Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix Star Performers

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Yuki Tsunoda were RaceFans’ Star Performers of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Here’s why.


Lewis Hamilton

  • Outpaced team mate Valtteri Bottas all weekend
  • Kept in touch with Verstappen in early phases
  • Ran a long final stint to earn a shot at victory
  • Successfully repelled Verstappen in the closing laps, despite car and tyre disadvantage

His only notable error of the weekend came when he ran wide under pressure from Verstappen. That aside, he was tenaciously brilliant as he prised victory from Red Bull’s grasp

Max Verstappen

  • Fastest in every practice session, plus Q1, Q3
  • Managed a rear differential problem and only lost the lead due to Mercedes pitting Hamilton early
  • Made up a 7.6s gap in the final stint to challenge for victory
  • Overtook Hamilton off-track, gave the place back, but slipped up as he tried to come back at the Mercedes

His car and strategy were less than perfect, and Verstappen also made a minor error, which was enough to cost him victory

Charles Leclerc

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Leclerc managed to split the McLarens
  • Qualified fourth on the grid two rows ahead of new team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr
  • Passed Bottas at the start to run third in opening laps
  • Finished sixth ahead of Ricciardo in arguably faster McLaren

Picked up where he left off last year with more punching-above-their-weight heroics for Ferrari. Bothered some drivers in much quicker cars

Yuki Tsunoda

  • Kept in touch with team mate Pierre Gasly in practice
  • Cautious start, but made his way up the field over the course of the race
  • Bold last-lap pass on Stroll to secure two points in debut race

Terrific run in Q1, not quite up to scratch in Q2, but showed tremendous chutzpah as he nicked ninth place on the final tour

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Nikita Mazepin

Nikita Mazepin, Haas, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Mazepin will not want to remember his debut
  • Had at least five off-track excursions over three days
  • Jumped the ‘queue’ at end of Q1, only to spin off due to a brake-by-wire problem and ruin rivals’ laps
  • Spun into retirement two corners into his debut

Room for improvement in every area here

Sebastian Vettel

  • Struggled for balance in practice after disrupted testing programme
  • Unlucky to go out in Q1 after yellow flag triggered by Mazepin, but slipped up by failing to abort his lap and copped a penalty which left him last on the grid
  • Started well, gaining six places on lap one
  • Made little further progress through the field and hit Esteban Ocon in a clumsy accident which earned him another penalty

Looked as bad as anything last season, but in a green car instead of a red one

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And the rest

Valtteri Bottas

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Slow pit stop ruined Bottas’s race
  • Wasn’t happy the team used an extra set of tyres in Q1
  • Wasn’t impressed with his race strategy either, which he felt could have been more aggressive
  • Lost time in his second pit stop with a slow tyre change
  • Not quite on Hamilton’s pace, but used a free pit stop to claim the bonus point for fastest lap

Lando Norris

  • Finished fourth ‘best of the rest’
  • Outpaced team mate Daniel Ricciardo all weekend
  • Passed Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly and Charles Leclerc on track

Sergio Perez

  • Had his first lap time in Q2 deleted for a track limits infringement
  • Started from the pit lane after his car failed on the formation lap
  • Recovered lost ground thanks to early Safety Car
  • Raced through the field to fifth place

Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Qualifying went better than the race for Ricciardo
  • Out-qualified new team mate Norris in their first race together
  • Fell behind him at the start, lost another place to the recovering Perez and took the chequered flag nearly 20 seconds after his team mate
  • Wasn’t happy with his race pace in what team principal Andreas Seidl said was the “third-quickest car”

Carlos Sainz Jnr

  • Didn’t expect to beat Leclerc in qualifying, and sure enough was half a second behind
  • His race pace compared much more favourably and he took eighth
  • Said “I didn’t take too many risks at the start”, though he collided with Stroll
  • Later passed Stroll for eighth and was catching Ricciardo at the end of the race

Lance Stroll

  • Reached Q3 after his team mate went out in Q1
  • Aston Martin weren’t as strong on the hard tyres
  • Mugged by Tsunoda on the last lap

Kimi Raikkonen

  • Over half a second slower than his team mate in qualifying
  • Swapped places with Giovinazzi at the start and restart, and ended up ahead after the first pit stops
  • Ran out of time to catch Stroll and Tsunoda ahead of him for a shot at a point

Antonio Giovinazzi

Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Giovinazzi and Bottas can swap tales of pit lane woe
  • Comfortably out-qualified Raikkonen
  • Lost a place to his team mate at the start, then re-passed him at turn four on the restart
  • Fell back behind Raikkonen again due to a slow first pit stop which cost him seven seconds
  • Remained around that gap behind his team mate until he was lapped

Esteban Ocon

  • Another victim of the Q1 yellow flags
  • Also a victim of Vettel, who rear-ended him at turn one
  • Hadn’t looked like a points contender before then

George Russell

  • Car didn’t look quick enough for Q2 but Russell grabbed the chance to put it there
  • Briefly got ahead of Vettel at the restart
  • Was happy with his pace in the second and third stints and said 14th was the best they could expect

Mick Schumacher

Mick Schumacher, Haas, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Despite a spin, Schumacher saw the chequered flag on his debut
  • Out-qualifying his team mate may prove the best he can hope for on Saturdays all year
  • Spun off at turn four early in the race but rejoined

Pierre Gasly

  • Handled the medium tyres far better than Tsunoda to reach Q3
  • Qualified a superb fifth
  • Said he was “surprised” by Ricciardo ahead of him, tagged the McLaren and lost his front wing. He also suffered floor damage, which ruined his race

Nicholas Latifi

  • Doesn’t appear to have got any closer to Russell’s one-lap pace over the off-season
  • Passed Gasly after his pit stop, but lost ground to Russell
  • Was forced to retire shortly before the end of the race when he began to lose boost from his power unit

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
An unusual problem curtailed Alonso’s grand prix return

Over to you

Vote for the driver who impressed you most last weekend and find out whether other RaceFans share your view here:

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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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62 comments on “2021 Bahrain Grand Prix Star Performers”

  1. Norris was a star for sure.

    1. Was disappointed to not see him the stars list, perhaps in place of LEC

    2. Lando Norris
      – Outpaced team mate Daniel Ricciardo all weekend

      But that is incorrect though as he was beaten in quali, @carbon_fibre.

      Of course the same for Tsunoda, but he gets some rookie credits I guess.

      PS I quite like the bullet point summary, @KeithCollantine. The more ‘wordy’ reviews we’ve seen already.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        29th March 2021, 18:15

        @coldfly I think Norris deserves a star for getting P4 and getting by Daniel and staying ahead of him. After all, Daniel is considered a great driver by many folks.

  2. That Mazepin bloke isn’t very good lol.

    1. When doing your predictions for Fantasy GP, don’t forget to add an extra safety car for his first lap spin every race!

    2. We can look forward to the safety car coming out every race this year. Thanks to him.

    3. @netm Who’s this Mazepin bloke? I thought it was Hazaspin…

      1. Hahahaha good 1. rule 1 should be to atleast complete 1st lap for a rookie. Bonus complete 2. Trophy complete the race.

  3. I feel like Lando should have been among the stars, maybe even ahead of Charles.

    And great to see Tsunoda take points on his debut (9 years since the last Japanese driver points!!!).

    But can’t really disagree with the rankings. Ocon probably lucky to be punted by Vettel otherwise he would have been a struggler too.

  4. How is Lando not one of the stars?!

    He was driving a car that featured a completely different engine to last year. Despite that he secured 4th.

    1. a car that featured a completely different engine to last year

      That would reflect the (expected) car performance, but not the driver’s, @sonnycrockett.

    2. @sonnycrockett Because he is not a site favorite like for example Carlos Sainz

      1. Well, but he had the 3rd best car, was apparent that for now mclaren is a bit superior to ferrari, and considering he couldn’t be expected to beat mercedes and red bull that didn’t get a significant disasvantage (like perez, which he indeed beat), he did what he should’ve done, I think people want him to be a star cause he beat ricciardo who is a highly rated driver, but it’s likely ricciardo is still adapting to the new car.

        1. But Perez started in the Pit so with the third fastest car it was expected to before Perez. But i agree Lando should had a star too.

  5. “Looked as bad as anything last season, but in a green car instead of a red one.”

    Looks like Vettel’s going to be the first driver to get beaten by his team mate in all three of the primary colours.

    1. oh yes, the RGB hall of shame

      1. Ha.. that’s a creative one

      2. That’s a good one!

  6. Given i’m just an outsider i’m trying to keep an open mind on Vettel’s performance post-Ferrari. After all, being stuck for a whole year with an employer that’s sacked you and already hired a replacement will inevitably have an effect on your performance. But honestly, he isn’t doing himself many favours.

    The qualifying penalty can be overlooked i think (he’s not the first driver to be ever penalised for it, won’t be the last) but the Ocon accident looked more like a mistake that’s made on public roads by a 90 something year old who hasn’t been able to renew their license for 8 years now

    1. Not only, imo it also looked a lot like when he hit verstappen at silverstone a few years ago, and he even had the guts to say “what is he doing?”, it was one of those years with underperforming number 2s at red bull, so probably 2019, one of the rare races where, in that case gasly, ended ahead of verstappen, due to this vettel mistake.

      1. Unfortunately, it’s a Vettel trait I’m quite familiar with. When Vettel has an incident, you can basically tell whose fault it really was just by how Seb reacts. He’s always animated on the radio straight away, blaming the other guy when it’s his fault! Suzuka with Max a few years ago, accusing Lewis of brake checking him in Azerbaijan, blaming Stroll for not paying attention after crashing into him on the cool down lap @ Malaysia ’17, saying Ocon changed lines when he clearly didn’t… There are more I can’t think off the top of my head… wait… How could I forget Turkey 2010 with Weber!? Still bet there’s even more I can’t immediately recall…

  7. Successfully repelled Verstappen in the closing laps, despite car and tyre disadvantage

    Something that Verstappen couldn’t do to Hamilton in Hungary 2019

    1. If you really, genuinely, think those were remotely similar circumstances, then I feel pretty sorry for you.

      1. Hungary – Hunter in the faster car, better tyres overtakes on a track notoriously difficult to overtake on, wins the race
        Bahrain 2021- Hunter in the faster car, better tyres fails to overtake on track that’s easy to overtake on, finishes P2

        1. What aiii means is that (I guess) the tyre differential between them in hungary was far more than the one in this race, I think hamilton was lapping like 2-3 sec faster, so it was a given to overtake verstappen, not a given here, although he could’ve found a better spot ofc, 5 laps was still a lot of time.

    2. Yeah well I think Verstappen had a great weekend. Nearly perfect. Just Bottas’ fastest lap and not making the overtake stick between him and a perfect weekend where he almost scored fastest in all practice sessions, pole, fastest lap & victory. I know he lost those last ones, but I am glad he is more towards Mercedes than ever. Clearly a year of dominance by Mercedes ahead -given their rapid improvement from testing towards a race pace that was superior-, but this time I expect more turbulence by RedBull throughout the season. Bottas won’t become second.

      1. They are 2 prettty important factors he missed out on to prevent the “perfect weekend”. Being fast in practice means Jack!
        Ive not heard much about Another important record that fell this weekend… Lewis has now led more F1 race laps than any other driver in history. They just keep tumbling! 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆

  8. Alonso should be an star

    1. jamt I was impressed with him too, I agree.

    2. If you ask me.. I thought there were 5 stars this weekend – 1) Verstappen 2) Hamilton 3) Norris 4) Leclerc 5) Alonso

      If he hadn’t had those power unit issues and the sandwich bag problem.. I reckon he’s finish in P8 or P9. Which is impressive for a car that shouldn’t even had made it to Q3.

    3. The British fans have a bias against Alonso. Possibly because he is an uncomfortable reminder that the cream doesn’t make it to the top in this sport given he has spent only 5 seasons in an almost 20 year career in cars capable of competing for WDCs and only 1 year with the outright best car.

      1. Why would that be an uncomfortable reminder? Fred is the architect of his own downfall and he is the only reason why he has missed out on championship winning cars. As a “British Fan” I have no bad feelings towards Fred. It is very enjoyable watching him fall on his face time after time but I have no bad feeling towards him. Crack on Fred. Hope you make it and stop screwing yourself over.

        1. Your bias against him is showing and I’m not sure whether it is due to being a fan of another driver or xenophobia but your hatred is there for all to see.

  9. Stars: HAM, NOR, PER, and TSU
    Strugglers: VET, MAZ, and GAS/OCO to an extent.
    BTW, I like the detailed descriptions, which is a new thing.

  10. Mazepin had the worst debut I can remember, having been watching since 1994.

    1. Possibly the worst debut since the first four-finned fish tried to stumble out of the water.

  11. Vettel had bad luck but then compounded it with bad decision making which seems like a very regular occurrence for some time now. Hitting Hamilton deliberately, spinning out a few times, now the quali here and then his crash with Ocon which was completely his fault and compounded with his pitiful lie about it somehow being Ocon’s fault. The guy is losing it and I hate to say but I’m really turning against him.

    Mazepin: I hope he keeps this up and is forced to leave the sport out of sheer embarrassment.

    Yuki: Love him. As someone who’s very fond of Japan and the Japanese people I’m so glad they have a genuine talent here who could play a big role in the sport in years to come. I can’t wait to visit Suzuka for the first time ever hopefully in the next couple of years and see the crazy fan base he is guaranteed to have, and to join them in the stands!

    Hamilton: He deserved that win. To be as cool as he was, even with that one lockup, really shows how much control he has. I criticised him earlier on in his career as he had a few clumsy moments but he has been absolutely legendary for some time now and this result just shows it.

    All in all, what a race and with the promise of more where that came from. Bring it on!

    1. Remember, it’s not the first time, I think in 2019 he hit verstappen at silverstone the same way, blamed verstappen and was vettel to get a penalty!

  12. Why is perez being ignored here? Last place to 5th was a damn food performance in his new car, but crickets.

  13. Jumped the ‘queue’ at end of Q1, only to spin off due to a brake-by-wire problem and ruin rivals’ laps

    Hahahaha which rivals. Mazespin will have his own championship this year. Best spin award.

  14. Overtook Hamilton off-track, gave the place back,

    Again, even massi made this error. The passing was on track, he left the track after the pass. I a way exactly the same procedure ham did for 29 laps.

    But still, even when ham made an error under pressure he kept fighting.
    Both drivers deserve the star here.
    Lando should be in that short list too.

    1. VER could not have made the pass if he didn’t go off the track at some point. VER knows it, HAM knows it, and Horner knows. Pretty much everyone except you.

    2. He completed the move off-track, ergo handing the place back was fully justified. Even Verstappen and Horner didn’t deny he’d passed Hamilton off-track, but you do? Odd.

    3. erikje Huge Max fan here and no, it’s really splitting hairs to claim he had made the pass first. The momentum he had, that he used to make the pass, took him off the track and was part of making the pass. LH didn’t even force him off by himself going wide. It was Max’s momentum that did.

      1. In that case the order to give the place back was probably justified, when we talk about this a spa episode comes to mind, think in 2018 or thereabouts, where perez overtook 2 cars at the raidillion (or how it’s written) and was given a 5 sec penalty cause he ran off track in the end, even though he overtook the cars on the straight.

  15. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    29th March 2021, 18:19

    A lot of great drives yesterday along with some excellent moves.

    The ones that were unquestionably great were Hamilton, Verstappen, Norris, Leclerk and Tsunoda.

    However, some other drivers had great races including Perez, Ricciardo, Sainz, Alonso, Raikonnen, Russell.

    Vettel had an overall terrible weekend but he got racy with Alonso and Sainz and we also snapped The Cars (Pixar) side-by-side picture.

  16. How Lando does not make it to the stars list, and Charles does, I do not know. If Charles is there then Lando should be. There is even an argument for Sergio as well.

    Not that I think Charles had a bad race. His performance seems a little overrated though in the context.

  17. Man Perez was driver of the day yesterday in f1.com, couldn’t agree more, I guess his amazing performances are seen as normal nowadays. Qualy was hindered by yellow flags he only did one run that was deleted, he had pace for podium if he has started anywhere but the pitlane.

    KEITH TYPO Le Clerc didn’t finish 5th but 6th behind Perez, while le clerc start fourth, so he lost two places….. how is that a star ?

  18. Perez was pretty stellar in the race, given his unfamiliarity with the car. Sure he was not great in qually, but I think the strategy was asking too much of him there (after the deleted lap, which was his main fault of the weekend).

    But in the race I don’t think he could have done more after starting from pitlane and without a safety car late(r) in the race.

  19. le clerc finish 6th not 5th, he start 4th …

    Perez pitlane to 5th, average ?, awesome goes unnoticed nowadays, qualy was hindered by flags and just missing the outside line.

    Hamilton old fox jumping turn 4th all race, but got benefit the only time he didn’t !

  20. What on earth did Tsunoda do in order to deserve being included as a star performer? Qualified P13 compared to team mate Gasly’s P5. Had a pretty bad first lap. Went on to finish ninth in what seems to be the 3rd (possibly 4th or 5th) fastest car. Just because Gasly disapeared early on we lost the benchmark of what the car was capable of, so I guess we don’t really know how fast they were in race trim. But I really fail to see what was impressive about Tsunoda’s actual performance this weekend. I mean, sure, he showed some promise in practice and in Q1, but he really didn’t make the most of his package when it mattered. Ok, he’s a rookie, so given that it was by no means a terrible performance. But star performer? Come on.

    1. @oel-f1 Meh. It’s not like he’s been handed a trophy for it. I think @keithcollantine worded it well. For a debut race he did great and came out with a couple of points and had passed Stroll near the end. Good on him. He’s acting like a racer.

    2. And I think it’s a stretch to say the 3rd best car, it looked great in qualifying, less so in the race, but we’ll get our answers next race, I think they could be 5th car on race trim, 4th ferrari and 3rd mclaren.

    3. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      30th March 2021, 11:47

      @oel-f1 If you watched him, his overtakes were great and he was doing things like following Alonso for a couple of laps, figuring out what Alonso was doing to protect his tires and copying him. It was an impressive debut drive. He was just overly cautious on lap 1 and when you look at what Mazepin did and the reaction to that you’ve gotta thing Tsunoda was wise to be cautious.

  21. Perez I think should be a star. First gp and already delivered more than Horner could ever hope from Gasly and Albon. If RBR remain closely matched throughout the year I expect him to beat Bottas. Also Ric and Sainz had promising starts after just 1,5 days of testing. I expect Ric to beat Norris over the year and Sainz to match Leclerc on race pace but it will be very difficult to beat him points wise given that Lec will more often than not have the qualifying edge. Alpine and Aston Martin could join the midfield battle but they lack overall in driver talent. Vettel is a spent force, Alonso is back for the fan of it, he give it all in his battles, Ocon and Stroll no way near the Ferrari/Mclaren drivers. Alpha Tauri remains a mystery, Alfa Romeo could do with a better driver line up, Williams and Haas in no mans land.

  22. Ric and PT Italiano have been together since kids they seem as comfy as old shoes together..Ric now has a new team new challenges..maybe a new pt and a new motivater might help to get out of those comfy shoes??

  23. I think it’s great we’ve got such a stellar crop of drivers in more closely-matched cars.

    Verstappen v Hamilton is box office.

    Norris and Leclerc were faultless.

    Sainz, Perez and Ricciardo were all solid in new colours. Alonso is a machine, super impressive return.

    Tsunoda had a great debut after early hiccups in quali and the start. Gasly messed up but will be strong this year.

    It’s all pretty exciting really.

    1. Yes, the drivers are interesting, need to see the cars level, a thing that’s important is red bull can keep up with mercedes in development, they normally can, they just start behind, which didn’t happen this year, while ferrari normally loses it as the year goes on. Apart from that, there’s enough competition in the midfield that there’ll always be battles there.

  24. Norris not being in the stars list, when you consider who his team mate is, is a shocker.

  25. Absolutely love the bullet point approach to this article

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