We have been treated to a classic F1 season so far with 2021 serving up an epic title fight for the ages, surprise winners and plenty of intriguing storylines to follow at both ends of the grid. 

With 12 planned races still left to run, there are plenty of twists and turns to come in what promises to be a spellbinding second half of the season. 

But for now, here are our best moments from the opening half of the campaign…

The realisation of a blockbuster title fight 

Pre-season testing hinted that Mercedes could find itself properly challenged, but confirmation that 2021 would see a real title fight didn’t come until the season-opener in Bahrain

Max Verstappen storming to pole, and the subsequent thrilling scrap for the win between the Red Bull driver and Lewis Hamilton was just a glimpse of what was to come. 

Verstappen and Hamilton went wheel-to-wheel four times in the opening four races as they divvied up the wins between them. At first, only the smallest of margins separated the pair, but Red Bull threatened to pull clear with five successive wins. 

That run finally came to an end at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, which provided the most dramatic on-track moment of the season as Hamilton and Verstappen came to blows for the first time. 

The subsequent fallout has only added to what is proving to be one of the most exciting title fights in years, with the pendulum of momentum dramatically swinging Hamilton’s way just before the summer break. 

Lewis Larkam

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A symbolic crash at Imola

George Russell and Valtteri Bottas’ crash at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was symbolic.

After struggling during the early phase of the race, Bottas had Russell right behind him, who looked on course to end Williams’ points drought.

On the run down to Tamburello, Bottas veered slightly right, Russell reacted and hit the slippery kerb, spinning his car and speared into Bottas, ending both of their races. 

Russell’s reaction afterwards was out of character, but even so, the fact he was about to overtake Bottas in his Williams was impressive in its own right.

The Briton’s impressive performance at the Sakhir Grand Prix meant the writing was on the wall for Bottas with regards to his future with Mercedes.

Being overtaken by a Williams on pure pace at Imola perhaps was the final straw for the Finn and his chances of remaining with the reigning world champions.

Connor McDonagh

Sebastian Vettel’s first Aston Martin podium 

A rollercoaster weekend ended on an incredible high for Sebastian Vettel as the German recorded his first podium in Aston Martin colours. 

The four-time world champion had endured a difficult start to life at his new team following his rather unceremonious departure from Ferrari. 

But Vettel started to turn a corner with a brilliant drive at Monaco and looked to carry that momentum into Baku. The weekend started on a frustrating note as Vettel just missed out on Q3, but things fell his way on Sunday. 

Vettel turned in a splendid first stint and even found himself leading a grand prix for the first time since Brazil in 2019 before chaos ensured. 

A pair of dramatic high-speed tyre blowouts for teammate Lance Stroll and race-leader Verstappen turned the race on its head, and a cunning display from Vettel enabled him to capitalise. 

While Sergio Perez picked up the pieces for Red Bull, Vettel made moves behind, passing Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly to move up to fourth before Verstappen crashed out. 

Third became second when Hamilton fluffed his lines at the start, a position Vettel held to the finish to pick up a memorable first podium and send a message to his doubters. 

Lewis Larkam

Throwback to 2007

The battle between Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso at the Hungarian Grand Prix was a nice throwback to their time at McLaren in 2007. 

With Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon out front, it was down to Alonso to keep the fast-charging Hamilton, who had new medium tyres fitted to his Mercedes, behind.

Against all odds, Alonso put up one of the best defensive performances we’ve seen in F1 in some years, ultimately costing Hamilton the victory. 

Alonso’s stern defence allowed Ocon to claim his maiden win ahead of Vettel, securing the Enstone team’s first victory as a works outfit since 2008.

The two-time champion hasn’t lost any of his racecraft and having two great legends of the sport battling at the front just makes it even more enjoyable.

Connor McDonagh

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The rise and rise of Lando Norris

Lando Norris has undoubtedly been one of the stars of the 2021 season.

There was pressure on the Briton to further step up his performances following an impressive sophomore F1 season amid the arrival of seven-time grand prix winner Daniel Ricciardo as his teammate. 

Norris hit the ground running in 2021 and hasn’t looked back, turning a series of outstanding displays to sit third in the championship after the opening 11 races, ahead of the likes of Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez. 

The 21-year-old’s speed was always apparent from the moment he stepped foot in F1 but this season Norris has added consistency to his game. 

That was reflected in the fact Norris was the only driver to score points in every race up until the Hungarian Grand Prix, where he was an unfortunate victim of the carnage triggered by Bottas, which ended a 15-race streak inside the top-10. 

Three podiums, getting in the mix with Verstappen and Hamilton at the front of the grid and some stunning qualifying laps have been the highlights of Norris’ 2021 so far. 

Norris’ level of performance underlines the progress he has made, as well as vindicating McLaren’s decision to tie him down to a new long-term contract. 

Lewis Larkam

Alonso magic

Alonso can also take the award for the best start of the year as he went from 11th to fifth on the opening lap of Sprint Qualifying at the British Grand Prix.

We saw it time and time again during his years with Ferrari in the early 2010s, and it’s been more of the same this season. 

Without Alonso’s heroics in Silverstone’s sprint race, it would have been a complete snoozefest. 

Silverstone wasn’t the only time we’ve seen Alonso at his very best off the start. 

In Azerbaijan, he went from tenth to sixth after the red flag stoppage, allowing him to secure his best result - at the time - of the season.

Connor McDonagh

Lewis Hamilton delights raucous home crowd 

Seeing packed grandstands at Silverstone on all three days of action was one of the highlights of the first half of the 2021 season. 

The atmosphere was electric, even more so given that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the majority of events taking place behind closed doors over the past 12 months. 

Hearing the crowd erupt when George Russell completed his lap to make it into Q3, or when Hamilton edged out Verstappen in a thrilling qualifying session on Friday evening as F1 debuted its new sprint format, was absolutely brilliant and reminded F1 what it had been missing. 

But the noise was never louder then on Sunday when Hamilton delighted his home crowd by sending them into raptures as he crossed the line to take his eighth British GP victory having turned in a remarkable fightback from his lap one collision with Verstappen. 

Hopefully we will continue to witness scenes like that as more fans return in the second half of the campaign. 

Lewis Larkam

Leclerc reminds us he’s still one of the best

Even though Charles Leclerc sits behind teammate Carlos Sainz in the drivers’ championship, the Monegasque has once again shown in 2021 that he is still one of F1’s top drivers.

His pole laps in Monaco and Azerbaijan were stunning, confirming Ferrari’s impressive step forward over the winter.

His most impressive drive came at Silverstone where he led for 50 laps before surrendering the lead to Hamilton. 

Connor McDonagh

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Esteban Ocon’s redemption 

Ocon’s shock maiden victory in Hungary felt like a real moment of redemption for the Frenchman. 

The Alpine driver has faced many obstacles throughout his career, none more so than when he cruelly lost his seat at Racing Point at the end of 2018, leaving out of F1 for the following year. 

A spell on the sidelines as Mercedes’ reserve followed before Ocon sealed his return to the F1 grid with Renault for 2020. Having initially struggled, Ocon enjoyed a really strong end to the year, capped off with a first-ever podium at the Sakhir Grand Prix. 

Ocon carried his momentum into 2021, where he has made yet another step and so far been excellent. The 24-year-old had the upper hand on his two-time world champion teammate Alonso during the opening rounds, a pattern of form that has only recently reversed. 

After being rewarded with a deserved new contract at Alpine, Ocon’s form suddenly dipped as he entered a tough spell including back-to-back Q1 eliminations in Austria before he bounced back with a top-10 finish in the British GP. 

Ocon seized his opportunity with both hands in Hungary and turned in a brilliantly-executed drive to claim his breakthrough F1 victory, underlining Alpine’s faith in him. 

Realising a dream he has held since childhood was a joyous moment to behold.

Lewis Larkam

Williams ends its drought

It’s been a long time coming for Williams as it ended its points drought at the Hungaroring - Nicholas Latifi in seventh; Russell in eighth.

The Grove-based outfit has enjoyed a decent step in performances over the winter with Russell progressing into at least Q2 at every race but one so far.

Often in the past, Williams has been the one to miss out on points despite it being a crazy race and thus losing out to its main rivals Alfa Romeo and Haas.

Williams capitalised on the chaos in Hungary as Latifi moved up to third on the first lap, benefitting from the two separate incidents.

Russell followed his teammate through to score Williams’ biggest points haul at a single weekend since 2017.

It was a big weekend for Williams and you could see how much it meant to everyone after the race.

Connor McDonagh

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