F1 grid now one big 'field' as teams predict very close battle

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Formula 1 now has one big "field" compared to the two or three-tier grid of recent years it is suggested.

Due to Covid-19, the scope for car development was reduced during the off-season, with teams instead given two tokens they could use on specific areas.

As a result, and based on the initial conclusions of pre-season testing, Alpine executive director Marcin Budkowski claims the gaps between the teams are now so small that the grid has effectively merged.

“I think it’s not a midfield any more, it’s a field, really,” he said via RaceFans.

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“We still expect Mercedes at the front. Clearly, they had a few issues and they were probably sandbagging a little bit at the beginning of the test. We still expect Red Bull to be strong.

“But behind them, it’s a field, really, and where we are in this field is difficult to say. I expect it to be competitive. McLaren seems good, seems quick. Aston Martin, when they actually run, seem pretty quick. The rest I don’t know, really.”

While the top two teams are expected to take the lion share of wins, poles and podiums, Sebastian Vettel agreed that they won't have the clear advantage over the rest as in recent seasons.

“It will be difficult to filter all the impressions because the tyres are different, the cars have changed, and I’m sure that lots of the experiences I’ve made, other people have made as well so it’s all relative,” he told Crash.net.

“In terms of performance, as far as what I’ve seen, it looks to be very close. Red Bull looks very strong, Mercedes – anything other than being at the top would be a surprise for everyone – but it looks like all the midfield has caught up, but it depends how the car feels; if the car feels fine, but it’s relative. 

“The car can feel fantastic but if it’s too slow, it’s painful, and if it feels horrible but it’s faster than everyone else’s then you accept it. We’ll find out more when we go racing.”

McLaren was one team that certainly caught many people's eye with an innovative diffuser design and an apparently seamless transition from Renault to Mercedes power.

However, team boss Andreas Seidl is taking nothing for granted. 

“With everything we could see so far, we need to wait until the first race weekend," he stated. "I think everything is very close together again, that’s about where we’ll be.

“It was great for us to finish third [in the Constructors' Championship] last year. But at the same time, we haven’t forgotten about the last race where we could also have easily ended up in fifth and that’s where we see us in that battle.”