McLaren chief Zak Brown expects Formula 1’s intense midfield battle of last season to be repeated in 2021 – and believes Aston Martin will benefit from the arrival of a “highly motivated” Sebastian Vettel, while Ferrari will also improve.
McLaren clinched a multi-team fight for third place in the Constructors’ Championship at the final race of 2020 also involving Racing Point (now Aston Martin), Renault (now Alpine), Ferrari and AlphaTauri.
What is now Aston Martin ran McLaren closest last season, and buoyed by the arrival of new four-time champion signing Sebastian Vettel, Brown predicts another “very tough” challenge from their Silverstone rivals.
— Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team (@AstonMartinF1) February 18, 2021
“That whole grouping we were fighting with last year we’re going to pick up right where we left off in Abu Dhabi,” McLaren’s chief executive told Sky Sports.
“Sebastian Vettel is a four-time champion so while he didn’t have a great year last year, I think he’ll be on his A-game and highly motivated.
“We’ve got to watch all these guys.”
Back in the championship’s top three for the first time in eight years in 2020, McLaren have set their sights on further closing the gap to the front of F1’s field this year.
McLaren replaced traditional rivals Ferrari in the top three after the Italian marque slumped to sixth place amid their worst season for 40 years.
Asked if they were favourite to outperform the Scuderia in 2021, Brown replied: “We’ve got to focus on ourselves. We’re not just trying to beat Ferrari, we are trying to beat nine other teams. We had a great year last year, they struggled.
“I would be very surprised if they finished sixth again this year, I think that was probably a bit of a one-off.
“It’s a great team, they’ve got two very strong drivers so I think it’s going to be a very compressed field this year.”
What’s next in F1 car launch season?
It’s three down, seven to go, for cars being revealed for the new Formula 1 season.
The now-revealed 2021 cars from McLaren, AlphaTauri and Alfa Romeo are next set to be joined by Red Bull’s RB16B on Tuesday, with a busier week then in store at the start of March when four teams hold unveilings in the space of three days.
Haas are now the only team yet to confirm their car launch date ahead of pre-season testing in Bahrain on March 12-14.