2021 United States Grand Prix Star Performers

2021 United States Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel were RaceFans’ Star Performers of the United States Grand Prix. Here’s why.


Max Verstappen

  • Took pole position despite spots of rain falling on his final lap
  • Made a slightly slower start than Hamilton and lost the lead to him
  • Pursued the Mercedes driver closely throughout the first stint and delivered a superb out-lap after pitting to move into position to take the lead
  • Managed his tyres carefully over a long final stint to beat Hamilton to the flag by little over a second

Lewis Hamilton

  • Qualified second, beating his team mate and splitting the Red Bulls
  • Took advantage of the useful second place grid position to claim the lead at the start
  • The Mercedes clearly wasn’t a match for the Red Bull on the medium tyre compound and Verstappen swarmed all over him in the first stint
  • After losing the lead to Verstappen he eked his tyres out over the opening stints to attack at the end of the race
  • Slashed Verstappen’s lead in the final stint but couldn’t draw within DRS range early enough to attack before the chequered flag

Charles Leclerc

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2021
The midfield scrap quickly faded in Leclerc’s mirrors
  • Outqualified his team mate by nearly two-tenths of a second and beat both McLarens
  • Decisively quicker than the other cars in his ‘class’, pulled away comfortably and was almost 25 seconds ahead of them when the race ended

Sebastian Vettel

  • Had a strong qualifying, given his grid penalty – placed best of the drivers starting from the back, while still having free tyre choice
  • Made up three places at the start and continued his progress during the middle stint, which both Aston Martins did on mediums
  • Based Giovinazzi and benefited from Raikkonen’s spin to claim the final point, only two second behind Tsunoda in ninth

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Nikita Mazepin

Nikita Mazepin, Haas, Circuit of the Americas, 2021
Extra stop notwithstanding, Mazepin was far behind Schumacher
  • Lost out to his team mate in qualifying by three tenths of a second – one of his smaller gaps to Schumacher
  • Was delayed early in the race pitting to have a loose headrest fixed. Also suffered a burning sensation in the footwell of his cockpit during the race
  • Took the chequered flag nearly a minute and a half behind Schumacher having made an extra pit stop, which he estimated cost an extra 25 seconds

Lando Norris

  • Blamed himself for late-lap errors losing time in qualifying, putting him behind both Ferraris and his team mate
  • Passed Sainz on the inside of turn 12 at the start, though the Ferrari driver held the position by going off
  • Sainz eventually relinquished the place on lap eight, but immediately re-passed Norris, who didn’t seem to notice his rival diving for the inside at turn 12
  • Came in eighth, dissatisfied with his afternoon’s work

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And the rest

Valtteri Bottas

  • Qualified fourth, failing to minimise the impact of his five-place grid penalty
  • Started the grand prix ninth, fell behind Tsunoda and was told to let Gasly past after running wide at turn one
  • Passed Tsunoda after their pit stops and took Sainz with two laps to go for sixth place, albeit 78 seconds behind his team mate

Sergio Perez

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Circuit of the Americas, 2021
Unwell Perez played his part in Red Bull’s race tactics
  • Was quickest after the first runs in Q3 but fell to third, blaming the rain which started to fall at the end of the session
  • Was unwell during the weekend, suffered diarrhoea at one stage, and a broken drinks system made for a punishing race
  • Stayed close enough to Hamilton to play a strategically useful role in the first stint, but dropped back in the second as he had to use mediums while the others ran hards
  • Finished on the podium, albeit over 40 second behind his team mate

Daniel Ricciardo

  • Outqualified his team mate eight hundredths of a second but failed to get ahead of the Ferraris
  • Was somewhat fortunate to get ahead of Sainz at the start, who mistakenly waved him by believing he was Norris
  • Kept Sainz behind with some robust – or as his rival put it, “dirty” – defending
  • Took fifth place, well behind the other Ferrari of Leclerc

Lance Stroll

  • Went out in Q1, blaming timing of his lap
  • Was knocked into a spin at turn one by Latifi at the start
  • Elected not to pit for front wing repairs due to the potential time loss
  • Ran medium tyres in the middle stint, like his team mate, and passed Raikkonen for 12th place on the final lap

Esteban Ocon

  • Failed to make Q3, despite his team mate being on hand to assist with a tow
  • Lost two places at the start and damaged his front wing which forced him into the pits early
  • Was running 17th when he retired in the second half of the race with an unspecified car problem

Fernando Alonso

  • Made it through to Q2 and would have started last of the drivers who took grid penalties had Russell’s lap time not been deleted
  • Complained again that other drivers gained positions by going off at turn one at the start
  • Gained three places at the start
  • Was infuriated at being passed off-track by Raikkonen on lap 16
  • Went off himself passing Giovinazzi and had to give that place back
  • Passed Giovinazzi but the Alfa Romeo driver went off to keep his place and had to give it back
  • Retired with a rear wing failure

Carlos Sainz Jnr

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2021
Report: “Dirty” contact with Sainz wasn’t deliberate, says Ricciardo
  • Regretted being locked into starting on the soft tyres after not managing to get through Q2 on the mediums
  • Qualified behind Leclerc but beat both McLarens
  • Went off at turn 12 on the first lap while fighting the McLarens. Correctly realised he had to let Norris by, but waved Ricciardo through by mistake
  • Eventually let Norris by on lap eight, but did it close enough to the DRS detection point that he was able to swiftly re-pass his rival
  • Recovered the lost ground to Ricciardo and tried, unsuccessfully, to pass the other McLaren, taking seventh place

Pierre Gasly

  • AlphaTauri weren’t quick in practice but both cars made it into Q3
  • Gasly qualified ahead of his team mate and arguably did the best job he could have, given the AlphaTauri’s relative pace to cars ahead and Q3 shaking out in team order
  • Lost places to his team mate and Bottas at the start, though the Mercedes driver had to relinquish the place
  • Having qualified and started on mediums, was infuriated at being left behind his team mate as his soft tyres went off
  • His race didn’t last long after Tsunoda pitted – he retired as a suspension problem put him out

Yuki Tsunoda

  • Reached Q3 again, although had to use soft tyres to do so. Qualified slowest of the top ten, eight-tenths of a second off his team mate
  • Passed Gasly at the start and held Bottas behind
  • Ran two stints on the hard tyre to secure ninth place, two second ahead of Vettel

Kimi Raikkonen

A late spin ended Raikkonen’s points hopes
  • Out in Q1 and slower than both Williams – while his team mate beat them
  • Made another of his usual good starts, gaining three places
  • Had all four wheels off the track when he overtook Alonso on lap 16 yet was allowed to keep the position, to Alonso’s displeasure
  • Moved ahead of his team mate but a late spin on 21-lap-old hard tyres dropped him to 12th before he was passed by Stroll

Antonio Giovinazzi

  • Made it through to Q2, was able to beat his team mate and one Williams but would have been slower than Russell, had the Williams driver’s lap time been allowed
  • Moved up to 11th at the start but pitted early for another set of mediums
  • Let his team mate by and was passed by Vettel, but regained a place when Raikkonen spun at the end, finishing 11th for the second race in a row

Mick Schumacher

  • Outqualified his team mate as usual
  • Dived up the inside of turn one at the start to the consternation of Latifi, who blamed it for his tangle with Stroll
  • Inadvertently played a role in the fight for the lead by first delaying Verstappen on the penultimate lap, then giving him the benefit of DRS, though he complied with the blue flag signals
  • Finished far ahead of his team mate

George Russell

George Russell, Williams, Circuit of the Americas, 2021
Russell got away well from the back of the grid
  • Reached Q2, which was as far as he wanted to progress to preserve free tyre choice for his back of grid start
  • Strayed beyond track limits on his Q2 lap, his time was deleted and he had to start last of those with grid penalties
  • Made a terrific start, gaining six places to run 14th
  • Finished in that position but was unable to keep the Aston Martin drivers behind him

Nicholas Latifi

  • Went out in Q1 again, nearly three-tenths of a second slower than his team mate, who was able to reach Q2
  • First-corner tangle with Stroll was a racing incident, though it left him 19th and he had to make an early pit stop
  • Managed to make a two-stop strategy work despite coming in early and recovered to finish 15th, one place and half a minute behind Russell

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...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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29 comments on “2021 United States Grand Prix Star Performers”

  1. Reading this I’d think that Hamilton performed better than Verstappen in this race.

    1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
      26th October 2021, 14:13

      That happens if the owner of the website is Lewis biased – same reason why Hamilton has not been listed as a struggler this season.

      1. maybe that’s the sign for you to quit commenting here then.

        you won’t be missed.

        1. Edvaldo, this is not a civilized way to communicate. I love F1 but it’s not something worthy of losing basic human decency. I also don’t understand the logic when someone wants to communicate only people who think absolutely the same. There’s no point to such communication, it’s like ping-pong. I shared my impression, but I do appreciate this blog; I don’t have to concur with everything written here. That’s why we have the comment section… As for Lewis Hamilton, I think he drove really well, but he did have the fastest car (I don’t think he would disagree himself) and he did finish behind someone else after having no issues during the race, even faster pit stops and pretty decent strategy. I’d have to rate that other guy as a better performer in this case. If owner of this blog thinks differently that won’t cause me to leave his blog or go harsh on him, but as I said and I’ll repeat myself, I can politely disagree. I wish you could do the same, but never mind.

          1. Actually Dex this is a website funded in part by commentators and members.

            Your extended note regarding the Mercedes being faster this weekend is at odds with virtually all the professional pundits analysis. Just a look at the second car can tell you that.

            Thus, quite fairly regardless of the mindless commentary below yours, Hamilton drove well.

            Otherwise it would not have been a good race.

          2. Dex, look again, my comment was a reply to the dutch guy, not you.

    2. No surprises here at hammyfans.net

      1. I can’t see it. You folks sure you’re not just trying a little too hard and looking for it yourselves?

        1. @robbie I believe the backlash to the Monaco ratings for Hamilton was such it had to be changed, or at least bias admitted so it’s there. Don’t have to look hard at all. Remember this was ‘fanatic’ before it became just ‘fans’.

          1. Agree monaco was ridiculous, however after that I searched between the old ranking articles on this site, back when there were 1 to 5 stars example in 2016, and I found some races marked insufficient for hamilton, 1-2 stars, which I would think would qualify as struggler currently.

    3. Maybe because he did. He finished 1 second behind a car with one of the most significant performance advantages we’ve seen all year. The sort of drive that when Max was doing it last year (but not coming as close), was proof he is the greatest driver of all time.

      1. That’s an exageration, he’s not the greatest driver of all time, but he certainly had one of the best cars ever on average across his career. Verstappen did not have any performance advantage, mercedes was faster on hards (most of the race), red bull faster on mediums.

  2. Stars: VER, HAM, PER, & LEC
    Strugglers: BOT, NOR, STR, & MAZ.

    1. With Perez being a star, I think that has to mostly be a sympathy vote. Partly because it is one of the very few times he’s put in a decent performance this year, and the other being what he had to put up with during the race, which will have been unpleasant. However, it should be mentioned that out of the 10 times 2 team mates have been on the podium this season, this was the biggest gap out of all of them.

      Stroll got Spun by Latifi and suffered damage. He didn’t actually look much worse than Vettel to me, who was very solid. Stroll underperformed a bit in qualifying, but was unlucky in the race.

      1. @thegianthogweed Admittedly, I could’ve left Stroll out for the same argument as Latifi & Ocon, i.e., being unlucky at T1.
        Perez, I wouldn’t have included if he didn’t have the drink issue.
        That was the contributor for my choice rather than finishing P3, which alone is nothing special, considering his gap to the first two.

  3. Not sure I agree with Norris, the McLaren just didn’t look great at that track, definitely the 4th fastest car. And with no retirements or issues ahead, 7-8th was probably the best he could do.

    1. someone or something
      26th October 2021, 14:59

      7-8th was probably the best he could do

      Considering Ricciardo finished 5th in the same car – clearly not.
      Though calling him a struggler for that is definitely harsh and only makes sense in the context of his usually much better performances.

      1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
        26th October 2021, 16:05

        Why is Bottas than not a struggler – clearly in a faster car than Mclaren or Ferrari yet only managed to finish 6th?

        Norris finished less than 8 seconds behind Riccardio but is called a struggler in the 4th fastest car finishing 8th.
        Bottas finished 78 seconds behind Lewis and isn’t called a struggler despite being in 2nd fastest car on mediums and fastest car on hards finishing 6th?

        Both had a bad first lap, both could have done better in qualifying but at least Norris stayed a lot closer to his teammate.

        Now writing this you should call Sainz a struggler before Norris, Sainz had a faster car as proven by Leclerc yet only finished less than a second ahead of Norris in 7th. Failed to get into Q3 on mediums and also had a poor start despite being on the soft tire. Sainz finished more than 30 seconds down from his team mate.

        1. someone or something
          26th October 2021, 17:24

          You’re not completely wrong, but I don’t think I’m the right target for your dissatisfaction with this categorisation.

        2. @jelle-van-der-meer

          Why is Bottas than not a struggler – clearly in a faster car than Mclaren or Ferrari yet only managed to finish 6th?

          Because there’s a slightly but noticeable pro-Mercedes bias on this site, what makes Hamilton never be categorised as a struggler even when he pretty much deserved it and Bottas is a struggler here only when he’s utterly dreadful.

    2. Agree the Norris rating seems a bit harsh

  4. Looks about the same way I saw it. Might have added Bottas in the struggler category, though, because (unlike the other ‘elite driver team-mate’) he was healthy and not used by the team strategically, but still performed poorly.

  5. Norris was not a struggler. He wasn’t far off Ricciardo and right on Sainz’s tail. Ocon struggled, Latifi struggled, Mazepin struggled, Raikkonen struggled (spinning), Raikkonen struggled, Alonso struggled (proving point, racing over aggreesively)

  6. DR has finally started to come to terms with the McLaren, great to see, Seidl even said that this was on par if not better than his Monza drive. This track at the start of the year would’ve highlighted some of his early weaknesses. The bias in the reporting against DR on this site is getting ridiculous, he beats his team mate and a faster Ferrari on track and yet the way it is written up he lucked into the position and played dirty to keep it, even when Sainz himself said he would have done the same thing, and the commentators said it was just racing.

    1. Took fifth place, well behind the other Ferrari of Leclerc

      Obviously DR wasn’t good enough to beat both faster Ferraris. But he did beat our Lando, and that may well be unforgivable.

  7. Also Bottas struggled. On the positive side Tsonada had his best F1 race ever. Ahead of Bottas and Gasly in early stages and best of rest of rest.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      27th October 2021, 11:41

      Did he replace Tsunoda?

  8. Verstappen was the main Star of this race as a matter of fact and in performance levels as well, even though Leclerc and Hamilton were on par with him in many measures and they both performed very well, he did pull something even more special this time. I voted for him for DOTW. An honorary mention goes to Ricciardo for his inspired display, whilst Vettel and Tsunoda deserve a nod too after breaking their barren run of points finishes, despite their performances not being particularly spectacular.
    Alonso is a special case from all those mentioned, as he performed his daring adventures on track as usual, but this time he needed to take higher risks in order to increase the relatively small chance to achieve anything in this race given the grid penalties. His race was strong (he was running 11th after starting from 19th before commiting to an aggressive 3-stop strategy to maximise his chances of overtaking rivals ahead) albeit not all of his passes and defensive maneuvers were smooth, given the circunstances of not having the luxury to choose battles and allow track positions lost when finding himself on the verge of the points in a particularly uncompetitive weekend for Alpine. But he got a lot of criticism for that, partially justified. No doubt it wasn’t one of his most pretty races, as he had to try something cheeky or even a little reckless to stand any chance of finishing at least 10th, but it also had plenty of nice stuff too, which went unseen. Only polemical topics or approaches get valued enough, sadly. Fernando is probably tired of all this fuss about the rule loopholes now, just wishing to go back to points scoring consistency once again. It was fun for a while. Unfortunately, Russia and Turkey were probably Alpine’s best chances of a podium for the last part of the season, unless some surprise comes around. Luck really departed him and Alpine as a whole for the last three GPs.

  9. As you can see, 4 stars are absolutely possible if the author feels like there’s 4, so those arguments “this one should have been a star but there’s only a maximum of 3” make no sense.

    Agree with having hamilton, leclerc, verstappen as stars, and true, vettel recovered well, also agree that norris is probably a struggler only in virtue of his typical performances.

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