A Chance at Redemption or End of the Line?
The 2021 season of Formula 1 is well under way and for some drivers, this might prove to be their last hurrah in the paddock without insurance for a seat next season. From veterans from the likes of Sir Lewis Hamilton to rookie driver, Yuki Tsunoda, here are 10 drivers with contracts expiring at the end of the season.
Written by Hafiz Akbar and Tsaqif Nadhifta, Edited by Daniel Yi
The reigning champion’s contract is set to expire later this season (if the extension isn’t triggered) following a confirmed renewal a few weeks after the end of the 2020 season. The veteran Brit has brought home over 74 wins through his years with his current team, Mercedes-AMG Petronas, and has won all but two Drivers’ Championship since he signed for the team back in 2013. We have recently seen his sheer talent in the field in the last two races at Bahrain and Imola, where he finished on a podium spot in both occasions and winning one. Is this a sign that he’ll be staying with Toto Wolff’s team? Only time will tell.
The Finnish driver is up on the chopping blocks as his contract will end later this year. He is pressured to perform and should feel pressured because if he doesn’t perform this season, well, he will be inevitably ousted from the team. Mercedes-AMG Petronas already have a few good options in mind for his replacement. Nyck De Vries has been doing very well in the Formula E scene, notching up one win under the stars in Diriyah and another win in Valencia. The other option, the most rumoured one is George Russell. As seen in the second race of the season in Imola, Russell almost caught Bottas napping when the Williams driver went to take the Mercedes driver over. But we all know what happened next.
The former Racing Point driver had a stunner of a season in 2020, finishing his highest in the Drivers’ Championship since he started his career back in 2011 with Sauber (now Alfa Romeo). Christian Horner and Helmut Marko saw that and given the right car, the Mexican can put more pressure on Lewis Hamilton and his reign of dominance throughout the sport. His contract is a one-year deal, giving him a chance to let the team see what he’s capable of. And with two Red Bull juniors eyeing a spot on the lead team, Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda, which are also on their last year on the contract, it remains to be seen whether Checo deserved his spot or should it go to someone else.
The young Canadian had a season to forget in 2020. He finished a whopping 7 places away from his teammate, Sergio Perez. This season is his last opportunity to show the teams in the paddock what he is capable of achieving. I mean, sure his father is one of the team owners but I’m sure Lawrence Stroll is not the kind of father to buy a team only to fit his son in one of the seats, so there’s no guarantee on whether Lance will continue to race for Aston Martin or will he be forced to look for other teams in the grid that’s willing to take him in.
After a year in the sidelines as a reserve driver for Mercedes, the Frenchman comes back to the Formula One scene with a worrying loss to his teammate, Danny Ric. This upcoming season, Ocon will be paired with the legendary 2-time world champion, Fernando Alonso. His job will inevitably be harder to meet the demands of the team to secure his current seat in the Alpine garage. If we see to it that the young Frenchman raises his game, then it’s possible that he will get another chance in Formula One.
The 25-year old AlphaTauri driver returns to the 2021 season as one of the few race winners, along with Sergio Perez, and he will be putting his absolute pedal to the medal to win the second seat back at Red Bull. This season will be the last in his current contract with Red Bull and if he can improve his championship finish by the end of the season, maybe Christian Horner would give him another chance.
As a rookie and also being a Red Bull driver, Yuki has to make an impression from the get go. He got a lot of pressure on his shoulders, but if he can cope with that pressure and give the results right away, I’m sure Helmut Marko would consider him for next year’s drive at AlphaTauri or maybe even considering a drive with Red Bull in the future.
This season will be the Finn’s 19th season in Formula One. The Alfa Romeo driver is the oldest driver on the current grid, having raced the fathers of two fellow drivers, Max Verstappen and Mick Schumacher. As he once said in Netflix’s Drive to Survive, racing in Formula One is but a hobby for him and if he decides to leave then there are plenty of Ferrari juniors ready to snatch up the ice-cold seat left by the legendary Finn. I personally would hate to see him leave the paddock, since his no-nonsense personality is just *chef’s kiss*.
This season will be his third full season in Formula One. Unlike Kimi, racing in Formula One is more than just a hobby, it is a way of life for Antonio, and he will have to display his full potential to secure his seat in the team for next season because them Ferrari juniors are hot on his heels, ready to snatch up any empty seats next season.
The young British driver has displayed his sheer skill and talent in the last Sakhir GP, where he replaced veteran Mercedes driver, Lewis Hamilton. This will be his last season with Williams and with numerous rumours of him being an option to replace either drivers in the Mercedes garage, it’s certainly a season to make good impressions to the guys in Brackley.
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