Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Monza, 2021

2021 Italian Grand Prix Star Performers

2021 Italian Grand Prix

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Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo and Charles Leclerc were RaceFans’ Star Performers of the Italian Grand Prix. Here’s why.


Valtteri Bottas

  • Beat Hamilton to qualify fastest for sprint qualifying race
  • Controlled sprint qualifying race to take three points with victory
  • Forced to start at the back of the grid after multiple power unit component penalties
  • Ripped through the lower end of the midfield with little difficulty
  • Passed Leclerc and inherited fourth from penalised Perez after an unsuccessful move on the Red Bull driver

Daniel Ricciardo

Report: Elated Ricciardo says he “never lost faith” before breakthrough McLaren win
  • Qualified in fifth for the sprint qualifying race, six-thousandths behind team mate Norris
  • Gained two places to third at start of sprint qualifying race, eventually securing second on the grid
  • Made another fine start in the race to pass Verstappen
  • Was the first of the leading pair to pit and looked set to keep his position over Verstappen before the Red Bull driver’s slow pit stop, going four-tenths quicker in the middle sector on his out-lap
  • Held his lead after the restart for first win in three years

Charles Leclerc

  • Struggled with engine braking abnormality throughout Friday but still qualified eighth, less than five-hundredths of a second behind his team mate
  • Abandoned second practice running after sudden dizzy spell
  • Gained one place in addition to Gasly’s retirement in sprint qualifying race to secure fifth on the grid
  • Held second at the restart but couldn’t contain Norris, Bottas and Perez in quicker cars
  • Promoted to fourth by Perez’s penalty

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Nikita Mazepin

  • Qualified 20th after going off the track on his fastest lap
  • Secured 17th on the grid in sprint qualifying race ahead of Kubica and Schumacher
  • Hit Schumacher in the race before retiring with a “power unit failure”

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And the rest

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Monza, 2021
Report: Hamilton pleased stewards “set a precedent”, Verstappen “doesn’t fully agree”
  • Fastest in every Friday session – except for Q3, where he was unexpectedly beaten by team mate Bottas
  • Lost three positions at start of sprint qualifying race and unable to make pass the McLaren of Norris ahead
  • Running hard tyres from the start of the grand prix, he gained a place from Norris on lap one but lost it running wide in unsuccessful attempt to pass Verstappen
  • Passed Norris again towards the end of his first stint as his tyre choice paid off
  • Emerged from the pits narrowly ahead of Verstappen but was knocked off at the Rettifilo

Max Verstappen

  • Could not match the Mercedes pace in qualifying, yet still happy with third, three tenths from Hamilton
  • Inherited pole position from Bottas after passing Hamilton at the start but being unable to catch the other Mercedes
  • Couldn’t contain Ricciardo’s rapid McLaren at the start of the grand prix
  • Very slow pit stop cost him several places and left him fuming at his team
  • Was judged predominantly to blame for the clash with Hamilton and given a three-place grid penalty for the next round

Sergio Perez

  • Served a valuable function for team mate Verstappen, giving him in a tow in Q2 and Q3
  • Struggled for relative pace throughout qualifying, only just reaching Q3 and qualifying ninth
  • Ordinary start in sprint qualifying race dropped him behind Stroll and took 10 laps to pass the Aston Martin en route to eighth on the grid
  • Made more progress in the race, but was naïve to assume he’d be allowed to keep his position over Leclerc after going off-track while fighting the Ferrari driver, and received an inevitable penalty

Lando Norris

Lando Norris, McLaren, Monza, 2021
Norris fell in behind Ricciardo and kept Bottas back
  • Blamed a “small mistake” in Q3 for missing out on third in qualifying
  • Gained a place in the sprint qualifying race but was passed by team mate Ricciardo
  • Lost contact with his team mate in the opening phase of the race as he fought with Hamilton
  • Immediately re-passed Leclerc at the restart to resume second
  • Was probably quick enough to challenge Ricciardo but obeyed McLaren’s instructions for the pair to hold position and manage the pace to ensure their rivals couldn’t attack

Lance Stroll

  • Frustrated by traffic in qualifying but took 12th right behind team mate Vettel
  • Passed by Perez in sprint qualifying race but used soft tyres to hold off Alonso and take ninth on the grid
  • Only lost a position to the recovering Bottas on his way to seventh place
  • Was fortunate to avoid a penalty for his slightly slow reaction to waved yellow flags

Sebastian Vettel

  • Just missed out on Q3 by three-hundredths of a second
  • Flat-spotted both front tyres at start of sprint qualifying race, dropping behind Stroll and Alonso to 12th on the grid
  • Lost places to Ocon and Latifi at the beginning of the grand prix and was shoved off-track by Ocon later in the race

Esteban Ocon

Report: Why the ‘Leclerc precedent’ didn’t spare Ocon a penalty for Vettel clash
  • Struggled for pace on Friday, qualifying just behind team mate Alonso in 14th
  • Stuck behind Vettel in sprint qualifying race and unable to find a way past
  • Went off-track at the start and relinquished the position gained over his team mate. But being required to do the same to Latifi, who he’d passed well before the corner, seemed excessive
  • His move on Vettel at the Roggia deserved a penalty (though Ocon was understandably confused given the stewards’ failure to do the same for Leclerc two years earlier)
  • Passed Latifi after the restart to salvage a point for tenth

Fernando Alonso

  • Disappointed to qualify 13th after lock up in Q2 cost him a second push lap
  • Still qualified ahead of team mate Ocon
  • Gained two places in sprint qualifying race to secure tenth on the grid
  • Retirements ahead lifted him to eighth at the finish

Carlos Sainz Jnr

  • Out-qualified team mate Leclerc to take seventh in qualifying
  • Heavy crash at Ascari in second practice
  • Lost out at start of sprint qualifying race and focused on regaining confidence, taking sixth on the grid
  • The Safety Car wiped out his 10-second deficit to Leclerc halfway through the race
  • Was starting to slip back from his team mate again when the chequered flag fell

Pierre Gasly

Last year’s winner had a joyless return
  • “Maximised potential” of car in qualifying to secure sixth pace
  • Crashed out of sprint qualifying race after hitting Ricciardo in the crunch of the Rettifilo chicane, causing his front wing to collapse at Curva Grande, dooming him to start from the back of the grid
  • Technical problems in his repaired car forced him out early

Yuki Tsunoda

  • Appeared to have secures passage to Q2 but was instead eliminated after time deleted for track limits at final corner
  • Gained a couple of places at the start of sprint qualifying race but contact with Kubica led to front-wing change
  • Passed three cars after sprint qualifying race resumed to take 16th on the grid
  • Was unable to start the race due to a braking problem

Robert Kubica

  • Eliminated in 19th in qualifying after complaints of being held up by Mazepin
  • Spun around at Roggia chicane after contact with Tsunoda in sprint qualifying race, recovering to 18th thanks to Safety Car
  • Passed by his recovering team mate four laps from home

Antonio Giovinazzi

Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, Monza, 2021
Giovinazzi threw away a badly-needed result
  • Secured second successive Q3 appearance with tenth place in qualifying
  • Made up one place in sprint qualifying race to secure impressive seventh on the grid
  • Started well, splitting the Ferraris, but ran wide at Roggia and rejoined incautiously, tipping himself into a crash he was lucky to recover from
  • Finished a distant 13th after an extra pit stop

Mick Schumacher

  • Out-qualified team mate Mazepin as well as Kubica
  • Lost out to Mazepin at the start of sprint qualifying race and struggled with overheating tyres, eventually passed by Kubica
  • His race was ruined by Mazepin who knocked him into a spin

George Russell

  • Said the team “turned the car upside-down” after first practice
  • Fortunate to squeeze into Q2 after Tsunoda’s lap was deleted
  • Lost positions at start of sprint qualifying race but fought back to 15th despite “massive understeer” caused by damage to front wing
  • Benefitted from those ahead of him pitting before the Safety Car to move up to ninth at the restart for his third points score in four races

Nicholas Latifi

  • Pipped to a Q2 appearance by team mate Russell
  • Passed and held off team mate in sprint qualifying race to take 13th on the grid, therefore qualifying ahead of Russell for first time
  • Pitting before the Safety Car didn’t help his cause and dropped out of the points when Ocon passed him at the restart

Over to you

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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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61 comments on “2021 Italian Grand Prix Star Performers”

  1. why there’s no word about stroll-vettel incident in the first lap? vettel’s race was ruined by his teammate, who pushed him off the track after cutting the chicane. vettel had a fantastic race, aston had a very good chance for a double point finish, but stroll ruined it. you should have definitely mentioned it, stroll was the one who broke his teammate’s wing flap

    1. …had a fantastic start, my bad

    2. yes, exactly my thoughts when I read the Vettel part

      1. @nickthegreek I totally agree, same thoughts here.

    3. I don’t think it was deliberate… but he should have been more careful with his teammate alongside. There was a solid 7th and 8th available there for Aston Martin

  2. Stars: RIC, NOR, & BOT
    Strugglers: PER, HAM, & MAZ

    1. Hamilton is definitely a struggler. The Mercedes was the fastest car last weekend. Rather than inherit a victory from Bottas he got knocked out racing with Verstappen, who should have been far behind him.

      1. Never will be a struggler in this website no matter how awfully poor its weekend

        1. To be fair he doesn’t have poor weekends often, but monaco, really? However if you go back and look at the archives, he’s been rated 1 or 2 stars out of 5 in some 2016 race on here, which to me counts as a struggler ofc.

  3. I’m tempted to put Latifi into the Stars.
    Got unlucky with the safety car – could have scored points instead of Russell?

  4. I would add Perez to the strugglers.

    1. He redeemed himself in the race, he was pretty racey at monza.

  5. Ricciardo also got the fastest lap.

  6. Norris was quick enough to be second.

    1. Yeah, I really don’t see why Norris is not mentioned amongst the stars. Instead of mentioning that he managed to defend for Hamilton for 17 laps of the sprint race and then for much of the race, before defending from a quicker Perez it only mentions how he lost time to Ricciardo due to defending …

      Also, he was not “passed by ricciardo” really. But at the start of the sprint race, Ricciardo DID manage to get ahead, and ahead of Lewis, while Norris was bottled up behind the slow starting Hamilton but acutally managed to pass him. Also, Norris had to pass Leclerc, who got ahead by the timing of the SC, because he had not stopped yet.

      I think it should be Norris clearly in between the stars, while Leclerc did a solid job I but would have dropped back further behind the others without the timing of the SC.

      1. not sure, but could it be related to the fact he nearly got 2 track limit warnings? He was pushing it to the limit a bit too often.

        1. Surely pushing it TO the limit is in the job description of a race driver though @thegianthogweed.

          1. Yes I suppose I used the wrong words. I should have said he was pushing beyond the limit a bit too often.

          2. Was he though @thegianthogweed? This weekend it seemed more like Alonso when they first brought in the “three strikes” thing – he used it to go off track exactly the amount of times you can before it would hurt!

          3. if every driver started deliberately taking advantage of using 3 track limit warnings to push the limits, i think something would have to be done about it. Yes, one is a warning, but doing exactly the same thing a few more times gets you a black and white flag, which to me shows they all are a negative thing quite clearly.

        2. I believe Danny Ric got 2 of ’em too, to be fair. And after all, Norris used one of those track limits violations to build speed for taking on Leclerc at the SC restart

    1. @magon4
      Why not?! He was only marginally slower than Sainz in quali (he did have problems with his engine braking though), but passed him at the start of the sprint and was generally quicker. He stayed with the leading group for the whole race, despite the Ferrari’s power deficit (according to AMuS between 20-30 bhp) and even had the raw speed to finish on the podium, after Verstappen and Hamilton collided. If it wasn’t for the weak power delivery out of the final corner, Leclerc would’ve finished in P2.
      It wasn’t a 100% perfect weekend by him, as he was narrowly outqualified by Sainz (+0.05) and missed the first chicane when trying do defend against Bottas, but they weren’t relevant in the outcome of his race.

      1. @srga91 He was solid, sure. Good, even. Just didn’t see a stellar performance, is all.

        1. I also think Norris might have as much if not more right to be there really @magon4 and @srga91, see @bascb explain why above

  7. Massive congrats to Ricciardo, he had an amazing weekend, as did Lando. I am so chuffed for them and everyone at McLaren, they deserve it on merit!

    I agree Bottas did really well. However, I do wonder how much of that was due to him having a brand new, more powerful engine. This is a track which really rewards power.

    Mazepin really needs to improve. He looks ridiculous out there, and there are better drivers in the junior formulas waiting for chance in an F1 seat right now.

    Perez…. What was he thinking, not giving the place back? And isn’t that after they were already investigated for being slow to give a position back on Saturday? I don’t think naive is strong enough…

    1. @drmouse, I don’t entirely blame Perez as this was the 2nd time he got unfairly forced off despite being considerably enough alongside to have the right for space.

      1. @jerejj
        In F1, if you overtake off track, you give the place back or get penalised. 2 wrongs don’t make a right, if they forced you off illegally, that’s for the stewards to decide and they will penalise them for it as appropriate. It is far more than “naive” to carry on and assume the stewards will let the 2 transgressions cancel each other out, especially when it was highly likely he would have re-passed in a few corners time had he given the place back.

    2. Perez…. What was he thinking, not giving the place back?

      @drmouse He could have given the place back immediately, but given that he didn’t i think this was tactical from the team’s point of view. Bottas overtook Leclerc soon after Perez did, so he only had a short window to give the place back before he would also have to let Bottas through. I think Redbull would rather leave Perez in front to make sure Bottas didn’t gain more places and potentially win the race. There was also the chance that Perez would pull more than 5 seconds gap to Leclerc to offset the penatly.

      It annoys me that intentionally taking the penalty rather than following the rules is sometimes a viable option, but that’s the way it is just now.

      1. @keithedin

        Thinking about it, you’re probably right, this was a calculated and intentional breach of the rules by RBR who felt they would have lost more by giving the place back than they would from an expect 5s penalty. You’re right, too, that it’s really annoying but to be expected.

  8. I’d add Norris to the stars. The only difference between him and Ric all weekend was the fact Hamilton had a bad start in the sprint, costing him a slipstream down to turn one. Other than that it could have easily been him winning on Sunday.

    1. I agree, @yossarian, well and then Norris had to pass Leclerc, who was ahead of him due to the timing of the SC. And his defensive drive as “rear guard” was key to the 1-2 win IMO, at least as much as Ricciardo getting ahead of Max at the start and pacing his race really well.

    2. Remember Norris got 2 warnings for track limits. That was a negative that could put him below Ricciardo IMO.

    3. @yossarian Exactly. He was a star again.

      1. His pass on Leclerc was simply superb

  9. Very slow pit stop cost him several places and left him fuming at his team

    I replay the pit communication but could not find the “fuming” part.
    Can you elaborate at that?

    1. Found this piece.

      He said the F word once after the bad pitstop.
      “Fuming” .. A bit over the top Keith.
      Try to be a bit more objective.

      1. Twice actually. If you’re going to bother to offer researched proof, at least be accurate yourself! He says what the f* and then ‘I can see that for f*s sake!’ Sounds fuming to me and just about anyone else I’d imagine. I don’t see the problem in reporting that – it was a f* up. The question is whether that irritation transmuted into the misjudged and penalized lunge on Hamilton (answer: yes).

        1. Only one as a reaction on the pitstop.
          That’s not “Fuming” but people who obviously dislike verstappen have no problem with stretching the reality.

          1. I don’t dislike Verstappen! And actually I thought his response was fine/understandable! I disagree about ‘only one as a reaction on the pitstop’ though – he was clearly still swearing when back on track only because of the long pitstop. Fuming is accurate I think, nothing to do with dislike. I don’t ‘like’ the way he always assumes a corner is always his, but that’s another matter.

      2. Actually three times! :)
        He got in an extra f*s sake at the end… After his engineer said ‘I’ll leave you to it’ (probably not as in: leave you to crash out of the race…)

        1. Four times :) :) :) :)

  10. Bottas and Ricciardo yes. Leclerc as a star over Norris is a bit of an outlier. I’d put Norris second.
    Not exactly strugglers, but Hamilton and Verstappen both had dips in form at Monza, the rivalry seems to be making them a bit scrappier in judgment, neither imposing themselves on the weekend.

    1. Indeed, several websites rated them 5\10, I personally disagree, I found only 1 website which made sense (apart from this, which put none as struggler nor star) and that is racing news 365, which gave an 8 to verstappen and 6,5 to hamilton, which sounds fair considering the subpar weekend by hamilton and verstappen’s bad sunday start (compared to ricciardo) and the incident, don’t think it has to be penalized too much, if hamilton passed would’ve been critical.

  11. . Could not match the Mercedes pace in qualifying, yet still happy with third, three tenths from Hamilton
    . Inherited pole position from Bottas after passing Hamilton at the start but being unable to catch the other Mercedes
    . Couldn’t contain Ricciardo’s rapid McLaren at the start of the grand prix
    . Very slow pit stop cost him several places and left him fuming at his team
    . Was judged predominantly to blame for the clash with Hamilton and given a three-place grid penalty for the next round

    Clearly sounds like a struggler to me….

    1. Yeah, I do guess there was some place in the struggler’s lane for him, not sure I’d put him as a struggler, he did in the end put in a very good Q3 lap and started the sprint well.

    2. It leaves out a lot of info, verstappen is nowhere near a struggler, he did the maximum he could in quali and in the sprint race, and even in the race, save for the incident (debatable) and the start on sunday.

  12. Very generous star rating for Leclerc I think… he didn’t do anything special and with fresher tyres than those around him should have put up a better fight after the restart. Also I think Norris should probably be a star… excellent teamwork, and he did look as if he had the pace to challenge Ricciardo in the few laps after the restart if he’d been allowed to.

    1. He destroyed his team mate, example in the first stint of the race he was the one keeping pace with leaders.

  13. Keith AG should be spin, not crash

  14. Would add Sainz to the strugglers. Crashing hard and just lucky not to start from the back for the Q race, and subsequently poor position in the race, and far behind a sick team mate in the race.

    1. @balue

      Would add Sainz to the strugglers. Crashing hard and just lucky not to start from the back for the Q race, and subsequently poor position in the race, and far behind a sick team mate in the race.

      I mostly agree. But, out of curiosity, have you ever said Sainz had been unlucky? To this date I’ve only seen the opposite.

      1. @rodewulf Can’t really remember if I have or even when he’s been unlucky. Mostly been lucky his whole career getting a new drive when dropped by teams, and by having gotten on the medias good side.

        Again there’s an article about Sainz today, and guess what? He talks about his crash in the race with Giovinazzi in Monza: “I was lucky to get away with it because the impact was relatively heavy”

        1. @balue

          Mostly been lucky his whole career getting a new drive when dropped by teams, and by having gotten on the medias good side.

          He does indeed, and it’s not quite clear the reason for it. We saw everywhere on media such claims that he has been the driver who adapted to the car the fastest among those who changed teams in 2021, but after two crashes in practice for the last two racing weekends and relatively subpar results they had to revise it a little bit. They had just reinforced this impression mid-season, but in reality his struggles were there, albeit diluted along the season and not impacting too much his results. Sainz has been having his own merits on that due to some good strategy calls he participated in, but he can’t count himself unlucky most of the time, as he admitted in fact.
          But apart from Ricciardo, he never had been that special in adapting to his new car quickly in comparision if one analyses it carefully. Vettel has been clearly better than last year driving for Ferrari (easy quest as he was abysmal, although he still had a “safe enviroment” to do worse but he didn’t); after initially struggling relative to his own standards, Alonso is once again squeezing the last bit of performance from a slower car specially during races, and so on – Sainz’s adaptation never really had been that incredible when you consider other factors than championship points.
          I think pundits let themselves become overly impressed by an apparent superconsistency in Sainz performances as we can’t exactly say at which point of the season he struggled. However, his lows had been still there but gave the impression to be pulverised along the season. Now it’s coming back to haunt him, though, because by the same reason he looked unscathed early on the season by the team change, now he’s starting to look somewhat stagnant within his team relative to performance gains, specially if “true” Ricciardo is really back to the game. At least he admits it now, that’s the first step to really improve.

          1. Yes, but pundits are just taken with a handsome guy talking himself up more than anything. People are hero-worshippers by nature and will fool themselves to make it happen. Here is a son of rally champion with the same name saying how great he is, and people let themselves fall for it, twisting the facts to make it fit.

  15. Fastest in every Friday session – except for Q3, where he was unexpectedly beaten by team mate Bottas

    Well he took a new engine which clearly helped him a lot. Not just in Q3, but also in the Sprint and race.

    1. This was probably a good idea for bottas in hindsight: if he needed an engine in any case before the end of the year, he only lost 10 points here and would’ve been a little slower with the old engine, here and in following tracks, including russia, where he’s usually strong.

  16. Stars: People who think that crash was a racing incident.

  17. @keithcollantine I think you meant third for the sentence below for Bottas (he ended up on the podium)

    Passed Leclerc and inherited fourth from penalised Perez after an unsuccessful move on the Red Bull driver

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