Home Featured The Top 10 Formula 2 drivers of 2021

The Top 10 Formula 2 drivers of 2021

by Formula Scout

Photos: Formula Motorsport Limited

What was expected to be the most open year of F2’s modern era was shaken up mid-season as Prema’s Oscar Piastri dominated, and 2021’s event format and stretched calendar made top 10 picks as tricky as ever

Ultimately, Formula Scout has come up with its list, with a unanimous pick for the top spot after analysing all of the various data and taking into consideration the respective performances of the teams as well as the drivers’ individual highs and lows. Each writer gave their top 10 and the average of those forms the basis of this list.

After the Abu Dhabi season finale we discussed season on our podcast, which you can listen to below or find on Breaker, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, Castbox, Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Honourable Mentions

Virtuosi Racing’s Felipe Drugovich never really seemed to gel with the team’s on-track package after his highly-anticipated move there off the back of a brilliant 2020 with MP Motorsport (where he returns in 2022), but there were flashes that put him perilously close to making this list. Bent Viscaal single-handedly putting Trident on the podium twice and into ninth in the teams’ championship gained plaudits from one of our writers too.

However, there was a lack of love for race winner Marcus Armstrong (DAMS), and podium finishers Christian Lundgaard (ART Grand Prix), David Beckmann (Charouz Racing System and Campos Racing) and Roy Nissany (DAMS) to name but a few drivers with silverware from 2021 but no spot on our top 10.

Key Percentage of team’s points scored (TP), Average qualifying position (QA), Feature race points (FR), Sprint race points (SR), Laps led (LL)

10. Jehan Daruvala INDIA Carlin
7th in standings, 113pts (2 wins, 1 fastest lap, 5 podiums) – TP 41.5%, QA 7.9 (8th), FR 42 (8th), SR 71 (5th), LL 63 (3rd)

Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

Cian Brittle (8th): After being so soundly beaten by Yuki Tsunoda last season, an improvement this year was expected for Daruvala, especially after he finished 2020 so strongly with a new engine. Yet this season seemed to be the opposite for the Red Bull junior, as he started well and faded away in the final rounds. He only managed three points finishes across the final three rounds, being outscored by team-mate Dan Ticktum by 24 points across those races when it had only been a 22.5-point deficit across the first five rounds. While this wasn’t a dismantling to the same extent as last year, he struggled to match Ticktum, specifically on race pace. He was also largely outperformed by Red Bull stablemates Liam Lawson and Juri Vips, so further improvement is needed going into his third season if, as testing has suggested, Dennis Hauger and Ayumu Iwasa expand the pool of Red Bull juniors in F2.

Peter Allen (9th): Daruvala made a step forward in his second F2 season, but not of the scale required to be the proper title threat he needed to be if he’s to be considered a serious F1 prospect on merit. Again he was second-best in Carlin’s line-up, unable to match Ticktum’s podium habit. Qualifying consistency was an obvious downfall: he was second to Piastri at both Monza and Sochi but was outside the top eight at five of the other six rounds. The redeeming feature of his season were his attacking drives in the sprint races where he made up more points from his starting spots than anyone aside from the potent Prema pair, although his two race wins came from the front row. More of that could be possible with his anticipated move to Prema next year, even if his Red Bull junior status is looking hard to justify at this point.

9. Ralph Boschung SWITZERLAND Campos Racing
10th in standings, 59.5pts (1 fastest lap, 2 podiums) – TP 66.5%, QA 7.9 (9th), FR 27.5 (11th), SR 32 (12th), LL 2 (13th)

Bethonie Waring (6th): Anyone who listens to the podcast knows Boschung has been one of the stars of the season to me. When making this list, one of the important factors to me wasn’t just how well they did, but how well they did compared to what I was expecting, and Boschung more than exceeded expectations. For sure, there is plenty of room for improvements and consistency was not his strong point, but when he was scoring they were decent points finishes. He didn’t appear out of his comfort zone when fighting with title contenders and more than deserved his two end-of-year podiums.

Alejandro Alonso Lopez (8th): The 2021 season was Boschung’s best to date in F2. The Swiss driver extracted the most out of his Campos-run car to qualify in the top seven in six out of eight rounds. His race results also improved considerably compared to previous years. Even though he got two podiums in the last two rounds, the highlight of his season has to be Monaco. Keeping the car away from the barriers in a very slippery track was key to scoring points in all three races. The negatives came at Monza and Sochi where two self-inflicted mistakes while running comfortably inside the top 10 prevented him from scoring more points. It will be interesting to see what he and Campos can achieve togerher in 2022, as both team and driver seem really comfortable with each other.

8. Richard Verschoor NETHERLANDS MP Motorsport/Charouz Racing System
11th in standings, 56pts (1 win, 1 podium) – TP 73.3% & 3.6%, QA 12.9 (15th), FR 30 (10th), SR 26 (15th), LL 32 (10th)

AA (5th): Verschoor has been without any doubts one of the sensations of this year’s midfield. He shined in the season opener, qualifying fifth and finishing fifth and fourth in races two and three, and his talent would be noticeable across the rest of the year. Silverstone was a strong weekend too, controlling race two from reversed-grid pole and coming very close to finishing third in the feature race. Not having his seat secured never seemed to be a problem for the Dutch, who was always fully focused when he was on track. It is also worth mentioning how quick he adapted to Charouz’s car in Abu Dhabi, after spending most of his single-seater career with MP Motorsport before the budget dried out with two F2 rounds to go.

PA (8th): Verschoor was unofficial champion of what I’m calling ‘Rookie Class B’, an underdog quartet of Dutch and German drivers who made deserved steps up from Formula 3 despite their lack of certain funding. Verschoor’s MP seat was the least certain of all, officially confirmed only on a round-by-round basis. But already on debut in Bahrain he qualified fifth – the top rookie – and finished the feature race fourth having led with five laps to go. At Silverstone, without the benefit of testing, he was similarly strong. Consistency was missing but the Macau Grand Prix winner showed his class and didn’t deserve to be bought out of his seat while he was still inside the championship top 10. Even when he returned with Charouz at the final round he came from 16th to score the team’s only feature race point of the season.

7. Juri Vips ESTONIA Hitech GP
6th in standings, 120pts (2 wins, 1 fastest lap, 6 podiums) – TP 53.8%, QA 9.9 (12th), FR 43 (7th), SR 77 (4th), LL 49 (6th)

Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

Craig Woollard (5th): The sheer volume of bad luck that Vips had in 2021 means his championship position is not reflective of his performances. This bracket outside of the top one or two down to the end of the top eight is wildly close and arguments can be made to place any one of these drivers anywhere. While Baku was extraordinary in how he traded blows (and won) with team-mate Liam Lawson, the rest of the time just something seemed to be going wrong. Therefore, it’s a bit tricky to judge how good Vips was this year. But the feeling was that he lacked a little bit in outright one-lap pace and in the same flair as some of the rookies (Vips arguably kind of came in as a half-rookie), even if the consistent speed and number of solid results he produced was pretty impressive.

BW (7th): Big things were expected from Vips for 2021 and, though they materialised, it wasn’t quite as much as anyone was expecting. He was a lot like Pourchaire in that when the weekend came together it really came together. But he wasn’t as good at making the most out of the more difficult rounds than he needed to be if he wanted to challenge for the title. Baku was definitely his weekend of the year and where he really seemed to be on top of the format, getting the most out of every race. Unfortunately that wasn’t something that continued, and there doesn’t seem to be another weekend where everything slotted together. That said, next year he should definitely be one to watch for the title, especially as we return to the old format.

AA (10th): As Bethonie said, more was expected from Vips as he was the next in the queue for a AlphaTauri Formula 1 seat coming into 2021. Hitech GP’s car didn’t have the raw speed it had in 2020, and that held the Estonian back in some races. However, when the car proved to be a rocket ship on the streets of Baku he didn’t miss the chance to claim two convincing wins. That, together with a strong central part of the season, pushed him to sixth in the standings. Perhaps Vips won’t go down in history as one of those who put the biggest show on track, but he has been definitely a solid performer this year.

6. Liam Lawson NEW ZEALAND Hitech GP
9th in standings, 103pts (1 win, 1 pole, 2 fastest laps, 3 podiums) – TP 46.2%, QA 7.6 (7th), FR 38 (9th), SR 61 (7th), LL 56 (5th)

Roger Gascoigne (5th): Though he rather lost his way thereafter, Lawson was arguably the standout driver in the first three rounds. He could have had two podiums to go with his winning debut in Bahrain, and a minor technical infringement cost him a hard-fought victory at Monaco after he had pulled off a sublime pass on Piastri. In Baku he was stunningly quick, gaining 14 places in 10 laps in race two, having been pitched out of race one. Starting from feature race pole, an overzealous defensive block of Pourchaire cost him a harsh 10-second penalty and with it a potential victory. He often found himself dicing with Piastri, passing the champion-to-be twice in Baku. Bad luck played a part: an errant fire extinguisher at Monza and an engine failure in Abu Dhabi both caused retirements. His qualifying was poor outside of Baku, and to what extent did his parallel (and successful) DTM campaign distract him?

AA (6th): Expectations were high for the rookie after kicking off the season with a sprint race win and a feature race podium, and he wouldn’t disappoint. When the championship resumed in Monaco, Lawson proved his talent again with a fabulous manoeuvre on Oscar Piastri at the inside of Rascasse, en route to another win that would be eventually taken away due to a technical infringement. If there is a weekend where Lawson could have achieved more, that is Baku. Despite claiming pole, a race one collision and a penalty due to another incident in race three prevented him from reaching the podium on Hitech’s strongest weekend. Thereon, his season was affected by several mechanical failures, but he was still one of the main characters of on-track battles.

PA (6th): Lawson’s sheer talent really shone through at points – especially early on – even if his final championship position didn’t reflect it as well as his remarkable DTM exploits did. A winning start in Bahrain was followed by his stunning wet-weather Monaco win that should never be forgotten – his throttle-mapping mistake that caused his disqualification gave him a bad getaway anyway. He also claimed pole in Baku. But he then faded, not helped by Hitech losing ground in qualifying, but Lawson was usually quicker than team-mate Vips. Like Vips he suffered misfortune too, such as his fire extinguisher snuffing out a strong race at Monza. He was F2’s most spectacular racer and it got him into trouble sometimes. That he and Piastri raced each other so hard so frequently without issue suggests there wasn’t too much wrong with his own car placement, but a wiser approach could pay off in 2022.

5. Dan Ticktum BRITAIN Carlin
4th in standings, 159.5pts (2 wins, 1 fastest lap, 7 podiums) – TP 58.5%, QA 7.0 (5th), FR 75.5 (5th), R2P 84 (3rd), LL 44 (7th)

PA (5th): At the point when Ticktum’s F1 dreams came crashing down (for probably the final time), he was right among F2’s top performers – as evidenced by his second place behind Guanyu Zhou and ahead of Piastri in the Silverstone feature race – so he arguably had some right to feel aggrieved that there wasn’t more trust in his abilities. He made the podium in each of the first six rounds, and three times in feature races – a tally nobody else except Piastri and Zhou matched. But too many points were lost in a surprising number of on-track scrapes for a driver whose wheel-to-wheel judgement has usually been far better than his critics suggest. And his form nosedived at the end of the season, wasting a final chance to show F1 what it was missing.

CB (5th): I’m not quite sure how to define Ticktum’s season, but it was incredibly solid (if not spectacular). He failed to score only four times, and three of those were retirements, meaning that just the Prema drivers had higher average finishing positions. Only Zhou and Piastri recorded more wins, too. But his qualifying dropping away in the season’s second half ruined any chances of a title charge (his average qualifying position fell from 4th across the first four races to 10th in the final four). This performance drop coincided with his departure from Williams’s driver academy, but this sums up the conundrum that is Dan Ticktum, as his behaviour out of the car continues to cause problems for someone so mercurially quick. Two moments that occurred away from racing aside, it was definitely a more mature approach this season and I look forward to seeing him adjust as he moves over to Formula E.

CW (6th): This year probably didn’t give us the best of Ticktum. There were consistent podiums, sure, but there were also big errors, a lack of huge point-paying weekends and a very substandard final two rounds. Off-track comments (and subsequent press conference outbursts) aside, Ticktum liked to complain about boredom and was just regularly in his own mindset through the year. There was the feeling that he could have featured a bit more regularly with the package that served Tsunoda so well last year, but things just rarely quite came together for him, aside from an inherited Monaco win, a fine Sochi success and a smattering of podiums elsewhere. There’s the feeling this year was a missed opportunity, and he leaves F2 without having quite mustered the results his talent was capable of. At least the radio chatter seemed to have reduced this year.

4. Robert Shwartzman RUSSIA (RAF) Prema
2nd in standings, 192pts (2 wins, 3 fastest laps, 8 podiums) – TP 43.2%, QA 6.9 (4th), FR 84 (3rd), SR 108 (1st), LL 42 (8th)

CB (2th): Second in the standings, yet this has to be seen as a disappointing season for Shwartzman. While he improved his qualifying performance from last year, it remained inconsistent and this proved decisive with this season’s much-maligned format adding greater emphasis to qualifying. The Russian couldn’t get near his rookie team-mate Piastri in qualifying, citing him as the “strongest team-mate I’ve had in my career”, and it translated into a chasm of points between the two. Piastri may have ended up a comfortable 60.5 points ahead, but Shwartzman found himself outscored by 20 points in qualifying and by 73.5 points in the feature races – a total that could have been higher if not for the shortened Jeddah race. Whatever his plans for 2022, he leaves F2 having only been beaten by four drivers (Mick Schumacher, Callum Ilott, Tsunoda and Piastri) across two seasons – not a bad list of drivers there.

RG (4th): Despite being title runner-up, it was a disappointing year for the pre-season title favourite as his rookie team-mate comprehensively outdrove him. Qualifying let him down too often, and though his racecraft was often superb, he left himself with too much to do. Both of his wins came in the opening sprint race where a front row start was the reward for a poor qualifying. Indeed, while he scored more points (108) than anyone else in the sprint races, taking only two podiums in feature races was not good enough. Once out front he could be uncatchable – in Baku he simply disappeared to win. But luck didn’t do him any favours. In Monaco, where he did top a qualifying session it was in the slower group. And on race day a fluffed pitstop cost him even a podium.

CW (4th): Shwartzman, as stealthy as he has ever been, snuck his way into second in the standings, and his season wasn’t bad by any stretch, but there was very little that was an outstanding highlight. That’s an approach that looked to perhaps even be the one to follow coming into this season, but the strength of the opposition changed the narrative on its head. Shwartzman’s brace of sprint race wins was great, but it also showcased qualifying as his big weakness. He got it nailed in the end (and in Monaco, straight after Prema focused on it during in-season testing), but the damage was done. To be so metronomically consistent in a series in which it is near-impossible to do sp was impressive, the lack of big results in qualifying and feature races less-so. Therefore, fourth on this list feels justified.

3. Guanyu Zhou CHINA Virtuosi Racing
3rd in standings, 183pts (4 wins, 1 pole, 1 fastest lap, 9 podiums) – TP 63.5%, QA 4.6 (2nd), FR 112 (2nd), SR 67 (6th), LL 87 (1st)

CW (3rd): It wasn’t quite the title for Alfa Romeo Racing’s 2022 F1 driver, but very much a job done for Zhou in 2021. Yeah, his title challenge ultimately fell flat, but he was probably the driver in the season’s first half. The problem is that it was so long ago, it’s easy to forget his Bahrain weekend, where he persistently made weird strategies emphatically work, and Silverstone where he triumphed over Piastri. Those were both really, really strong performances. However, and this is a very big however, he was far too inconsistent, and some really silly errors cropped up (spinning out before things really got going at Silverstone and Sochi the two prime examples). Irrespective of past experience, this was by no means a dreadful season, but the flatness of the title challenge, errors and lack of ultimate performance makes it impossible to justify a higher position.

RG (2nd): Zhou’s third F2 season was comfortably his most impressive. Pole and the feature race win in Bahrain gave him a flying start, and after winning the first sprint race next time out in Monaco he began to look like title favourite. With two wins and two second places from feature races, he at times looked a class apart. But his racecraft could let him down when he needed to fight through the field and there were too many errors for a driver of his calibre and experience. Spins at Silverstone and on the formation lap in Sochi were costly. But as the only driver to land an F1 seat, he can look at the year as “job done”. 

AA (7th): His season raised more questions than provided answers. With a F1 future on the horizon, he was tipped to at least fight for the title until the very end, but it wasn’t meant to be. Zhou kicked off the season in style with pole, a sprint race podium and feature race victory, but such strong form wouldn’t last long. A lack of pace in Baku and Jeddah, several unforced errors, and not being able to gain places when he was in the middle of the pack are some of the reasons why he was third in the standings and almost 70 points off the champion. It’s true that he was very good when he was at the front, but having the chance to always drive at the front isn’t common in motorsport.

2. Theo Pourchaire FRANCE ART Grand Prix
5th in standings, 140pts (2 wins, 1 pole, 4 fastest laps, 3 podiums) – TP 73.7%, QA 4.9 (3rd), FR 77 (4th), SR 59 (8th), LL 61 (4th)

CW (2nd): What young Pourchaire achieved in Monaco was perhaps the single strongest performance across the junior categories in 2021, absolutely decimating the rest of the opposition during his first appearance on the famed street track. But that alone does not elevate him so highly on this list. Dragging what felt like a subpar ART GP package consistently towards the front was a huge achievement in itself and keeping in title contention towards the end despite a mid-season injury meaning he wasn’t quite at peak form on that basis was brilliant. Just the way he hustles a car around is a joy to watch as well, and of all the rookies on this list he was able to produce the most ‘wow’ moments. The sole downside was a few unnecessary mistakes creeping in. It’s like watching early Fernando Alonso in F1, Pourchaire’s going to be that outstanding.

CB (3rd): A lowest finish of 10th all season – discounting the races where he didn’t make the chequered flag – shows just how solid a year this was for Pourchaire. However, I think his consistency worked against him as too often he found himself in the middle of the points, with only three podiums all season. His rookie campaign would probably get more credit if not for Piastri, and it had spectacular moments – namely that pole lap in Monaco. Beating his nearest challenger by almost half a second was astounding and it highlights just how exciting a talent he really is. It’s also important to factor in his accident in Baku and ensuing injury that affected him across the Silverstone weekend, which led to him scoring just 10 points in four races. Another step-up next season and he has to be one of the clear title favourites.

BW (4th): Pourchaire came into the season as one of the rookies to watch, and he definitely lived up to that. It wasn’t a perfect season by any means, with a few too many retirements not necessarily his fault. But overall it was better than could be expected from a building year in F2. Seeing him bounce back from injury was brilliant, and to be able to keep that steady improvement is a good sign of things to come. But there are still improvements to be made. Along with typical rookie mistakes, Pourchaire can make leaps in qualifying and race pace. When the weekend came together, it really came together, but he didn’t seem to be able to bounce back from poor qualifying results as well as others.

1. Oscar Piastri AUSTRALIA Prema
1st in standings, 252.5pts (6 wins, 5 poles, 6 fastest laps, 11 podiums) – TP 56.8%, QA 2.3 (1st), FR 139.5 (1st), SR 93 (2nd), LL 68 (2nd)

BW (1st): It’s hard to see anyone but Piastri in the top spot. Coming into the year, even as a FIA F3 champion, its fair to say most people saw this as a learning year for him. Apparently he didn’t get the memo. There’s a lot of talk about the format changes but, in my opinion, being able to adapt to a different format and manage a title challenge over the course of a season is much more important than bring able to qualify well and dominate races. In series like FE, we’ve seen that’s what separates the great from the champion and bodes well for whatever Piastri does in the future. Obviously his qualifying and race pace were also phenomenal, showing a clear step up from F3 last season.

PA (1st): Piastri began the season showing the same calm but effective racecraft that worked so well for him in F3 (he quickly learnt from fighting Ticktum too hard in Bahrain) and it looked like that alone would make him a very strong title contender given how well-suited it was to 2021’s format. Then he started to nail qualifying – his weakness from F3 – and he became utterly unstoppable. His growth and self-improvement to this point has been somewhat reminiscent of George Russell’s, and with that he made the most of a Prema package that is once more consistently strong across the board for the first time since Charles Leclerc’s domination of 2017. As a rookie champion he’s rightly talked about in the same terms, and F1 teams should be fighting over his services – even if only on loan.

RG (1st): What new can be said about Piastri’s incredible season? Yes, he was in the strongest team, but he clearly had the measure of his more experienced team-mate. His F3 title had been won through consistency rather than outright speed but five consecutive poles this year comprehensively erased any remaining doubts there. In the second half of this year, he was simply untouchable. To win four feature races on the bounce is a very tough ask in such a competitive series. Inevitably, where reversed grids force even the fastest driver into the midfield skirmishes there were some isolated incidents but by-and-large he managed to keep out of trouble. Only Shwartzman took more points in the sprint races. Undoubtedly a worthy champion. Had his winning streak come earlier in the year, his claim for an F1 race seat for 2022 would surely have been irresistible.

CW (1st): There were no persistent flaws to Piastri’s outstanding campaign, and he is the easy choice for top spot on that basis. He just kept getting better and better as the year went on and was the strongest driver for much of the year above experienced opposition. Was he the most ruthless overtaker? No, but that’s not what wins you an F2 title. Piastri was measured, methodical and mighty in his approach, often being passive in the first race of a weekend to capitalise later on, particularly once he had qualifying nailed. The way he simply tore up the script and dominated what should have been an open season was a real shock. I would certainly argue that this has been the strongest season for a F2 driver since Leclerc. Piastri was that good this year.

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