Max Verstappen topped first practice and Valtteri Bottas was quickest after drivers had run qualifying simulations in second practice. However, the driver who showed the most impressive pace around Losail International Circuit was probably Pierre Gasly, who put his AlphaTauri second fastest in both sessions.
Could Gasly – or even team mate Yuki Tsunoda, who has also looked rapid – snatch an unexpected pole? Or will Red Bull and Mercedes find the pace to beat them?
We have a copy of F1 2021 to be won every grand prix weekend for the rest of this year. The RaceFans F1 Predictions Championship is free to enter. You will need a RaceFans account to place so sign up here if you haven’t got one.
Enter your predictions for each race using the form below, and scroll down for more information on the prizes and the rules.
Make your predictions
The top scorer over the 2021 RaceFans F1 Predictions Championship will be rewarded with an enviable upgrade to their simracing system.
An ultra-realistic Fanatec Podium V2 direct drive wheel and base plus pedal kit tops off the system.
And to ensure your game of choice looks its best, BenQ will supply one of their dedicated 34-inch EX3415R 1ms simracing monitors.
While only one player will claim that prize, we'll also award the top two players in the competition each weekend. Codemasters will provide a copy of F1 2021 for the top scorer each weekend, and the runner up will claim a 2021 F1 calendar tea towel courtesy of BoxBoxBox.
Grand Prize: Direct drive simracing kit
Podium V2 direct drive wheel, base and plus pedalsSupplied by Fanatec
Simracing hardware experts Fanatec are offering this incredible prize worth over €2,000 (£1,700) to the overall top scorer in this year's Predictions Championship.
The officially-licensed Podium Racing Wheel F1 brings the precision feel of direct drive steering to your racing system, on PC, PlayStation or Xbox.
Fanatec call it 'quite simply the most realistic force feedback system ever on a console'. Fully supported by all the top racing games, this exquisitively-crafted piece of hardware will change the way you experience simracing.
The 27cm wheel is pacjed with 11 buttons, 12 switches, plus multi-colour LEDs to show rpm and gear change points. On the rear of the wheel, magnetic shifters give you fine control over clutch, launch control and more.
You'll need to be able to stop and go as well, so Fanatec have included their CSL Elite pedals. The three-piece kit includes a load cell brake for unrivalled braking accuracy and feel.
Mobiuz Ultra-wide 34-inch curved simracing monitorSupplied by Ben Q
To ensure you have a superb view of the track ahead, BenQ will also provide this year's top-scoring player with a dedicated simracing monitor worth £899.
The EX3415R measures a whopping 34 inches, and displays in 3440x1440px WQHD. The panel's HDRi technology further enhances the picture and TreVolo audio technology brings excellent audio reproduction.
Tuned for gaming in general and simracing in particular, the EX3415R has a 1ms response time and 144Hz refresh rate.
F-GT simulator cockpitSupplied by Next Level
The F-GT from NextLevel allows you to configure and mount your driving equipment to simulate a single-seater formula or GT-style car. The same model was used by the Real Esport team to win the GTR Endurance eRacing World Championship.
It's designed to handle high-end direct drive wheels and includes a sliding seat and lumbar support for adjustability and comfort.
Race weekend prizes
F1 2021: The official gameSupplied by Codemasters
At every round of the championship the top-scoring player will win F1 2021, the latest edition of the official Formula 1 game published by Codemasters, for their choice of platform.
As well as including all the teams and drivers from the new season, F1 2021 introduces Codemasters' new 'Braking Point' storyline mode, which brings narradrive-driven racing back to the series. 'Braking Point' blends on-track action with off-track drama set in the world championship paddock.
F1 2021 also epxands on the features from previous games, including the popular My Team mode as well as Career. Real Season Start allows you to jump into the game at the same stage as the real world championship standings.
F1 2021 calendar tea towelSupplied by BoxBoxBox
The runner-up player in every race weekend will also win a prize courtesy of our friends at BoxBoxBox.
The final roster of tracks for the new season may only have been confirmed shortly before the championship began, but they were quick off the mark to whip up a superb range of tea towels featuring all 23 tracks on the 2021 F1 calendar.
The tea towels are screen printed on 100% organic cotton, and BoxBoxBox will send you a set of two worth £22.99.
Rules and how to enter
You have until the scheduled start time for qualifying on Saturday to make your predictions for each round. Reminders will be posted during the weekend on RaceFans, the RaceFans Twitter account and RaceFans Facebook page.
To enter, predict the pole sitter and the top five finishers in the race. You can also enter a prediction for the pole position lap time which this will be used in the event of a points tie between prize-winners.
Enter your pole position lap time prediction in the following format: MM:SS.ccc For example, for a lap of one minute, 23.450 seconds you would enter 01:23.450
You must log in using a RaceFans account to make a prediction. Registration is free and quick:
After submitting your prediction you will receive an email confirming your entry. If this does not happen, or you are concerned your prediction has not been received, please get in touch using the contact form.
Competition terms and conditions
1. Maximum one entry per household.
2. The competition is not open to employees, friends or family of RaceFans or any prize suppliers.
3. In each round players are invited to predict (a) who will be on pole position and (b) what the top five finishers will be (five different drivers) and will accumulate points in each round as follows up to a maximum score of 50:
a. Correctly naming the pole winner for the sprint qualifying race if one is held, or the grand prix if no sprint qualifying race is held: 2 points
b. Correctly naming one/two/three/four/five driver/s who finish in the top five of the grand prix: 1/2/3/5/8 points
c. Correctly predicting where one/two/three/four/five driver/s finish in the grand prix: 2/6/14/24/40 points
4. The results will be take from the appropriate final classification documents for each round as issued by the FIA
5. Whoever scores the most points in every race counting towards the championship will win the grand prize, if one is offered.
6. In the event of a tie on points the winner will be determined by who is closest to predicting the pole position lap time set in qualifying correctly. If that fails to produce a winner the editor will choose a means of deciding who has won
7. Predictions must be entered using the entry form. If you experience difficulties submitting your entry via the predictions form please enter your prediction using the contact form. Predictions will not be accepted via any other means of communication.
8. In the event of a dispute the editor's decision is final. No correspondence will be entered into.
9. No cash alternative is offered for any of the prizes.
10. Players who have won prizes will be notified by email within 14 days of the winners being announced, so they can select their prize options and supply a postal address. Once this has been done prize delivery may take up to 28 days.
11. For further information see the disclaimer