F1 Fantasy: Top tips from last year's champion ahead of the 2021 season
Pre-season testing is done and dusted and the new Formula 1 season is now just around the corner, which means it's time to get your F1 Fantasy team ready, before the Bahrain Grand Prix kicks off the racing action next weekend.
And to help you as you ponder your Fantasy picks, we've drafted in someone who knows better than most what it takes to win. Daniel Phillips won last year’s F1 Fantasy global league, so we asked the Ottowa-based casino dealer to tell us how he won the jackpot in 2020, and what tips he has for the new season.
Daniel is yet to attend a Grand Prix in person but, by taking victory in last year's global league, he won two Paddock Passes to a Grand Prix of his choice. The Canadian explains just how he got into F1 and F1 Fantasy – and it's all thanks to a certain Netflix series...
"I am a pretty new F1 fan," says Daniel. "What got me hooked was the first season of Drive to Survive. Lance Stroll has won me over and gained my support. He's a Canadian and overcame a lot of negativity and still thrived in the sport. I began with the Netflix series, started watching F1 live on TV whenever I could and then progressed to setting alarms at ridiculous times in order to watch FP1."
"This was my first year playing F1 Fantasy. I guess it was like a natural progression as a fan," he adds. "I wasn't in first place until after the final race of the  season; it came down to the wire. I've never been to a Grand Prix, but I'm hoping things work out and I'm able to go this year."
Daniel's top tips for Fantasy success
So how did Daniel do it? With hundreds of thousands of active players, winning overall at F1 Fantasy – let alone your own leagues – is extremely difficult. Here are his top tips for the new season...
Get to grips with the basics and use all three teams
He starts with the basics; with two weeks remaining, it's best to get acquainted with how to play the game now. Tap here to read up on all the exciting new changes for 2021. And he says it's important to maximise your chances by playing all three of your allowed teams.
"The great thing about F1 Fantasy is you get to start with three teams," Daniel explains. "I made three very distinct teams at the beginning of the season and ended up winning with my team that included Lewis Hamilton as my main driver and Mercedes as the main constructor."
He also recommends you do your homework and have a good look at the in-depth stats available on the F1 Fantasy website.
If you've played before, you may think you've got your strategy down pat, but there are some changes to how the game works this year, and Daniel has some ideas on how to adapt...
Use the wildcard and subs bank to your advantage
This year, the wildcard only allows you to make 12 (rather than unlimited) substitutions for free in the race week that it's played, but you're also allowed to make three substitutions instead of just one, every gameweek. Furthermore, you can keep a 'subs bank' of drivers on standby, so if their values increase you may be able to sell them for a profit and increase your budget to over the standard $100m.
Daniel says that opens up a bevy of tactical options.
"The more dynamic the game the better," he says. "Last year the rules were more restrictive so the wildcard had ridiculous value and taking on a different philosophy for a team was devastating in terms of points lost.
"I will definitely take advantage of the subs bank in 2021 Fantasy as it will allow me to swap drivers in and out with less focus on their price points," he says.
It might be time to drop Mercedes...
Another major change this year is that prices have been hiked. For example, Lewis Hamilton costs $33.5m and his contructor Mercedes cost $38m, which would leave you a measly $28.5m to pick the remaining four drivers, if you had both in your team.
However, Daniel – much like the 2019 F1 Fantasy winner – swears by picking Hamilton, even if there are some doubts over Mercedes' pre-season testing pace.
"One of my teams will definitely include Lewis Hamilton, no matter the price you can't argue with his ability to win races. I believe I will drop Mercedes as my constructor before dropping Hamilton from my team.
"I think Mercedes will dominate 2021 and it's a great testament to their organization's continual push forward in the sport. It's been an unfortunate consequence that their success makes Fantasy somewhat straightforward when it comes to picking a constructor… but perhaps the price change in Hamilton will make Mercedes a less fruitful choice," he adds.
So, who should you pick in your team?
Helpfully, Daniel has also provided us with some sample teams for 2021 to get you started.
The first includes Hamilton ($33.5m), Sergio Perez as Turbo Driver ($18.4m), Lance Stroll ($13.9m) or Lando Norris ($13.1m), Esteban Ocon ($10.1m) and George Russell ($6.2m) – with Aston Martin or McLaren the constructor.
Alternatively, you could opt for Valtteri Bottas ($23.6m) and free up some budget to include Mercedes ($38m) as your constructor. Along with Perez and Russell, this sample team includes Antonio Giovinazzi ($7.9m) and Mick Schumacher ($5.8m).
If you'd rather have Red Bull as your constructor ($25.9m) and Hamilton, you could include Perez, Ocon, Russell and Schumacher in that budget.
What about Max Verstappen ($24.8m), who shone in pre-season testing? You could include him, Daniel Ricciardo ($17.3m), Pierre Gasly ($11.7m), Russell and Giovinazzi with Red Bull your constructor.
Of course, those are just some sample teams and you've got a couple of weeks left, so get experimenting, creating – teams and leagues – and invite your friends and family to play along to be in with a chance of winning some incredible prizes!
Sign up, and create your teams and leagues at Fantasy.Formula1.com