The 2021 Formula 1 season has brought about a major sea-change at the top of the grid, with Red Bull having knocked Mercedes off their perch to be sitting pretty after nine rounds.
The Silver Arrows have had very few answers to the problems Red Bull have posed them, casting doubt over Lewis Hamilton’s dream of a record-breaking eighth Drivers’ championship for this year at least.
3/1 to retain his world title heading into his home race at Silverstone on July 18th, with current leader Max Verstappen now
1/4 after his third consecutive Grand Prix victory in Austria last weekend.
While the battle at the front of the grid has grabbed all the headlines, F1 hasn’t been short of intriguing storylines this year and now seems a good time to assess the winners and losers of the 2021 season so far.
It has been said plenty of times before that Verstappen is having a good season; the Dutchman has been recognised as one of the most talented drivers on the grid since his record-breaking Spanish Grand Prix success in 2016.
However, the difference between this season and previous campaigns is that the 23-year-old finally has the rewards to show for efforts.
Verstappen leads the Drivers’ standings by 32 points having won five times already in 2021 and he could have had more victorious to his name had he got the rub of the green in Bahrain and Azerbaijan.
If Verstappen can justify his
5/7 favouritism for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, which Mercedes view as a track that plays to their strengths, then it would appear nothing will stand in his way of a first world title.
No driver on the Formula 1 grid is currently on a longer run of points-scoring finishes than McLaren’s Lando Norris, who registered his third podium of the season in Austria last week.
The 21-year-old’s third place came after securing a spot on the front row of the grid for the first time in his career in qualifying 24 hours earlier and he’s certainly getting more out of his McLaren than more experienced team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian languishing 61 points adrift of the Brit.
Norris has shown enough consistency at the end of last year and the start of 2021 to suggest he’s capable of challenging for the world title in the future.
Norris isn’t the only Brit catching the eye this year. Mercedes-driver-in-waiting George Russell has squeezed as much as he can out of his underpowered Williams this year and nearly got his just rewards in Austria last week.
Having sneaked into the final part of qualifying, Russell was three laps away from a first points finish of the year before Fernando Alonso overtook him.
Still, it was his strongest performance of the year and he continues to massively outperform team-mate Nicholas Latifi in the back-marker. A move up the food chain looks inevitable.
It feels harsh to brand Lewis Hamilton a loser given he’s won three times this year but by his own high standards five races without a victory, three of which he failed to make the podium, sees him qualify.
The seven-time world champion has driven well for the most part but for the first time in a long time he hasn’t had the machine to match his talents.
Mercedes don’t appear to be closing the gap to Red Bull and Valterri Bottas let slip in Austria that the planned upgrades for the British Grand Prix would likely be the last of the season as the team turn their attention to 2022’s car.
Bottas has found the going tough too and although he’s steadily improved, registering a season-best second place in Austria, the Finn looks set to get the chop to make way for Russell at the end of the year.
Having challenged for third in the Constructors’ championship last year and then signed four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel in the off-season, it’s fair to say expectations were high for Aston Martin entering this year.
Fast forward to July and the team formerly known as Racing Post are sixth in the team standings with 44, with McLaren and Ferrari already out of sight in the race for third.
As for Vettel, a surprise second place in Azerbaijan aside, he’s found the going tough, missing out on the points in six of nine races.
Were it now for that runner-up spot, Vettel may have found himself behind team mate Lance Stroll, who has been a little more consistent with five top-10s.
*All odds correct at time of writing