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Formula 1

Edd Straw’s 2021 Imola F1 driver ratings + reader debate

by Edd Straw
15 min read

Wild conditions, huge crashes and a big range in the quality of performances across the Formula 1 field in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Edd Straw gives his take in his driver ratings, including a relatively low score for a podium finisher.

Whether you agree or disagree, you can debate it all with Edd live in the comments section at the bottom of the page from 5:30pm UK time tonight.

After each grand prix, The Race will rate each driver’s weekend with a mark out of 10.

This year, in an attempt to utilise a wider range of scores, we have recalibrated the scoring to make 5 out of 10 an average mark and therefore indicative of a decent drive given the high standard of drivers in F1.

For a more in-depth explanation, read our outline of the modified system.

Hamilton Imola

Started: 1st Finished: 2nd


Hamilton knew his performance had to be “perfect” to have a chance of pole, but he split that perfection across his two Q3 laps.

On the first run, a slight snap in the second part of Acque Minerale cost him a fraction, while on the second a slow start to the lap left him playing catch up. Not quite the perfect lap that the two combined would have been, but close and good enough.

Apr 19 : Emilia Romagna Grand Prix review


The attempt to tough it out with Verstappen around the outside of the Tamburello chicane backfired and gave him front wing damage that cost a few tenths.

But Hamilton’s key error came when he misjudged how wet it was on the inside of Tosa when lapping Russell, resulting in a trip to the gravel compounded by crunching the front wing while attempting to recover.

The timing of the Bottas/Russell crash was perfect – allowing him to stop for repairs and get the lap back before surging from ninth at the restart to second.

VERDICT: Overachieved in qualifying, but his Tosa off was avoidable and only a big slice of luck put him in the position to make his superb recovery charge.

Bottas Imola

Started: 8th Finished: DNF


Things started well as Bottas topped Q1 with a time that would have been good enough for fourth on the grid in Q3. The trouble is, he never went that quickly again – not just over a whole lap but in any of the three sectors – after what he described as a “confusing” session.

In Q3, he struggled with tyre warm-up and lacked confidence in the rear end, particularly early in the lap.


Bottas ran 10th at the start, moved up to ninth ahead of Gasly then jumped Stroll by running a lap longer before pitting for slicks.

But with Bottas still getting his tyres up to temperature, Stroll got back past – and then Russell made his move. Bottas did move a little, but not too far, to his right, Russell understandably reacted and both were in the wall.

VERDICT: Bottas’s underlying pace was better than it might seem, but he dealt with the tyre warm-up struggles less effectively than his team-mate and ended up nowhere even before the accident.

Perez Imola

Started: 2nd Finished: 11th


Perez admits he’s still not on top of the Red Bull but is making big steps every time he drives it. The stride he made in Q3 was a timely one that he believed would have given him pole position had he not had to fractionally hesitate getting on the power out of the last corner.

Even if Verstappen had put together the lap he should have done, Perez wouldn’t have been far behind.


The 10-second penalty for overtaking under the safety after an off at Piratella was needless but only cost Perez one place, to Norris.

Far more disruptive was his later spin after drifting onto the wet line, which dropped him to 14th and that he was unable to recover from.

VERDICT: Decent progress, a good step in qualifying but made two costly misjudgements in the race.

Verstappen Imola

Started: 3rd Finished: 1st


Pole position was there for the taking, albeit with Red Bull’s pace advantage slashed compared to Bahrain, but Verstappen didn’t nail it when it counted.

He described his final lap as “scrappy”, running wide at the exit of the Villeneuve chicane and taking a bite of the grass before setting the fastest middle sector of all. But there were further moments in the final sector.

As Verstappen admitted of what he called his “odd” mistakes, “I haven’t had that in a long time”.


Verstappen made a superb start – which surprised him given Red Bull hasn’t excelled in wet launches – and picked the right braking point at Tamburello to ensure he had the lead.

With Hamilton’s pursuit ended by the Tosa off, Verstappen was able to control the race – save for the moment at the first Rivazza at the restart when things could have gone wrong, but didn’t.

VERDICT: He made a meal of qualifying, but reclaimed control at the start and never looked back – although his Rivazza moment could have been costly.

Ricciardo Imola

Started: 6th Finished: 6th


Ricciardo struggled throughout practice and qualifying, so was surprised to find himself qualifying sixth given he was “not a top-six guy” until Q3.

Having been outpaced by Norris throughout, he was only ahead thanks to his team-mate’s lap-time deletion, and admitted that he’s still not completely on top of the characteristics of the McLaren.


Ricciardo held fifth early on before being ordered to let Norris past, a team order justified by the pace difference between the two.

That left Ricciardo sixth, which is effectively where he stayed save for the period when Hamilton dropped behind him before inevitably getting back ahead.

VERDICT: A clear pace step behind his team-mate, but did a solid job to be profoundly sixth.

Norris Imola

Started: 7th Finished: 3rd


Norris flew through practice and qualifying, but was kicking himself after drifting beyond track limits at the Piratella left-hander and having a lap that was good enough for third deleted in Q3.

That anger was justifiable given that shuffled him down to the seventh place earned by his initial Q3 run and behind team-mate Ricciardo.


Norris made a good start but had to correct after a snap of wheelspin while pulling past Ricciardo on the run to Tamburello, then survived a slap to the bargeboard from Stroll’s front-left tyre without damage.

He was then passed by Sainz to run ninth, but worked his way back up to fifth, helped by Ricciardo letting him past.

Perez’s penalty moved Norris up to fourth, and while he passed Leclerc at the post-red flag restart to run second having switched to softs during the red flag, he was powerless to prevent the recovering Hamilton taking the position late on.

VERDICT: Despite the costly wide moment at Piratella in Q3, searingly fast on his most impressive F1 weekend yet.

Vettel Imola

Started: 13th Finished: 15th


Vettel admitted to “still missing that last bit of confidence” despite being happier with the Aston Martin than he was in Bahrain and gave away a quarter-of-a-second to Stroll in Q2 to end up 13th.

He conceded it wasn’t a perfect lap and did look to have the pace to be a little closer to, but still behind, Stroll.


Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for Vettel. First, the rear brakes overheated on a reconnaissance lap, which led to a pitlane start and subsequent penalty.

It meant he never climbed higher than 12th, with a gearbox glitch also setting in before he retired late on once assured of being classified ahead of the Haas drivers.

VERDICT: Still not on top of the car, but making progress. Doomed by external factors in the race.

Stroll Imola

Started: 10th Finished: 8th


Making it to Q3 was a decent effort in the Aston Martin, although Stroll failed to register a time in the top-10 shootout after having both of his flying laptimes deleted for track limits violations.

That prevented him from beating Ocon to ninth place and left him 10th on the grid.


Stroll jumped to seventh at the start but was passed by Sainz and Norris on the restart lap to run ninth. He passed Gasly for eighth, cutting across the gravel to do so (one of two offs on that lap) but the team instructed him not to give the position back – a naive decision that later earned Stroll a post-race penalty that cost him a place.

Having stopped a lap earlier, he had to repass Bottas when the Mercedes driver pitted, later moving up to seventh on the road when Perez spun.

VERDICT: Outpaced Vettel and despite some untidy moments, including the one that cost him a place to Gasly, did a decent job to bag points.

Alonso Imola

Started: 15th Finished: 10th


After a 27-race run of outqualifying his team-mate in F1, Alonso was unable to match the pace of Ocon at Imola.

As Alonso himself put it: “I was not fast”. Despite being relatively happy with his laps he struggled to extract that final fraction and ended up just under half-a-second off his team-mate.


Alonso damaged his front wing with an off at Tosa on a reconnaissance lap, but got the car back to the pits and was able to take up his rightful starting position. He had a brief trip across the grass at Variante Alta on the first lap, having earlier survived a brush of wheels with Raikkonen at Tamburello, then a later run off track at Villeneuve allowed Ocon and Vettel to pass him.

He took the restart 12th, but was passed by Gasly and Ocon during that stint, before picking up the first point of his F1 return after Raikkonen was hit with a penalty.

VERDICT: By his own admission, still not on top of the Alpine and was a step behind Ocon.

Ocon Imola

Started: 9th Finished: 9th


Given the Alpine was a marginal Q3 car, that Ocon ended up ninth is testament to a job well done.

He was one of only five drivers to string together his theoretical best lap and was able to be that bit more committed than Alonso, particularly when it came to picking up the throttle.


Ocon backed out of the erroneous decision to start on wets by stopping for intermediates under the safety car at the end of the first lap. This put him 17th under the early safety car and still only 14th after the red-flag restart.

He gained five positions to take ninth place thanks to Perez and Tsunoda spinning, Giovinazzi’s extra pitstop and Raikkonen’s penalty – but most significantly a DRS pass on Alonso.

VERDICT: Outperformed Alonso and worked hard to recover from the decision to start on wets.

Leclerc Imola

Started: 4th Finished: 4th


Fourth was as good as it was going to get for a Ferrari, although Leclerc could have been a little quicker had he not been a little too aggressive in Variante Alta and compromised his exit. Not that it cost him a place, meaning he had reason to be very satisfied with his effort.


Leclerc survived a trip into the gravel on the formation lap before passing Perez for third place on the opening lap after the Red Bull driver had a wobble out of Variante Alta.

He then held on to a podium position 85% of the race. He took the post-red flag restart second but lost that position to Norris on the run to Tamburello, before inevitably being passed by the recovering Hamilton.

VERDICT: Qualified well and raced strongly, although was fortunate to get away with the formation lap off that could have cost him big-time.

Sainz Imola

Started: 11th Finished: 5th


While falling in Q2 was a bad result, Sainz was justifiably satisfied that he had the pace, even if he struggled to string together a ‘complete’ lap.

He put this down to still building familiarity with the Ferrari, but should still be disappointed not to have put the car in Q3 where it belonged.


Sainz climbed to eighth on the first lap, then moved up to seventh as Gasly faded – despite a couple of off-track moments as he adapted to the Ferrari in wet conditions.

But once he’d got through that tricky phase of the race, he drove well, overtaking Ricciardo to take what was ultimately fifth place.

VERDICT: Overcame the understandable rough edges and early offs to take a fine result.

Gasly Imola

Started: 5th Finished: 7th


Gasly was quick throughout practice, but made hard work of Q1 and Q2 with laptime deletions meaning he had to be a little careful on later attempts to ensure he made it through.

But once he did, he put in a strong Q3 lap for fifth – proving how precise he was able to be by using every millimetre at the exit of Villeneuve.


The decision to start on wets was a baffling one, which both driver and team wanted to back out of but ran out of time to make the switch.

Inevitably, Gasly dropped back before eventually having to pit for intermediates, but his pace combined with others’ incidents allowed him to climb to eight, which became seventh when Stroll was penalised.

VERDICT: Fast and precise, but the initial decision to start on wets – a call he was part of – cost a podium shot.

Tsunoda Imola

Started: 20th Finished: 12th


Despite having had decent F1 mileage at Imola, Tsunoda couldn’t match Gasly’s pace and was visibly pushing hard to make up the deficit.

Unfortunately, that resulted in him carrying too much speed into Variante Alta on his first Q1 flier, resulting in the rear coming round as he attempted to take the second part of the corner and backing into the wall.


From the back of the grid, Tsunoda kept things clean in the first half of the race, which allowed him to take the restart ninth – one place higher than expected thanks to Raikkonen’s spin.

But having done the hard work in his recovery, his attempt to pass Hamilton at Tamburello resulted in a spin that cost him points. He was also given a five-second penalty for track limits violations, which didn’t impact his position.

VERDICT: Rookie errors in both qualifying and the race at points when he should have been more circumspect cost him points.

Raikkonen Imola

Started: 16th Finished: 13th


Raikkonen had the pace to make it into Q2, but didn’t string together the lap he should have done at the end of the first part of qualifying.

But he did do enough to outqualify Giovinazzi having looked likely to be – by a fraction – the slower Alfa Romeo driver prior to that final run.


Raikkonen ran just outside the points in the first half of the race but moved into the top 10 when Bottas and Russell collided ahead of him.

He should have taken the post-red flag restart eighth, but spun into the gravel at Tamburello on the power under the safety car after leaving the pits. He dug himself out, but had lost two places and after initially being instructed to regain the places was then told he couldn’t.

From there, he had a solid run to ninth on the road, only to be given a 30-second penalty for not following the correct procedure after losing those positions under the safety car.

VERDICT: Did lots right, but despite the penalty misfortune it was his own blunder under the safety car that created the situation that cost him points in the stewards’ room.

Giovinazzi Imola

Started: 17th Finished: 14th


Giovinazzi had a slender edge over Raikkonen after the first runs in Q1, but was forced to abandon his final lap after Mazepin passed him on the run to Tamburello at the start of his lap.

While Giovinazzi was understandably frustrated, Mazepin was under instructions from the Haas team to launch his lap and couldn’t back up any more, as Giovinazzi wanted him to.


Giovinazzi ran behind team-mate Raikkonen in the first stint, but didn’t lose out in the long-term to having to stop for slicks a lap later and was still behind him, running 10th, after the red-flag restart.

He then moved up to eighth after Perez’s spin, only to be called in not for a tyre change, but for a rear brake problem to be attended to quickly.

VERDICT: Unfortunate in both qualifying and the race and should have taken his first points of 2021.

Mazepin Imola

Started: 19th Finished: 17th


Mazepin had a scruffy run through practice, with the low point a crash on Friday at the exit of the final corner while trying to correct taking a bite of the gravel.

As in Bahrain, the qualifying gap to his team-mate of half-a-second was slightly larger than it should have been, but he appeared to be struggling to strike the balance between being too aggressive and overly-conservative on corner entry.


He was the innocent party in the first-lap clash with Latifi as the Williams driver was unaware the Haas was there when he pulled across the track at Acque Minerale.

Mazepin survived without damage to notch up his first full race distance, but still lacking a little pace compared to Schumacher.

VERDICT: Slower than Schumacher and wild on Friday, but was tidy when it mattered in the race to bag his first finish.

Mick Imola

Started: 18th Finished: 16th


Schumacher progressed solidly through practice and had a decisive pace advantage over his team-mate.

But by his own admission a mistake at Variante Alta cost him a couple of tenths, which cost him a place on the grid.


The Haas driver started on wets and was 16th under the early safety car ahead of his team-mate and pits-starter Vettel, as well as the Alpine of Alonso that he passed on the run out of Villeneuve.

But he threw that away by losing it under the safety car while trying to warm his wets, nosing into the wall just after the pit exit. He got back to the pits for a new front wing and nose but had no long-term damage, outpacing Mazepin to finish well clear of his team-mate.

VERDICT: Comfortably the faster Haas driver, but the crash under safety car was an embarrassing moment.

Latifi Imola

Started: 14th Finished: DNF


Latifi hit the ground running in practice and was legitimately tipped as a Q3 threat by team-mate Russell.

But having made it through Q1 with greater ease than his team-mate, he couldn’t quite piece it together in Q2. In particular, he lost time to hitting the first apex kerb at Tamburello too hard, meaning he was behind from early in the lap.


The Williams driver described the visibility on the first lap as the worst he ever experienced.

He locked the rear brakes at the second part of Acque Minerale and spun, then rejoined thinking he was the last car after being passed by Vettel.

He duly moved right but was unaware Mazepin was there. Latifi hit the Haas and spun heavily into the wall, admitting he thought he’d spun on his own until he saw the replay later.

VERDICT: Strong pace, slightly disappointing qualifying despite making Q2, then a disastrous race.

Russell Imola

Started: 12th Finished: DNF


Russell was on the brink of elimination in Q1, but dug deep on his second flier on his second set of softs to reach Q2.

Despite difficulties throughout practice, he was more on top of the car in Q2 and delivered a good lap, although perhaps left a few fractions on the table in the second and third sector.


Russell made a flying start and was hassling Bottas before the safety car was deployed, holding 11th place. That became 10th after passing the wet-shod Gasly and he retained the position by pitting on lap 26 at the same time as the chasing Raikkonen.

Then came his attempt to pass Bottas for ninth using the DRS, in which Russell lost it after taking to the grass – pitching the Williams into the side of the Mercedes.

VERDICT: Eventually unlocked pace in Q2 and was on for a points finish before the Bottas collision. Showing that speed in a Williams bolsters his score beyond what might be expected if you blame Russell solely for the crash.

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