George Russell, Williams, Paul Ricard, 2021

2021 French Grand Prix Star Performers

2021 French Grand Prix

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George Russell, Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen were RaceFans’ Star Performers of the French Grand Prix. Here’s why.

Stars

George Russell

  • Maintained perfect Q2 record with 15th on the grid, capitalising on Tsunoda’s crash
  • Didn’t start brilliantly, falling behind Raikkonen, Stroll and Latifi, then Tsunoda came by on lap two
  • Was 19th when he came out of the pits on a set of hards on lap 17
  • From there, with no Safety Cars, he lapped quickly enough to jump ahead of several midfield rivals, plus two-stopping Leclerc, then re-passed Tsunoda for an excellent 12th
  • Was taking time out of 11th-placed Sainz at the finish

Max Verstappen

Verstappen was tenacious if not flawless
  • Credited a set-up change in second practice for a turn of speed which saw him lead the way for the rest of the weekend
  • Beat Hamilton to pole by over two tenths of a second
  • Lost lead by running off at turn two
  • Undercut Hamilton in pits with unexpectedly rapid pit stop and in-lap
  • Made bold two-stop strategy work by passing Hamilton on penultimate lap to claim win

Fernando Alonso

  • Reached Q3 unlike team mate Ocon and lined up ninth
  • Took a place from Norris at the start, couldn’t keep the faster McLaren behind, but moved ahead of the Ferraris for eighth place

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Strugglers

Charles Leclerc

Feature: Ferrari doubt they can fix tyre problem behind disastrous French GP this year
  • Qualified behind team mate and Gasly in seventh after understeer
  • Pitted first and successfully made up places using undercut
  • Struggled with graining and forced to make a second stop
  • Limped home in 16th

Yuki Tsunoda

  • Crashed on his first attempt at a flying lap in Q1 – just as team principal Franz Tost had said he shouldn’t do – and had to start from the pits after repairs
  • Moved up to 16th early on at the expense of the Haas and Williams drivers
  • Finished 13th, six places behind his team mate, after Russell passed him three laps from home

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And the rest

Lewis Hamilton

  • Could not match Verstappen’s ultimate pace in qualifying but was faster than Bottas after trailing him in practice
  • Inherited lead at start after Verstappen error
  • Pitted one lap later than Verstappen and lost lead
  • Made hard tyres last 33 laps until the end of the race but was unable to hold off charging Verstappen

Valtteri Bottas

Report: Wolff glad Bottas ‘spoke his mind’ over strategy on radio
  • Secured third on the grid, just over a tenth off from Hamilton
  • Tried to undercut Verstappen and almost succeeded
  • Asked team to switch to two-stop strategy to respond to Verstappen but was rebuffed
  • Lost second to Verstappen and third to one-stopping Perez in closing laps after struggling with severe front tyre wear

Sergio Perez

  • Almost half a second off team mate’s pole time but good enough to secure fourth
  • Long opening stint on mediums
  • Caught and passed struggling Bottas in closing laps
  • Was investigated for passing the Mercedes driver outside of track limits at turn 10 but no action taken

Lando Norris

  • Qualified eighth ahead of team mate Ricciardo
  • Had Q2 time deleted for track limits and survived scare after team under-fuelled him
  • Felt he could have been two tenths faster in Q3
  • Lost positions at the start due to ‘downgraded’ gear shift
  • Ran long first stint, then passed Ricciardo to claim fifth

Daniel Ricciardo

Ricciardo enjoyed a better weekend in the McLaren
  • Scraped into Q3 on medium tyres in tenth
  • Only 0.13s slower than team mate Norris, and disappointed to not be higher up grid
  • Passed Norris at start and passed the fading Ferraris
  • Eventually overtaken by Norris and finished behind him

Lance Stroll

  • Unceremoniously eliminated from Q1 after having on lap time deleted failing to set a time before last red flag
  • From 19th he worked his way through the midfield on-track to recover final point for tenth

Sebastian Vettel

  • Caught out by wind in FP1 resulting in spin
  • Disappointed to have been knocked out in Q2
  • Ran wide at Beausset early in race
  • Felt that time lost there hurt his chances of finishing higher than ninth after a long first stint

Esteban Ocon

Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Paul Ricard, 2021
Ocon didn’t get a result to celebrate his new contract
  • Failed to reach Q3, unlike team mate Alonso
  • Was passed by Vettel on lap two
  • Ran a long first stint and was disappointed the team did not move him past Alonso when the chance arose
  • Couldn’t find his way into the points after his pit stop

Carlos Sainz Jnr

  • Out qualified team mate to secure ‘best of rest’ grid slot
  • Ran off circuit on reconnaissance lap
  • Achieved a longer first stint than his team mate and was able to one-stop despite Ferrari’s tyre troubles
  • Lost final points place to Stroll with five laps to go

Pierre Gasly

  • Split the two Ferraris with fifth top six grid slot in seven race weekends
  • Had lap times deleted twice for turn six infringements
  • Held sixth at start until pit stop, losing positions to RIC and SAI undercut
  • Finished behind both McLarens

Kimi Raikkonen

  • Eliminated in Q1 in 17th
  • Both Alfa Romeo drivers ran long first stints on hards, Raikkonen’s a mammoth 33 laps
  • He rejoined with only the Haas drivers behind him, found the car much better on the medium compound, but by the chequered flag he was only able to pass Latifi

Antonio Giovinazzi

  • Out-qualified Raikkonen, reaching Q2
  • Found his car was much less competitive in the different conditions on race day
  • Ran ahead of his team mate all day in the race except between their pit stops

Mick Schumacher

Mick Schumacher, Haas, Paul Ricard, 2021
Having reached Q2, Schumacher couldn’t take part in it
  • Reached Q2 for first time but at cost of crashing out at end of Q1, having set a quick lap early in the race
  • Fell to 19th on lap one on mediums, then was passed by Mazepin a few laps later
  • Switched to hards on lap 15 and managed them to the end to finish 14 seconds ahead of his team mate

Nikita Mazepin

  • Six-tenths off Schumacher though his qualifying runs were disrupted by red flags
  • Ran the opposite strategy to his team mate, starting on the hard tyres, and making them last until lap 31
  • By the time he came out his team mate was nine seconds up the road

Nicholas Latifi

  • Missed out on Q2 by 0.002s
  • Suddenly found turn of pace in closing laps, but by then too late

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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33 comments on “2021 French Grand Prix Star Performers”

  1. Stars: VER, NOR, RIC, and ALO.
    Strugglers: BOT, LEC, SAI, and OCO.

    1. I agree with you that both McLaren drivers should be considered amongst the stars @jerejj. Their car seemed not be the right deal in qualifying, but both got through and set decent laps on saturday. And both of them had a race forward using the pace they had, but also making some exciting moves on the way to 6th and 7th.

      I disagree with Bottas being a “struggler”. In qualifying he was right behind Hamilton on pace. That they stopped relatively early to try and undercut Verstappen was not his idea probably, and even then it almost worked. And you can hardly blame him for having the team deny him a second stop for tyres and the tyres running out towards the end of the race.

    2. Bottas a Struggler?
      Maybe the only struggle he had was failing to convince Mercedes Strategy team that the chosen strategy was bound to fail.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        22nd June 2021, 10:43

        Reletive to Hamilton and Perez, Bottas did do a poor job with the strategy he was given, but both those two are very good with their tyres. Bottas’s pace looked great, especially early in the 2nd stint and he was actually looking a bit quicker than Hamilton. Given he was keeping up pace wise with Verstappen and perez was only slowly catching, his call for a 2nd stop made total sense as he likely hadn’t been managing the tyres as well (which won’t have been an issue had he got what he wanted). I don’t think he will have had much trouble catching up and passing Perez given his pace advantage at the start of his stints.

        1. I think (and as an excuse for Bottas) that his tyres were ruined during the early parts of stint 2. He was in double dirty air, which might be great on the straight (double tow) but double penalising in the curvy bits.

          I can’t blame Bottas for trying to overtake Hamilton and Verstappen, but do blame Mercedes.
          They could have told Bottas to sit back (at 3s) and preserve his 1-stop tyres; or,
          They could have instructed Hamilton to let Bottas past and fight Verstappen (whilst committing to a 2-stop).
          But Mercedes did neither.

          I agree that Bottas seemed fast enough that with an early 2-stop strategy he would have saved 3rd place, and maybe could’ve fought for 1st or 2nd if he could have made the undercut work to Verstappen.

    3. Sainz struggler is unfair, ferrari was horrible.

  2. Wait Russel a Star? Sure, he wasn’t struggling. Did his thing in qualifying again. But he made a mistake that dropped him back right at the start, much like Vettel did. He got back up there in 12th because of others 2 stopping.

    1. My thoughts, pretty much, a poor start doomed Russell’s race, might have scrapped a point or two with a better launch. Still not ready for Sunday prime time
      Happy to see Alonso as a star though I saw very little of him and mostly it was being overtaken in the straight on a painfully slow Alpine with no way of mounting up a defense from DRS.

    2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      22nd June 2021, 15:47

      @bascb

      Russell’s recovery drive was very good, better than a lot of his Sunday performances have been. But he really is going to need to sort his starts out. It isn’t to do with Williams as neither of his team mates had had such a large number of poor launches. I’ve pointed this out several times, but his first season, Kubica was ahead at the end of lap 1 in 11/19 races they both started on the grid. That is pretty poor given he always qualified ahead. Russel’s bad starts tend to go unnoticed, but Bottas having 3 or 4 last year got a great deal of attention and criticism. Russell still has these iffy starts pretty often compared to his team mate and I would actually say more than any other driver on the grid, and the launch is to do with preparation on the formation lap rather than the car’s performance.

      As an example, last year, kimi at one point in the last year or two cad a crazy start from way back on the grid. And his car certainly wasn’t great. Giovinazzi and especially Magnussen and Stroll often had incredible launches.

      Russell still often gets a worse reaction or launch (or first few corners) than those around him and I don’t think that has anything to do with the cars ability. If this pattern continues at Mercedes when he is there, It could well hurt him a lot even if his race pace is a lot better than Bottas.

      1. Rodric Ewulf
        22nd June 2021, 16:50

        George Russell and Yuki Tsunoda are currently the worst starters of the grid, in that matter they are way worse than Bottas now. Their team-mates are pretty okay as grid launchers though, and the huge advantage Russell have on Latifi is due to George being an amazing qualifier (everybody knows that) and not that bright usually on race pace, but still way better than Latifi.

  3. My personal picks:

    STARS:
    Ver, Nor, Rus, Alo

    STRUGGLERS:
    Sai, Lec

    However, Norris may have been flattered by the poor performance of the Ferraris who seemed to reverse through the grid.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      22nd June 2021, 10:45

      I’m not sure if either Ferrari driver should be a struggler. Even Stroll managed to go from 19th to 10th and pass both Ferraris. I think Ferrari were awful this race, and as it wasn’t just Leclerc, I think the car must have genuinely has some problem this time.

    2. @geekzilla9000
      I don’t think you can put Sainz as a struggler when he both outqualified and outraced his teammate, I don’t think he could have done much more considering the deg on the Ferrari. There’s more to the story than just looking at where people finished in the race.

  4. Props to Keith for acknowledging Max’s performance. Despite the small off, I think Lewis deserves a place among the stars as well, perhaps over Fernando. Impressive tyre whispering as he showcased in the past, but this time it feels like the ultimate result might have taken away from his performance a bit.

    Hard to argue with the strugglers, although I was watching the gaps in the front and not paying much attention to the midfield and beyond this time.

    1. Rodric Ewulf
      22nd June 2021, 8:44

      While Lewis completed 34 laps on hard tyres and ended the race whining a lot, like usual, Fernando made a stint of 35 laps on the same compound and in the end he was nearly overtaking faster cars on raw pace than his Alpine. The distinction of a Star ideally must be for a driver who finished on the highest possible position his car could offer, and that wasn’t the case of Lewis last Sunday. He and his team complicated themselves due to bad strategy, while Alonso nailed it again.

    2. You can have 4 stars, it happened in the past, so no need to replace alonso, they could’ve added hamilton if they wanted.

  5. I’d include Gasly in the Star section.
    Amazing quali, and he was chasing the cars ahead more than anybody else (maybe that caused the track limit offs at turn six).
    I wouldn’t call him mister Saturday as he also delivers on Sunday.

    1. I hope there’s a post season stars and strugglers special – if so Gasly is definitely in my list so far for that, and Norris, and Russell. They may not be fighting for wins (or even points in the case of Russell) but their race performances are solid.

      1. And I’ll add this: Gasly stayed within 2s (mostly within DRS range) of Sainz for 35 laps until he overtook him. His car was clearly not fast enough to overtake the Ferrari, but amazing that he saved his tyres for all those laps in dirty air and apparently only missed the boundary lines of turn six on two occasions.

    2. I think Gasly had a good race but he did have that slightly clumsy move on Norris which was both illegal (since he left the track) and could have easily caused himself a puncture if Norris hadn’t reacted well. That was probably enough for me to bump him down from the ‘stars’ in this race.

  6. Bottas as a struggler is a bit harsh, I think. He didn’t preserve his tyres like Hamilton did, but then again there are not a lot on the grid who can do that. He got into fourth by the strategy differences between RBR and Mercedes, tough to blame it on him.

    1. He’s not listed as a Struggler in the article…

      1. Doh! Was meant as a reply to Jere.

  7. Weird choice not to include Norris as a star but have Alonso there.
    The deleted lap time for Norris was so marginal and he did outqualify his teammate so it’s not like he did a slow lap in qualifying. He also did 4 or 5 overtakes on track throughout the race and didn’t just cruise by everyone in the pits. From 10th on the first lap to 5th without a tyre advantage other than he kept his mediums alive long enough to make it a more balanced one stop.

    1. Fully agree. Having Alonso as a star is the trend, sadly. He qualified 9th, and the report states that during the race he “moved ahead of the Ferraris”, when in fact the Ferraris sank as a pair of bricks. It doesn´t matter what Alonso does, it is just enough for him to reach the end of the race to be a “star” in another masterful display.

      1. Rodric Ewulf
        22nd June 2021, 19:18

        McLaren is significantly ahead of Alpine on raw pace, and if you add the edge the Mercedes engine has on Renault it makes for a car way faster on the straights. You cannot seriously expect any driver in Alpine making the same amount of overtakes than one in McLaren. Alonso ‘critics’ (if not haters) just move the goal when it comes to analyse his performances: now that he is outqualifying and outracing Ocon, let’s pretend he has the same car as his rivals in the upper midfield. Not taking anything from Norris’ performance which was excelent, but Alonso was the one who finished ahead faster cars on raw pace, the Aston Martins. They were nearly the same level this weekend? Probably, with both deserving the distinction of a Star, but it’s laughable taking Alonso out of the equation when Norris was overtaking slower cars, that’s what he should do to have a really good drive.

        It doesn´t matter what Alonso does, it is just enough for him to reach the end of the race to be a “star” in another masterful display.

        Let’s reverse the question, shall we? What Alonso needs to do to not being ranked as a Star? The answer is: to not exctract the most of possible performance from the car pace and strategy-wise, like it shoud be for anybody else. It was happening to him earlier this season on his adaptation process, when only on Sunday he was in decent shape for a two-world champion. He only began to be ranked as a star when he raised his game on quali and seized all race opportunities. I don’t think the writer of this article has favoured Alonso in any way here, what he did a little with Hamilton not featuring the strugglers list in Monaco: when you qualify badly and look clueless in the race, that’s when you should be ranked a struggler. But some seems to want to underrate a driver just for not like him.

        Reply moderated
      2. Rodric Ewulf
        22nd June 2021, 19:22

        McLaren is significantly ahead of Alpine on raw pace, and if you add the edge the Mercedes engine has on Renault it makes for a car way faster on the straights. You cannot seriously expect any driver in Alpine making the same amount of overtakes than one in McLaren. Alonso “critics” just move the goal when it comes to analyse his performances: now that he is outqualifying and outracing Ocon, let’s pretend he has the same car as his rivals in the upper midfield. Not taking anything from Norris’ performance which was excelent, but Alonso was the one who finished ahead faster cars on raw pace, the Aston Martins. They were nearly the same level this weekend? Probably, with both deserving the distinction of a Star, but it’s laughable taking Alonso out of the equation when Norris was overtaking slower cars, that’s what he should do to have a really good drive.

        It doesn´t matter what Alonso does, it is just enough for him to reach the end of the race to be a “star” in another masterful display.

        Let’s reverse the question, shall we? What Alonso needs to do to not being ranked as a Star? The answer is: to not exctract the most of possible performance from the car pace and strategy-wise, like it shoud be for anybody else. It was happening to him earlier this season on his adaptation process, when only on Sunday he was in decent shape for a two-world champion. He only began to be ranked as a star when he raised his game on quali and seized all race opportunities.

        1. Rodric Ewulf
          22nd June 2021, 19:28

          Seriously, one cannot even ponder about Sr. Still-I-Whine on this site, no insults or ugly words, let alone say he was a struggler in just one GP (Monaco)? The truth hurts on many around here, that’s clear now.

          1. I think hamilton could easily be higher here (star) and lower in monaco (struggler) than he was ranked.

          2. Rodric Ewulf
            23rd June 2021, 20:28

            Now out of the blue the complete version of my comment appeared. I wonder why it had failed to get the site approval and apparently was deleted when I posted. Weird.

  8. Hamilton pitted 1 lap later than Verstappen, not two! Bottas first, Verstappen one lap later, Hamilton one lap after Verstappen. So Hamilton lost 3 seconds in one lap.

  9. Stars : Verstappen, Gasly

    Honorable mentions to the McLarens, Russell and Hamilton

    Strugglers: Tsunoda, Raikkonen, Leclerc
    “Honorable” mentions to Ocon and Latifi

    DOTW: Verstappen by some margin

  10. Ham would have had to drive blindfolded to be considered a struggler some only need to have a bad weekend as one would expect.

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