Location: Sandown International Motor Racing Circuit – Melbourne, Vic
Previous Winner: Shane Van Gisbergen/Jamie Whincup (2019)
Lap Record: 1:08.3866 (Jamie Whincup)
The 2021 Supercars season roars into its second round at Sandown this weekend. Championship favourite Shane Van Gisbergen is on top of the points table entering round two, but doubts about his fitness may set the scene for an enthralling championship battle.
The championship leader underwent surgery for a collarbone injury from a mountain biking accident in early March. The surgery has been reported as a success and Red Bull has confirmed he will be fit to drive, however, should this situation change or if he struggles with his injury throughout the weekend it could blow the 2021 championship wide open.
The Return to Sandown
Initially, the Supercars were set to support the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix at Albert Park. However, with the Grand Prix being postponed to November due to Covid -19 travel restrictions, Sandown is set to host its first Supercars round since 2019.
The Springvale track was scheduled to host a race weekend in November 2020 but was eventually canceled completely due to the impact of the pandemic on the area.
The Season Heating Up
During the season opener at Mt Panorama, the stark difference to last year was immediately apparent. With 2020 champion Scott McLaughlin moving to Indycar, the 2021 season is anyone’s to claim. It’s no surprise that his closest competitor, Van Gisbergen, capitalized and enters round 2 on top of the table.
But, if the Panorama 500 is anything to go by he will have stiff competition throughout the year from the likes of Waters, Mostert, and the replacements at Team Penske.
The Pressure is on…
One driver under obvious pressure heading into Sandown is Anton De Pasquale. Not only is he attempting to replace a three-time champion and generational talent in Scott McLaughlin, but the pressure is mounting after a poor showing at Mt Panorama.
The outlook was promising for Pasquale as he managed to line up 4th for the first race of the year. But it quickly turned to disappointment as he crashed out, after sliding into the wall at the cutting on lap 6. He managed to come back and finish 4th in race 2 but he will be hoping for a better showing at Sandown.
The Pressure is also Starting to mount on drivers such as Waters and Mostert who will be determined to show that they can challenge Red Bull and Van Gisbergen for the Championship. Waters and Tickford Racing showed they have the pace to challenge for top spot but lost out on the day at Mt Panorama due to their strategy.
What to Watch
How Van Gisbergen deals with his injury recovery throughout the weekend will be in the spotlight. Also, the pressure is firmly on for De Pasquale to perform. Many will be looking to see if Walkinshaw Andretti Racing and Chaz Mostert can keep up with Van Gisbergen and Waters.
Another driver in focus will be Tim Slade after showing potential by Qualifying 2nd in first qualifying last round but being unable to back it up with a Retirement and DNS in the races.
Round 2 of the 2021 Supercars season heads to Sandown with many unique and intriguing story lines involved. Can drivers such as De Pasquale and Slade step up, can anyone take the fight to Van Gisbergen and will SVG struggle, or manage to overcome his injury.