2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix Star Performers

2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix

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[raceweekendpromotion]Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen were RaceFans’ Star Performers of the Sao Paulo grand prix weekend. Here’s why.


Lewis Hamilton

  • Excluded from Friday qualifying after a technical infringement on the DRS flap, leading to a pit lane start in the Sprint to go along with a five-place grid drop in the ‘feature’ race for a power unit element change
  • Turned in a blistering drive to fifth in the Sprint to secure tenth on the grid for the main race
  • In the grand prix, stormed from tenth to sixth on the opening lap, and was in fourth place after just three laps of racing – setting up a sensational, albeit quite brief, early duel for second place with Sergio Perez
  • Went to the hard compound tyres after pitting on lap 27 and drew within striking distance of his championship rival Verstappen
  • Was able to close within DRS range in just a handful of laps, despite getting hards instead of the mediums he wanted
  • Recovered from contentious skirmish on lap 48 to take the lead on lap 59, overwhelming Verstappen with his straight line speed and pace on the second set of hard tyres to win

Kimi Raikkonen

Having started in the pits, Raikkonen finished 12th
  • Out-qualified Giovinazzi for the third time since the summer break, by a healthy margin of almost three-quarters of a second in Q2
  • Dropped to 18th in the Sprint after a first-corner collision with Giovinazzi, triggering the decision to make changes to the car and take a pit lane start for the grand prix
  • Used an unconventional two-stop strategy during the race – medium first stint, hard second stint, and medium final stint
  • Bothered, but not damaged, after early collision with Schumacher; gained eight places after the first two stints to move up to 12th – just a few seconds away from cracking the points

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Yuki Tsunoda

Early tangle with Stroll meant no points for Tsunoda
  • Out of Q2 for the first time in three grands prix, dropped from 11th to 15th in the sprint qualifying race
  • Had the chance to gain ground early as the only driver to start on soft tyres, but ran into Lance Stroll at turn one in a hasty attempt to make up places as quickly as possible
  • Maintained that his overtake was fine and that Stroll was not looking in his mirrors – but the stewards deemed him ‘wholly at fault’ for the collision
  • His two penalty points were the only points scored after finishing a minute behind Gasly in 15th

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And the rest

Valtteri Bottas

Valtteri Bottas, Max Verstappen, Start, Interlagos, 2021
The Red Bull drivers mugged Bottas at the start
  • Qualified less than a tenth behind Verstappen for a front row start in the sprint qualifying race – and led every lap after a great start off the line
  • From the pole in the grand prix, his starting prowess wasn’t quite there – conceding to Verstappen in the first corner, then Perez after turn four after a mistake in the Senna ‘S’
  • Had the benefit of a ‘free’ pit stop under the second VSC, jumping back ahead of Perez with a fresh set of hard compound tyres
  • Was assured of third place after Perez pitted for a fastest lap attempt

Max Verstappen

  • Second behind Hamilton in qualifying secured pole for F1’s third sprint qualifying race of the season
  • Lost out on the start of the sprint qualifying race on medium compound tyres, but eventually recovered to secure second on the grid
  • Got away with a poor initial launch in the first few hundred metres to take the lead in the opening lap, and maintain the lead over the entirety of his first 28-lap stint on the medium tyres
  • Responded to Mercedes undercutting Hamilton by pitting the next lap, retaining his net lead; then demonstrated superior pace in the middle sector on hard tyres, enough to negate Mercedes and Hamilton’s top speed advantage in sectors one and three
  • Not willing to risk Hamilton catching and passing him on track, Red Bull brought him in on lap 41 for another set of hards, which he conserved early in his stint
  • Pushed Hamilton off the track on lap 48, moved twice to try and defend his position after Hamilton caught up again – but eventually had no defence for Hamilton with DRS on the back straight
  • Fell away from Hamilton thereafter, but still maintains a 14-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship with three races remaining

Sergio Perez

  • Qualified within a tenth of Verstappen to line up third in the sprint qualifying race, but dropped to fourth and finished 18.6 seconds adrift of his team mate
  • Red Bull deployed him tactically in the first stint of the grand prix, backing the field up behind him to create a larger margin between himself and Verstappen
  • Pitted for hard tyres on lap 29, but lost out on third position after Bottas was able to stop under the second Virtual Safety Car
  • With a healthy margin to fifth place, was brought in for a successful attempt to swipe the fastest lap bonus

Lando Norris

Start, Interlagos, 2021
Norris’ race was ruined before the first corner
  • Narrowly out-qualified Ricciardo for the first time since Turkey, and celebrated his birthday by finishing sixth in the sprint qualifying race
  • Moved up to fifth on the grand prix grid after Hamilton’s penalty, but his race was compromised early after suffering a puncture – the result of a first corner collision with former team mate and friend Sainz
  • Recovered to ninth by the end of the first stint, after pitting to repair damage and to switch onto his first set of hard tyres, and a Safety Car intervention.
  • Held Vettel at bay on the hard tyres in the final stint to keep tenth place for his recovery efforts, and kept McLaren from suffering a scoreless weekend after Ricciardo’s retirement

Daniel Ricciardo

  • Dropped from eighth to tenth in the sprint qualifying race after losing two positions after the start, putting him three rows behind his team mate Norris on Sunday
  • Recovered well enough during the opening stint, getting past Ocon and Vettel for position – and setting up for a one-stop strategy as it looked like he could have been McLaren’s only points scorer at Interlagos
  • Retired from eighth place due to power loss, an untimely first retirement of the season – and a critical blow for McLaren’s fading hopes of finishing third in the constructors’ championship

Lance Stroll

Stroll got ‘Tsunoda’d’
  • Narrowly missed out on a berth in Q2 by 0.065 seconds, his third consecutive Q2 exit; gained one position during the sprint qualifying race in 14th
  • Left in a difficult position with floor damage after being hit by a ‘desperate’ and ‘too optimistic’ Yuki Tsunoda on lap four
  • Continued to shed body parts, causing a second Virtual Safety Car for debris; quietly retired after 47 laps without being a factor for points

Sebastian Vettel

  • Just outside of Q3 yet again in qualifying, but finished tenth in the sprint qualifying race to set up a chance at valuable points for Aston Martin
  • Started on used medium tyres, and ran comfortably inside the top ten – as high as eighth – in his first stint
  • Second Virtual Safety Car worked against him and his chances of finishing in the points, dropping to 11th after stopping to change from used hards to another set of used mediums
  • Reeled in Norris over the final few laps on his medium tyres, but fell just 1.288 seconds short of cracking the top ten

Esteban Ocon

Ocon was the first Alpine driver home after Alonso backed off
  • Denied a Q3 appearance by his team mate, by just 0.052 seconds, but gained a place in the sprint qualifying race and finished ninth behind Gasly
  • Committed to the one-stop strategy for both Alpine drivers, Ocon settled in behind Ricciardo during his first stint
  • Hit the jackpot with a ‘free’ pit stop under the second VSC, which allowed him to cycle back solidly into the top ten; had moved up into eighth place after Ricciardo retired with power loss
  • Had an absorbing tactical fight for position with Gasly, using Alonso to try and maintain DRS to stay ahead even with older, harder compound tyres – before ultimately conceding the position to the AlphaTauri
  • Swapped places with Alonso on the last lap, finishing eighth – his biggest points haul in a race since winning the Hungarian grand prix

Fernando Alonso

  • Broke into Q3 in qualifying but dropped three spots from the start to the finish of the sprint qualifying race
  • Stretched his first stint 35 laps as he committed to a one-stop race, working his way up into sixth place, but lost several places after a slow pit stop
  • Worked his way back up into the points and played a pivotal role in the team battle versus Gasly for seventh place
  • Slowed down by nine seconds to switch places with Ocon on the last lap to secure ninth place for his efforts

Charles Leclerc

  • Kept within two-tenths of Sainz in Q3, but dropped a place in the sprint qualifying race as he couldn’t keep the slippery McLaren of Norris at bay
  • Made a great start on the ‘dirty’ side of the track to gain two positions on the opening lap, eventually settled in as the ‘best of the rest’ early on in fifth with Sainz behind him
  • A lonely race of tyre management, running two stints on medium tyres in opposition of the traditional strategy that played out, resulted in a fifth place finish – his best at Interlagos in three attempts

Carlos Sainz Jnr

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Interlagos, 2021
Sunday was a disappointment after Sainz’s Saturday drive
  • Out-qualified Leclerc by two-tenths
  • Had a great first lap in the sprint qualifying race, going from fifth to second, before eventually finishing third ahead of Perez who couldn’t find a way around the Ferrari
  • Brushed wheels with Norris on the opening lap, sending the McLaren driver down the order
  • Said wheelspin off the line led to a poor start ‘costing him a top five finish’

Pierre Gasly

  • Beat the Ferraris and McLarens again in qualifying, but from fourth on the grid lost four places in the sprint qualifying race after a poor start
  • Patiently worked his way up the order from the start of the grand prix, overtaking Vettel, and battling for position with the McLarens
  • Relished his tactical on-track battle with the Alpines of Alonso and Ocon, passing both drivers in a space of two laps as the race began to draw to a close
  • Rewarded for his efforts with a seventh place finish, keeping the margin between Alpine

Antonio Giovinazzi

  • Survived an awkward collision in the sprint qualifying race with Raikkonen, who out-qualified him the day before by three-quarters of a second
  • Maintained his 13th position off the line at the start of the race
  • Found it hard to overtake the likes of Russell and Stroll ahead of him as the grand prix unfolded – even on the medium tyres
  • Was never able to get any significant time in clean air as he ran to a 14th place result – nearly half a minute behind Raikkonen

Mick Schumacher

Schumacher tangled with Raikkonen
  • Maintains his unbeaten qualifying record against Mazepin, and finished ahead of him after the race
  • No happy recollections of his father’s battles with Raikkonen, after suffering front wing damage in turn one collision with the Alfa Romeo driver that sent him down the order
  • Nailed to the back of the running order for the rest of the race, finishing 37 seconds behind Mazepin when he felt confident of being able to fight with the Williams duo of Russell and Latifi

Nikita Mazepin

  • A very interesting weekend – to put it mildly – began with a tearful post-qualifying interview after qualifying 20th, brought on by unforced errors and intra-team turmoil that he perhaps was too candid about
  • Finished last in the sprint qualifying race, but moved up a place on the grid after Raikkonen started from pit lane
  • Gained places due to incidents with cars in front of him – including a forceful turn one lunge on his team mate Schumacher – and ran as high as 14th
  • Finished ahead of Schumacher on track for only the third time this season, but was still two laps down and second-to-last place of all classified drivers

George Russell

  • Out-qualified by his team mate in a Williams for the first time in 56 grands prix, but only by 0.056 seconds, and was only a second behind at the end of the sprint qualifying race where he finished 17th
  • Pitted off-sequence for hard tyres during the first Safety Car intervention, then pitted for a second time on lap 41 for another set of hards
  • Described his first two stints as tough, but remarked that the car was ‘the best it had felt all weekend’ in the last stint as he came home in 13th, over 10 seconds ahead of Latifi

Nicholas Latifi

Latifi finally out-qualified Russell but finished behind him
  • After nearly two seasons alongside him, finally out-qualified George Russell in a head-to-head, only missing Q2 by three-tenths – and followed it up by finishing ahead of Russell in the sprint qualifying race
  • Lost time and track position early after being brought in just as the Virtual Safety Car period for the Schumacher/Raikkonen collision had ended, leading to a lonely race
  • Finishing four spots behind Russell in 17th after leading him in qualifying and the sprint qualifying race will seem a little harsh in one of his better weekends since finishing 11th in Italy

Over to you

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2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix

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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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37 comments on “2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix Star Performers”

  1. Kimi Raikkonen a star performer, really? Autosport gave him a 4/10, the joint-second worst score of any driver! While I think that 4 is a little harsh, I would still have Kimi closer to the strugglers than the stars, mainly due to the incident with Giovinazzi in the sprint. Lewis Hamilton is obviously a no-brainer for the stars section, but admittedly nobody else really stood out. If I had to pick a second star, it would be Carlos Sainz. For the strugglers, Yuki Tsunoda is also a slam-dunk, how he can call that penalty ridiculous is beyond me. I wouldn’t pick any other strugglers, with Giovinazzi being the closest.

    1. @f1frog I wholly agree with you. Kimi as a star seems overrated.

      1. I don’t know, a pit lane start to 12th is pretty good for an Alfa Romeo. If he hadn’t been hit by his teammate he might’ve got points again.

        1. I am puzzled by this too though. The safety car did help him a lot, and the incident with Giovinazzi was very clumsy. Giovinazzi was underwhelming in the race, but I’m actually unconvinced kimi would have beaten him without being massively aided by the safety car. Both this weekend and the previous in my eyes, Giovinazzi has been better, and Kimi has been favoured quite a bit, and this has made him look better than he was.

    2. someone or something
      15th November 2021, 19:06

      I would still have Kimi closer to the strugglers than the stars, mainly due to the incident with Giovinazzi in the sprint.

      It went virtually unreported due to the simultaneous Hamilton situation that kept on giving (and I fully understand that’s much more fun to report than a messy, but largely meaningless, incident between the drivers of arguably the most colourless midfield team on the current grid). But it has to be said that the collision was largely caused by Räikkönen’s lack of spatial awareness (not for the first time in 2021, I might add). Both Sauber drivers were enjoying the slipstream behind Alonso’s Alpine, Giovinazzi being the first in line and diving down the inside on the start/finish straight, while Räikkönen came from further back, took to the right-hand side and overtook Alonso on the outside.
      So far, so good. But then, Räikkönen acted as though Giovinazzi had disappeared during his overtaking move on Alonso, so he cut across the track, straight to the apex, leaving no room whatsoever for his team mate, who was powerless to avoid contact, despite hugging the kerb.
      Here’s the footage from the perspectives of the drivers involved. I think Räikkönen’s onboard makes it plenty clear that the presence of another car on the apex should not have come as a surprise.
      So yeah, the story here is basically that Räikkönen bounced back from a setback he inflicted upon himself.

      1. Good summary of that someone or something, and even if one does not count Autosport, I have read and heard several commentators, and racers too, give little for Räikkönen’s race.

    3. Autosport is irrelevant, fully biased with pet hates, for example the gave Perez with a fine drive 6 points! same as Norris that wrecked is own race…

      So yeah, the story here is basically that Räikkönen bounced back from a setback he inflicted upon himself.

      I think you can say he more than bounced back. He went to get 30 sec over his teammate starting form pit. That said i would not give 8 but 7 or 7.5.

      1. The safety car helped a lot here, and Giovinazzi got pitted just 14 laps into his 2nd stint when Kimi was behind him. This almost looked like the team screwed him to get out of the way of kimi as they maybe thought he would ignore team orders like before. In reality, I’m unconvinced that Kimi will have beaten Giovinazzi this race had there been no safety car and Giovinazzi had a decent strategy.

    4. Verstappen could’ve been in the stars as well imo, he defended more than anyone else would’ve done in an inferior car.

      1. @esploratore1 inferior is a relative thing. I would not have been surprised one bit if no other driver, past and present, had managed to win that race in the Mercedes.

        It’s one thing to catch and catching the Red Bull proved really difficult. It’s a different thing to pass and to pass you had to be perfect to avoid the inevitable crash attempt from Max.

        1. Lewis had enough overspeed to do anything he wanted i don’t think Max could do anything more then that.

          But it’s how Keith gives a star on which rules he uses.

          1. And the next 3 races will be the same. Mercedes indicated they will introduce a new engine for every race. Take the penalty and then cruise towards the front. Looks like Merc will get the so desired title anyway. Given the length they went through this year, they better. They threw everything at it but the kitchen sink. To think that all that was needed to keep just one guy (out of the remaining 18) behind is hilarious.

        2. Sikhumbuzo Khumalo
          16th November 2021, 9:17

          The unwritten rule I think is you can only pass Max on the straights despite him weaving like crazy. There is no race track with a corner wide enough to pass Max. It is simply impossible without crashing. For Lewis to be able to do that must be an achievement.

          If you disagree we have to look in archives to see who in past two years has passed MV in a corner

  2. As much as I like Kimi, it was a questionable choice to pick him as a Star Performer, unlike in the previous weekend. Besides the goat who resurrected his cult and was an obvious star, there might be a better option for the best performers, at least someone who didn’t botched an overtake and had a spin in any of the sessions. Leclerc was better, Sainz, Alonso, Ocon and Gasly, just to list a few. After those comes Raikkonen, Latifi and Mazepin, for instance, who had good moments as well as bad ones, but still above Giovinazzi, Schumacher, Tsunoda and some others overall.

  3. Star: HAM
    Struggler: TSU

    1. @jerejj +1 Perfectly succinct!

    2. Yep, more is not needed. One star only this race, and one clear struggler.

  4. Max Verstappen
    “Got away with a poor initial launch in the first few hundred metres to take the lead in the opening lap, and maintain the lead over the entirety of his first 28-lap stint on the medium tyres”

    I probably have seen another race on sunday because his launch on sunday was perfect and was in front of Bottas right after the first corner!!

    1. His start was a bit slower (coming from his spot (medium tyre)) but accelerates much faster the Bottas so he could claim the turn without any doubt.

  5. Why did the alpines swap positions at the end? Totally missed that on the channel 4 highlights

    1. @frood19

      Why did the alpines swap positions at the end? Totally missed that on the channel 4 highlights

      It was their agreement à la Binotto’s Ferrari to swap their drivers, Alonso with fresher tyres in front of Ocon, for them to try to hold up Gasly, who went for a two-stopper. It didn’t work but at least they had a shot in passing AlphaTauri in the championship, and ultimately Alpine remained tied with them in the standings, P5. So after Gasly overtook them both on track, Alonso gave the position back to Ocon, even though he was about 8 seconds further up the road by the end already. Very few drivers can go very fast and still take care of the tyres, and one of those is Alonso, as we see.

    2. @frood19
      From what I have seen on the highlights, it looks like Ocon was leading the vast majority of the race, but alonso was just over a second behind. I believe that Ocon must have let him pass on lap 53, or else Alonso would not have done the same for Ocon at the end. However, Ocon was constantly in DRS of Alonso once alonso passed, so it didn’t seem that alonso was quicker. I think the team wanted to allow Ocon to take the extra points, but just wanted to see if alonso could get any additional ones for the team by giving him the chance.

      This is guessing though, i just saw what happened and didn’t hear any radio.

      1. @thegianthogweed

        However, Ocon was constantly in DRS of Alonso once alonso passed, so it didn’t seem that alonso was quicker.

        No, he was quicker, Alonso opened a gap of 8 seconds to Ocon after both were passed by Gasly, as he did a longer first stint and had fresher tyres in the end. But they decided that it was better not to fight against each other this time but instead give their best shot together delaying Gasly. As they couldn’t hold him, it would be asking too much, they swapped positions again in the last lap of the race.

        1. @thegianthogweed @rodewulf thanks both. pretty impressive teamwork – can’t imagine too many other driver pairings working so well together (with the possible exception of Ferrari in mexico, but i feel that was more circumstantial and reluctant than collaborative and strategic).

        2. @rodewulf
          He was actually within DRS a lot of the time for the first 7 laps. Then 1.9 when he had Gasly between Alonso. He then got lapped in a more awkward position than Alonso and lost a lot of time there. To me, it didn’t look like he was then trying as hard. The fact is though, Ocon for those laps I mention was very often within DRS of Alonso, and looking back at the timing screens, Alonso was never closer than 1.2 seconds behind Ocon until Ocon let him pass. I’m not convinced Alonso actually had the better pace overall.

          1. I’ve obviously missed your point in your other post about Alonso choosing to be slower to help Ocon, but I still have to question why Alonso couldn’t get very close to Ocon earlier.

          2. @thegianthogweed

            I’ve obviously missed your point in your other post about Alonso choosing to be slower to help Ocon, but I still have to question why Alonso couldn’t get very close to Ocon earlier.

            The weekend action is quite long so it’s easy to forget some things, so: Alonso outqualified Ocon by getting into Q3 at his expense, but in the sprint he finally had a slow start and finished 3 positions behind his team-mate, which became a position difference of 4 after Hamilton’s five-place penalty. In the main race Alonso worked his way through the field and was able to catch Ocon, but as they were close together in the VSC Alpine pitted only the Frenchman, and later Alonso even had a slow pit stop. That’s a big number of little setbacks to obscure a superior race pace, in my view. And the time charts reveal exactly something like that, how he caught Ocon over and over again, and later breaking away in the final laps when ahead of him, like in most of the previous races. This is more because Alonso reaped the bright side of not having a cheap pit stop earlier by making tyre delta worth it. Before all this Gasly story, the Spaniard was almost a second faster than his team-mate even before the latter had been given that team instructions of offering the tow. And also before the pit stops, after Alonso cleared Stroll and both Alpine drivers were in free air, in four laps he was more than half a second faster as well before catching up, so an amazing hidden performance from Fernando on there. 😄
            As for the 8 seconds race time delta in the end, yeah, it’s too much to be representative, but there are two opposing factors playing here. If you discount laps 67, 68 and 69 in which Esteban Ocon did lose a lot of time with blue flags, and the lap 64 in which it was Fernando’s time to be 3 secs. slower than the leader due to being lapped, he was still one tenth per lap faster, but as evidenced above probably because he wasn’t pushing as he knew he would give the position back, given that the tyre deg rate further increases close to the end of a race. You can verify it all, and maybe correct some of my calculations, here:
            It’s a pity that we lose it all because of standard TV coverage, now I see the huge value of onborad cameras and team radio access (which I don’t have in full yet, but it looks attractive).

  6. Kimi as a star seems strange considering he chopped his team mate. Even your summary of Gasly speaks of the swell job he did.
    Stars: Hamilton, Gasly, Sainz.

    Strugglers:Tsunoda, Schumacher, Norris

  7. So both Haases finished ahead of each other? :)

  8. Stars: Hamilton, Gasly, Leclerc
    Strugglers: Tsunoda, Schumacher, Norris

  9. Hamilton was the star performer no doubt but I would like to add that this was an important race for the championship for Mercedes as a team too.

    I think because of the whole hard weekend they faced regardless of who was at fault (they were in my opinion), they obviously felt hard done from their side, and that caused them to throw away their corporate mantle and face the weekend in a more united and passionate way that we have seen them until now. It was like seeing Ferrari in Monza. As a motorsport fan mainly and not a specific team’s I really liked that and they gained massive points in my book.

  10. Anyone know why Alonso and Ocon swapped places at the end of the race?

    1. It looked like Ocon let alonso by on lap 53, but Alonso failed to pull away. So I’m assuming that both of these were swaps, and the driver that was originally ahead (Ocon) gets his place back as Alonso didn’t gain any additional places or points.

      1. @thegianthogweed

        It looked like Ocon let alonso by on lap 53,

        This part is true.

        but Alonso failed to pull away.

        But this one is not accurate, it was part of Alpine’s plan to stop or at least delay Gasly: as Alonso was faster, he placed himself in front of Ocon to create a double DRS train against the charging AlphaTauri. It worked for a while, and if only Alonso could resist the AlphaTauri he would have finished two positions ahead and Alpine would score +2 points with a net gain of 4 against their direct rivals in the WCC. After Gasly stormed through Alonso remained faster than Ocon, but as per the accord they returned to their original positions.

  11. I would have put Gasly there as a star. He’s been fighting the Alpines all by himself, as he did all season, and never put a foot wrong all weekend. Clean, composed, fast… not sure if that car could have finished any higher than 7th in any pair of hands.

  12. I would add Toto to the strugglers. Man oh man, he’s got some serious issues and distortion going on up there.

  13. “Star performer” Hamilton did his “phantastic drive” in a Mercedes that had been almost half a second quicker (the biggest margin this year if I remember correctly) than the rest in qualifying. Like I said before: my granny could have done that in that car.

Comments are closed.