All eyes were on the Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen battle at the front of the Bahrain Grand Prix field, but there were plenty of hero and zero performances back in the pack in the 2021 Formula 1 opener.
Edd Straw passes judgement on every driver’s weekend using our new-for-2021 scoring method, and there’s both a 1 and a 10 among the marks for round one.
Whether you agree or disagree, you can debate it all with Edd live in the comments section at the bottom of the page from 7:30pm UK time tonight.
After each grand prix, The Race will rate each driver’s weekend with a mark out of 10.
This year, in an attempt to utilise a wider range of scores, we have recalibrated the scoring to make 5 out of 10 an average mark and therefore indicative of a decent drive given the high standard of drivers in F1.
For a more in-depth explanation, read our outline of the modified system.
Started: 2nd Finished: 1st
Hamilton looked much more comfortable at the wheel of the Mercedes than he did in testing, but that’s not to say he looked entirely comfortable.
His qualifying lap was a good one, although he was having to fight the limitations of the car far more than Verstappen had to and the Mercedes simply wasn’t capable of pole position.
Hamilton ran second in the first stint but stayed close enough to Verstappen to launch an undercut by stopping on lap 13 of 56.
That gave him track position and a beautifully measured final stint – as well as intelligent defence when he needed it – allowed him to take victory against the run of play.
VERDICT: Drove superbly, but that final stint under pressure turned a likely second into victory.
Started: 3rd Finished: 3rd
Bottas was half a step behind Hamilton in qualifying, and would have been even if he hadn’t used up a second set of soft Pirellis during Q1.
But there were no major errors in qualifying and it was a solid effort, albeit two tenths slower than Hamilton.
The first stint blunted Bottas’s race, as he initially lost time after slipping tamely behind Leclerc but then dropped back a little more after regaining third to the point where he was 6.7s off the lead and 4s behind his team-mate when Hamilton stopped.
Bottas was 5.4s behind Verstappen when he made his second stop, but trouble getting the right-front off in the pits cost him eight seconds and cast him into a lonely third. Inevitably, an extra stop late on allowed him to take the fastest lap point.
VERDICT: A decent start to the season but the first stint cost him even before the slow stop.
Started: 11th (but ended up in pitlane) Finished: 5th
Perez knew heading into qualifying that he wasn’t on top of the Red Bull RB16B on push laps having said on Friday it wasn’t “coming naturally”.
He didn’t do enough on his two medium-shod runs in Q2 to make the top 10, with his first lap disallowed for a track limits violation but too slow anyway.
Perez was confident he had the pace, but didn’t put it together at the second attempt, in particular losing time to understeer in the final corner.
Perez kept his head when the car shut down on the formation lap and eventually got it started, then made incisive process after the resulting pitlane start.
On what was effectively a two-stop strategy, albeit with an extra ‘free’ stop under the safety car, he made consistently quick progress to salvage fifth.
VERDICT: Has some way to go on single lap pace, but he executed his recovery drive superbly with strong pace – comparable to Verstappen – and incisiveness in traffic.
Started: 1st Finished: 2nd
Verstappen went into qualifying as favourite for pole and delivered in a Red Bull that was clearly the class of the field.
But despite the car being thoroughly “planted”, as he put it, he adapted effortlessly to the wind conditions and extracted the potential of the car brilliantly.
Verstappen led the first stint but once losing track position to Hamilton’s lap-13 undercut was inevitable, he ran four laps longer.
From there he was on the back foot and it came down to having to close an 8.6s gap in the final stint. He closed it, but despite briefly getting ahead with an illegal pass at Turn 4 on lap 53 he had to relinquish the position.
By then, his rears were struggling and he couldn’t get close to Hamilton in the remaining three laps.
VERDICT: Completely at one with the car, but just fell short in the final battle.
Started: 6th Finished: 7th
The aim was to make Ricciardo feel like a McLaren veteran on his debut, and although there’s still a little to come he “hit the ground running”, as he put it, in qualifying.
He still doesn’t appear able to extract the maximum on braking and turn into the slower corners, running slightly wide a couple of times on his qualifying lap, but this was a strong start with convincing steps made throughout practice and the stages of qualifying.
Ricciardo slipped to seventh behind Norris on the first lap and pretty much had control of that position for the whole race, save for the fraught period after the first stop.
His peak pace was good but he struggled with tyre management and almost fell into Sainz’s clutches late on.
VERDICT: Looks every bit the McLaren regular, but still has some edges to sharpen.
Started: 7th Finished: 4th
Norris was quick in practice, although he did have some moments when the car caught him out.
But he made Q3 comfortably and was unfortunate not to beat new team-mate Ricciardo on their first weekend together with a strong final lap, albeit perhaps struggling fractionally more for rear grip in the second half of the lap.
Norris passed Ricciardo on the first lap then picked up fifth from Gasly. Having chased down and passed Leclerc for fourth too, that was as far forward as the McLaren would allow him to go but he managed the rest of the race well.
VERDICT: Good in qualifying, superb in the race.
Started: 20th Finished: 15th
Vettel admitted that he wasn’t on top of the car heading into qualifying, although his Q1 elimination was primarily down to yellow flags caused by Sainz’s Ferrari.
He also passed Mazepin’s spun Haas just before the yellows were shown, but was subsequently relegated from 18th to the back for not aborting the lap as stewards deemed he should have done.
Vettel briefly ran as high as sixth thanks to a long first stint on mediums that ultimately went on a little too long.
While he blamed Ocon initially for their late clash, it was clear that Vettel made a misjudgement and hit the rear of the Alpine – earning himself a 10-second penalty that made no difference to his finishing position.
VERDICT: Fraught, but with the mitigation of being undercooked at Aston.
Started: 10th Finished: 10th
Stroll looked the more comfortable Aston Martin driver heading into qualifying and did a good job to get into Q3 in a team that isn’t yet one of the five strongest in the field.
His Q2 lap was particularly good, although he barely improved on it in the final part of qualifying despite a lap he said felt good in a car that doesn’t appear to inspire confidence.
Stroll was in the thick of the midfield fight throughout the race but struggled on his lengthy stint to the chequered flag on hards, slipping from eighth to 10th behind Sainz and Tsunoda – losing ninth place on the last lap.
VERDICT: A decent weekend’s work in a car that isn’t pulling up any trees pace-wise.
Started: 9th Finished: DNF
Despite still having to play himself in fully, Alonso made it into Q3 on his F1 comeback – something that wasn’t a foregone conclusion heading into qualifying.
The Alpine was a better proposition over a flying lap in the cooler evening conditions and although Alonso perhaps left a tenth or two on the table, with a wide moment out of Turn 13 costing him a little, it was a decent effort.
Alonso climbed to seventh early on and briefly got ahead of Ricciardo with an aggressive undercut at the first stops.
He lost ground when he crossed swords with Vettel, losing a place to Sainz, but having picked up debris he suffered from overheating brakes that first slowed him, then forced him to retire.
VERDICT: While not yet razor-sharp, he’s making fast progress and deserved a points finish on his comeback.
Started: 16th Finished: 13th
Superficially, elimination in Q1 while new team-mate Alonso reached Q3 was a disastrous start to Ocon’s season.
In fact, he looked potentially quicker heading into qualifying and would at least have reached Q2 easily but for losing around half-a-second to the yellow flag triggered by Sainz. That said, he did make an error on his first Q1 run, although this had little overall impact.
Ocon was always destined for an afternoon deep in the midfield with such a lowly starting position, but getting up to 12th in the first stint gave him hope.
He was unable to build on that, not helped by being vulnerable to undercuts around both his stops, and he was out of points contention even before being clobbered by Vettel and picking up damage.
VERDICT: Ocon was far better than circumstances allowed him to look and compared well to his new team-mate.
Started: 4th Finished: 6th
Leclerc picked up where he left off last year with another superb qualifying lap, flirting with the limitations of the car constantly but always having the finesse to keep it under control even when pushing right to the limit. Fourth couldn’t have been bettered.
Leclerc was always likely to come under pressure after his superb qualifying lap, but he briefly ran third ahead of Bottas before gravity kicked in and he was shuffled back to fourth.
Norris soon got ahead and, inevitably, Perez later in the race, but Leclerc never looked in danger of dropping lower than sixth.
VERDICT: Stellar qualifying lap and a fine race drive – standard fare for Leclerc.
Started: 8th Finished: 8th
Sainz had a fraught time in qualifying, starting with the car switching off in Q1 and triggering a yellow flag before he was able to recover to the pits.
He described himself as “on top of the car all weekend” but couldn’t quite extract the maximum from it in Q3 and ended up a couple of places lower than he should have been.
The need for a correction in the transition from Turn 1 to Turn 2 cost him time all the way to Turn 4 and stretched the gap to Leclerc to 0.537s.
Sainz justifiably took a cautious approach to his first race as a Ferrari driver and slipped two places to 10th at the start, which became ninth when Gasly hit trouble.
He capitalised on Alonso’s battle with the long-running Vettel to jump the Alpine driver. After passing Stroll, he closed in on Ricciardo in the final stint, but couldn’t get close enough to make a pass.
VERDICT: A good, if unspectacular, start to his Ferrari career gives him a solid foundation to build from.
Started: 5th Finished: 17th (not running)
Not only did Gasly proves the promise of the AlphaTauri with fifth on the grid after another accomplished qualifying performance, but most impressively he was the only driver outside of Mercedes and Verstappen to make it through Q2 on the C3 Pirellis so he could start the race on mediums.
Gasly held fifth at the start, but his race fell apart in a few seconds after the safety car restart.
A hesitant run through Turn 2 allowed Norris to get a run on him and go around the outside at Turn 4. Gasly then had a brief rear-end snap that allowed Ricciardo to shoot past, only to clip the back of the McLaren in the esses.
That cost him his front wing and gave him floor damage, leading to his retirement late on.
VERDICT: Superb in qualifying but carelessness in the race cost him a strong result.
Started: 13th Finished: 9th
Tsunoda continued to catch the eye with how well he’s taken to F1 through practice and Q1, ending the first part of qualifying second fastest.
But on his two runs on mediums he couldn’t find the grip and failed to make Q3, describing his struggles as “not acceptable”. The details will come, but the underlying pace was there.
The rookie had an action-packed first stint, with a slow start then wheelspin costing him places and a lock up into Turn 8 before the safety car was deployed.
He lost places to Russell and Perez at the restart, but after the brief VSC started his charge. He picked off Russell and Vettel in the first stint, jumped Giovinazzi when he stopped, then overtook Ocon in the second stint.
After his second stop, he chased down and passed Raikkonen then Stroll on the last lap, which – aided by Alonso’s problems – added up to ninth place.
VERDICT: Q2 and the first few laps were disappointing, but the rest was excellent for a rookie.
Started: 14th Finished: 11th
Raikkonen struggled a little with the conditions in qualifying and none of his laps through Q1 and Q2 were ideal.
On his final Q2 effort, he gave away a tenth or so to Giovinazzi in each of the first two sectors, but he was hesitant into the final corner and dropped more time, leaving him half-a-second off Giovinazzi and just behind Tsunoda.
Raikkonen passed Giovinazzi at the start, only to lose the position when he ran wide at Turn 4 at the safety-car restart.
He got ahead of Giovinazzi thanks to his team-mate’s slow stop, with a strong final stint on mediums taking him to with 2.2s of the points.
VERDICT: Below par in qualifying but stronger in the race, particularly in that final stint.
Started: 12th Finished: 12th
Giovinazzi had a clear edge over Raikkonen in qualifying, albeit one slightly exaggerated to just over half-a-second.
His Q2 lap, which he described as “great”, was within a tenth of Q3 pace, although there were a few points – wheelspin off Turn 9 and a small moment in the last corner – where he fell a fraction short of the ultimate lap.
Giovinazzi ran 12th at the start despite Perez disappearing after Raikkonen passed him through Turn 1-2, but got back ahead of his team-mate at Turn 4 after the safety car restart.
Gasly’s troubles meant Giovinazzi held 10th in the first stint. Seven seconds were lost at his first pitstop, which he described as “a little bit chaotic” after some front tyre confusion.
This turned his advantage over Raikkonen into a 7.5-second deficit but in the final reckoning cost him just the place to his team-mate.
VERDICT: Had a big qualifying pace advantage over Raikkonen, although their race pace was similar, and it was bad luck that dropped him behind his team-mate.
Started: 19th Finished: DNF
Mazepin wasn’t afraid to attack, as notching up three spins across free practice and his first run in Q1 showed.
But the Turn 1 spin on his final flier was not his error as it was caused by brake-by-wire problem. This meant the gap to Schumacher, which always looked set to be at least a couple of tenths, was exaggerated to eight tenths.
His F1 debut lasted 25s from lights-out to impact after lighting up the rears on the kerb exiting Turn 2 into Turn 3.
VERDICT: Paid the price for being too aggressive when he should have played the percentages.
Started: 18th Finished: 16th
Schumacher took a methodical approach to the weekend and did a good job to get on top of the impact of the change in wind conditions to turn in a decent lap at the final attempt.
There were a few small errors, notably at Turns 9 and 10, but 19th was as good as it was going to get for a Haas driver.
A spin exiting Turn 4 after the safety-car restart was the downside of an otherwise solid race.
He reeled in the ailing Latifi in the closing stages, picking up the position when the Williams spun, but otherwise was off the back.
VERDICT: Outpaced his team-mate and finished the race – job done, spin aside.
Started: 17th Finished: 18th (not running)
Latifi shaded Russell on his first Q1 flier, but the improvement on his final attempt was just under six-tenths of a second, around half of what Russell found, as he struggled to adapt to the dramatic change in wind direction that made it “like a completely new car”.
The Mazepin-induced yellow flag prevented Latifi using DRS on the run to the line, but that only accounts for a fraction of the 0.620s deficit to Russell.
A boost leak started to cause problems on the formation lap, impacting driveability early on then, by the second stint, costing top speed.
The problem continued to get worse, with the team blaming Latifi’s spin at the exit of Turn 4 late on that allowed Schumacher past, and triggered the decision to retire, on it.
VERDICT: Seemed to struggle to adapt to varying wind conditions, but his race was compromised by the engine problem from early on.
Started: 15th Finished: 14th
It took him a couple of runs to adapt to the impact the change in wind conditions had, but despite struggling with brake warming that led to a temperature offset at the start of the lap he produced a good lap to make Q2.
His first two sectors on that Q1 lap were strong, although he lost time in the final sector to a wide moment at Turn 13. On used softs in Q2, he had no chance hence the significantly slower time.
Russell had a punchy first stint, climbing to as high as 13th after passing Vettel on the run to Turn 4 having started on softs.
But he was soon shuffled back to 16th by quicker cars, with Alonso’s retirement and Vettel’s troubles promoting him to 14th having closed on the damaged Ocon late on.
VERDICT: Couldn’t have done significantly more in conditions that brought out the worst of the Williams.