SEASON IN REVIEW: 2021 Formula 1 World Championship – Mclaren F1 Team
the McLaren F1 Team found a new level of confidence in 2021 and demonstrated some of the form seen in the team’s glory days. Yes, the British team fell horribly short of third place in the constructors’ championship for Scuderia Ferrari but nevertheless it was a memorable year.
out of the shadow of Carlos Sainz Jr. Lando Norris pushed his heart throughout the season and was only a few laps away from victory at the Russian Grand Prixwhere he also won his first Formula One Pole position. The British driver has always been able to face not only the Ferrari drivers, but also the Running of the red bulls and Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Queues. Norris was unlucky not to finish fifth in the Drivers’ Championship, the British driver finished the year in sixth when he was actually third for the vast majority.
by Daniel Ricciardo The first season at McLaren was, it is fair to say, eventful! The Australian took too long to adapt to the MCL35M and was beaten far too many times by his less experienced teammate. As always, the Honey Badger gritted its teeth and dug deep, eventually finding its way to the top half of the grid. Of course, the peak of Ricciardo’s year came at the Italian Grand Prixwhere he took his first victory since 2018, and the team’s first since 2012. This Grand Prix marked the peak of the season for Ricciardo, who continued to trail behind Norris ever since.
The hights :
The Italian Grand Prix was of course the team’s biggest moment of the 2021 season, a race that not only saw Ricciardo take his first win since the Monaco 2018 grand prize but it was also Mclaren’s first victory since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix. That’s not all, with Norris completing a one-two for Mclaren at the National Autodrome of Monzait was McLaren’s first double since the Canadian Grand Prix 2010. Mclaren were the only team in 2021 to achieve a double, neither Red Bull nor Mercedes could match that feat.
Ricciardo’s victory in Italy was almost followed by Norris’ victory in Russia, only for a sudden change in weather conditions to snatch his first Formula 1 victory from him. The Russian Grand Prix is both a highlight and a weak moment for the team. Norris claimed his first-ever F1 pole position in equally changeable conditions and looked in complete control of the majority of the Grand Prix. Norris almost certainly would have taken the win had the rain not arrived, or had he stopped early for intermediate tyres. It was the bravest of risks to stay on Slicks, one that was clearly not favored by the elements.
Norris’ defense of the header, however, over Hamilton is what keeps the Russian Grand Prix a high for the team, many fail to keep the seven-time world champion behind, Norris has however proven he is more than capable of battling with the best and is sure to be a contender in future world championships. His ability to fight with the strongest in the field has earned him new podiums in 2021 at the Emilia-RomagnaMonaco and Austrian Grand Prizes.
The socks :
Although 2021 has been a season full of so much positivity for Mclaren, there have been some particularly disappointing moments for the team. As mentioned, victory in the Russian Grand Prix, let alone a podium, was cruelly taken away from Norris in the most unpredictable of circumstances. The sudden downpour, which only seemed to occur at certain points on the track, grew incredibly stronger on each of the final laps. It was a risky decision by Norris to try and brave the elements on his Slicks, a decision that cost him not only victory but also a podium.
Wet conditions tended not to be Mclaren’s friend in 2021, the incredible Hungarian Grand Prix was the only event of the season where the team scored no points. Norris after a strong qualifying was taken out of the race after being hit by Valtteri Bottas, while Ricciardo could only recover an eleventh place. What follows Belgian Grand Prix saw one of the most dramatic qualifying sessions of the season, one that Norris and Mclaren will sadly find hard to forget. Norris suffered a huge accident at the top of Eau Rouge, in some of the most dangerous conditions in modern Formula 1.
McLaren’s season from Mexican Grand Prix From there it was undoubtedly a series of difficult times for the team, as they saw their hopes of winning the constructors’ third place snatched away by Ferrari. Ferrari’s end-of-season upgrades were simply too much to compete with for McLaren, which was regularly beaten in the final rounds of the season by Prancing Horses. Mclaren’s late-season struggles weren’t all down to Ferrari’s new pace, the British team suffered a series of considerable bad luck.
In qualifying Norris was the main man for Mclaren, the British driver outqualified his new teammate fifteen times in 2021, Ricciardo only managed to beat Norris seven times in qualifying. It was the same story in the Sprint qualifying events last season, Norris winning two of the three events.
Norris’ best qualifying position in 2021 was of course first, having won the first pole position of his Formula 1 career as mentioned earlier. Ricciardo’s best qualifying performance was not too far off that of Norris, the Australian technically qualifying second for the Italian Grand Prix, after a strong sprint qualifying at Monza. His best result just from the usual qualifying session itself, however in 2021, was fourth at the Belgian Grand Prix.
As for Sunday, it was exactly the same story at Mclaren, with Norris finishing above Ricciardo fifteen times in 2021, with Ricciardo finishing above Norris seven times. Ricciardo’s best result was obviously his victory at Monza, with Norris’ best result also being at the Italian Grand Prix after finishing a career-best second place.
The Mclaren duo were on par when it came to retirements over the course of the season, with Norris suffering his only DNF at the Hungarian Grand Prix and Ricciardo suffering his at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix. After clearly spending the season in Norris’ shadow, Ricciardo has achieved something in 2021 that the young British driver has not. Ricciardo set the fastest lap in the Italian Grand Prix, a feat which was dominated by Red Bull and Mercedes during the year.
What to expect in 2022?
It is so difficult to predict what will happen in 2022 with the complete overhaul of sporting regulations, but there is a sneaky suspicion that Mclaren will be there in the fight. 2021 was their first season with a Mercedes engine this of course led to some issues the Woking based team should now have a better understanding of how the chassis should be designed to get the most out of the unit Mercedes power. There’s no reason Mclaren can’t be a leading figure in 2022 and claim victory on a more consistent basis.
Next season presents Norris with a huge opportunity as the British driver prepares to enter his fourth season in the sport, as for the first time really in his F1 career he will be on a more equal playing field. The next step for Norris is to take his first victory, he has proven countless times now that he has the pace and the talent to fight up front, the only thing left is to finish Sunday on the highest market. If he wants to fight for the title, he will have to claim victory in the first half of the 2022 season.
Ricciardo has perhaps the biggest year of his F1 career ahead of him in 2022, 2021 was really the first time he was consistently beaten by a teammate. Like Norris, Ricciardo is on a level playing field in 2022, with all riders having to adapt their riding style to the new machines, his experience could play a vital role in adapting his style as quickly as possible. If he struggles in 2022, then Mclaren’s big-money signing could be looking over his shoulder at the likes of the Mclaren IndyCar driver Pato O’Wardwho tested for the team at the end of the Young Driver Test season and is highly regarded by Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren.