I know right?! I can’t believe it either. We’ve already reached the stage of 2021 where we look at the Top 10 moments of F1 in 2021. The 2021 F1 Season was a crazy one, and there were so many great races full of mind-blowing moments. The fight for the Drivers’ World Championship literally went down to the final corner! I’m sure I’m not the only person who took a couple of days to fully realise that there won’t be any more Formula 1 racing until MARCH 2022. But it’s time to take a look at the season that has etched itself into the history books.
READ MORE: Top 10 Moments of Formula 1 in 2020
The season started off with a fantastic battle between Hamilton and Verstappen. That first battle set the precedence for the rest of the season and the rest of the title battle. There were mad moments outside of the title battle as well, with some of them involving more than one or two cars. And then there was that moment where there was only one car where there should’ve been many! All in all, I’ve narrowed the season down into 10 mind-blowing and memorable moments, and one bonus moment in the middle. Hope you enjoy going over the best moments of the 2021 season as much as I am, and let’s get into the Top 10 moments of F1 in 2021!
10: 2021 Emilia-Romagna GP – Bottas and Russell Crash Into Turn 1
So, #10 on the list of the Top 10 moments of F1 in 2021. This high-speed crash added even more spice to the 2021 Emilia-Romagna GP. The race was already enthralling enough – there was a controversial battle at the start, weather change crashes and spins. The ultimate crash made it an even more memorable race. There was debris all over the entry into Turn 1, which brought out a Red Flag. On Lap 30, Hamilton slid off the track at Turn 9 and hit the wall. It was a big moment because he was running in P2 and trying to catch up to Verstappen. But as the camera showed Hamilton trying to get out of the gravel and damaging his front wing in the process, it switched to the scene of Bottas and Russell’s crash.
What happened in the crash was, George Russell was trying to overtake Valtteri Bottas for P9. Russell had DRS and a lot more speed than Bottas. As Russell pulled alongside Bottas to overtake him, Bottas squeezed Russell towards the edge of the track. Russell went on the wet grass while trying to make the overtake. Since Russell was going at over 300 kph when he went on the grass, the grass sent Russell into a spin. But Bottas was right next to Russell, so Russell hit Bottas while spinning. I’ve given a description of something that happened in less than 2 seconds!
The crash happened at a really high speed since the drivers were coming down into Turn 1. Grip levels were lower because the track hadn’t fully dried as yet. The track got narrower down into Turn 1, so the drivers would be able to crash easily. That’s why the incident was much harder to avoid. All in all, the crash was massive, and there was a huge volume of debris scattered across the entry into Turn 1. After angry radio messages and an angry exchange, both drivers (thankfully) made it back to their teams safely with no injuries. To see my analysis of the controversial crash, check out our 2021 Emilia-Romagna GP Race Review! Red Flags aren’t that common, and this was a crash that could’ve had worse consequences 20 years ago. The crash proved that F1 has thankfully gotten a lot safer.
9: 2021 Bahrain GP – The First Battle
Until the dying laps of the race, the battle for the lead had been purely about strategy. At the start of the race, Verstappen managed to keep the lead from Hamilton. But when it came to the first round of pitstops, Mercedes nailed it. Verstappen came out of the pits 5 seconds behind Hamilton, since Hamilton pitted 4 laps earlier and nailed the undercut. But Verstappen put on fresh mediums while Hamilton put on the hards. That’s because Hamilton didn’t have any fresh mediums left. On top of that, Hamilton struggled with tire wear on the hards, while Verstappen stretched his stint. After the 2nd pit window, Verstappen had 16 laps to gain 8.5 seconds. His tires were 11 laps fresher, and Hamilton was struggling on the hards. It was GAME ON.
By Lap 51, and the time had finally arrived. Max Verstappen was within 1 second of Lewis Hamilton. At the end of Lap 52, he was right there, right behind Hamilton. Verstappen charged down the main straight with DRS open, closed up to Hamilton with blistering speed. When he arrived at Turn 1, he couldn’t make an overtake, but as he came through Turns 2 and 3, and then opened DRS, he went for it.
Down the straight went Hamilton and Verstappen. Hamilton defended the inside line, and although he left space down the inside, Verstappen couldn’t go there because there was a lapped car trying to get out of the way of the battling duo. And as Verstappen arrived at Turn 4, he was ahead of the Brit, but then Hamilton was still there at the inside. Hamilton tried to give it everything at the exit of Turn 4, but so did Verstappen. In fact, Verstappen gave it a little bit too much. He ran off the track and then got back on track to complete the move.
For a moment, everyone thought it was done. Everyone thought that Max Verstappen was going to win the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix. Until the drivers reached the back straight. Verstappen pulled aside, letting Hamilton through because Verstappen completed the overtake when he ran off the track, which isn’t allowed in F1. When Verstappen gave the position back, there was still a little hope, that with 3 laps to go, Verstappen might get past Hamilton again. But Hamilton defended and even made a gap, especially because Verstappen’s tires were now finished. Verstappen had not managed his tires enough, while Hamilton had saved his best for last. We arrived at the final corner of the final lap, and Hamilton came across the line to take victory at the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix. It was a battle that marked the beginning of a legendary rivalry and title battle.
BONUS: 2021 Azerbaijan GP – Verstappen’s Tire Blowout
This is the bonus moment on the list! I wanted to narrow this list down to the Top 10 moments of F1 in 2021, but I couldn’t leave this out, so I added it as a bonus. Verstappen’s tire blowout at the 2021 Azerbaijan GP was a big moment since he was leading the race with Hamilton down in 3rd. From going to gaining a race win and 10 points on Hamilton, Verstappen went to retiring and losing 18 points to Hamilton in the championship. Verstappen got out of the cockpit completely unharmed because he was going down the main straight when his tire just went.
The car started going to the right before turning, hitting the wall slightly, and then doing a 360. Thankfully, when his tire failed, there was space between the track and the wall. Otherwise, it would’ve been a massive impact on the wall, since Verstappen’s car was careering down the main straight at over 300 km/h. He got lucky because his car hit the wall on the right. If it got so much out of control that it went left, the car could’ve hit the wall at the pit entry. That could’ve been a much more serious crash. 5 laps before the end of the race, the race leader crashed out, which made the 2021 Azerbaijan GP even more crazy and memorable. The thing is, that wasn’t the end of that mind-blowing race.
8: 2021 Russian GP – Norris’s Maiden Win Slides Away
Lando Norris had his first victory in Formula 1 right there in his hands. Then the rain came and washed the win away, leaving Norris, McLaren, and many fans heartbroken. The situation and the result of the situation were tough to swallow. It’s a reminder of how competitive and brutal F1 can be, and how you’re going to experience bumps on the road to success. Honestly, Lando drove brilliantly for the entire race, and it all slipped away in a couple of laps.
Norris lost the lead at the start but regained the lead after the first pit window. It was during the dying laps of the race that the rain started coming down, and the race started to get even more exciting. Norris was able to deal with the pressure of Hamilton catching up to him. Hamilton was in P2, but it took him until Lap 47 to get within a second of Norris. To make things worse for Norris, a part of the track was getting wet as the rain started to fall. With barely 6 laps to go in the race, things just got A LOT more interesting. It was Hamilton, who is a veteran and has raced in changing conditions before, against an up-and-coming youngblood. PERFECT.
On Lap 47, Norris ran wide at the exit of Turn 7, where the rain was most prominent. A couple of corners later, Norris got back to having regular grip levels. It was a very delicate and tricky situation. Lap 49 is when it got even worse, and all of the drivers were struggling. The drivers who played it safe and pit for intermediate tires Laps 47 and 48 made the most gains. The medium-risk option was Lap 49, which is when Tsunoda, and crucially, Hamilton pitted. Norris decided to stay out because McLaren told him the rain intensity would stay the same till the end of the 2021 Russian GP. They told him that on Lap 47 when it was only a light drizzle. At the end of the race (the end of Lap 53), the track conditions were full-wet conditions.
By Lap 50 it was pouring and the weather had completely changed. By Lap 50, lapped cars that were on inters were unlapping themselves. SURELY that was a sign that something wasn’t right. By Lap 51, with 2 and a half laps to go in the race, Norris slid off the track at Turn 4. The drizzle was now heavy rain at a considerable amount of the track. He rejoined the track and immediately said that he had to box, otherwise he would “shunt” (he would crash). At Turn 5, he had an even worse slide, and Hamilton took the lead from him.
It was all over for Lando Norris. He pitted at the end of Lap 51 and finished the race in P7. It was heartbreak and a huge disappointment. It was very unfortunate, and it marked a mad yet painful race. The moment when Norris slid off the track and lost the win was the moment when millions of fans’ hearts sunk. Lando deserved that win, and McLaren should’ve told him that he needed to pit. His teammate Ricciardo came into the pits at the right time, but McLaren chose to trust the young and fairly inexperienced driver in that situation. Check out the 2021 Russian GP Race Review for my complete analysis of the race and the weather changes and decisions that were taken during the race.
7: 2021 Azerbaijan GP – Hamilton Goes Off At Turn 1
This moment definitely had us shocked, because it was so mind-blowing. It’s definitely one of the Top 10 moments of F1 in 2021 because, after this moment, the Azerbaijan GP was the only race in 2021 apart from the Italian GP where both title rivals didn’t score any points. After Verstappen’s crash, the race director suspended the race, because it was too dangerous to have debris and a stranded car on the main straight.
After the track was cleared up, it was time for the Red Flag restart. It was time for a 2-lap shootout to end the crazy race. Perez was 1st, ahead of Hamilton, who was ready to chase after a win that could be very advantageous for him in the championship. As the 5 red lights went out, Hamilton got a better launch and pulled alongside Perez. The Red Bull pushed Hamilton to the inside line into Turn 1, but as they approached the braking zone, a shocking thing happened. Hamilton locked up on the front-left wheel and went straight on at Turn 1 instead of Turning left like everyone else. He rejoined the race dead last.
That meant Perez would win the race ahead of Vettel and Gasly, with the podium finishers all having outstanding performances. The reason Hamilton went straight on at Turn 1 was that he accidentally pressed a button called the ‘Magic Button’. That changed the car settings to put extra load on his front brakes. That’s why he just locked up and went straight on. It’s an unfortunate error that meant Verstappen would stay in the lead of the championship coming into the 2021 French GP.
6: 2021 Hungarian GP – Pandemonium at Turn 1
At the 2021 Hungarian GP, the conditions were very tricky with the cloudy skies and the wet track. Bottas got a terrible start off the 2nd grid slot, with Lando Norris and both Red Bulls passing him. To be fair to Valtteri, he did get quite boxed in coming into Turn 1. But he still braked too late, misjudged the braking point and rear-ended Norris. Bottas’s wheel broke, which meant he couldn’t turn and just T-boned Sergio Perez. Since Bottas rear-ended Norris, Norris had absolutely no control over his car. He ended up broadsiding Verstappen’s car, which meant that Bottas pretty much took out both Red Bull cars. I think he took the “team player” role a little TOO seriously. Or he was just bowling with F1 cars. Either way, he ruined Red Bull’s race. Perez retired, while Verstappen took a lot of damage to his car. l
Bottas wasn’t the only driver causing trouble at Turn 1, however. Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll braked early into Turn 1, or so he thought. His car was all over the place and had no grip. The wet track was proving to be unforgiving. Stroll had no control over his car, with his front AND rear tires locking up. Because of that, he got on the grass just before the kerb for Turn 1, which sent him hurtling towards the apex of the corner. Unfortunately, Charles Leclerc was coming through the corner as Lance Stroll got on the grass and lost control.
That’s why he crashed into Leclerc’s sidepod. Next to Leclerc was Daniel Ricciardo, who was trying to go around the outside of Turn 1. For a second, he thought he made it through the madness. But Stroll almost Leclerc into a spin, which meant Leclerc had no control over his car and hit Ricciardo. Then Leclerc hit Ricciardo AGAIN which sent the McLaren car into a spin. It’s clear that Bottas and Stroll caused these major crashes. The teams surely have to spend large amounts of money after the crashes from this race. Perez, Bottas, Stroll, Norris and Leclerc all retire from the race because of the melee. Check out F1’s Top 10 Onboards video on YouTube to see some crazy onboards from Lap 1, including Alonso’s INSANE view of all of the madness!
5: 2021 Saudi Arabian GP – Madness and Confusion As The Titans Battle
Coming into the 2021 Saudi Arabian GP, Verstappen needed to stop Hamilton, who was on form. Before the 2021 Sao Paulo GP, Verstappen was 21 points ahead of Hamilton. But Hamilton bagged the win in the next 2 races. Since Verstappen secured the fastest lap at the 2021 Qatar GP, he was still 8 points ahead before the Saudi Arabian GP. Verstappen knew that he had to stop Hamilton because Hamilton had the momentum that he needed, while Verstappen didn’t. And since we were at the penultimate race of the season, tensions were high between the rivals.
They ended up having controversial battles for the lead multiple times during the race. First, at the Red Flag restart, down into Turn 1, Hamilton was ahead. That means he had the right to squeeze Verstappen off the track. The drivers didn’t make any contact, so it wasn’t dirty racing. But since Verstappen went off the track at the inside of Turn 2, he cut the corner and skipped over the inside curb of Turn 2 to rejoin the track ahead of Hamilton. That also forced Hamilton to slow down, allowing Ocon to go up into P2. As a penalty, Verstappen had to line up in 3rd for the 2nd Red Flag restart. He went up into the lead after a MAD divebomb into Turn 1.
It took Hamilton another 20 laps to get close enough to Verstappen. So on Lap 37, he could finally try and overtake Verstappen. On Lap 37, the title rivals went down into Turn 1, with Hamilton trying to go for the move around the outside. Verstappen stayed on the inside line but locked up and faced oversteer into Turn 2. That forced Verstappen to cut Turn 2, which meant he gained an advantage by going off the track…again! The FIA promptly told Red Bull that Verstappen had to give the position back to Hamilton. But Red Bull told him to do so strategically, and he pretty much brake-tested Hamilton. They made contact, and Verstappen stayed ahead.
On Lap 42, he let Hamilton through again after a couple of laps where the FIA didn’t give Red Bull any further instructions. However, Verstappen immediately re-overtook Hamilton by diving down the inside into the final corner just after letting Hamilton past. That’s not allowed in F1, and the stewards had had enough, so they awarded Verstappen a 5-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage. Ok, Verstappen’s been penalised, and now it’s just up to which driver is the fastest, right?
Verstappen would be pushing to create a 5-second gap in order to keep his lead at the end of the race, and Hamilton would be focusing on trying to maintain good pace despite having damage to his car. But on Lap 43, Verstappen let Hamilton past again. Wasn’t he already penalised? Then, he got another 10-second penalty for causing a collision. In the end, Hamilton won the chaotic and controversial race. He also secured the fastest lap to bring him level on points with Verstappen. The tension and the pressure was hitting Verstappen harder, and it resulted in him being overly aggressive, which only ruined his race. He would have to keep his composure if he wanted to win the title in the shootout in Abu Dhabi.
4: 2021 Hungarian GP – Lights Out And Away We Go…For Lewis Hamilton Only!
This is something that I never thought I would see in F1. It’s something that can’t ever be scripted in any movie or TV show because it’s something that nobody ever thought of. Only 1 car standing on the grid as the 5 red lights go out. The last time we saw shenanigans like this was when the 2005 US Grand Prix started with just 6 cars on the grid. This is ANOTHER LEVEL. This is LITERALLY when the entire lobby disconnects on the F1 game. There’s just one lonely car sitting there on the grid. It’s simply mind-boggling and one of the most legendary moments in F1 history.
At the Red Flag restart at the 2021 Hungarian GP, all the drivers were supposed to line up on the grid for a standing restart. It was the restart after the Red Flag triggered by the crazy crash at the start of the race. However, all the drivers were racing on the Intermediate tire compound. Those tires are for wet weather conditions, but not for heavy wet weather. But during the Red Flag period, the track had dried out. Everyone except for Lewis Hamilton pulled into the pits for a fresh set of tires instead of taking the standing start, which is why Hamilton restarted the race alone.
It proved to be a costly mistake not to come into the pits. He came into the pits on the same lap when the restart happened, but came out of the pits in dead last. Everyone who pitted before the restart got a huge advantage on Hamilton. If Hamilton had pitted, there wouldn’t be any cars on the grid for the Red Flag restart. Michael Masi said after the race that in that case, the normal start signal would’ve begun when the last car on the track came into the pitlane. The 5 red lights would’ve gone out with no cars on the grid, and the order that the cars came out of the pitlane in would remain. MADNESS isn’t it?!
3: 2021 Italian GP – The Title Rivals Take Each Other Out
This wasn’t the first time in the season that the title rivals collided. They’d already had an incident at the 2021 British GP, which ranked #2 on this list. But this time, they took each other out of the race! Both of them left Italy with no points gained. At the start of the race, Hamilton overtook Norris for P3 and was ready to take P2 off Verstappen. Hamilton tried the move around the outside of Turn 4, but Verstappen gave him a good squeeze at the exit of Turn 4 leading into Turn 5. Hamilton went off the track and lost a position to Norris too. It was legal because he went over the sausage kerbs. But that Lap 1 battle was another reminder that the gloves are off.
The rivals didn’t encounter each other until Lap 26. Both Hamilton and Verstappen had bad pitstops, which promoted Norris to P2. And when Hamilton came out of the pits he came out right alongside Verstappen. Hamilton immediately squeezed Verstappen to the outer edge of the track as the rivals turned into Turn 1. Lewis was a tire’s length ahead of Verstappen as he turned in for Turn 2. But Verstappen didn’t have enough space, and he couldn’t make the turn.
His car mounted the massive Turn 2 curb, and his rear-right tire mounted Hamilton’s rear left, which sent Verstappen’s car flying over Hamilton’s car. The Red Bull then fell back down on top of the Mercedes. Both cars went off into the gravel trap and were out of the 2021 Italian GP. This was the first time since the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix that title rivals had taken each other out, and it was something that assured us that this was one of the most intense seasons that we’ve seen in a long time.
The crash was quite dangerous. Verstappen’s rear-right tire actually pushed down on Hamilton’s crash helmet. The tire went over the rollover hoop, and the halo stopped the tire from completely damaging Hamilton’s head and neck. We must be thankful for the safety advances that the FIA and Formula 1 have made over the decades. These advances have made a dangerous sport safer for drivers and spectators.
2: 2021 British GP – Hamilton and Verstappen Collide At Copse
This incident was a HUGE incident. It was the first time that the title rivals made contact that resulted in a proper crash. We all knew that the title rivals would crash into each other this season. But we didn’t expect a crash this big. Verstappen faced a massive 51G impact when his car hit the barrier. That’s like 3.6 tonnes of mass pushing Verstappen’s body into the tire barrier. And, as I expected, this crash and the penalty that the stewards awarded created a lot of debate.
Verstappen started the race on pole position after winning the Sprint race. Hamilton learned his lesson from the sprint race and knew that he HAD to get past Verstappen on Lap 1 for any chance of winning the race. Verstappen didn’t get the best start, and Hamilton pounced and tried to make a move into Turn 1. Verstappen managed to keep the lead by sweeping around the outside of Hamilton. Hamilton tried to go for a move around the outside of Village and The Loop but managed to get an excellent exit out of the Aintree corner.
Down the Wellington Straight, Hamilton used the slipstream and actually got ahead of Verstappen down into Brooklands. Verstappen nailed his braking and used the inside line to take the lead back from Hamilton. Into the Luffield corner, Verstappen secured the position. But through the Luffield corner, Hamilton nailed his racing line and achieved a great run through the Woodcote corner. He once again used the slipstream down the Old Pit Straight. Down into Copse, Lewis chose his line wisely. Instead of sticking to the outside line, he switched to the inside line. He knew that the outside line wouldn’t work out for him, since he went for the outside line in the sprint race, and couldn’t grab the lead. But in the actual Grand Prix, into the Copse corner, an exciting battle for the lead turned into a shocking crash.
Copse corner is a high-speed, dangerous corner; drivers are racing at over 300 km/h when entering the corner. While Verstappen and Hamilton were turning into the Copse corner, Hamilton’s front-left tire hit Verstappen’s rear-right tire. The tire immediately came off of Verstappen’s car as the Red Bull skipped across the gravel trap before slamming into the tire barrier. As I mentioned earlier, Verstappen faced a massive 51G impact. Lewis Hamilton received a 10-second time penalty for the incident. Many thought that the penalty was too lenient since Verstappen had to retire from the race. And the damages cost Red Bull $1.8 million. But the stewards had their reasons. Check out the 2021 British GP Race Review for my analysis of the incident. Hamilton went on to win the race, and the 25 points that he gained on Verstappen could be crucial for the championship.
1: 2021 Abu Dhabi GP – The Blockbuster Ending
This is the maddest moment of F1 in 2021. It’s a moment that was so unbelievable, and it took a while for many to fully process what happened at the end of the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP. On Lap 53 of 58, Latifi was stranded on the track after crashing into the wall, which resulted in a Safety Car. The entire field piled into the pits except for Hamilton. Verstappen switched onto a set of soft tires that were barely used. However, it looked like Verstappen wouldn’t be able to overtake Hamilton using those fresh tires.
On Lap 57, the penultimate lap of the race, it looked like Hamilton had secured the World Championship. But as the Safety Car approached Turn 9, Race Control confirmed that those 5 lapped cars that were between Hamilton and Verstappen could overtake the Safety Car. Usually, Race Control lets all lapped cars through. And if they did that, the lapped cars would have to catch up to the Safety Car queue, and we wouldn’t get any laps of racing. But in a sudden and somewhat confusing twist, the Race Director allowed only those 5 cars to go through, and then announced that the Safety Car was ending! There was going to be one last lap of racing at the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP! And Verstappen was on fairly fresh softs, right behind Hamilton, who was on old hards!
We all know what happened next. Verstappen spared no time – he made a divebomb down into the hairpin of Turn 5 to take the lead from Hamilton. The 7-time World Champion tried his best to get his hands back on that 8th title. Hamilton tried to use the slipstream down into the chicane. Verstappen weaved around on the track. Some say that Verstappen broke the rules by doing that, but the Stewards didn’t investigate it. Hamilton didn’t have DRS, and Verstappen defended the inside line. Hamilton optimized his exit out of the chicane. He charged down the straight after the chicane, using the slipstream into Turn 9. Verstappen forced Hamilton to go around the outside of Turn 9. They almost made contact as Verstappen secured the lead and secured the World Championship. There was nothing Hamilton could do to save the title.
Verstappen went on to win the race and win the World Drivers’ Championship. He ended Lewis’s reign and denied Hamilton of that record-breaking 8th title. But he didn’t settle it on track. Verstappen didn’t win the way anyone would’ve wanted him to win. He won because of what could be seen as the most controversial decision Michael Masi has ever made since he became the Race Director. To read my complete analysis of the decisions that defined the outcome of the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP, check out the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP Race Review. It was clearly the most entertaining and mind-blowing laps of 2021, and even if Hamilton won the championship, it would be the best of the Top 10 Moments of F1 in 2021.
Hope everybody has a Happy New Year! It’s been a crazy year, and not just in terms of F1. The pandemic has been raging on, and although it hasn’t hit F1 as badly as it did last year, it continues to affect people every day. Let’s head into 2022 with happiness, but let’s make sure we stay safe and rest up ahead of the new generation of F1, which will begin on the 23rd of February at the first pre-season test in Barcelona. The real action, however, begins at the Bahrain GP on the 20th of March! Stay safe, Happy New Year, and enjoy F1ntastic!