise many.

Third in the Constructors' Championship last time out, though, the competition is hotter than ever this year for placings, there are signs the British team are forming a very solid spine once more.

Aston Martin may struggle for harmony

As Vettel makes his first strides from the Prancing Horse garage, Aston Martin will be looking to use the German as the pinnacle of a new era. 

Formerly Racing Point, the Aston Martin team are looking at 2021 to forget the controversies of the past 12 months, in regard to irregularities over illegal replication of car parts.

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Vettel will be a big part of that, but accompanied by the improving Lance Stroll, could the four-time champion again prompt further unrest, like in his latter Ferrari days?

With owner Lawrence Stroll eyeing his son as a regular fixture at the head of the field this season, Vettel, however, will not be one to happily tow the party line given the chance.

After Scuderia's own issues during the past 12 months, it is hard to know for sure also if Vettel still has the desire and hunger to compete for regular podium spots.

Now approaching his veteran years in F1, Vettel will not be one to go quietly until he hangs up his driving gloves, though, and Aston Martin could be faced with a balance of power.

Bridge too far for Alonso?

As if the pot was not simmering away enough, 2021 welcomes back Fernando Alonso to the F1 picture.

Returning to race for the newly-named Alpine team after a two-year absence, the two-time champion from 2005 and 2006 adds an element of class to the field once more.

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Teaming up with the impressive Esteban Ocon, will Alonso suffer the rust of two years away from the scene?

Now 39, the Spaniard is only junior to veteran Kimi Raikkonen of the 20 drivers this season, and with both AlfaRomeo and AlphaTauri looking to build on comparatively impressive terms in the midfield last year, Alonso may find himself bringing up the rear on a regular basis.

Alonso is undoubtedly one of the finest drivers in F1 history, and although his hopes will be somewhat tethered by Alpine's deficiencies, 2021 could still be a difficult one for the man they call 'Magic'.

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