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Formula 1 2021

Our highlights of the action-packed 2021 F1 season

Looking back over a thrilling F1 season in 2021, our journalists pick out their highlights of the year.

To news overview © Getty Images/Red Bull Contentpool

The 2021 F1 season had it all, which means picking out just one highlight is a tricky task!

But the RacingNews365.com editorial team have given it a go as we look back on an incredible year for the sport.

Thomas Maher

It's a great thing that, for once in recent Formula 1, there are simply so many dramatic moments to choose from. I'm pretty sure I had a heart attack during the closing stages of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Max and Lewis went wheel-to-wheel, while Saudi Arabia produced one of the most antagonistic races between two teams I think I can remember.

Verstappen's dramatic crashes in Azerbaijan and Silverstone are obviously two standout moments in the championship fight, as well as the Monza collision.

But my chosen highlight is the United States Grand Prix. With Verstappen heading to the USA six points clear of Hamilton in the title race, COTA produced a true, gloves-off battle of the two titans.

Verstappen's start wasn't good enough to hold off Hamilton into Turn 1, but the Red Bull appeared marginally quicker in the first stint. It was Red Bull's choice to go aggressive on the pit strategy by pulling Verstappen in on Lap 11. The undercut gave Verstappen a lead of six seconds over Hamilton, but the Mercedes was clearly quicker on the Hard tyres.

With Hamilton coming back at Verstappen, he had closed up to around three seconds behind the Red Bull by Lap 30. With Red Bull wary of the undercut, they immediately pulled Verstappen in again, despite there being almost half of the race still to go. This undercut ensured Verstappen kept the lead as Hamilton pitted eight laps later.

But with Hamilton on much fresher tyres, it became a battle of nerve as Hamilton spent the rest of the race hunting down Verstappen. Hamilton was at his very best, throwing everything he had at the Dutch driver as he tried to wreck Verstappen's composure out front. But Verstappen held it together to win, just a second clear of Hamilton in a race that showed both drivers at their very best.

Nigel Chiu

Amid all of the thrilling moments in 2021, there is nothing like a race-long battle between two outstanding drivers and that's exactly what we had in the season-opening Bahrain GP.

It set the tone for the rest of the year as Verstappen and Hamilton went head-to-head over 56 laps.

Hamilton managed to undercut pole-sitter Verstappen during the first round of pit-stops, as the leading pair pulled away from the rest of the field.

The Mercedes driver pitted for a second time at the halfway mark of the Grand Prix, leaving us thinking whether Hamilton would need to pit again.

Verstappen made his pit-stop later and had a gap to close. With fresher, Hard tyres, the race was on and it was an almighty battle to the chequered flag.

Neither driver left anything on the table, pushing to the limits as they tried to extract everything they could from their tyres.

With four laps to go, Verstappen caught Hamilton and went for it around the outside of Turn 4. However, he momentarily lost the rear of his car so went wide, despite making the overtake work.

He was ordered to give the place back, and he did so down the back straight. A few more tiny mistakes meant Verstappen couldn't mount another attack, allowing Hamilton to just hold on in a thrilling opening race.

Don't forget the somewhat minor controversy which emerged post-race, when Hamilton allegedly broke track limits rules by running wide at Turn 4 during the opening half of the race. It was the first of many controversial moments in 2021.

Anna Francis

The 2021 season has surely been one of the most thrilling in years, meaning that picking one highlight feels like an impossible task. Any F1 fan would agree that it's a nice problem to have, though!

Watching the rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen unfold has provided countless memorable moments, and ultimately it feels like a privilege to have witnessed a battle between two greats.

But one of my favourite races of the year was unfortunately not a good one for the championship contenders, and was in fact one of only two occasions where both drivers finished outside of the points.

This was the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and, whilst it was a disappointing day for Hamilton and Verstappen, the excitement of that frenzied two-lap sprint to the finish following a late red flag was unforgettable. Just ask Mark Webber, whose high-pitched scream at the sight of Hamilton's mishap off the line went viral.

It was a feel-good result, with the affable Sergio Perez securing his first win for Red Bull, whilst Sebastian Vettel achieved a popular debut podium with Aston Martin. Pierre Gasly completed the top three, an earned result for a driver who has been impressive throughout the season.

Further down the field, the absence of the front-runners offered an opportunity for members of the midfield pack to score some valuable points and have their moment to shine in a season that, for obvious reasons, has been dominated by talk of the title battle up ahead.

Mike Seymour

As the team have touched on above, there are so many highlights to pick from in F1 2021 that it's a challenge to know where to start!

First of all, as I signed off in our end-of-season podcast, we have to say 'thank you' to both Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton - along with Red Bull and Mercedes - for delivering one of the most memorable F1 seasons on and off the track.

But aside from the incredible battles and drama in this year's title fight, there's a moment that stands out to me for the joy it spread throughout the paddock: McLaren's 1-2 finish at the Italian Grand Prix.

Ironically, the situation arose after Verstappen and Hamilton clashed for a second time, but McLaren were still there to pick up the pieces, having displayed mighty pace throughout the Sprint weekend at Monza - their low-downforce package and Mercedes power unit working wonders.

I distinctly remember the glum atmosphere at McLaren during pre-season testing in 2015, 2016 and 2017, when their rekindled partnership with Honda failed to deliver time and time again, and consigned the team to the midfield for the long seasons ahead.

After making the switch to Renault power, and then Mercedes, the McLaren of old has slowly but surely emerged. The 2021 season marked another solid step in the right direction, initially spearheaded by Lando Norris' incredible run of strong points finishes.

However, while Norris deserves plenty of praise for his efforts, another feel-good factor about the Monza result was Ricciardo's return to the podium - and the top step at that. We all know what he can do when everything clicks and it was a brilliant moment to see him put the tough start to the year to one side.

How good would it be if the likes of McLaren and Ferrari are back up there fighting for victories and titles in 2022? With overhauled regulations, there's every chance...

Is it time for the new season yet?

What are your highlights of the 2021 season? Let us know in the comments below!