Could we have asked for a more entertaining season? I don’t think so. One of the fiercest rivalries in world sport was well and truly put to the test this year as seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton locked horns with the determined Max Verstappen.
The Dutchman was keen to make amends for a 2020 season which saw him finish third in the driver standings – 133 points behind the title-winning Hamilton.
Verstappen and his Red Bull team were hungry for success and ready to pounce on any shortcomings in the Mercedes camp.
The 2021 calendar began with both drivers alternating between first and second place. The Englishman having come out on top in three out of the first five races, but it was Verstappen who enjoyed victory at the highly-coveted Monaco Grand Prix which saw his rival have to settle for seventh place.
An eye-catching result in Azerbaijan followed as Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez came out on top with Hamilton in 15th and his rival unable to finish the race.
A string of wins then saw Verstappen place the heat on his rival as he came away with victories in France, Styria and Austria but he could not prevent Hamilton from the perfect homecoming as he finished first at Silverstone.
The remaining races on the European calendar saw a surprise victory for Alpine’s Esteban Ocon who claimed his maiden Formula 1 victory in Budapest before back-to-back wins for Verstappen in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Now, we have not yet made mention of our very own Daniel Ricciardo who finished front of the queue at Monza which marked a very special day for him and McLaren. It was the Aussie’s eighth championship win and his first since the Monaco Grand Prix in 2018.
He celebrated his Monza triumph alongside teammate Lando Norris who came in second. Ricciardo then followed that up with a fourth place finish in Russia that saw Hamilton claim top spot.
This turned out to be a profitable period for Mercedes with Valtteri Bottas taking maximum points in the Turkish Grand Prix as he shared the podium with both Red Bull drivers.
The start of the Circuit of the Americas leg saw Verstappen claim back-to-back wins in the United States and Mexico respectively. History was made in Mexico City as Perez became the first Mexican to finish on the podium in his home country.
The COA leg came to an end in Brazil with Hamilton first past the chequered flag. The Englishman celebrated in similar fashion to F1 legend, Ayrton Senna, with the Brazilian flag draped across his shoulders.
The remaining three races to round off the season were held in the Middle East and there were understandably plenty of talking points with the two rivals now neck and neck.
Hamilton’s good fortunes continued in the first of the triple headers in Qatar as Fernando Alonso secured his first podium finish in seven years as he came in third for Alpine.
The penultimate race in Saudi Arabia was marred with controversy as Verstappen picked up three time penalties throughout the main event. Unlike Hamilton, the Dutchman decided not to pit when the safety car came out and soon overtook his rival by driving off-track.
He was eventually advised by his team to allow Hamilton to pass however a miscommunication saw the pair collide.
Despite their coming together, Hamilton was able to regain top spot and cross the line before the Dutchman.
The Englishman’s win left the final Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on a knife’s edge with both drivers sitting on 369.5 points. The question on everyone’s lips was: Would the young rookie outdo the seasoned campaigner? Or would experience prevail in the heat of the UAE?
What ensued was absolute chaos as Verstappen pipped his rival to the finish line. However, it was not without controversy with the Dutchman overtaking Hamilton on the final lap to seal the drivers’ championship.
Despite two formal appeals by Mercedes regarding the way in which Verstappen was permitted to overtake the lapped drivers – the Dutchman was formally awarded his first title.
He became the first Dutchman to secure the F1 title while for Red Bull, it was their first title since 2014.
It was not all bad news for Mercedes who were still able to win the Constructors’ Championship as they prepare to potentially challenge the title decision in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
For now, it is a well-earned break for the F1 drivers and their teams with all attention now shifting to 2022.
The 2022 Formula 1 season is shaping to be bigger than ever. The Australian Grand Prix will be returning down under with full coverage beginning April 8th on 10 play.
Drivers' Championship (Top 5)
|1||Max Verstappen (Red Bull)||395.5|
|2||Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)||387.5|
|3||Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)||226|
|4||Sergio Perez (Red Bull)||190|
|5||Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)||164.5|
Constructors' Championship (Top 5)
|2||Red Bull Racing Honda||585.5|