A new F1 World Champion

The 2021 Formula 1 season witnessed a thrilling year-long duel for the championship between Verstappen and Hamilton. The two drivers engaged in a captivating battle, exchanging the championship lead multiple times throughout the season. Notably, they were involved in significant collisions at the British, Hungarian, and Italian Grands Prix, adding further intensity to their rivalry. Despite the challenges posed by Covid-19, the 2021 Formula 1 season delivered exhilarating race weekends filled with intense action, keeping fans on the edge of their seats.

Race Calendar

As displayed below, the 2021 race calendar encompassed a thrilling lineup of 22 races across 20 countries. Notably, Italy played host to two exciting races, starting with Imola for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and followed by the legendary Monza, known as the Temple of Speed. Additionally, the Red Bull Ring held both the Austria Grand Prix and the Styria Grand Prix. The season also welcomed two new tracks, the Qatar and Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, adding further excitement to the championship. 2021_calendar

Drivers and Constructors

The 2021 grid featured 10 teams and 21 drivers, including 1 reserve driver. Notable changes from the previous season include:

  • Racing Point became Aston Martin, featuring a darker green livery.
  • Renault rebranded as Alpine, adopting a blue-weighted color scheme.
  • Sergio Perez joined Red Bull Racing, replacing Alexander Albon.
  • Carlos Sainz moved from McLaren to Ferrari to partner with Charles Leclerc.
  • Sebastian Vettel (4x World Champion) joined Aston Martin alongside Lance Stroll.
  • Daniel Ricciardo left Renault and joined McLaren alongside Lando Norris.
  • Fernando Alonso (2x World Champion) made his Formula 1 comeback with Alpine.
  • Pierre Gasly remained with AlphaTauri, now joined by rookie Yuki Tsunoda.
  • Haas welcomed rookies Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.

Robert Kubica competed in two races for Alfa Romeo, replacing Kimi Raikkönen who tested positive for Covid-19. 2021_drivers

2021 Season analysis

This season was filled with thrilling moments as six different drivers claimed victories, most of them starting from the front row. Notable triumphs included Esteban Ocon’s impressive win from P8 in the Hungarian Grand Prix, and Lewis Hamilton’s spectacular performance starting from P10 in the Brazilian GP. Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton engaged in a captivating rivalry, securing 10 and 8 wins, respectively. Sergio Perez added to the excitement with his second career win, while Ocon’s victory was aided by Fernando Alonso’s masterful defense against Hamilton. Daniel Ricciardo’s triumph in Monza was historic for McLaren, marking their first win in nine years and a long-awaited 1-2 finish, ending their drought since 2010. This season showcased the fierce competition and unpredictability that defines Formula 1, with drivers displaying their skill and determination from various starting positions. 2021_race-winners

The podium is the ultimate reward for drivers, allowing them to celebrate their hard work and that of their teams. Analyzing the image below, it becomes evident that Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton dominated the season with 18 and 17 podium finishes, respectively. Notably, George Russell achieved his first ever Formula 1 podium during the Belgian Grand Prix, while the return of two-time world champion Fernando Alonso to the podium in the Qatar GP was a significant moment. 2021_podium-finishes

Securing points by finishing within the top-10 is a significant milestone for both drivers and teams throughout the race weekend. Remarkably, every driver, excluding the Haas rookies Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, managed to score at least one point this season. Lewis Hamilton, Lando Norris, and Carlos Sainz emerged as the top point finishers across various tracks, accumulating a combined total of 20 point finishes, closely followed by Max Verstappen with 19. Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez consistently finished in the top-10, achieving this feat 16 times, while Charles Leclerc found himself sandwiched between the two Red Bull drivers with 18. At the other end of the spectrum, George Russell and Kimi Räikkönen led the charge for Williams and Alfa Romeo respectively, as their teams secured points in several races. 2021_point-finishes

One of the newest features introduced in the 2021 Formula 1 season was Sprint Qualifying. This format involved a qualifying session on Friday that determined the grid for the Sprint Qualifying, with the result of the latter determining the starting grid for the Sunday race session. Three Sprint weekends took place at Silverstone, Monza, and São Paulo, where drivers finishing in the top-3 were awarded 3, 2, and 1 point respectively.

Based on the provided visualization, only five drivers reaped the benefits of the Sprint Qualifying sessions. Both Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen earned 7 points, while Lewis Hamilton managed to secure only 2. Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz were the other drivers who scored, albeit limited to a single point each. A particularly attention-grabbing moment occurred in Brazil when Hamilton started the Sprint Qualifying from the back of the grid but made a remarkable climb through the positions in the 24-lap race, ultimately finishing in 5th place. This performance was crucial for Hamilton to keep the championship title competition alive against Verstappen. However, Hamilton’s Sprint Qualifying success was marred by a subsequent 5-place grid penalty for the main race due to the use of an additional power unit element. 2021_sprint-points

When it comes to the fastest drivers on the track, it is no surprise that Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen dominated once again, each securing six fastest laps. Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez followed closely behind with four and two fastest laps respectively. Additionally, Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris, and Pierre Gasly each achieved this feat once during the season, adding the accomplishment of being the fastest driver to their careers. 2021_fastest-lap

In the world of Formula 1, retirements are an inevitable part of the sport, whether due to mistakes or mechanical issues. Throughout the 2021 season, a total of 59 DNFs were recorded. Among these, 6 were attributed to accidents, while 20 were a result of collisions between drivers. The remaining retirements were caused by mechanical issues, most commonly involving gearboxes, brakes, or engine failures. Notably, Nikita Mazepin and George Russell experienced the highest number of retirements, both with six each. Max Verstappen faced three DNFs, including a high-speed tire blowout in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, a collision with Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone resulting in a dramatic 51G crash, and another collision with Hamilton at the Italian Grand Prix. Despite these three retirements, Verstappen achieved an impressive 18 podium finishes in the 19 races he completed, demonstrating his remarkable consistency in securing top-three results whenever he reached the finish line. Interestingly, the Italian Grand Prix incident also marked the only retirement for Hamilton throughout the season. Notably absent from the figure provided is Carlos Sainz from Ferrari, who impressively completed all the races in the 2021 season without a single retirement. 2021_dnfs

Point Progression

A thorough analysis of the drivers' points throughout the season reveals an intense battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, as they consistently outperformed the other drivers and established themselves as the frontrunners. Following behind them in the driver standings are their respective teammates, Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez. Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, and Carlos Sainz engaged in a closely contested competition, with their positions in the standings neck-and-neck until the final race. Ultimately, Sainz secured the fifth place, establishing himself as the best-of-the-rest among the drivers outside of Mersedes and Red Bull lineups. 2021_point-progression-drivers

Taking a closer look at the intense rivalry between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, the championship lead exchanged hands a remarkable five times throughout the 2021 season, setting the stage for a thrilling finale. In the final race, with both drivers tied on points, a late Safety Car incident prompted Verstappen to pit for fresh soft tires, while Hamilton chose to stay out. With just one lap remaining, Verstappen made a decisive move in turn 5, successfully overtaking Hamilton and securing his first World Championship title. However, the final laps were not without controversy, as Mercedes appealed the race result due to incidents and contentious decisions made by the FIA. Despite the appeal, no result was ultimately reached, solidifying Verstappen’s well-earned championship victory. 2021_ver-vs-ham

Shifting our focus to the Constructors' Championship, it was a closely fought battle between Mercedes and Red Bull throughout the season. However, in the end, Mercedes emerged victorious, securing their remarkable 8th consecutive title. Ferrari, after a disastrous previous season, made a strong comeback in 2021, surpassing McLaren in a closely contested clash for the third-place position in the Constructors' standings. Their improved performance showcased their determination and ability to bounce back from setbacks. 2021_point-progression-constructors

Conclusions and Final Standings

The final Driver Standings for the 2021 season are as follows: Max Verstappen clinched his first World Championship title, finishing eight points ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Their respective teammates, Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez, secured third and fourth places. In the fifth to eighth positions, we find the drivers from Ferrari and McLaren. Carlos Sainz placed ahead of them, while Lando Norris finished ahead of his teammate Daniel Ricciardo. Pierre Gasly had a strong season with AlphaTauri, scoring over 100 points. The Alpine and Aston Martin drivers followed suit, with the experienced veterans Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel finishing ahead of their teammates in the standings.

In the Constructors' Championship, Mercedes once again demonstrated their dominance, extending their unbeaten streak since the introduction of the 1.6-liter V6 Turbo Hybrid engine era in 2014. Red Bull, with an impressive performance, secured second place, significantly narrowing the gap to just 28 points compared to the previous year’s margin of over 200 points. Ferrari made a remarkable recovery, finishing in third place in 2021. The team showcased consistent performances from Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, bouncing back from a challenging 2020 season. McLaren also had a strong showing, claiming the fourth-place position. An intense battle unfolded for fifth place, with the Renault-powered Alpine team edging out AlphaTauri. Williams celebrated a long-awaited achievement, scoring points after a wait of nearly two and a half years, lifting themselves from the bottom of the constructors' standings and surpassing a relatively lackluster season for Alfa Romeo. Haas, unfortunately, failed to score any points in the 2021 season.


Note: The data is compiled from the F1 Developer API: http://ergast.com/mrd/. Formula One retains all rights to the data used in this analysis. The analysis is intended solely for educational purposes and not for commercial use.

Georgios Balaouras
Georgios Balaouras
Data Scientist

My research interests include Computer Vision with a healthy pinch of problem solving.