Formula One's 2021 season will go down as one for the ages. The unfolding story for the championship had twists and turns to rival an award-winning drama. Yet Max Verstappen's crowning was only part of the tale as the constructors also played their role in a fiercely contested year. Behind those gunning for the title, we saw old adversaries resuming battle and a rebranded team looking to make a new name for themselves. Here's how 2021's top F1 constructors fared this year.
The constructors' champions may well walk away with the astonishing achievement of eight consecutive titles, but they are limping as they do so. It's some extra prize money that winning the constructors' championship gives you, not prestige, and Mercedes have plenty of cash to burn.
The newspapers, sponsors, and fans care about which driver is the champ, and thus the car the champion drives in is the one you see in the photographs. For the first time since 2013, the F1 world champion did not drive a Mercedes; and that will hurt.
However, Mercedes didn't have the outright best car this season, yet they still topped the standings. That's a feather in their cap and shows the advantage of keeping a consistent driver line-up. Some late-season car development might've helped, too, but will it be at the expense of their 2022 challenger?
Could you imagine how dull 2021 would've been without Red Bull firing on all cylinders? No constructors title, but, at last, they returned to having the best car. It's been a barren few years for Red Bull since Sebastian Vettel's nine successive victories in 2013.
They placed their long-term hopes and dreams in the new youngster, Verstappen, and we saw the potency of that partnership in full effect this year. It's threatened for years, of course, and now we're left wondering how many years may that partnership be in bloom?
One nagging question that may still dog Red Bull is development parity, even after taking the drivers' championship. Do they put all their development into making Max the fastest he can be at the expense of his teammate? Sergio Perez rarely looked anywhere near having the pace of his Dutch partner in crime. But even say that they do, with the drivers' championship in the bag, do Red Bull really care?
2021 saw several turnarounds for teams, but Ferrari's rapid return to form surprised me the most. 2020 will be the outlier of the 2000s up to now, with that awful P6 finish. The Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz duo was a departure from what the Italian outfit usually tries, but that gamble sure paid off with P3 in the standings.
A single retirement all season, or two if you count Leclerc's non-start at Monaco, is remarkable consistency. The foundation for something great at Ferrari is there. If they can bounce back from 2020's woes this well, then next season could see them back at the very front of proceedings.
Mattia Binotto stepped back a little from juggling being team principal with his previous technical director role this year, and who knows how much that helped the team. The Scuderia look like they've finally begun to plan and not react in a knee-jerk fashion, and it's already paying off. Might we see them return to be race winners as early as next year? Don't bet against it.