Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Autodromo do Algarve, 2021

2021 Portuguese Grand Prix Star Performers

2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

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Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris and Mick Schumacher were RaceFans’ Star Performers of the Portuguese Grand Prix. Here’s why.


Esteban Ocon

  • Started the weekend promisingly with fifth-fastest time in practice
  • Made good on that in qualifying an excellent sixth on the grid, beating a McLaren and both Ferraris
  • That was probably higher than the car was capable of holding, though he still had one McLaren and one Ferrari behind him at the end

Lando Norris

  • Out-qualified team mate Ricciardo by over a second, took seventh on the grid
  • Passed Ocon superbly on lap one, then got Perez at the restart
  • Was easily passed by the quicker Red Bull later in the race, but finished ‘best of the rest’ for the third time this year

Mick Schumacher

  • Out-qualified team mate Mazepin by almost half a second
  • Kept in touch with the Williams drivers in the race while his team mate dropped back
  • Pounced on an error by Latifi to claim 17th place, which looks as good as the Haas is capable of
  • With one fewer pit stop, was almost a minute ahead of Mazepin at the end

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Kimi Raikkonen

Raikkonen hit his team mate and couldn’t continue
  • Minor damage from a kerb affected him in Q2, leaving him 15th. He also qualified there, three places behind Antonio Giovinazzi
  • Ran into his team mate on lap two after making a mistake while changing a setting on his steering wheel, putting him out

Nikita Mazepin

  • Appeared to hold up Latifi in retaliation in qualifying, though Williams did not raise it with race control, possibly because Latifi inadvertently held Mazepin up earlier
  • Made an extra pit stop in the race to reduce the amount of time lost being lapped
  • Nearly took the race leader out while being lapped following a late warning from his team

Daniel Ricciardo

  • Eliminated from Q1 in a lowly 16th, over a second slower than his team mate
  • Worked his way forward quickly in the race – was 11th by lap seven – to salvage ninth
  • Missed his marks during his pit stop, which cost him a couple of seconds

And the rest

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton passed Bottas and Verstappen on-track to win
  • Like many drivers he couldn’t improve on final Q3 run. He had to settle for second on the grid, just 0.007s behind his team mate
  • A lapse at the restart cost him second place to Verstappen
  • Re-passed his championship rival and his team mate for comfortable second win of 2021

Valtteri Bottas

  • Took first pole of the season and held lead at start
  • Couldn’t match Hamilton or Verstappen’s race pace on medium tyres and was passed by both
  • Lost more time with a sensor problem, but used a fresh set of tyres to score the fastest lap bonus point

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Max Verstappen

It was a weekend of missed opportunities for Verstappen
  • Struggled with vibrations in practice
  • Missed out on pole after having fastest Q3 lap deleted for track limits at turn four
  • Passed Hamilton at the restart, but fell behind his rival again when Hamilton pounced on a momentary error
  • Passed Bottas for second
  • Coped with some car problems during the race, including difficulty selecting third gear
  • Should have taken bonus point for fastest lap but ran too wide at turn 14

Sergio Perez

  • Lined up fourth on the grid, almost matching Verstappen in Q3
  • Softer-tyred rivals took advantage of him at the start and restart – first Sainz, then Norris – though he got back to fourth
  • Ran a long opening stint to get in the mix with the leaders again, but was never likely to finish higher than fourth

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Autodromo do Algarve, 2021
After qualifying poorly, Alonso raced well into the points
  • Had best time in practice deleted for track limits at infringement at turn one
  • Was mystified by his loss of form in qualifying, where he failed to follow team mate Ocon through to Q3 and took 13th
  • Showed his old verve in the race, running as high as sixth before pitting, then passed Gasly and Sainz on his way to eighth

Lance Stroll

  • Was the only Aston Martin driver to use the team’s new aerodynamic package but failed to progress from Q1, unlike team mate Vettel
  • Passed Tsunoda and Russell early in the race
  • Was allowed past Vettel in the latter stages to attack Giovinazzi but couldn’t pass him either, so handed the place back to his team mate

Sebastian Vettel

After reaching Q3, Vettel’s race was a disappointment
  • Slipped up in first practice, pulling into the McLaren pit box by mistake
  • Fared better in qualifying where he made his first appearance in Q3 this year
  • Lost places to Ricciardo, Alonso and Giovinazzi in the race, failing to score

Charles Leclerc

  • Reached Q3 on the medium compound but was out-qualified by team mate Sainz for the first time
  • Switching to the hard tyres, which suited Ferrari better, allowed him to pass his team mate and finish sixth

Carlos Sainz Jnr

  • Out-qualified team mate Leclerc for the first time and lined up ‘best of the rest’ in fifth
  • Ferrari pitted him early in a bid to provoke a reaction from McLaren, but the medium tyre compound proved the wrong choice and he fell from eighth to 11th in the last 10 laps

Pierre Gasly

Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri, Autodromo do Algarve, 2021
Gasly grabbed the final point late in the race
  • Continued his run of Q3 appearances on a notably less competitive weekend for AlphaTauri
  • Couldn’t keep Ricciardo and Ocon behind, but a late pass on Sainz secured the final point

Yuki Tsunoda

  • Eliminated from Q2 after being comfortably outperformed by Gasly
  • Lost a place to Stroll, gained one back from Russell early in the race
  • Finished half a minute behind Gasly, well out of the points

Antonio Giovinazzi

  • Missed first practice to stand aside for Callum Ilott
  • Took 12th on the grid and finished there, passing Vettel on the way to lead both Aston Martins home

George Russell

Williams’ Saturday pace flattered to deceive
  • Qualified 11th, his best ever in a Williams, and just five hundredths of a second away from a place in Q3
  • Started seven places ahead of Latifi, but was passed by him at one stage in the race
  • Only had his team mate and the Haas pair behind him at the end, describing his car as “undriveable” at times

Nicholas Latifi

  • Had an altercation with Mazepin on final qualifying effort
  • Failed to progress through Q2, unlike team mate Russell who only just missed Q3
  • Overtook Russell during the race, though he went off the track while doing so
  • Made an error late in the race which allowed Schumacher to pass

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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50 comments on “2021 Portuguese Grand Prix Star Performers”

  1. Stars: HAM, NOR, OCO, ALO, and SCH
    Strugglers: BOT, SAI, GAS, TSU, LAT, and MAZ
    BTW, LAT didn’t go off track while passing his teammate. The move was shown when it happened into T1, and he stayed on the curbing.

    1. Ham? He missed pole and just overtook his team mate for the win (and ver yes, but only after ver caught him napping behind the SC). Seems business as usual to me for Lewis.

    2. Didn’t go off track while passing his teammate

      Im afraid he did, he was over the curbs by quite a margin.

  2. TBH i’d put them all firmly in the ‘meh’ section. maybe not Mick.

    1. Mick being a star performer is mostly wishful thinking imo. Yes he was looking better than, um, Latifi and Mazepin, and he didn’t spin or crash. Which is fine, but ‘not bad’ would be more like it, realistically, if he wasn’t son-of the actual MSC.

      1. Wistful thinking maybe? :)

      2. Agree. Looks like Mick is going to be the new irrational fan favorite to replace Hulkenberg and comparing him to the other daddies boy Mazepin is ridiculous.

  3. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    4th May 2021, 9:46

    Does anyone else have a Sky mobile add taking over this page and making it all rather unusable while it’s happening on a mobile screen?

    1. yeah, it’s pretty intrusive, I dont mind ads, but that one is a bit much. I guess time to sign up to Racefans!

  4. not normal to see Alonso go from slow to super quick during the race, bizarre to see Ricciardo 1s slower, lec was slower on the soft than on medium, vettel was nowhere to then qualify on the top 10. Apart from merc and lewis that are already on top of everything, the peking order is going to be defined by those who can figure it out and quickly, for instances I’m a fan of Lando’s but he is not 1s quicker than Daniel, for some reason this year this car and tyre suits him.

    1. I think everyone is still pretty much struggling to figure out the tyres @peartree. Almost all of the underperforming drivers / stints were related to either making them work or not – Verstappen was unhappy all weekend, Hamilton mentioned struggling to get going at the phase where Bottas (who had a different rear wing spec giving a tad more DF) and Verstappen managed to get heat in them, then Bottas not being able to make the mediums work for him later on. Alpine/Alonso being pretty much mystified overall, most runners (apart from maybe Norris and Perez?) struggling to get pace and durability from the mediusm etc.

      Seems to me that limiting the testing, possibly the shorter FP sessions and being on tracks they don’t have figured out well (Imola, Portimao, and later this year Turkey) mean that teams are still figuring out things they normally get to grips with already.

  5. Yeah, I think this gives a pretty good view of what all the drivers were up to. I feel Giovanazzi might have gotten a bit more, felt his weekend was worth getting some positive attention. And I am not sure I would put Ricciardo in the strugglers as such for the weekend, since he did make up for it a bit with finishing in the points from 17th. But it was certainly a big letdown and shake up for him to drop out in Q1, so fair enough.

    The format where every driver gets bullet points is really good, thanks for that change for this year.

    1. Yep, agree @bascb, though I think I might have put Tsunoda into the strugglers section instead of Ricciardo, as TSU really wasn’t able to show much to me this weekend.

  6. I feel this rating is a little harsh on Ricciardo and little lenient on Tsunoda. Ricciardo did well in the race to be honest and Tsunoda struggled a lot.

    But I guess Keith is accounting for the relative F1 experience both of them have. Fair enough

    1. someone or something
      4th May 2021, 11:31

      Tsunoda’s weekend was indeed a disappointment. Bahrain was promising, Imola a catastrophe, of the kind that can happen when an eager rookie is out of his depth, but at Portimão, he was simply nowhere. A Gasly/Albon at Red Bull kind of performance: Miles off his team mate’s pace, anonymous, surrounded by cars that are barely in the same category.
      Alpha Tauri as a whole have underperformed so far. They’ve shown enough pace to challenge for best of the rest, but Gasly’s clumsy collision at Sakhir, his misguided tyre strategy at Imola, and Tsunoda’s poor performances in the last couple of races have already all but taken them out of the fight for 3rd or 4th in the WDC. Their rivals are Alpine and Aston Martin now, and if Alpine’s rising form continues, they may end up fighting for 6th or 7th in the WCC, instead of 3rd.

    2. I removed Tsunoda from my fantasy team after the first race. While people were raving about his outright speed it was all too apparent he doesn’t yet have a consistency to his driving and was taking more risks with the car than he should be at this stage. I think he’ll settle down a bit by mid season but for now expect more mistakes until he finds the right balance.

      Most drivers go through the same phase when they reach F1 until they realize you don’t have the margin you have in other formula’s for mistakes. Very exciting and promising driver but lets hope the speed is still there when he finds his safe limit.

      1. @slowmo Yeah let’s hope, but like we’ve seen with for example Grosjean and others, it can become an issue if it yo-yos too much between risk and playing safe which is what I’m worried is about to happen to Tsunoda.

        1. @balue it’s when drivers find their limit in F1 that you finally find out if they’re the right stuff. As you alluded to though some drivers just struggle to ever get a nice balance, possibly due to their driving styles adding some unpredictability. Let’s hope for the best for Tsunoda though, Gasly seems a good benchmark for a young driver.

  7. It’s a fair list for the race. I was actually impressed with one of Ocon’s drives for the first time in a long time. Hoping the form of Norris continues as he’s been outstanding at all races this year and seems to have stepped up a gear.

  8. Lewis put manners on two equally fast cars, he is a star performer.

    1. ian dearing
      4th May 2021, 12:22

      But the argument against will be only because he gave a place away to be able to pass two cars. If you accept that your only argument then would be Ham overtook Bottas. And I think we are beyond awarding stars to either Max or Ham for doing that this season.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        4th May 2021, 12:35

        @rb13 Agreed, I don’t think a driver has to outqualify their teammate by half a second to be a star – you can have a great qualifying and a great race and still be a star at a grand prix. The fact that the other drivers were competitive doesn’t take away from Lewis or his ability to lose both of them on track.

      2. My issue with that argument is that Lewis was slow(er) to react to Bottas’s restart than Max, true, but second place is the worst place to be at the restart. It’s why Vettel bashed into Hamilton in Baku in 2017: he was worried he was going to get jumped from third place as the latter has a clearer view and can time a run better with less chance of colliding with the driver in front if they get it wrong. Max anticipated Bottas basically, whereas Lewis reacted (and Bottas also went at the exact moment he was checking his mirrors to see where Max was). Fine. So he lost a place because of that and Max still had to do some excellent overtaking into the first corner. But does that really detract from being a ‘star performer’? How did Lewis win the race? By driving better over the entire race, preserving his tyres better while going quicker than VB (and Verstappen). Plus he had to perform two passes on these rivals.

        The weird thing is that the voters on this site gave DOTW to Lewis, plus numerous pundits (Guardian, BBC, F1/Brawn) highlighted this as one of Hamilton’s best wins, a real fight under virtually equal conditions with two other drivers (three if you count Perez). The argument here seems to be that it’s taken as given Hamilton (and Verstappen) are exceptional, so they need to be extra-exceptional to get awarded star performance. Whereas Schumacher needs to beat Mazepin and Lafiti (!). I just don’t see that as a serious argument.

        1. Hahaha, had a giggle over your story about second place behind the SC. Vettel does not deserve a role in F1, just simply cant handle traffic and Lewis should pay better attention at the restart, that’s all. Lewis was a struggler for me this weekend. Given the advantage he has with the Mercedes he still suffers from his regular slow season start, missing out on pole, getting caught when the SC went in but reclaimed his position later vs the sitting duck on the straight (the famous wobble expolitation, while otherwise it would have just taken one lap more given the race pace of the Mercedes. He basically overtook Bottas for the win, which is inevitable at Mercedes anyway. Not really an achievement now is it?

          1. ian dearing
            4th May 2021, 14:02

            Agreed. And you just knew that Max would do what he did in Bahrain, get a wobble on at a critical point; despite having a more stable car than the Merc, and hand the win to Ham. Again. At least Horner finally got round to saying Max made a mistake, rather than come out with another excuse.

          2. Happy you had a giggle :o)
            Lewis was caught napping undoubtedly.
            Max was caught on the straight because his mistake lost him DRS on Bottas and gave it to Lewis on himself.

          3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            5th May 2021, 14:46

            @mayrton I’m not sure how you can classify Lewis as a struggler here. He qualified slower than his teammate by a hair and put in the fastest time in quali under difficult conditions. His teammate was pretty quick the whole weekend taking the fastest lap from Verstappen (nearly equal times). Lewis passed both drivers and then bunched them up so they can fight with each other while he went on to victory.

            Not every race will be a race where Lewis outqualifies the other drivers by 0.5 seconds and then leads by 1 minute. Sometimes you have to grind your way to a victory and those are sometimes the toughest victories as you need to figure out a way to win on the fly and execute it.

            I think he executed that flawlessly. Was he perfect? No but that’s what champions do! Sometimes you gotta win ugly as Brad Gilbert said.

        2. Something wrong here: vettel was 2nd and hamilton 3rd at baku 2017? Weird, I remember 1st and 2nd!

          1. Don’t think so @esploratore, I’m talking about one of the SC restarts —->

    2. Did I miss the return of the back-up / spare car?

    3. ColdFly (@)
      4th May 2021, 18:39

      The Star performers list should probably exclude Hamilton and Verstappen.

      They are both extremely good, but their rating is mostly linked to adoration by the rater and car performance on the day rather than individual performance during the past weekend.

  9. @keithcollantine There’s an error on your Ocon’s stat for qualifying. I think Ocon qualified ahead of both Mclarens and one Ferrari. P5 – Sainz, P6- Ocon, P7 – Norris IIRC

  10. Lance should have been included in the strugglers here .. along with Tsonuda.

  11. I was intrigued by Stroll’s first stint; he was holding P7-P8 and made the softs last 10 laps longer than everyone else. I thought he’d be on a tyre type (medium) and tyre life advantage for the end.

    Instead they put him on hards and he went absolutely nowhere. The last stint charge from ALO was what I was expecting from Lance. Not even close…

  12. I didn’t know til now that Max had some car problems as well as third gear issues during the race.

    1. Please don’t mention it as everyone likes to point out the RB is the superior car and Max is failing vs Hamilton

    2. @robbie Max has issues every race, he moans more about the car that anyone on the grid. Clearly he has a good feel for when things are not optimal but it doesn’t mean there are serious issues every time. I would doubt they were in third gear often anyway on the track so it likely was minimal time lost once he decided to skip the gear.

      1. @slowmo Is that right? So you get to hear all the radio comm from all the drivers do you? And when we hear the experts say there will be little margin for error between LH and MV, I guess less than optimal, and your opinion of a third gear issue is not what they mean?

        1. @robbie what is your point?

          I said a statement that was clearly subjective and anecdotal, not a statement of absolute fact because nobody in the world is privvy to every conversation within F1. If you want to name some drivers that you believe complain more about their machinery then please go ahead and do so. Saying people can’t have an opinion because they haven’t heard every conversation of everyone on the grid is a bit silly and frankly whataboutism. If you want to attack my premise provide examples of other drivers who complained about their car more in the last few years or just ignore it.

          Max claimed the gear was “lagging” which is suggestive of a software glitch. Once he identified the issue he stopped using the gear and it seemed to have little to no impact on his pace in the race. I’ve not seen any articles come out post race saying there was a serious issue with his car so I don’t see how you made that interpretation that it affected him much in the race. Bottas had a very real problem with his car that resulted in a loss of 5 seconds. As Max nearly claimed the fastest lap but for violating track limits it’s pretty clear his issue wasn’t that serious or they resolved it during the race through software.

          I probably used the wrong word in “moans” but I guess you can substitute “provides more negative feedback” if the word had too many negative connotations for you.

          1. @slowmo Yes my point was to point out that you were being subjective and anecdotal and nothing more, for we only get to hear certainly select radio comm that F1 chooses for us to hear. And then there is post-race info to be gleaned. Of course you have full rights to your opinion. Have I not the same rights to then challenge you on that opinion and where it comes from? Provide other examples of drivers complaining? Of course you know I could provide hundreds, but I certainly wouldn’t assert off the cuff that Max ‘moans’ the most.

            That you have suggested the third gear issue was inconsequential is only your opinion, and that you haven’t heard much about it might be an indication that indeed he doesn’t ‘moan’ more than others.

            That Max had a fastest lap, albeit deleted, doesn’t mean he couldn’t have gone even faster. That you insert he likely wasn’t in third gear much anyway I think could miss the point that drivers go through third gear every time they climb up the gears and back down the gears, and if that wasn’t available to him, then surely he had to do more adapting that he normally would. If they found him his third gear eventually through software, or just adapted somehow through said software and he never had third gear all day, he still had some adapting to do.

            You had to know dismissing him as a moaner, the biggest one in fact, who ‘has issues every race’ and who surely had nothing to moan about, was not going to go unchecked, right?

          2. @robbie all you can go off is the evidence of your own experience as F1 does not provide full transcripts to review. The evidence of my own experiences means I believe he criticizes the cars short comings more than other drivers. I gave him some slack when it was with the Renault engine as there seemed to be a team agenda at the time to be critical but it seems to have continued since then with the Honda too.

            You’ve said you disagree and that’s fine. My point is it was my opinion, and I was entitled to make it.

            I didn’t reference it at the time but many people on here have different opinions to experts including yourself. I’d argue that at some point if you’ve followed the sport closely for 30+ years, you’re probably an expert to a degree.

          3. @slowmo Good comment and a fair one.

  13. Pffff, FINALLY a reasonable and fair assessment here.
    My only objection is the fact that NOR wasn’t penalized for his track limits violation on that PER overtake. Masi himself said that 4 drivers had their laps deleted on T4 during the race but surprisingly NOR got away. So, the “he overtook PER at the restart” shouldn’t be used as credit because it was illegal, whether it was spotted by the stewards or not.

    1. @f1-fan His exit line was only slightly wider than Perez’s (who nearly also went entirely past the curbing). Even with two wheels on curbing, he might’ve equally overtaken into the hairpin as he was close behind already. These things aren’t always entirely black and white. We’ll never get to know for sure, but FIA has access to telemetry, etc.

      1. @jerejj Check the picture that I uploaded some days ago It’s more than clear that he violated track limits and gained advantage. Masi did a “dribble” on himself on this, as he said “the overtake took place at T5” but previously he had mentioned that “4 drivers were penalized for track limits at T4 during the GP”. Sorry for what I am about to say but either he is a complete id1ot or some conspiracy theories that are floating around have valid reasons.

        1. @f1-fan That screenshot (from the world feed footage) clearly shows how little the difference is in how much he went over versus Perez.
          I’ve been critical of Masi because of his unnecessarily excessive track limits enforcement since last season. However, I don’t believe he’s what you regard him or in any conspiracy theories.

          1. I’m a huge Norris fan but it’s pretty clear when you watch the video that he exceeded track limits and got a lasting advantage down that straight that resulted in a direct chance to overtake that might not have been available had he lifted to make the corner within the limit.

            It was a great overtake but it was slighter over margin but I doubt Norris knew for certain either way and had to take the chance. The stewards should be able to review every overtake on track for legality and check the onboard footage for any obvious issues and act immediately. In the end it would have made no difference to Perez race in the grand scheme of things but the fair result is Norris should have been instructed to hand the place back.

            That being said I don’t think the pass on Perez was what earned him the star performer as much as turning around the weekend to finish best of the rest again in a car that on average seems slower than the Ferrari’s.

            I don’t think there is any conspiracy, it’s just pretty clear that the stewarding has been pretty poor since Masi took over. Decisions are often wrong, delayed and there is far too much ambiguity and one off regulations from race to race. Masi coming out and defending decisions constantly has now become a common occurenece we never had when Charlie Whiting was in charge and shows that the old structure doesn’t work with Masi in charge, and they need to reform the stewarding process.

  14. Bit rich to say Alonso isn’t a struggler while Dan is…

    Neither are performing at levels that they would be happy with. They both salvaged points for their teams after horrific qualifying’s .

    1. Generally agree, but the gap between Norris and Ricciardo was way bigger than the gap between the two Alpines.

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