Driver, Team, Car, Race and Disappointment of the Year

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Race winner and 2021 F1 World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing celebrates with his team after the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)Each year we give our own Formula 1 Awards, the season as we saw it trimmed down to ten areas deserving a mention as  2021 comes to a close.

GrandPrix247 Editor Jad Mallak and Publisher Paul Velasco combined to dissect the highlights of an epic season deserving awards and/or mentions. Yesterday we published Part 1 of our F1 Awards, this is the second part

Driver of the Year: Max Verstappen

That was a close one to call, and honestly, it went to Verstappen on the basis of him winning the Championship, as he and his runner up Lewis Hamilton, were so close to each other in terms of their performance levels, and on another one compared to the other drivers.

However, 2021 was one of the Dutchman’s best seasons if not his best, as he cut down on errors, and was always delivering at the highest level, extracting the last ounce of performance out of his Red Bull RB16B, while being under extreme pressure from a formidable opponent in the form of Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes.

Binning his car in qualifying for the Saudi Arabian GP may be the only time when he seemed to be cracking, but in Abu Dhabi, he was cool enough and kept it together to eventually win the race and the Championship.

Despite all controversies, Verstappen remains a fully worthy champion and the GRANDPRIX247 F1 Award for Driver of the Year.

Paul Velasco: “Max ticked all the boxes. His coming of age at Zandvoort under a national spotlight was the stuff of legends. In the end, he and Hamilton deserved a fitting end to their season for the ages. Nevertheless, in a season of finest margins, Max got the job done to be F1 World Champion. No doubt the first of many F1 titles heading his way.”

awards Verstappen claims he does feel like the World Champion

Team of the Year: Red Bull

That was a close call as well between Mercedes and Red Bull, but the energy drinks outfit has consistently delivered superior performance over the season, on all aspects: strategy, pitstops, car design/development, and Honda’s impressive power unit.

They might have lost out on the Constructors’ Championship to Mercedes, but it is worth noting that Sergio Perez took some time to get up to speed, so he didn’t bring in as many points required, but the Mexican was the best team player possible supporting Max Verstappen during the races with Turkey and Abu Dhabi being excellent examples of that, while nothing similar was seen from the best “wingman” Valtteri Bottas, which swings this award towards Red Bull.

Paul Velasco: “The team built around Max delivered. They may not have won the Constructors’ Title but everything their star driver needed he got. From a top car to the slickest of pitstops plus a crew that went the extra mile whenever required making the Bulls a worthy team of the year.”

award Can Formula 1 be better next year after exciting 2021?

Race of the Year: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

This one took some contemplating and thinking, with many races popping up as contenders, and that should not be any surprise for such a season as the one we just had, and it went down to the wire, just like this year’s Championship, between Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

Brazil earned consideration for being a turning point as Lewis Hamilton started his counterattack on Max Verstappen, winning everything from there up to the Abu Dhabi GP, which for us is the “Race of the Year”.

It was the finale after all, and the two title contenders entered it tied on points with Verstappen’s advantage being the extra win he had on Hamilton, making things simple; whoever finished ahead gets the Title, and the more interesting scenario meaning that if both DNF, Verstappen wins. Mouth-watering stuff.

Despite most of the race’s duration swaying towards Hamilton taking his eighth F1 Title, controversy was abundant during the race, right from the first lap incident when Hamilton wasn’t asked to yield after cutting the corner, and of course, the post-Nicholas Latifi crash safety car soap opera, which gave us the heart-attack-inducing final-lap-sprint, a lap you can tell your grandchildren about.

Baku’s two-lap sprint race didn’t stand a chance against that final lap under the Yas Marina floodlights, hence the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix takes this one.

Paul Velasco: “There were too many candidates for this one. But the Yas Marina, controversy-packed, finale had it all from last lap chaos and everything that ensued before that and afterwards. That it descended into an unsatisfactory farce hopefully triggers a rigorous upheaval of the FIA’s officiating systems. For all the right reasons the Max vs Lewis showdown was billed as “the race of this Century” and indeed it was but, alas, for all the wrong reasons.”

hamilton Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance Launch

Car of the Year: Mercedes W12

The Mercedes W12 might not have started the season as “Car of the Year” material, as it seemed to have lost quite some performance due to the 2021 revised floor regulations, but Mercedes kept faith in their machine and developed it to what we venture to label the “best Formula 1 car” in the history of the sport, keeping in mind that next year’s F1 machines will be slower, until further notice.

The W12 kept on improving over the course of the season, and especially after the Silverstone upgrade package, and was at its formidable best after having that “spicy engine” bolted to its back in Brazil, maintaining an edge over Red Bull’s RB16B until the end of the season.

If it weren’t for our faith in the genius of F1 engineers, no one would be blamed to believe that no faster F1 car may be seen again.

Paul Velasco: “The W12 had a tough act to follow and while it may go down as the Mercedes that did not win the Title during their eight-year cavalcade, but it was a formidable piece of kit. I would venture when they unleashed the beast in Brazil it was probably the most potent car of this era.”

vettel stroll 2022 aston martin

Disappointment of the Year: Aston Martin

Not really an F1 Award…

The fanfare with which Aston Martin announced their reincarnation from Racing Point was the only highlight of the team’s 2021 Formula 1 season, and it was a pity that a car as beautiful as the AMR21 did not feature at the competitive end of the grid in 2021.

With its “Pink Mercedes” predecessor netting the team (in Racing Point guise) third in the 2020 Constructors’ Championship, the “Green Mercedes” fell prey to the new floor regulations of 2021, as the team failed to develop it out of the performance hole it fell into.

Sebastian Vettel got the team their first podium in Baku, but the team’s incompetence lost the German an impressive second place in Hungary due to a fuel infringement, not to mention the botched pitstop in the same race that cost the four-time Champion a potential win. Disappointing…

Paul Velasco: “Pre-season Aston Martin was one of the most exciting projects to hit F1 ever, they ticked all the boxes with aggressive hiring of the best brains in the paddock, building a state-of-the-art HQ, signing Sebastian Vettel, delivering hugely impressive marketing and media programmes to make Lawrence Stroll’s dream a reality. However, the first modern Aston F1 car was a dud and thus they underdelivered, sadly and I imagine the Big Boss wasn’t happy.”