Lawrence Stroll has ambitious plans for F1 (Getty)

After what feels like the briefest of pitstops, Formula One returns to our screens this weekend for the opening race of the 2021 season.

Just 15 weeks since Max Verstappen took the checkered flag in Abu Dhabi we are back in the Persian Gulf, only this time it is Bahrain, for the first of, pandemic willing, 23 grands prix in what will be F1’s biggest season ever.

We welcome back Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin and a Schumacher, Michael’s son Mick who has joined Haas, and bid farewell to the lurid pink of Racing Point — now the Astons.

As for the cars, there are fewer modifications than previous seasons, although Mercedes are said to have tweaked their chassis, McLaren their rear suspension and Williams have invested in some nice new floor mats.

A new season means a new series of fly-in-the-wind-tunnel documentary Drive To Survive. As with previous series DTS takes us beyond the pitlanes into the secret world of a sport that thrives on more than just cool heads and warm tyres.

Our subject is the 2020 season, one not without its dramas. It begins in unexpected fashion — the cancellation of the first race — and ends in the usual way with Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton reigning supreme.

We are also introduced to billionaire Racing Point owner Lawrence Stroll, father of driver Lance, and a man who wouldn’t look out of place stroking a cat in a Bond movie. He is a man in a hurry. ‘You’ve got 15 minutes,’ he barks at team principal Otmar Szafnauer after he offers to run his boss through plans for the season. ‘This year Lawrence wants everything to be six-star,’ says Szafnauer, and on time presumably.

Elsewhere, we learn what we have suspected for a long time; Red Bull boss Christian Horner enjoys nothing more than annoying Mercedes, baby-faced Lando Norris is unlikely to advertise a razor blade anytime soon and Valtteri Bottas appears to like seeing team-mate Hamilton suffer.

This is a tantalising glimpse behind the scenes of motorsport’s most prized possession and just what’s needed to keep the interest ticking over until lights out on Sunday.

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