The 2021 Formula One season will go down in history as one of the most memorable seasons the sport has ever witnessed, featuring a riveting rivalry, thrilling races, and surprising podium results. Formula One fans around the world held their breath watching a season where the only certainty was that anything could happen.
George Russell’s front row qualification and first podium
On Aug. 28, 2021 at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix, Williams driver George Russell completed a fantastic Q3 lap that earned him a front-row start in P2. His spectacular qualification came as a result of calculated decisions made by the team and his excellent knowledge of his car’s abilities.
On Aug. 29, terrible weather conditions made the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix the shortest race ever in the history of Formula One. The drivers drove two laps under the safety car and a final lap that ended with a red flag, marking the end of the race. The results were taken from lap one, earning Russell a second-place finish and his first podium in Formula One.
This result highlighted Russell’s potential for success in a stronger car than the Williams, which falls short in comparison to cars developed by Mercedes or Redbull Racing. Not even two weeks later, Mercedes announced that Russell was set to drive alongside Lewis Hamilton as part of the team. This sparked excitement amongst Formula One fans, such as Samuel Nidelli, U1 Engineering, who is looking forward to the start of a new Mercedes driver pairing, noting Hamilton’s long history with the team.
“I’m really happy to see George Russell in a Mercedes seat,” Nidelli said. “I feel like [he] and Hamilton will have some great battles and Hamilton will be able to mentor Russell and make him into the driver he was always meant to be.”
Kimi Raikkonen’s retirement
The 2021 season also saw the departure of Formula One legend Kimi Raikkonen, who chose to retire after his 349th Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi. The former world champion, known across the grid for his level-headed and cool approach to racing, which earned him the nickname “Iceman,” will be dearly missed by fans. Samuel Jachir, U2 Arts, had hoped to see Raikkonen win some races in his final season.
“I’m very fond of Kimi Raikkonen and the child in me was kind of hoping that he would surprise me,” Jachir said. “But with an Alfa Romeo, it is not surprising that he only managed to score 10 points.”
The Verstappen and Hamilton rivalry
The most memorable motif of the 2021 season was undeniably the rivalry between Mercedes racer Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull racer Max Verstappen. Throughout the season, the two made exciting and sometimes dangerous decisions in the hopes of gaining a championship lead. This rivalry had some fans, like U2 Arts student Maya Sorguc, on the edge of their seats.
“Compared to the seasons before, it was much more exciting because of the intense competition between Hamilton and Verstappen,” Sorguc said. “The viewers were divided into two groups, which made it more fun to watch or talk about it with friends.”
Throughout the season, risky maneuvers led to both drivers colliding or being penalized during certain races, with Hamilton denouncing Verstappen’s driving as dangerous. Nevertheless, both drivers arrived at the last race in Abu Dhabi tied for points, meaning that the championship winner would be decided by whoever passed the checkered flag first. Verstappen overtook Hamilton in the final lap after a safety car procedure change, which allowed racing to resume for the very last lap instead of finishing under a speed limit. The FIA’s additional decision to allow Verstappen to start immediately behind Hamilton, despite originally having to lap several other drivers, presented the Dutch racer a final chance at victory, which he then seized.
After seven seasons in the sport, Dutchman Max Verstappen became one of the youngest world champions ever, at only 24 years old. This win was highly controversial, as Hamilton had an advantage over Verstappen the entire race. Commentators and fans alike criticized the FIA’s sudden rule change for not accounting for Hamilton’s lengthy advantage. As of today, Hamilton has not commented or discussed the situation, but Mercedes’ boss Toto Wolff described Hamilton’s loss as a robbery. It will certainly be interesting to see the impact of this defeat on Hamilton’s racing in 2022.