With a record 18 podium finishes in a single season, it's clear that Verstappen was particularly consistent in 2021. In fact, of all those podiums, Verstappen didn't finish third once. He always finished first or second. In fact, there are only four big moments that have cost him points and possibly could have cost him the world title.
In Baku, Verstappen was the master. The Dutchman had to beat Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc in qualifying, but in the race, he quickly passed them. With Sergio Perez on P2, Red Bull Racing looked set to make a big splash in the championship, but that was beyond bad luck.
After Lance Stroll lost control of his car due to a tyre blowout, Verstappen suffered the same fate. On the straight, his rear tyre gave up the ghost, causing a high-speed crash. The Dutchman survived the crash unscathed, but five laps from the end Hamilton was alongside Perez at the restart.
Although Verstappen would not lose any points to Hamilton, who made a huge mistake on the restart, it was 25 free points that Verstappen missed out on. At the end of the season, he would have loved to have that extra margin in his back pocket.
The story of the British GP is well known. Hamilton took pole in front of his own crowd, but a lousy start in the sprint race meant he lost the pole for the real race. At the start of the main race, it was neck-and-neck between the two rivals and they didn't give each other an inch. In Copse, however, things went horribly wrong.
With Hamilton on the inside going into Copse, Verstappen may have left a little space, but on the inside, Hamilton didn't make the apex either. In a corner at such high speed, this was a huge risk. Verstappen was taken to hospital for a checkup and Hamilton got a ten second time penalty.
That penalty was pretty meagre considering the consequences. Despite the penalty, Hamilton drove to victory without any competition and celebrated extensively while Verstappen was still in the hospital. Not only did Verstappen lose 25 points to Hamilton, but also mentally and physically it was a big blow for the Dutchman.
Hungarian Grand Prix
Red Bull were the favourites ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix, but with third and fourth-place finishes in qualifying, they were disappointed. In the wet conditions, Verstappen and Perez had a good start and looked to be closing in on Hamilton going into the first corner. However, this was not counted on by Valtteri Bottas.
The Finn had started from P2 but had a terrible start. He had already fallen back behind Lando Norris and in an attempt to make up some ground, things went completely wrong. On the wet track, Bottas braked and crashed into Norris and then slammed into Perez. Bottas, Norris and Perez were immediately eliminated while Verstappen, who was hit by Norris, could continue his journey.
However, the damage to Verstappen's car was so extensive that he could barely move forward in the rain. Even overtaking Mick Schumacher was difficult. In the end, Max finished in ninth place, while Hamilton's team stumbled in the changing conditions and Hamilton 'only' made it to P2 (P3 on track, but P2 after Sebastian Vettel was disqualified).
After a strong sprint race and a grid penalty for Valtteri Bottas, Verstappen was in a good position ahead of the Italian Grand Prix. The Dutchman saw Hamilton drop to fifth place in sprint qualifying and saw his chance to make up points. At the start of the race, however, Ricciardo had the better of the race and Verstappen was stuck behind the Australian.
At the pitstops, Red Bull hoped to make up for this, but a rare mistake held Verstappen up terribly. Not much later Hamilton was brought in. That pit stop didn't go perfectly either, causing the Brit to come out exactly equal to Verstappen in turn one. For the Dutchman, it was all or nothing, and it was all or nothing: literally.
After Silverstone, the two title rivals crashed again and this time it was Verstappen who was blamed for the incident. He received a grid penalty in Russia for this but would drive that race to second place and therefore not be affected by this.
Whereas the analysis of Hamilton's season showed that he missed out on points at several points during the season, the same cannot be said of Verstappen. In Italy and Great Britain he might have been able to do more to prevent a crash, but in England Hamilton was pointed out as the culprit and in Monza, both drivers crashed out, so there was no loss of points.
In Azerbaijan and Hungary, Verstappen had some bad luck. In Azerbaijan, the blowout, and in Hungary, Bottas' mistake. These two moments of bad luck cost Verstappen at least forty points. He could have used them at the end of the season, but they were not necessary to win the title.