Dubai: At least 10 teams have been eagerly gearing up for the start of a full calendar on the 2021 UIM F1H2O World Championship ready to kick off later this year.
Not a single race could be held during 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic that swept the world. Since then, promoters and organisers have been liasing with local authorities before ensuring a minimal calendar of six rounds of the F1 World Championship calendar for 2021.
The season is scheduled to open with the Grand Prix of Italy from May 14-16 followed by the second round of the Grand Prix of Europe in July. After that, the teams will move to China for the customary double-header there at the end of September and first week of October followed by the penultimate round in the Middle East in November and the traditional season finale in Sharjah in the second half of December.
However, the one year in-between has given team enough time to rejig their plans. Among the new teams is ‘Stromoy Racing’ that will be based in Sandefjord, Norway.
After spending 13 years with various F1 teams, Marit Strømøy – aptly called ‘Norway’s first lady of Motorsport’ – has floated the new team to try and give herself a serious chance of competing for the world crown. Named the ‘UIM Driver of the year 2019’, Stromoy will continue her partnership with Bartek Marszalek in a second boat, while Andrea Colombo will be team manager.
Among the first driver reshuffle for this year will see Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson - last year’s overall runner-up in the drivers’ standings - world team up with 21-year-old Finn Kalle Viippo. The CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team will be fielding an unchanged line-up with three-time champion Philippe Chiappe starting his 21st year on the tour along with Peter Morin in the second boat.
The Maverick Team will also have a new driver in South African F1 champion Brett Stuart joining Cedric Deguisne, while former multiple F1 champion Scott Gillman putting his new set-up of Gillman F1 Racing, consisting of American racer Greg Foster alongside four-time world champion, Alex Carella of Italy.
The news of Carella joining Gillman F1 Racing is no surprise as it was the American champion who had been guide and tutor since Carella left Victory team mid-season in 2019 to continue racing under the umbrella of Maverick F1 Racing Team on Gillman’s DAC. That move had paid off immediately with the Italian taking his 16th career pole position along with a race win during the Censtar Grand Prix of Xiamen in China.
The Sharjah Team will also remain unchanged as two-time world champion Sami Selio leading the line-up with fellow Finn Filip Roms, while Portuguese Duarte Benavente will be among the most experienced of the lot as he gears for his 22nd straight season on the F1 circuit. Benavente is yet to announce the second driver of his team.
Not surprisingly, the Team Abu Dhabi line-up has been left unchanged with two-time defending world champion Shaun Torrente leading the charge alongside emirati Thani Al Qamzi. At best times, the two drivers have also been close competitors against each other with Torrente looking at the possibility of landing yet another world crown by the end of this year.
Having made his F1 debut way back in 1996, Blaze Performance’s Francesco Cantando will be marking his 25th season in F1 with German lady driver Simone Bianca Schuft replacing Foster following the American’s move to the Gillman Racing stable.
Another new entry will be Comparato Racing when it lines up 23-year-old Italian and former F2 world champion Alberto Comparato. The Italian spent the last two season with Benavente in the Atlantic Team, but had now opted to manage his own set-up with the experienced Matt Palfreyman.