2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix Star Performers

2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly were RaceFans Star Performers of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix. Here’s why.


Lando Norris

  • Very quick in qualifying, would have been third on the grid had he not exceeded track limits at Piratella
  • Had contact at the start leading the team to fear his right-hand-side bargeboard was damaged
  • Comfortably quicker than team mate Daniel Ricciardo in intermediate conditions, successfully lobbied team to ask for him to be let through
  • Passed Charles Leclerc at final restart to move up to second on soft tyres
  • Managed tyre degradation towards the end of the race, fought hard to try and hold Lewis Hamilton off in closing stages but still equalled career-best finish

Charles Leclerc

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Imola, 2021
Leclerc bounced back from this error in practice
  • Quick on Friday, despite crashing at Rivazza
  • Secured fourth on the grid for second consecutive race
  • Spun on the formation lap but regained his starting position and passed Sergio Perez for third on lap one
  • Lost position to soft-shod Norris at the restart

Pierre Gasly

  • Consistently near the sharp end of the times in practice
  • Qualified a strong fifth on the grid
  • Starting on wet weather tyres proved a mistake and he dropped through the field
  • Recovered from 18th to finish eighth, which became seventh after Lance Stroll’s penalty

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Valtteri Bottas

Bottas was nowhere before his race-ending crash
  • Looked quick throughout Friday practice
  • His pace advantage disappeared on Saturday as he found it took several laps to get his tyres into the correct operating window
  • Only managed eighth on the grid, almost half a second behind Hamilton
  • Lost places to Stroll and Carlos Sainz Jnr at the start
  • Failed to make any progress from there and was lapped
  • Had just been re-passed by Stroll when George Russell launched the attempted overtake which ended his race

Yuki Tsunoda

Sergio Perez

Perez had a great Saturday but a lousy Sunday
  • Decided against trying to get through Q2 on the medium tyres, opting for softs instead, though the rain made that academic. Beat Verstappen to claim a place on the front row
  • Made a mistake at Variante Alta on the first lap – while his engineer was speaking to him mid-corner – which allowed Leclerc by. “You were talking a lot there on the first lap,” Perez noted
  • Then went off at Piratella during the Safety Car period. He was passed by Ricciardo and Gasly, who he immediately re-passed, against the rules, earning a 10-second time penalty
  • Later spun at the Villeneuve chicane
  • Clattered the kerbs while passing Vettel, lost the place but eventually got ahead again. Finished 10 places lower than he started

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And the rest

Max Verstappen

Verstappen fought hard for his win but nearly spun it away
  • Comfortably fastest in final practice and would likely have been on pole had it not been for an error at Tamburello
  • Made a superb start to jump from third to first
  • Kept the lead from Hamilton after being the first to switch to slicks
  • Nearly spun the lead away during the final restart, then eased clear of the field for his first victory of 2021

Lewis Hamilton

  • A very tidy qualifying performance allowed him to nick pole – his 99th – by a few hundredths of a second from the Red Bull drivers
  • Lost the lead immediately at the start and damaged his front-left endplate in contact with Verstappen
  • Applied pressure to the Red Bull driver before they pitted, but lost time with a slow pit stop
  • Slithered off-track and into a barrier at Tosa while lapping Russell, falling a lap behind
  • Regained his lap thanks to the subsequent stoppage and worked his way through the field to take second place
  • Had enough left in his tyres to set the fastest lap and claim the bonus point which kept him in the championship lead

Carlos Sainz Jnr

  • Admitted he couldn’t put all his best corners together on a single lap
  • Almost four-tenths off Leclerc in Q2, and failed to reach the top 10
  • Started well, gaining three places, but ventured off-track twice
  • Salvaged fifth behind his team mate at the finish

Daniel Ricciardo

Ricciardo played the team game
  • Clearly not on the pace of Norris, but kept within track limits and out-qualified his team mate
  • Obeyed an early instruction from McLaren to let Norris by
  • Could only watch the gap between them open up over the remaining laps, but had a clean race to sixth behind the Ferraris, which his team mate beat

Lance Stroll

Esteban Ocon

  • Looked more comfortable than Fernando Alonso in the upgraded Alpine and beat him into Q3
  • After starting on wets, he quickly discarded them for intermediates, then gained ground quickly, passing Alonso, Vettel and others
  • Finished 10th on the road and was promoted to ninth by Kimi Raikkonen’s penalty

Fernando Alonso

Alpine had to make pre-race repairs to Alonso’s car
  • Went out in Q2, almost half a second off Ocon’s pace
  • Crashed on his way to the grid, breaking his car’s nose
  • Went off after the restart at Acque Minerali, then at Villeneuve as well, losing a place to Ocon
  • Despite all this he reached the finish in 11th, less than a second behind his team mate, and was promoted to the final points-paying position by Raikkonen’s penalty

Kimi Raikkonen

  • Was the quicker of the two Alfa Romeo drivers in qualifying, though both went out in Q1
  • Moved up four places to 12th at the start on intermediates
  • Spun at the final restart and did not regain his lost places as required, which incurred a mandatory 10-second stop-go penalty, costing him his first points finish of the year

Antonio Giovinazzi

  • Infuriated by Nikita Mazepin in qualifying, blaming the Haas driver for his Q1 exit
  • Shadowed Raikkonen at the start of the race
  • Lost time pitting to have debris removed from brake ducts and finished 14th

Sebastian Vettel

  • Felt slightly happier after qualifying than in Bahrain, though went out in Q2
  • Had to start from pit lane after a brake problem
  • Made a gutsy early switch to slicks, which was spoiled when he received a 10-second stop-go penalty because his team had fitted his tyres too late on the grid
  • Team brought him in to retire before the end of the race due to gearbox problem

Mick Schumacher

Mick Schumacher, Haas, Imola, 2021
This error aside, Schumacher drove well
  • Comfortably beat his team mate in qualifying again, which earned him a ninth-row start thanks to Tsunoda’s crash
  • Spoiled his start to the race by crashing behind the Safety Car, removing his car’s nose
  • Finished well ahead of his team mate

Nikita Mazepin

  • Had another couple of spins in practice
  • Qualified half a second behind his team mate and angered Giovinazzi by overtaking him
  • Was blameless for first-lap collision with Latifi
  • Fell behind his team mate, caught up to him at the restart, but lost 43 seconds to him over the next 24 laps before getting blue flags

George Russell

Russell’s attempt to pass Bottas ended both their races
  • Nicholas Latifi’s pace on Friday surprised him, according to the team
  • Took 12th on the grid and wasn’t far off a place in Q3
  • Got into the points and was trying to pass Bottas for ninth when he lost control on a damp patch and caused a huge crash

Nicholas Latifi

  • Looked in great shape on Friday and was quick in Q1 too, eventually taking 14th on the grid
  • Went off at Acque Minarali on the first lap, then hit Mazepin as he rejoined and crashed out heavily

Over to you

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

2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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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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63 comments on “2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix Star Performers”

  1. Wow, Alonso not a struggler.
    I must get the dictionary out and check that word once I’ve had some coffee.

    1. someone or something
      20th April 2021, 12:03

      Did he steal your candy once?

    2. Well, he did manage to finish right on the back of his teammate and then was a bit fortunate to collect that one last point when Kimi got penalised.

      1. Exactly, as @bascb says; The bullet-point list to me adequately makes clear why he wasn’t classed a struggler, though it wasn’t an easy day for him

  2. Stars: VER, NOR, and LEC.
    Strugglers: BOT, PER, RIC, TSU, and ALO.

    1. Think this makes more sense than the article’s choices.

    2. And the rest: Max Verstappen hahahaha

  3. Daniel Ricciardo should have been a struggler imo. McLaren had terrific pace and he was nowhere the whole weekend. He got a solid result in the end ,but he lost ~25 seconds to Norris in less than a half of the race distance after the red flag.I would definitely put him in the struggle list, as his gap to his benchmark (his teammate) was chaotic this weekend

    1. someone or something
      20th April 2021, 12:12

      I think you need more than a just lack of pace to qualify as a struggler. It is true that Norris clearly outshone him this weekend, but Ricciardo didn’t put a foot wrong, kept out of trouble, and secured a decent result, keeping faster drivers behind. That’s a lot of small positives to counterbalance one rather large negative.
      Now compare that to the other strugglers, who had absolutely shocking weekends due to a lack of pace and/or a series of mistakes, and Ricciardo would look rather out of place on that list.

      1. Yeah, he managed to stay out of any trouble, especially in the wet part of the race and eventually scored solid points.

        I just believe that his gap to Norris was too big for the weekend,but considering he is just in his second race in a new team,i might have been slightly harsh to Daniel.

    2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      20th April 2021, 13:06

      @miltosgreekfan Ricciardo is usually slow in rainy conditions.

    3. I agree, that is way too slow.

    4. @miltosgreekfan Indeed. He was struggling.

    5. DR should be commended for keeping 6th with Stroll and Gasly breathing down his back in the last 5 laps. Once Stroll got DRS, I thought for sure he’d lose 6th and even 7th to Gasly but DR held them off.

  4. Very quick in qualifying, would have been third on the grid had he not exceeded track limits at Piratella

    This was absolutely a star performance from Norris and he is the driver of the weekend, but this shouldn’t be put amongst his achievements for this race. Fact is, he did have a car capable of being 3rd on the grid on merit and he lost that by making a mistake. It doesn’t matter whether he achieved the laptime by going 1cm over the line or 3m over it. What’s important is that he made a mistake on his final Q3 run, something which the likes of Leclerc or Hamilton didn’t do.

    Lost position to soft-shod Norris at the restart

    Also worthy to mention i think that before the race was stopped Leclerc was in 2nd place, some 30s ahead of 3rd placed Norris, on merit

    1. someone or something
      20th April 2021, 12:19


      Fact is, he did have a car capable of being 3rd on the grid on merit and he lost that by making a mistake.

      I’m rather tired of seeing this kind of rule enforcement treated like a (major) mistake. It’s a laughably artificial situation, where (hopefully) obsolete runoff design meets a silly kneejerk solution.

      1. I didn’t say it’s a major mistake, but it did cost him 4 places on the grid and he technically got outqualified by his teammate because of it. There’s nothing laughable about wanting the drivers to do their laps and qualify while keeping their car on track at all times.

        There’s nothing obsolete or kneejerk about the situation in Imola. They can’t put grass or gravel there due to risk of it making the drivers slide off into the wall at 200kph, and they can’t put the wall any further away due to the area the circuit is positioned in. And it’s not like the rules apply only to certain drivers. They all must respect it and stay within the lines when taking the corner

        1. someone or something
          20th April 2021, 18:52


          I didn’t say it’s a major mistake,

          Fair point, you didn’t explicitly say that in your first comment …

          but it did cost him 4 places on the grid and he technically got outqualified by his teammate because of it.

          … but now you did? ;-)

          There’s nothing laughable about wanting the drivers to do their laps and qualify while keeping their car on track at all times.

          I strongly feel it is, because it’s not like they’re going off-track on purpose. It’s a mightily fast corner, and the physics of F1 require you to take a wide line in order to go fast. There is simply no physical or even particularly visible deterrent, just an arbitrarily defined boundary. You don’t even notice when you cut over it, and they have to watch slo-mos to determine if the lap counts or if it doesn’t. The drivers go wide in other corners as well, and they kick up dust or grass or worse, but their lap times count. And again, that’s not because they’re rotten to the core and like going extra wide because it’s quicker out there. Far from it, that’s the kind of thing that just happens when you’re driving a race car on the edge. It regularly happens to the very best. It’s organic. But in this corner, things get extremely artificial, and crossing that barely noticeable line has terrible consequences, almost as bad as crashing the car, even though nothing spectacular is happening.
          I agree that imposing no track limits whatsoever might not be the best solution, and things might get dangerous in Piratella if that were the case. Or maybe not, maybe they’d just occasionally drift a few centimetres wide without gaining much, if any, lap time from it.
          Also, I really do think the track design at Piratella is obsolete. Not in the way most would think. It follows the comparatively recent philosophy of laying down tarmac in the runoff areas, making the distinction between “on” and “off” the race track rather artificial. You think putting grass there would be a bad idea. But they did have grass there for many years. They may not be able to move the walls, but they can go back to a solution that has existed in the path, even during an era that was under the impression of tragic accidents in other parts of the track.
          So, as it stands, we have this solution. It’s a solution. But it’s far from elegant or satisfying. It is the epitome of a kneejerk solution that does nothing to address the underlying issue.

          1. “just an arbitrarily defined boundary” How is the track limit arbitrary, are you suggesting they should just have a roughly defined circular space and then be left to drive wherever they want…”he who takes the best shortcut wins”?

    2. @xenn1 a large portion of that gap to LeClerc was because someone ran into him at the start putting him further down the order and his own team hampered his progress by giving Ricciardo a number of laps to prove his pace (or lack of) before letting him by. I think it’s fair to highlight though in qualifying that at every stage he was absolutely smashing laps out of the park and but for the tiniest of margins might have been third on merit including beating Verstappen who was in a much faster car.

      1. @slowmo He also got wheelspin on 5th gear and bumped wheels with Ricciardo before someone smashed into him at the start. A smash which lost him only one position. And he wouldn’t have been in that position in the first place if he didn’t make his mistake in qualifying. Also once he caught up to Ricciardo he stayed behind for 3 laps only. Those 2 things definitely allowed Leclerc to pull away from him, but let’s not forget that after the start Leclerc was 3rd on merit, and he was genuinely faster in the rain.

        Norris still had a better performance on the weekend as a whole, and Leclerc’s own excellent performance doesn’t take anything away from that. This is however the first time i hear so much being talked about a deleted lap time, that’s what ticked me off in the beginning.

  5. HAM didn’t slither off-track and into a barrier at Tosa (while lapping Russell), he slithered off-track and managed to stop the car before hitting the barrier. Then he tried to drive away with maximum steering lock but there wasn’t enough room and he hit the barrier, breaking his front wing.

    1. Pedro Boal Carvalho
      20th April 2021, 12:53

      After watching some replays, I am of the opinion he didn’t try to make the cut as much as he wanted the rear wheels on tarmac, even at the expense of wing damage. Leaving the rears there would lead to the car being beached there, I reckon.

      No sure we’ll ever know, though!

    2. @JeroenJ

      HAM didn’t slither off-track and into a barrier at Tosa (while lapping Russell), he slithered off-track and managed to stop the car before hitting the barrier. Then he tried to drive away with maximum steering lock but there wasn’t enough room and he hit the barrier, breaking his front wing.

      Of course, but that doesn’t sound good. A frontrunner a lap behind and barely scraping a few points because of an amateur mistake would mean going in the struggling group and that’s obviously not on.

  6. Verstappen was a star. He lost in Q3 to his softer-tired teammate, but had a magnificent start and a nearly perfect race in the wet.

    Russell was a struggler. He was more responsible for a serious crash, then acted badly, possibly offending Toto.

    1. Max is in the Ham bracket now. They both have to do something a bit special and not make any mistakes to be the star performer. Winning the race is a given. As it should be.

      1. What ian dearing says, @slotopen, he didn’t get pole by making an error and made a slight mistake at the restart; yes, he got the start down pat to make up for Saturday and the mistake was corrected well enough that it didn’t matter. Still a great weekend from him, but that’s what we expect from him by now (a compliment in itself, right!).

    2. @slotopen Verstappen and Pererz both ran softs in Q3. I think you’re confused with Q2.

      1. and forgot to mention lost pole to both Perez and Ham by his own mistake.

    3. Russel was fully responsible. Bottas was just following the dry racing line, nothing more.

  7. I also argued that Verstappen wasn’t the DotW, but leaving him out of the Star list is ridiculous.

    1. Yeah, I suspect the author does not sleep under Max Verstappen sheets.

  8. Stars: Verstappen, Norris, Hamilton
    Strugglers: Bottas, Ricciardo, Alonso, Vettel, Tsunoda, Mazespin, Perez (race)

    I really don’t see how Max isn’t a star. Hamilton had his off when he ‘accepted’ Russell’s invitation to overtake in a non-ideal spot but he won pole, kept level with Verstappen in the early race despite damage (and a ‘slower’ car maybe) and recovered to 2nd. Leclerc, star? I don’t see it. Ricciardo was a struggler.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      20th April 2021, 13:14

      @david-br yes, both Max and Lewis belong in the stars category for different reasons. Max did manage to get ahead of Lewis at the start. It’s never easy to win a race in changing conditions and Lewis was charging after Max especially in the pitstop.

      For Lewis he made a mistake that he paid dearly for but he managed to recover and the way he pecked at Sainz, Leclerc, and Norris was absolutely amazing. There are 1,000 to get that wrong but he aced it.

      1. a mistake that he paid dearly for

        Really? It was a really egregious mistake, a race-killing one. Then he was saved by the red flad, with free unlapping, free major repairs, free everything, and went from second place to second place. So he paid nothing for a huge error. The red flag gifted him 19 free points

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          20th April 2021, 17:00

          Yes, in the end it didn’t affect him much but the recovery drive wasn’t easy and could have gone south more often than north.

          I don’t think the error was really egregious – it was a bit uncharacteristic of Lewis, if that’s what you meant.

          1. The recovery drive wasn’t easy? How do you figure that?

            What else to expect from an experienced multi world champion driver in a far superieur car with extended DRS to be able to overtake 5 cars in 29 laps.

            Re watch how Hamilton still nearly overtook Leclerc despite Leclerc having DRS himself – so big was the speed advantage of the Mercedes.

        2. RocketTankski
          20th April 2021, 18:34

          A crash caused by his Mercedes team mates. Their loss was certainly his gain.

    2. Hamilton was the best driver of the weekend. Except for the start and the millisecond when he dropped it at Tosa.
      But a mistake as big as this should disqualify you automatically from beeing in the stars list IMHO.
      And it was not Russell’s fault at all.
      Noone have considered Vettel to be a Star in Hockenheim 2018 either.

      1. Indeed, just look (mainly talking with the 2 hamilton fans above) at the ratings various websites give to drivers, hamilton is being rated around 6,5\10 in this race, that’s not a star performance, that’s average, mistakes like that make you lose a lot of points and would’ve been the same with anyone making the same mistake.

        He made a good recovery when considering what bottas was doing with the same car, although that’s quite expected, knowing the 2 drivers, just think about monza 2020, bottas fell back and didn’t pass anyone, hamilton after the penalty recovered a lot in limited laps, the luck hamilton got with the red flag was really huge, however he did well to even get back onto the track, and was helped by DRS later, since otherwise he wouldn’t have got past norris at least.

      2. And yes, hockenheim 2018 indeed, I’d have considered vettel a star just before the crash, but he’s been rated 4\10 or so by many websites, a mistake like that ruins your race.

    3. @david-br Going off, then crashing into the wall ruining his front wing after a panicky amateur move and ending a lap down is a star performance? It’s incredible what you try on.

      1. Hamilton supporters are generally oblivious to reality and defend regardless. Me, I love F1, but do not support any particular driver.
        Hamilton was definitely a struggler, not even close to the top this weekend, saved by crazy rules. The previous race he was awesome, putting himself in position to capitalize on even the smallest strategy error when not the fastest.
        I think we can expect a few more errors from Ham this season as he is under real pressure for the first time in years, it is only natural that trying to get a little more out of it will lead to more mistakes.

  9. As a combined team performance i would say Ferrari and McLaren drivers are the 2 best pairs. I have faith in Perez to perform in the future but I don’t see any hope for the 7 other teams. Bottas oh my he is in the disaster zone right now it is astonishing that a driver with such obvious limitations has been driving the most dominant car in history for 5 straight years. Norris should be driving for Mercedes and Russell should be in the McLaren and Bottas should fill the Williams vacancy.

    1. Williams is too good for Bottas nowadays. He should join the Nissan Micra Challenge along with Vettel

    2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      20th April 2021, 14:53

      I constantly defend Bottas, but people should be using this one race as something to mean Bottas shouldn’t have been in this car all this time. Bottas has almost always been poor in the wet. It wasn’t that much of a surprise to almost see a repeat of turkey last year given what he’s often like in these conditions. If you go back to just the race before this one, pace wise he was literally as quick as hamilton almost the entire race. People just didn’t seem to notice that. And Hamilton was a star performer last time out. While I don’t think Bottas was, it is clear he isn’t normally quite as bad as he was this time so we should use it as instant judgement that he shouldn’t be in the team. I’m being honest here, it is entirely possible that had russell not taken Bottas out, Bottas and Hamilton would probably be close to being tied in the standings at the moment. Hamilton’s mistake likely will have lost him more than Bottas being terribly slow. Hamilton was an awful lot more fortunate than many realise, despite everything but the crash being a good performance.

  10. On another note Leclerc is a man of his word after Austria 2019 he promised to get his elbows out and duly proved it in Silverstone. For 2021 he has retained his speed and cut down all the unnecessary aggression as promised after the errors of 2020.
    Norris also is a man on a mission elevated himself as a defacto team leader and let’s his driving do the talking. The thrashing of Ric us astounding. Ofc Ric is no slouch calmly collecting points until he finds his feet.
    Norris and Leclerc are for me the 2 standout drivers and ofc Max but that goes without saying.

  11. I think Norris was in a class of his own.

  12. Zach (@zakspeedf1team)
    20th April 2021, 13:43

    I guess just finishing a race is enough to not label Mazepin a struggler.

  13. The ranking could easily be split in 2: the race on inters and the race on slicks. Maybe that has to do with how different chassis were warming up different compounds.

    After his off track adventure and the red flag, Hamilton seemed to be able to reset his mind. His drive after the red flag was superb. I’m sure his engine settings were all high, but his last stint was flawless.

    Verstappen, on the other side, drove like a Grandma after that hiccup before the rolling start and collect his well deserved points.

    1. Thats an interesting thought – can teams alter engine settings after a red flag? I thought they were restricted all the way from qualifying?

      1. At last season initially was not it about having 1 engine mode / entrant / weekend (or session?) + maybe some “in case of failure” modes? But then again, have they got shocked when they tried to stick to their own decision (as it happened quite often before), or participants again had too much words on the rules? So have they relaxed it substantially? Because engine modes appearing in news and comments a bit much more, than as if apparently there would only one.

        1. But one thing is for sure, the rule of books likely got bulkier :)

          1. Ok man, book of rules, that’s my shape nowadays.

    2. ??? Care to explain how the guy driving flawlessly according to you ended up finishing 22 seconds down from the guy that was driving like a grandma?
      Of the 29 laps after restart the flawless driver was only 3 laps quicker than the grandma!

      Maybe I am the only one but was not really impressed that Hamilton managed to overtake 5 cars in 29 laps in a far superieur car with extended DRS.

      1. Don’t confuse @Only Facts! with facts

        1. In this instance I sort of agree Jelle, but you do ignore the first sentence ‘OnlyFacts’ wrote:

          The ranking could easily be split in 2: the race on inters and the race on slicks.

          , and you also ignore that Hamilton didn’t have an empty track ahead but had to push to overtake after his mistake while the gaps weren’t 22 seconds between those ahead of him (yes, all the while Verstappen was probably saving tyres most of the time apart from a few attempts at FLAP), so not being much faster doesn’t mean a lot.

  14. Man, Leclerc must have hated the red flag. He was half a minute ahead of Norris. Still, I think it was quite apt that Norris was the one who finished on the podium. Arguably one of the best weekend performances in recent history in the F1 ‘midfield’.

  15. Think Stroll should have made stars.

  16. I like how this article is now itemised in such detail. It’s really helpful for summarising what happened to everyone.

  17. I think there were no driver of the weekend, they were all rubbiah

Comments are closed.