We’re back to a graded piece! But this time it’s for a sport I’ve not written about yet, which seems odd considering how much I love it and tweet about it. Yes it’s time to look back at the year that was for the 2021 Formula 1 season and oh LORDY what a season. This was easily the best season in recent memory, the most exciting since the inter-Mercedes battle for the World Title of 2016 between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. This time, a different tale. Sir Lewis would be gunning for his eighth world title to break the great Michael Schumacher’s record. His opponent? The young lion Max Verstappen. An already certified great against a future potential legend. It would end up going down to a date in Abu Dhabi in between the two with them level on points going into the last race in the season, where it would be Super Max who took the title (for now, pending reviews and a possible court case).
There were so many talking points this season with insanity, controversy, and drama in almost race. There was controversy in Silverstone with Verstappen crashing out in the first lap, crazy scenes in Hungary where Valtteri Bottas decided to turn into a bulldozer taking out almost half the grid, shoey’s galore in Monza with a McLaren 1-2 (and another Hamilton-Verstappen crash), whatever the hell Jeddah was, and Michael Masi making the rules up on the spot in Abu Dhabi. This post isn’t going to be a moan about the FIA or Masi, despite how tempting it is, but all I’ll say is it says a hell of a lot about how you run your sport when the title will probably be decided in the Court for Arbitration of Sport. Grading it all seems like an almost impossible task but I love a challenge so I’m going to do just that, at least try to anyway. Without any further ado, let’s get into it!
P10: Haas, 0 Points
In a score that emulates Britain’s usual performances at the Eurovision Song Contest since the late 90s, Haas ended up rock bottom with nil-points. In the nicest way possible, what can actually be said about this lot? This season has been nothing short of an absolute dis-haas-ter for the American outfit. Yes they’ve said all along how their focus is on their 2022 car and improving ready for the new regulations, but come on! This obviously isn’t anything personal as I love sweary team principal Guenther Steiner and Mick Schumacher, but this has been a horrible season. Using two rookies was always going to run its risks, but they needed the money and it’s what their drivers bring. Mick Schumacher is the son of the legendary Michael so no real explanation needed there, and their other driver, Nikita Mazepin, is the son of Russian billionaire Dmitry Mazepin, so again there’s a nice cash flow. The VF-21 has been an absolutely horrible car and the fact it’s been driven by two rookies doesn’t make it easier. If I were in charge I would’ve kept Kevin Magnussen in one seat with the other going to Schumacher, but money talks. If they end up performing as bad next year as they have this year then I think this could be the beginning of the end for Haas. There’s no way Gene Haas would continue to pump money into a failing business and would surely sell up. But hey, at least Rich Energy aren’t around anymore. *If you don’t know about the Haas/Rich Energy saga then I’d highly recommend reading up about it or there’s some great videos about it on YouTube just because of how bonkers it all is. But if you have the slightest bit of business brain then maybe it’s best not to, it will make you tear your hair out*
P9: Alfa Romeo, 13 points
No point in trying to sugar coat this, it was a bad season for Alfa Romeo. Granted they did better than Haas but that’s an easy ask. In the season that was Kimi Raikkonen’s swan song I would’ve loved to see him in a good car and to push for podiums but alas it didn’t happen. At least we got him as driver of the day in his last race. It sucked as well that he wasn’t at Monza, considering how iconic that place is for Ferrari I really wanted to see him race in front of the Tifosi one last time. As for Antonio Giovinazzi, it was an interesting one. At times he drove the wheels off of that Alfa and looked incredible taking it into Q3 multiple times in qualifying and getting points finishes in Saudi Arabia and Monaco but at other times he was just a bit meh and I put it down to a bad car. He was almost like the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of F1 at times where he turned up when he needed to and looked like he’d saved his job, but much like Ole he ended up getting canned. Alfa will be the only team with a completely new pairing in 2022 in the form of Valtteri Bottas and Guyanu Zhou. Personally I would’ve given the seat to someone like Callum Ilott or Oscar Piastri but Alfa could do with a cash injection and oh LORD does Zhou bring that in not only being the first Chinese F1 driver but also a massive sponsorship from Hublot (which I recently learned is pronounced Hugh-blow and not hub-lot, I put it down to Welsh basically being a phonetic language and me always reading or pronouncing words how they’re written). Much like Haas, they need a much better 2022 and have a decent enough driver pairing to do it. Don’t let me down Alfa!
P8: Williams, 23 points
Not bad Williams, not bad at all. Considering how awful the car has been in the last few years this is a decent result for the team in my opinion. George Russell drove incredibly in what was a pretty poor car managing to take it out of Q1 on quite a few occasions. He also got the team’s first podium since Lance Stroll’s 3rd place in Azerbaijan in 2017 (even if it was at the Spa water park, but I love George so I’m choosing to ignore that detail). Credit has to be given to Nicholas Latifi too, he managed to get a 7th place finish in Hungary which was the team’s best weekend in what felt like forever. Even though Russell’s performances in qualifying rarely carried over into the races themselves resulting in points, he showed his level of talent clearly and is fully deserving of the Mercedes seat next season. And on the topic of next season, I think it can be a good one for Williams. Not only have they got Alex Albon to fill George Russell’s empty seat (which is the absolutely PERFECT replacement and I cannot wait to see Albon back in F1) the regulation changes means it’s pretty much an open field. I’m not saying that they’ll be fighting for the title but they could definitely get more points finishes and push for places in the midfield. The tide is slowly turning for Williams, and I’m here for it.
On a more sombre note, I’m glad that Sir Frank Williams managed to see a podium finish one last time. The man’s legacy in the sport is incredible and is recognised as such an important part in Formula 1’s history in creating such a historic and iconic F1 team. Thank you for everything you did, Sir Frank.
Sir Frank Williams. 16/4/1942 – 28/11/2021
P7: Aston Martin, 77 points
Now we’re into the big leagues of points! Definitely a season of two halves for the AM. Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll looked unbelievable in the car dubbed the green Mercedes at times but towards the end of the season it kind of petered out, looking more like a green Haas. They managed a brilliant result in Baku and should’ve had a podium in Hungary but an annoying fuel percentage rule disqualified Seb from the race. Quick side note, hats off massively to Sebastian Vettel this season. He’s fighting the good fight off the track and it just shows how good a person he is. Be it wearing a rainbow mask in Hungary, being an avid supporter of the LGBT+ group Racing Pride, and organising a women’s only karting race in Saudi Arabia he’s consistently stood up for others and supported the human rights of people oppressed in their own countries. Seb and Lance showed great promise early on in the season before the car’s pace went a bit meh. There’s no doubt that there will be some disappointment considering they would’ve hoped to have challenged for podiums more but that can definitely be the team’s next step. I think they’ll have a good season next year. Like I’ve previously mentioned the regulation changes can make anyone competitors and that definitely rings true for Aston Martin. With the huge financial backing of everyone’s favourite Bond villain turned softie Lawrence Stroll they’ve got plenty of wonga to play around with. They’ll be aiming for more podiums next season for sure and hopefully it happens, I need more Lance and Seb on podium content.
P6: AlphaTauri, 142 points
I love this driver pairing. I know it’s the trendy thing to love Pierre Gasly at the moment but my god that man has bags of talent. A huge part of AlphaTauri’s success this season can be accredited to Gasly driving the absolute bajeezus off of that car and was rewarded for it with a podium finish in Baku. Yuki Tsunoda also impressed me and can’t be overlooked. Granted there was an obvious difference in quality between Tsunoda and Gasly but he’s a rookie so it should’ve been expected. He definitely upped his game towards the end of the season and massively impressed in the last 3 races of the year in the Middle East. Pierre and Yuki consistently ended up in the latter stages of qualifying and in the points but there was a definite and obvious difference on that front with Gasly finishing P9 in the drivers championship scoring 110 points and Tsunoda in P14 with 32. 2022 will be an interesting season for them, and I can’t predict either way how it’ll go. They absolutely have the talent to aim for best of the rest or even a top 3 constructors finish, but with Honda announcing they’re leaving F1 and thus won’t supply the engine directly it’s anyone’s guess. They’re still going to use their hybrid technology but who knows. Anyway that’s all far too technical to comprehend and all I really want is more great races for the two, the bromance to blossom even more, and more swearing from Yuki Tsunoda on the team radio. You’d never think that a man who looks so innocent and small would have such road rage, but he’s doing it for all us short kings out there so swear away Yuki.
P5: Alpine, 155 points
You wouldn’t think that only one win and two podiums would secure Alpine this high, just goes to show the importance of consistency in finishing in the points. The outfit formerly known as Renault enjoyed their first win this season with Esteban Ocon taking the win in Hungary and the legend that is Fernando Alonso taking third place in Qatar. They’ve impressed me and being in the hunt for best of the rest is where they deserve to be. Ocon has bags of talent and Fernando is just Fernando, ‘nuff said. This is another team that could benefit from the regulation changes. If they manage to absolutely nail the regs then I’m saying it now (and making a bold statement), there’s no reason why they can’t compete for top 3 next year. I’m also a massive fan of the fact that they’ve secured F2 champion Oscar Piastri as their reserve driver for 2022. Alonso will retire in a couple of years (and for realsies this time) and Piastri is the absolutely ideal replacement for when he hangs up the helmet for proper. I really wanted to see him in the Alfa Romeo seat before it went to Zhou but in all honesty this is probably the right call. That seat is there waiting for him and it’ll be a better car than the struggling Sauber (alliteration is my passion). All in all, very impressive season.
P4: McLaren, 275 points
McLaren, my boys. My dream, my nightmare. Supporting this team for the first and middle parts of the season was an absolute blast, then Sochi happened and… well I’m still not really over it. Even though they would’ve wanted that P3 spot badly, best of the rest isn’t a bad season at all. This team has come incredibly far in the last few years and this season showed it. Lando Norris was white hot at the start of the season finishing in the points every race up until the Bottas demolition job at Hungary and Daniel Ricciardo got better the more he got used to the car and got the team’s first win since Jenson Button in Brazil 2012, which was also the team’s first 1-2 since Canada 2010. The papaya car looked absolutely brilliant in the first two thirds of the season but it wasn’t as solid as it was towards the end which ultimately cost them third place. It’s strange how it was a similar pattern to Aston Martin, both powered by Mercedes. While the silver arrows gained more pace towards the end of the season the other merc powered ones tailed off a bit. Overall though, great season for the McLaren boys and hopefully next year will be even better. Shoutout to CEO Zak Brown as well, he’s worked absolute wonders for the team since he came in and long may it continue. I’d absolutely love for Daniel and Lando to be competing for the driver’s championship next season, pls sports gods make it happen.
P3: Ferrari, 323.5 points
Easily the most consistent team on the grid bar none. Even though they didn’t get a win this season and ended up on podium only 5 times, they still managed an incredible points tally and finished third. The duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz are not only the most attractive pairing on the grid but their driving is very easy on the eyes as well. They’ve been consistently brilliant and fast all year and even still ramped up the pace towards the end of the season solidifying their place in third. After a pretty naff couple of years Ferrari have managed to throw themselves back in with the big boys with this finish. Looking forward to next year there’s no doubt they’ll be a team on a mission and it could be the year that they come back looking for that title they desperately crave. They’ve not had a drivers championship winning season since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007 or a constructors since 2008 which seems mental for a team as big as Ferrari. Both Charles and Carlos absolutely deserve to be in the conversation of potential winners next year with how brilliant and consistent they’ve been this season and how talented they are. Imagine how scarily dominant this team would be if they kept that consistency in a car as good as the Mercedes. 2022 could be the return of Ferrari at the very top of F1.
P2: Red Bull, 585.5 points
This one’s fairly straightforward: they had the world drivers champion in Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez finished 4th in the standings in a car that isn’t as fast as the Mercedes. What’s more to say? 11 wins and an unbelievable 23 podiums from Max and Checo saw them finish second in the constructors and would’ve taken it too had it not been for DNF’s for Verstappen in Silverstone and Baku. They have two of the best drivers on the grid who work incredibly together and a team that had 4D vision at times in terms of their strategies. I’ll admit it, I wanted Lewis to win purely because I wanted to see him break the record and he’s the reason I got into F1 (Brazil 2008 in case anyone was wondering, what a moment). Congratulations to Max Verstappen on an absolutely stellar season and to Red Bull for having a world champion for the first time since Sebastian Vettel in 2013. Even though they came second in the constructors they were probably still the best team on the grid, which kinda hurts to admit as an old school Lewis Hamilton fanboy but Verstappen wasn’t there competing by accident and his numbers and quality speak for themselves, he’s just different class. He didn’t win the title off the back of pure idiocy from the FIA and Michael Masi, he won it from having 10 wins and 18 podiums. Nevertheless, unreal season from Red Bull, Max, and Checo who will want to build on this next year and in years to come.
P1: Mercedes, 613.5 points
Although Hamilton’s era of domination was disrupted by Verstappen the Mercedes era of domination continues in full force. It came down to the last race of the season and although they missed out on the big one (being the drivers championship) they still managed to get their eighth constructors championship. Again, I think they had the best car on the grid like they have since 2014 and it was still a good season for both Hamilton and Bottas. There were definite issues of consistency for both early on which cost them in the long run, just look at Monaco and Baku. They threw the kitchen sink at Red Bull and Verstappen in the last 4 races and I was one safety car away from being spot on with my prediction. I thought Max would win in Austin and Mexico with Hamilton taking Brazil and a clean sweep of the Middle East. So damn close to greatness. It’ll be strange not seeing Bottas in a Merc seat next season but I am so ready for the George Russell Mercedes era. Next year they’ll be pushing for the constructors and drivers titles again and Hamilton will be absolutely desperate to get that record breaking 8th title. But with the new kid on the block coming into Mercedes, Verstappen proving he can handle the pressure, and potential challenges from Ferrari then it may not be quite as simple as that. But that’s for future us to enjoy and argue about on Twitter.
Christ alive that took forever and a hell of a lot of planning. Thanks for sticking around if you read all that, I really do massively appreciate it. I’m going for a lie down and sleep for a week.