HEAD TO HEAD: Which drivers came out on top in the battle of 2021’s team mates?
The 2021 season is done and dusted, and by now, we all know that Max Verstappen won out over Lewis Hamilton in their season long duel.
But up and down the pit lane, from garage to garage, an equally tense fight was being waged between team mates for pre-eminence in their respective squads. Read on to find out how the team mate battles panned out in 2021.
But first, some ground rules for our scoring:
- Final grid slots have been used to determine the ‘Qualifying’ battle outcome
- A double non-finish for a team results in no score for both drivers. If one driver from a team finishes when the other does not, it's an automatic point
- Final grid positions are counted for ‘Highest Grid Position’, not the initial order from qualifying
- Mechanical failures and/or collisions that are registered as classified finishes have been counted as DNFs here
Valtteri Bottas would be the first to admit that his fifth and final season with Mercedes wasn’t his best. While team mate Lewis Hamilton ran Max Verstappen close for the title, Bottas’ form ebbed and flowed, meaning he finished a full 161.5 points behind Hamilton in the standings – that’s over six race victories’ difference. The Finn still managed 11 podiums, however, as well as four poles and a victory.
New boy Sergio Perez took a while to get up to speed at Red Bull, as team mate Max Verstappen delivered a sublime – and ultimately title-winning – season. Perez only started ahead of Verstappen twice, while his maiden career pole position continued to elude him, as he wound up 205.5 points shy of Verstappen, contributing to Mercedes winning their eighth consecutive constructors’ title.
Charles Leclerc came out on top in the qualifying and race head-to-head with new team mate Carlos Sainz this season – although Sainz would finish the year with four podiums to Leclerc’s one. The last of those, for third place in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, was enough to lift the Spaniard from P7 to P5 in the drivers’ standings, as Leclerc went the other way.
Lando Norris defied many people’s expectations by having the measure of Daniel Ricciardo throughout much of 2021, taking four podiums to Ricciardo’s one. But despite that, it was Ricciardo who brought home McLaren’s first victory since 2012 at Monza – with Norris nearly making it two McLaren wins on the trot in Russia before sliding off the road.
Both Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon credited the pair’s close team work for lifting them above AlphaTauri to P5 in the standings – and it’s true that the two drivers were closely-matched in the squad’s first season under the ‘Alpine’ moniker, albeit that Ocon delivered their first victory with a win in Hungary.
Perhaps understandably, the head-to-head battle at AlphaTauri was pretty one-sided, with Pierre Gasly – in his fifth season of racing for the team – delivering a superb year as rookie Yuki Tsunoda struggled to find his feet. That left Gasly, who enjoyed the best qualifying stats of all against a team mate in 2021, a yawning 78 points clear of Tsunoda’s at year’s end – although Tsunoda was a fine fourth in the season finale, underlining why the team have kept their faith in him for 2022.
“A fresh start” in 2022 is what Sebastian Vettel called for at the end of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix , following a disappointing first season for the Aston Martin squad. Nonetheless, he and Lance Stroll were fairly evenly-matched throughout 2021, with Vettel’s highs tending to be a little higher than Stroll’s, after his two appearances on the podium – the latter of which, in Hungary, was taken away from him for a fuel irregularity.
This was something of a breakthrough year for Williams, who having not scored a point since the 2019 German Grand Prix coming into the season, took multiple top-10 finishes this year, lifting them to eighth in the standings. Nicholas Latifi matured in his sophomore year, but was generally outgunned by the departing George Russell, whose P2 qualifying performance in Spa, and P8 in the Silverstone Sprint, were particular highlights.
Big things were expected of Alfa Romeo after pre-season testing, but 2021 was a struggle for both Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi. The pair matched each other in the races, while Giovinazzi did himself credit to outqualify his vastly more experienced team mate across the year – although he could only take three points to Raikkonen’s 10 (despite Raikkonen missing two races with Covid-19), as Alfa Romeo prepare to shuffle the deck driver-wise for 2022.
This season was always going to be tricky for Haas after their announcement that they wouldn’t be developing their VF-21. Nevertheless, the relative performance of rookie pairing Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher was weighted heavily in Schumacher’s favour, as he out-raced Mazepin 16 times to six, and out-qualified him 20 times to two. Points, however, eluded both drivers, while in fairness, Mazepin missed the final race of the year due to Covid-19.