The best motorsport highlights from 2021

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A titanic F1 battle and lots more action marked out 2021 on the world’s circuits.

What a year it has been in motorsport. From exciting on-track battles to record-breaking performances, 2021 really has been a year that will go down in motorsport history.

Highlights obviously include arguably the greatest Formula 1 season in history as Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton went head-to-head for the title, but there were also standout performances from Sebastien Ogier, Nyck de Vries, Alex Palou and Toyota in the WEC.

Formula 1: Verstappen edges Hamilton in season decider

The 2021 Formula 1 season came to a thrilling conclusion at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit as Max Verstappen beat seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton to the title in controversial fashion with a last lap overtake.

Things couldn’t have been closer going into the event, with Mercedes’ Hamilton and Red Bull’s Verstappen tied on 369.5 points apiece after a long and at times highly fractious season.

Key moments of the year included the battling pair’s high-speed clash at Silverstone, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon scoring his maiden win at the Hungaroring, and the Belgian Grand Prix being abandoned after just two laps due to heavy rain.

There was also Verstappen’s victory in front of an adoring home crowd at Zandvoort, Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren’s welcome return to the top of the podium at Monza and Hamilton’s battling drives in the late-season races to close up what had been a 19-point deficit to Verstappen after the Mexican Grand Prix.

Formula E: de Vries is victorious for Mercedes

Mercedes’ Dutch prodigy Nyck de Vries emerged victorious from a topsy-turvy 2021 Formula E season that saw no less than 13 drivers go into the Berlin season finale with a chance of clinching the title.

The series’ controversial qualifying system, which heavily penalised the championship leader going into each weekend, has been scrapped for 2022 – a move welcomed by drivers and fans alike. Highlights of the year included a return to London for the penultimate round and using the full Monaco track layout for the first time.

WEC: Toyota dominates first season of Hypercars

Toyota may protest that its driver crews pushed hard throughout the first World Endurance Championship season to feature the new Hypercar class, but it’s hardly jaded cynicism to point out that the real interest will come in 2023, by which point the likes of Peugeot, Ferrari, Audi, Porsche and more will have joined the fray. There was at least good news for the crew of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose-Maria Lopez, who broke their run of bad luck and clinched both the Le Mans 24 Hours victory and the overall title.

World RX: title number four for Kristoffersson

Swede Johan Kristoffersson cemented his status as king of modern rallycross by taking his fourth world title at a nail-biting final round in Germany in late November. Leaving France in September, Kristoffersson looked far from a champion-in-waiting, sitting 28 points off the lead after troubled opening outings. Despite winning in Latvia and Belgium, he travelled to Germany still 17 points adrift. In the end, a penalty in Germany for Timmy Hansen proved decisive. The duo were level on points; Kristoffersson won the title thanks to more wins.

Indycar: young gun Palou emerges to nab crown

Indycar’s youth movement has been threatening to break through to the top for several years now, but Kiwi veteran Scott Dixon scored one for the old guard by winning the pandemic-delayed 2020 season of the US championship.

Not so for the less disrupted 2021 edition: this time it was Spaniard Alex Palou who triumphed, fending off the challenge of 2017 and 2019 champion Josef Newgarden and another rising star, Mexico’s Pato O’Ward, in a battle that went right down to the wire at the final round.

World Rally: Ogier signs off his full-time career with epic eighth title win

Sebastien Ogier seemed in control of the World Rally Championship for much of 2021 – his last full-time campaign at the sharp end of the sport – but going into the relocated season finale at Monza in Italy, there was still an outside chance his Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans could have snatched it.

Earlier wins in Monte Carlo, Croatia, Sardiniaand Kenya were the foundation of Ogier’s charge, and he finished with a flourish by taking victory in Monza to sign off on a glittering career. But the Frenchman isn’t finished at the wheel yet: a part-time WRC campaign beckons, alongside a possible shot at Le Mans with Toyota in the coming years.

World Touring Cars: Ehrlacher defends title

France’s Yann Ehrlacher triumphed in World Touring Cars for the second time in as many years. The 25-year-old arrived at Sochi in Russia for the season decider 36 points ahead of his nearest rival, meaning sixth in the first of the weekend’s two races was all he needed to take the crown.

His efforts across the season – including wins in Portugal and Italyat either end of the summer – plus the points scored by his team-mate and uncle Yvan Muller, earned Lynk & Co the series’ teams’ title for the third season in succession.

Extreme E: Nico Rosberg’s RXR team pips Hamilton’s X44 on countback

Extreme E was already logistically daunting, with races taking in remote landscapes at far corners of the world, but adding Covid travel restrictions to the mix made things even harder. The end result is a delayed finish to the series’ inaugural racing season, which should have wrapped up with trips to Brazil and Patagonia in South America.

These were scrapped in favour of the island of Sardinia in October and a season finale at the British Army tank grounds in Bovington, Dorset, on 18-19 December.

Teams owned by former F1 rivals Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton finished first and second, with Rosberg’s RXR’s Johan Kristoffersson and Molly Taylor matching X44’s Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez season total of 155 points. But on countback the RXR team came out on top.

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