Sports Opinion: Formula One Season Begins With Upsets



Drivers race in a Formula One event from the 2010 season.

After a thrilling finish to the 2021 Formula One season, Max Verstappen claimed his first World Driver’s Championship by narrowly edging out the reign- ing champion and eight-time title winner, Lewis Hamilton, on the last lap of the last race of the season, following a much criticized rules decision. From start to finish, the 2021 season was nothing short of historical; filled with on and off-track bitterness and animosity as it brought the closest title battle in years. After just three races, this season is proving to be no different as revolutionary regulation changes have provided smaller teams an opportunity to challenge more historically successful teams. With nineteen races still remaining, there is a lot to look forward to for the rest of the 2021 Formula 1 season.

The season kicked off with the Bah- rain Grand Prix on March 20, and after a strong qualifying performance, Ferrari seemed to have buried their woes from recent years, following up a strong qualifying performance, with their drivers, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, finishing in the first and second positions respectively. Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, who was behind Leclerc in second place for the entirety of the race, suffered a fuel pressure failure with three laps to go, causing him not to finish. His teammate, Sergio Perez, suffered the same issue two laps later, ending a Grand Prix to forget for Red Bull. Mercedes, the 2021 Constructor Champions, struggled to carry previous success over to the opening race of the season; a poor qualifying session plagued by car issues saw them finish in fifth and ninth. Helped by Red Bull’s troubles, Mercedes was able to turn their week- end around with great drives from Lewis Hamilton and new signee George Russell. Hamilton secured the last podium spot and Russell finished behind him in fourth. With a powerful Ferrari-made engine under the hood, the only American team in Formula 1, Haas, surprised many after finishing fifth and eleventh, since they had not a single top-10 result last season. Re- turning for his second stint at Haas, Kev- in Magnussen was immediately back at home, capping off the opening race of the season with an impressive fifth place. His rookie teammate, son of the legendary Michael Schumacher, Mick, finished eleventh. Ex-Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas capped off an impressive drive at sixth in his new Alfa Romeo, while Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda finished in eighth between Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso. Rounding off the top ten was Bottas’ teammate, rookie Zhou Guanyu, Chi- na’s first-ever Formula 1 driver. A week later, drivers flew to Saudi Arabia for the second Grand Prix of the race calendar. Sergio Perez started in pole position after winning the qualifying session, but he fell short on race day finishing in fourth place. Verstappen however, outperformed his teammate and won the race in dramatic fashion as he was able to overtake Leclerc with three laps to go, securing his first win of the season. The pair of Ferrari’s picked up the last two podium spots with Leclerc once again finishing above Sainz. George Russell finished in fifth while Lewis Hamilton’s car was the tenth to cross the finish line, ending another disappointing week- end for Mercedes. The drivers returned to Australia for the first race in Melbourne since 2019, and once again, Charles Leclerc impressed. The Monegasque driver won his second race of the season by following up his top qualifying position with a comfortable win. Sainz, however, spun into the gravel on the first lap, putting an end to his short-lived race. Verstappen didn’t do much better, as an engine failure ended his race on the thirty-eighth lap. Perez finished second and George Russell earned the first podium finish of his Formula 1 career, while Hamilton followed him in fourth.

For the rest of the season, I predict Ferrari will be crowned winners of the Constructors Championship for the first time since 2008, despite a late-season resurgence from Hamilton and Mercedes. As for the driver’s championship, I believe Charles Leclerc will narrowly edge out Hamilton and Verstappen en route to his first-ever World Drivers Title. Leclerc and Ferrari both hold comfortable leads over their competitors but with nineteen races now left in the calendar, no one can predict the excitement and controversy from now until November in Abu Dhabi.