Max Verstappen 

Max Verstappen has reached a new level in his ultra-close battle with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton for the 2021 F1 world title.

Aside from a track limits error that cost him victory in Bahrain and pole in Portimao, Verstappen has been superb and shown remarkable consistency. Across the Austrian double-header, he was simply untouchable. 

Verstappen appears unfazed despite finding himself in an intense title fight for the first time in his career, while he has demonstrated how much he has matured since he made his F1 debut at 17. 

Were it not for a tyre failure in Baku, being wiped out in a collision at Silverstone and suffering significant damage to his car in Hungary, Verstappen would have taken a huge lead into the summer break. 

The 23-year-old has five wins and five poles from the opening 11 races and with a competitive Red Bull underneath him, he will be looking to ensure momentum swings back in his favour when the season resumes. 

Lewis Hamilton 

Like his main rival, Hamilton has also been excellent, turning in a number of stunning displays - including his fightback wins in Barcelona and Silverstone - that have ultimately moved him into the lead of the world championship. 

Verstappen and a revitalised Red Bull have provided the biggest threat to Hamilton’s superiority at the top of F1 for some years, and the seven-time world champion has made some high-profile, uncharacteristic mistakes amid their raging battle. 

After dropping his car into the gravel at Imola, Hamilton was fortunate that a red flag enabled him to get back on the lead lap, while he threw away a big haul of points by blundering the Baku restart. The Briton was also off-form in Monaco, where Verstappen took full advantage. 

However, Hamilton has also shown why he remains at the top of his game by overcoming Verstappen and Red Bull on days he had the slower car. 

Both Verstappen and Hamilton have been in a league of their own and the class of the field so far in 2021. 

Lando Norris 

2021 has been the coming of age for McLaren’s rising superstar Lando Norris. 

The young Briton has taken yet another step forward in his continued upward trajectory and produced some exceptional performances across the opening 11 rounds of the season. 

There is a case for Norris being the most consistent driver of the year, and that is backed up by his staggering 10-race streak of points-scoring finishes, as well as his impressive qualifying displays. 

Podiums at Imola, Monaco and Austria have capped off an outstanding first half of the campaign that sees Norris sit third in the drivers’ championship, ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez

Norris has also flourished against his new teammate Daniel Ricciardo, comprehensively outclassing the seven-time grand prix winner so far.

Charles Leclerc 

He may have been restricted to playing a supporting role behind the Hamilton-Verstappen showdown for a recovering Ferrari, but Charles Leclerc has nevertheless been outstanding this season. 

Leclerc has lead Ferrari’s turnaround following its dire 2020 season with the Italian outfit launching itself to the front of F1’s tightly-packed midfield alongside McLaren this year. 

The 23-year-old Monegasque has continued to underline why Ferrari believes he can be the driver to deliver its elusive world title with his fantastic displays in qualifying and on race days. 

Leclerc was at his best as he excelled to back-to-back poles in Monaco and Baku, though realistically he did not have a car quick enough to challenge for victory on either occasion. A shock home win could have been on the cards had damage discovered following his late shunt in qualifying not prevented him from taking the start. 

He starred again at Silverstone. Having capitalised on Verstappen and Hamilton’s first-lap collision, Leclerc remarkably led every lap of the British GP despite encountering engine gremlins until three laps from the end, when a deserved victory was snatched away by the recovering Hamilton. 

Leclerc’s consistency has been reflected in his regular appearances inside the top six. The only time Leclerc has finished outside the points when he has completed a race came in France as Ferrari suffered tyre woes, while he was also an unfortunate victim of the Turn 1 carnage in Hungary.

Pierre Gasly 

Pierre Gasly continues to do wonders at AlphaTauri. It was always going to be tricky to build on a stellar 2020 campaign that featured a maiden victory at Monza, but the Frenchman has had no trouble carrying his momentum into 2021. 

Regular starring displays in Q3 have set up Gasly to score points at all but three of the 11 races to have taken place. Silverstone marked the only round where he has failed to score on performance alone, with a mechanical failure and collision forcing him into retirement in Bahrain and the first Red Bull Ring race. 

A stunning drive to third place in Baku and fifth in a chaotic Hungarian GP have acted as the standout highlights of what is shaping into another brilliant season for Gasly, whose form has led to him being in the discussion for a seemingly unlikely return to Red Bull.

Gasly has flourished in the role of team leader alongside his fast but erratic rookie teammate Yuki Tsunoda. As a result, he has almost single-handedly carried AlphaTauri in the fight for fifth place in the constructors’ championship, notching up 50 of the team’s 68 points. 

Carlos Sainz 

It has been an impressive start to life at Ferrari for Carlos Sainz after making the switch from McLaren over the winter. The Spaniard has arguably made the quickest and most convincing transition of the drivers who changed teams at the end of 2020.

Sainz has carried over the consistency that served him so well at McLaren into his first campaign with Ferrari and already racked up two podium finishes in what has been a mighty opening 11 races.

Missing out on the top-10 on only two occasions this year means Sainz currently sits three points ahead of Leclerc in the championship, though his teammate failed to start at Monaco and was taken out in the first-lap carnage in Hungary. Both events have slightly skewed the standings in Sainz’s favour.

Qualifying has been the one area that has let Sainz down, while he has not been error-free. Despite being unable to replicate Leclerc’s stunning turn of one-lap pace at times, Sainz has made up for that deficit on Sundays more often than not.

If he can start stringing complete weekends together in the second half of the season, he will only continue to strengthen Ferrari’s bid to beat McLaren to third place in the constructors’.

Notable mentions must also go out to Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, whose swashbuckling return has reminded F1 fans what they were missing during his absence from the sport. Hungarian GP winner Esteban Ocon has impressed alongside the two-time world champion, while George Russell has turned in a number of outstanding performances for Williams - especially on Saturdays.