Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Red Bull Ring, 2021

2021 Austrian Grand Prix Star Performers

2021 Austrian Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen, Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jnr were RaceFans’ Star Performers of the Austrian Grand Prix. Here’s why.


Max Verstappen

  • Claimed pole position with a lap that left a lot on the table, and was still 0.27 seconds faster than his team mate
  • Was practically unmatchable on pace at every single point of the race
  • Mastered the start and an early Safety Car restart to ensure the car behind with higher top speed couldn’t even think about making a pass
  • Won comfortably despite easing up on kerb use to spare his car and making an extra pit stop to guard against tyre problems
  • Added fastest lap to score his first career ‘grand slam’

Carlos Sainz Jnr

  • Took his starting set of hard tyres all the way to lap 48 despite not being completely happy with his car’s balance
  • Was the faster Ferrari driver both in qualifying and the race, and kept out of trouble
  • Set super-consistent lap times in traffic to master his strategy and jump from 10th to fifth
  • Continues to look the most competitive of the drivers to have changed teams for 2021

Lando Norris

Lando Norris, McLaren, Red Bull Ring, 2021
Norris took third – and could have been second
  • Claimed his first ever front row start after a superb qualifying performance which got him within five-hundredths of a second of Verstappen
  • Out-qualified his team mate for the sixth time in 2021, by three-tenths of a second
  • Was able to match the Mercedes drivers on merit on the hard tyre after running it in Friday practice
  • Defended robustly from Perez at the start – too robustly for the stewards’ liking – and kept Mercedes pair behind for 20 laps

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Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, Red Bull Ring, 2021
Raikkonen’s weekend ended with a crash
  • Missed the cut to make it into Q2 after qualifying 0.227s slower than his team mate
  • Ran a long first stint in an unsuccessful attempt to jump up the order
  • Spent 18 laps stuck behind George Russell’s Williams, which proved quick in a straight line, and only moved ahead when Russell pitted
  • Held responsible for a last-lap collision with Sebastian Vettel while fighting over 12th place

Esteban Ocon

  • For the second grand prix in a row was unable to progress past Q1
  • Was outpaced by team mate Fernando Alonso across practice and qualifying by over half a second
  • Only got to turn nine of lap one of the race before retiring with damage from a collision

Nikita Mazepin

  • Was happy with qualifying performance in a car that was stepping out mid-corner
  • Not for the first time this year, was the focus of complaints of rivals who said he held them up during various sessions
  • Got out of last place when Giovinazzi pitted, was immediately passed at the restart
  • Was one of two drivers to receive a 30 second penalty for failing to slow sufficiently for yellow flags

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And the rest

Lewis Hamilton

  • Was a tiny 0.035s faster than his team mate in Q3
  • Fell 12 seconds behind Verstappen during opening stint and took until lap 20 to find a way past Norris
  • Trailed off with damage in second stint and changed tyres again after falling to fourth

Valtteri Bottas

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2021
Bottas recovered second from fifth on the grid
  • Felt the car balance had improved since the Styrian Grand Prix
  • Was outqualified by both Red Bulls, his team mate and a McLaren
  • Kept with Verstappen’s pace in the middle of the race but being told to stay behind Hamilton delayed his pursuit for several laps

Sergio Perez

  • Did the job Red Bull needed him to in qualifying to get ahead of the Mercedes
  • Made an early move on Norris to be the rear-gunner for Verstappen, but ended up in the gravel at turn four
  • Had strong pace despite running in traffic to rise back up order
  • Didn’t react to being penalised for his defence against Charles Leclerc and earned a second penalty
  • Sixth place ensured Red Bull extended their points lead

Daniel Ricciardo

  • Was the slower McLaren in qualifying by 0.30s, which meant exit before Q3
  • Made up places at the start and Safety Car restart to transform his race
  • Recovered from the mental low of the Styrian Grand Prix with a productive race
  • Was great on the hard tyres in his second stint to pressure the Ferraris and finish seventh

Lance Stroll

  • Made it to Q3 for the second weekend in a row
  • Gained a place from Russell at the start
  • Slow in-lap for first pit stop was costly and he didn’t recover from it
  • A five-second penalty for speeding in the pits cost him more time
  • Finished as the lead Aston Martin driver for the fifth time

Sebastian Vettel

  • Returned to Q3 after a few rounds with qualifying struggles
  • Got a grid penalty for slowing at the penultimate corner in qualifying
  • Made it as high as fifth before pitting, but was on slower two-stop strategy
  • Crashed out a few corners from the end in a collision with Raikkonen

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Red Bull Ring, 2021
Alonso’s weekend was spoiled in Q2
  • Was 0.579s faster than team mate in Q1, and qualified 14th
  • Catching Vettel at the end of his final Q2 cost him a chance of starting in the top 10
  • Kept it clean at the start, but was overtaken as a result
  • Struggled for pace in the first stint and was lapped by lap 44
  • Careful tyre management in the second stint allowed him to reel in Russell and claim 10th at end

Charles Leclerc

  • Was the slower Ferrari in qualifying and failed to make Q3
  • Frustrated that traffic problems held him back after two off-track moments
  • Was twice frustrated by Perez’s refusal to yield the outside line at the exit of corners
  • Took his starting set of medium tyres to lap 37, longer than anyone else
  • Let his team mate past to ensure Ferrari scored as many points as possible

Pierre Gasly

  • Qualified sixth for the fourth time in five races
  • Had to sacrifice fifth place to an early pit stop due to lack of rear grip
  • On a two-stop strategy he was often in traffic, and unhappy
  • Showed Verstappen-rivalling pace in clear air and final stint charge lifted him to ninth
  • Finished 4.70s back from fifth place, blamed strategy on missing out

Yuki Tsunoda

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, Red Bull Ring, 2021
Tsunoda had difficulty getting into the pits
  • Reached Q3 and was 0.166s slower than Gasly
  • Immediately struggled on soft tyres in race and was first to pit under green flag conditions
  • Was penalised for crossing the pit lane entry line at the wrong time – an error he then repeated
  • Finished a lapped 12th and never threatened for points after first pit stop

Antonio Giovinazzi

  • Was the faster Alfa Romeo driver in qualifying by 0.227s and reached Q2
  • Made contact with Ocon on lap one and pitted during the safety car period shortly after
  • Despite making good progress up the order in next stint, didn’t have the same form after pitting again
  • First driver to be lapped after the Haas duo

Mick Schumacher

  • Beat Mazepin by half a second in qualifying, pace advantage was double that in the race
  • Passed Nicholas Latifi on lap one and held him off for several laps
  • Took less than 30 laps to be lapped by Verstappen
  • Was massively inconsistent in final stint as he gave way to multiple blue flags

George Russell

George Russell, Williams, Red Bull Ring, 2021
Russell shone on Saturday again
  • Was the sensation of qualifying to end Williams’ Q3 absence and did it on the medium tyre
  • Lost five places from eighth on the grid and then had to fight back to make his way into the top 10
  • Strong defensive driving against multiple drivers ended when Alonso passed him for the final points place
  • Raised expectations and morale at Williams, but they were all disappointed to miss their target and finish 11th

Nicholas Latifi

  • Was 0.288s slower than Russell in qualifying and ended up 18th on the grid
  • Started on the medium and kept them until lap 33, with his pace still improving
  • Lapped shortly after his pit stop and was contending with blue flags from thereon
  • Said the car felt better than last week in different areas of the lap
  • Was one of two drivers to receive a 30 second penalty for failing to slow sufficiently for yellow flags

Over to you

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

2021 Austrian Grand Prix

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Author information

Elliot Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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32 comments on “2021 Austrian Grand Prix Star Performers”

  1. Don’t see how Sainz was a star. Ferrari split their strategy and 1 stop was the right one. He wasn’t in traffic and could nurse his tyres, and get the fast mediums at the end to overtake Ricciardo. If he should be praised for the tyre he was on then he should equally be blasted for it, losing a bunch of places at the start. Nothing special. Couldn’t even beat a Williams in qualifying.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      5th July 2021, 19:23

      Yea i really struggle to see how Sainz was better than qualifying on race day. Sainz lost 3 places down to a bad start. Leclerc looked set to get past Perez twice, but both times unreasonably got forced off track. Without this, it is extremely unlikely that Sainz will have caught up and Leclerc given an instruction to let him pass. Leclerc will have had an almost certain 5th. Sainz didn’t do better than him yesterday.

      Giovinazzi should be in the strugglers list.

      He hit Ocon, which would have been a penalty had it not been first lap. It was certainly careless. Then what wasn’t mentioned was that to add to that, he overtook several cars during the safety car. This got him a penalty. The points about him do mention that he was the first to be lapped after the Haas drivers.
      He has about as much of a reason as Kimi to be there. Kimi’s race wasn’t actually that bad. I wouldn’t say he struggled. His stupid crash is fair enough to justify him being listed as one though.

      1. someone or something
        5th July 2021, 20:48

        [Giovinazzi] hit Ocon, which would have been a penalty had it not been first lap. It was certainly careless.

        Can’t agree on that. Giovinazzi didn’t do anything risky, left enough space for Ocon. There was no way for him to know that Ocon was in the process of being sandwiched because a Haas occupied the space between the sausage kerb and the edge of the track. Typical racing accident that can happen when three cars end up on the same piece of track with different lines. That wouldn’t have been a penalty on any other lap of the race, either.
        Here’s the footage.

        Then what wasn’t mentioned was that to add to that, he overtook several cars during the safety car.

        Not quite, it was just one car (Alonso’s).
        Not much else to say in that regard. Slam dunk penalty. Well, except that this is another reason why this pit entry is weird, with an extremely late Safety Car line.
        Here’s the footage for that.

        He has about as much of a reason as Kimi to be there.

        For driving over one white line at the wrong time? Meh.

        Kimi’s race wasn’t actually that bad. I wouldn’t say he struggled.

        Don’t forget his qualifying. He was miles off Giovinazzi’s pace, dropping out in Q1 despite having a car with enough pace to challenge for Q3 (as Giovinazzi’s Q1 lap time indicated – but he couldn’t improve in Q2 because of a brake issue).

        1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          6th July 2021, 9:11

          I appreciate the effort you have gone into here with the clips.

          I don’t agree with your first point though. Schumacher had got his nose clearly ahead of Ocon, and that won’t have been invisible for Giovinazzi. Even for Giovinazzi to get slipstream from Kimi ahead, he didn’t need to go that far to the right of the track. He had so much more room to his right that he didn’t use.

          The other clip does indeed show he only overtook one car, fair enough there. But he should know not to.

          You then highlight that me saying he has ABOUT as much of a reason as kimi as being just down to the pit lane entry. IMO, that is not the only negative.

          You highlight me saying “Kimi’s RACE wasn’t actually that bad”

          Did you read the word race? You then state – “Don’t forget qualifying” and then go on only talking about that when i was stating that kimi’s race pace wasn’t bad, which it wasn’t IMO.

          Anyway, despite the way you comment on that looking a bit odd, you do have a point. I didn’t realise that Giovinazzi had an issue in Q2, so given he was a fair bit faster than Kimi in Q1, I think he will have been higher than P15, but not convinced about Q3.

          Just to add that I do rate Giovinazzi quite highly this year. I think he’s been better than Kimi in virtually every race. He’s had some of the worst luck of any driver this year which a lot of the time has made people assume kimi has been better in some races.

          I think you have made enough points to make me now think Giovinazzi shouldn’t be a struggler, but I still think the first lap incident was clumsy (which the commentators on Channel 4 also did)

          1. someone or something
            6th July 2021, 12:09

            Schumacher had got his nose clearly ahead of Ocon, and that won’t have been invisible for Giovinazzi.

            Pretty sure it was. Even if he had been staring in his left rear mirror the entire time (which would’ve been extremely dangerous, seeing as there were lots of cars in front of him), Schumacher was too far to his left to be in his field of view. Typical dead angle situation. He seemed aware of another car’s presence, but not two of them.

            Even for Giovinazzi to get slipstream from Kimi ahead, he didn’t need to go that far to the right of the track.

            Yes, he did (assuming you mean left). You could argue he was in Alonso’s slipstream, but Räikkönen was hanging back a little, so getting behind his team mate for the more powerful slipstream was the logical thing to do for Giovinazzi. Additionally, Giovinazzi was moving onto the more rubbered-in racing line for better traction. Racing-wise, his line makes sense.

            He had so much more room to his right that he didn’t use.

            Well, that’s true, but without the benefit of hindsight, that fact is useless. From his perspective in the cockpit, there wasn’t a single reason to stay off the racing line. Quite the opposite, he had every reason to drift to the left for better traction and a good slipstream. If he had been paranoid enough to anticipate that there would be two cars in a space that’s barely large enough for one, and therefore stayed to the right, he would’ve badly compromised the following straight, probably losing another position or two, instead of racing Alonso and Räikkönen.
            And all that for something we only know in hindsight. That’s just not how racing works.

            Did you read the word race? You then state – “Don’t forget qualifying” and then go on only talking about that when i was stating that kimi’s race pace wasn’t bad, which it wasn’t IMO.

            I did, but we’re commenting an article that talks about weekend performance, and you were trying to make the point that driver R shouldn’t have been considered a struggler solely because of that egregious collision he caused, because he didn’t really struggle in the race apart from that.
            To which I add, not only did he cause that egregious collision in the race, but also had a pathetic qualifying, which more than justifies calling him a struggler for his performance over the weekend.

            As for Giovinazzi’s chances of reaching Q3, that’s indeed difficult to judge, but he was 7th fastest in Q1, with a lap time that was just 0.229 slower than the Q3 cutoff time. And if you look at the other cars that fought for Q3, most of them did improve by 2 to 4 tenths in Q2. All I’m saying is: There was a chance. That car had no business being eliminated in Q1, especially not when drivers like Ricciardo and Ocon are struggling and handing the entire midfield a golden opportunity.

  2. Struggler: Latifi.

    To slow.

    See every F1 race he competed in.


    Struggler: Latifi

    See above.


    Struggler: Latifi

    See above.


    Struggler: Latifi

    See above.

    Etc. etc.

    1. As long he keeps bringing in that $$$ he’ll always be a Star in Williams’s eyes…

    2. Poland had always wished his team-mate good luck before each race since Robert left off to “Real Alfa” Alfa Romeo.

      1. Except it isn’t “real Alfa”…

  3. someone or something
    5th July 2021, 20:03

    Rather than ranking the two Ferrari drivers in two different categories despite very similar performances, I propose we call the teamwork at Ferrari a Star of the weekend:
    Ferrari had a two-pronged approach consisting of Leclerc putting pressure on Pérez from early on in the race, before getting out of Sainz’s way for a late charge that not only allowed him to overtake Ricciardo, but also cash in on Pérez’s time penalties (which Leclerc’s aggressive overtaking attempts had brought about in the first place).
    Had they done anything differently, it is more than likely they would not have got the same result from their lowly grid positions.
    I also appreciate the fact that Leclerc and Sainz never seem to hesitate to move out of each other’s way when strategy demands it. They’ve been a very constructive duo so far, harmonious, but not at the cost of complacency.

    1. I think in general this year Ferrari have in many respects done all they could with the car they have someone or something; with their new driver team, and after a dismal 2020 and a 2019,2018 where you could say they squandered a PU advantage it surely must be a good effort to give them good hope for next year(s) if they can keep this up.

  4. Latifi & Mazepin are not worthy of an F1 seat. Giovinazzi is borderline and Stroll got from ‘unworthy’ to ‘decent driver’. Raikkonen, my favorite driver in the ’00’s, is getting too old now and mistake prone now.

    All of these guys (that’s 25% of the grid mind you) are hurting F1’s reputation as having the best drivers in the world. People like Vergne, Newgarden, Vandoorne, Hulkenberg, De Vries and Palou are much better.

    1. Jockey Ewing
      5th July 2021, 20:46

      Yes, Latifi maybe probably improved a bit, has some better quali results thatn at previous season, but stiil he is maybe further off Russell than he was at previous season, especially at races. So I do not see too much improvement from Latifi, meanwhile there are likely even more talented drivers outside of F1 than the members of your list. Imo the top half of Indy, Hypercars, and LMP1, and even some other drivers could be added, and the potential rookies from F2 and F3 are more prepared than then were in the previous decade, thanks to the more seat hour, the higer requirements of being a professional athlete, and better simulators, etc.

      So Latifi is not bad, but not really goind forward. At least he is quite reliable not caused many problems yet, and he is finishing the races in a high percentage. In this aspect he reminds me Max Chilton. But this not justifies me him having another season instead of trying whether a prospect with a better resumé would be a more functional F1 driver, because the feeder series are obviously not at F1 level, and there are drivers who needed much less time and effort to gather those superlicense points.

      The feeder series results, experience and time taken to gather the superlicense points is very similar at Mazepin too.
      On the points table at and Wikipedia, Latifi is currently behind Mazepin and Mick Schumacher. This is quite bad at close to half season vs the Haas drivers, as Haas barely developed its car at the last two seasons, what is fairly unusual from an entrant at the last 10 years. Mazepin has some pace, but yet have been much more error prone, so he transferred his feeder series knowledge to F1 to a similar extent as Latifi.

    2. Jockey Ewing
      5th July 2021, 21:12

      I see the Kimi vs Giovinazzi similarly also.
      As a Kimi fan, I would like to see Kimi racing the cars with the new aero package, but his quali performance is disappointing compared to Gio at this season. Meanwhile Giovinazzi is still having quite bad races vs Kimi. So as a fan I would like to see Kimi at the next season, but not if his quali performance declines at this rate, and not if he will continue having this many errors.

      Practically I am on the side of an F1 going towards more frequent rule changes which are not aiming at teams (so likely done and planned by an independent comittée – while the rich teams accepting this for the sake of a better sport experience – and the governing bodies of the sport are getting stronger instead of being more lenient towards the rich entrants will ). Probably this alltogether would bring an era where there are more teams for talented rookies, and more competitve seats for the sake of fairness, as it is not good to watch guys like George Russell for 4 seasons at a backmarker team, and it is not good to see ideas coming up like Sergio Perez being dropped, while Mazepin is signed instead of Ilott ot Shwartzman.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        6th July 2021, 9:14

        I’ve gone into depth about each of Kimi’s and Giovinazzi’s races this season on other forums. Giovinazzi has looked the better of the two on race day virtually every race other than this last one – but he’s just been a bad luck magnet which has often hidden the some of the occasions Kimi has noticeably (from my point of view performed worse.

        1. Jockey Ewing
          6th July 2021, 14:20

          Yes, actually it can have something to do with luck as well, some races before I have read an article elsewhere (but from a reputable source) which praised Giovinazzi. By that time I felt, yes it is likely the best season of Giovinazzi yet. So maybe some better performances are to come from him at this season.

  5. Stars: VER and NOR.
    Strugglers: HAM, PER, TSU, STR, GIO, RAI, LAT, OCO, and MAZ.

    1. I see some reason with this, maybe a bit excessive in the strugglers, but I think sainz wasn’t at the same level as the other 2 stars and hamilton and perez struggled.

    2. I forgot to add yesterday: Ocon didn’t last till the penultimate corner as he stopped on trackside quite soon past Remus, so within S2.

  6. I don’t think Sainz did anything extraordinaroy to warrant a place among the ‘star performers’ last weekend. The reason he finished ahead of Leclerc were more down to his teammate being stuck in traffic for almost the entire race (bar 4 or 5 laps) and himself being on a better tire strategy.

    Russell made it into the Top 10 in qualifying with the same tire strategy as the Ferraris and almost secured a point for Williams, Alonso would have easiliy made it into Q3 as well and despite starting in P14 he made it into the points, while Schumacher dominated his teammate the whole weekend and was partially matching the pace of Giovinazzi and Latifi in the second half of the race.
    I think those three drivers did a better job than Sainz, considering their inferior equipment.

  7. I don’t understand why is Raikkonen’s name in the strugglers. He qualifies 1 place behind his team mate, jumped him at the start and was battling around 10th the whole race until he messed it up with the crash. I don’t see any reason in putting him down in the struggler’s list. He’s driving that car up from the back every race. The only thing he is struggling in is qualifying. But race pace I believe he is still bang on. People need to give him some credit for what he is doing in that Alfa at this age. Its not always about having a driver in the top ten. You’ve got to see the potential of the car and how consistent he is able to be on race pace. Antonio has matched Kimi this year, doesn’t it show how much time a young driver has had to take to match a driver like Kimi. Give him some credit. People used to accuse him for not being ”motivated” when he was in Ferrari and Lotus and now look at him driving a backmarked Alfa Romeo when he doesn’t really need to. Doesn’t that show his love for the sport. He has been driving that alfa to points since last two years, and I believe he has proved his place just by being in the league with these young talented lads. See how close it is!!

    1. First of all, people have a bad impression of giovinazzi, so matching him isn’t exactly doing raikkonen any favors, second I agree about the age, I think raikkonen is losing 6 tenths per lap or something (similar to schumacher at his come back) just in virtue of age compared to a 35 years old raikkonen (on average last year before decline).

      1. Giovinazzi was not performing until this year so its more of Antonio matching him than the other way around. And both drivers nearly end up around same place so I don’t see why it couldn’t be just the car, don’t think they are still developing this truck. I think we could just witness how amazing Kimi really is when everyone starts from zero next year, hopefully he can enjoy the new rules and be ”motivated” enough for people to not hate him. I’d love to see him for one more year due to major rule changes.

        1. RP (@slotopen)
          6th July 2021, 4:58

          Is there evidence Giovinazzi is getting better? I’ve been wondering if he is getting better or if Raikkonen is declining.

          My thought has been that after several seasons Giovinazzi should have reached most of his potential already. But I’d be interested in evidence that showed differently.

          1. @slotopen See comments above from @thegianthogweed ;my impression is that certainly in the races, but also a lot more than last year in quali, GIO from a pace and execution point of view has improved (or did Kimi get worse/) even though the results haven’t been there due to circumstances not going his way.

  8. A bit more controversial rating this one, it can be acceptable, however there are some controversial ratings imo:

    1) Sainz isn’t necessarily a star
    2) Hamilton could be a struggler given the mistake that caused car damage that compromised his race, not to mention the issues getting past norris early on
    3) Perez could also be a struggler given his mistake with norris and then at least the first penalty he got with leclerc, that could’ve been avoided, and in general for a guy in a red bull he didn’t climb back fast enough, I think

    They don’t necessarily HAVE to be a star\strugglers, like example hamilton had to at monaco, but would’ve probably made more sense.

    Alonso and russel also good, not sure if star worthy.

  9. In spite of Monaco, styria and austria sainz is still behind leclerc. Stop hyping up a 15-20 driver.

    1. Say what you want, but Sainz is a top 5 this year

      1. I’d give it to Norris, verstappen, Sainz, Leclerc and Gasly. In that order

  10. Clearly, Hamilton will fall into the strugglers category. Russell is a star for me. Dragged his Williams into Q3. Almost had that P10 in the bag, but for the Alpine of a Veteran Champion

    Reply moderated
  11. Giovinazzi was not performing until this year so its more of Antonio matching him than the other way around. And both drivers nearly end up around same place so I don’t see why it couldn’t be just the car, don’t think they are still developing this truck. I think we could just witness how amazing Kimi really is when everyone starts from zero next year, hopefully he can enjoy the new rules and be ”motivated” enough for people to not hate him. I’d love to see him for one more year due to major rule changes.

  12. Stars: VER, NOR
    Strugglers: PER, HAM, OCO

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