Were these buys worth the money: Reviewing the driver’s transfer for the 2021 F1 season

After the end of the 2020 Formula One season, a total of 4 drivers switched their teams. Their reasons for changing teams varied from being forced to find a new team after not being offered a contract from their old team to trying to explore new opportunities at new teams. After a third of the season being over now, the question stands whether a switch of teams was worth it or not for both the teams and the drivers.

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel

Points scored last season: 33

Points scored this season after 8 races: 30

World Drivers’ Championship standing last season: 13th

World Drivers’ Championship standings this season after eight races: 10th

Salary: $17,000,000

Former 4-time F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel was forced to find a new team after the team he had been with for six years had announced just before the start of last season that they would not extend his contract with Ferrari beyond 2020. This came as a shock for Vettel as the team had decided for him without even discussing a new contract. Many people had thought that Vettel might walk away from the sport after the end of 2020 as there were no further opportunities for him. But then, in September of 2020, after Aston Martin, then known as Racing Point, had announced that they were dropping Sergio Perez after the end of the 2020 season. This was a perfect opportunity for Vettel as the team were looking for someone experienced to go along with Lance Stroll. Vettel signed a one-year contract with the option to continue after 2021.

After having a season to forget, where he ended 10 of the 17 races outside the top 10 and scored the least amount of points (33) since his first season in Formula One, 2007(he joined the season only halfway), Vettel looks like he’s having some resurgence. After failing to score points in the first four races of the season, Vettel scored two top-five finishes, which included an excellent 2nd place podium finish at Baku and a hard-fought 5th place finish at Monaco. Vettel also has almost equalled his points tally from last year through the first 8 out of 23 races possible this year. Even though the team hasn’t been able to continue building on the success they had last year because of regulation changes, it seems like they are slowly but steadily making progress on the back of good performances by Vettel. And if his current form is a sign of things to come, then signing Vettel seems to have been the correct decision for them from the team’s point of view. 

Worth the money?- Yes, but has to continue performing well to be completely worth it.

Carlos Sainz Jr.

Carlos Sainz celebrating his podium at Monaco

Points scored last season: 105

Points scored this season after 8 races: 50 

World Drivers’ Championship standing last season: 6th

World Drivers’ Championship standings this season after eight races: 7th

Salary: $6,841,000

Carlos Sainz had impressed everyone in 2019 after finishing best of rest(everyone except Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull), 6th on the World Drivers’ Championship standings. So it was to no one’s surprise when Ferrari signed him to drive alongside Charles Leclerc. Sainz signed a two-year contract that would keep him at Ferrari till the end of 2022. Sainz ended the 2020 season with another impressive showing where he again finished 6th in the World Drivers’ Championship standings with a career-best 2nd place at Monza.

But after seeing how uncompetitive Ferrari looked during the 2020 season, where they had their worst season as a constructor in over 40 years, many believed that Sainz’s move to Ferrari would be a failure for both, especially for Sainz. But after the first eight races of the year, in which he already matched his career-best finish by getting a 2nd place finish at the Monaco Grand Prix, it seems like it was a good decision for both the team and Sainz. In a season where Ferrari is trying to right the wrongs of last season, Sainz seems like the best driver to pair with Leclerc, who can give the team consistent results throughout a season. Even though Sainz looks like he has a bit more work left to catch up with his teammate, he already has scored almost half of the number of points he did last season in only eight races and is only 8 points behind Leclerc. And with another 15 races remaining, it looks like Sainz is almost sure to give the team another few podiums at least, which is most definitely what Ferrari was looking for when they signed him.

Worth the money? Definitely worth it.

Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo

Points scored last season: 119

Points scored this season after 8 races: 34

World Drivers’ Championship standing last season: 5th

World Drivers’ Championship standings this season after eight races: 9th

Salary: $17,000,000

One of the moves that cause a lot of ruckuses was Ricciardo’s surprising move to McLaren from Renault, now known as Alpine. Riccardo had joined Renault in 2019 from Red Bull in the hope to build a team around him that would be able to challenge for the World Championship. But changing teams meant taking a step down in terms of results as the Renault F1 team wasn’t anywhere near as competitive as the Red Bull Team. The team still showed glimpses of the promises that they had made to Ricciardo when he signed with them, winning three podiums in 2020, their first podium since their return in 2016 as a constructor. That still didn’t change anything, as Ricciardo had already made his mind up even before the season started because he had signed a three-year contract with McLaren after Sainz announced his departure from the team before the 2020 season. 

McLaren was one of the teams that were after his signature in 2019, and now they finally got it. Ricciardo joined the team because he had seen the progress they made as a constructor since 2019, and according to him, they had the most promise out of the rest of the teams. McLaren reaffirmed his faith in the team after they finished 3rd in the World Contrcustors’ Championship in 2020.

This season has been anything but easy more Ricciardo. Even though Ricciardo has eight years more experience than his current teammate Lando Norris, he still gets consistently outscored by him in almost every race. He’s currently 9th in the drivers’ standings with only 34 points, while his teammate is 4th in the standings with 86 points to his name. Ricciardo has struggled to extract the best from the car and is finding it difficult to adapt his driving style to the car’s strengths. According to Ricciardo, he feels like he’s able to understand the car better now compared to the beginning of the season but still has a lot of progress to make. Ricciardo is yet to get a top-five finish at a race this season, something his teammate has been able to do at seven out of the eight races while getting to podiums also. Hopefully, Ricciardo can figure out the car sooner than later cause, at the moment, his $17m-a-year contract seem less and less attractive for McLaren.

Worth the money?- Hasn’t been worth the money yet, but still has time to change that.

Sergio Perez

Sergio Perez

Points scored last season: 125

Points scored this season after 8 races: 96

World Drivers’ Championship standing last season: 4th

World Drivers’ Championship standings this season after eight races: 3rd

Salary: $3,420,000

After finishing 4th in the World Drivers’ Championship in 2020 and having his best season in Formula One to date, which included his career-first race win, everyone was quite surprised after he got dropped by Racing Point, now known as Aston Martin, during the middle of last season. Perez had been with the team for seven years through all of its iterations. And he had been a consistent performer throughout those years. He even had given them their only win in an F1 race to date and had signed a three-year contract with them in July of 2020. So it was even more surprising to hear the news that he got dropped by Racing Point.

Thankfully for him, shortly after the end of the 2020 season, Red Bull announced that they had signed him. Red Bull had signed him because they needed a dependable driver who can drive alongside Max Verstappen and help him challenge the Mercedes Duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. This is something they have been looking for since Daniel Ricciardo departed from the team in 2018. And fortunately for Red Bull, Perez has turned out to be precisely that, dependable. In the first eight races of the season, he has been in the top five seven times and has been on the podium twice, including his second career victory. He also has almost equalled his points tally from last season.

This signing has been a win-win for both the team and driver as Red Bull got that second driver they needed to help Verstappen challenges the Mercs and Perez got a very competitive car.

Worth the money?- Without a doubt.

Did you know??

Sergio Perez after his first career F1 victory 

Sergio Perez became the F1 driver with the most races before his first victory on 6th December 2020, when he won the Sakhir Grand Prix. He won the race after starting 5th on the grid. Perez managed a fantastic comeback from the back of the grid after colliding with Charles Leclerc on the first lap to take victory with a 10-second gap. He took the lead of the race in the later stages of the races because of a pit stop mishap that cost the Mercedes duo of Valtteri Bottas and Geroge Russel the race. Perez took a staggering 190th races before his first career victory. The previous record for the most races before the first career win was held by Mark Webber, who took 130th races before his first win.

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