Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton or Lando Norris: Who Is EssentiallySports’ F1 Driver of the Season So Far?

Published 08/13/2021, 6:03 AM EDT
Formula One F1 – Emilia Romagna Grand Prix – Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola, Italy – Red Bull’s Max Verstappen celebrates after finishing first on the podium with second placed, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and third placed, McLaren’s Lando Norris REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

After years of Lewis Hamilton’s dominance in F1, Max Verstappen, and Red Bull, together, have halted the Mercedes’ dream run. And their rivalry has been quite appealing, with both Verstappen and Hamilton pushing themselves to the absolute limits along with drivers like Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, and Lando Norris in the backdrop.


Article continues below this ad

What’s more, Hamilton and Verstappen are currently leading the championship fight by quite a margin from others on the grid. However, neither of the title contenders have gained much-anticipated appreciation from the fans.

And the limelight has often landed on one of the mid-field cars that has invariably followed them throughout the season so far. Yes! You might have already narrowed the focus down to one incredibly talented driver – Lando Norris.


Article continues below this ad

Formula One F1 – Austrian Grand Prix – Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Styria, Austria – July 3, 2021 McLaren’s Lando Norris during the press conference after qualifying FIA/Handout via REUTERS

The Briton has been absolutely fabulous this season, and it is safe to say that he has frequently punched above his weight. There are a significant number of reasons to prove that Norris is the best driver on the grid at the moment.

Teammate battle with Daniel Ricciardo

When McLaren announced Daniel Ricciardo as a part of their driver’s line-up, it looked like Norris might be prone to more mistakes under pressure in 2021. But, little did we know that the reality was going to be the other way around.

Norris struggled in qualifying against the Australian in Bahrain and Imola. But, he very well managed to finish higher than Ricciardo during the Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and McLaren F1 and Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren F1 look on from the grid during Day One of F1 Testing at Bahrain International Circuit in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Joe Portlock/Getty Images)

By the end of the Portuguese Grand Prix, the difference between the duo had already exceeded 20 points. 8 races later, the gap now stands at a mammoth 63 points. This 63-point gap between the McLaren teammates is the third biggest difference this season, only after the Mercedes and Red Bull duos.

Ricciardo out-raced his teammate only twice this season. While the first one happened in Barcelona, the latter race was at the Hungaroring where Norris suffered his first DNF of the season. Although Ricciardo failed to score points in Hungary, he still managed to finish see the chequered flag.

Lando Norris: Best McLaren F1 driver since 2012

McLaren endured a series of drought-hit seasons since 2013 when the V6 engines came into action. The British outfit tried their luck with new drivers, new engines, but nothing worked out. Then arrived the savior in Norris.

Norris may have taken his own sweet time to get into a comfort zone. But, the moment he found his sweet spot at McLaren, he has been unstoppable.

Norris, having secured 3 podiums in 2021, is already the first driver to exceed two podiums for McLaren over a season since 2012, when Lewis Hamilton secured 7 podiums including 4 race wins. Also, Norris is on the verge of ending yet another dry streak for his team.

Formula One F1 – Austrian Grand Prix – Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Styria, Austria – July 4, 2021 McLaren’s Lando Norris celebrates with his team after finishing in third place Pool via REUTERS/Christian Bruna

The very same Hamilton finished his final McLaren season with 190 points in the bag, which till now, has been the number to beat. And Norris is certainly on course to exceeding the number this season.

The Briton has already scored 113 points out of 11 races. With potentially 12 more to go, there are chances that Norris could achieve a final tally of over 200 points, which will also be a McLaren driver’s first such haul since 2011 by Jenson Button.

Lando Norris: The only mid-field driver to overtake Hamilton

Who could ever forget that scene? Yes, the Mercedes had damages to the floor. But, the scenario of Norris overtaking his fellow British colleague Hamilton during the Austrian GP was absolutely brilliant.

Also, that leaves Norris the only driver apart from Max Verstappen to make a move on Hamilton during a race this season. What’s interesting is that Norris’ move on Hamilton took place in a rather unusual place – around the high-speed turn 6.

Formula One F1 – Austrian Grand Prix – Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Styria, Austria – July 4, 2021 McLaren’s Lando Norris during the race REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

Norris overtook the 7-time world champion on the inside of turn 6, which can be quite dangerous. Moreover, the fact that he managed to pull off such a daring move on a driver like Hamilton is undeniably an appreciable feat.

And Norris did not stop there, as he was keeping up with Valtteri Bottas’ pace, searching for a way to get past the other Mercedes driver as well. However, he ultimately finished in the final podium spot, just over 2 seconds adrift with the Finnish driver.

Most consistent F1 driver of the season

Until F1 arrived at Hungaroring, Norris remained the only driver to have scored points over each of the race weekends. However, the brilliant streak was sabotaged by a hydro-planing Mercedes of Bottas during the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Formula One F1 – Emilia Romagna Grand Prix – Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola, Italy – April 18, 2021 Red Bull’s Max Verstappen celebrates finishing first with third placed, McLaren’s Lando Norris on the podium REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

Behind Norris was Hamilton, who failed to score once in Azerbaijan. Hence, Norris is still one of the most consistent drivers on the grid despite the Hungary mishap.

To bolster this consistency claim, here is another statistic. Out of the 11 races so far this season, Norris has finished in the top 5 in 9 of them, which includes four P5 finishes, two P4 finishes, and three P3 finishes.

Finishing higher than the starting position

Norris has finished higher than his starting position 8 out of 11 times this season. Of course, one of the failed races was at Hungaroring. The other two times he failed to finish higher than the qualifying position was in Austria.

At the Styrian GP, after qualifying P3, Norris reached home in P5, while at the Austrian GP, Norris finished P3 after starting from P2, which also witnessed the Briton start from the front row for the first time in F1.


Article continues below this ad

Excluding the race in Hungary, Norris has gained a total of 17 positions this season, which is quite impressive, considering he has always started from the top 10, and there were hardly any positions to gain.

Formula One F1 – Monaco Grand Prix – Circuit de Monaco, Monte Carlo, Monaco – May 23, 2021 McLaren’s Lando Norris celebrates finishing in third place Pool via REUTERS/Sebastien Nogier

Overall, it has been an incredibly successful season so far for Norris, having beaten his very own Grand Prix-winning teammate, Ricciardo. Furthermore, he is still in the fight for the top 3 against big guns like Bottas and Red Bull’s latest recruit, Sergio Perez.


Article continues below this ad

And a successful second half of the season is on cards as well. So, can Norris secure an impeccable P3 in the driver’s championship and consequently rise up to be the best F1 driver of 2021?

Watch Story: When F1 Drivers Had a Blast on Top Gear Featuring Hamilton, Vettel & Ricciardo



Rohit Kumar

1150 articles

Rohit Kumar is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. He has been an ardent follower of the racing series since 2007, with his love for the sport coinciding with his love for Kimi Raikkonen. He is also an ardent follower of Sebastian Vettel and Aston Martin Racing.