Formula 1

SEASON REVIEW: 2021 Formula 1 World Championship – Red Bull Racing

5 Mins read
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

2021 will go down in history as one of the greatest world championships that has ever been seen in Formula One, the excitement, the controversy and the incredible climax. Red Bull Racing played a huge part in the monumental season, a year which saw the team just miss out on their first Constructors’ Championship since 2013 but did see Max Verstappen achieve his lifelong dream and become a Formula One World Champion, the first Dutchman to ever do so. Verstappen joins a small group of drivers to beat Lewis Hamilton to the title, albeit in controversial fashion.

Controversy aside, Verstappen raised his game in 2021 with the help of the breathtaking RB16, the Dutchman claimed ten victories across the twenty-two rounds as well as ten pole positions. Verstappen wasn’t the only Red Bull driver to take victory this season, with his new team-mate for 2021 Sergio Pérez claiming a memorable victory at Azerbaijan. Pérez has had a mixed year, the Mexican took his time adjusting to the RB16 stating at the start of the season just how different it was to any F1 car he had driven in the past.

When he got up to speed though, Pérez was mighty fast and played a key role in Verstappen’s championship triumph, after slowing Hamilton’s momentum at important stages in the championship, most notably at the Turkish and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix’s. The Mexican enjoyed many podiums in 2021 as well as his single victory, however none would’ve felt more sweet than his third place at the Mexican Grand Prix. In the end Pérez claimed fourth place in the Driver’s Championship.

Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez celebrating their double podium at the Mexican Grand Prix – Credit: Mark Thompson/ Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The Highs:

There were many highs for Red Bull in 2021 but the biggest high for the team is of course the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and Verstappen’s championship winning victory, where he made that last lap overtake on Hamilton to claim the title. The race summed up the immense partnership Verstappen and Pérez have built for each other, the Mexican’s defence against Hamilton after the British driver had made his opening pit-stop was unbelievable. Pérez’s defending allowed Verstappen to close an almost ten-second gap to Hamilton, down to under a second.

Had this not happened Hamilton would’ve had a big enough gap most likely come the dramatic late safety car, to pit for fresh tyres and remain in the lead. This wasn’t the first time that the pair had worked together, as they did so back at the French Grand Prix where the team’s strategy and the drivers teamwork made the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team look defeated. The team’s strategy saw them close on both Mercedes drivers in the closing stages of the surprisingly thrilling race at the Circuit Paul Ricard, with Verstappen overtaking both Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton in the final laps to take victory, with Pérez getting past Bottas to take third.

The third chosen high comes with the team’s double podium at the Mexican Grand Prix, a hugely significant day for the team and Mexican motorsport as Pérez claimed the most special podium of his career at home. Mercedes had locked out the front but it was Verstappen in third who was bravest into Turn 1, the Dutchman took the lead and never looked back whilst Hamilton behind had to defend from a rapidly closing Pérez late on.

Sergio Pérez defending against Lewis Hamilton incredibly at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Credit: Clive Rose/ Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The Lows:

When there are highs, there will always be lows, Red Bull’s 2021 campaign was no different. The first low came at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix despite Pérez claiming victory. The race would’ve been comfortably won by Verstappen, had the Dutchman not suffered one of the scariest crashes of the season after suffering a tyre failure at over 200mph down the main straight. It was a heart in the mouth moment for the team however Pérez claiming the victory after Hamilton’s lock-up, did ease the team’s pain.

The biggest low was of course the British Grand Prix and the boiling point between Vertsappen and Hamilton on the opening lap of the race. Hamilton’s move up the inside of the Dutchman at Copse, saw the pair collide sending Verstappen off into the barrier at 180mph followed by an unimaginable 51G impact. Verstappen walked away just about okay whilst Hamilton took victory at home despite being awarded a penalty. The pair also collided at the Italian Grand Prix in what was another big incident.

On this occasion Verstappen tried to go around the outside of Hamilton at the opening chicane after the British driver was exciting the pits, there simply wasn’t enough room though as Verstappen bounced over the sausage kerbs and landed on top of Hamilton’s Mercedes, the halo was the only thing keeping Verstappen’s RB16 off of Hamilton’s helmet.

The final key low moment for the team came at the damp Hungarian Grand Prix, where both Red Bull’s were involved in an opening lap crash caused by Bottas. The Mercedes driver braked too late and went up the back of Lando Norris, who in return then slid into both Pérez and Verstappen. Pérez was forced into retirement whilst Verstappen brought home a wounded RB16 in ninth place. The race saw Hamilton claim a twelve-point lead in the championship at the time.

The aftermath of Max Verstappen’s and Lewis Hamilton’s collision at the Italian Grand Prix – Credit: LAT Images

Qualifying Battle:

Verstappen was significantly dominant over Pérez in qualifying, the Dutchman out-qualified the Mexican twenty times in 2021, with ten of those being in the form of pole position. Pérez only managed to out-qualify the 2021 World Champion twice. Verstappen was also dominant in the sprint qualifying experiments, finishing above his team-mate in all three of the events coming at the British, Italian and Brazilian Grand Prix’s.

Max Verstappen taking pole at the US Grand Prix – Credit: Mark Thompson/ Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Race Battle:

It was a similar story in 2021 when it came to Sunday, Verstappen finished higher than Pérez nineteen times this season, with the Mexican only finishing above the Dutchman three times in the year. All three times however when Pérez out-finished Verstappen, came at the three races where Verstappen retired, the Azerbaijan, British and Italian Grand Prix’s. Clearly it was a hugely dominant season for Verstappen over his team-mate, on his way to the 2021 crown.

Max Verstappen taking victory at the Styrian Grand Prix – Credit: Clive Rose/ Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

What To Expect In 2022?:

It is well-known that Red Bull heavily developed their 2021 car in their attempt to finally conquer Mercedes, which of course they successfully accomplished. The question now though is how much time was put into their 2021 car compared to preparing their car for next season? No matter how prepared or unprepared they are for the new regulations, it would be safe to predict that Red Bull will be amongst the front-runners as Verstappen looks to defend his crown. Whether they will be off the pace at the start of the season due to the amount of time they have spent on their 2021 car remains to be seen, however they will as always have a package which can challenge for at least the podium.

It will be a big year for Pérez who must start 2022 better than he started 2021, otherwise he could find himself without a seat come 2023 if the likes of Yuki Tsunoda or the returning Alex Albon deliver next season. Verstappen will enter 2022 no longer as the hunter, he will now be the one being hunted, it’s likely this won’t phase him though with 2021 proving that the World Champion is capable of rising to the challenge!

Credit: FIA/Handout/via Getty Images
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