Carlos Sainz Jnr, McLaren, Sochi Autodrom, 2019

2019 Russian Grand Prix Star Performers

2019 Russian Grand Prix

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Carlos Sainz Jnr, Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton were RaceFans’ Star Performers of the Russian Grand Prix. Here’s why.


Carlos Sainz Jnr

It was another really solid weekend for Sainz. He improved consistently throughout qualifying and took fifth on the grid after Max Verstappen’s penalty, and even got in among the Mercedes at the start thanks to the slipstream.

The team understood it wasn’t worth trying to hold back the silver cars or the Red Bulls, and Sainz banked a valuable sixth. Without the Safety Car period, he probably could have kept Alexander Albon behind.

Sergio Perez

Getting a Racing Point home between the two McLarens was an achievement, one which came about thanks to Sergio Perez’s opportunistic move on Lando Norris as Albon passed the McLaren driver.

Sergio Perez, Racing Point, Sochi Autodrom, 2019
Perez took his chances at the restart
Perez had even run ahead of Verstappen for a while in the opening stages, and despite the Safety Car not playing in his favour, he bagged an excellent seventh place.

Lewis Hamilton

Undoubtedly Hamilton needed a big slice of luck to win his ninth race of the year, and the Virtual Safety Car period supplied it. However he was the only Mercedes driver in position to benefit from that, and that was because he was clearly the quicker of the two.

Hamilton seems to have raised his game in qualifying lately, and once again he split the faster Ferraris on the grid, not that it did him much good at the start. However he stayed close enough to grab the lead and preserved his tyres well enough to squeeze in a quick lap for the bonus point at the end of the race.

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Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, Sochi Autodrom, 2019
Raikkonen’s race went wrong at the start
After a great first half of the season for Kimi Raikkonen, he’s been largely unimpressive since the summer break. In Sochi he was out-qualified by Antonio Giovinazzi again, then jumped the start, a baffling error for the most experienced driver on the grid.

He managed to finish in front of his team mate, though Giovinazzi’s damage and the Safety Car timing had a hand in that.

Daniel Ricciardo

Right from the start of practice, when he bounced his RS19 off a wall, Daniel Ricciardo never looked particularly comfortable in his Renault in Sochi. Having started behind his team mate, his race was ruined when he tangled with Giovinazzi and Romain Grosjean on the first lap.

Kevin Magnussen

Points have been scarce for Haas this year, so when a fortuitously-timed Safety Car period elevated Magnussen to sixth place they looked set to cash in. However his defences were pierced by Sainz and Perez, and another position was needlessly lost when he rejoined the track incorrectly at turn two.

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And the rest

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Sochi Autodrom, 2019
So, who would’ve won?
Sebastian Vettel’s MGU-K failure meant we never got to see the tensions at Ferrari resolve themselves on the track. Vettel repeatedly refused to let Charles Leclerc by, despite having apparently entered into a pre-race agreement with the team which obliged him to. As in Singapore, it’s hard to see what more Leclerc could have done to prove himself worth of the win given Ferrari’s management of the race, having once again out-qualified his team mate.

While Valtteri Bottas remains Hamilton’s closest title rival, Sochi provided no indication he is likely to step up over the remaining five rounds. Verstappen had an unusually unspectacular race to fourth, while Albon made amends for his qualifying crash by reclaiming fifth. The Safety Car helped, but so did gutsy passes on the likes of Pierre Gasly.

The Toro Rosso driver was plagued by overheating problems throughout the race. His team mate Daniil Kvyat made some progress from the back of the grid, having been sidelined by two power unit failures during practice.

Lando Norris took more useful points for McLaren while Nico Hulkenberg did his best to limit the damage for Renault after his car developed a minor engine problem. He was only a second away from beating Magnussen to eighth.

Outside the points, Lance Stroll finished behind Perez as usual, while Giovinazzi’s race was spoiled by damage due to the first-lap collision which put Grosjean out. George Russell went into a barrier shortly after his pit stop, suggesting something might have gone wrong on his Williams. The team withdrew Robert Kubica’s car immediately afterwards, claiming a shortage of parts.

Over to you

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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57 comments on “2019 Russian Grand Prix Star Performers”

  1. I would be very interested to see what Sainz could do in a race-winning car. He is very consistent and has good judgement, but I am curious about his raw speed.

    1. Based off of last season, it’s not like he’s a world beater. If he was in the Red Bull this year, for example, I think he’d have picked up a podium or 2 maybe but would still be quite a bit away from Verstappen.

      1. Based off this season, and 2016 and 2017, where he annihilated Kvyat, he very well could be, however. Tough to know until he gets a race winning car, which with the way McLaren’s current revival is going, I think could very well be in the next few seasons.

        Also, think the ranking has been incredibly harsh on Magnussen here.

      2. It is very curious case. Before this season I had soimewhat low opinion about sainz’s skills as f1 driver. He wasn’t that great against hulk at renault nor that great against verstappen at toro rosso but did pretty much destroy kvyat at toro rosso. At mclaren he is doing excellent job. Not only is he outperforming his rookie team mate with good margins but he is also dragging the mclaren to the best positions possible for that car. He is no rookie anymore though. 2019 is his 5th season so it is no longer question whether he will or won’t. It is the time of his career for him to deliver and he is doing that.

        1. Cristiano Ferreira
          2nd October 2019, 18:42

          For me Sainz is a driver that is an equal to Hulkenberg / Perez or a bit better than both. I dont think he is at the same tier as Ricciardo, who in my opinion belong in a tier of his own.

          “The Ricciardo tier” in my opinion is that of a driver that can be considered a potential WDC material, but is below the tier where some drivers like Verstappen or Leclerc are.

          Give these 2 an excellent car and they can destroy the opposition with it. Give Ricciard the same car and he can win with it too, but not as easily as those 2 mentioned before.

          I hope i have made myself clear.

          1. I rate Sainz exactly like you do. A little bit below than RIC and slightly better than Perez. This year I have noticed a step forward in his skills, making less mistakes, brilliant starts and better race-craft overall. Let’s see if he is able to continue with this progression and be eventually podium contender or just get stuck as an average F1 driver.

          2. not sure about the “ricciardo tier”. he beat vettel probably more comprehensively than leclerc has and was a serious match for verstappen until about mid-way through 2018. i guess we’ll never really know until these drivers are in the same machinery OR they have multiple opportunities for wins/titles (e.g. hamilton, vettel, alonso). that really sorts the wheat from the chaff in terms of ascertaining the quality of a driver (if not the relative speed).

      3. @hugh11 He proved himself a match for Verstappen at Toro Rosso (people forget his spectacularly bad luck that year, plus the fact he was willing to help his teammate, who then refused to return the favour) and demolished Kvyat. Slightly beaten by Hulk last year, but in a new team and again with bad luck, and Hulk is very good anyway. I think Red Bull will be annoyed they let him slip away, considering how their non-Verstappen drivers have done this year.

        1. Ahah, I like that comment about non-verstappen drivers! Agree, though albon is at least delivering what can be expected by a decent number 2 driver, remains to be seen if red bull wants a double number 1 situation like with ricciardo or is happy with that; even if they aren’t happy it’s not like they have much choice unless they start hiring from outside red bull academy.

      4. @hugh11 I agree, based of his time alongside Max, he was just a couple of tenths away in Q but often ended over a pit stop away from verstappen, the same happened at renault.

        There’s a reason sainz jr, even with sponsorship was down to mclaren who was not doing well at all.

        1. @peartree You obviously didn’t watch the 2015 season where it was very close in qualifying (10-9 to Max) and Sainz would have scored the same amount of points if he hadn’t had a string of mechanical retirements from strong positions. But then it’s too much to ask you to be reasonable when it comes to Sainz.

          1. woop woop… 2015 was Max second year in autosport while Sainz already had 6 seasons in autosport, apples and oranges… on top, Sainz always DNFéd behind Verstappen and never would have been on par without those DNF’s cause he was the driver behind…just like Ricciardo DNF-ed nearly always behind in 2017 and 2018.

            Hulkenberg was better than Sainz… that about says it all

          2. @tflb your argument is based on a fallacy. You used the stat that gives max a narrow win 10-9 as proof that Q was close between them, but with pu penalties in the mix this stat doesn’t portray the gap between them, no sainz was not more unlucky than max, and finally I am reasonable on sainz since rbr and renault agree with me and they surely have a nore qualified opinion. Matn makes some more valid points. Heck kvyat beat ricciardo.

    2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      2nd October 2019, 19:18

      the reason why i think Sainz is looking good this year is because Mclaren seem to be a long way behind the top 3 teams and a long way ahead of the rest. Sainz has been very solid, but very rarely challenged. I don’t think he is a very good driver, but has looked good this year because he hasn’t got challenged IMO. Last year when he had more of a fight, he made more mistakes and the year before that he caused more retirements than any other driver. I don’t think his spacial awareness is that good and his wheel to wheel racing sometimes shows this. I think he could have avoided Verstappen better in Bahrain this year, but at the same time, verstappen could have acted differently too.

      He’s certainly good, but I think the car and the fact his team mate is having such awful reliability during the races is making him look better than he is. Looking at qualifying and comparing him to his rookie team mate, he isn’t looking that special to me.

    3. @eljueta I’d be more interested in what Alonso could do in sainzs place. Sainz is solid and a great driver for last years mclaren, the 15th place mclaren.

    4. He should develop some balls there..

      and even got in among the Mercedes at the start thanks to the slipstream.

      he was in front of the Merc and always should have blocked Lewis there. But he did not do it.
      That’s something he misses.

      1. IMO he was just cautious, after having not scored in the last races. I would have liked to see a strong defense, but currently is not worth to fight them, and could ended up in DNF.

        1. Hamilton thinks to be in WDC contention (it was already won in reality), so sainz could’ve easily risked it, hamilton would’ve played safe.

    5. I was thinking the same thing.

  2. Red Bulls seem to be back in no-man’s land like last season, slower than Ferrari and Mercedes, faster than the rest.
    Good performance by Max and Alex, but no hope of scoring higher than they did. Too bad, hope they are more competitive in Mexico.

  3. Albon did well in the race. I hesitate to say it, but Verstappen has been kind of low key over this part of the season. I’d really like to see rain during the Japanese and Brazilian GPs, partly to see Red Bull in the mix, partly to see how Leclerc fares. Really, Hamilton was once again the star performer. It’s taken for granted, but actually his pressing of Leclerc at the start, despite being on mediums to the Ferrari softs, was quite exceptional. This season he’s made an art of chasing cars closely without overheating tyres etc. when others (as Bottas admitted) find it difficult. Both he and Leclerc have been the standout performers this season.

    1. It certainly looked like Hamilton didn’t find his “luck” but rather he made it.
      The push on Leclerc was what prevented Ferrari being able to easily swap places and pit to their own schedule.
      I would still vote for Albon getting an honorable mention. From pit lane to 5th is pretty decent for anyone as well as finishing on the same lap and one place behind the no. 1 on the team.

      1. I’m honestly not quite sure what to make of Albon’s Red Bull stint as of yet. There hasn’t really been what you could call a normal race where you could do a good comparison with Max. Singapore qualifies somewhat, but Ferrari’s tyre saving strategy keeping the field bunched up again makes it difficult.

        Hoping there’s a few races ahead where we can see where he stacks up with Max. My feeling is he’s already closer than Gasly.

      2. @rekibsn this has been gone over a million times already, but how do you work out that ferrari didn’t pit on schedule? they would have finished 1-2 without vettel’s engine failure. the strategy was sound.

    2. Hamilton was once again the star performer. It’s taken for granted, but actually his pressing of Leclerc at the start, despite being on mediums to the Ferrari softs, was quite exceptional. This season he’s made an art of chasing cars closely without overheating tyres etc. when others (as Bottas admitted) find it difficult. Both he and Leclerc have been the standout performers this season.

      Very well said.

    3. and Leclerc have been the standout performers this season.

      Not really. You seem to forget LECs lots of mistakes and crashes in the first part.
      LEC only started later in the season

      1. @erikje Not a question of forgetting his mistakes, more a recognition of an impressive learning curve. It has been his first season in a Ferrari! You allow for that, right?

    4. Albon would have nearly been lappen by Verstappen without safety cars

  4. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    2nd October 2019, 16:54

    So did everyone forget Albon went from the pitlane to 5th? Like for a mostly unprepared rookie driving a car he’s not experienced with and bouncing back from a bad qualifying, that’s pretty good work. Currently his Red Bull run of 5th, 6th, 6th, 5th is better than anything Gasly consecutively achieved so far in the same car. I agree with people it’s difficult to see a comparison against Verstappen due to external factors but all things considered he’s doing very well.

    Also – Hamilton, star performer? Not really seeing that one but okay. Like he did alright and was lucky, but it was an off weekend for Mercedes in general to be honest.

    1. @rocketpanda In this era of a 2-level F1, going from last to 5th in a car a second-and-a-half or so faster than the midfield is not that impressive. Plus he was helped hugely by the safety car.

    2. @rocketpanda Do you remember why he started from the pitlane? Because that’s the reason why he shouldn’t be nowhere near being a Star. Overtaking midfield in RB isn’t that challenging and he completely blew it in qualifying.

      1. @huhhii I wonder what you’d be saying if it was Bottas or Kimi who had had the exact same shunt in qually and recovery in the race…

    3. @rocketpanda sure he went from pitlane to 5th. But there was already a SC in the 1st lap giving him more than 10 seconds at least. Plus he pitted under (V?)SC giving him another 15+seconds plus less cars to overtake. So he just got extremely lucky

  5. Magnussen struggler?
    From what I remember he took 3 places in the start, and quickly got by Hulkenberg after the restart. But okay, its not worth mention, if he is placed as struggler.

    And Hamilton a star performer? What about Albon? He at least overtook the cars on track, not by pitstop.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      2nd October 2019, 19:24

      Albon overtook many drivers because he was in a top car and he crashed in qualifying which is already a big negative point of his weekend. He just managed to finish in the lowest realistic position expected for that car, but should have finished closer or possibly ahead of Verstappen had he started the race where he should have done – which was 5th.

      Magnussen did indeed have a very good start, but i have to agree he was lucky. Several drivers crashed out or had bad luck and he benefited from this. And as mentioned, he did something he shouldn’t have done and got a penalty. Given how fast Hass looked this weekend, his qualifying especially and race was pretty poor.

      1. To use your analogy, Hamilton was also in a top car. I agree that it should be expected from Albon, but he still performed very well in race and was aggressive when needed to.

        Magnussen lucky? His race start did earn him 3 places. Ricciardo and Grosjean was behind him when they crashed out, so to say he was lucky is a bit harsh. I can’t see how this was benefitting because he had a better qualifying than Ricciardo, and he is sitting in an equal car with Grosjean. But what is worse. Having a bad qualifying like Magnussen or crashing out of the race and getting no points like Grosjean. I know what I would be choosing.

        1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          2nd October 2019, 22:26

          i am not saying it was his start where he was lucky and i am aware of who he got past. He was lucky to have the safety car when it came as the article says and also had other drivers pass him. I think it is a fair reason to consider him a struggler.

          regarding Grosjean, i think he was innocent there. I blame giovinazzi for attempting it down the middle of two cars when he should have known it would close. 3 into 1 corner is not the best thing to do, and grosjean got knocked out.

  6. The biggest struggle is Williams. Pulling Kubica becouse of a shortage of parts is a discgrace. Claire Williams was talking how the team is heading in the right direction, how the team will fight no matter what, till the end.
    They ended Kubica race after issue with Russell car. Does that mean they cannot provide enough parts for next race (2 weeks time)?
    And what about FIA? teams can’t retire cars without valid cause, so how lack of parts for next race can be an enough excuse ?

    1. Vandoorne driving time was heavily cut down from mid season last year. It’s not a good look but it’s reality.

  7. That’s impressing. Magnussen as struggler??? First Haas points in quite a while, perfect first lap, brilliant performance after the unavoidable 5 sek. penalty. What’s not to like??

    1. What’s not to like??

      Magnussen ?

    2. Yes, don’t agree with that at all, and ok that grosjean this time was taken out, but don’t see how that can be better than magnussen, maybe for qualifying.

  8. Albon is doing great compared to gasly. I think red bull are resigned to the fact no driver of theirs will challenge max without spending mega money, ‘importing’ a driver and risk upsetting the apple cart. Albon is already picking up regular points for the team and is really yet to have a good trouble free weekend.

    Hamilton is raising his game in qualifying (and races really) as he is rising to the challenge and is proving to be someone that thrives on competition unlike some others….

    1. Yes, that’s a bonus point now for hamilton, over the years he improved first his error-rate and now his giving up when not in the best position.

  9. Have no idea why Hamilton is a star this weekend, mercedes threw everything at supporting Ham this weekend, he did his job but not like he had much to do.

    1. He qualified between the ferraris in a slower car to start with. Where was his teammate?

    2. Have no idea why Hamilton is a star this weekend

      @peartree then you havent a clue about the sport. To stay within 3 seconds of 2 cars faster than yours on a slower compound is epic.

      Had he not been that close Ferrari would have been able to run the race at their leisure, team orders, strategy, whatever but they couldn’t. Because of Lewis. For a measure of the pace most drivers would lap at in that situation see Bottas.

      1. To stay within 3 seconds of 2 cars faster than yours on a slower compound is epic.

        So VERs drive was epic then.. He followed three much faster cars on faster tires and ended only a inch behind LEC at the flag.

        1. True that, red bull’s race pace wasn’t that bad but just not enough to really challenge for position, you saw even leclerc, who could get incredibly close to bottas, couldn’t pass him.

  10. Stars: SAI, PER.
    Strugglers: BOT, LEC, VER, MAG, HUL, RAI, GAS.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      3rd October 2019, 10:03

      Is Bottas a struggler purely because you have high expectations of him at this track? He was not good in qualifying and didn’t look that good in the first stint either. But he must have been pretty quick if he could hold back a faster Ferrari on better tyres with Leclerc driving for many laps closer to the end. Yes Hamilton was better, but i don’t think it was a bad weekend for Bottas. He helped get the teams best possible result.

    2. BOT had to defend Lewis and that cost him his chances.
      VER did good, nothint to better there.
      LEC did great except his moaning
      MAG scored points in a Haas.. something to consider
      so, no most of your “struggle’s” i do not agree.

      1. Yes, his stars\strugglers are often very opinable I think, even more so than keith’s ones which are sometimes criticized as well, verstappen and leclerc did well enough, bottas was actually a bit disappointing track considered and last stint was slow but I don’t think enough to be a struggler, magnussen is the one I also disagree with keith about.

  11. I will be a lone voice for VET as the starriest at Sochi.
    I had written off Seb after his struggles last year and this, and the way LEC thrashed him on Saturdays week after week.
    But what a comeback performance he delivered last Sunday beaten only by an MGU-K, and how much classier he looked in contrast with LEC. I hope he will keep up this trajectory for the rest of the season. Of course there will be no title challenge now from Ferrari, but I’m rooting for Seb to silence the moaning minny on the other side of the garage.
    (I am trying to like LEC, but he sure doesn’t make it easy)

    1. Yes, I was thinking there were grounds to make vettel a star, however if qualifying is considered as well which I think it is, that goes out of the window, he was terrible in qualifying.

  12. Question: Is it possible for a team to break the MGU-K from the pits? :-) I know. But I now believe Ferrari will do anything to get headlines.

    1. Yes, suspicious, anytime something happens within 1 lap after pitting I’d blame the pit crew.

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