Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Losail International Circuit, 2021

2021 Qatar Grand Prix Star Performers

2021 Qatar Grand Prix

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Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Lance Stroll were RaceFans’ Star Performers of the Qatar Grand Prix. Here’s why.


Fernando Alonso

  • Set the tone early by qualifying fifth – then was elevated to third on the grid after penalties for Verstappen and Bottas
  • Made a great launch off the clean side of the track to take second place on lap one, before settling into third place
  • Successfully executed a one stop strategy against Pirelli’s advice; ran 34 laps on a set of hard tyres to the end as others suffered tyre failures from lateral strain
  • First podium finish in seven years wasn’t just a feelgood moment for Alonso and his supporters – it may very well have secured fifth in the constructors championship for Alpine

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Losail International Circuit, 2021
Hamilton’s seventh win of 2021 was his most emphatic
  • Exceptional qualifying performance, nearly half a second up on the field in Q3 as he took pole position
  • Led from start to finish, executing a perfect two stop race and easily having the measure of Verstappen behind him while running in clean air

Lance Stroll

  • Broke a three-race streak of Q1 exits, but still missed Q3 in 12th
  • Gained two positions on the opening lap while Vettel struggled out of the first corner
  • Ran a similar one stop strategy to Alonso including 34 laps on the hard tyres, ran a clean race, and was rewarded with a season-best sixth place finish

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Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, Losail International Circuit, 2021
Ricciardo never looked a contender for points

Daniel Ricciardo

  • Missed Q3 for only the second time since the summer break in 14th
  • Fell two places on the opening lap, then spent most of the race in fuel conservation mode
  • On the same one stop tyre strategy as Stroll and Leclerc, finished a lowly 12th – 32.8 seconds behind team mate Norris, who suffered a puncture with eight laps to go

Nikita Mazepin

  • Damage sustained in first practice cost him all of second and third practices, and the track time that came with it
  • Outqualified by Schumacher by a whopping 2.452 seconds, predictably in last
  • Last classified finisher, two laps down and off the same lap as Schumacher in a race where the only intrigue was his medium-to-soft one stop strategy

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And the rest

Valtteri Bottas

  • Rapid on Friday, but slipped well behind Hamilton on Saturday after his team mate moved towards his set-up
  • Results after Q3 had him set to start third, but a three-place grid drop for a yellow flag error had him placed back in sixth
  • Had a terrible launch off the grid, dropping him to 1th, and spent a bit too long trying to pass Lance Stroll for Toto Wolff’s liking
  • Eventually found his way through traffic and was on pace to salvage a podium off a one stop strategy before a tyre failure right at the end of 32 laps
  • Retired from a non-points position due to damage

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Losail International Circuit, 2021
After penalty setback, Verstappen quickly rose to second
  • Lost out on a front row start for not respecting double waved yellow flags at the end of Q3
  • Gained three positions from seventh on the grid on the first lap, then quickly got around Gasly and Alonso to settle into second after just five laps
  • Had two conventional stops, then pitted for a third time to secure the fastest lap bonus and limit the damage of Hamilton’s victory with a second-place finish

Sergio Perez

  • Exited Q2 despite a final run on soft tyres to secure a top ten grid slot
  • Had a solid race car and fresh medium tyres to start the race, gained two places on the opening lap, and overtook his way to fourth place before his first pit stop
  • Finished fourth to help Red Bull close on Mercedes’ lead in the constructors championship, but had a chance at third if not for a late Virtual Safety Car

Lando Norris

Lando Norris, McLaren, Losail International Circuit, 2021
Puncture cost Norris a strong points finish
  • Reached Q3 when his team mate could not, qualified a respectable sixth, and started fourth after grid penalties
  • Dropped a position on the first lap, but found his way back to fourth and was eager to run the same soft-to-hard one stop strategy as Alonso
  • Suffered a tyre failure with less than 10 laps to go, demoting him from fourth to ninth, leaving McLaren with a nearly insurmountable gap to Ferrari in the constructors championship

Esteban Ocon

  • Progressed to Q3 for the first time since Sochi, and qualified ninth
  • Showcased a bit of Alonso’s first lap magic by gaining three places on the first lap
  • A spirited effort to try and keep Perez from taking fourth place, which helped Alonso secure his podium finish
  • Held off Stroll and Sainz to finish fifth, his best result since winning in Hungary, and 10 more points in the ledger of Alpine as they pull away from AlphaTauri

Sebastian Vettel

Vettel squandered a top-10 starting place
  • Reached Q3 for the first time since the rainy Belgian Grand Prix, qualifying tenth
  • Ran wide in turn one after a weak start, dropping him down to 17th at the end of the first lap
  • Despondent on the radio after finishing tenth, feeling that his start cost him a better result given his tyre strategy and the result of his team mate 12 seconds ahead of him

Charles Leclerc

  • Cracked his chassis in Q1, which led to a perplexing early exit in Q2 and a 13th place starting position
  • Fought his way back into the points after a change of chassis, using a one-stop strategy
  • Caught the ‘Ocon train’ near the end of the race, finished eighth to help Ferrari pull ahead of McLaren in the constructors championship

Carlos Sainz Jnr

  • Out-qualified Leclerc for the third consecutive weekend and started sixth with the preferred medium compound tyres
  • Boxed out by Norris on the first lap, dropped to seventh place, then eighth after being overtaken by Perez
  • Ran out of time and opportunities to pass Ocon and Stroll for fifth, but was able to consolidate seventh after Norris’ puncture

Pierre Gasly

Start, Losail International Circuit, 2021
Gasly expected much more after front row start
  • Finishing fourth at the end of qualifying was already a great result, even after causing a yellow flag that disrupted the end of Q3
  • It got even better before the start of the race as grid penalties moved him up to the front row for the first time in his F1 career
  • Pace diminished substantially after the opening laps, and his two-stop strategy including an early first stop plus two stints on medium tyres didn’t help matters
  • Quietly finished 11th, dropping nine positions over the course of the race

Yuki Tsunoda

  • Reached Q3 for the fourth race in a row
  • Ill-timed first pit stop on lap nine, prompted by a visor tear-off stuck in his rear wing, dropped him well down the order
  • Drove a clean but anonymous two stop race, finished 13th, 22.7 seconds behind Gasly

Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, Losail International Circuit, 2021
Raikkonen started well and comfortably beat Giovinazzi
  • Couldn’t reach Q2 as he did in Mexico City and Sao Paulo, qualified 16th
  • Gained four places on the opening lap, as the Alfa Romeos have continued to gain places off the line
  • Finished 14th, 28 seconds ahead of Giovinazzi, and less than three seconds behind Tsunoda in his first and last race in Qatar

Antonio Giovinazzi

  • Missed Q2 for the first time in three races – both Alfa Romeos missed Q2 for just the fifth time this season
  • Had a tougher time in traffic after gaining four places on the opening lap
  • Finished 15th, outside the points and well adrift of his team mate

Mick Schumacher

  • Adapted to Qatar much quicker than his team mate, and outqualified him by over two seconds
  • Ran a one stop race, going from used softs to used mediums
  • Gained a position after Russell’s late puncture to finish 16th, keeping Haas from a ‘bottom two’ result

George Russell

  • Back on the head-to-head qualifying train after reaching Q2
  • Was keeping the likes of Tsunoda, Raikkonen, Giovinazzi behind or at reach in the final laps of a projected one stop race
  • Suffered a late tyre failure that dropped him to 17th, second to last of all classified finishers and behind Schumacher

Nicholas Latifi

  • Streak of head-to-head qualifying victories ends at one Grand Prix, qualified 18th
  • Was running behind Russell but not too thrilled to have his request to swap positions denied, leading to him being overtaken by Tsunoda and Raikkonen
  • Race ended after 50 laps following yet another left front tyre failure, his stopped car caused the only Virtual Safety Car of the day

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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40 comments on “2021 Qatar Grand Prix Star Performers”

  1. Not sure how Bottas stayed out of the strugglers column to be honest. Grid penalty after qualifying, horrible start, didn’t make any progress and then got a puncture.

    1. @red-andy Same. Yet another bottled start followed by lack of progress in a top car, so struggler-worthy.

      1. Brits keep defending the narrative that Bottas is a good driver. But in reality he is Grosjean/ Magnussen category: no racecraft in traffic.

        Its amazing how such an average driver won so many qualifying battles to Lewis and ended before Lewis in races.
        That’s why the Brits like to talk the guy up.

        There are always excuses for why he underperformed. Fact is , again this weekend his car was better than the RB. And he started ahead of Max. Why doesn’t he for once overwhelm?

        And don’t come with turkey: he is reasonable in clean air without traffic in the fastest car. Max simply didn’t have the package there to follow him even.

        1. @trib4udi I completely agree. In my book Bottas is not in the top 50% of the current grid. I rate him below the likes of Hulkenberg, Perez and maybe even Grosjean. His performance agains Massa in the latter stages of his career was far from convincing. Having said that this is exactly what made him such a good #2 for Mercedes during their dominant years.

          If I were Alfa Romeo, however, I would be very worried. The last few races Mercedes have had a seriously dominant car and he has shown his racecraft is very poor. I don’t know what they expect from him next year running in the midfield, where every point/position is fought for with tooth and nail.

          1. I disagree bottas is worse than perez, he’s outperforming him this year, you can say he is deservedly ahead in points because unlike the situation with the number 1s, when it comes to number 2s bottas had worse luck.

          2. @esploratore1

            I disagree bottas is worse than perez, he’s outperforming him this year, you can say he is deservedly ahead in points because unlike the situation with the number 1s, when it comes to number 2s bottas had worse luck.

            But not by a big margin overall and I think you should agree with that. Also in the last weekends Perez is seriously gaining on Bottas.

      2. @jerejj @red-andy

        Bottas did do poorly in terms of not noticing the flags in qualifying, so his penalty was deserved. The article is in a way incorrect regarding Bottas getting a bad launch. His launch was as good as the rest ahead of him, but he then started having wheelspin and bogged down badly. He was indeed poor at first, but you both saying along the lines of “no process” or “lack of process” was only true for the first 9 laps. Admittedly, still a while.

        After that, his pace looked pretty strong. I honestly thought he would have another race with no overtaking, but that is where both of you saying he made no progress is incorrect. He overtook:
        Tsunoda, Stroll, Sainz, Ocon and Norris. Gasly, Perez and Alonso were overtaken when they pitted, But Bottas looked a match for Perez even after Perez was on brand new tyres and kept the gap at 20 seconds until his tyre failed. So to be realistic, Bottas’s race with “no progress” got likely will have got him from 11th to the podium. Even without his bad start, he still will have gained some positions.

        So what do you mean by no progress? Other than the first 9 laps? You don’t finish the race on lap 9. Admittedly Bottas didn’t finish either, but that wasn’t his fault.

    2. @red-andy @jerejj
      I think the article explains that pretty well: Despite a bad start, Bottas was on his way to podium. The tyre puncture made his race look worse than it actually was.

      Obviously Bottas wasn’t on Hamilton’s level, but then again Hamilton was named as a star. This wasn’t a good race for Bottas, but I don’t think he was one of the two or three worst drivers this weekend.

      1. @hotbottoms What’s all this rubbish about Bottas being set for a podium? He was, from memory, about 17 seconds ahead of Perez before the puncture, so he would have come out about 8 seconds behind him when he pitted – and behind the cars Perez had overtaken. I can’t see that he had any chance of a podium, slightly fresher tyres or not.

        1. @tflb
          There was only one other car (Alonso) within 25 seconds of Bottas at the time of the puncture. And he would’ve had at least 14 laps fresher tyres than Perez.

          So not “cars” and not “slightly” fresher tyres. It’s possible Bottas would’ve finished 4th or 5th (even though 3rd is most likely), but perhaps check the basic facts of your argument next time before calling someone else’s opinion rubbish?

          1. @hotbottoms I think it is in fact you who need to check your facts before stating he was set for a podium with such certainly. I was wrong about Gasly, he was a couple of seconds further back than I thought so Bottas would probably have come out ahead of him, but he would have been 10 seconds behind Perez with Alonso in between. Alonso wouldn’t have been easy to pass I’m sure, particularly for Bottas who is not very good at that kind of thing. And Perez would have been even harder, if Bottas even caught him – but Perez’s pace was quite good in clear air at that stage. So really I only see a very outside chance of a Bottas podium. The ‘rubbish’ comment was not directed solely at you, it was about the fact that a surprising number of commenters were saying Bottas was on for a podium, which is a stretch. I guess they just saw he was 3rd when he retired…

          2. @tflb
            Nothing is certain, but I think the most likely outcome would’ve been Bottas’ 3rd place. Those 14 laps fresher tyres would’ve made a huge difference at the end of the race.

          3. Yeah I think you are forgetting that Perez stopped again. If Bottas had pitted he would only have had Alonso to race and with fresher tyres and faster car he would have got ahead.

    3. You might say the puncture cost him 3rd or 4th. But it was his inability to clear slower cars that made the long stint on hards necessary to get those spots. Clearing cars in a DRS trai with a negative tire offset is not easy but he made that an issue with a poor first lap. The dirt-side start aside, he should have been all over those slower cars like a cheap suit on the first lap before the softs warmed up, like Verstappen. You saw in Brazil and Monza if he gets everything going right and gets out front in a fast car, he’s not getting caught, he’s precise, consistent, he makes no mistakes. But if he stubs his toe anywhere everything falls apart.

    4. Someone who is not first or second pretty much every race driving a Merc is just not F1 material. I rate Valtteri in a tie with Nikita as the worst in the grid.

  2. Stars: HAM & ALO
    Strugglers: GAS & BOT

  3. The getaway by Lewis against the 2 cars in softer tyres was key. Alonso was definitely going to race Hamilton as he said in the interview.

    There’s a much higher degree of racing difficulty for Lewis in this championship; almost akin to running 5 km with hurdles and other runners as opposed to running by yourself and pushing everyone you see who challenges you.

    1. Lol. No one fought him in Brasil. You see ghosts

    2. Rotfl,
      He landed in a rockets hip since Silverstone and surely Brazil.
      He had a mediocre start with the fastest car. If Alonso did not unintentionally block verstappen even his first position would have been in danger.

      1. @trib4udi both of you seem to have forgotten the overtakes on Perez and Verstappen in Brazil.

        If you think of all the epic moments this year, Max doesn’t factor in most of them. If you think of controversial moments, Max is in all of them starring as the James Bond villain.

        As for fastest car, you should watch Max’s grip at the start of yesterday’s race. He had medium tyres and he clearly had more grip than the soft tyres on the other cars. Max hugged that corner on Turn 1as if he was on a hyper-soft.

      2. Rotfl

        Maybe if Verstappen could see yellow flags he would have started P2. But it wouldn’t have changed anything, because P2 was the best he was ever going to achieve in Qatar.

  4. Those two empty bullets on Mazepin’s entry are not a typo; they’re a statement.

  5. I am a Hamilton fan but I can’t honestly see what else Verstappen could have done to achieve to not be in “and the rest”. He made the best start out of everyone in the race and managed to keep up with Hamilton to finish 50 seconds ahead of Alonso if he hadn’t pit. And got the fastest lap point.

    1. Was wondering the same. Perhaps the yellow, which is referred to, nocked him out of the top category?

      1. Nothing new at hamfans.net

    2. his only blemish this weekend was not slowing down for the yellow flags. Other than that, it would have been really difficult to beat Hamilton even with a front row start. Lewis never seemed to be on the limit this race, he was able to get away from Max even without pushing.

      1. indeed @gechican; I do think though that without the flag error he made, Verstappen had a good opportunity to at least battle Hamilton for the lead into the 1st corner, looking at how well he started those first laps; Hamilton probably would still have won (unless a crash, which would have helped VER in WDC, so who knows), but it wouldn’t have been this easy. So, not unfair imo to therefore put VER just outside of starring this weekend.

  6. I think it’s a little harsh on Mazepin to put him in the strugglers’ section, considering he only had one practice session (and not a single lap after sunset under the cooler conditions) to prepare for qualifying.
    He did reasonably well in his first stint, even keeping up with his teammate (he was around 2-3 seconds behind Mick before the leaders startet lapping him). For whatever reason he then lost a huge amount of time after his pitstop.

    As for Stroll, he had a reasonably good start (though not exceptional) and pretty good pace towards the end of his first stint, when he was putting pressure on Sainz.
    He didn’t ‘outdrive’ his car, just delivered a touch more than the car was capable of, also thanks to his race strategy and others’ missfortunes.
    I wouldn’t label it a ‘star performance’, considering his teammate outqualified him by 0.3 sec.

    1. @srga91 so Mazepin is outqualified by his team mate by almost 2.5s and isn’t a struggler, yet Stroll can’t be a star performer because he was outqualified by a massive 0.3s. Having a biased view is one thing but at least try and be consistent from one end of your comment to the other!

      1. someone or something
        22nd November 2021, 21:45

        Read, man, read. Mazepin went into qualifying virtually unprepared, with just 17 laps of practice in total, 16 of which on Friday, in broad daylight. 2.5 seconds is shocking for a gap, but his weekend had been a train wreck up to that point, so at least there’s an explanation for it.
        As for the connection you’re trying to draw between Stroll’s star-worthiness and Mazepin’s struggler-worthiness based on being outqualified by team mates, there is no such connection.

  7. I felt the race deserved 4 stars and 4 strugglers.
    Stars. Ham, Ver, Alo, Ocon
    Strugglers. Maz, Ric, Lec and Tsunoda.
    Why Tsunoda? Everyone keeps daying he is fast but he is never near Gasly, who nearly made my strugglers but quali saved him. Leclerc as his overall pace all weekend wasn’t great. Why not Bottas. Bad getaway but his race was going well until puncture which wasn’t his fault.

    1. @broke1984

      Leclerc as his overall pace all weekend wasn’t great. Why not Bottas. Bad getaway but his race was going well until puncture which wasn’t his fault.

      Too harsh with Leclerc and too lenient with Bottas. Leclerc at least finished just behind Sainz, whilst Bottas didn’t look like going to overcome Perez who is currently driving a slower car.

  8. I think this is too harsh on Mazepin personally. It is unfair to judge his weekend due to severe lack of running

    You don’t expect that running over the kerbs should take a team so long that he has to miss out on the rest of this practice session, all of P2 and all of P3. Then they haven’t even fixed his car in time in time for qualifying. When they supposedly had the car ready, his front wing was facing towards the ground and rubbing. He then had 1 realistic chance of setting a lap. It should mention that it is likely that all this will have had a negative impact on him. That car must be so sensitive that it breaks so easily. It even mentions this in the 2nd practice post:

    One driver did not participate in the session, leaving only 19 cars circulating: Nikita Mazepin was ruled out due to Haas needing to change the chassis on his car. The switch was caused by damage done to Mazepin’s car during first practice, when several drivers experienced issues after running over kerbs.

    See? Several drivers experienced this by making the same mistake, but their team managed to not take about 30 hours to fix the car.

    Mazepin obviously was bad, but I personally think he has enough of a reason not to be a struggler this time.

    1. Just to add, he even thanked his team on the radio as he went out in Q1, only to realise that his front wing wasn’t on correctly.

    2. Yeah, I have to agree with you there @thegianthogweed. Mazepin had hardly any time in the car before he had to set a lap. And he did a decent enough lap given the material at hand and the experience (or rather lack of it) he had in the car. He had been doing decently until the time of his pitstop running in between other cars and probably (since he wasn’t even shown on the F1TV PLC) defending from them at times.

      Who knows, maybe the team just told him to completely keep off the kerbs and turn down the engine (which would explain him being so far off his teammate at the flag). Given that he was dead last anyway, he might just as well save the equipment as well as he could to avoid needing any of their surely relatively low stock of spare parts to be able to race in the last 2 races.

  9. Ocon’s legs though! omg.

  10. What the? Ricciardo as a struggler despite a car problem putting him into fuel saving mode? Rightio

  11. I’d put Alpha Tauri as strugglers, but probably more the team/strategy than the drivers. They were nowhere to be seen during the race after getting both cars in Q3. Even Vettel with his awful start finished ahead of both their cars.

  12. Can we also get a stars & strugglers of the year? I’d like to nominate Wolff for the strugglers categorie. I know, you are going to say Christian needs to be there as well, but he has always been like this. This is his modus operandi. For Toto this year was no doubt an enormous struggle. In terms of drivers I would say Lando and Max had a season which saw them rise above their material and should therefore be a star. Strugglers would be the Ferrari boys who have shown little. I know their material isnt up there but mainly their inconsistency, given they should be more experienced by now was quite a disappointment. All the others did what was expected. I am sure the Brits will have Lewis as a star given his 8th WDC, but as said before, it’s mainly the car again. In fact he had, compared to previous seasons, a rather difficult campaign this year. But who cares as long as it is successful in the end, I guess.

    1. Mayrton

      Strugglers would be the Ferrari boys who have shown little. I know their material isnt up there but mainly their inconsistency, given they should be more experienced by now was quite a disappointment.

      Even then they both have been better than at least one of the McLaren drivers in all recent races, and from those we always had at least one Ferrari driver being better than both McLaren drivers, with the exception of Qatar, in which Norris performed better than both Sainz and Leclerc. It can’t be denied that Ferrari performed better as a team lately and the inconsistency is massively on McLaren’s side, at least during this final stage of the season.

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