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F1 | Five drivers who impressed in the 2021 season

MotorLat.com editors have chosen five drivers who they believe performed very well in the 2021 Formula One season.

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F1 | Five drivers who impressed in the 2021 season
Fuente imagen: Hasan Bratic - MotorLat

2021 produced a classic season as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen went at it all year as they fought for the Drivers' Championship.

Ultimately the Dutchman came out on top following lots of twists and turns, including at the final race in Abu Dhabi. Verstappen's overtake on Hamilton on the final lap won him the title in dramatic and controversial fashion.

Aside from those two great drivers who delivered all year, others impressed and you can see who else we chose to include below.

Max Verstappen | Edward Spencer

As pre-season testing approached in mid-March, few would have predicted that Max Verstappen would become World champion in 2021; after all, Lewis Hamilton had won the last four World Championships in dominant fashion, and it seemed that barring a significant miracle occurring, Verstappen and Red Bull would once again have to fight for second in the championship.

Although the Brit had won three of the first four races of the season, Verstappen had dominated in the rain at Imola after making a sensational start from third on the grid, whilst Hamilton went off at Tosa when trying to lap backmarkers.

Momentum started to swing in Verstappen’s favour in Monte Carlo after a dominant drive from pole (thanks to Leclerc's DNS) to win on the principality’s vicious streets.

Although he should have followed that up with victory in Baku, Verstappen bounced back in Paul Ricard to extend his lead in the championship. He backed it up with a pair of faultless performances in the Austrian doubleheader.

Statistically, Verstappen had a less successful second half of the season, but his wins in the Netherlands, America and Mexico were drives of a champion in waiting. All three victories were aided by the Dutchman's ability to remain ice-cool under pressure despite having to deal with a resurgent Mercedes in Mexico City, illness and older tyres in Austin and in Zandvoort the pressure of a partisan home crowd who had come to the Dutch seaside venue expectant to see him take a victory.

He may not have been entirely perfect this year, but Verstappen’s record of 10 wins, 10 pole positions and 18 podiums speaks volumes for how good he has been this year. Whether he can repeat that form in 2022 remains a mystery, but whatever next season brings, nothing can take anything away from the young Dutchman’s achievements in 2021.

Lewis Hamilton | David Coath

Sir Lewis Hamilton remains a seven-time F1 Drivers’ World Champion following the events of the 2021 F1 season. As dominant as Hamilton was in the closing stages of the season before Abu Dhabi, the mistakes had been made beforehand.

In Hungary, a poor tyre strategy call by his team cost him the win and similar struggles faced the recent Knight Bachelor in Monaco after finishing seventh. Not to mention the infamous ‘brake magic’ error in Baku and getting away with his mistake at Imola.

However, despite statistically being the Briton’s lowest since 2013 the campaign should still be regarded as a successful one.

The 2021 season will be remembered for Hamilton marking 100 career wins and 100 pole positions in the pinnacle of motorsport. Of course, another standout moment was Lewis Hamilton’s commanding performance in Brazil. A masterclass coming through the field P20 to finish fifth in the sprint. All this before claiming victory the following day from P10 after further penalties. On this weekend, Hamilton felt everything was against him and to come out on top shows the measure of the man. For this we can also assume the kind of driver we would see on the grid in 2022…if he does remain in F1.

A frustrated Lewis Hamilton more often than not is a supremely quick Lewis Hamilton and in 2022, I fully expect to see a resurgence mirror the one which was seen in 2017 having lost the championship to his teammate Nico Rosberg the previous year.

Carlos Sainz | Rodolfo Uribe

It's common to see drivers struggle when they change teams, they have to get used to a new car, people, everything. But for Carlos Sainz that was not a problem, if one word can define his first year with Ferrari, it's consistency.

His stats were amazing this year, the Spanish driver managed to score points in 20 of the 22 races, 15 of them consecutive.

He was the only driver who finished every race and the one with the most laps completed in the season (99.7% of all laps).

Outside Red Bull and Mercedes, the drivers with most podium finishes were Sainz and his ex teammate Norris (four podiums), as both drivers and Leclerc fought for the 5th place in the Drivers' Championship. In the end, Sainz finished 5th in the World Drivers' Championship, above Norris and Leclerc (current teammate), scoring 164.5 points, an average of 7.4 points per race, his best campaign yet.

While he lacked the ultimate pace to Leclerc, it was that consistency that allowed him to finish ahead of his highly rated teammate.

Ferrari went through difficult times the past year, but Sainz has done a great job helping the team to recover part of what they lost in 2020 and finishing 3rd in the World Constructors' Championship.

Sainz is heading to 2022 as one of the strongest drivers right now without a doubt.

Lando Norris | Marika Petracca

Lando Norris’ third season in F1 has been a rather remarkable one, as he went from a driver who certainly wasn’t lacking speed and had collected quite a few highs to a consistent performer that maximised the potential of his McLaren.

He finished in the top five in all but one of the first 10 races of the season and scored points - including 4 podiums - every other weekend, with Hungary where he was taken out by Bottas on lap one and the non-race in Spa being the only exceptions.

He delivered a fantastic drive in wet conditions in Imola and at the Austrian GP he was only half a tenth away from a memorable pole position. A pole position - his first in F1 - that he claimed in Russia instead, at the end of a thrilling wet/dry shootout and that could have turned into his maiden victory if it wasn't for an incorrect call on his side not to pit for inters.

Crucial was also the ability to concentrate only on the right battles, those he could benefit from, as he showed with the decisions to give up on a pointless defence against Hamilton’s much faster Mercedes in Spielberg and Emilia Romagna and to let Bottas and Perez by to concentrate on Sainz’s Ferrari in Styria.

McLaren’s drop in performance, an engine penalty in Brazil, a costly move across Sainz in Brazil and a bit of hard luck with punctures in the closing stages of the championship, meant Norris closed the season 6th in the drivers’ standings after holding onto 3rd for the first half.

Esteban Ocon | Nicolas Lopes

This isn't the most popular choice, but several moments stand out as bringing out the very best from the Frenchman in 2021, deserving a shout among the most impressive drivers of the season.

Teaming up with none other than two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, Ocon stacked up well against the Spaniard, matching him in the qualifying duel (11-11) and scoring just 7 points less than the renowned champion.

The Hungarian GP is of course the highlight of his campaign. After a melee in turn one saw many of the leaders wiped out of the race, Esteban managed his way through the debris to claim second place, which turned into first after Mercedes’ strategy blunder with Lewis Hamilton. After a red flag period, Ocon had to soak up the pressure from four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who relentlessly chased the Frenchman. But he never showed any signs of wilting, and masterfully held on to take the chequered flag first.

Another incredible performance came in Jeddah, where Ocon briefly sneaked his way to a “pole position" in one of the many standing starts of the day, battled wheel-to-wheel with championship protagonists Hamilton and Verstappen, and was looking set for another podium, negated only by Valtteri Bottas' late charge.


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