In Grand Prix racing no one really gets to have a poor year, and a catastrophic dip in form is usually followed by dismissal. However I reckon it's essentially true that some years in a driver's career are more momentous than others, where the knife-edge between success and failure is sharper, where the situation is unavoidably make-or-break, or pick another cliché that's more to your taste. Think David Coulthard in 2003, in a winning car and the only McLaren driver with a Grand Prix win under his belt. Or think Damon Hill in 1996, with the walls closing in at Williams and F1's best rookie since Mario Andretti as a teammate.
For instance, I was reading some comments in the McLaren thread that made me think Daniel Ricciardo is at one of those 13th-hole-at-the-Augusta-National points of his career. If he puts Lando Norris in his pocket, he'll take the McLaren team with him and reap whatever benefits come Woking's way from the Mercedes tie-up, budget cap and general non-chaos that Zak Brown and Andreas Seidl seem to have brought to the team. Equally, Lando is younger, cheaper and already part of the furniture, so fail to shine and you are yesterday's man. So probably Danny Ric.
Lance Stroll too, oddly. The pundits I listen to are coming round to the idea that he's "here on merit" (you can have that cliché for free), that his F3 championship meant something, that if he knew how to access his inspired driving at the Turkish Grand Prix, he could challenge some much bigger names. Beating Sebastian Vettel, who has some issues of his own, would solidify a claim to being one of the world's top dozen or so drivers, and with his connections and youth, who knows how far he could go... I think that would take an enormous effort, and more consistency and resilience than he displayed with a better car last year. But if he does it, it begins to be conceivable that he could fit in at a team not owned by his dad.
Conversely, I doubt an unexceptional year from Leclerc, Alonso or perhaps even Valtteri Bottas could do much harm to their reputations.
So who in 2021 is on the verge of a momentous year? Not just whose career is on the verge of failure -- although there is that -- but who's got the opportunity to leap up in everyone's estimation and set themselves up for wins, championships, you name it. We've still got a week till the San Marino Grand Prix so you know, time for one more nearly preseason thread. Non-F1 nominations, or for that matter teams and other human elements, are OK too.