2021 Turkish Grand Prix Star Performers

2021 Turkish Grand Prix

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Mick Schumacher, Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz Jnr were RaceFans’ Star Performers of the Turkish Grand Prix. Here’s why.


Mick Schumacher

  • The star of qualifying – took his Haas into Q2 on merit, beating a McLaren, taking his career-best qualifying result in 14th, and continuing his unbeaten run against Mazepin
  • Still 15th at the end of lap one, he was taken out by Alonso and fell behind team mate
  • Caught Mazepin rapidly during the first stint and got back ahead through the pit stops
  • Pulled out a gap of over 20 seconds to Mazepin before taking the chequered flag in 19th

Valtteri Bottas

  • Out-qualified Max Verstappen by two tenths of a second to take pole position after Hamilton’s grid penalty was applied
  • Led comfortably for the first 37 laps of the race after a clean start
  • Pounced on the opportunity to take the lead back from Charles Leclerc after pitting for a new set of intermediates
  • Stamped his first win since Russia in 2020, with a fastest lap on the final lap to secure the bonus point
  • An all-around flawless race performance after his struggles in last year’s Turkish Grand Prix

Carlos Sainz Jnr

  • Finished ninth in Q1, bumping Daniel Ricciardo out to advance to Q2 on his last flying lap of qualifying
  • Gained one more grid spot, thanks to Ricciardo’s power unit change
  • Worked his way into the top ten by lap 14, with only a little help from incidents in front of him
  • Could have easily finished higher than eighth, if not for a slow pit stop on lap 36
  • Gained 11 places, the most of any driver

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Daniel Ricciardo

Ricciardo didn’t look comfortable in damp conditions
  • Couldn’t get a clean lap in during Q1 and failed to reach Q2 for the first time since Portugal, less than a tenth below the cut line in 16th place
  • Took a grid penalty to change power units on race day – but had only moved from 20th up to 16th after 20 laps
  • Asked over the radio to change tyres early due to lack of front grip; pitted on lap 21 and dropped to 18th ahead of both Haas drivers, while struggling to get grip into the rear tyres
  • Moved up to 11th before the tyres fell off again, dropping him to 13th at the chequered flag – his worst result since Styria

Nikita Mazepin

  • Qualified 2.8 seconds slower than team mate Mick Schumacher, slowest of the pack in Q1, while spinning off twice
  • Got ahead of Schumacher early in the race after his team mate was hit by Alonso, but ended up back behind Schumacher after both drivers pitted for new intermediate tyres
  • Finished the race with no major incidents, but his pace dropped off dramatically in the final laps as he took the chequered flag in 20th

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And the rest

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Istanbul Park, 2021
Verstappen led the way at Red Bull, Perez impressed in race
  • Once again out-qualified team mate Perez by over half a second in Q3, but just missed out on the pole position from Bottas after admitting he made an error with his battery deployment
  • Started second, and effectively ran second for the entirety of the race
  • Only problem in the race came in the form of a minor technical worries relating to his gear change display and steering wheel
  • Second place finish moved him six points clear of Lewis Hamilton for the lead in the drivers’ championship with six races left

Sergio Perez

  • Recovered from a spin in qualifying to line up sixth on the grid, his best starting position since the end of the summer break
  • Made a forceful start off the line, lunging up the inside of Gasly, who clashed with Alonso while Perez jumped to fourth
  • Superb duel for fourth place with Hamilton, which saw a great display of late braking from Perez to regain a position it seemed he would lose
  • Had plenty of grip in his second set of intermediates by lap 51, where he overtook Leclerc at turn 12 to secure third place
  • Made a much needed return to the podium, his first since France

Charles Leclerc

  • Wrangled a low downforce setting to put his Ferrari third on the grid, behind Bottas and Verstappen
  • Maintained third place from the start and, like many other drivers, found more grip once the intermediate tyres had been worn down to some degree
  • Moved to the lead when Bottas and Verstappen pitted, revealing their strategy to try and finish the race on a single set of intermediates
  • The wear was too great by the time Leclerc conceded the lead to Bottas on lap 47, at which point Ferrari brought him in for fresh rubber
  • Missed out on a podium as he was overtaken by Perez while struggling with graining after his pit stop

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Istanbul Park, 2021
No pole for Hamilton despite leading qualifying
  • Showcased supreme speed throughout the weekend leading up to the race – leading both Friday sessions and all three phases of qualifying
  • Began working his way up from 11th on the grid, following a tough scrap in the first few laps with Yuki Tsunoda
  • Demonstrated superior race pace during the middle stages of the race, even on worn intermediate tyres, and fought hard with Perez
  • Spurred the team to leave him out until pitting on lap 51, a decision which Hamilton complained about, but held his position despite graining tyres after returning to the track

Pierre Gasly

  • Finished every phase of qualifying in the top five, en route to a fourth place grid position
  • Went into turn one between Perez and Alonso, made contact with Alonso and received a five second time penalty
  • Settled right back into the groove after serving the time penalty during his pit stop, holding sixth place behind Hamilton and Leclerc
  • Bounced back from two non-scoring results in succession to get back in the points in sixth

Lando Norris

  • Strongest of the McLaren drivers throughout practice and in qualifying, where he qualified eighth and started seventh
  • Maximised the number of points available in a McLaren known to struggle in long, medium-speed corners that proliferate most of the Istanbul Park circuit
  • Gradually closed in on Gasly towards the end of the race, ultimately settling for seventh position

Lance Stroll

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Istanbul Park, 2021
Stroll coped better with a wet track than he did at Sochi
  • Made it to Q3 in Istanbul once again, but fell way short of his impressive pole position from last year with ninth place
  • Started well, didn’t offer much resistance against Hamilton who was on the move from 11th, and held eighth place for much of the race
  • Fell down to tenth after a slow pit stop for a second set of intermediates, but eventually got past a struggling Esteban Ocon to regain ninth place at the end

Esteban Ocon

  • After strong results in practice, failed to make the cut for Q3 after sliding wide on his final run and having to back off to avoid his team mate, who was letting him through
  • Saw an opportunity to challenge for points – after theorising that it could have worked last year on the old track surface, he and his team committed to running the whole race on one set of intermediate tyres
  • While Leclerc and Hamilton ultimately folded their strategic hands, Ocon remained committed after climbing to eighth
  • Eventually his tyres gave out near the end, losing several seconds per lap – overtaken by Stroll for ninth, and only just held off Giovinazzi for tenth

Antonio Giovinazzi

Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, Istanbul Park, 2021
Points narrowly eluded Giovinazzi
  • Qualified ahead of Raikkonen once again, lining up 16th on the grid
  • A brilliant opening lap saw him jump four positions up to 12th, where he remained until being overtaken by Sainz’s Ferrari
  • Overtook Ricciardo to move up to eleventh, setting up a chance to pass Ocon with his worn tyres for the final points position
  • Took almost five seconds out of Ocon on the final lap and chased the Alpine across the finishing line, narrowly falling short of the final point

Kimi Raikkonen

  • Finished 1.048 seconds adrift of Giovinazzi in Q1, the second-slowest driver in the field ahead of only Mazepin
  • From 17th on the grid, gained a four positions on the opening lap thanks in some part to Alonso and Latifi’s incidents
  • Followed Giovinazzi along as both Alfa Romeos got past Ricciardo with less than two laps remaining; consolidating 12th place for Raikkonen

Yuki Tsunoda

  • Found the confidence needed in mixed conditions to advance to Q3 for the first time since Austria
  • Had a spirited duel with Lewis Hamilton for several laps, eventually conceding his position to the reigning champion on lap eight, but saying afterwards he took a lot out of his tyres by doing so
  • Dropped out of the points positions following a spin on lap 22
  • Overtaken by Raikkonen and fell to 14th before his pit stop, which became his eventual finishing position, his fifth consecutive non-score

George Russell

  • Made it to Q2 for the 15th time this year, and had a decent lap going with a Q3 berth in sight until he ran wide at the final corner on his last attempt
  • Not his best opening lap, dropping from 13th on the grid to 14th behind Raikkonen and eventually, down to 15th as Sainz went through from the final row
  • Spent much of the race running ahead of Alonso, even holding off the two-time world champion to consolidate 15th place

Fernando Alonso

Poll: Should Gasly have been penalised for first-corner tangle with Alonso?
  • Soundly quick through all phases of qualifying, going nearly a full second quicker than Ocon in Q2 – which parlayed into his best grid position of the year
  • Alonso’s great qualifying effort was undone in just one corner, after collision with Gasly dropped him to 16th after the first lap
  • Received no sympathy for his unforced collision into Schumacher on lap two, which eventually resulted in a five second time penalty
  • Spent the remainder of the race scrapping with George Russell, but couldn’t make the move up to 15th; his 16th place finish is his worst result since Spain

Nicholas Latifi

  • Couldn’t find the extra three tenths needed to advance to Q2 for the fifth time this season
  • Paid the price for an unforced opening lap spin, dropping him all the way to the back of the field
  • Overtook both Haas drivers on track, then gained a bonus position when Vettel’s slick tyre gamble backfired massively
  • Consolidated 17th position, within 10 seconds of Russell ahead of him

Sebastian Vettel

  • Received the blessing of starting inside the top ten with free tyre selection, after missing Q3 by less than two tenths of a second
  • With the track drying, Vettel and his team took a chance to switch to slick tyres on lap 36 with the hope of a dry line forming on the track
  • That dry line never formed, and instead of surging through the field, he slipped and spun his way down to 18th in just one lap
  • Race pace stabilised after going back to intermediates, though it will have been little consolation for finishing 18th after running in the points for more than half the race

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

RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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27 comments on “2021 Turkish Grand Prix Star Performers”

  1. Stars: BOT, & SAI
    Strugglers: RIC, & VET

    1. I kind of like the gamble Vettel took though. It didn’t pay off, sure, but kudos for the attempt. Better than othrs such as Latifi, Raikkonnen who also achieved nothing but seemed to simply phone it in instead of trying.

      1. Wouldn’t it have been more clever to at least use soft tyres? You know softs are better in wet conditions.

        1. While the softs would have been better for some laps they most propably wouldn’t have made it to the end.

    2. @jerejj
      Finally you made a short list of stars/struggles. The bigger the list, more arbitrary it usually becomes.

  2. Checo surely a star?

    1. Not good enough qualifying I think, he had one of the best races of the season.

    2. Absolutely. Checo’s defense was the best piece of driving in the whole weekend by far. Should have done a better quali anyway

    3. This site has always had a bias against him, look the way every bullet is worded. “had plenty of grip” the fact is he overtook Leclerc, grip or not grip. “Made a forceful start off the line, lunging up the inside of Gasly, who clashed with Alonso while Perez jumped to fourth”…. now in all fairness we all know qualifying is not his best and there’s room for improvement there.

  3. Sainz a star and not Leclerc is bizarre.

    What is it with people thinking someone coming through the field from the back is the biggest feat in motor racing? We see it the official driver of the day vote as well. Here he’s hailed for making Q2?

    Leclerc qualified almost as fast as a Red Bull and Mercedes, and even had the same pace as Verstappen in the race with a low downforce setup on a wet track. If that’s not a star performance I don’t know what is.

    1. @balue

      What is it with people thinking someone coming through the field from the back is the biggest feat in motor racing?

      They even did conclude that Leclerc was the Driver of the Day for the Austria I race, in which he caused his own misfortune and charged through the field. They don’t recognise the real value of a solid drive, even more if that doesn’t look too much interesting on TV. Ruled by the shallow.

      1. @balue
        But it has to be said that this time Sainz really deserved a Star distinction, as he haven’t performed badly or done any noticeable mistake hidden behind his relatively good result, although the fact that Leclerc is not a Star Performer here – who clearly also deserved – might go down as the favouritism he enjoys on this site (even more than Hamilton).

        1. But it has to be said that this time Sainz really deserved a Star distinction, as he haven’t performed badly or done any noticeable mistake hidden behind his relatively good result

          Or he didn’t deserve for the same reason as Gasly, hitting another driver.

    2. Well it’s not like Sainz dropped out in Q2 because of lack of pace, he came into the weekend knowing he’d start 20th and didn’t even set a lap in Q2, they only went out with him in Q1 to satisfy the 107% rule and avoid the extra paperwork procedures to have him participate in the race without setting a lap in qualifying. Considering he was in a slower car than Hamilton and progressed at roughly the same rate through the field, i think a ‘star performer’ accolade for him is more than justified.

      Leclerc had a good weekend and drove an excellent race, but don’t forget that he isn’t blameless in the strategic call that lost him his podium position, Sainz on the other hand made no such mistake and didn’t finish higher than he did only because of a mistake by the team during the very well timed pit stop. They could’ve both been stars of the weekend, but if you’d have to choose one, Sainz would have to be it.

      1. In the end Sainz went out in Q1 to set a lap and achieved bumping Ricciardo in the McLaren out in Q1. And he also went on track in Q2 to give Leclerc a critical tow to even get into Q3 @xenn1, however I must agree with @balue here, that it is somewhat awkward that the faster of the Ferrari drivers, who did a great job qualifying to start in 3rd and kept it there with a daring strategy to lead the race for a while and finished 4th only due to switching to new tyres a few laps too late to get them up and running before Perez was able to make a move. I would say he does deserve to be meant as a star.

        1. @bascb yeah i agree with you, it’s not like Leclerc wouldn’t deserve it if he was a star of the weekend, but between the two i feel Sainz did a better job on the whole, the comment i initially replied to seemed to imply that Sainz started from the back of the grid due to his own mistakes, which was very much not the case and shouldn’t be used as an argument against his performance over the weekend.

          1. @xenn1 In no way was it implied that Sainz started from the back of the grid due to his own mistakes. I don’t know how you could possibly infer that from my comment.

      2. @xenn1 Leclerc had no way of knowing the tyre wear. The team did as Sainz had already been in, plus all the other data they have related to tyres. The only one to make a mistake was Sainz when made a bonehead kamikaze move and crashed into Vettel. Just luck nothing happened and no penalty (which it should really have been).

        1. @balue

          Leclerc had no way of knowing the tyre wear.

          We all know Ferrari has been bad in strategy calls by more than a decade, but somehow Alonso made it work there. Leclerc could do the same if he was a complete driver. He’s very fast but lack experience.

  4. One of those weekends with no clear brightest star.

  5. What exactly did Bottas do better than Max, aside from having the better car for this race? Bottas did get outqualified by his team mate, while Max didn’t. Seems a bit silly to basically give Bottas a star rating due to Lewis getting a penalty. There have been a gazillion races where Mercedes had the better car, Lewis qualified ahead and comfortly kept that spot to the end, but didn’t get a star rating. Yet that’s clearly better than what Bottas did today.

    Isn’t ranking Bottas as a star just the typical judging relative to the driver’s normal level, which I see here so often…

    Anyway, my star ratings go to Mick and Leclerc, who got screwed over by Ferrari strategists.

    1. He stayed in front of Max in the wet which was unexpected…

      1. @macleod

        That’s only because Bottas is typically poor in the wet, but that’s exactly what I mean: he’s getting compared to his expected performance, not to a generic standard.

    2. I think what gives Bottas the nod is below 2 reasons:
      1) His performance towards the last 5 laps was immense. He was anywhere between 1-2 seconds faster than all drivers on the track. His final Fastest lap is I think is more than 2s faster than anyone bar Carlos Sainz
      2) He maintained a very good buffer to Max throughout the race allowing Mercedes the strategic option of simply pitting when Max pits. Had he not done that, he also would have got into the debates / guesswork that Lewis, Charles got into.

      1. Bottas shouldn’t get a star distinction just because he was better than Hamilton in the race. Being outqualified roughly levels out, and the fastest car by quite a margin flattered them this weekend.

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