IndyCar’s 2021 season has been a thriller, with a showstopping talent field throughout the year. 43 different drivers have won at least one green flag, nine of them have won a race and a new 24-year-old champion has been crowned. But which drivers stood out among the rest and showed that they were the most qualified riders of the season? Motorsport Week ranks the top 10 drivers of the season.
10: Rinus VeeKay
Rinus VeeKay put in a strong performance throughout the year, winning six top 10s in the first eight races. He also won the first victory of his young career at the GMR Grand Prix, the event contested on the Indianapolis road circuit to kick off the month of May. VeeKay’s decisive moment came in that same race, when after starting in seventh, he found Romain Grosjean and passed him for the lead with a daring three-wide pass in the middle.
But the Dutch driver had to miss a race to recover from a cracked collarbone and his performance fell somewhat for the remainder of the season. However, he further improved his rookie pace from the year before and made his presence known to the rest of the field.
9: Scott Dixon
Defending Series champion Scott Dixon wasn’t quite able to repeat his dominant performance from the previous year, but he certainly wasn’t far off the mark. The “Ice Man” won five podiums throughout the season and was able to secure fourth place in the championship.
Dixon’s most defining moment came at Texas Motor Speedway, where a familiar flawless performance was on display. After leading 206 of 212 laps and securing a convincing victory, he took the lead in points early in the season. The victory extended the veteran’s streak to an incredible 17 consecutive seasons with at least one IndyCar victory.
8: Scott McLaughlin
Scott McLaughlin came to IndyCar in 2021 after a successful career in Australian supercars, and immediately showed his skills. At the wheel of the illustrious Team Penske, the 28-year-old driver quickly familiarized himself with the single-seaters and integrated perfectly with his legendary team-mates. A few tough races were expected, but five top 10s and the Rookie of the Year award proved he belonged.
It was at Texas Motor Speedway in May that the Kiwi really found their rhythm. As he tackled his first oval race since his stint at the IndyCar, McLaughlin showed his natural talent on high-speed bank and almost won the event. A fourth place finish at Gateway later in the season saw him be the next oval specialist.
7: Marcus Ericsson
In his third year in IndyCar, Marcus Ericsson stepped up his game and put his Huski Chocolate machine in victory lane twice. Ericsson claimed his first victory in more than eight years of professional racing, and despite being the lowest-ranked full-time member of Chip Ganassi Racing, he was able to continue his good form to end the season in sixth. place in the points.
While his first win of the season was a proud achievement, his second was a seismic display of his talent. After being involved in an accident in the opening laps of the Music City Grand Prix and receiving an avoidable contact penalty, the Swede was relegated to the bottom of the standings. He worked his way through the field to win the inaugural event, continuing his back-to-back top 10 streak that spanned more than half of the season.
6: Romain Grosjean
Romain Grosjean officially entered the IndyCar world as a rookie, but he brought with him a wealth of world-class experience. And that maturity was evident in the first race, when he landed a top 10 at Barber Motorsports Park less than five months after his fiery crash in Bahrain. In just his third race, the former F1 driver took pole at the GMR Grand Prix and almost took the win as well.
Throughout the season, Grosjean has shown his adaptability by agreeing to run his very first oval race at Gateway and completing the orientation of the Indianapolis 500 rookies in preparation for next season. Although he didn’t run the Indy 500 this year, which earned him double points, he narrowly missed out on the Rookie of the Year title and proved he would be a factor in the seasons. coming to Andretti Autosport.
5: Hélio Castronèves
Helio Castroneves has only entered six races this year and won only one, but his only victory came in the biggest event of the year. After battling Alex Palou for the lead in the final laps of the Indianapolis 500, Castroneves made a decisive move born of 20 years of experience to secure the victory. His victory earned him a record-breaking fourth Indy 500, and it was the first IndyCar victory for future Meyer Shank Racing team.
This was the very first Indy 500 Castroneves played for a team other than Team Penske, and it showed how important driver skills were around the 2.5 mile oval. The victory solidified the veteran’s full-time comeback for 2022 and will give him a chance for a fifth win next season to stand alone in the record books.
4: Josef Newgarden
Josef Newgarden has been the model of consistency throughout the season, securing second place in the championship for the second year in a row. An unusual fall in the first round of the season was one of the few mistakes the veteran made. However, in the remaining races he won six podiums. The regular return was emblematic of the resolute behavior of the two-time champion.
His first victory of the campaign came in Mid-Ohio, when he fired Marcus Ericsson in charge to secure the first victory of the year for the Penske team at mid-season. He also picked up the victory at Gateway the following month and stayed in the title fight until the season finale.
3: Colton Herta
Still the youngster on the grid, Colton Herta has once again shown his raw talent throughout the season. A few bouts of bad luck marred what could have been a year that saw him relaunch Andretti Autosport in the title race. His raw speed still allowed him to finish fifth overall, firmly among the best of a field of talented drivers.
Herta was often the fastest rider straight out of the truck, seemingly able to wrestle with any setup his team gave him. Despite questions about his own future and ties to an ultimately failed Formula 1 training, he convincingly scored victories in the final two rounds of the season to solidify his place among the best of the year.
2: Pato O’Ward
Pato O’Ward really showed himself in the top talent pack in 2021. His aggressive driving style allowed him to push his way past any riders in his path and propelled him to third championship place. O’Ward earned his first IndyCar victory at Texas Motor Speedway, which earned him a test drive in a Formula 1 car due to a bet he had with McLaren CEO Zak Brown.
O’Ward’s second victory came in race two of the Detroit Grand Prix doubles program, and it remains his most convincing performance to date. Moving from fifth place to the lead in the last 10 laps, while avoiding trouble on a bumpy street course, showed the true speed of his fast driving style.
1: Alex Palou
Could there be another choice than the new IndyCar champion? Alex Palou joined the Chip Ganassi team this year and immediately claimed his first victory in the first race of the season. He consistently fought near the front of the field and won podiums in half of the 16 races this season.
In a campaign rich in performance and highlights, no execution can perhaps be surpassed by his performance at the Portland Grand Prix in September. Starting from pole position, he was one of the multitude of drivers forced to cut the chicane at the first corner, and was sent back to the back of the pack. He passed a large number of drivers and came back in front with a third of the race to go. The victory allowed him to regain the points lead of Pato O’Ward which he will not give up for the remainder of the season.