2021 Mexico City Grand Prix Star Performers

2021 Mexico City Grand Prix

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Pierre Gasly, Max Verstappen, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were RaceFans’ Star Performers of the Mexico City Grand Prix. Here’s why.


Pierre Gasly

  • Made good on his optimism of being able to perform in Mexico City’s high altitude, qualifying fifth as the ‘best of the rest’ in his Honda-powered AlphaTauri
  • Got up to fourth place after Bottas was knocked out of contention, with only Verstappen, Hamilton, and Perez ahead of him on track
  • Had more than enough pace in hand to keep the Ferrari tandem of Leclerc and Sainz at bay over the course of the race – finishing 17 seconds ahead of Leclerc at the end
  • Capped off a ‘perfect weekend’ with a fourth place result, and twelve points to bring AlphaTauri level with Alpine in the constructors championship

Max Verstappen

  • Led second practice and was favourite to win pole position, but losing part of his rear wing at the end of final practice became an omen for qualifying
  • Could only manage third place on the grid after being caught up in Perez’s and Tsunoda’s incident at the end of Q3
  • Wasted no time atoning for qualifying disappointment with a rocket start off the line, and millimetre-perfect braking to swoop past the Mercedes at turn one for the lead
  • Overwhelmed any and all potential challengers with his pace from start to finish, taking his ninth win of the season, edging closer to the championship with every passing weekend

Kimi Raikkonen

Raikkonen raced into the points again
  • Collected reprimands for a track limits error in practice and violating the pit entry rules after Q1 was red flagged
  • Out-qualified Giovinazzi for the second time in the last four races, and moved up to tenth on the grid with free tyre selection after Tsunoda and Norris’ grid penalties were applied
  • After losing ground at the start largely due to others going off around him, rose into the top 10 with relative ease
  • Matched his season best finish of eighth place, holding off Alonso and Norris, bringing Alfa Romeo’s points total into double digits

Sebastian Vettel

  • Benefitted from Tsunoda and Norris’ grid penalties to start ninth – with free tyre choice – after coming 0.273 seconds short of getting to Q3
  • Ran solidly inside the top 10 for most of the race after avoiding the opening lap crash
  • Encouraged that he did not fall behind the Ferrari duo of Sainz and Leclerc as much as before
  • Came away with a seventh place finish, scoring his best result in a complete grand prix since finishing second at Azerbaijan

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Lance Stroll

Stroll suffered a setback with a crash in qualifying
  • Was already due to start from the back of the grid due to power unit element changes, then crashed out during Q1 after getting onto the dust at Peraltada, resulting in an overnight repair job
  • Ran off track early in an attempt to overtake Ricciardo on track, though he did make a fairly strong pass on Russell with no headaches
  • Flattered to finish 14th, one lap behind Vettel, and never looking like a factor to crack the points in any stage of the race

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And the rest

Lewis Hamilton

  • Worked through balance issues throughout the weekend, right up until it came good in qualifying – as he brought up second place in a Mercedes front row lock-out
  • Made a good enough launch to get past team mate Bottas – but was by Verstappen around the outside
  • Was at risk of conceding second to Perez after pitting before the Red Bulls, but was able to gain track positions with a strong sequence of opening laps and maintain second place
  • Had just enough in hand to keep Perez at bay on the last lap of the race, finishing in second place – losing another seven points to Verstappen in the championship with four races left

Valtteri Bottas

  • Wasn’t particularly fancied for a good weekend in Mexico City but led first practice, Q1, and then took his second pole position in three races with a blistering lap early in Q3
  • Swarmed by Verstappen and Hamilton at the start, then punted off at turn one by Ricciardo in the start of a long-feared first corner skirmish in the pack
  • Spending several laps after the collision stuck behind Ricciardo on track certainly would not have been enjoyable, but not as painful as a slow pit stop on lap 42 caused by trouble with the left front wheel
  • Taking the fastest lap bonus with a course record was hardly a solace for a 15th place result, two laps off the lead, on a weekend that had so much more to offer

Sergio Perez

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2021
Perez chased Hamilton but had to settle for third
  • Fastest in final practice but qualified fourth after going off track behind Yuki Tsunoda in a braking zone, which became the hottest post-qualifying talking point of the day
  • Led six laps in front of his home crowd as he ran long on his first stint, giving him the chance to start his second stint with fresher tyres than Hamilton ahead of him
  • Closed down the margin to Hamilton, lap after lap, until he was within DRS range of Hamilton with ten laps remaining
  • One last gasp push to get past Hamilton didn’t quite work out – but Perez took the honours of being the first Mexican driver to stand on the podium in their home grand prix

Lando Norris

  • Aided Ricciardo in qualifying by giving his team mate a slipstream, as Norris had a back-of-grid penalty for power unit element changes
  • Even still, he got to Q3 on the medium compound tyres – a big statement of intent after McLaren entered the weekend cautious about their prospects of success
  • Soldiered on through the field after the opening lap, into the top 10 in less than 20 laps, and up to seventh by the time he pitted for new tyres
  • Ensured the day would not be a total write-off for McLaren as he finished tenth for a single championship point

Daniel Ricciardo

Poll: Should Ricciardo have been penalised for first-lap collision with Bottas?
  • Made great improvements over the weekend to advance into Q3 – with some help from the slipstream provided by Norris
  • Might have been able to qualify sixth if not for a mistake at the Foro Sol complex on his final Q3 lap
  • Tipped pole winner Valtteri Bottas into a spin at the first corner after locking up, fortunate not to incur a penalty for his role in the incident
  • Had an awkward run-in with Stroll shortly after, and other than staying ahead of Bottas for much of the race, failed to gain significant ground en route to a 12th place finish

Esteban Ocon

  • Q2 appearance was a surprise, especially after it was confirmed that he would take a back of grid penalty for power unit element changes
  • Amazingly kept running with no major trouble, despite being hit by both Schumacher and Tsunoda at the Ese Moises Solana on the opening lap
  • Demonstrated a level of ‘fighting spirit as he made good overtakes in the start of the race on soft tyres and gained six places from the start to finish in 13th
  • Came away feeling upbeat about the improvements made over the weekend – even if there were no points to show for it

Fernando Alonso

  • Had the speed to advance to Q2 before Q1 was red-flagged, then couldn’t put together a fast enough lap after the session resumed, resulting in a Q1 elimination for the first time since Monaco
  • Thankful, and fortunate, not to be a casualty of the turn one incident – nor to be overtaken beyond the track limits at turn one as he feared going into the weekend
  • Maximised the opportunities available after starting on a fresh set of medium tyres, managing them for more than half distance
  • From 12th on the grid, finished in ninth, his best result in five visits to Mexico City for his career – far more than what may have been expected from Alpine at Mexico

Charles Leclerc

Report: Ferrari praise drivers’ “team spirit” after swapping places twice
  • Disappointed after qualifying, finishing eighth and last out of the Q3 runners that weren’t guaranteed to start at the back – even if he was less than a tenth away from Sainz
  • Passed Sainz on the opening lap, and went for an early pit stop to try and pressure Gasly into a two-stop strategy
  • Fell off during his stint on the hard tyres, and swapped places with Sainz with on lap 59
  • Being swapped back into fifth place at the end was not necessarily representative of Leclerc’s race performance

Carlos Sainz Jnr

  • Maximised his Q3 result by qualifying sixth, albeit a quarter of a second behind Gasly
  • Ran behind Leclerc for the early portion of the race, opting to go long on his first stint on the medium tyres and making it work with savvy tyre management
  • Pushed hard on his second stint, and got his request fulfilled to swap places with Leclerc in a bid to chase down Gasly for fourth late in the race
  • When he couldn’t close in on the AlphaTauri ahead of him, he conceded a 6.4 second advantage over Leclerc to let his team mate back through, finishing sixth after “one of my best races of the season”

Yuki Tsunoda

  • Showed strong pace throughout all three practices, continuing his recent run of good form from Austin
  • Finished third in Q2 on soft tyres, taking advantage of a true glory run…
  • …but was then framed as the fall guy for Red Bull’s failure to win pole position after Tsunoda went off track to let Verstappen and Perez through, only for Perez to run off track behind him ahead of Verstappen
  • In the end, his race ended at the second corner after he hit the back of Ocon’s Alpine and crashed out

Antonio Giovinazzi

After climbing to sixth, Giovinazzi finished out of the points
  • Had a chance to progress into Q3, but locked up the rears on a hot lap in Q2, resulting in a spin and a light touch with the barriers
  • Did not waste his forward progress on the opening lap, running as high as seventh in the first stint of the race, ahead of Vettel and Ricciardo
  • Questionable decision from pit wall to stop on lap 17 dropped him out of the points, and 54 laps on a set of hard tyres was just too much to ask in the end
  • With his F1 future looking more and more bleak with every passing week, he needed a better result than another 11th, but the end result was largely down to a strategic mis-step

Mick Schumacher

  • Split the two Williams in FP3, indicating potential for a minor upset in qualifying
  • Was three-quarters of a second off another shock Q2 placement, and had no concern over the complaints from the other side of the Haas garage
  • Caught up in the turn one melee at the start, tripped over Ocon and retired with damage

Nikita Mazepin

  • Got to within half a second of Schumacher’s best time by the end of Q1, but was at the centre of more intra-team turmoil after his request to move ahead of his team mate was denied
  • Found a positive moment in the spotlight for a change, making a good start and holding position ahead of the likes of Norris and Ocon
  • Then plummeted back down the order after a slow stop, burned through his tyres too quickly, and was once again last of all classified drivers – three laps down in 18th

George Russell

  • Got to Q2 despite his team having to change two gearboxes and an engine within 24 hours of the start of qualifying, plus lacklustre pace from the Williams FW43B all throughout practice
  • Avoided all the opening lap chaos ahead of him to settle into the top 10 early in the race
  • Went almost the entire race without his drinks tube, which he accidentally pulled out on the first lap
  • Fell out of the top ten after a series of DRS-assisted overtakes as Williams’ struggles at altitude resumed; slumped to a 16th place finish at the end

Nicholas Latifi

  • Had a decent chance to progress into Q2, but didn’t have the speed at the end of Q1 to advance
  • Save for a brief exchange with Stroll, ran about as anonymous a race as one could manage – finishing 17th and 15 seconds behind Russell on track

Over to you

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

2021 Mexico City Grand Prix

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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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39 comments on “2021 Mexico City Grand Prix Star Performers”

  1. Not bad a 42 years old being one of “star performers”.

  2. Stars: VER, GAS, & RAI
    Strugglers: OCO, STR, & RUS

    1. I’d be interested to hear why you rate Russell as a struggler despite him outqualifying his team-mate by almost a second, then getting a grid penalty and still beating Latifi by a decent margin in the race. It was by no means his strongest weekend, but if Russell is a struggler, then by definition Latifi must be too!

      1. I’d add to what @ben-n asks about Russel with wonder about why Ocon is deemed a struggler by you @jerejj. He had a quite solid qualifying, at least he was faster than Alonso, it just seems the Alpine wasn’t the car to have especially on saturday. And he surely would have had damage from Schumacher and Tsunoda sandwiching him when they ran up to Bottas’ car in the first lap, not too much he could do there.

      2. @ben-n @bascb Because he was P9 early on, but eventually dropped down.
        Ocon didn’t necessarily have damage as he merely got tyre contact.
        I thought about adding both Williams drivers but ultimately reckoned the one who ran in a high-ish position in the early laps was more mention-worthy. I could’ve also included Mazepin, but he drives a Haas and teammate DNFd, so even more unworthy. Overall, I felt Stroll as the sole struggler was insufficient.
        Sometimes these choices are slightly harder than on other occasions, but always unbiased.

        1. Ok, I think I kind of get your reasoning there @jerejj, although I do not agree.

          I think it is refreshing that there is no attempt to come up with 3 strugglers when there was only really one of them this race. The rest were more of a mixed bag, i would say.

          Sure, Russel dropped down, but then he only fell to where his car would probably have been without him making both a solid qualifying AND getting through the start/first corners quite well (which for him especially should be rather taken as a change for the better). Mazepin – don’t think it would be completely fair. That Haas clearly is lacking downforce normally, quite a bit more so here, I would guess. And he DID manage to fight some decent battles on track, dropping out of any fights only after a pitstop went back (before then falling back into his regular “who cares, its Nikita at the back” mode.)

          I would see an argument for Ricciardo, who even with the tow did not do anything great in qualifying, made that mistake at the first turn that ruined the race for quite a few others and where he must have been glad for not getting penalised. After that he never really got anywhere, although he did a nice job keeping Bottas back. I wouldn’t put that in the strugglers either though.

          1. Sorry, glad for not being penalised? So he’d finish 13th instead of 12th? Didn’t check, just approximating, I sure wouldn’t mind being penalised in such case.

  3. Giovinazzi was really unlucky this race. He made a great start and looked faster than kimi and was 3 places ahead when he was 7th. The decision to pit was terrible. He was put into the path of bottas and ricciardo who both seemed pretty slow, and he was stuck behind them for ages when his tyres were fresh and then dropped back. In reality, had he had kimi’s stratagy and Kimi also had the same, I expect him to have beaten him. Not saying it has happened here, but so many people don’t notice Giovinazzi’s bad luck, and that in reality this season he’s looked better than Kimi in at least two thirds of the season. The points just do not show this though.

    1. Yes, Giovinazzi’s pitstop was an awful decision and he’s had a huge amount of bad luck this season. However, he did drop a significant way away from Raikkonen after the pitstop so I’m not sure he would necessarily have beaten him. I agree with you that Giovinazzi has often been better than Raikkonen; at the half-way point of the season, I rated Giovinazzi four places ahead of Raikkone. But in the second half of the season, I think Raikkonen has generally taken the upper hand, and after this race Kimi finally moved narrowly ahead of Giovinazzi in my rankings. However, both are very much in the bottom half of my rankings, and I suspect next year Bottas will prove to be a massive improvement. Alfa Romeo should not be losing to Williams this year given the car advantage they have, and in my opinion the driver lineup, compared to Russell, along with worse luck, is what has cost them.

      1. Alfa Romeo should not be losing to Williams this year given the car advantage they have

        You are forgetting FIA gave 10 points to Williams in a farcical race that was not raced : SPA

        1. Well, they deserved a reward for a good qualifying, would’ve been more farcical to give 0 points, you can maybe argue half points were too many, maybe a quarter points, but you can’t go down too much, else you risk giving irrelevant points, which would be farcical as well.

          1. There are no points for qualifying. So no one should have them if there is not a sizable race.

    2. @thegianthogweed

      Giovinazzi was really unlucky this race. He made a great start and looked faster than kimi and was 3 places ahead when he was 7th. The decision to pit was terrible.

      How many times are we going to hear it, about his luck? The lad needs to step up for his race strategy! Gio is good enough to be a decent driver, just needs to be more proactive or else he’s going to be dropped by Alfa Romeo.

    3. Also Giovinnazi didn’t appear to be faster than Raikkonen in the first part of the race. After he passed Russell, Raikkonen was closing the gap constantly from about 8 seconds to less than 4 when Giovinnazi pitted. That’s almost have a second per lap. Other drivers where faster as well. On lap 15 for example Giovinnazi was the slowest driver in the top ten. This drop off in performance was also one reason why they pitted him.
      His strategy of course turned out to be wrong but that was it really a bad one?
      I think it was a surprise for everyone that Ricciardo’s (and Bottas!) pace on hards was that much slower than that of Vettel, Raikkonen, Alonso and Norris to allow them the overcut.

    4. Did you guys see what was Gio saying in Sky Italia? He bluntly said that the team ruin his race on purpose.

  4. I agree with the stars, with Hamilton just missing out as the fifth-best driver. For the strugglers, I would add Daniel Ricciardo and Nicholas Latifi. The stewards may disagree, but I think the incident with Bottas was definitely Ricciardo’s fault and deserved a penalty, while he continued to drop away from Norris after that in the race. Latifi qualified and finished a long way behind Russell. I would also be tempted by Ocon for the strugglers, but he just avoids that title courtesy of outqualifying Alonso and probably having damage after the incident with Tsunoda and Schumacher.

    1. @f1frog

      I would also be tempted by Ocon for the strugglers, but he just avoids that title courtesy of outqualifying Alonso and probably having damage after the incident with Tsunoda and Schumacher.

      Apparently he said he didn’t have damage and was happy with the outcome of his race, what is a weird piece of information. The execution of his race was somewhat disastrous just like Giovinazzi’s after running 14th in the first lap and set to finish there if not for Bottas’ fastest lap pantomime.

  5. Bottas could be added to the strugglers.

    1. I totally agree, a total lack of racecraft, stuck behind a much slower car for pretty much all the race. He did try to pass, which is better than his usual listless attitude, but never well enough.
      As for the T1 incident, Bottas turned very aggressively for the apex and left Ric with nowhere to go. Maybe he was entitled to do that as he was well ahead of Ric, and so he was not at fault. But it is certainly unwise to do that in lap 1.

    2. I wish I could struggle as well as Bottas. I already have the reputation I could at least get a few quid in return.

    3. Did you type that with a straight face?

  6. Stars – Verstappen,Gasly, Perez
    Strugglers – Mazepin, Ricciardo and Stroll

    My reasoning is this. Perez is now looking consistently better in the car and despite not passing Hamilton which in my opinion he should have, it was still Kind of bad luck that Hamilton pitted the moment Perez was going to which caused him not to undercut.

    Mazepin as a struggler is as Keith explained, he got a good track position then ate his tyres. He also looks unpopular at that team and wouldn’t be there without money, at least Stroll looks semi decent sometimes, Mazepin never does.

    Ricciardo because of the Lap one mistake. I love the guy but that was on him.

    1. I’m not sure Mazepin was a struggler. He’s driving his own championship, usually being over a minute behind his teammate every race and second(s) behind in qualy. This race was one of his better ones so far, probably the best he’s driven in his career, at least having a decent start and holding his ground for a few laps.

      1. He’s driving his own championship

        And even in that championship he is dead last.

      2. A driver making his best race do not make it necessarily a star if in that race is still behind his team mate performance.

    2. How Perez is a star? he was clearly beaten by Verstappen and was unable to beat Lewis in a faster car.

      1. Indeed, even as a big perez critic after perez’s halfway 2021 season form, I admit he’s improved, horner got it right this race by saying this is what they were looking for from him, but it took a while and could still cost them both championships, and obviously finishing 20 sec behind verstappen isn’t enough to be a star; take baku, he managed to keep hamilton behind and was only like 3 sec behind verstappen before he had the issue 4-5 laps to go, that is a star performance, when you consider the team mate’s calibre.

      2. How is perez a star? I actually said why in my post.

        1. What you said do not make sense.Do you use the same magnifying positive glass to other drivers? if Mazepin is now

          looking consistently better in the car and despite not passing…

          will he deserve to be star still being 20 sec behind his teammate?

          1. My reason is perfectly valid. It might not make sense for you but this is my opinion

  7. I’d add Ricciardo and Bottas to that list of strugglers. Bottas despite beeing imprssive on Saturday had an absolute shocker on Sunday. Bad spacial awareness at the run down to turn one. Than to cautious on the breaks into turn one plus absolutely no pace during the race. At the beginning he lapped 3-4 seconds slower than Hamilton. With that delta passing must be possible but again he struggled as usual in traffic. Much more than other drivers…
    The same applies to Ricciardo. Clumsy into turn 1, very lucky to escape a penalty and absolutely no pace during the race.

    1. it is true that the mercedes struggles in dirty air more than most teams though. For example, when Hamilton got within 2 seconds of Norris, he took ages to get close enough to result in Norris getting blue flags. A coincidence that it was a Mercedes stuck behind a Mclaren, but still, it does show that even with the solid pace hamilton had, even he found it hard to get close enough to lap a driver.

  8. Despite his quali f-up, I’d add PER to the stars. It would be more obvious if he’d passed Lewis, but he was right up there and pretty solid all weekend.

    1. That do not make him a star. Improvement over other dismal races do not a star makes, he was beaten clearly by his team mate.

    2. Remember baku, he was almost with verstappen there, that’s a star race imo considering the team mate he has.

  9. Re: Alonso

    Thankful, and fortunate, not to be a casualty of the turn one incident – nor to be overtaken beyond the track limits at turn one as he feared going into the weekend

    Quite ironic considering what he did in the first lap: https://twitter.com/ElReyGuiri/status/1457428672810471428

  10. Gasly consistencies really doesn’t reflect on championship table.

    1. @ruliemaulana
      He had some misfortune, sometimes self-inflicted, along the championship.

  11. Drivers’ Overall Performance Rankings – Up to Round 18
    1st – Max Verstappen (9.4) [+0.1]
    2nd – Charles Leclerc (8.7) [+0.2]
    3rd – Lando Norris (8.4) [-0.3] – Total mistakes tie-break
    4th – Lewis Hamilton (8.4) [±0] – Total mistakes tie-break
    5th – Fernando Alonso (8.2) [+0.1] – Machinery tie-break
    6th – Pierre Gasly (8.2) [±0] – Machinery tie-break
    7th – George Russell (7.9) [-0.2]
    8th – Carlos Sainz Jr. (7.5) [+0.1]
    9th – Esteban Ocon (7.1) [-0.2]
    10th – Sebastian Vettel (6.7) [-0.1]
    11th – Lance Stroll (5.9) [-0.1]
    12th – Valtteri Bottas (5.7) [+0.1]
    13th – Mick Schumacher (5.1) [+0.3] – Teammate edge tie-break
    14th – Sergio Pérez (5.1) [-0.2] – Teammate edge tie-break
    15th – Daniel Ricciardo (4.9) [+0.4]
    16th – Kimi Räikkönen (4.7) [+0.5]
    17th – Antonio Giovinazzi (4.6) [-0.1]
    18th – Nicholas Latifi (4.5) [-0.2]
    19th – Yuki Tsunoda (3.1) [+0.2]
    20th – Nikita Mazepin (2.6) [±0]

    [] – Absolute change in score since the Round 13

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