Why Formula 1’s 3 Rookies Endured Mixed Results in 2021

When it comes to recent Formula 1 rookies, Lewis Hamilton established the standard. In his maiden race in 2007, the McLaren neophyte recorded a P3. He finished the season with three victories and competed for a drivers’ championship.

It’s fair to say, the 2021 trio of F1 first-year drivers didn’t fare as well. Or nearly as well. Or even remotely as well during the drama-fueled campaign.

Yuki Tsunoda made a minimal impact, generating 32 points. While that point total is anything but impressive, he lapped his peers, Mick Schumacher, who is trying to prove he’s a true F1 racer, and Nikita Mazepin.

The Haas teammates often battled each other in the last grid, failing to record one F1 point.

What are the outlooks for the trio entering their sophomore seasons?

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri

Tsunoda entered the 22-race campaign with high expectations. Red Bull Racing’s driver consultant, Helmut Marko, who mentored the protégé in F2, compared his driving skills to Max Verstappen when the 2021 world champion was a teenager transitioning from F2 to F1. 

Tsunoda showed promise during F1’s season-opening event, the Bahrain GP on March 28. He became the first rookie to collect points during a debut effort since Stoffel Vandoorne in 2016. Overcoming a nerve-wracked first lap, Tsunoda eventually made his way to P10. On the final revolution, he overcame Lance Stroll to secure ninth place. 

He showed a knack for saving his best for last. He placed a season-best fourth at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Dec. 12. He placed 14th in the F1 drivers’ standings. 

2022 Outlook: Scheduled to return to AlphaTauri, Tsunoda will be out to fulfill the promise bestowed upon him by such F1 luminaries at Marko.

Mick Schumacher, Haas 

Schumacher has the genes. The 2020 F2 champion has the pedigree. He now has reserve driver status by Ferrari, the team his father, Michael, made into an industry phenomenon. Schumacher, a member of the Ferrari academy, will serve as Ferrari’s F1 reserve driver for 11 of the 23 events in 2022. He will share the duties with Antonio Giovinazzi. 

Slated to return to Haas for a second season in ’22, Schumacher failed to place in the top 10 last season, 0-for-22. The No. 19-ranked F1 driver, Schumacher could not compete on the top grid on any consistent basis. Even with the background support of Ferrari. 

Taking advantage of a first-lap melee at the Hungarian GP on July 31, Schumacher used the extra track space to forge his best finish (12th). Staring at the rear, he worked his way up to the lead pack, where he held off both Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton for a while. 

2022 Outlook: Schumacher’s father claimed five of his seven F1 titles with Ferrari, but the younger Schumacher needs to concern himself with finding a way to get his current team – Haas – on the podium or at least in the points. 

Nikita Mazepin, Haas

During a 2016 F3 event, he punched a competitor in the face. Last year, the emotional Mazepin attempted to run down Tsunoda in parc ferme following an F2 race. 

Mazepin’s rookie campaign was nearly as chaotic, failing to record a point in 21 starts. Among a series of spin-outs and curious maneuvers, his early crash at the season-opening Bahrain GP and his lost lap time at the Brazil GP proved to be low points for the lowest-ranked driver. 

While he mainly kept his cool as an F1 rookie, Mazepin almost lost it by nearly forcing his teammate, Schumacher, into the wall during the Dutch GP. 

Mazepin was forced out of his seat during the season finale because of coronavirus (COVID-19). His first season started roughly and ended in quarantine.

2022 Outlook: To maintain an F1 season, Mazepin will need to keep his emotions under control. Better yet, he needs to keep his machine under control to help Haas climb out of its pointless hole.

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