The best Formula One season in years is finally at an end, but who were the best 2021 drivers on the F1 grid? Here are the five best performers…
In the end, F1 2021 really did have everything.
A nail-biting finale to decide the world title, controversy like never before, title rivals colliding and an abandoned grand prix.
Come the final chequered flag, Max Verstappen would claim a maiden world title, de-throning Lewis Hamilton, but who was the best driver in F1 2021?
Best F1 2021 drivers revealed
HITC has picked out the five best drivers on the 2021 F1 grid.
The ranking is most definitely not in no particular order.
It takes into account all 22 races, and although a driver may not have the back catalogue of results, their performances are what matters.
5 – Lando Norris – McLaren
Had Lando Norris been able to read the conditions better in Russia, he’d be ending 2021 as a grand prix winner.
As rain began to fall at Sochi in the closing laps, the McLaren driver told his team “NO!” over the radio when asked if he wanted to change to intermediate tyres.
He stayed out as the chasing Hamilton dived in for the wet rubber.
A lap later and it was over as the heavens opened – and arguably, in terms of results, Norris’s season did not recover.
This was not his own fault – as a puncture in Qatar robbed him of a fourth place finish.
Other bad luck denied him a strong end to the season, but Norris took a giant step forward in F1 2021 as a driver.
He took four podiums, including a fantastic drive to third at Imola, holding off Hamilton for multiple laps before the inevitable happened.
His stock was raised by trouncing teammate Daniel Ricciardo – who struggled to get used to the McLaren.
The only blot was allowing Ricciardo to end McLaren’s nine-year win drought at Monza.
It surely won’t be too long until McLaren has a new grand prix winner from Britain once again.
4 – Pierre Gasly – AlphaTauri
Ninth in the standings is not Pierre Gasly’s best result in F1 – that was seventh in 2019.
But 2021 was Gasly’s strongest year.
He racked up 110 points – the first Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri driver to ever break the three figure mark.
Yes, there were five more races this year than in 2020, but he still got 35 more points – and that doesn’t include a grand prix win – which he did in ’20.
His runs to fourth in the Netherlands and Mexico were stunning, well-calculated drives – maximising the result as faster cars disappeared into the distance.
A podium in Baku was a just reward for his season, although he is not likely to make it back to the senior Red Bull team.
Gasly is a more rounded and developed driver than the second-year driver at Red Bull in 2019.
He has earned a shot at another top team thanks to his efforts in 2021, but whether a team takes a shot on the French driver remains uncertain.
3 – Carlos Sainz Jr – Ferrari
Ferrari is Charles Leclerc’s team. Or so many people thought when Carlos Sainz Jr rocked up at Maranello in January.
Leclerc had helped the team to show four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel the door, and was the one chosen to lead the good ship Maranello back to its past glories.
The Monegasque might yet prove to be the F1 driver who does that, but in 2021, he was out-classed by his teammate.
Sainz took four podiums, and ended the season with a record 13 consecutive races in the points.
He only failed to score points twice – in Portugal and France – 11th in both races.
While Leclerc was probably the slightly faster of the two over the season, Sainz was more consistent.
His podium in Abu Dhabi secured him a career best fifth in the drivers’ standings, 5.5 points ahead of Leclerc.
Without a doubt, Ferrari had the strongest driver pairing in F1 2021.
The question is now whether they can kick on and return the Prancing Horse to race win and championship contention.
2. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes
It was close between P1 and P2 for this list.
In the end, it was the consistency of driver #1 on the list that edged it in his favour.
Mercedes did have the faster car, but it was a trickier to get into a good operating window – a diva, you might say…
Eight wins represents his lowest tally of his Mercedes career since one in 2013.
The summer months were lean from Hamilton as title rival Verstappen rallied off four wins in five races to leave Mercedes flummoxed.
Only Silverstone upgrade package got Mercedes back into the fight, but still Hamilton left too many points on the table.
Take Azerbaijan where he cost himself at least a podium with the restart lock-up.
Or Hungary where the decision not to pit under the safety car for dry tyres was bewildering.
Hamilton has been the yardstick for all drivers on the 2021 F1 grid, but this year, he was not the best.
It is best he regroups over the winter, comes back and seeks that record eighth world title instead of winning it in a court room.
1 – The best F1 driver in 2021
No surprises here, although Verstappen’s conduct in Saudi Arabia very nearly cost him top spot.
The stewards decided that he did, in fact, brake test Hamilton in their collision on Lap 37.
If Hamilton had retired from the Saudi GP, it would have gone down as the most reprehensible piece of driving in the history of F1.
His outright refusal to yield position also cost him points – see Silverstone.
But Verstappen was clearly the best F1 driver in 2021.
10 wins and eight seconds handed him the F1 record for most podiums in a season.
He only failed to get on the podium four times – with a worst finish of ninth in a badly damaged car.
Let us not forget that in 2021, Max Verstappen went up against statistically the greatest F1 driver of all time in remarkably even machinery.
And, in just about a straight fight, he beat him.
Max Verstappen non-podiums in F1 2021
- Baku – tyre failure while leading
- Silverstone – crash with Hamilton on Lap 1
- Hungary – skittled when Valtteri Bottas when bowling at Turn 1
- Italy – landed on top of Hamilton’s Mercedes
In other news, Who is Max Verstappen’s F1 race engineer, Gianpiero Lambiase?