Formula 1 is a unique sport in which beating a teammate is the primary goal for any driver. Teammates are often the benchmark in the sport because they are the only ones in equal machinery, which makes them the only real point of comparison.
The 2021 Formula 1 season will kick off in Bahrain this weekend, and several drivers are at a crossroads in their careers. Most drivers on this list need to beat their teammates this season to retain their seats and to achieve personal goals.
Valtteri Bottas' recent Formula 1 seasons have followed a pattern. The Finn usually starts the season strong and secures his contract. He then suffers a major drop-off, unable to challenge Lewis Hamilton consistently.
One of the most alarming stories for Bottas was last year's Sakhir Grand Prix. With Lewis Hamilton out because of COVID-19, George Russell was thrust into the Mercedes seat. The race was the Finn's chance to take the win and solidify his seat against the rising star. However, George Russell outclassed Bottas on the weekend. The Brit was the faster driver throughout the race and capped off the weekend with a stunning overtake on Bottas.
For Bottas to get another contract extension at Mercedes, the Finn needs to match Lewis Hamilton this season, if not beat him to the championship.
Esteban Ocon has had a rough journey throughout his career. The highly touted French driver won the F3 championship against Max Verstappen in 2014, but was left disappointed after the Dutchman secured a seat with Toro Rosso in Formula 1.
Ocon made his way into Formula 1 and became a competitive driver with Force India. He consistently matched his teammate Sergio Perez in the pink car, but was forced to leave the team after a takeover by Lance Stroll's father, Lawrence Stroll. The Canadian businessman put his son in the seat next to Perez, and it left Ocon without a drive in Formula 1. As a result, the Frenchman had to sit out the entire 2019 season.
Ocon returned to the paddock for 2020 in a Renault, alongside Daniel Ricciardo, arguably the greatest overtaker on the grid. The Australian comprehensively beat the Frenchman at Renault and soon switched teams to McLaren for the 2021 season. He was replaced by two-time world champion Fernando Alonso.
Esteban Ocon will be out of a contract at the end of the season. With Fernando Alonso, the Frenchman faces a tougher teammate than Daniel Ricciardo. The Spaniard is notorious for poor relations with his teammates. Alonso is also a master of mental warfare, taking any opportunity to get under the skin of his rivals.
For Ocon to keep his seat at Alpine, the Frenchman needs to beat Alonso, who returns to the series after a two-year hiatus. Another loss to a teammate could push Esteban Ocon out of the series.
The German joined Aston Martin for the 2021 Formula 1 season alongside Lance Stroll. It is a chance for the former four-time champion to revitalize his career. Aston Martin have placed their hopes on Vettel and expect him to lead the team. The German has to deliver, and to do so, he must beat his teammate at the very least.