McLaren driver Lando Norris has said he believes Mercedes had the fastest car over the course of the 2021 season, and Max Verstappen was able to defeat Sir Lewis Hamilton despite this.
Mercedes had a torrid pre-season test in Bahrain, but by the time the season got underway in the same country, the Silver Arrows were much more competitive, though Red Bull seemed to still have a slight pace advantage.
However, over the course of the season, there were several circuits – particularly towards the end of the year – where Mercedes’ 2021 challenger was clearly faster than Red Bull’s RB16B.
Verstappen ultimately triumphed over Hamilton following race director Michael Masi making a controversial decision regarding the Safety Car restart in the season finale in Abu Dhabi which handed the Dutchman the advantage.
Norris has said he believes Mercedes and Hamilton had the faster car in 2021, but Verstappen was able to win his maiden F1 crown by making fewer mistakes and having less bad luck.
“I don’t think he [Verstappen] had a better car throughout the season,” the McLaren driver said.
“Mercedes had the stronger car in most cases, but he had less bad luck and made less mistakes as a driver.”
Hamilton made a number of big mistakes in 2021, such as in Baku, where he cost himself victory after accidentally hitting the “brake magic” button and consequently locking his front tyres in dramatic fashion.
The Brit also made a mistake in Imola, but he was able to recover to P2 after benefitting from a red flag.
Verstappen, meanwhile, made a few key mistakes of his own, such as the recent crash he suffered in qualifying for the 2021 Saudi Arabia Grand Prix.
Furthermore, despite Norris’ suggestion that Verstappen had less bad luck than Hamilton, the Dutchman had plenty of misfortune, such as his coming-together with his championship rival in Silverstone, a tyre failure while leading the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, and him getting rear-ended by an out-of-control Valtteri Bottas in Hungary.
Norris happy for Verstappen
In the same interview, Norris said he is happy for Verstappen following the Red Bull driver winning his maiden F1 title in the curtain-closer in Abu Dhabi.
“I’m happy for him. I congratulate him on what he has done this season,” Norris said.
“He’s taken on Lewis, who is much more experienced and has won many titles.
“He’s [Verstappen] a good friend of mine. I congratulated him first, but then I also went to Lewis because he also had an incredible season and did a lot of things right to become champion. I respect both of them a lot.”
After the late controversy in Abu Dhabi, Verstappen finished the season eight points ahead of Hamilton and more than 200 points ahead of his Red Bull team-mate, Sergio Perez.
Mercedes, meanwhile, claimed their eighth consecutive Constructors’ Championship.