Concluding the series on the performance of the 2021 F1 drivers relative to my predictions, we reach the sharp end of the grid. And although the top three teams returned to the usual suspects of Red Bull, Mercedes, and Ferrari, this season was not like its predecessors. New driver line-ups played a small part in the change, but Red Bull nailing the 2021 regulations led to the most intense title fight for years. Let's see how right or wrong I got the top seven finishers of F1 2021.
Charles Leclerc: Predicted finish - 9th / Actual finish - 7th
After the trauma of the subpar 2020 Ferrari, Charles Leclerc will take some heart in the upturn in his Italian employer's fortunes this year. A pole position at his home Grand Prix, plus the P2 finish at Silverstone, are the only stats to add to the record books. Leclerc was often the nearly-man in a car lacking the pace of the two frontrunning teams.
However, the results of his incoming Spanish teammate, Carlos Sainz, dim the Leclerc glow somewhat. The Scuderia have an all-star pairing, but Leclerc may not want to share the spotlight after roundly beating his old stablemate, Sebastian Vettel. Either Sainz is better than many gave him credit, or Leclerc isn't the world-beater some think he is. Let's err on the former, for Charles' sake, eh?
Lando Norris: Predicted finish - 7th / Actual finish - 6th
It was a year of two halves for 2021's early-season star. Lando Norris had a monumental time at McLaren and their familiar surroundings with four podiums, a pole position, and only three laps away from a career-first race victory. Not to mention comfortably and regularly being better than his much-respected Aussie teammate, Daniel Ricciardo.
For far longer than anyone would expect, Norris sat P3 in the standings, ahead of one Red Bull and one Mercedes. If not for a Belgian downpour and Valtteri Bottas missing his braking point in Hungary, it could've been top tens at every single race in 2021 – what a sign of consistency. Despite some rotten luck in the closing stages, Norris cemented his spot as an F1 star this year; and perhaps as a future championship winner, too.
Carlos Sainz: Predicted finish - 10th / Actual finish - 5th
What a wildly incorrect prediction from me for Ferrari's new signing, with Sainz winning the unofficial 'Formula 1.5' series title for 2021. The trials and tribulations of Ferrari had me writing off their chances before winter testing began, and I thought that the benefit of consistency for Charles Leclerc would be detrimental to Sainz's season.
Instead, four podium trips, no retirements, and only two 0-point weekends on the Spaniards report card. A phenomenal effort, indeed, and being the highest non-Mercedes/Red Bull driver after 22 rounds will turn many heads in the paddock. I predicted that Sainz's 105 points from 2021 would be a high-tide mark for years to come back in March. Instead, he took 164.5 in 2021, and who knows where he'll stop in the future.