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Written by- Ozan Posluk, Edited by- Harshi Vashee

As the first part of the 2021 season is over, let’s have a look at the best performers of the first part of the season. This year, we have seen a great (much wanted) title fight between Mercedes and Red Bull, most importantly their No.1 drivers 7x World Champion Lewis Hamilton and 13x race winner Max Verstappen, who has the most realistic chance for a title after years of being overshadowed by Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Also for the 3rd place, we have an unexpected fight between Ferrari and McLaren. In the midfield fight, we’ve seen a 3-way title fight between Alpha Tauri, Alpine and Aston Martin, while backmarkers Alfa Romeo and Williams are picking up the scraps. Lastly we’ve seen an even more uncompetitive Haas team than last season, who has an all rookie lineup consisting of Mick Schumacher, winner of the 2021 Formula 2 season, and Nikita Mazepin. But who are the best among these drivers? Let’s have a look.

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen and his RB16B, pictured in Bahrain pre-season testing.

Best Qualifying Result: 4x P1

Best Race Result: 6x P1

Standing: P2 with 199.5 points

As it was known, Max was always a great driver, winning in his Red Bull debut in 2016 showed his quality. But this year, with a competitive car, he showed his true potential. Despite losing out to Hamilton in Bahrain, Spain and Portugal, he bounced back in Monaco and took the lead from the 7x champion. As the season progressed, he took back to back wins in the French, Styrian and Austrian Grand Prixs. But an incident with his rival Hamilton and an unlucky hit in Hungary triggered by Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, caused him to drop back to P2 in the championship. But the question is will he bounce back after a strange Belgium Grand Prix and win the championship or lose his best chance for a title to date, against Hamilton? Time will certainly tell us.

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton (left) fighting against his title rival Max Verstappen. 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Best Qualifying Result: 4x P1

Best Race Result: 4x P1

Standing: P1 with 202.5 points

There is not much to tell about Lewis Hamilton’s illustrious career that spans more than 10 years, but this year showed his true potential after years of dominating the sport. While he has won several races this year, the season in general was no way as dominant as his past 2. He was simply lacklustre during the triple header in France and Austria. He bounced back after a controversial incident in Britain with Verstappen and regained the lead in the championship after the first lap incident in Hungary. It was a first half that had both high-highs and low-lows for him and had some notable performances in Spain, Hungary and Italy. Can he keep his lead in the 2nd half and win the championship for a record 8th time?

Lando Norris

Lando Norris with his MCL35M, pictured in the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Best Qualifying Result: 1x P2

Best Race Result: 3x P3

Standing: P3 with 113 points

What a first half for the rising star of McLaren. After spending years with the Woking-based team and being in the shadow of his teammate Carlos Sainz (left the team for Ferrari after 2020), he finally had his breakthrough. He finished the first half higher than Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes and Sergio Perez of Red Bull, appeared on the podium 3 times and doubled the points of his teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who just sits at P9 currently after a lacklustre performance in the first half. The points he scored are crucial for the teams fight for P3 against Ferrari. Even though he still hasn’t gotten his maiden win, it looks certain in the following rounds. Can he hold off P3 against the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers and help his team cruise to P3 in the standings?

Charles Leclerc

Leclerc’s crash in Monaco GP’s qualifying session. The crash ultimately cost him the pole position and a possible race win.

Best Qualifying Result: 2x P1

Best Race Result: 1x P2

Standing: P7 with 82 points

Maybe the unluckiest driver of the season so far? Perhaps, but that doesn’t shadow over his great performances throughout the year. Back to-back poles in Monaco and Baku, his great performance in Imola (he was running P2 before the red flag that cost him a podium), his comeback in Austria after contact with Pierre Gasly, running P1 for almost the entirety of the race before losing the duel to Hamilton while driving a clearly underpowered car. Although his fight with Norris is greatly compromised by accidents in Monaco and Hungary, he can still help his team grab P3 in the championship. Definitely one of the best performers of the season so far.

Sebastian Vettel

Vettel rounding the “Anthony Noghes” corner in Monaco GP. He went on to finish P5 in the race.

Best Qualifying Result: 2x P8

Best Race Result: 1x P2

Standing: P12 with 35 points*

After last year’s disappointment, not much was expected from Seb. He had an extremely tough season with only scoring 33 points and finishing P13. But this year, he may have changed completely. After a bumpy start to the season, he started to score points on a regular basis, which should be a rare occasion given that the new regulations affected the low-raked cars of Mercedes and Aston Martin. He managed to score a podium in Baku by just staying out of trouble and finished P2 in Hungary but was later disqualified because of the fuel sample issue with the FIA. If not for the disqualification, he could’ve been sitting P10 ahead of both Alpines and directly challenging McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly. It seems like he is hungry for more success. Can he convert that sheer will into points and podiums while carrying his team to the top in the midfield fight?

*If not for the disqualification, he could’ve been P10 with 50 points.

Fernando Alonso

Alonso rounding the final chicane in his Alpine. 2021 Spanish GP

Best Qualifying Result: 5x P9

Best Race Result: 1x P4

Standing: P11 with 38 points

The Spaniard has still got it! At the start of the season, his return to F1 was deemed unnecessary and selfish. After a bad start, the critics became even harsher. But once again he proved why he is one of the best drivers on the grid. Highlights of his season includes his late move on George Russell in Austria, holding Lance Stroll in his DRS range to prevent Sergio Perez of Red Bull passing them both in Britain and holding Lewis Hamilton for 10 laps in a 3 second slower car to help his teammate win the race in Hungary. But can he keep up the good form after the summer break to help his team with their fight with Alpha Tauri and Aston Martin?

Pierre Gasly

Pierre Gasly passing Baku’s infamous “Castle Section”. He went on to finish P3 in the race.

Best Qualifying Result: 1x P4

Best Race Result: 1x P3

Standing: P9 with 54 points

After getting his maiden win in last year’s Italian GP, it seems like Pierre Gasly wants more than rare podiums and somewhat lucky race wins. He’s been one of the most consistent drivers of the season. Despite 2 unlucky retirements in Bahrain and Styria, he is on par with McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and 32 points ahead of his rookie teammate Yuki Tsunoda, who sits in P13. He drove excellently in Azerbaijan and held off Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris during the final laps to get his 3rd podium. Can he get more podiums and a possible 2nd race win?

Carlos Sainz Jr.

Carlos Sainz Jr. testing the race winning 2018 Ferrari in Fiorano.

Best Qualifying Result: 1x P4

Best Race Result: 1x P2

Standing: P6 with 83.5 points

After Ferrari’s bad performance in 2020, Sainz’s move from McLaren to the Maranello based team was deemed a mistake. But after the first races, he was seen as the best fit for the Italian team. His good relationship with teammate Charles Leclerc, consistency and occasional comebacks are the highlights of his season. Two podiums (one after Vettel’s DSQ in Hungary) are the icing on the cake. He is certainly one of the best performers on the grid. Can he keep up his good form and help his team against his former team in the fight for P3?

George Russell

George Russell after the dramatic accident with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas. 2021 Emilia Romagna GP.

Best Qualifying Result: 1x P2

Best Race Result: 1x P2

Standing: P15 with 13 points

George Russell is maybe one of the best drivers on the grid. He has managed to outqualify his teammate every season he raced in F1 and is in contention for the 2nd Mercedes seat. While this year’s Williams is proven to be uncompetitive again, he managed to drag his car to Q2 in every GP except for Hungary, where he qualified P17 but finished in P8 and scored his first points with Williams followed by a debut podium in a strange Belgium Grand Prix. He may have scored points in Austria, Styria and Italy but reliability issues, poor race pace of the Williams car and unlucky crashes caused him to miss out on the points. Can he keep up the string of good performances and secure the Mercedes seat for 2022?

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