Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Yas Marina, 2021

2021 F1 driver rankings #12: Sebastian Vettel

2021 F1 driver rankings

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Four-times Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel made his move to Aston Martin last year off the back of a dismal end to his Ferrari career.

Sebastian Vettel

Beat team mate in qualifying13/21
Beat team mate in race7/17
Races finished19/22
Laps spent ahead of team mate522/1145
Qualifying margin-0.21s

Having been well and truly seen off by Charles Leclerc in 2020, Vettel had to assert himself over his latest team mate Lance Stroll – a driver who is not widely regarded as a potential future champion in the same way Leclerc is.

However Vettel’s start to the season looked alarmingly like a continuation of the Ferrari days. In Bahrain he collected penalty for yellow flag errors in qualifying and a woeful clash with Esteban Ocon in the race. Car trouble spoiled his next race at Imola, and although he reached Q3 in Portugal he slipped back during the race. In Spain he followed Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo home.

Matters improved as he played himself in at the wheel of the AMR21, a car which proved a disappointing step backwards from one of the most impressive teams of last season. In Monaco he reached Q3, jumped ahead of Lewis Hamilton (no less) by running long at his first pit stop, and got his elbows out to keep Pierre Gasly behind as he left the pits. This was more like the Vettel of his Red Bull years.

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Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Baku City Circuit, 2021
Opportunistic second in Azerbaijan was season’s highlight
Better things came in Azerbaijan where he picked up a couple of places in the race then made his way past Gasly and Leclerc after a restart. That earned him a superb, opportunistic second place on a day the championship contenders hit trouble. He added more points with ninth in France.

After this early turning point, Vettel’s Aston Martin was the one you expected to produce a result if one was on offer. He held the upper hand in qualifying, though perhaps not as decisively as he would have wished, beating Stroll 13-8 with three Q1 eliminations to his team mate’s seven.

In Hungary, while his team mate contributed to the first-lap chaos, Vettel profitted from it, rising to second behind Esteban Ocon early on. He might even have won had he not been slightly out of position during his pit stop, slowing the tyre change, though that would only have made his subsequent disqualification for a technical infringement which was out of his hands even more bitter.

There were few other opportunities for big points hauls, though Vettel turned in other good performances which topped up his points tally more modestly. He claimed 10th at Circuit of the Americas after an engine change left him at the back of the grid, and one of his many good starts helped him to seventh in Mexico.

Once Vettel settled in he seldom looked like the driver who struggled at Ferrari last year, though his spin on cool tyres at the restart of the British Grand Prix was an exception. His gamble to switch to slicks as the track dried painfully slowly at Istanbul did not pay off.

However he never had a dominant edge over Stroll, following his team mate home on the majority of occasions where both finished. A couple of on-track clashes with Stroll at Monza and Sochi, neither of which Vettel was responsible for, didn’t help matters, particularly in Italy where he was badly compromised. But Stroll managed more points-scoring finishes than Vettel did.

Nonetheless, despite his costly Hungaroring disqualification and ending the year with no-scores in Saudi Arabia (where he was hit by Raikkonen and Yuki Tsunoda) and Abu Dhabi, Vettel came out ahead of Stroll in the standings. That capped a decent first season in green, albeit one with some room for improvement.

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What’s your verdict on Sebastian Vettel’s 2021 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments. Add your views on the other drivers in the comments.

2021 F1 season review

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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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61 comments on “2021 F1 driver rankings #12: Sebastian Vettel”

  1. Strange rankings…
    Tsunoda higher than 12th?

    1. He was 19th, I believe.

      Vettel was not all that impressive minus a few bright spots. In another reality we’d know what Perez would have done with this 2021 car – he really wiped the floor with Stroll in 2020 – but we’ll never really know how good this car was.

      1. Isn’t this the million dollar question though (or should we say billion dollar nowadays?) i.e. not knowing how good the car is for ‘any’ of the teams. We can only make assumptions – and I am not suggesting that we should not – but nothing is a constant. Not the teams, not the drivers, not even the relative suitability of individual tracks to teams and/or drivers.

        Whilst I am not about to contest Mazepin (who’s name I literally only just realised is similar to a popular cake covering) would outperform Verstappen in the same car, I do think there would be some surprises if all the drivers were to race in identical equipment. And only an experiment such as this would (largely) tell us how they then truly performed with their usual rides.

        Still, seeing how Keith allocates and rationalises his ratings Vs. my own is what makes these articles interesting.

        1. @cairnsfella the problem is when it does happen that drivers get the better equipment, some never do shine anyway. Stroll and Perez both had an amazing car the first year they copied the Mercedes, yet Stroll utterly failed to deliver any big results in the car and certainly didn’t perform consistently.

          Obviously Russell got his chance in 2020 in a Mercedes and performed well but ultimately lost out through no fault of his own but everyone suspected he was a top class driver because of his consistency in dealing with his teammates. As I have alluded to though not everyone can take the next step. Gasly, Albon and Perez alone for example have recently been given one of the best cars on the grid and it’s arguable only Perez really performed remotely well in the car albeit he was so far off his teammate that it looks like he’s not on the same level.

          Ultimately I think what the lists try to portray is indeed how the drivers who have performed against their nearest rivals and teammates while having a inherent bias towards the quality of car they drove. No matter how Mick Schumacher drove this year, he couldn’t make top 10 because his car was the worst on the grid.

          With taking the above into account, I do hope we see Bottas and Perez soon on this list as both were so far behind their teammates at times it was embarrassing for them. I’d actually say they weren’t far off being at Ricciardo levels of underperforming and had either stepped up more, their teammate would have won the championship with ease.

          On topic I think this is a fair enough ranking for Vettel. I thought he had a better year and had some really good races but the car ultimately limited what he could achieve.

      2. Oops, sorry, somehow just missed it!

  2. Tsunoda was at #19.

    1. This was a reply @sergey martyn

    2. Oops, sorry, somehow just missed it!

  3. So, with the Russel’s exception, we have the top 11 drivers in the driver championship in first 12 positions of the performance ranking. I guess it is fine. There is some car-performance bias but it is also true that the best drive for the top teams.
    I am curious to see where Bottas and Perez will rank. They were miles off their teammates’ pace, so I hope we won’t see them in the top 8.

    1. Agree.
      Max, Lewis, Charles, Sainz, norris, gasly, Russel should be in top 7 (not necessarily in that order). Then will come likes of bottas, perez. not really able to place Alonso and ocon.

      Also, I feel that the drivers which are COMPLETELY beaten by their teammates should not be in top 10( bottas, perez, ricciardo, tsunoda, latifi, mazepin)

    2. I think Bottas below Perez but none of them very high. At least Perez had a mission and executed it perfectly many times (Baku, Turkey, Mexico, Abu Dhabi). Perez’s greatest deficit is qualifying and, in the beginning of the season, starts. This penalized him a lot especially since on race pace he was on pair with Verstappen and in a few races in the later part of the season even slightly stronger than Verstappen. Bottas was largely inconsequential except perhaps his taking the RB out of the race in Hungary and his win in Turkey which took 7 points away from Verstappen.

      I have yet to see Ocon coming out in the rankings below Perez. He has a lucky day in Hungary and Saudi Arabia because his track position was not much he earned but a function of crashes/red flags. Other than those results, I don’t think he was outstanding.

      1. I think you overrating the performances of Perez (e.g. in Mexico he actually failed to pass Hamilton, the only thing he had to do). I think never had a better pace than his teammate. I don’t know which season you watched.
        Instead, I agree that Ocon should come next (after Vettel I mean).

        1. Probably watched the same season as you. Just look at race pace in many parts of the races in Mexico, Brazil, (perhaps Qatar) and Abu Dhabi and you will see that Perez was slightly faster on pace. Obviously this is not to say that Perez was anywhere close to Verstappen. The difference against his teammate in every aspect is massive but we are talking about the best driver of the season. My point about Bottas v. Perez is that both underperformed but Bottas’s performance was more lacking if you count his poor races (Imola, Monaco, Baku, France, Hungary, UK, Russia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Abu Dhabi) compared to Perez’s (Imola, Austria II, UK, Italy, and Saudi Arabia) plus the contribution that each of them made to the success of their team, I just don’t see how Bottas could be ranked better.

          Also, why do people keep saying RB had a better car ? That was the case in some races during the first part of the season but starting in the UK, I think Mercedes was for the most part better and only in a few races on par.

      2. I don’t know where you got the idea Perez was actually ever close to Verstappen…? Must have been Imola qualifying thanks to Max 10 cm track limit…his advantage lasted about 2 second on Sunday…other than that Perez was always 0.5-1 sec slower…in every race.

        The gap between Bottas and Lewis has always been much smaller, as a RBR supporter I would put Bottas above Perez without any doubt

        1. Absolutely, perez must go behind bottas and usually keith’s rankings reflect that, it’s very simple: with a similar car and possibly better luck than bottas he failed to get more points than him.

          1. Well, a counter argument could be that Bottas had extensive experience at Mercedes and with the cars of previous years, whereas Perez was new to the team and the RB car seemed to be quite difficult to drive on the edge.

          2. Similar car? Based on what? Maybe the Mercedes was about as fast, but a lot easier to drive.
            Maybe the Mercedes was faster, but difficult to drive, or the other way around. Certainly Bottas failed miserably in the wet stuff. Perez did a better job, but had to find his way a bit in the RedBull.
            As all other drivers (bar Alonso) who switched teams had some troubles in the first half of the season, I would’ve rated the rookies and team-switchers on a different scale to those that were stable in their team.

  4. Patrick Chapman
    13th January 2022, 9:33

    @Sergey Martyn
    I would have ranked Ricciardo higher than Vettel although not by much and given his race vwin this season I would have put him in the top 10. I would rate the drivers on overall race performance and not just points to justify my opinions.

    1. I agree with you – simply because Ricciardo did what Vettel did not. Both drivers were supposed to achieve great results WHEN the opportunity comes, with some regular points scoring during the year. While Aston Martin was not capable of results which McLaren did, we can all agree that we can directly compare Monza for Ricciardo, and Hungaroring for Vettel. While Daniel caught the opportunity and did not let it slip, Vettel didn’t really provide any real threat for Ocon. The only moment he was really able to get the lead, was due to the undercutting Esteban. His lap was great, but with the little mistake on the pit stop, he was not able to complete that. But without this one, for 65 laps, he didn’t really put enough pressure on Ocon, who was leading a race for the 1st time in his F1 career – with a car allegedly better than a 3-years old Renault. Stroll hired Vettel with a target of winning races like that, which he didn’t manage to achieve.

      However, Seb had more good races, like in Monaco, and in Baku (especially Baku, with P2 much more impressive than in Hungaroring). I think his ranking is fair, however I can see him and Daniel switching positions.

      1. By that logic you have to rank Norris lower than Ricciardo because 1) he didn’t try an overtake on Ricciardo 2) thrown away Sochi win by ‘shut up’ing his own race engineer?

        It’s not that easy to overtake at Hungaroring if you don’t have at least 2-3 seconds per lap speed advantage. Why do you underestimate so much Alpine/Ocon performance, both cars were relatively at the same level, it’s not like the victory was guaranteed for Vettel but he couldn’t get the job done.

  5. You still haven’t ranked Checo, which is ridiculous.

    1. Why ridiculous ??? Is this sort of an anti-Perez comment ???

      1. Just as some people seem to feel Bottas is not beating Hamilton means he is completely useless, the same goes for Perez not being close to Verstappen in the first year in a completely different car Ankita.

        I think that the evidence from this year shows that it was very hard this year to change teams or get in as a rookie. Especially at McLaren but even more so at Red Bull next to a Max Verstappen.

        1. I agree with you BASCB. None of them should be top five or even eight. But I think you cannot compare the performance of each of them, especially in the way they contributed to the team. Bottas’s year was indeed very poor. Perez’s … was very poor compared to Verstappen but executed his mission perfectly in many races. Without Perez, Hamilton could most likely have won Baku (+25 points). Without Perez, Hamilton could likely have made significant progress in Turkey potentially reaching third place (+5 points). Without Perez, Hamilton could likely have had sufficient window to pitstop in Abu Dhabi (+14 points). In other words, without Perez, Hamilton, and not Verstappen, would be the world champion. Given that Perez was, from the beginning, used by his team to cover Verstappen’s back, I think that his performance was rather great (obviously not to be a top driver).

          1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
            13th January 2022, 11:55

            Good point but same can be said for Bottas particularly in Hungary when he was bowling rather than racing.
            Bottas shining moment of the season was Turkey where after multiple horrible rain races in the past he didn’t put a foot wrong and won the race ahead of Max.

            Quit interestingly looking back at the results, if both drivers finished, then Bottas has been more ahead of Lewis (3x Baku, Austria and Turkey) than ahead of Max (1x Turkey).
            Also Perez has been ahead of Lewis 3 times (Monaco, Baku and Turkey) but never ahead of Max.

        2. I think that the evidence from this year shows that it was very hard this year to change teams

          Vettel changed teams, changed PUs, went to a team that didn’t understand its own car, a team that is part-owned by the other driver’s dad, and still came out ahead.

          And yet, Checo will end up ranking higher despite being absolutely nowhere compared to Max.

          1. petebaldwin (@)
            13th January 2022, 13:56

            @proesterchen – Are you trying to say Lance Stroll and Max Verstappen are equals in terms of F1? You don’t think beating one of, if not the, fastest driver in F1 might be a little bit harder than a relatively slow, error-prone pay driver?

          2. @petebaldwin

            What I’m saying is that if you’re getting pummeled by your teammate, Keith will have a hard time convincing me that you’re better than at least 3 other teams’ lead drivers.

      2. It is my opinion that for the evaluation of a driver, the comparison to his teammate is the one true yardstick that we have.

        And if there were a number of drivers last year that trailed their teammates significantly, like Nikita, Yuki, Checo, Dan, and Valtteri did, putting any of them above the lead driver of any team is a very hard sell to me.

        1. Agree with this.

  6. No way that Bottas should make it to the top 10

    1. But neither should Perez or Vettel.
      Not sure how you’d solve that, unless you start with Mazepin in 21st and leave spot 10 empty :P

      1. Ric should have been 10th. Winning a race but being in the bottom half of the F1 field is a bit broken.

        1. 1 race isn’t everything, if you get 21 4\10 scores and a 10 I guess I don’t have to tell you you will get an insufficient average, I’m not saying ricciardo did nothing else good, but that’s the gist of it.

  7. Shocked that Perez was ranked higher than Vettel this season. Not like either drivers set the world on fire, but at least Vettel was extracting a lot more pace from that Aston Martin, as compared to Perez, who only looked capable on a total of 4 to 5 race weekends in the entire year. If Vettel was driving the Red Bull, he’d definitely get a whole lot more podiums, and wouldn’t be trailing Verstappen by nearly 0.6s for the entire season.

    1. Depends, Vettel has had seasons whereas he’s been miles off his team mate too like his last seasons with Red Bull or Ferrari, and considering the level Max was driving at this year, he could have struggled too.

      Perez was in the toughest seat in F1 where a driver who’s in the top 10 comfortably was made to look far worse than Perez this year. He’s the first non Verstappen driver to win at Red Bull since Ricciardo. Vettel on the other hand had a team mate who’s record against his team mates is really poor and despite his final year at Ferrari should have really put Stroll to the sword, more decisively, like he has done with Kimi and Webber before.

      1. Also, assuming the reports I have read are accurate, the Red Bull is designed specifically around Verstappen, and he likes it set up very differently to most drivers. Almost anyone coming into the team will start with a car which is a long way from what they want it to be, and significant qualities of the car will be designed around setting it up Verstappen’s way, so it will be more difficult to tune it in to a different driver’s preferences.

    2. Similarly you could say that if Perez was driving that Aston Martin he probably would have scored a lot more points than Vettel did, based on the difference between Perez and Stroll in 2020. And I’m not sure Vettel’s form has recovered fully to his 2019 form yet after last seasons’ shocker. But regardless, I rated Vettel above Perez too.

  8. Both Vettel and Ricciardo are exactly where I ranked them too. 14th to 17th I have the same drivers, just in a different order. Personally I ranked Schumacher above both Alfa’s (in 14th), and I put Giovinazzi ahead of Kimi (15th and 16th), and then Stroll 17th.

    It’ll be interesting to see how different it will be for the next few drivers, because I think there’s a big chunk of like 4-5 drivers who could easily fill the next 4-5 spots. I expect the top 7 to be the same top 7 I have, but with a potentially different order.

    So far, good rankings in general I think.

    1. Who do you have in your top 5 (in no particular order mine is likely)?


      1. Can’t argue with that.
        Maybe swap Norris and Gasly (possibly) and that’s probably the right order too

      2. I don’t think Sainz should be above Charles Leclerc. It’ll be interesting to see how Keith ranks the Ferrari drivers.

        1. Indeed, that will be interesting, and I’d definitely have leclerc high up, 4th-5th.

        2. It’s an interesting one the standings and last race are fresh in people’s minds, but the majority of races where they both finished Leclerc lead the way. However when Leclerc DNFed or had a dodgy strategy call, Sainz usually was on the podium. Like Norris, Leclerc will look back in the season happy with his pace but with a few what-ifs. Sainz will look back less happy with his pace but won’t look back on key mistakes or bits of bad luck.

  9. It seems the bad start at Aston Martin is already forgotten.
    The time to get used to xar and team was already very short this year. Vettel only could make some laps in the AM and in reality his track time in the brand new car came at the first races this season.
    Taking that in account his season was not so bad.

  10. I can’t help but feel Vettel is just going through the motions.

    Don’t care if he has the longest engineering meetings. Or that he’s a good guy all around.
    He just lacks the drive, aggression on track. There seems to be no hunger for success.
    Such a stark contrast to say 2011.

    1. Very good point.

      He seems lacking the hunger from his younger days.
      Interestingly, in those days he was sometimes seen as arrogant and cruel.

      Nowadays, he is liked by everyone but he is missing that killer instinct.
      Somehow, he lost it between 2018-2019.

  11. He is the new Kimi.

    Someone who used to be fast and not so nice…

    And us now very nice, wise.. and not that fast.

    Certainly capable of scoring a win when the stars and cars align, but more often just staying in comfort mode.

    1. The thing is Vettel has never failed to get a podium in all of his full-time Formula 1 seasons Kimi didn’t get one in the last 3 years. Don’t you think he and Alonso are in the same situation now? Rather than Kimi.

  12. Poorly written and researched article yet again. I don’t know why this narrative that Stroll finished ahead of Vettel in more races keeps coming up. Imola, Austria, Netherlands, Italy, Saudi were all weekends that Vettel was miles quicker than Stroll but was hampered by people crashing into him or penalties not his fault. And with Hungary Vettel scores nearly double Stroll’s. Vettel was faster and better in 17/22 race weekends. The only reason this narrative comes up is because races where Stroll DNFd or had issues like Baku, Hungary and Brazil aren’t counted and incidents that affect race results aren’t considered.

    The Aston Martin was often slower than Alpine or Alpha Tauri and sometimes slower than Alfa Romea and Williams. I honestly don’t know what you expect from him. Any other driver finishing P2 twice, outqualifying Lewis and Perez in Monaco or P5 in Belgium in a bottom tier car would make their seasons.

    Perez will gets ranked higher for no reason at all. Demolished by Bottas, Lewis and Verstappen. Even Norris was ahead of him most of the year. Imagine if Vettel had such a season in 2017 or 2018, I wonder if anyone will rank him in the top 10.

    1. Well even in 2019 Vettel was ranked 10th so I don’t need to imagine anything. Finishing only 24 points behind Leclerc with the reliability DNFs in Russia (from 2nd at least) and Austin (from the front row) and starting 10th and 20th in Austria and Germany from qualifying failures. I wonder where Perez will be ranked, finishing more than 200 points behind Max.

      1. Well, I’m guessing perez will come next, he was worse than bottas and it’s about time for such an underperforming driver in a top car, so he might not be inside the top 10.

        1. Yeah I was wrong, I expected Perez to be ranked ahead of Bottas considering the new team and Redbull being a difficult car to drive argument, but I guess the argument applies for Bottas as well.
          I think Vettel should’ve gotten at least 10th.

          After Hungary (if it was counted), Vettel was level on points with Gasly and just 2 behind Ricciardo. Gasly is in everyone’s top 5 list so it bugs me that Vettel’s season is this underrated.

    2. Generally agree, but this seems exagerated to make your point, saying aston martin was slower than alfa romeo and williams at times is absurd.

      1. They were only marginally faster than Haas at Saudi Arabia. They were faster than Williams every other race though except Belgium (Latifi outqualified Stroll). Although Latifi has been poor, Russell qualified P2 in the rain in Belgium so his car was definitely not that bad, it’s like Gasly and Yuki people underestimate how good the car is because of the poor performance of the number 2 driver.

        But for Alfa Romeo, I think USA, Mexico, Saudi and Abu Dhabi they were faster than Aston Martin. Alfa did not have a very strong lineup with Kimi retiring, so it’s difficult to judge. Upto Turkey, Aston were better no question, but since then it was very close (except Qatar).

  13. Imola, Austria, Netherlands, Italy, Saudi were all weekends that Vettel was miles quicker than Stroll but was hampered by people crashing into him or penalties not his fault.

    That’s not true. In Imola, Stroll outqualified and outraced Vettel. In Netherlands Vettel spun, that was his own mistake. In Italy, Vettel was one tenth faster than Stroll in qualifying, then was fairly beaten by him in both the sprint and the Grand Prix. And in Saudi Arabia, Vettel was very slightly quicker than Stroll, certainly not miles quicker.

    I would also have ranked Vettel ahead of Perez, but I think Stroll should be three places higher as well. The two were a lot more evenly matched than I expected. Vettel was better and Keith’s rankings reflect that, but Stroll wasn’t far behind.

    1. Sorry, should have been a reply to fs005.

    2. Yes, stroll felt underrated by these rankings, as well as schumacher.

    3. Imola, it was Vettel’s second race and he nearly outqualified Stroll. He was also setting fastest laps at one stage. And he didn’t spin or make mistakes unlike Stroll. A normal race and Vettel likely finishes near or on the podium.

      Netherlands, Vettel only spun because he was very aggressive with his overtakes bc of his low starting position. He only got knocked out in Q1 because both Haas’ blocked him. Despite starting that low down he almost overtook Stroll. With a regular qualifying he easily beats Stroll in the race.

      Italy, Vettel overtakes Stroll before the 2nd chicane, Stroll cuts the chicane and rejoins next to Vettel’s rear wheels then pushes him off the track at the next turn. (Usually this is a penalty). I don’t think it’s fair to count this for Stroll because he didn’t overtake fairly and would’ve been behind Vettel in lap 1 at least. It was also hard to pass in Monza and Vettel is generally stronger in race pace.

      Vettel was in the top 10 in Saudi Arabia, Stroll was 10+s behind until Tsunoda crashed into Vettel. Considering the red flag removing the previous gap it was a very substantial pace difference.

  14. personally, I think Seb’s year was better than both Valtteri and Checo’s year, and there are many good arguments to support that statement.

    1. Absolutely agree with this. Maybe even Ricciardo too had a better year than Checo and Valtteri. It’s just unacceptable these two were on championship contending machinery over a 22 race season and only won one race.

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