Which F1 drivers will beat their team mates in 2021?

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The contests between team mates are one of the most absorbing aspects of Formula 1 as they give us a rare opportunity to compare drivers in the same, or at least very similar, machinery.

Following upheaval on the driver market for the 2021 F1 season, only Mercedes and Alfa Romeo have kept the same driver pairings for the upcoming.

Who will come out on top at each team this year – and how accurately did RaceFans readers assess the 2020 line-ups 12 months ago? Read on to find out.

Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton vs Valtteri Bottas

It’s the fifth year for the longest-running partnership on the Formula 1 grid today. Hamilton has out-scored Bottas in every season so far but, as his previous team mate Nico Rosberg demonstrated, he can be beaten.

While Bottas occasionally managed to put one over Hamilton in qualifying last year, rare were the days when he looked a consistent threat for his team mate over a race distance. And when George Russell stepped up in place of Hamilton for the penultimate round of the championship, Bottas didn’t exactly cover himself in glory.

Unless Red Bull or another team produces a championship-contending car, Bottas may be the greatest obstacle Hamilton faces to winning a record-breaking eighth world title this year. But while Hamilton’s future is in his own hands, Bottas is driving to secure his future at F1’s top team.

Last year: 96% of RaceFans readers correctly predicted Hamilton would come out on top again

Which Mercedes driver will finish ahead in this year's championship?

  • Lewis Hamilton (97%)
  • Valtteri Bottas (3%)

Total Voters: 251

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Red Bull: Max Verstappen vs Sergio Perez

In Sergio Perez, Red Bull are making their third attempt in as many seasons at finding a capable team mate for Max Verstappen, since Daniel Ricciardo walked out in 2018.

Will Perez fare any better against one of F1’s top drivers than Pierre Gasly or Alexander Albon did? Nearing his 200th grand prix start, he certainly has far greater reserves of experience to draw on than his predecessors.

Last year: Verstappen was the overwhelming favourite to come out ahead, chosen by 95% of you, and so it proved.

Which Red Bull driver will finish ahead in this year's championship?

  • Max Verstappen (93%)
  • Sergio Perez (7%)

Total Voters: 256

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McLaren: Lando Norris vs Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris, McLaren, 2021
Ricciardo has his fourth different team mate in as many years after McLaren move

Ricciardo is widely regarded as one of the grid’s most likeable drivers, but on the track he’s an iron fist in a velvet glove, both a first-rate qualifier and a daring wheel-to-wheel racer. He will provide a challenging new benchmark for Norris, who measured up well against Carlos Sainz Jnr in his first two seasons.

Last year: Just over two-thirds of you picked Sainz to beat Norris, and he did, though his younger team mate led the way in the championship for much of the year.

Which McLaren driver will finish ahead in this year's championship?

  • Lando Norris (15%)
  • Daniel Ricciardo (85%)

Total Voters: 254

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Aston Martin: Lance Stroll vs Sebastian Vettel

The former Racing Point team has a pair of drivers who were comprehensively beaten by their team mates last year. New arrival Sebastian Vettel brings over a decade of Formula 1 know-how and the rebranded team expect his arrival will help raise them to the next level.

Last year: By an overwhelming majority of 98%, RaceFans readers backed Perez to come out on top. He did – but lost his seat anyway.

Which Aston Martin driver will finish ahead in this year's championship?

  • Lance Stroll (17%)
  • Sebastian Vettel (83%)

Total Voters: 254

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Alpine: Esteban Ocon vs Fernando Alonso

Alpine’s two drivers have both departed F1 at the end of 2018. Ocon returned last year, while twice-champion Alonso spent two seasons away.

It took until the final races of last year for Ocon to start looking like the driver he was when he left. Don’t expect Alonso, who tested frequently for Renault at the end of last year, to take as long to get back up to speed, notwithstanding a recent cycling accident which left him with a fractured jaw.

Last year: As predicted by 88% of RaceFans readers, Ricciardo out-scored Ocon at Renault last season

Which Alpine driver will finish ahead in this year's championship?

  • Esteban Ocon (20%)
  • Fernando Alonso (80%)

Total Voters: 252

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Ferrari: Charles Leclerc vs Carlos Sainz Jnr

It’s taken Leclerc just two years to make Ferrari look like his team, comprehensively seeing off Vettel last year. His new team mate thrived at McLaren but can expect to find Ferrari a very different environment.

Last year: Leclerc’s ascendance didn’t surprise RaceFans readers – 82% of you picked him to beat Vettel 12 months ago

Which Ferrari driver will finish ahead in this year's championship?

  • Charles Leclerc (86%)
  • Carlos Sainz Jnr (14%)

Total Voters: 254

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AlphaTauri: Pierre Gasly vs Yuki Tsunoda

Pierre Gasly, Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT02 livery launch, 2021
Tsunoda is the only 2021 rookie to be paired with an experienced driver

Yuki Tsunoda is the only rookie driver on the grid who will have to go up against an experienced racer. Aside from a tough half-season at Red Bull at the beginning of 2019, Gasly has fared well in F1, and even scored a shock win at Monza last year. Tsunoda knows how good Gasly is from watching him racing in Japan four years ago.

Last year: Daniil Kvyat was shown the door after being comprehensively out-scored by Gasly, who was picked to come out on top by 79% of our readers

Which AlphaTauri driver will finish ahead in this year's championship?

  • Pierre Gasly (87%)
  • Yuki Tsunoda (13%)

Total Voters: 255

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Alfa Romeo: Kimi Raikkonen vs Antonio Giovinazzi

This is the only team besides Mercedes with an unchanged line-up for the new season. Giovinazzi has steadily improved since making his full-time F1 debut in 2019. But he’s up against the most experienced driver in the sport’s history, and while Giovinazzi gave Raikkonen an increasingly hard time in qualifying last year, the 2007 world champion tended to end up ahead on race day.

Last year: While Raikkonen was the overwhelming favourite among our readers, 80% of which chose him to come out on top, he ended the season tied with Giovinazzi on four points each, albeit classified ahead on count-back of ninth-place finishes.

Which Alfa Romeo driver will finish ahead in this year's championship?

  • Kimi Raikkonen (60%)
  • Antonio Giovinazzi (40%)

Total Voters: 253

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Haas: Mick Schumacher vs Nikita Mazepin

Haas is the first team to begin a season with an all-rookie line-up since Manor fielded Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto five years back.

On paper, Mick Schumacher is surely the pick of the pair, considering his Formula 2 and Formula 3 titles, plus Ferrari testing experience. But Mazepin has had the use of a Mercedes F1 car to hone his abilities in an undisclosed number of private outings, and may be better-placed to make the transition from F2 to F1.

Last year: Top 10 finishes were hard to come by at Haas. While 80% of you tipped Kevin Magnussen to be the team’s top scorer, he collected just one point to Grosjean’s two

Which Haas driver will finish ahead in this year's championship?

  • Mick Schumacher (88%)
  • Nikita Mazepin (12%)

Total Voters: 254

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Williams: George Russell vs Nicholas Latifi

Following his star turn as Hamilton’s substitute at the Sakhir Grand Prix, big things are expected of Russell once he gets a competitive car underneath him. Latifi had a solid but unspectacular first season in F1. But both need Williams to continue the progress they made last year for points to be a regular possibility.

Last year: Russell scored his only points in a Mercedes; based on their results at Williams, Latifi would have come out on top by dint of his greater number of 11th place finishes, an outcome just 3% of readers predicted.

Which Williams driver will finish ahead in this year's championship?

  • George Russell (97%)
  • Nicholas Latifi (3%)

Total Voters: 253

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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98 comments on “Which F1 drivers will beat their team mates in 2021?”

  1. Seems like this year is very one-sided in all teams…

    1. Some team yes, but other I think will be pretty close. McLaren (Ricciardo I think wins, but won’t be by much), Ferrari (A lot of people underrate Sainz), Alfa (didn’t Gio beat Kimi last year?), Aston Martin (Was Leclerce that good or Vettel that bad?).

      RB, Mercedes, Williams, Alpine and AT will be very one sided. I can see Alonso and Russell win again in Qualy by 23-0.

      1. @marcel ”tied with Giovinazzi on four points each, albeit classified ahead on count-back of ninth-place finishes.”
        I reckon Vettel was as bad as he was.

        1. The back marker teams are more of a lottery when comparing drivers on points as they usually have to have been lucky, as well as skilful, to have scored them

      2. If you think Ricciardo will very easily beat Norris at a new team and you rate Sainz highly enough to think he will be close to Leclerc, just how high do you rate Ricciardo? Sainz and Norris were basically dead even.

        I think Ricciardo and Norris could well be close, but wouldn’t be surprised if Ricciardo is the better one. But I am one of those who think Sainz has been over rated the past couple of years. He’s basically never really looked convincingly better than Norris who was a rookie the year before last, and I think Sainz wasn’t quite as good last year as he was in 2019 due to more mistakes.

        I myself can’t see Leclerc and Sainz being very different to Hamilton and Bottas.

    2. This style of poll gives that illusion. It’s not to say there won’t be extremely close battles to the final round. Time will tell!

      1. Indeed, for example I voted verstappen but 97 vs 3% is not an accurate representation at all, I expect perez will do much better vs verstappen than his predecessor, if you think for example about the share of points it won’t be such a %, but more like 40% for perez.

        1. Much will depend on how Red Bull will treat Perez.
          He probably won’t have the same equipment/strategies/dedication of his teammate.

          1. @liko41 Ridiculous. Why would they do that to themselves as a team? And, you actually think Max needs the help, or wants it? You must simply just not be a RBR or a Max fan.

          2. @liko41

            He probably won’t have the same equipment/strategies/dedication of his teammate.

            You seem to be very informed about RBR internal team dynamics. Can you please share your sources or at least how you’ve got the info that Perez is indeed a n°2 driver ?

          3. @robbied90
            Yes,Maxiboy WANTS help and had always wanted it + enjoyed it.
            He even vetoed Sainz at RBR, lol.

          4. @tifoso1989
            Evidence, my friend.
            If you didn’t follow Formula 1, it’s not up to me to get you informed.
            LOL, you maxiboy fans are so hilarious!

          5. @liko41
            I’m not your friend and I’m following F1 before you were even born. Getting myself informed about F1 by you ! What a joke ! I think you need to get yourself educated before posting below toilet level comments.

          6. @tifoso1989
            I’m older than you, more competent than you and I honestly don’t have time to waste with groupies.
            And as far as education is concerned… just LOL!

          7. You’re not chill.

        2. I hope 97% get failed. Perez has got huge experience. The only thing I like stress is that, Max is going to succumb to the pressure from Perez which will make him do silly mistakes. People will start commenting on him, which will pressure him to commit more mistakes. Eventually he will end up behind Perez.

        3. Perez is not any faster than fe. Gasly is….
          Just look at some driver pairs from the past
          Per vs Hul > hul won the quali and race battle
          Per vs Oco > Oco better in both
          Per vs Stroll > Per just 0.052 sec faster in quali on average

          ric, vs Hulk, Ric vs Oco and Ver vs Ric as a frame of reference

    3. It’s just a poll, fans are voting. It would mean Bottas beating Hamilton at 1 of 20 seasons. I guess even car relaibility by itself would give him a higher probabilty. Not to mention luck at top levels of sports which is far from insignificant if we consider only a few races or a few seasons. Many drivers not even had sufficient amount of luck to meet their expected value, like Stirling Moss (and one or more titles), Nico Hulkenberg (and at least a few podiums).

      Similarly the 1 out of 12.5 for Perez outscorung Verstappen at a season is quite low, as Perez is at about Ricciardo quality, both are the very top of the midfield or at least very good second drivers of a top team. Basically I would give more chance to almost everyone who lost vs his teammate at this poll. Especially at Norris and Tsunoda, apart from the already mentioned ones.

      But this is the characteristic of winner takes all type polls (where one can choose only one, instead of multiple from multiple, or even rank the selected ones somehow). But of course there is nothing to do here as at a vs teammate poll there is only one to choose. I think they are mostly right, but with exaggerated percentages (without additional intel, like whether Tusonda will be a functional F1 driver or not, because in the first case his carreer trajectory hints much much more than winning 1 out 10 times).

      Hm so maybe where a poll is not a teammate comparison, but about the whole field, a choose multiple from multiple, and rank them, then that gives less distorted results than a choose one from many. So for example: who will have the most podium finishes if we not consider the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers, choose 6 drivers and rank them. Then by the ranking: 1st place worths 6 points, 2nd worths 5pts, … , 6th worths 1 point. And the output of the poll is these points summed up, or the sums compared.

      At a teammate comparison like this, maybe instead of choosing one from two, the reader could give his own probability for one driver beating his teammate. So for example one user votes like : Norris will beat Ricciardo with a 40% probability. Perez will beat Verstappen with 30% probability. Averaging these percentages, or taking their mean, or the mean from ranges is the sample size is not sufficiently big, will likely give a more expressive poll output.

      1. mean of ranges if the sample size is not sufficiently big

      2. @Jockey Ewing

        I rate Ricciardo higher than Perez.

        1. By perception I rate Ricciardo (a bit) higher than Perez as well, but somehow I had to find someone to categorize.

      3. That is not how you read the poll. You are changing the meaning of the data. It is what it is, and that is a 90% means that 90 out of each 100 fans think the guy will beat his team-mate, nothing else…

    4. Yes and everyone agrees. why is everyone so sure mick is going to beat mazepin? That is the only thing I question. I went out on a limb and voted for yuki but the rest is pretty one sided.

  2. Not one of these gave me too much cause for doubt. The closest battle is probably McLaren but I would have Ricciardo ahead.

    I suppose we might get an upset in Alfa/Haas/Williams where a single crazy race puts one driver ahead of the other, but other than that there don’t seem to be too many possibilities for surprises.

    1. Comparing the points standings vs. the reality of how well drivers did compared to each other last year shows that “finishing ahead” can be a bit of a gamble for these back of the field teams (although Russel is pretty certain to be better than lafiti I’d say.) @red-andy.

      I agree that McLaren might be close, I guess if Vettel gets back into a groove that could also make Aston Martin a close call the coming season. I expect Giovannazi to make more progress and possibly even beat Kimi. Will be interesting to see how the Haas kids do.

      I expect Mazepin to win in the infringements, but hard to tell how they both adapt to F1 – Schumacher took his time a bit in previous steps up the ladder.

      For the rest, I’t probably going to be pretty straightforward.

  3. My votes: HAM, VER, RIC, STR, ALO, LEC, GAS, GIO, MSC, RUS.
    BTW, Williams also has an unchanged lineup from last season, so a small error in the Alfa Romeo description.
    Regarding Mazepin, he tested for Mercedes at Circuit de Catalunya after the 2019 Spanish GP, but nothing more recent than that to my knowledge.

    1. MSC! I hope F1 uses MSC as his three-letter abbreviation instead of SCH. It always used to be a good little unique feature of Michael Schumacher that he was the only one to have his first name as part of his abbreviation because of the time that Ralf Schumacher was in the sport, and the commentators had a long discussion about it in the 2011 Brazilian GP.

      1. @f1frog
        I really hope for SCH, instead.
        Honestly, there is no need of another silly Michael-Mick comparison and poignant remembrance…

  4. My votes:
    Mercedes – Hamilton
    I want Bottas to win the championship this year, because I think he is extremely underrated by many fans. On pure pace, Bottas is almost as quick as Hamilton, but the two things that let him down are his inferior tyre-management, and that he is too psychologically affected by armchair critics, in my opinion. With Hamilton surely beginning to decline now, I think Bottas will be closer to his teammate this year, but Hamilton will still come out on top.
    Red Bull – Verstappen
    After completely annihilating both Gasly and Albon, and also being a major reason why Ricciardo left Red Bull, it is very hard to see Perez being any different. I think Perez will do a better job than either of his two predecessors (I expect him to always beat the midfield), but will still be a long way behind Verstappen.
    McLaren – Ricciardo
    Ricciardo will just shade Norris in this particular battle, but Norris is improving fast and I think it will one of the closest battles on the grid. However, I actually didn’t think Ricciardo was particularly good in his first year at Renault, definitely not at the start of the year when he was usually behind Hulkenberg, so Norris may lead this battle early in the season if Ricciardo takes a while to adapt to his new team/car.
    Racing Point – Vettel
    Last year, I rated Vettel as the worst driver on the grid, but I think a lot of this is down to a toxic atmosphere at Ferrari, as he knew he was leaving from the start of the year and the team probably favoured Leclerc. I do think Vettel is past his best, and he will not be as good as Perez was last year, but he should beat Lance Stroll, because he will be considerably better than he was in 2020.
    Renault – Alonso
    This was a tricky one. On the one hand, Alonso is arguably one of the best drivers in the history of Formula 1, but on the other hand, the same is true of Michael Schumacher, and his return after a few years out was a disaster. Granted, Nico Rosberg is a better driver than Esteban Ocon, but many people seem to have forgotten that Ocon was very impressive in Force India alongside Perez, and Ocon will probably be much better in 2021 than he was in 2020. Overall, I decided Alonso would win this one, as I don’t think his comeback will be as bad as Schumacher’s, although he will be a shadow of his former self.
    Ferrari – Leclerc
    There was a lot of talk about this one in the driver rankings, as Leclerc was third and Sainz fourth. But I think Leclerc will comfortably beat Sainz. I rated them sixth and seventh last year, but on pure pace Leclerc would have been a clear third, and not far off the top two. The only thing that dragged Leclerc down were the incidents he caused, and I think he will be able to eliminate them from his driving next year. As well as this, it will only be his fourth year in Formula one and, on average drivers tend to continue improving for their first four years. I think Sainz has reached his peak, so Leclerc will win this one.
    Alpha Tauri – Gasly
    This will be another close ranking. Gasly did a great job last year, and was fifth in my rankings, but I have been wondering since if the Alpha Tauri was actually much faster than it seemed (Kvyat was 12th in my rankings and 14th in 2019, but 19th in 2017 and 21st in 2016. Also, Albon and Gasly both seemed a lot better in the Alpha Tauri/Toro Rosso than they did in the Red Bull). But I decided that a lot of this was psychological. Yuki Tsunoda was arguably the best on the grid in F2 and has a bright future in F1, but in his first season, I expect Gasly to have the edge.
    Alfa Romeo – Giovinazzi
    At the time of writing, this was the only one that was against the majority. Raikkonen beat Giovinazzi in 2019 and 2020, but Giovinazzi has got much closer over that time, and is still improving, while Raikkonen is now declining. Giovinazzi was close to Raikkonen last year, and this time I think their positions will be reversed and Giovinazzi will win.
    Haas – Schumacher
    Usually it is difficult to choose when two rookies are teammates, but this year they both came from Formula 2. Schumacher won the championship, while Mazepin came fifth and almost got a race ban, so Schumacher should have this one covered.
    Williams – Russell
    It was 16-0 to Russell in qualifying last year, and he was also almost always ahead in the races. On my F1 2020 career mode, Latifi became the better Williams driver in 2021 because he had more experience, and improved by a greater amount, but I don’t see that happening in real life, because Russell probably has more improvement to come than Latifi. (Latifi drove for six seasons in F2, while Russell won it in his first season. Therefore, Latifi does have more experience than Russell in a sense, even if he has been in F1 for less time).

    1. @f1frog
      What’s the “Hamilton surely beginning to decline now” assumption based on?
      Just asking.

      1. Surely because of age, fantomius, drivers statistically tend to decline starting from 35 and the decline speed increases once past 40.

        F1 frog, I disagree schumacher’s comeback was a disaster when you consider age and injuries, mathematical models say he was performing like at his peak minus the several tenths and mistakes he was expected to lose\make at that age.

        1. @esploratore While of course reflexes decline with age etc etc I tend not to think of age as an excuse for, in this case MS or FA. If you are in F1 you are in the pinnacle, and if age is a significant issue, then you’re not fit to be there. If you’re there, I assume you are fit and that whatever tiny bit slower you might be due to age should be made up for with experience.

          MS’s ‘problem’ when he returned is he didn’t have advantages hand over fist over the rest of the field like he did at MS/Ferrari. He found himself on equal terms with Nico and Nico could have been intimidated but it seemed more like he was more motivated instead.

          And I don’t expect FA to be a shadow of his former self, but rather more likely highly stoked, especially for next years formula.

          Same with LH ‘surely beginning to decline now’ I really highly doubt that and even if true it wouldn’t be noticeable and would far and away be made up for with experience and with a dominant car.

          1. @robbie

            Top drivers can hang on for longer when they start declining due to age. Hamilton minus 10% is still a better driver than Latifi at the peak of his ability.

          2. Plus he had had a motorcycling accident which damaged his neck and could have been fatal?

            https://i.imgur.com/SvEXDYu.png

        2. @esploratore
          I think Schumi’s biggest problem was getting used to racing again, as he hadn’t done any kind of competitive racing for 3 years (except a few races in the german motorcycle championship, but those were just for fun).
          He got better and better, in 2012 I thought he was quite a good match for Rosberg, might’ve even won the Monaco GP, if it wasn’t for that 5-place grid penalty.

          When you think about it, 2012 was the decisive season for Mercedes. Up to that point the Mercedes board was very unhappy with the performance of the car/team and getting regularily beaten by their customer McLaren didn’t help either. There were even talks of them shutting down the team, because they felt their results were embarrassing for the brand. Who knows what might’ve happened if Rosberg didn’t win that race in China. And now they are dominating the sport, breaking one record after another. Simply unbelievable!

          1. I pretty much agree to you. In 2010 he was a lot slower in Rosberg. In qualifying and in the races as well. But already in 2011 they were very evenly matched on race pace and the margin in qualifying was reduced significantly. In 2012 Schumacher had terrible luck early on and after midseason Mercedes was nowhere. So it’s hard to compare them that year. But they were very close with an advantage to Schumacher in qualifying.
            His biggest problem was that he had way to many incidents, which could
            well have been age related, so let’s see how Alonso will manage his race rostyness.

  5. I have a sinking feeling Mazepin’s extensive private testing with Mercedes will make him more ready for F1 than Schumacher, who’s a slow learner.

    1. Yeah I was expecting that vote to be closer, I think it might be more based on people’s hopes than the driver’s ability. I think Mazepin is the quicker driver, but Schumi is more consistent (and less likely to get banned).

      1. I’m voted Schumacher based on the fact Mazapin will probably be drummed out of the sport by the media & fans by July 🤣

  6. Feeling pretty sorry for Latifi in this poll… the only one I went against the grain with was Ferrari. I think Sainz might just pip Leclerc. I think Charles will be outright quicker but I think Carlos will bring it home more often. Of course, I expect it will be very close between them.

    1. 2 fans voted for latifi…
      Blinded by the lack of light :)

      1. They were Pay Voters, funded by Latifi’s sponsors.

    2. @tommy-c Sainz has shown he will just as well go for the glory runs than bring the car home for some safe points in order to be noticed by teams and the commentariat, and I doubt he will change now, even if Ferrari probably hired him to be a safe pair of hands to harvest points while their star driver risked it all for podiums etc.

  7. At least the “driver signed in a shorter time than Hamilton’s contract talks” is over.

  8. Hamilton
    Perez
    Ricciardo
    Lecrec
    Vetel
    Rusell
    Kimi
    Mike
    Gasly

  9. Alfa will be close, maybe Haas, but Schumacher is the clear favourite. Just maybe at Renault Alonso will need some time to adapt.

    The rest should be pretty much straight forward. But it’s gonna be good fun to watch all the new pairings at Ferrari Red Bull and McLaren.

  10. Russel destroyed the opposition in this poll, 100 vs 0% of the votes!

    The only 2 where I went against the majority (and I knew before voting ofc) were force india and toro rosso, I went with stroll and tsunoda; it was a hard decision about force india, but I think stroll is better than many give him credit for, and even if vettel should improve compared to 2020 I wouldn’t be so sure he’d be ahead, he never looked like good in the midfield wheel to wheel battles.

    On other hand I heard good things about tsunoda, and say he’s a verstappen, he could beat gasly on the first year, maybe not but I’m gonna go for it.

    1. Surely you mean Jordan and Minardi?

      1. Ahah, nah, let’s not go that far back, but yes, I will never call force india racing point, or aston martin and I will never call toro rosso alfa tauri, I like classic names.

        1. As well as sauber vs alfa romeo.

        2. @esploratore I hate the name Alpha Tauri, especially considering Toro Rosso was such a great name. It is the same with Alpine, which I will struggle to get used to because the Renault name is so much better. Racing Point is obviously a bad name too but it was always meant as just a temporary name.

  11. My votes:

    Hamilton (easy)
    Verstappen (close)
    Sainz (close)
    Norris (close)
    Alonso (close)
    Stroll (close)
    Tsunoda (close)
    Giovinazzi (close)
    Schumacher (close)
    Russell (easy)

    So apart from Mercedes and Williams, I see some very interesting intra-team battles coming up. I realise some of my predictions will be unpopular, but there you go. In particular, I rate Sainz very highly and although Leclerc will probably outqualify him, I think Sainz will be more consistent. As for Norris and Ricciardo – I think Lando is underrated and his familiarity with the team will help him beat Ricciardo. Vettel is done for and Stroll was actually really good for part of last season, before he got Covid. Giovinazzi really pulled away from Kimi in qualifying in the last few races last year and I think we’ll see that trend continue this year. Finally, Tsunoda – I thought he was mightily impressive in F2 and he’ll have some spectacular results this year. And some crashes.

    1. I agree with most of what you said, but RB and Alpine wouldn’t be close. I can see a 23-0 coming for Alonso in Quali. And although Perez will be closer in the races than Albon and Gasly, no way he can come close to Verstappen. He will win some Quali’s and maybe finish some races ahead, but overall, no chance.

      1. marcel, I think it less likely that you will see that sort of imbalance at Alpine – considering that Alonso’s injuries in training will likely hamper his early season performance, I would not be surprised if Ocon was more competitive in the early part of the season than some might think he will be.

        As for your assertion that there is no way that Perez will come close to Verstappen, I’m not so sure about that. Over the past few seasons, Max has averaged around 12-13 points per race over a season, or roughly somewhere between 3rd and 4th place (noting this takes into account DNFs).

        Now, if Perez were tending to average around 4th place and has a relatively clean and tidy season, which is not an unrealistic prospect, then Perez’s average points haul wouldn’t be that much below Max. If Max has a few DNF’s more than Perez – say, he has an extra gearbox or power unit failure – whilst Perez has a clean race and finishes in, say, 3rd, that could see Perez being closer to Max than some might be prepared to give him credit for.

        1. Anon What I am hopeful for, and I’m sure I’m not alone, is a relatively less dominant Mercedes team than they were in 2020, either from them not taking such a step, or from RBR not coming out with a car with still significant problems to solve, or both.

          So while I expect SP to do great, because I’m counting on a better RBR car out of the box, I just wonder if we might see Max more able to dispose of VB, which could put him (VB) between Max and SP. So something like averages finishes being LH 1, Max 2, VB 3, SP 4.

          So not that Max cares where he places if he can’t be Champ, but I think it is a reasonable expectation to see him at least 2nd in the WDC and of course the closer the better if we want a more exciting season. Here’s hoping RBR/Honda have something special up their sleeve because I don’t think anyone else is going to come close to Mercedes.

          As to FA, I don’t think his bike accident will affect him at all. Not by the time they’re racing in anger anyway. As fit as he is he’ll be a fast healer.

      2. If we are only going for points, then I think It won’t be a one side affair for Alonso in Alpine. Not only is he old (for elite sports), his preseason injuries will prevent him from gaining a foot on the incumbent driver.

        Ocon might not tick all the boxes that Alonso does, but he ended the year in a high, and as Rosberg and others before him have shown, you can throw a champion off balance if you land the first few punches.

  12. Regarding Alpine – Ocon was actually doing pretty well at the end of the season, and although I expect Alonso to beat him regularly, I think it’ll be competitive. Ocon was competitive with Ricciardo even if the end results don’t show it, so he should be better with more experience now.

    As for Red Bull – I rate Perez and I think he’ll do a lot better than people expect. If he can finish in the top 4 regularly – which is where the Red Bull should be – then he’ll be there to capitalise on anything that happens in front. Anyway, I don’t have the view that Verstappen is invincible like some do.

    1. @tflb

      Max is obviously not invincible, but I was extremely impressed with his last season, if you ignore the immense bad luck. I rate Perez a bit below Ricciardo. However, Ricciardo is a very good qualifier, while Perez is not. I think that being behind Max on track with the same car is a bad place to be.

      1. @tflb @aapje At the risk of sounding like a total fanboy lol, the thing is I truly think, and I’m obviously not alone, he is a very special talent. Invincible of course not, but otherwise so so strong. I think Perez will have to, and indeed will, raise his game, but I just really think Max is unbeatable, except for one driver who has been engrained in the dominant car for going on 8 years. That’s what it is taking to beat Max these days. Ok VB did too, but not by being a better driver, but strictly by having the dominant car. Who doesn’t think Max would be an absolute monster in a dominant car that has fit him like a glove for 8 seasons?

  13. (That was meant as a reply to Marcel but the website is glitching on my phone)

  14. I don’t remember a season with as many one-sided battles throughout the field. Almost every team appear to have a clear number 1 and number 2.

    1. @petebaldwin True, with this kind of pole. Might be less clear with some pairings if the question was ‘Which drivers will beat their teammates and by what margin?’ eg. as @esploratore correctly points out it is not like Perez is only going to score 3% of the points Max does, but perhaps something more like 40%. But yeah, with this kind of pole it sure didn’t take much time or thought, for me at least, to pick what turned out to be the same drivers as the majority have.

      Ferrari and Aston Martin for me are two teams whose drivers I think could end up quite close to each other come year end. Perhaps Alfa Romeo too, maybe Mac as well. Then of course I have to stick in a little comment that imho I for the most part, yes of course with some exceptions, don’t think teams think in terms of clear number 1’s and 2’s anywhere nearly like fans do.

      1. @robbie – Yeah I think some of the battles may be closer than people are expecting but I’d be surprised if the drivers that have won comfortably in the poll above don’t end up being consistently the quicker drivers over the season.

      2. it is not like Perez is only going to score 3% of the points Max does, but perhaps something more like 40%.

        I would hope it’s a lot more than that, @Robbie. Even Albon had 49% of Verstappen’s points.
        Perez’ target needs to be at least 80% (i.e. constant 4th versus Verstappen 3rd). And I think it will be less than that.

        @petebaldwin, as per my comment below I think one of the closest battles will be Russell/Latifi. But that is solely based on how to define who wins (final WDC standing).

        And I agree with you that Alonso ’21 will not be Alonso ’17/’18, but I doubt that Ocon can match a slightly older Alonso.

        1. @coldfly Oh for sure I agree. Was just throwing that out there off of esploratore’s post but it was no indication of some sort of definitive math I’ve done based on an analysis of Perez nor my opinion of him. For sure 80% would be great for the team.

        2. Oh, yes, I expressed myself wrong, what I meant to say is let’s say red bull is able to get 300 points, I’d expect verstappen to take 180 and perez 120, I meant 40% out of what red bull makes, however now I notice albon got 33% of red bull’s points in 2020, so probably I’d expect a little higher than 40% from perez, that 80% of verstappen’s points robbie suggested, as in verstappen 180, perez 144 sounds more like it.

          1. And I think that comes up to around 45% of red bull’s points, and verstappen around 55.

  15. I agree with the majority except I voted for Ocon and Mazepin. Age will definitely show in Alonso’s pace and 2 years of absence won’t help him. Mick has incredibly over-hyped and it seemed like he won F2 campaign only because he was the luckiest. Mazepin isn’t on F1 level but at least he is closer to that than Mick.

    1. @huhhii Personally I don’t think age nor absence will be an issue nor noticeable with FA. I think he is going to be too limited by the car this season, and so aside from the fact that he has kept racing in his time away from F1, he’ll have this season to get back up to top form if indeed he starts this season a little down from that. He has already implied he doesn’t expect much from this season, but he’s quite excited about the new cars for next year though. And let’s face it, does anyone expect Renault to be a big force to be reckoned with this year? There will only be so much he’ll be able to do, and of course that might open up the door for his critics to claim it’s his age and that he shouldn’t have come back. Whatever happens this year I think FA is going to be very exciting to watch next year when it will be much more of a driver vs. driver series.

  16. Some battles are a foregone conclusion; I see no alternative to Hamilton beating Bottas, Russell beating Latifi and Verstappen beating Perez. Some are dead rubber in a way with one party having very little to prove or a car that almost certainly won’t be good enough to draw any meaningful conclusions, for example Raikkonen and Giovinazzi at Alfa Romeo, or Schumacher and Mazepin. You’d also expect Gasly to edge Tsunoda; though I’m quietly optimistic that Tsunoda might be a real exciting talent.

    The really intriguing battles come at Ferrari, McLaren, Aston Martin and Alpine. My bets would be on the only “winning” incumbent being Charles Leclerc. Vettel should get a new lease of life and with an easier car to drive I expect he could be towards the top of the points quite quickly and will be more consistent than Stroll. Ricciardo against Norris will be fascinating and I can’t wait to see who tops that (I’m expecting Ricciardo). Alonso and Ocon is a strange pairing and will almost certainly do no good for Ocon regardless of the result. If he loses against Alonso, he’ll surely follow Vandoorne’s path… if he beats Alonso it’ll just be because “he’s older, has a broken jaw, took time out, doesn’t care” etc.

    Should be a really exciting year!

    1. This is the first time Vettel would be driving a Mercedes powered car. Can’t really say before testing whether he would easier to drive.

  17. It’s me!
    I’m one of the 3% voting for Latifi.
    But it needs to come with an explanation as I still think that Russell is the better driver and bigger talent.

    Firstly, I like it to go against the grain ;)
    But also, Latifi was a rookie in 2020 and still had a better result in the Williams than Russell. In 2021 it will be very similar I expect as that the highest ranked Williams driver will be the result of a single (best) result. And it’s almost 50/50 which driver it will be as their best result is most likely achieved in weird race with many DNF’s and/or lucky strategy call results.

    1. That’s quite clever! The same happened in 2019 when Kubica beat Russell. Now I feel like I want to change my vote…

      1. @coldfly @huhhii I agree that is clever. Well thought out. I’m sure Williams hopes/expects it won’t come down to the one result, and that they’ll have more strong results not borne of special circumstances, but…

  18. Bo77as to absolutely destroy Ha44ilton

    lol

  19. I’m a little surprised Sainz got that many votes. Leclerc is IMO the fastest driver on outright pace, a real beast in qualifying. What he was able to drag out of the Ferrari last year was simply amazing! Let’s not forget Vettel is a very good qualifier himself and the last two years Leclerc made him look like an amateur.
    I don’t question Sainz’s talent, but it’s hard for me to imagine that he can beat someone of Charles’ caliber.

  20. The closest in my opinion is Ricciardo / Norris and Raikkonen / Giovinazzi.

    Kimi seems unmotivated and eventually he will retire or be surpassed by his teammate.

    The biggest unknown for me is Vettel / Stroll. Although I am one of Lance’s biggest detractors he had some strong moments last year while Leclerc wiped the floor with his teammate. I suspect Seb will be in better form in the Green Mercedes and Lance will continue to be unreliable.

  21. For posterity
    HAM
    MAX
    RIC
    VET
    ALO
    LEC
    TSU
    RAI
    MAZ
    RUS

  22. For the usual end of season looking back…

    Hamilton
    Verstappen
    Ricciardo
    Vettel
    Alonso
    Leclerc
    Gasly
    Giovinazzi
    Schumacher
    Russell

  23. Surprised by the amount of faith in Vettel – yeah, 2020 was an especially bad year, no doubt mostly caused by the whole situation at Ferrari, but I wouldn’t have expected 86% of voters to have confidence in him in a non-front running car.

    I’m going to make a big prediction here and say that Alonso’s metronomic consistency will see him finishing ahead of Seb in the WDC, even with the Renault (not calling it Alpine yet…) being a slower car, on average, than the Aston. Heck, I reckon Lance will finish higher purely from higher peaks.

  24. My votes:
    Mercedes – Hamilton
    I don’t see Lewis slowing down this year and Bottas will be close and sometimes beat Lewis but Lewis is just mister constant!

    Red Bull – Verstappen
    I rate Perez very high but Max is just faster.

    McLaren – Ricciardo
    Very close but experience and hell of a qualfier i am goign to give it to Daniel.

    Racing Point – Vettel
    He will be more on his sweet spot with the Mercedes and is going to be much beter then last year. His motivation will be much beter and that is going to show. Lance is just a average driver with no technical knownow what so ever! People seems to forget he doesn’t know that he has a flat tyre claiming something ‘happened’!
    A real driver knows always what is wrong with his car.

    Alpine – Alonso
    Ocon was also 1 year out and last year i saw nothing what could beat Alonso. The Young test gave a impression what is going to happen.

    Ferrari – Leclerc
    Very close but his 1 round pace makes him the beter qualiflier and gives him place advance during races.

    Alpha Tauri – Gasly
    Against a (a very good) rookie this will be Gasly his win.

    Alfa Romeo – Kimi
    But this wil very close indeed

    Haas – Mazepin
    Schumacher is always a slow starter in all of his earlier series as he needs to finds him mojo before rulling his series. And Mazepin is fast and rucklose if he stays on track i see him above Mick.

    Williams – Russell
    This is a no brainer Russel is very good in quali and race

  25. I am really wondering about Alonso’s return. I remember how shockingly average Schumi was when he returned in 2010 after a 3 year hiatus. Schumi, who was one of the all-time best when he retired. And he never got it back. Alonso is in the same class as Schumi – one of the all-time greats, even if his trophy cabinet doesn’t show it. So what is different with Alonso’s return? Are there a lot of crossed-fingers behind people’s backs? Or is it assumed that Alonso has it in the bag? Does anyone know? I am interested what you guys think.

    1. @shimks I’ll not assume that since MS looked ‘shockingly average’ so will FA. They’re two separate individuals of course. I think what happened is that what MS showed us with his run of success was what a driver can do when given more advantages over the rest of the grid than any other driver ever, particularly with the contracted subservient teammate in Barricello and the resultant designer car he enjoyed, on designer tires. Take that away and we saw the result with his return to Mercedes without said advantages over Nico.

      FA never did have all those advantages (no driver has) and so I think he will be much more adaptable upon his return. Not saying FA didn’t have advantages for his WDCs either, but it’s relative. FA may feel moreso than MS did that he has more to prove for himself, including his own self-expressed desires for the Triple Crown for example. I’m not assuming anything though in terms of to what degree he’ll ‘have it in the bag’ for so much will as always depend on the car, and for this season I think he will be limited by it. But I think he’ll get as much out of it as any driver would. Next year though? That’s going to be so so interesting. Can’t wait.

      1. Interesting thoughts, @robbie, thanks for sharing. And why do you think next year will be even more interesting? Because Alonso will be back up to speed and you expect Alpine to find a good fit with the new regulations?

        1. Thanks @shimks I don’t expect Alpine to be ‘all that’ this year or for the new regs, but of course one never knows. But no it is moreso just that I think this year’s car will certainly not be as strong as too many others for FA to be able to grab many big points, and yeah of course I’m speculating on that, but I don’t think I’m being unreasonable. And of course the big comparison here is that this year FA will be stuck in dirty air much of the time in a car not strong enough, so he along with many drivers will be handcuffed to do much.

          As to 2022, it is not that I expect they will be a ‘good fit’ as you say any more or less than the other teams, but it is just that as the teams start to converge (not necessarily for next year) but mainly as the cars will be so less negatively affected in dirty air, I think a proven Champion such as FA will surprise us with some really thrilling performances in spite of the car. He’s stoked for it, and let’s face it, age debate aside, it wasn’t all that long ago that FA was touted as the best driver on the grid even when LH was winning WDCs. FA is good. So in a series that is about to become far more driver vs driver, as they will have so much more confidence in the cars while behind another, I expect FA to shine, and even though FA had spoken about a potential return when he left F1, I’m sure it is the prospect of the new cars that has him ultra stoked. Well, I think he literally said that. He implied that this year will be a bit of a write off. But next year? That’s the real target. I think he’s going to be thrilling to watch no matter where the 2022 Alpine belongs in the pecking order.

          1. Well, I’m a massive fan of his, @robbie, so I hope all you say and more comes true. Alonso was always an incredible driver; one of those that can ring good results out of mediocre machinery. So fingers crossed for a strong Alpine. I really do hope the new regs. work as intended and we get the tech. convergence and see a racing series that is more down to the driver. That’s why I love F3 and F2 so much. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

          2. Thanks again @shimks I think he’s great too.

    2. Alonso has raced LMP1 cars in the meantime so his skills won’t have fallen off a cliff as much as Schumacher. Very few athletes do well after a lengthy spell at the end of their careers.

  26. Interesting thoughts, @robbie, thanks for sharing. And why do you think next year will be even more interesting? Because Alonso will be back up to speed and you expect Alpine to find a good fit with the new regulations?

    1. Double post. Ignore.

  27. The one driver who will hate 2021 will be Perez. His deficit to Max will be huge. You need a lot more than spirit at a top team, and he can’t compete with VER on speed or race craft even with the errors that Max makes occasionally.
    The invite from RB robbed Perez of a nice year out when he might have lost a bit of puppy fat and returned the next year to a mid-field team and shone brightly.

    1. Nah I think he will be stoked to be in the best F1 car he’s ever had, no matter what. I think he’s going to have a blast. Funny to hear you say the invite robbed him, for he didn’t have to accept, but he did. Says a lot about him then, no? He’d rather be on a top team with a massive challenge on the other side of the garage, and sees that as preferable to just settling for the mid-field just so he can appear to shine. Surely in his mind that would be like faking it, no?

      1. Better to shine in midfield than be utterly destroyed at RB!

  28. Quite revealing how people had Vettel as one of the worst drivers of 2020, to suddenly view him as virtually assured to smash an entrenched team mate in a new team..

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