Edd Straw's 2021 Russian Grand Prix driver ratings - The Race
Formula 1

Edd Straw’s 2021 Russian Grand Prix driver ratings

Sep 27 2021
By Edd Straw

A mixed-up grid from a wet-dry qualifying, then a dry-wet race that was turned inside out with half a dozen laps to go.

The Russian Grand Prix was tough for Formula 1 drivers and teams.

But who actually drove well, and who got lucky? And who was robbed by the rain, and who threw it away all by themselves?

Edd Straw casts his judgement in his driver ratings.


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.


2021 Site Hamru

Started: 4th Finished: 1st

Qualifying

The champion looked on target for pole position through the majority of qualifying, but things started to unravel in Q3 with Mercedes the last to bring its drivers in for slicks.

Hamilton then made a mistake in the pit entry and hit the wall, which cost him around 70 seconds for a front wing change.

With time only for one lap on slicks even without the pit-entry crash, Hamilton struggled for tyre temperatures then spun and lightly backed into the wall at Turn 16.

Race

The early seconds of the race didn’t go well and he was shuffled back to seventh before picking off Fernando Alonso on lap two.

He held station in the queue behind Daniel Ricciardo until eventually being released late in the stint to unleash a burst of pace. That allowed him to stop having overcut George Russell and Ricciardo.

Hamilton then quickly passed Lance Stroll, Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly to run a de facto second behind Lando Norris. He caught the McLaren driver but admitted he would have had a tough time getting past had the rain not come, allowing him to make a stop and take the lead as Norris struggled on slicks in impossibly wet conditions.

VERDICT: Quick and executed the race well, but a few rough edges – notably the pit-entry crash – count against him.

2021 Site Botru

Started: 16th Finished: 5th

Qualifying

While he always looked less comfortable than his team-mate in the wet conditions, the seven-tenths gap in Q3 based on their intermediate pace exaggerated the gap, which had been four-tenths in Q1 and 0.177s in Q2.

The time lost to Hamilton’s pit entry crash didn’t cost Bottas a second lap and he couldn’t improve given just one shot on under-temperature tyres.

Race

Bottas moved up to 14th by lap four, but after tamely letting the charging Max Verstappen past two laps later struggled to continue to make up ground.

He was still 14th in the closing stages when the rain came and after being told to stay out on lap 46, he suggested they should have boxed and was immediately called in. This meant he was in the first group to stop and led to a gain of nine places to finish fifth.

VERDICT: Lacklustre, particularly in the race, despite the rain allowing him to salvage a decent result rather than 14th.

2021 Site Perru

Started: 8th Finished: 9th

Qualifying

Perez again had a disappointing qualifying result but it was made worse by the fact he only had one shot at a lap on slicks.

He struggled to build tyre temperature on his out-lap, even having a brief off, and struggled badly for grip on his push lap, running off the track at Turn 8 and meaning he had to rely on his earlier intermediate pace for his position.

Sep 26 : Russian Grand Prix review

Race

Perez ran seventh in the first stint after passing Alonso on lap three and went all the way to lap 36 on his starting set of hards.

That should have allowed him to rejoin third, but he lost 6-6.5s to a slow right-rear change and dropped behind Ricciardo and Sainz.

He made short work of passing them and looked comfortable in third until the rain came, at which point the charging Alonso passed him for third.

Red Bull gambled on leaving him out until lap 50, meaning he dropped to ninth when he finally stopped.

VERDICT: Bad luck means this was a much better weekend than it looked on paper.

2021 Site Verru

Started: 20th Finished: 2nd

Qualifying

Verstappen took a fresh power unit, meaning he went into qualifying with a back-of-the-grid penalty that also rendered his three-place drop carried over from Monza moot.

He went out in Q1 but didn’t set a time so was classified last of the three drivers who had back-of-the-grid penalties and therefore last on the grid.

Race

Verstappen had a storming first stint, reaching the top 10 in 13 laps – albeit with the help of a couple of others stopping – and crucially overtook Bottas along the way.

He ran to lap 26 before making his stop then passed Russell and Stroll, which would have added up to sixth place but for Alonso unexpectedly DRS-ing his way past on the run to Turn 2 shortly after his stop.

Verstappen was still in seventh when the rain came and he suggested stopping among the second group of stoppers on lap 48, overtaking fellow slick runners Sainz and Ricciardo on their in-laps. That allowed him to climb to second as others stopped later after shipping time on slicks.

VERDICT: Hard to fault, although progress stagnated in the second stint in seventh before the rain came.

2021 Site Ricru

Started: 5th Finished: 4th

Qualifying

Ricciardo never looked at Norris’s level, but was a little happier in the wet conditions on Saturday then he had been when all-at-sea on Friday.

While fifth on the grid was solid, the 2.163-second gap to Norris showed the difference in confidence levels, with Ricciardo struggling most in the particularly slippery final sector.

Race

The Monza winner briefly looked like he could have a run at the lead at the start but lacked a tow on the outside line and was shuffled back to seventh.

But he then scythed past Hamilton and Alonso later in the lap to settle into fifth. He held Hamilton at bay through the first stint before stopping for hards on lap 22. In the process, he overcut Russell and Stroll, who had been ahead in the first stint, before being overtaking by Perez, who would have overcut him anyway but for a slow stop, then Alonso.

He was among the second group to stop for intermediates on lap 48, losing a position to Verstappen on his in-lap, which added up to fourth place at the chequered flag.

VERDICT: Not at Norris’s level but a decent weekend’s work.

2021 Site Norru

Started: 1st Finished: 7th

Qualifying

Norris looked increasingly strong as qualifying progressed and the conditions improved and even before that final lap on slicks had split the Mercedes drivers on intermediate pace in Q3.

With time for two push laps, he judged the grip superbly on his pole position lap, particularly in the slippery final sector, to earn a brilliant first F1 pole position.

Race

Norris lost the lead at the start then pulled a crucial pass on Sainz on lap 13 to reclaim it.

He ran to lap 28 and switched to hards, but Hamilton had already had a couple of laps of undercut and was just over eight seconds behind after Norris stopped. It didn’t take long for Hamilton to catch up, but Norris then covered him with precision, delivering pace in the final sector to ensure he was out of reach in the DRS zone on the blast to Turn 2.

He appeared to have the situation under control when the rain came, only to stay out on slicks when Hamilton stopped on 49 before losing time and having a spin in impossible conditions for the tyre as the team hadn’t spotted the second bank of rain. The result was a painful seventh place with fastest lap no consolation.

VERDICT: Drove superbly and although he could have demanded a change to inters, it was the team that should have spotted the crucial second bank of rain.

2021 Site Vetru

Started: 10th Finished: 12th

Qualifying

Vettel was furious to be eliminated in Q2, which was partly a consequence of attempting to get through the whole session on one set of intermediates – a decision he and the team agreed on.

But team-mate Stroll made that strategy work, with Vettel admitting his best lap wasn’t quite as good as it should have been before his final attempt was compromised by traffic in the form of Tsunoda after a strong first sector. A missed opportunity.

Race

Vettel held 11th in the first stint and ran a conventional strategy, switching to hards after 26 laps.

He overtook Raikkonen, Russell, Ocon and Stroll, surviving contact with the latter, to get up to ninth but gambled on staying out on slicks, which led to him losing a huge amount of time when the track became too wet. The result was a lapped 12th.

VERDICT: There was real promise here, but Q2 problems and slicks gamble left him empty handed.

2021 Site Strru

Started: 7th Finished: 15th

Qualifying

As always, Stroll looked very at home in the wet conditions and made it through to Q3 with relative ease.

He ended up eighth, which was disappointing given the team felt he could have been fourth without losing a second or so in the final sector, partly thanks to encountering Perez in Turn 15/16 – although Stroll also lost a little time in the final two corners.

Race

Stroll picked his spot well on the run to the first corner, scything through Hamilton and Ricciardo to run fourth after passing Alonso as he rejoined from the run-off.

He held fourth in the first stint, but was the first to stop at the end of lap 12 to launch an undercut on Russell. The undercut worked although it also ensured Hamilton, Ricciardo, Perez and Alonso could overcut him.

Stroll held eighth in the closing stages before being passed by Leclerc, but was all over the place when the rain came, hitting Vettel and damaging his front wing, being told to pit then over-ruling it, spinning lightly into the wall on the next lap and then hitting Gasly immediately after rejoining – earning him a 10-second penalty that didn’t cost a position.

VERDICT: Did a decent job in qualifying and the dry part of the race, but went to pieces when the rain came.

2021 Site Aloru

Started: 6th Finished: 6th

Qualifying

With the Alpine working better in wet conditions than it had previously, Alonso had a shot at a place on the second row but lost time in the final sector on his last lap in the slippery Turn 16, where he drifted fractionally off line and lost a good half-a-second sorting it out.

Race

Having explored the Turn 2 run off on a reconnaissance lap, it was no surprise to see Alonso using it at the start.

He ended up sixth after rejoining, but lost a place to Hamilton on the next lap. He held position in the first stint but ran long after starting on hards before making his pitstop on lap 36 and rejoining seventh.

He then overtook Verstappen for sixth using the DRS and came alive when the rain came, passing Ricciardo, Sainz and Perez on slicks in the damp to run third.

Alonso was frustrated the rain then intensified, forcing him into the pits for intermediates on lap 50, arguing that third would have been a deserved result.

VERDICT: Qualifying was good but could have been better, but the race was vintage Alonso.

2021 Site Ocoru

Started: 9th Finished: 14th

Qualifying

Ocon was a little disappointed to be only 10th in conditions he enjoys, but only having a single flying lap on slicks after a late change from intermediates meant he had to rely on a time set on used intermediates early on.

That said, Q1 and Q2 suggested he wasn’t quite as on top of the car as Alonso was and felt that after a series of events where he and his team-mate had similar feedback on the car, it diverged at Sochi for unknown reasons.

Race

Ocon held ninth in the first stint before stopping for hards on lap 15 and ended up running behind Russell once he’d overtaken Antonio Giovinazzi.

He was running 12th when the rain came, but gambled on staying out. That briefly elevated him into the points but ultimately meant a pitstop and 14th place.

VERDICT: Lacked Alonso’s edge in qualifying and the race and came away with nothing.

2021 Site Lecru

Started: 19th Finished: 15th

Qualifying

Leclerc headed into the weekend with a back-of-the-grid penalty thanks to taking the new and “significant” Ferrari hybrid system upgrade.

That meant qualifying was largely irrelevant, but he did set a time good enough for Q2 and therefore booked a place on the grid ahead of Verstappen.

Race

Leclerc jumped from 19th to 12th on the first lap, which should have laid the foundations for a strong result.

He ran long, to lap 35, then emerged in 13th place before launching his charge into the points.

Leclerc had got up to eighth when the rain came, although he was unlikely to go higher given he was behind Verstappen, but he and Ferrari opted to stay out, leading to him being, along with Norris, the last holdout and plummeting down to 15th after his stop for inters.

VERDICT: With qualifying irrelevant, Leclerc showed his pace and incisiveness in the race and would have merited a minor points finish.

2021 Site Sairu

Started: 2nd Finished: 3rd

Qualifying

Q1 and Q2 didn’t go well for Sainz, who struggled to get the intermediates working and only scraped through to the top 10 shootout by the skin of his teeth.

But he was delighted to be able to get onto the softs, which worked much better, and made the most of that opportunity to qualify second.

As the first of those to get a proper crack on slicks at the end, he was the first to finish his lap, which meant he didn’t get the very best of the conditions but even with a more advantageous position it would have been tough to match or beat Norris.

Race

Sainz played the start beautifully, positioning his car to get a good tow and being rewarded with the lead.

But with the front tyre graining a problem, he was eventually overtaken by Norris before stopping for hards. That meant he spent a little time in traffic, which he eventually cleared.

Sainz climbed back to third, albeit helped by Perez’s slow stop, but when Alonso and Verstappen passed him when the rain came he stopped on lap 48, which allowed him to regain third place.

VERDICT: Sainz couldn’t have done much more despite leading the race early on given the car pace and characteristics.

2021 Site Gasru

Started: 12th Finished: 13th

Qualifying

AlphaTauri reckoned Gasly had the pace to have qualified as high as fourth, but for the fact that they failed to reach Q3.

On his first Q2 lap, the tyres weren’t up to temperature so he struggled, then on the second he lost around six-tenths in the final sector, partly thanks to Russell’s in-lap.

Gasly was furious that the team didn’t give him fresh intermediates, which was reasonable given it didn’t need to save tyres. But that said, he didn’t offer strong objections over the radios, and on his final attempts the front tyres were too far gone to produce the pace.

Race

Gasly started on hards and ran long to lap 33 before switching to mediums, which briefly elevated him to fifth before he stopped and dropped to 15th behind Bottas.

When the rain came, Gasly was keen to stop for the intermediates but the team wasn’t, believing that there would only be a light shower.

This proved to be an error, especially given he had been running behind Bottas, who jumped to fifth after his stop. Things were only made worse by Stroll rejoining after an off and tipping Gasly into a spin, shortly before Gasly had his own independent pirouette while on his in-lap.

VERDICT: Gasly had pace, but he justifiably blamed the poor reading of the weather and conditions for missing “a golden opportunity”.

2021 Site Tsuru

Started: 12th Finished: 17th

Qualifying

Having locked confidence in the rear end on corner entries on Friday, Tsunoda was much more at home on Saturday.

He did a solid job to make it into Q2, where he used two sets of intermediates and lapped only fractionally slower than the troubled Gasly.

While that wasn’t an accurate read of the gap between the them, it represented a reasonable recovery from Tsunoda, even though his position was boosted by Nicholas Latifi and Leclerc not setting times.

Race

Twelfth on the grid became last over the course of the first lap as Tsunoda leaked positions, which ensured he was in for a long, hard day of toil.

Along the way, he was justifiably furious with Nikita Mazepin’s late move to defend but did pass the Haas.

He was running ahead only of Mazepin and Giovinazzi when the rain came and struggled, but the team’s decision to call him in among the first group of stoppers might have salvaged his race had it not been ruined by sending him out on fresh softs. He was in two laps later for intermediates, finishing 17th ahead of only Mazepin.

VERDICT: His progress appears to have stagnated, which is a concern.

2021 Site Rairu

Started: 13th Finished: 16th

Qualifying

As at Spa, the Alfa Romeo didn’t work well in the wet conditions and Raikkonen, returning after missing the last two races thanks to COVID-19, particularly struggled.

He found the car well-balanced enough, but snappy, and despite ending up 16th was almost seven-tenths slower than the Q2 cut-off.

Race

Raikkonen gained four places to run 10th behind Ocon during the first lap and took a relatively early pitstop on lap 15 to take hards.

That led to him losing ground later in the second stint, falling behind Vettel – on top of being passed by Verstappen and Leclerc.

He was 13th when the rain came and made the call to pit for intermediates among the first group to do so on lap 47, which allowed him to jump to eighth – but only after passing Perez just after the Red Bull driver emerged from the pits through Turn 3.

VERDICT: Struggled in qualifying, but drove an intelligent race and his decisiveness at the key moment meant his best result in over two years.

2021 Site Gioru

Started: 16th Finished: 16th

Qualifying

After hitting the wall during Friday practice, Giovinazzi struggled with brake temperatures during Q1 and lapped just over a second off team-mate Raikkonen on his way to 18th.

Race

Giovinazzi took a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, but still started two places higher than he had qualified thanks to the plethora of power unit penalties.

He lost his radio at the start of the race and took to the run off after rubbing wheels with Mick Schumacher at Turn 2.

Having started on hards, he ran to lap 36 before stopping but the strategy didn’t really pay off and he never broke free of the lower reaches of the order, with the comms problems meaning he stayed out on slicks late on and lost any chance of salvaging a result.

VERDICT: Brake temperature struggles in qualifying, a first-lap excursion and staying too long on slicks meant he got nowhere.

2021 Site Mazru

Started: 15th Finished: 18th

Qualifying

In the first part of Q1, Mazepin had the advantage over Schumacher but he struggled after switching to his second set of intermediates a lap later than his team-mate.

He never managed to get the second set of tyres properly in the window and struggled badly with oversteer on entry and mid-corner oversteer and ended up almost four seconds slower than Schumacher.

Race

Mazepin held 13th for the first couple of laps before inevitably being shuffled back in what is the slowest car in the field by some margin.

He made a relatively early stop to cover off Tsunoda, emerging ahead but then being shown the black-and-white driving standards flag for a late defensive chop.

Inevitably, he soon fell behind Tsunoda and dropped back and was later passed by team-mate Schumacher, who ran longer before his stop. Schumacher’s retirement soon after, and Latifi’s late stoppage after spinning backwards into the wall, meant Mazepin finished 18th having been among the first group to pit for intermediates.

VERDICT: Showed signs of progress, but also his penchant for overly-aggressive defending.

2021 Site Mscru

Started: 14th Finished: DNF

Qualifying

Schumacher was all at sea on his first set of intermediates in Q1 as he wasn’t going quickly enough to build and maintain tyre temperature.

But after making an early switch to a second set, he didn’t repeat the mistake and had plenty of grip later in the session for the conditions.

Realistically, Q2 wasn’t possible but given the car performance level it was a strong qualifying effort.

Race

Schumacher slipped from 14th to 18th on the opening lap after being squeezed between Giovinazzi and Bottas, making contact with the Alfa Romeo.

He then fell behind Giovinazzi and Tsunoda to run last, but later in the stint caught and passed team-mate Mazepin, who had been shuffled back to 19th, just before having to retire with a hydraulics problem.

VERDICT: Showed decent pace in wet and dry, but got little reward for it thanks to poor first lap and retirement.

2021 Site Latru

Started: 18th Finished: 19th

Qualifying

A pneumatic leak was discovered on Friday, meaning Latifi took a new V6, turbocharger and MGU-H and the accompanying back-of-the-grid penalty.

He ran in Q1 primarily to help eliminate one of Russell’s rivals but lapped 0.051s quicker than his team-mate before completing only an in-and-out-lap in Q2. This also ensured he was placed at the front of the three drivers with back-of-the-grid penalties.

Race

Latifi gained a couple of places at the start to run 16th, although was inevitably then passed by Verstappen.

He could make little ground from there, spending his first stint behind Mazepin before undercutting his way past.

He was 16th ahead of Mazepin and Tsunoda having also jumped the long-running Giovinazzi, who passed him during the first stint, when he spun and backed into the wall at Turn 7 when the rain came, resulting in him heading to the pits to retire.

VERDICT: Stuck near back in the race thanks to power unit penalty on a weekend where his underlying pace was decent enough.

2021 Site Rusru

Started: 3rd Finished: 10th

Qualifying

Russell cut it fine in Q1 having struggled a little with traffic on his first run, but made it through comfortably in the end.

On his final set of fresh intermediates, he booked his place in Q3 on his last Q2 lap before becoming the first to take slicks in the top 10 shootout.

Race

The Williams held third place during the first stint despite having Stroll breathing down its neck, then went for a relatively early pitstop to cover the Aston Martin driver’s early undercut attempt.

The early stop wasn’t ideal and Russell was shuffled down to the bottom of the top 10 by quicker cars overcutting and was struggling to maintain tyre temperature late on.

He was relegated to 11th by Vettel before pitting for intermediates, which allowed him to regain 10th.

VERDICT: Superb in qualifying but was always fighting against competitive gravity and an enforced strategy that made life difficult on Sunday.

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