After the summer break, where fans were constantly looking at their watches, hoping time would move quicker, the second half of the 2021 Formula 1 season has begun.
The first 11 races were intriguing, mainly because of the intense rivalry that has been brewing between seven times World Champion Lewis Hamilton and the rising Dutch star Max Verstappen. Even their teams, Mercedes (Hamilton) and Red Bull (Verstappen) have clashed several times this season, as they both compete for the constructor’s championship.
This is the first season in a long time where Mercedes and Hamilton haven’t been running away with the championship, so it really has been an enjoyable one for fans of the sport to enjoy. Many top sports betting apps offer free sports picks on some F1 markets, and many fans have been looking for odds on who might win this closely contested championship.
Who will come out on top, both in the driver’s and the constructor’s championships? Let’s have a look at what has happened so far this year, to see if we can find out.
The Lewis and Max show
The Hamilton and Verstappen rivalry has undoubtedly been the main talking point of the season so far. Hamilton has four race wins (Bahrain, Portugal, Spain and Great Britain) whereas Verstappen has seven. Despite the Dutchman having several more wins, they are only separated by five points.
There have been a few high profile incidents between the two drivers, most notably at Silverstone in the British GP, and most recently at Monza for the Italian GP.
At Silverstone, Verstappen had qualified in pole position, but Hamilton was desperately trying to overtake on the first lap. The two touched wheels, sending the Red Bull driver hurtling into the crash barrier, forcing him to retire. Hamilton would go on to win the race, despite receiving a penalty for his role in the incident.
Then in Monza, the two collided once again. This time it was Verstappen who caused the incident, who drove into Hamilton instead of backing off through a chicane where he was clearly behind. Verstappen’s car ended up on Hamilton’s, who might well have been killed had it not been for the Halo, a protective barrier that helps to prevent large objects and debris entering the cockpit.
One of these drivers will certainly win the title this year, but it is incredibly difficult at this point to say who it will be.
Surprise race winners
At one point it really seemed like Hamilton and Verstappen would win all of the 22 races between them, given their dominance. At the Azerbaijan GP, the other Red Bull car driven by Sergio Perez finished first, taking advantage of a tyre blowout for his teammate, and a rare mistake by Hamilton with two laps to go. It was Perez’s first win for his new team, in a season which has been rather up and down for the Mexican.
McClaren have a great history in F1 but had not won a race since 2012, having declined quite drastically since their heyday. However, they have improved steadily over the last three seasons, with young British driver Lando Norris impressive with several podium finishes.
It was their Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo who managed to get their first win in nine years, taking advantage of the Hamilton/Verstappen crash to win in Monza, his first race win for three years.
Ricciardo is a former Red Bull driver and has won several races before, so while his win in Italy was impressive, he has shown before he was capable of such drives. The young Frenchman Estaban Ocon on the other hand was not expected to be winning races this year.
Driving for Alpine, he had a number of low points finishes in his mid-table car, not ending higher than 7th until the Hungarian GP. There, he capitalised on a big incident on the first corner, to secure his, and Alpine’s, first-ever win.
Drivers moving teams in ‘silly season’
The summer break is usually followed by ‘silly season’, the period where teams announce their lineups for the next season.
The biggest news this year was George Russell, the promising young British driver, moving from Williams to Mercedes, in place of established driver Valtteri Bottas.
Bottas had been at Mercedes for five seasons but had never truly pushed for a World Championship. The Finnish driver is moving to Alfa Romeo, replacing his fellow countryman Kimi Räikkönen.
Alex Albon had to sit out of this F1 season after he lost his Red Bull seat to Sergio Perez. However, the popular driver will be back at the top table next year, as he is taking Russell’s old seat at Williams.
There are still eight races to go this year, with so much still to be decided. Let’s hope the excitement continues, and that there are many twists and turns still to come in this unpredictable sport.