Five drivers who have excelled
Max Verstappen (Marika Petracca)
The 23-year-old has headed into the summer break 8 points behind Hamilton in the standings. The Dutchman had a brilliantly consistent first half of the season that saw him lead the Championship after securing five poles (out of a total of 8 in his F1 career so far) and five wins. In the triple header before Silverstone, Verstappen claimed both pole and win in all three GPs.
The opening lap drama of the last two races, however, was incredibly costly for him: a contact with title rival Hamilton in Britain forced him to DNF, while he managed to drive a heavily damaged RB16B into the points in Hungary. He’s a whopping 83 points ahead of Perez after 11 races and 10-1 up in the qualifying battle.
Nonetheless, his maturity, speed and consistent performances have earned high praise, and is probably the star of 2021 so far. He needs his bad luck [Baku and Hungary] to end to win the title, though.
Lando Norris (Daniel Mora)
Lando Norris is a must if we are talking about drivers that have impressed us the most during this 2021 Formula 1 season. He has achieved three podiums (Imola, Austria and Monaco), and the British driver has scored points in every single race of the season, but Hungary. The young driver also broke the longest streak of a McLaren driver scoring points, which is now held by Lando with a total of 15 races.
He is currently in P3 in the driver’s championship [ahead of Bottas and Perez], with a total of 113 points, and it is well-known that a driver’s teammate is the best comparison, therefore, Lando has 63 points more than Daniel Ricciardo. Results and numbers speak for themselves, that is why Lando has had an impressive season.
Fernando Alonso (Fernanda Álvarez)
Fernando Alonso’s 2021 season has been something maybe very few expected it to be. He came back from retirement after two years out of the biggest category, in a season with a great meaning of transition to take a midfield-rebranded car that he has put into the points in 8 out of the 11 races that we’ve got so far this year.
He has made us jump, has made us all hands-on-mouths, and has made us all happy with his joy after a best 4th position that meant no more than the first victory for his team. Alonso is back, enjoying and focusing purely on his driving, and all this has made Fernando’s comeback, when he just turned 40 years old, a pure breath of fresh air.
Alonso’s outstanding defence against Hamilton in Budapest [which played a huge part in teammate Ocon winning his first Grand Prix], plus his exceptional start and first lap in the sprint race at Silverstone, shows the two-time World Champion has lost none of his ability.
Pierre Gasly (Rodolfo Uribe)
Gasly’s career in F1 has been a series of up and downs, debuting at the 2017 Mexican GP with Toro Rosso and promoted to Red Bull in 2019, which seemed like the best thing it could happen, but after a difficult start, he was demoted back to Faenza based team in the second part of the season.
2020 was a magnificent season for Gasly winning his first F1 race in Monza and showing he can be in a top team.
This season, Pierre is proving once more what he can do, making the most of every situation and giving AlphaTauri their second podium (P3 in Azerbaijan), right now he is one of the most effective drivers of the grid, 73.5% of the points of AlphaTauri comes from Pierre (based on the percentage of points collected by the team) and so far he is headed to one of his best seasons in F1, gaining an average of 4.5 points per race. Saturdays also have been good for the French driver, missing Q3 only twice from the 11 qualifying sessions we have had to date.
Now the questions are, will he stay another season with AlphaTauri? Will Red Bull promote him again?.
One thing is sure, Pierre Gasly clearly is one the best and most consistent drivers on the grid at the moment.
George Russell (Silvia Giorgi)
One of the drivers who deserves his role in our top-5 most impressive ones of 2021 is George Russell.
The Briton keeps exploiting every chance to obtain the long-awaited chance to drive for Mercedes.
Could 2022 be his season?
Whether there are no amazing results to exhibit, the 23-year-old always did his job throughout the season, working non-stop to guarantee Williams the best possible results; he’s reached Q3 twice and Q2 at ten of the eleven races so far.
As proof of that, Russell drove well during the Hungarian GP, managing to finish the race – unlike many, many others – and delivering a great result for Williams: an eighth position and 4 precious points.
More importantly, he is a great team player, as he was heard on team radio asking the team to help his teammate Latifi, even if that could mean compromising his own race. That young man has class, a strong head, team spirit: Mercedes, what are you waiting for?
Five drivers who need to up their game
Kimi Raikkonen (David Coath)
2007 F1 Drivers’ World Champion, Kimi Raikkonen, has had a mixed 2021 season so far. Raikkonen showed flashes of brilliance, making up four places in the F1 Sprint at Silverstone despite damage to the floor of his Alfa Romeo. Yet also endured missed opportunities as shown when an early DNF at the Portuguese Grand Prix at Portimao, deprived him of a real opportunity for points.
Meanwhile, Raikkonen’s less illustrious teammate, Antonio Giovinazzi, has kept Alfa Romeo’s talismanic driver on his toes. He has outqualified The Iceman on 7 out of 11 occasions and only trails Raikkonen 6'5 on Race Day results.
The jury is still out on whether Raikkonen will be on the grid in 2022 but for the man to whom F1 is ‘more of a hobby,’ you certainly sense the best of his 2021 season is yet to come.
Daniel Ricciardo (Ed Spencer)
When Daniel Ricciardo was announced at McLaren for 2021, it seemed a match made in heaven.
But since the Imola weekend, Ricciardo’s first half of the season has been littered with problems, particularly qualifying, with the Australian being out-qualified eight times by Lando Norris, with three non-scores and no podiums puts Ricciardo ninth in the driver's championship, sixty-three points behind Norris in third.
The MCL35M is a tricky car to drive, but Ricciardo needs to up his game in the second half of the season if McLaren wants to retain third place in the constructors’ championship ahead of Ferrari.
Lance Stroll (Lucrezia Costa)
The Aston Martin driver started the season strongly, with consecutive points finish, but didn’t improve, circling in and out the last points placements. His best seasonal result has been P8, while in 2020 he had already secured a podium after eleven races. While it must be acknowledged that the car Stroll is driving isn’t as competitive as last season’s, the Canadian, pole sitter in the Turkish GP, has struggled with qualifying, sometimes even out of Q2.
Race consistency has been his strength, getting his best result four times and retiring only twice. While his first crash, due to a tyre failure in Baku, was beyond his control, he avoidably collided with Leclerc earning a five-position grid penalty for Spa that definitely won’t help his quest for points.
Yuki Tsunoda (Marika Codispoti)
The Japanese driver born in 2000, who landed in Formula 1 this year, after his experience in the minor categories with the Red Bull Academy, has not fully convinced with his performances behind the wheel of his AT02.
So far, his season has had highs, and lows, very predictable because he's a rookie on the 2021 grid.
Starting from the speed shown during the tests, up to the excellent Grand Prix in Bahrain that had convinced and delighted the fans, then passing through a series of numerous accidents that cost the Faenza team money and points.
The rookie’s best result was seventh place in the Hungarian Grand Prix, the last one before the summer break.
But the 18 points scored up to this point of the season, compared with the 50 earned by teammate Pierre Gasly, do not seem to satisfy Helmut Marko, who, however, as emerged in his latest statements, is close to confirming him also for next year.
In all likelihood, the young Japanese driver of the Alpha Tauri will be reconfirmed, in fact, also for the 2022 season.
However, he must cut out the errors he’s made in the first part of the season and get closer to Gasly to justify that.
Nikita Mazepin (James O’Connor)
The Russian driver’s first season in F1 has been quite similar to fellow rookies Mick Schumacher and Yuki Tsunoda: spins and crashes have blotted his copybook. Crashing out on his debut at turn 3 on lap one in Bahrain was certainly a disaster.
However, Mazepin’s main problem throughout 2021 has been a lack of pace compared to teammate Schumacher. He’s only outqualified the German when Schumacher missed qualifying because of FP3 crashes in Monaco and Hungary. The average deficit on a Saturday is almost half a second.
Races haven’t been much better, although Silverstone was a bright spot as he overtook and beat Schumacher on merit for the first time in 2021.
While his seat seems safe for the foreseeable future thanks to the funding he brings to the cash-strapped team, he must improve his performances and really start to give Schumacher a run for his money on a consistent basis from Spa onwards.