At the Hungarian Grand Prix, Esteban Ocon became the 11th driver on the 2021 F1 grid to have won a race. The Frenchman was able to surge towards the front of the field after a chaotic opening lap eliminated several leading drivers, but this is not to take away from his surprise victory; Ocon didn't put a foot wrong whilst leading the race, despite pressure from the more experienced Sebastian Vettel behind.
The win means that Ocon is the latest driver to become a first-time Formula 1 race winner, following on from Pierre Gasly's surprise win at the 2020 Italian Grand Prix. With an increasingly competitive midfield this season, there is surely a chance of witnessing another driver take their debut victory before the year is out. But who could be next?
The safest bet for the next first-time winner is surely Norris, given his incredibly impressive form so far this season. His DNF in Hungary apart – which was through no fault of his own – the British driver has solidly finished every weekend in the points and remains third in the Drivers' Championship. There has barely been a mistake from him all year, indicating that – like Ocon – Norris could cope with the pressure of leading a race.
It is difficult to speculate about 'what ifs' in Formula 1, but one can't help but wonder what Norris would have achieved in the chaotic Hungarian Grand Prix had he not been eliminated in the first corner melee. With three podiums under his belt already this season, it feels like only a matter of time until the McLaren driver seizes an opportunity to take the top step.
Norris' former teammate Sainz has already come frustratingly close to claiming his debut win. First there was the 2020 Italian Grand Prix, where he desperately tried to catch Gasly in the lead and couldn't hide his disappointment at finishing in second.
Then an opportunity came again for the Spaniard at this year's Monaco Grand Prix. With pole-sitter and Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc unable to start the race due to damage on his car, Sainz stepped up as the Scuderia's leading man and the chance of a victory seemed highly likely, given the team's surprising pace over the weekend. Yet again, though, Sainz ended the day in second, this time behind Max Verstappen. The 26-year-old has since admitted that he was happier with claiming third at the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix than these two second places.
Clearly, luck has not been on Sainz's side in the past, but his strong form in his first season with Ferrari highlights just how much potential there is for that elusive first win to come soon.
There are now just nine drivers on the grid who have not yet claimed a victory in Formula 1, meaning that there are some perhaps surprising candidates to consider for who will be next. Stroll is one of them; 2021 has not been a stellar season for the Canadian so far, with teammate Sebastian Vettel getting the better of him as the year has gone on.
However, Stroll has often come through against the odds in the past. The 22-year-old claimed his first podium finish at the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix whilst driving for Williams, and also stood on the rostrum twice in 2020 for the then-called Racing Point team. There was also a surprise pole position last year in Turkey, where he went on to lead for a significant proportion of the race before falling back due to tyre graining.
What perhaps made this more impressive is that Stroll had appeared to struggle at the two prior races after suffering with coronavirus. This hints at an ability to bounce back, so Stroll cannot be ruled out just yet as a potential race winner.
Like Stroll, Tsunoda has had his fair share of ups and downs so far during 2021. The difference of course is that the AlphaTauri driver is in his rookie season. After an impressive points finish in his first race at the season-opener in Bahrain, Tsunoda's form took a turn for the worse. However, following AlphaTauri's decision to move him from the UK to Italy for closer supervision by team boss Franz Tost, the 21-year-old has been improving.
Given that AlphaTauri claimed a surprise victory with Gasly in 2020, it would not be entirely unlikely for Tsunoda to do the same given the right circumstances. However, one thing the Japanese driver has admitted he still needs to work on is his emotional control, given his tendency to launch into often explicit outbursts over team radio. This volatile nature may need some refining before Tsunoda is ready to win a race.
Like Sainz, Russell has already narrowly missed out on claiming his first victory. The British driver was tantalisingly close to winning the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix when he substituted for Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes, but there was heartbreak when problems at a pit-stop led to him falling back down the field.
After that brief taste of life at the front of the pack, Russell has since been battling further behind in the Williams. The fact that claiming his first points for the Grove-based squad at the Hungarian Grand Prix was so emotional highlights just how much of an achievement this amounts to. Given this, it seems highly unlikely that Russell could claim a surprise win in the Williams this season, even though the team appears to be very much on the up.
However, if 2022 is factored into the equation, the chances of Russell becoming a first-time F1 race winner could significantly go up should he make the switch to Mercedes. This is still a matter of speculation given that there is not expected to be an announcement on the 23-year-old's future until after the summer break. But if we see Russell in a Silver Arrows next year, we may also witness another debut victor.