Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021

2021 Spanish Grand Prix Star Performers

2021 Spanish Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc, Daniel Ricciardo and Lewis Hamilton were RaceFans’ Star Performers of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend. Here’s why.


Charles Leclerc

  • ‘Best of the rest’ in qualifying behind two Mercedes and a Red Bull, securing fourth
  • Passed Bottas around the outside of turn three at the start to take third
  • Was never going to keep Bottas behind indefinitely, but was quick enough to ensure Perez didn’t catch him

Daniel Ricciardo

  • Bounced back from his poor qualifying performance in Portugal to out-qualify Norris by almost four tenths of a second and take seventh on the grid
  • Moved up to fifth at the start at the expense of Ocon and Sainz
  • Kept both behind until the end, only losing a position to the faster Red Bull of Perez

Lewis Hamilton

  • Took 100th career pole by 0.036s despite chasing set-up throughout qualifying
  • Thought better of toughing it out against Verstappen on the way into turn one, ceding the lead
  • His superior pace ultimately told in his bid to regain the lead – his pass on his team mate looked harder than the move which won him the race

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Nikita Mazepin

  • Spun into gravel on first lap of weekend
  • Collected a three place penalty for impeding Norris in qualifying, which was meaningless as he qualified last
  • Almost seven tenths off team mate’s time in Q1
  • Despite Toto Wolff’s radio complaints, was judged not to have transgressed while being lapped by Hamilton

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And the rest

Valtteri Bottas

  • Beaten to the front row by Verstappen
  • Jumped by Leclerc around the outside of turn three at the start
  • Was somewhat hesitant to let Hamilton by when asked to
  • Fell back behind Leclerc but passed him for third, though he lost the fastest lap point to Verstappen

Max Verstappen

Verstappen battled hard but made odd pit call
  • Almost snatched pole from Hamilton and Mercedes
  • Boldly barged his way past Hamilton into the lead at turn one
  • Made a surprising decision to pit before his team told him to, which cost him a few seconds as they weren’t ready for him
  • Ultimately defenceless against a clearly faster Mercedes

Sergio Perez

  • Only qualified eighth after complaining of shoulder pain and spinning
  • Great pass on Ricciardo on the outside of turn one on his way to fifth place

Lando Norris

  • Out-qualified by Ricciardo
  • Shown the black-and-white ‘unsporting conduct’ flag for an unsuccessful defensive move against Sainz
  • While stuck behind Ocon, let Ricciardo past when his team mate appeared behind him with more pace
  • After a late second stop for softs he made light work of Russell, Alonso and Ocon to take eighth, but unlike his team mate was lapped before the finish

Esteban Ocon

Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021
Ocon qualified superbly, but disappointed in race
  • Out-qualified Alonso by over half a second to line up fifth
  • Both Alpine drivers gambled on one-stop strategies and lost ground in the race, but Ocon salvaged two points for ninth

Fernando Alonso

  • Reached Q3 to line up 10th
  • Became a cork in the bottle in the second half of the midfield, holding Russell, Stroll, Raikkonen and Gasly back until his tyres cried enough

Lance Stroll

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021
Stroll’s race was more eventful than most
  • Narrowly missed out on reaching Q3 by hundredths
  • Passed Alonso on the outside of turn four at the restart
  • Clashed with Alonso later in the race, went off at turn one but avoided a penalty despite rejoining the track incorrectly
  • Lost the final points place to Gasly with four laps to go

Sebastian Vettel

  • A tenth of a second off Stroll in qualifying
  • Spent a quiet race behind his team mate, finished five seconds adrift

Carlos Sainz

  • Backed Leclerc up solidly in qualifying on a good weekend for Ferrari, only a tenth of a second behind his team mate
  • Gave chase of Ricciardo after losing a place to him at the start, but had to settle for seventh

Pierre Gasly

Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021
Gasly saved face after blunder of the race
  • Reached Q2, unlike Tsunoda, but was disappointed not to reach the final 10
  • Picked up a five-second penalty for being too far forward in his grid box at the start
  • Having fallen to last, worked his way forward to salvage the final point

Yuki Tsunoda

  • Was a surprise elimination from Q1
  • Early retirement with power unit shutdown

Kimi Raikkonen

  • Failed to reach Q2, unlike his team mate
  • Only driver to start on medium tyres instead of softs, yet gained three positions at the start
  • Once degradation set in he had to pit, and ran a set of softs for 28 laps to the finish, beating Vettel’s Aston Martin

Antonio Giovinazzi

Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021
Giovinazzi’s lousy luck did not improve
  • Reached Q2, out-qualifying his team mate
  • Ran on softs behind his team mate, who was on mediums, so pitted under the first Safety Car period. However his new front-left had no air in it, and the time lost finding a replacement set left him last
  • His dash showed incorrect delta time information during the Safety Car period, which left him 10 seconds adrift at the restart

Mick Schumacher

  • Out-qualified team mate as usual but also beat a Williams – the first time a Haas has out-paced another car this year on Saturday
  • Jumped Tsunoda and Russell at the start, but couldn’t keep either behind, and Latifi also got back ahead
  • Gave his team a fright with a slightly long stop in his pit box, but no one was hurt
  • Put nearly 40 seconds on his team mate by the chequered flag

George Russell

  • Qualified 15th after reaching Q2
  • Williams gambled on pitting both drivers during the Safety Car period and, revelling in his car’s handling after an early second stop, Russell briefly ran 10th
  • Fell to 14th after the inevitable tyre degradation hit

Nicholas Latifi

  • Started from the back row for the first time this year after being beaten by Schumacher in qualifying
  • Nearly crashed on the final lap, to the bemusement of Alonso

Over to you

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    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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    40 comments on “2021 Spanish Grand Prix Star Performers”

    1. First time I see losing position at start be considered a contributing aspect for a star performance.

      1. In fairness, fighting it out with Verstappen at turn one has in the past generally come off bad for everyone involved. At the very least, Hamilton backing off and allowing Verstappen ahead minimised the time lost compared to what he would have lost had he tried to fight it out and been pushed off track.

        And that presumes that he was just pushed wide and the result wasn’t a lot of broken bodywork and two DNFs.

        Under those circumstances, yielding the position seemed a more sensible option, especially considerign it didn’t hurt Hamilton’s race int he long run.

        1. I agree. It was a piece of clever racing both from Lewis and Max in that first corner. Lewis knew the race would come to him anyway given their pace in FPs. So no need to risk anything in the first corner. Max knew very well that if he would not come out of that corner first the race would immediately be over and he would trail 1 or 2 Mercs with an ever opening gap. It is a pleasure to see these two fighting and they both know they can push since the other is on PAR when it comes to race skill, cleverness and respect.

      2. Lost count of the number of drivers losing a position to avoid a crash and then going on to do well. Bit like those who go off like a scolded cat without a care for what it does to the tyres.

      3. it’s not what but who

    2. I don’t get this “were not ready for him” stuff.
      How many seconds did Max lose because of that?
      There is a fair bit of time between a driver leaving the track and actually arriving in his box. Not masses of time, but enough to realise that Max is pitting, now, and we need to get off the seats and rush out with the tyres and do a pitstop service.
      This is century 21. They can’t wait for the guy with the whistle to come round them up one by one five minutes ahead like an old time drill sergeant. Agile, ready, that’s what they need to be.

      1. F1oSaurus (@)
        11th May 2021, 9:37

        Well it was a 4.2s stop so say 2 seconds? Plus he came in way too early for which he paid dearly at the end of the race when he ran out of tyres

        1. RB planned to stop him one lap later.

        2. Plus he came in way too early

          FTrolloSaurus again ;)

      2. They lost about 2s because one of the wheel guys was still leaving the garage as the wheel was taken off. I suspect the tyres are kept in one area and its not easy for 4 people to grab tyres and get out of the garage in a panic. All things considered to only lose 2 seconds was quite impressive by Red Bull. I suspect Red Bull were not wanting him for another lap or two but the teams are drilled to be ready at all times. It does show you though how the slightest change can disrupt such precise processes.

        1. Reading the radio transcript i think the secret trigger went wrong somewhere. His engineer confirmed the question about his wing which was a bit strange because he did double. So reading they would speak about it later there was a miscommunication between Pitwall and crew.

          So i would say Max was also star performer !

          Perez and Bottas i would select as struggler they didn’t perform as expected.

    3. Would add Sergio Perez to the strugglers, his poor qualifying and lack of presence near the top 4 is not what Red Bull need if Max is going to mount a challenge for the Championship

      1. True. This whole challenging the Mercs is not going to work without the 2nd RB in the mix. And Merces already have had so many seasons without opposition..

    4. A little too forgiving to Tsunoda, Bottas and Perez. Tsunoda in all likelihood saved from making the strugglers list because of his retirement.

      Bottas and Perez needed to have cleared Leclerc and Ricciardo faster than they did.

      I guess if you have made Leclerc and Ricciardo stars, then you don’t automatically make their on-track adversaries struggelers. Fair enough.

    5. I think it’d be reasonable to put Norris into “strugglers”. Once again he didn’t perform when it mattered in Q3, losing three tenths to his best Q2 lap when the average driver in Q3 gained a tenth; if Norris had done that he’d have been sixth on the grid. He then followed this up by being almost totally anonymous in the race, being much closer to the Astons than the Ferraris and well behind a team-mate he’d thrashed for the previous three races.

    6. Stars: LEC and RIC.
      Strugglers: BOT, PER, NOR, GAS, OCO, and MAZ.

      1. What was wrong with GAS and OCO? Both absolutely hammered their teammates. How are they strugglers!

        1. Yeah I agree, particularly with Ocon. He was a star of qualifying, and although he did fall back in the race I think this might be in large part due to the suboptimal 1-stop strategy he was on. But there’s no evidence the Alpine was any more competitive with that in the race, and if he is a struggler for finishing P9, then obviously Alonso is too for finishing P17.

          1. @keithedin @sumedh @scbriml
            Because they generally struggled in the race.
            Yes, I could’ve chosen both Alpines, but ultimately went only for the one that qualified higher partly because I expected more from him in the race beforehand.

      2. @jerejj Pretty close, but replace OCO with ALO.

    7. My perspective on the Ham VS Max “In a league of their own” Hamilton is in his own league.

      If you (Ham) can manage to hound his main opponent (Max) for the majority of the race and still have better tire management and win the race in a circuit where position is king then you (Ham) are a top tier driver. But if you add the fact, that your teammate ( Bottas) cant at least match that pace, without the tirepunishing effect of being to close to the driver in front, that puts Hamilton in the top tier GOAT echelon.

      I´ve read and seen a bunch of reviews, and almost all of them narrate the Max vs the Mercedes car point of view. I keep coming back to a couple of things.

      Teamwise: 1 Redbulls slants the car to much to Max drivingstyle which in my view flatters him more to detriment of mate/wingman. Those are 2 negatives for me.
      2 why did´nt Red bull save more medium tires?

      Driverwise: 1 Fastest drivers = Both Ham and Max.
      2 Sustained speed over time = Only Ham
      3 Race IQ = Only Ham, In Barcelona Ham broke Max, Max was dejected after being hounded by Ham in the race. In modern Formula 1 being so close to the car in front is generally suicide, and still Ham pulled it of. Hamilton can drive at least as fast as Max while maintaining his tires and lower fuel consumption, he and Massa are the kings of lower fuel loads.

      Hamilton by being so fast and so close to Max gave himself a massive strategic advantage. If Ham had been in Max shoes he probably would have backed up Max to keep the drivers behind bunched up and nursed his tires until it suited him. Hard to pull of, but it has been done before.

      Bottas not being able to maintain himself in a position to benefit from any mishap is telling. He was in a make your own fortune situation and achieved a bare minimum with a awkward what the —k moment. I am not saying he should accomplish more with that car, each to their own ability. Clearly Max brings his level and skill-set to table and so does Ham, but his level is higher and his skill set is much broader.

      1. and still have better tire management

        Interesting, i read that a lot. But it seems they forget he actually needed more tires to achieve his goal.
        The last stint on soft by VER were only for the fastest lap time in a free pitstop.
        So in fact the tire management by VER was better but the MERC was simply to fast.

    8. Stars – Mercedes TEAM, including Hamilton, Bottas, the trackside crew, and everyone at home. They together recovered from their lead drivers sub-optimal start. Hamilton recovered, Bottas kept Hamilton’s options open on the way to third, the trackside crew made a great call, and the technical staff provided the fastest car. This is why Hamilton and Mercedes keep winning.

      Hamilton – I thought letting Verstappen go was a mistake. It seemed like the right moment to let the crash happen so Verstappen knows the track isn’t his. But Hamilton was right to wait for a chance latter, and good enough to make it happen.

      Vestappen – came within a well timed safety car of beating a clearly faster Merc.

      Leclerc – as stated

      Ricciardo – great to see him back on pace

      Strugglers – include Sky broadcast crew for not explaining how teammates were influencing pit strategy as the stops were unfolding.

      1. I agree, it is puzzling how some commentators cant properly read a race as it unfolds. Like they watch for the first time or so. Only defense they might have is that they are instructed to spice things up a bit and make it seem more exciting than it really is. And judging by the comments I see on this site, they are successful with that strategy

    9. I’d also put Perez, Alonso and Tsunoda in the ‘strugglers’. They were all comfortably outqualified by their teammates and were also slower in the race (at least Perez and Alonso were).

      Max should definitely be up among the ‘stars’. He qualified on the front row, got ahead of Hamilton at the start and led for most of the race. He had no chance against Hamilton, the Mercedes was just a little bit too quick in the race. Whatever strategy they had tried, Mercedes and Hamilton would’ve won.

    10. Verstappen and Hamilton should both be counted as star performers, as they should have been all year really. They are raging a titanic battle, four races in a row now, and the real winners are us the spectators.

      Instead of micro analysing every moment they push slightly beyond the limit and trying to argue which is the better, we should all just sit back and enjoy the show.

      1. +1

      2. Verstappen and Hamilton should both be counted as star performers, as they should have been all year really. They are raging a titanic battle

        And I consider myself* a star performer as I love it to finally have a battle of equals at the sharp end of the grid.

        * know I didn’t do it myself, but separating the show from the spectator is sometimes as unraveling the car from the driver performance ;)
        Is HAM a real star or is the car still that much faster (and BOT average), and is VER a real star or merely flattered by a perfectly fitting car? Don’t care / I love the ‘show’!

    11. Comment of the season so far.

      1. In response to @aussierod

    12. I’d personally add Schumacher to the stars. Outqualifying a Williams with less experience than Latifi, and did a good job of keeping Russell behind as long as he did. And completely showing his teammate the way in qualifying and race finishes. The spins at Imola and Bahrain weren’t great but he bounced back brilliantly to finish ahead of Latifi in Portimao, and solidified his confidence in this race.

    13. VER clearly a star.

    14. Max dotw. valiant effort

    15. Disappointed to not see verstappen here tbh, when you think about it, he’s been leading the race with an at least slightly lower car against hamilton for the majority of it, reminds me of raikkonen at monza 2018, should’ve won that race and I also considered him the driver of the weekend, in that case it was tyre degradation that got him, that ferrari was quick enough to compete, he said himself but ran out of tyres at 7 laps to go, while here mercedes seemed quicker all the way.

    16. Danny Ric is slowly getting there.

      I’m excited to see what he can do this season!

    17. Agree that Leclerc is a star performer in Spanish GP. I am keen to see the close battle between Leclerc and Norris with the former only a point adrift at present. If Bottas slips up a few podiums, there may even be a contest for third place.

    18. So losing some seconds in a pit stop disqualifies somebody from being a star performer despite flawless driving, but having a bad start and losing the lead doesn’t? That’s weird logic.

      1. Indeed!

    Comments are closed.