2021 Austrian Grand Prix – Driver Ratings
After the Styrian Grand Prix was a bit of a lull in a showcase season in Formula 1, the Austrian Grand Prix was more of a return to the norm. Taylor Murray evaluates each driver’s individual performance at the Red Bull Ring.
For the second week in a row, Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen claimed victory at his team’s home track, the Red Bull Ring, as he brought his car home, virtually unopposed, at the 2021 Austrian Grand Prix.
Despite Verstappen running clear from pole position, there was plenty of excitement up and down the grid – Lando Norris kept his McLaren on par with the Mercedes of both Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc had a great battle with Sergio Pérez and George Russell was on the cusp of his first points in Formula 1, with it all coming down to the final three laps. Oh, and there were penalties – LOADS of penalties.
Here, I’ve marked each driver out of 10 for their performance – given that two of the 20 drivers did not complete this weekend’s race, they have not received a score.
P1. Max Verstappen – 10/10
What more can be said for The Flying Dutchman, other than he had yet another easy race. Verstappen got away from the starting line very well and after assuming first place going into Turn One, he retained his position for each of the race’s 71 laps. At one point, he held a staggering 27 second lead over Bottas in second place. Yet another incredible day for Verstappen, as he further increases his lead in the hunt for his first World Championship.
P2. Valtteri Bottas – 7.5/10
After two months without an appearance on the podium, Bottas managed his second top three finish in as many races. Starting in fifth and finishing in second, the Finn put in a solid performance, and complied when the Mercedes pit wall instructed him not to race his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, in order to preserve the team’s two podium places. However, with fresher tyres and faster laps, he was given the all clear to race and overtook Hamilton comfortably.
P3. Lando Norris – 10/10
After achieving the first front row start of his career in qualifying, missing out on pole position by 0.048 seconds, many were expecting Lando Norris to continue his excellent start to the season. Despite dropping a place into third, the young Brit had an excellent drive and had a good competitive run-in with Hamilton, who gave Norris kudos on his drive after overtaking him in the 20th lap. In the end, Norris retook third at Hamilton’s expense and showed his character after admitting his disappointment at being unable to clinch P2 ahead of Bottas. That will come, though – Norris has an exceptionally bright future ahead of him.
P4. Lewis Hamilton – 6/10
By his stellar standards, this was a poor day for the seven-time World Champion. Hamilton has not had the easiest season thus far, with Verstappen providing a serious challenge, and this was just another example of that. Luck has been a dominant force in Hamilton’s season, and it went against him today, with some damage to the rear of his W12 preventing him from protecting his place on the podium, finishing 26 seconds behind Norris, and a whopping 46 seconds behind Verstappen. If Hamilton wants to remain competitive at the top of the grid, his luck will need to turn – and fast.
P5. Carlos Sainz – 9/10
Sainz actually finished this race in P6, but with Sergio Pérez being handed two five-second time penalties, the Spaniard leapfrogged the Mexican into P5, five places up from his start in P11. Sainz has once again showed his talents as a top driver, with Ferrari’s one-stop strategy suiting him to a T. He also did excellently to burst ahead of McLaren’s Daniel Riccairdo towards the back end of the race when his teammate, Charles Leclerc, was struggling to find a way past. A good day overall.
P6. Sergio Perez – 5/10
Sergio Pérez had a difficult race today, finding himself under investigation by the race stewards on THREE separate occasions. The first instance saw Lando Norris awarded a five-second penalty, but the latter two instances saw Checo pick up two five-second penalties, after some hard (but fair, in my opinion) racing against Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. After dropping out of the points after spinning into the gravel, Pérez did well enough to fight back into sixth, but he’ll know he could have done much more.
P7. Daniel Ricciardo – 7/10
The Honey Badger had a solid race, especially considering his P13 start. It’s been a difficult season for the Australian driver so far, but he has shown signs of his former self in the last few races and was notably quick today, as he glided through the grid in the early stages, before battling well against both Ferraris towards the race’s conclusion. What Riccairdo – and McLaren – need is to build on these positive performances and have both cars pushing towards the podium places.
P8. Charles Leclerc – 6.5/10
A decent enough race for Leclerc, but he certainly had his struggles. He found it tough to pass Riccairdo towards the end, and ended up worse off in his scuffles with Pérez, which seemed to hamper his race. That said, he displayed some good teamwork as he allowed Sainz to pass him without any complaints, which turned out to be the best decision for the team in terms of securing maximum points.
P9. Pierre Gasly – 6.5/10
Right up there again in qualifying, Gasly dropped back down into the midfield on Sunday, but considering that he had to retire after just one lap last weekend, there will be no complaints from the Frenchman. He recorded the fastest lap of the race at one point – that, along with his performance in qualifying, shows that the Alpha Tauri has serious pace, but it might not be as sustainable or competitive across an entire race.
P10. Fernando Alonso – 6/10
After a dramatic qualifying session for the veteran, which saw him start 14th, experience saw him squirm his way into the points very late on at the expense of George Russell. Similarly to Gasly, Alonso had a quiet race, but was able to showcase how he has improved throughout the season so far. The Spaniard has subtly put in a number of solid performances for Alpine – it was no different here. A crucial point in the end, especially considering his teammate’s early retirement.
P11. George Russell – 7/10
Every single time you think that Mr. Saturday will have a beautiful Sunday, it gets very ugly, very quickly. Another case of “so close, yet so far” for Russell, but 11th in a Williams is nothing to scoff at. Despite losing out on his first point in F1 to Alonso, Russell did excellently to hold off the Spaniard for as long as he did. The points will come one day – hopefully very soon.
P12. Yuki Tsunoda – 5/10
Yuki, Yuki, Yuki… it’s one thing to receive a penalty for crossing the pit lane entry line once, but twice? These two costly mistakes from the rookie may have prevented Alpha Tauri from having both drivers score points. Away from his errors, Tsunoda had a fine race. He’s still maturing as a driver, and these mistakes will be cut out eventually – Alpha Tauri will be hoping as soon as possible.
P13. Lance Stroll – 4/10
In my eyes, Stroll (and Aston Martin, for that matter) had a pretty poor race overall. The Canadian driver found it difficult to keep up with Russell at one point and eventually let him get away. Stroll has massively underperformed this season and after finishing in the points last weekend, this can only be labelled as a disappointment.
P14. Antonio Giovinazzi – 4/10
In what was a very poor race from the Alfa Romeo driver, Giovinazzi began and finished the race in 14th – however, he should have been aiming higher up the grid. The last few weeks have been tough for the Italian driver and just like last week, Giovinazzi just wasn’t at it today, as he got bogged down in the midfield, unable to break free.
P15. Kimi Räikkönen – 3/10
If Giovinazzi had a poor race in his Alfa Romeo, Räikkönen was even worse. The Iceman may not have finished the race at all if his late crash with Sebastian Vettel was any worse – the German driver moved outside to overtake Räikkönen, but edging closer to the track limits, Räikkönen moved back in, sending both cars into the gravel. Fortunately, the Alfa Romeo was able to recover, but for a driver with Räikkönen’s experience, such an error should not have happened in the first place.
P16. Nicholas Latifi – 5/10
While P16 is a two-place improvement from Latifi’s performance in qualifying, a lot of that comes down to luck. The crash between Vettel and Räikkönen allowed the Canadian driver to snatch an extra place on the grid, after what was a thoroughly underwhelming race. Despite an improvement on his Styrian Grand Prix performance, Latifi was still way off the mark of his teammate – as usual…
P17. Mick Schumacher – 3/10
It’s hard to judge either Haas driver this season, as team principle Geunther Steiner has made it very publicly clear that the team’s focus is on developing next season’s car and giving their drivers early experience in the sport. An expected race from Schumacher.
P18. Nikita Mazepin – 3/10
Again, an expected race from Mazepin for the same reasons as Schumacher. However, was kept behind his teammate the whole race and received a post-race penalty for failing to adhere to the double-waved yellow flags following the crash between Vettel and Räikkönen, which saw 30 seconds added to his race time and three penalty points added to his name.
DNF. Sebastian Vettel – N/A
A very up-and-down race for the German, who at one point recorded the fastest lap of the race while pushing through the midfield. Even before the crash with Räikkönen, this was a disappointing day for both Vettel and Aston Martin. However, we know for a fact that there is pace in the car and Vettel has put in some monster performances this season while also regularly outperforming his teammate. A bad day for Vettel, but he’ll be back.
DNF. Esteban Ocon – N/A
A nightmare of a race for Alpine’s Ocon, who didn’t manage to complete a single lap of the race. Heading into Turn Four, Ocon was sandwiched between Schumacher and Giovinazzi and the latter came across from the right, knocking Ocon’s front right tyre inward and sending the Frenchman limping towards the gravel. The safety car was brought out and Ocon’s race was over within a minute of the race beginning.