F1 2021 team-mate battles: star drivers, underperformers and ones to watch in 2022
Every driver had their moments in 2021 to stand out against their team-mate but who got the best out of their car and who should you keep an eye on in 2022?
Data by Ekagra Gupta, words by Jake Williams-Smith
The goal of every driver on the grid in 2021 was to beat their team-mate, but which had the measure of their counterpart?
By analysing each team and its drivers against a consistent benchmark in Haas, we can extrapolate which driver got the best out of their car and who was lacking versus their direct rival.
With the American team consistently the slowest, no real development brought to the car and it remaining the slowest outfit from start to finish, a median can be plotted for each team from beginning to end of season.
While the race pace comparisons are largely similar between drivers due to their requirement to meet a delta time set by the teams to extract the maximum from tyres for strategy, there are exceptions in certain teams that underlines a clear pace deficit between team-mates
Here is a comprehensive look at who out-performed their closest competition and established their intrateam supremacy and who will be hoping to bounce back quickly in 2022.
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|AlphaTauri||Aston Martin||Williams||Alfa Romeo||Haas|
· No surprise that Hamilton has been dominant over Bottas in both qualifying and race trim
· Bottas had a good middle part of the season but his performance fell away towards the end
· Bottas performed better in qualifying relative to the races but still failed to consistently give Hamilton a run for his money
Despite missing out on a record-breaking eighth drivers’ title, Lewis Hamilton may have put together one of his finest seasons in his career to date.
But for the Abu Dhabi finale, he’d have likely ended the season equal with his title rival for the most wins all year and his performances were better than Valtteri Bottas on the other side of the garage for the majority of the 2021 season.
The middle phase of the year was more closely fought between the two Black Arrows drivers but the moments in favour of the Finn were few and far between. His standout performance came in Turkey where he dominated the race in difficult conditions though Hamilton was fighting back from a grid penalty for power unit components.
Of course, the Finn had the lion’s share of bad luck of the two Mercedes drivers in 2021. His numerous grid penalties for power unit components in the second half of the season hurt his chances of out-scoring his team-mate.
At Alfa Romeo, he’ll get a blank slate to start again against new team-mate Guanyu Zhou, who you’d expect Bottas to dominate given his pace and performances against Hamilton in qualifying during his Mercedes stint.
· Verstappen easily had the upper hand against team-mate Perez
· While Perez played important roles at key moments throughout the season, his pace and performance relative to Verstappen leaves much to be desired
· British and Hungarian GPs discounted due to retirements
The world champion was easily the quicker of the Red Bull drivers, a trend that’s largely been the case since he arrived at the team in 2016 no matter the identity of his counterpart.
Max Verstappen’s 2021 season was almost perfect, failing to finish outside of the top two places just once when he made the chequered flag all year (Hungarian GP, P9).
Sergio Perez played a crucial role in the outcome of the finale but was somewhat lacking across the majority of the season both in qualifying and race pace relative to his world champion team-mate.
Evidenced in the qualifying pace chart outlining the team’s qualifying benchmarks, the Mexican achieved the better result on Saturday just once all season on pure pace.
It was admitted by the team throughout the early-to-mid stages of the season that Perez had to get closer to Verstappen in order to fight Mercedes, a battle it ultimately lost out on in the constructors’ standings.
· Leclerc’s qualifying performances have been better between the two
· Leclerc also had generally stronger performances in the races
· Two closely matched been with Leclerc generally faster but Sainz did a great job of closing the gap
Perhaps it was the most intriguing of the team-mate battles in 2021, Ferrari’s pairing of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz enjoyed great seasons.
As the team continues its march back to the sharp end of the grid, both drivers had their starring moments, including multiple podiums for Sainz.
Leclerc had just one podium to his name though had the worse luck of the two. His Monaco DNS was down to a driveshaft issue on the opposite side of the car that impacted the barriers in qualifying but he stood a good chance of victory had he made the start.
He was also skittled out of the Hungarian GP at the start in all the melee, though Sainz’s consistency on the other side of the garage was very impressive in his own right.
The Spaniard was able to put together better results on average than his team-mate. He finished all 22 races of last season, ending with an average finishing position of 6.2 versus Leclerc’s 7.3 in the 18 races the Monégasque finished in 2021.
· Ricciardo handsomely outperformed by Norris.
· Norris endured poor luck in races whilst in key points paying positions
Lando Norris had the measure of Daniel Ricciardo all year long yet it was the latter that restored the team to the top step of the podium for the first time since 2012, winning brilliantly at Monza.
It was the first McLaren 1-2 since the Canadian GP in 2010 and another sign the team is making great progress in restoring itself back to the top of F1.
Norris though was the star of the show for the team in ’21 and was unfortunate not to take his maiden victory last season. His Russian GP performance was worthy of a win up until the rain fell, but his performances against the experience of his team-mate shone through.
Ricciardo’s race pace did improve gradually through 2021 though he won’t be thrilled with the gap that he had to his team-mate on a Saturday.
2022 offers a fresh start on equal footing and with the Australian much better acclimatised to his surroundings and team.
· Both Alpine drivers are very close across both qualifying and race performances
· Race pace particularly close, with the exception of a few races where one had a clear edge over the other.
· Ocon had a good run of form followed by a drop off
Alpine’s intrateam battle may have been the closest on the grid in 2021 in terms of the statistics.
Fernando Alonso took his time getting to grips with Formula 1 on his return but once he did, the Spaniard was back to his usual form. Esteban Ocon meanwhile was quick out of the gate but began to struggle just as his two-time champion team-mate found his feet.
Ocon’s earlier season form may have been down to an earlier chassis/car issue. The Frenchman changed his chassis ahead of the British Grand Prix weekend as a result and was back on par with Alonso from that point on, outperforming at times and close once again near the end of the year.
Other than in Turkey, the rest of the season was fairly consistent between both drivers with little to separate the duo both in qualifying and race trim.
The fight between Alpine team-mate’s will be one to watch for in 2022 as both driver’s begin with a clean slate.
· Gasly handsomely outperformed Tsunoda.
· Gasly was a star in qualifying.
· Tsunoda starts to make consistent improvements in closing the qualifying gap from the Dutch GP onwards.
Pierre Gasly was a standout performer in qualifying throughout the 2021 season. He achieved top six starts in almost 75% of the races, a seriously impressive achievement.
It’s no wonder then that rookie team-mate Yuki Tsunoda did so poorly when directly compared with the Frenchman.
Tsunoda’s struggles early in the 2021 campaign were eventually addressed as he closed the gap to Gasly in both qualifying and race sessions but both suffered a high missed laps count due to unreliability or driver error.
In general though, the performance gap between Gasly and Tsunoda was much smaller on Sundays versus in qualifying. Clear area for improvement for the Japanese driver in 2022.
· Very close between both Aston drivers in terms of pace
· Vettel seemed to be the better qualifier
· Stroll was better at consistently finishing in the points but Vettel achieved higher points finishes
Another close battle between team-mates, Aston Martin endured a difficult 2021 season but its drivers could hardly be separated.
On average, Sebastian Vettel just about edged the qualifying battle in terms of pace but was comfortably the victor in the overall head-to-head with Lance Stroll (14-8 in Vettel’s favour).
The race battle between the two though was much more closely contested as Stroll closed the gap to Vettel and then some.
While the race pace battle was closer, it was Vettel that achieved the standout results, finishing further up the order than Stroll while the Canadian was more consistently in the points, albeit in the lower paying positions.
· Russell outperformed Latifi in race and quali trim
· While Russell easily had the measure of Latifi in qualifying, the gap is less pronounced in race trim. Russell also has a few occasions that are marred by reliability or accidents
· Russell seems to lose backtrack on his qualifying pace after Italy
There were few surprises at Williams in 2021 but the George Russell vs Nicholas Latifi battle did have a few unexpected results and the race pace between the two was closer than their one-lap head-to-head might have suggested.
The Canadian was finally able to snap Russell’s streak of out-qualifying his team-mate in every attempt. Initially it took until the Italian GP sprint race to achieve the feat but by the end of the season, Latifi had managed to out-qualify his team-mate on merit.
In what was his final opportunity to do so in a regular qualifying session, Latifi managed to beat ‘Mr Saturday’ on a Saturday but it wasn’t a regular performance from Russell.
In fact, his qualifying pace seemed to dip from the Italian GP weekend onwards, coincidentally the same race weekend he was announced as a Mercedes driver for 2022.
Any repeats of a slump in form at Merc in 2022 won’t go unpunished should he find himself in a title battle.
· Kubica’s pace is used as a substitute for when Räikkönen had COVID
· Giovinazzi was the better qualifier but Räikkönen did a better job at securing points when the opportunities came up
Neither Alfa Romeo driver will be returning in 2022 so the ’21 season was the final time we saw Antonio Giovinazzi go up against Kimi Räikkönen and the pair were closer than you might expect.
Giovinazzi was the better of the two on a Saturday but on Sunday it was the world champion driver that made his opportunities count, scoring on four occasions to Giovinazzi’s two.
While they ended up tied at 10 apiece in terms of race results (discounting the Dutch and Italian GPs which Räikkönen missed due to COVID), the Italian was actually the better performer on race day on average.
The numerous moments of ill fortune throughout the year though cost him several promising races when he looked on course for points. The fitting of a flat tyre during his first stop during the Spanish GP for example summed up his season.
Räikkönen’s lack of domination over a team-mate that was let go by the team might suggest he’s called a day on his racing career in F1 at the right time.
· Schumacher outperforms Mazepin comprehensively across the season
Another season of misery at Haas included few moments to write home about.
The standout effort though may have been Mick Schumacher’s superb effort to get his car through to Q2 at the Turkish GP, ending up P14 on the day.
Nikita Mazepin struggled to form any kind of consistency against his team-mate throughout the year and while he came close on a few occasions, the qualifying battle ended up 20-2 in Schumacher’s favour.
Schumacher had the team’s best finish of the season with P12 at the Hungarian Grand Prix while Mazepin’s best came in Azerbaijan, finishing 14th that day.
There is surely only one to go for both the team and drivers in 2022.
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