• Chris Kato

The 5 Biggest Surprises From the 2021 F1 Season So Far

It's been a memorable season so far but which moments have stood out the most in 2021?

We've reached the unofficial halfway point of the 2021 season as teams and drivers embark on their well deserved summer breaks. Through 11 races so far, we've seen plenty of great racing, off-track drama, and memorable moments that have kept us on the edge of our seats. As we reach the traditional summer break, we're going to look at the 5 biggest surprises so far in the first half of the 2021 season. Be it individual moments or general storylines, their have been plenty of shocking things about this F1 season that we will discuss in our list today.

5. Ocon's Maiden F1 Victory

What better way to kick off our list then with the most recent race that I'm sure shocked most F1 fans around the world. The 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix delivered an absolutely classic race that was a perfect send off for the summer break. Alpine's Esteban Ocon entered Hungary having had a solid start to his 2021 season but recent struggles have seen him lose some ground to his veteran teammate Alonso. Regardless, he's been able to match and at times get the better of his teammate after many expected him to struggle against the two time World Champion. His best result entering this weekend was a 7th place back in the Portuguese Grand Prix but Ocon saw his hard work and perseverance pay off in Budapest. The Frenchmen took the lead after the red flag restart and never looked back. Through relentless pressure from a 4 time World Champion and others, Ocon showed great maturity and poise to seal his first career win and Alpine's maiden victory in the sport. After a very long road and at times an uncertain future, seeing Esteban Ocon on the top step of the podium was shocking to say the least. But it was a well earned win and a moment that we certainly couldn't have predicted at the start of this year considering Alpine's form!

4. Norris' Rise to Superstardom

Their are a few drivers that you could consider as your standout performer in 2021 and I'm sure many would have Lando Norris at the top of their list. In what has been a pleasant surprise so far, Norris has taken his driving to the elite level and has commanded the number one spot at McLaren. We always knew he was good but his first half of the season has been nothing short of outstanding. If it wasn't for Bottas' torpedo in Hungary, Norris would've been the only driver to finish all 11 races in the points. Nevertheless, 10 out of 11 points finishes in 2021 with 3 podiums and a front row start is still mighty impressive. The most surprising aspect of Norris' season and something that we didn't expect, is the fact that he's 3rd in the drivers standings at the midway point of the season. He's earned that position through merit and with the struggles of Bottas and Perez at times in 2021, finishing in 3rd place is not an unrealistic target. Consider the fact that Norris has outclassed his highly rated teammate through all of this season and it all adds up to something that we didn't necessarily predict before the 2021 campaign.

3. The Struggles of the Number 2 Drivers

On the flip side of surprises, many didn't expect to see drivers like Daniel Ricciardo struggle so much at their new teams. It was a decent start to the year for Ricciardo with improvements expected as he got more comfortable with the MCL35M, but after 11 races he's still finding it difficult at his new team and the gap to his teammate Norris is quite large. He's only out-qualified his teammate 3 times this season and is currently sitting 63 points behind him in the championship. It's been surprising to see Ricciardo's continuous struggles throughout 2021 and the fact that McLaren is still holding onto 3rd in the Constructor's shows just how strong Lando has been this year.

As for another number two, Valtteri Bottas' 2021 campaign has been dreadful to say the least. It started off very promising in Bahrain when he had the pace to win but ever since then, it's been a combination of awful luck and lack of performance. It's led to Bottas being only 4th in the championship and winless so far in 2021. Interestingly enough, Esteban Ocon has led more laps this season than Valtteri Bottas has. With all the rumors surrounding that second Mercedes seat, Bottas' performances in 2021 have raised some eyebrows around the paddock, and not in a good way.

2. Seven Different Teams Score Podiums

It might be Hamilton and Verstappen hogging the race wins in 2021, but what's come as a little bit of a surprise is the amount of teams who have scored podiums so far this season. Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Alpha Tauri, Alpine, and McLaren have scored one or more podiums in 11 races so far. That's meant that 10 out of the 20 drivers have tasted champagne by the mid point of the season so it's been great to see a variety of teams up on the podium. Will the other half of the grid be able to score podiums in the next 12 races? I doubt the likes of Haas and Williams will be able to accomplish this but you never know what could happen!

1. A Close Championship

After testing in Bahrain, we were cautiously optimistic about the 2021 championship but we needed to wait a few races to see whether Red Bull were for real. Now 11 races in, we can be very glad that we finally have a close championship that seems like it will go down to the wire. The regulation changes really shook up the order at the front and it's made for a classic championship fight between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. The last few years we've been constantly let down by non-competitive championships so many were expecting another dominant year for Mercedes. The fact that they've struggled at times and arguably don't have the fastest car is enough of a surprise to make this list. Before Silverstone, Red Bull had won 5 races in a row which has been unheard of in the hybrid era. It solidified Red Bull's pre-season form that Verstappen is a true threat to the championship and the first half of the season has exceeded all of our expectations. Now as we enter the summer break, Hamilton leads the way with a slim 6 point lead over Verstappen (although that could change depending on Aston Martin's appeal on Vettel's Hungarian GP DQ). In many ways, Hamilton and Mercedes will feel quite lucky to be leading both championships as they go off on their holidays but as F1 fans, we're super thrilled that it is this close and we're in for a grand finale with many more races to come!

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