Verstappen clear as F1’s star performer - End of season driver ratings F1 journalist Connor McDonagh runs through the field’s combined driver ratings at the end of a memorable 2021 season.
1st place and new World Champion, Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B.
1st place and new World Champion, Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing…

Throughout 2021, each driver is awarded a rating out of 10 for their performance across a grand prix weekend. We’ve taken the ratings and created an average based on the season as a whole. The order and rating are based on a numerical average throughout the season, rather than a pre-decided order.

Max Verstappen - 9.36

It’s only fitting that the 2021 Formula 1 champion is top of our average ratings for the year. Verstappen was sublime throughout, not scoring below a nine out of 10 until Monza - Round 14 of the season when he collided with Hamilton. Remarkable consistency and level of performance in the midst of a title race against a seven-time world champion - it has to be applauded. While the recent focus has been on the controversy surrounding the Safety Car and the FIA’s decision-making, Verstappen was more than deserving of the title this year.

Lewis Hamilton - 8.63

Hamilton ended the season with five 10/10 ratings in the final six grands prix of the year to hit some of the best form of his F1 career. Compared to Verstappen, Hamilton did fall short a number of times earlier in the year - his error on the restart in Baku, an off weekend in Monaco and his failure to capitalise on Mercedes’ dominant car at Monza - the main blemishes on his 2021 season. Still, had things gone his way in the Abu Dhabi finale, Hamilton would have also been a worthy champion.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR), Mercedes AMG F1
Lewis Hamilton (GBR), Mercedes AMG F1

Charles Leclerc - 8.14

The final drivers’ championships standings don’t look pretty for Leclerc given that he was beaten by teammate Sainz at the end of the season but if you look deeper into the numbers, it was still a strong year for the Monegasque. Two pole positions in Azerbaijan and Monaco once again demonstrated his blistering one-lap pace, and he nearly won at Silverstone. Leclerc often had the upper hand over his teammate, winning the qualifying and race-head to head. His crash in Monaco proved costly as he was unable to start from pole, while he was unfortunate in Hungary. 

Lando Norris - 8.1

Norris was second in our mid-season rankings with an average score of nine. McLaren’s dip in form coincided with some bad luck for Norris at the latter part of the season meaning he dropped just behind Leclerc overall. No doubt, the young Brit has been one of F1’s star performers in 2021. Maximum scores in Imola, Monaco, Styria and Austria back up his form in the first half of the year. Norris missed out on the win at his teammate’s expense at Monza, while the Russian GP should have been his had it not been for an incorrect strategy call.

Pierre Gasly - 7.90

18 Q3 appearances for Gasly in 2021 - only Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Perez and Leclerc had more. Gasly was incredibly consistent throughout the season, leading AlphaTauri to its best year in terms of points scored. The Frenchman earned a 10/10 with his podium finish in Azerbaijan and picked up further maximum scores in Zandvoort (P4) and Mexico (P4). 

(L to R): Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari and Pierre Gasly (FRA) AlphaTauri on the drivers parade.
(L to R): Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari and Pierre Gasly (FRA) AlphaTauri…

Carlos Sainz - 7.77

Given that Sainz beat Norris and Leclerc in the drivers’ championship, he’s unfortunate to miss out on a spot in the top five. His impressive championship finish comes down to his remarkable consistency given that he’s on a 14-race streak of finishing inside the top 10. He was out-qualified and out-raced by his teammate across 2021 but fewer incidents allowed Sainz to secure P5 overall. His only 10 rating of the season came in Abu Dhabi, where he secured his fourth podium of the season with a fine drive to third.

Fernando Alonso - 7.5

Alonso initially struggled on his return to F1 as he had to adapt to the 2021 machinery while he recovered from the injuries he sustained from his cycling accident. The Spaniard’s finest displays where he picked up a 10 rating came in Hungary - for his defensive masterclass against Hamilton which allowed Ocon to win - and in Qatar - where he finished on the podium for the first time since 2014.

George Russell - 7.45

Russell’s promotion to Mercedes was inevitable given his stunning run of form up prior to the announcement on the week before Monza. Russell scored his maiden podium and Williams’ first since 2017 at the Belgian Grand Prix to earn a 10 rating. Russell scored a nine at six other grands prix.

George Russell (GBR) Williams Racing FW43B.
George Russell (GBR) Williams Racing FW43B.

Esteban Ocon - 7.19

After struggling on his return to F1 in 2020 against Ricciardo, many expected a repeat alongside two-time champion Alonso. Even without his standout win at the Hungaroring, Ocon performed well with Alpine having one of the most evenly-matched pairings on the grid. 

Sergio Perez - 6.86

Perez makes it into the top 10. His defensive display at the Abu Dhabi ultimately helped Verstappen to the title - making it his standout performance of the season alongside his win in Baku. While Perez cost Red Bull its first constructors’ title, he had an undeniable contribution to Verstappen’s title success against Hamilton.

Daniel Ricciardo - 6.68

Ricciardo narrowly misses out on a spot in the top 10 after a difficult first year with McLaren. An inability to adapt to McLaren’s ‘unique’ style left him trailing well behind an inform Norris. The Australian’s form picked up after the summer break with a win at Monza and four other top-five finishes.

Sebastian Vettel - 6.55

We saw flashes of ‘the Vettel of old’ in 2021 with podium appearances in Azerbaijan and Hungary, although he was disqualified from the latter. His two standout results aside, Vettel was relatively disappointing given his reputation and history - many expected him to sweep Stroll aside when he didn’t. 

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Aston Martin F1 Team.
Sebastian Vettel (GER) Aston Martin F1 Team.

Lance Stroll - 6.45

A respectable season for Stroll in 2021 as he stacked up well against his four-time world champion teammate. While the Canadian lacked a standout result like teammate Vettel, Stroll scored points in nine grands prix - Vettel only scored in six. Given that many expected Stroll to be dominated by Vettel, he should be satisfied with his campaign. 

Antonio Giovinazzi - 6.45

After two fairly anonymous seasons, Giovinazzi’s improvement was immediately apparent. A Q3 appearance in Monaco was impressive, while seventh on the grid in Zandvoort was the highlight of his season. No doubt Giovinazzi is fast enough to be in F1 but his inability to pick up points - only three across the season - was his undoing. 

Valtteri Bottas - 6.36

It’s fair to say that Bottas wasn’t the 15th best driver in F1 this year but shocking displays in Imola, Azerbaijan and Hungary severely dented his overall season average. Without the aforementioned races, Bottas would be inside the top 10. On the whole, Bottas was out-classed by the two title contenders as he finished third nine times in 2021. His recovery to third from the back of the grid in Italy and his dominant win at Istanbul Park warranted 10 ratings, showing what Bottas is capable of on his day.

Kimi Raikkonen - 6.2

The 2007 F1 champion was right to call time on his illustrious career as his performances dipped this year, particularly in qualifying. In race trim, Raikkonen still remains a force, often recovering from his Q1 exit to run well inside the midfield. The Finn’s form seemingly picked up after two races away due to coronavirus, finishing eighth in Russia and Mexico. Flashes of brilliance on race day but certainly the slower of the two Alfa Romeos. 

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Alfa Romeo Racing C41 and Mick Schumacher (GER) Haas VF-21 make contact.
Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Alfa Romeo Racing C41 and Mick Schumacher (GER) Haas…

Mick Schumacher - 6.18

Given Haas’ lack of competitiveness, there’s little more Schumacher could have done during his rookie season. A couple of Q2 appearances and we saw a glimpse of his talent up against Verstappen in the Hungaroring, defending beautifully for a couple of laps as the Red Bull driver nursed a damaged car. A promising first year - he just needs the machinery to showcase what he can do in 2022.

Nicholas Latifi - 5.32

The Williams driver has taken a step forward in performance again in 2021. Qualifying remains his Achilles’ heel, while Latifi looks more comfortable in race trim. Latifi maximised his chances at the Hungarian Grand Prix as he ran as high as third in the first stint before finishing seventh. The Canadian ended the year strongly - relative to Russell - beating him in qualifying in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

Nikita Mazepin - 4.86

Mazepin’s rookie season in F1 has been a baptism of fire. While the Haas has been clearly the slowest car on the grid, the Russian has rarely got within half a second of Schumacher in qualifying. Mazepin tends to fare better in race trim, particularly on the opening laps as he gets ahead of his teammate before the pair battle aggressively for track position. A poor rookie season but one that can be excused given Haas’ lack of competitiveness in 2021.

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