Here are the surprises and disappointing drivers and teams of 2021

24-12-2021 17:00
Here are the surprises and disappointing drivers and teams of 2021

The 2021 Formula 1 season has begun and we can look back on an exciting year. At GPblog we asked editors from the Dutch and English editions to fill in and explain their surprises and disappointments from this season.

Tim Kraaij - Editor in Chief GPblog NL

Surprises: Honda, Sainz and Norris

Setbacks: Alpine, Ricciardo and Tsunoda

Who would have thought three or four years ago that Honda would return to the top? Even last year it didn't look like Honda would be able to offer Red Bull teams an engine good enough to compete for the title, but with the 2022-spec they managed to do so in their final year. Carlos Sainz surprised in his first year at Ferrari by making things much harder for Charles Leclerc than anyone expected and this is not the first time Sainz has performed above expectations. Lando Norris is the last big surprise for me, who against all odds managed to put Daniel Ricciardo in his shadow.

The switch to the cons is not difficult for me in that respect. Despite a win in Italy, Ricciardo belongs in that list. I'm sure he can do more and I was disappointed with what he showed in 2021. The same goes for Yuki Tsunoda. He doesn't seem very professional yet and that could cost him a serious future in F1. Alpine fell back even further this year and has now set its sights on 2022. As a factory team though, it's embarrassing to have two customer teams (McLaren and AlphaTauri) ahead of you in the standings.

Rishi Wig - Editor GPblog UK

Surprises: Ferrari, Ocon

Setbacks: Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo

Ferrari's controversial decision to replace their four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel with Carlos Sainz completely stunned the world. Many doubted that the major changes would benefit them in the future. Now we can see the successes of their decision. At the beginning of 2021, some wondered how Esteban Ocon would cope with the pressure of Fernando Alonso. Yet he has held his own superbly: he won his first race at the Hungarian Grand Prix and was just ten points behind his teammate at the end of the season.

The 2021 regulations ruined the stability of the rear end - and therefore the overall balance of the car - and Aston Martin never really managed to live up to the hype they had generated. Alfa Romeo's promises certainly seemed to come true in the first round, with drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi finishing 11th and 12th respectively. However, over the course of the year they seemed to fade back into the background. Now they are only ninth in the Constructors' Championship and will be hoping to better their targets in 2022.

Aryan Jena

Surprises: Ferrari and Sainz

Setbacks: Tsunoda and Aston Martin

With the arrival of Carlos Sainz, Ferrari have made an impressive resurgence this season. Since an engine upgrade at the Russian Grand Prix, Ferrari have consistently outperformed McLaren by a level. Sainz was not as fast as Leclerc in qualifying; the Spaniard lost the qualifying duel 13-9 and averaged 0.055s slower across all qualifying sessions. However, his consistency, racecraft and race pace helped him secure fifth place in the driver standings at the very last race, ahead of Leclerc and McLaren's Lando Norris after his fourth podium of the season.

There was a lot of hype surrounding Yuki Tsunoda at the start of 2021. The rest of his season was disappointing to say the least. The Japanese scored less than a third of his teammate's points total. Aston Martin spent most of the season driving anonymously in the midfield (with about half as many points as sixth-placed AlphaTauri). Their poor season was marred by a number of operational errors, the most unfortunate of which was Vettel's disqualification from second place at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Jordi Smit - Editor GPblog NL

Surprises: Alpha Tauri and Verstappen

Setbacks: Haas and Tsunoda

AlphaTauri is the most surprising team of the year. This is largely due to Pierre Gasly, who showed he was ready for the big time and was a lot faster than Tsunoda. The final sprint came just too late to give Alpine a hard time, but it shows that AlphaTauri is a team to be reckoned with in 2022. Despite all the omens, Max Verstappen was the most surprising driver of the year in my opinion. Although the Dutchman's talent was obvious, he stood tall throughout the year when things got hot under his feet. That shows Verstappen has even more going for him than anyone thought.

Haas will want to forget the season as soon as possible. Where the American team had some great performances in the last couple of years, this season they didn't score a single point. Guenther Steiner stated that the team wanted to focus on the 2022 car, but the team boss probably didn't see such a disappointing season coming. Yuki Tsunoda is also the most disappointing driver. The Japanese driver started the season promisingly, but saw his form disappear at lightning speed. His last GP in Abu Dhabi did give him some positives though.

Matt Gretton - Editor-in-Chief UK GPblog

Surprises: Red Bull and Sainz

Setbacks: Aston Martin and Ricciardo

Mercedes had perhaps their most dominant year ever in 2020, beating Red Bull by over 250 points in the Constructors' Championship. Max Verstappen only drove 87 laps in the lead, 55 of which were during the final race in Abu Dhabi. We knew there had been some changes to the regulations regarding downforce, but it's a huge surprise that Red Bull could even compete with Mercedes at most, if not all circuits. Did we expect Carlos Sainz to perform so well? Despite all the praise Charles Leclerc received for blowing Sebastian Vettel away, Sainz managed to beat his new teammate.

With the arrival of a four-time World Champion, expectations were high at Aston Martin. Perhaps they had to move away from their 'pink Mercedes' philosophy, which meant they had to take a step backwards. Victory at the Italian Grand Prix softened the blow for Ricciardo, but I don't think that should cover up Ricciardo's poor performance in the McLaren. The Australian struggled to find his feet and although he improved as the season went on, his early form probably cost McLaren third place in the championship.

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