The F1 2021 season was one of the best F1 seasons the sport has seen in a long time, despite its controversial ending. The end of the season might have seen the entire media fixated on Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull's Max Verstappen, other drivers too made an impact this season.
For some, it was a redemption of sorts, a case of finally fulfilling the potential that had been there all along. For others, it was a case of everything finally coming together in somewhat freaky conditions.
Top 3 breakout performances in F1 2021 season
#1 Lando Norris at the Russian GP
Lando Norris had a breakthrough season in F1 in 2021. The season featured the McLaren driver achieving podiums at the Emillia Romagna, Monaco and Austrian Grands Prix as he made the most of the surprising competitiveness of his car. At the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, the 22-year-old would follow teammate Daniel Ricciardo home in the team's first 1-2 in a long time.
It was in Russia, however, that Norris would deliver his breakout performance of this season. In a rain-affected qualifying session, he achieved his first pole position in F1 and although he would not be able to convert it into a win on Sunday, the pole position would go down as one of the crowning moments of his eventful season in F1.
#2 Esteban Ocon at the Hungarian GP
Esteban Ocon made an impressive start to the F1 2021 season with four points-finishes in the first five races. This saw him being awarded a slightly surprising 3-year extension by Alpine. The extension would somehow result in a drop in form for the French driver as his teammate Fernando Alonso would slowly but surely start getting the better of him.
All of this changed at the Hungarian GP where Ocon would beat his illustrious teammate in qualifying. On race day, he found himself in a perfect position to take advantage of the first corner chaos caused by Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas.
With Lewis Hamilton making a strategic blunder by staying out on mediums, Ocon was able to inherit the lead and from that point onwards never looked back as he fended off Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel for almost the entire duration of the race.
The race proved what many in the paddock already knew: Esteban Ocon deserved to be ranked highly on the grid, and his performance while driving at the front was a testament to that.
#3 George Russell at the Belgian GP
George Russell has already proved he is worthy enough to be a Mercedes driver after his one-off stint with the team at the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020. Driving a Williams, however — a car in which points are hard to come by — it was very tough for Russell to deliver the results (other than an almost flawless qualifying record of course) to show for his talents.
That was until the F1 circus turned up at Spa and qualifying had to take place in a heavy downpour. In conditions where the car you have underneath doesn’t make too much of a difference, Russell would almost secure pole position in a Williams, only to be beaten by Max Verstappen in the end.
When the race was washed out, Russell maintained his grid position, thereby securing his first podium in F1, and his team Williams' too, since Lance Stroll at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in 2017.
Securing such a result in a Williams was a shocker, and doing that while beating Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes made it all the more special. The qualifying session at Spa gave George Russell a much-needed result for his stint at Williams and the validation, if there was any required, to earn that seat at Mercedes.