Only seven rounds of the 2021 Formula 1 season remain and Max Verstappen is in the driving seat (pardon the pun) to claim his first world title after winning two of the three races since the campaign resumed following its summer break.
The Dutch driver is five points better off than reigning champion Lewis Hamilton and is the
4/6 favourite to deny the Brit a record-breaking eighth title. Hamilton is out to
6/5 but there’s still plenty of time for the landscape to change at the top of the standings.
After back-to-back victories for Verstappen in Belgium and the Netherlands, the intensity of his personal duel with Hamilton went up a notch at the Italian Grand Prix when a coming together saw both men knocked out of the race.
Hamilton later said the Halo system on his Mercedes saved his life after the Red Bull car ended up on top of his, while Verstappen has been handed a three-place grid penalty for the next race, the Russian Grand Prix on September 26.
All eyes are on Hamilton and Verstappen heading to Sochi and for the remainder of the campaign, but they aren’t the only story in town, giving us plenty to discuss in the latest winners and losers.
After far too long in Formula 1’s wilderness, McLaren look ready to step up and challenge for honours once again after claiming their first race victory in nearly a decade at Monza.
Daniel Ricciardo, who had been having an underwhelming year up to last weekend, took the chequered flag ahead of team-mate Lando Norris as McLaren completed a first one-two since the 2010 Candian Grand Prix.
The win and huge points haul of 44 points has seen the Woking-based outfit take a firm grip on third in the constructors’ standings, moving them 13.5 points ahead of Ferrari.
Norris has driven consistently all year for McLaren, scoring four podium finishes and only missing out on the points twice. The Brit is
20/1 to take the chequered flag at the Russian Grand Prix.
After their dreadful time at the back of the grid when using Honda power units, McLaren have been given a new lease of life by the switch to Mercedes engines and there’s plenty of cause for optimism heading into 2022, even with the major changes set to take place.
What a couple of months it has been for George Russell. On the track, he’s collected three top-10 finishes from the last four races, including second place in Belgium. While the ‘race’ there was farcical due to the weather, the runner-up spot was fine reward for Russell’s excellent qualifying efforts. Such has been Russell’s form that he’s priced up as the
10/1 fourth favourite for the Russian Grand Prix.
If there had been any doubts before the announcement, Russell’s performances for Williams have only strengthened the belief he’s ready to make the step up after being handed a drive at Mercedes for the 2022 campaign. Russell will replace Valtteri Bottas as Hamilton’s team-mate and is likely to give his fellow Brit more of a challenge than Bottas ever managed.
Red Bull had been expected to deliver a two-pronged assault on the drivers’ title this year after naming the experienced Sergio Perez as Verstappen’s team-mate. That has not materialised, though, with Verstappen currently 108.5 points better off than the fifth-placed Mexican.
Perez just hasn’t been able to put together a complete weekend with qualifying having been his Achilles heel of late. He should have posted a much higher finish than eighth in the Netherlands but couldn’t make up for a Q1 exit, while he struggled in the sprint race in Italy. Even a strong drive to claim third in Monza was then undone as Perez was demoted to fifth following a time penalty.
Red Bull have confirmed they are keeping on Perez for next season but have shown in the past they will cut drivers midway through a campaign if they consistently underperform and Perez probably isn’t out of the woods yet.
*All odds correct at time of writing