Our contributors reflect on how the 2021 F1 season has been at the summer break and what can be expected in the intense second half.
Mercedes & Red Bull – Darshan Chokhani:
It is the first time in some years that we are seeing two F1 teams throwing everything at each other at the top, whether on or off. The last time, we saw Ferrari close in on Mercedes, but fell apart against the might of the German manufacturer. This time, however, Red Bull looks genuinely quick and up for the task, in the fight for the ultimate prize of drivers’ and the constructors’ championships.
For much, Red Bull looked pretty comfortable at the top, but the last two races has seen them lose their way, wherein a 12 points gap has opened up in favour of Mercedes. It is eight on the drivers’ side, with Lewis Hamilton now ahead of Max Verstappen, where the Dutchman has looked sublime this year and arguably the better driver despite the pressure of taking on a seven-time F1 champion head-on. Strangely, the Brit has had some hiccups in multiple races, whether of his or team’s doing.
This certainly has added the pressure on the reigning F1 champions. The last two races has only enraged the off-track tussles too, with the war of words on. Already, much had been said about the flexi-wings, engine power and pit stops, but personal remarks has only added much fire on both sides, with Mercedes winning the PR or perception battle – for the time being – against Red Bull. There is not much to separate the two teams on performance side, though, as even with the pace from Red Bull, Mercedes is not an easy team to beat.
Such has been the intensity that both Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez, respectively, are in the fight still, even though, it looks unlikely that they can win the drivers’ championship. Whether officially or unofficially, their results is and will play an important role, to determine the eventual winner. Going by how the intensity has been in the first half, the second half is only going to be much more dramatic, with Mercedes seemingly gaining an upperhand just in time to unleash their might for the rest of the 2021 F1 season.
Mercedes (P1): 303; Lewis Hamilton (P1): 195, Valtteri Bottas (P4): 108
Red Bull (P2): 291; Max Verstappen (P2): 187, Sergio Perez (P5): 104
McLaren & Ferrari – Selena Aburas:
Moving on to the intense battle for third place in the 2021 F1 constructors’ championship, both McLaren and Ferrari are battling it out at every race, trying to outscore each other and retain the Top 3 spot in the standings. Both teams have had incredible races so far, with three podium finishes apiece for McLaren and Ferrari – wherein the net result is that they are tied at 163 points at the summer break.
These two F1 teams are closely matched this year when looking at race results; Imola with McLaren and Ferrari securing P3-P6, and Silverstone seeing P4-P6 with the two McLarens ahead of the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz. In other races too, there are always close to each other on track barring few odd races.
Ferrari teammates Charles Leclerc and Sainz have had quite the season, minus a few unfortunate DNS and DNF moments. The Monegasque secured P2 at Silverstone after leading the race for 49 laps. He secured pole twice too, wherein he had the chance for a win if the race didn’t go bust. The Spaniard has also had his moments of glory securing P2 in Monaco, and P3 in Hungary after Sebastian Vettel’s disqualification.
At the same time, McLaren’s Lando Norris matched the Ferrari teammates with three podiums of his own – P3 in Imola, Monaco and Austria. His consistency has been unrivaled this season, being the only driver on the grid to secure points in every race up until the Hungarian GP knock-out. This constancy resulted in him currently being P3 in the driver’s championship standings – where it is genuinely possible for him to hang on to it.
Teammate Daniel Ricciardo, however, has unfortunately not been as lucky so far. The move to McLaren for the Australian meant the need to quickly adapt to a new car, and with his expertise and driving style being the opposite of what the MCL35M needs, it has been quite challenging for him to get a feel of the car. Nonetheless, the Australian has secured 50 points for himself and the team throughout the season thus far.
The second half of the season could very well see Leclerc in podium positions as he seems to have the pace, with Sainz also securing top of the midfield positions, making it a great place to be for Ferrari – the Spaniard has had a smoother integration when compared to Ricciardo. Certainly, McLaren is not going to be make this any easier for the Italian manufacturer with Norris’ consistent pace and high performance. Ricciardo, in the last few races has been making progress, and he could very well have a second half of the season that competes closer and more often with Ferrari – thereby making it an enticing battle to watch out.
McLaren (P3): 163; Lando Norris (P3): 113, Daniel Ricciardo (P9): 50
Ferrari (P4): 163; Carlos Sainz (P6): 83); Charles Leclerc (P7): 80
Aston Martin, Alpine & AlphaTauri – Ollie Pattas:
In a way, it would be harsh to include McLaren and Ferrari in this year’s midfield battle as both have made leaps forward and left Alpine, Aston Martin and AlphaTauri to battle it out for fifth in the constructors’ championship. These three teams have been very evenly matched all season with different tracks favouring different cars, so track dependability is a huge factor in this battle.
The AlphaTauri team are an outfit that know the midfield all too well, but for Alpine and Aston Martin, they have lofty expectations for the future. Interestingly, all three have claimed podiums this year, but Alpine’s shock victory in Hungary has catapulted them to a comfortable fifth with 77 points, whereas AlphaTauri is sixth on 68 points and Aston Martin lagging behind in seventh on 48 points – the DQ for the latter in Hungary has hurt them.
In fact, many would have expected Aston Martin to win this battle, but they were hit harder than expected over the winter with those minor rule changes. Looking at the driver performance, Fernando Alonso had a slow start on his F1 return, but now looks at home and is on a six race scoring streak – which makes him dangerous for the second half. And of course, Esteban Ocon’s win in Hungary is something for the team to write home about despite a mixed bag of results for the Frenchman so far.
Fellow Frenchman Pierre Gasly at AlphaTauri has been in fine form again and with a podium to his name in Baku and has scored 50 out of the 68 points for the team so far with rookie teammate Yuki Tsunoda still getting to grips with life in F1. The latter’s up and down run has somewhat hurt the team in the fight, but the former’s consistency has kept them in the hunt against Alpine and Aston Martin.
The latter’s Sebastian Vettel has had a slow start, much like Alonso, but has scored rather well in Monaco, which he followed up with a podium in Baku, as well as another one in Hungary that unfortunately he was disqualified from due to fuel irregularities. Teammate Lance Stroll has had a relatively average season to date, unable to match the pace of veteran teammate in a consistent manner, but none the less scoring points when needed.
With the summer break on, Alpine look strong heading into the second half of the 2021 F1 season, and with renewed confidence should have enough in the tank to claim fifth, where both drivers seems to be performing. AlphaTauri’s Gasly will no doubt help them to sixth and with a little help from Tsunoda, they could even push for fifth, but Aston Martin seemed destined for seventh after the latest DQ and with development having stopped on this year’s car. They are quite a way off the two in front and there’s no indication of substantial improvement for the rest of the season.
Alpine (P5): 77; Esteban Ocon (P10): 39, Fernando Alonso (P11): 38
AlphaTauri (P6): 68; Pierre Gasly (P8): 50, Yuki Tsunoda (P13): 18
Aston Martin (P7): 48; Sebastian Vettel (P12): 30, Lance Stroll (P14): 18
Alfa Romeo, Williams & Haas – Neil Farell:
The first half of the 2021 F1 season has been interesting at the top, middle and owing to a certain result at Hungary, it has now got rather competitive, for even the bottom positions. The results has put Williams ahead of Alfa Romeo and Haas, which makes their fight an interesting one too for the second half.
For Williams, there is only way was up from last season. They started slowly and somewhat sluggishly even, but the French GP saw their fortunes improve. George Russell’s 12th place showed they were “getting there” very slowly but surely. And two races later, he was heart-breakingly close to breaking his Williams duck, while both he and Nicholas Latifi showed strongly at Silverstone. It all came right at the Hungaroring, though.
A good haul of points albeit assisted by the turn one incidents at the front proved they were as a team consistently getting better. As they stand currently eighth with 10 points, they have the right people there just now to help preserve this placing. Of the bottom three, Alfa Romeo possibly have the strongest driver pairing at the start of the season along with the best F1 car too.
Generally, the first half of the season saw both Alfa Romeo F1 drivers run close enough to each other and indeed on four occasions there was only a placing between the drivers at the race end. However, only three points were garnered in the opening 11 races and they can probably count themselves unlucky not to have scored further points. Their qualifying has been consistent enough, but breaking into Top 10 in races has been hard. Their target for the second half is to edge away from Haas and bridge the gap to Williams.
The third of the tail end trio are Haas. For them, it was always going to be a baptism of fire for two rookie F1 drivers. Both made errors early on but they both also have knuckled down better of late. Right now their target will be to score a point first and foremost and aim to catch up with Alfa Romeo as soon as possible – even if they don’t, in the words of their team boss, they are being realistic, considering no developments at all. Part two of the F1 season should see these three teams battling with each other.
It is unlikely they will close on seventh. Despite Williams being in pole position of sorts, Alfa Romeo should get it right and catch them over the remaining half but there won’t be much in it. For Haas, their target is first to score a point, which they should possibly do but it is difficult to really see them now getting away from the ‘Wooden Spoon’ position. Russell has been the driver to watch in the mix, while Latifi has been up and down. At the same time, Antonio Giovinazzi has shown glimpses of solid performance, but Kimi Raikkonen has been too inconsistent, while Mick Schumacher has had an upperhand on Nikita Mazepin, but both have much to learn still.
Williams (P8): 10; Nicholas Latifi (P15): 6, George Russell (P16): 4
Alfa Romeo (P9): 3; Kimi Raikkonen (P17): 2, Antonio Giovinazzi (P18): 1
Haas (P10): 0; Mick Schumacher (P19): 0, Nikita Mazepin (P20): 0
Top 10 teams & Top 3 drivers prediction for F1 2021:
|Position||Darshan Chokhani||Selena Aburas||Ollie Pattas||Neil Farell|
|1||Red Bull / Max Verstappen||Mercedes / Max Verstappen||Mercedes / Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes / Lewis Hamilton|
|2||Mercedes / Lewis Hamilton||Red Bull / Lewis Hamilton||Red Bull / Max Verstappen||Red Bull / Max Verstappen|
|3||McLaren / Lando Norris||McLaren / Valtteri Bottas||McLaren / Lando Norris||Ferrari / Valtteri Bottas|
|7||Aston Martin||AlphaTauri||Aston Martin||Aston Martin|
|8||Williams||Alfa Romeo||Alfa Romeo||Alfa Romeo|