F1 2021 – The Story So Far…24 Jun
Lando Norris has been one of the star performers so far this season. Image © McLaren
We’re nearly a third of the way through the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship and the battle at the top of the standings between Mercedes’ Sir Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen continues to reach fever pitch.
As the sport prepares to swap Le Castellet for the Styrian Mountains, and another double-header at the Red Bull Ring, Red Eye HQ decided to cast an eye over the seven races so far, and how various battles are shaping up at both ends of the grid.
The hunted are now very much the hunters…
We’re in very unfamiliar territory, as far as the turbo-hybrid era of the sport goes, with Mercedes seemingly on the back foot and, for the first time since 2014, not conclusively the fastest car on track.
Red Bull – eight years on from their last title-winning celebrations – have delivered on their pre-season promise to seize the early advantage. The statistics tell a fairly balanced story – three wins apiece for both Verstappen and Hamilton, with the pair locking out the top two finishing positions in all bar two races – Hamilton’s seventh place finish in Monaco and a double non-score at Baku earlier this month.
But it’s more than that. Red Bull, and Verstappen, have a air of confidence around them this season. In Perez, they have two drivers more than capable of taking pole, or winning the race, on any given weekend, and the pair together have been incredibly effective at capitalising on any ‘off day’ for the reigning champions.
Verstappen leads the World Championship for the first time in his already-impressive career, and Red Bull are 37 points to the good in the Constructors stakes.
Valtteri Bottas’ run of form hasn’t helped, in that regard, with the Finn scoring points in only four outings, and never higher than third so far. But there’s an air of confidence around Red Bull not seen in several years now, and you get the sense that, if they can keep their heads, this could very well be the year that Mercedes’ dominance comes to an end.
Ultra-consistent Norris continues to raise his stock…
When McLaren opted for Daniel Ricciardo as Lando Norris’ team-mate for this season, questions were rightly asked pre-season. How would the young Brit deal with an established, A-list Formula 1 star coming into what had, up until that point, been ‘his team’.
The answer has been pretty resounding. Norris is now the only driver left on the grid to have scored points in every single race and has put his McLaren on the podium twice already, including a first trip to the rostrum on the streets of Monte-Carlo.
He currently has over twice the points of Ricciardo at this early stage in proceedings and is ahead of even Bottas in the second Mercedes, sitting fourth in the World Championship.
His efforts are the lion’s share of McLaren-Mercedes’ points in the Constructors’ standings; without them, the Woking-based team would likely be behind, not ahead, of Ferrari. Ricciardo’s status means there is little doubting the drivers remain on equal footing in the team, but Norris is certainly doing himself no harm in raising his own stock for the future.
Flashes of brilliance – but Ferrari need a bit more…
It’s been a solid, if a little unremarkable, start to the new season for the Prancing Horse. Both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have picked up a steady stream of points-scoring finishes for the Scuderia, but the highs have been short-lived, so far.
The go-to example would be Leclerc’s pole position on home soil in Monaco before a gearbox issue caused by his crash in the final moments of the session prevented him from taking the race start in the Principality.
Sainz duly led the charge and scored his first podium for the Maranello team that day, but has otherwise only finished inside the top five on one occasion.
Ditto Baku, where Leclerc once again took pole position for the second race in succession, only to struggle for race pace on Sunday and drop back to a distant fourth, that being with non-scores for usual suspects Hamilton and Verstappen.
It’s no crisis, but Ferrari will need to stem the tide to avoid falling conclusively behind McLaren and away from the battle for third in the Constructors’ standings.
Gasly’s resurgence continues, Tsunoda makes a solid start…
Part of the charm when Pierre Gasly scored an emotional debut victory at Monza last season was the supposed rarity. After all, it’s an AlphaTauri. Right? Wrong.
The Frenchman has been on superlative form again so far this season for Red Bull’s sister team, scoring a podium in Azerbaijan, along with points in all but the Bahrain season opener.
In fact, Gasly now sits within touching distance of Leclerc and Sainz ahead in the standings, whilst a brace of points finishes and some superb wheel-to-wheel action from Yuki Tsunoda has put him ahead of some established names in the fledgling stage of his career.
With Perez now an ingrained part of Red Bull’s title push, that particular door seems closed to Gasly for now, but it raises the question – could he seek a race-winning seat elsewhere in future?
Seb’s back among the silverware, Alpine need to find a spark.
Aston Martin have really hit a run of form recently, not least Sebastian Vettel’s first podium for the outfit in Baku.
Add that to Lance Stroll’s four points finishes – a fifth was very likely before his high-speed impact in that Baku race – and the fact both cars seem to make forward progress in race trim, and it’s clear the team is starting on very handy footing.
It might not quite be where Racing Point left off at the end of last season, but the foundations are very much in place here to build a front-running team in the coming years.
It’s a similar story at Alpine, boosted for this season with a return to the sport for double World Champion, Fernando Alonso.
The pair have been solid, if unremarkable, at the bottom reaches of the top ten, banking points with at least one car in each race, except Bahrain.
With Ocon now signed up on a long-term deal until 2024, the building blocks are there, but Alpine still have progress to make to put themselves in the mix with Ferrari, AlphaTauri and Aston Martin.
Alfa Romeo lead the battle at the back
Currently, it’s good news for Alfa Romeo, with a sole point for Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovanazzi enough to elevate them above non-scoring Williams and Haas into eighth in the Constructors’ Championship, and the benefits that brings in terms of prize money.
There have been positives for Williams, not least George Russell’s qualifying form as the Brit continues to gather experience and wait for a break further up the pecking order. Latifi has been a consistent performer, finishing all but one race, but is yet to best Russell when both drivers finish the Grand Prix.
Mick Schumacher is another consistent performer, the German finishing all seven Grands Prix of his career to-date. A first Q2 showing last time out at Paul Ricard is progress, and his on-track battles with team-mate Nikita Mazepin have been action-packed.
With an action packed summer set to continue the F1 World Championship is arguably as enthralling as it's ever been. 2 races at Austria will be followed by one of our highlights of the season - the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. We can't wait to see you there!