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Formula 1

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

by Edd Straw
13 min read

The Portuguese Grand Prix was not packed with standout performances, with the vast majority of drivers doing about par for the course for the machinery that was at their disposal.

But as Lewis Hamilton romped to another superb win and Lando Norris shone in the midfield, there were a fair few disappointments down the order – with as many as four drivers scoring below four points in Edd Straw’s regular driver ratings feature.

If you feel some of the scores are too harsh or too lenient – or just want to give your two cents – you can debate it all with Edd live in the comments section at the bottom of the page from 5pm 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.

2021 Site Ham

Started: 2st Finished: 1st


Hamilton described his Q3 performance as “pretty poor”, having missed out on pole position to team-mate Bottas by just seven-thousandths of a second.

The middle sector cost him on the soft-tyre run in Q3, although Hamilton’s final sector – even without a tow to the line – almost turned the tables.

May 02 : Portuguese Grand Prix review


Slipping to third at the restart made life difficult, but Hamilton soon re-passed Verstappen to take second once back within DRS range.

He appeared to chase down and pass Bottas effortlessly before his move for the lead, then controlled the race superbly from that point to ensure that Verstappen never again got close enough to be a threat.

VERDICT: Only slight Q3 underachievement and minor racecraft error at the restart away from perfection.

2021 Site Bot

Started: 1st Finished: 3rd


Having been disappointed with his qualifying performances in the previous two races, Bottas hit form in Portugal and again showed his excellence in low-grip conditions. Intensive work on mastering tyre warm-up also helped his cause and he delivered a good lap in tricky wind conditions on the first runs in Q3 to pip Hamilton.


Led the first 19 laps, with his restart particularly effective, but was never entirely convincing and Hamilton always looked destined to overhaul and pass him.

He was passed by Verstappen after his pitstop, which was fractionally slower, but proved unable to come back at him with five seconds lost to an exhaust sensor problem hindering his challenge.

VERDICT: While certainly quick, and a little unfortunate, wasn’t as adaptable as Hamilton in the gusty conditions.

2021 Site Per

Started: 4th Finished: 4th


Fourth place and a tenth and a half behind Verstappen looked good on paper for Perez, but he wasn’t satisfied.

He admitted he lacked “fundamentals” in qualifying, in particular when it came to extracting the maximum from the tyres


Wheelspin at the start allowed Sainz to get ahead, with Norris also overtaking him after the restart. Perez admitted he wasted too much time waiting for Norris to let him past thanks to a track limits violation and lost touch with the leaders – losing just under a tenth per lap to Verstappen over the rest of the stint.

Ran long in the hope of a safety car but never looked like doing better – or worse – than fourth.

VERDICT: A weekend of solid progress and decent results, but still more to find.

2021 Site Ver

Started: 3rd Finished: 2nd


Had the pace to have taken pole position and proved it with a lap of 1m18.209s on his first Q3 run that was deleted for a track limits violation at Turn 4 after the wind caused a brief rear-end snap at the exit.

He was around a tenth off matching that at the second attempt, but the worse wind conditions in the final sector cost him and he ended up third.


Couldn’t do anything about the Mercedes drivers at the first start, but did capitalise on Hamilton’s restart hesitation to take second place.

But a small mistake at Turn 14 led to him falling into Hamilton’s clutches and losing the place, only for a well-executed undercut to allow him to pass Bottas on cold tyres on the Mercedes driver’s out-lap.

Lost fastest lap to a track limits violation.

VERDICT: A curate’s egg of a weekend with an accumulation of small errors costing him, but still did well to beat Bottas.

2021 Site Ric

Started: 16th Finished: 9th


Ricciardo was relatively happy with his progress during practice, but things came to a juddering halt in Q1 when he was eliminated.

Without his lockup at Turn 13 and wobble through Turn 14 he would have made the cut, and he also complained about traffic in the form of Giovinazzi early in the lap, but that still didn’t explain all of the Q1 deficit of just over a second to Norris.


Made short work of the lower midfield to climb from 16th to 11th by the end of lap seven – a grand total of two racing laps. From there, he ran a marathon first stint and made his stop on lap 41 – losing just over 1.5s thanks to overshooting his pit marks. Despite losing a place to Alonso in the run to the chequered flag, picked off Gasly and Sainz to pick up two valuable points.

VERDICT: Had no excuse for falling in Q1, but did a decent salvage job despite his pitstop error.

2021 Site Nor

Started: 7th Finished: 5th


Again had the pace advantage over Ricciardo, although this was exaggerated by his team-mate’s struggles in Q1.

Norris was delighted with his Q2 pace, but on his key Q3 lap he was frustrated to have misjudged the gap to Vettel at the start of his lap, which cost him time and left him seventh.


Norris didn’t have the best start, but pulled off a great move on Ocon on the opening lap to take sixth, then passed Sainz and Perez after the restart to run fourth. Inevitably, Perez got back past but Norris kept a vice-like grip on midfield leadership, taking best-of-the-rest honours outside of Mercedes and Red Bull for the fourth consecutive race.

VERDICT: Qualifying wasn’t perfect but early incisiveness ensured he bagged the midfield ‘win’.

2021 Site Vet

Started: 10th Finished: 13th


Vettel described himself as more confident with the car than he has been so far, resulting in his first Q3 appearance of the season despite running the old-specification Aston Martin floor. But he wasn’t completely happy with his Q3 lap, ending up 10th when perhaps beating the AlphaTauri of Gasly was possible.


Held 10th place before being passed by Ricciardo, but given the pace of the Aston Martin he struggled to stay in touch with the points positions.

Alonso ran long before their first stops and overcut him, with Giovinazzi overtaking him in the closing stages to relegate him to 13th. He let Stroll past late on but was handed back the place on the last lap.

VERDICT: Overachieved in qualifying but the car didn’t have the pace to stay in the points.

2021 Site Str

Started: 17th Finished: 14th


Having been relatively happy with the car, featuring the upgraded floor that was fast-tracked for this event, during Friday practice, qualifying proved more difficult for Stroll. He struggled badly for grip in the tricky conditions and failed to hook up a lap good enough to escape Q1.


Stroll climbed to 14th in the opening stint, but that was as good as it got for him after a gamble on running all the way to lap 39 on his starting set of softs.

Emerged from the pits in 14th place and showed a decent turn of speed, meaning Vettel let him past in the hope of passing Giovinazzi. Stroll couldn’t so let Vettel back past on the final lap.

VERDICT: Poor qualifying put him in a position that he had little chance of recovering to the points from.

2021 Site Alo

Started: 13th Finished: 8th


Looked to have a good shot at Q3 having set the third-fastest time in FP3, only for it to be deleted for a track limits violation.

Having been relatively happy with the car, he struggled for grip in qualifying with a spin on his first Q2 run then a lack of pace on the second, leaving him almost nine-tenths off Ocon.


Alonso didn’t make life easy for himself on the first lap, slipping to 15th after briefly running wide off track at the hairpin. But from then on he drove an excellent race, running long to lap 40 on his starting mediums then making his way from 11th to eighth in the second stint.

He lapped a quarter-of-a-second faster than Ocon in that final stint, with the significant caveat that he had an 18-lap advantage on his hard tyres.

VERDICT: Failed to deliver the speed when it really counted in qualifying but recovered well in the race.

2021 Site Oco

Started: 6th Finished: 7th


Flew in Q2, setting the fourth-fastest time, although the change of wind conditions in Q3 meant that he struggled on his first lap. He recovered well to take sixth on his second run but missed out on a fifth-place that looked achievable by just three-thousandths of a second.


Slipped to seventh place on the first lap after Norris passed him, then to eighth on the restart lap once Leclerc had worked his way ahead.

Having been overcut by Gasly in the pitstops, he repassed the AlphaTauri, then picked off struggling Sainz to finish seventh.

VERDICT: Could have been a place higher in qualifying, but drove a fine race to the best possible result.

2021 Site Lec

Started: 8th Finished: 6th


Leclerc admitted he over-drove while chasing time in Q3, meaning he underachieved. However, he did have the consolation of being the only driver outside of Red Bull and Mercedes to set their Q2 time on medium rubber, showing how quick he could be in the best of the conditions.


Had a so-so launch but managed to hold onto eighth place before picking off Ocon for seventh in a move that took several corners to complete after the restart.

He remained behind team-mate Sainz through the pitstops, but passed him for what was effectively sixth place on lap 37 – finishing just under five seconds behind Norris.

VERDICT: Disappointed with his “inconsistent” qualifying but effective in the race.

2021 Site Sai

Started: 5th Finished: 11th


Sainz was the star of qualifying, doing the best job of adapting to the low grip and variable wind conditions through qualifying, delivering two superb Q2 laps at a similar pace in conditions that caught others out.

That gave him an advantage of almost three-tenths over team-mate Leclerc.


Climbed to fourth by the time the safety car was deployed on the second lap before being shuffled back to sixth behind Perez and Norris. He held that position for the rest of the stint but the decision to go from softs to mediums – not hards – at his pitstop was costly.

Having pushed hard immediately in an attempt to undercut Norris, he encountered graining and gradually dropped out of the points.

VERDICT: Stunning in qualifying but you’d expect him to have dealt with the medium rubber better given his skill set.

2021 Site Gas

Started: 9th Finished: 10th


Struggled through practice with a general lack of grip and understeer in particular, with the track configuration and the wind causing problems for a car that has previously thrived in all conditions. Given the difficulties, reaching Q3 and lining up ninth was a decent effort.


Held ninth early on but, despite overcutting his way past Ocon, was powerless to hold on to the position. He fell behind Ricciardo and Alonso, but picked off the fading Sainz with just under three laps remaining to ensure he picked up a point.

VERDICT: The AlphaTauri was not the car to have in Portugal, so Q3 and a point was a good return.

2021 Site Tsu

Started: 14th Finished: 15th


Tsunoda made good progress throughout practice in difficult conditions and made it into Q2, having lapped a couple of tenths off Gasly in Q1. But that deficit doubled in Q2 as he struggled to get the tyres working and lacked grip, only really having the Pirellis in the window late in the lap.


Problems with finding grip and extracting the most from the tyres carried over into the race for Tsunoda, who was shuffled back to 16th on the first lap.

He passed Russell to run 15th during the first stint, but that was all the progress he could make.

While never on comparable tyres to Gasly, he was giving away a couple of tenths per lap on race pace.

VERDICT: Inexperience showed in the tricky conditions that highlighted the car’s weaknesses.

2021 Site Rai

Started: 15th Finished: DNF


By his own admission, made some mistakes in Q2 and should have done better than 15th. On the first runs in Q2, when both Alfa Romeos were on medium Pirellis, he did a better job than Giovinazzi but once on the softs he was, as technical director Jan Monchaux put it, “too greedy.”


Raikkonen’s race lasted only until he parked it at Turn 1 on the first lap with front wing damage, the consequence of hitting the back of Giovinazzi in a bad misjudgement on the main straight after being distracted by having to repeat a switch change. He’d had a decent first lap prior to that to run 13th.

VERDICT: Small mistakes compromised qualifying, a big one ruined the race.

2021 Site Gio

Started: 12th Finished: 12th


Seemed well on top of the car in qualifying and made good progress through Q1 and Q2 to end up 12th. Giovinazzi set his best time on his second push lap on his final set in Q2, losing out to Russell by just over a tenth of a second.


Giovinazzi didn’t have a great launch and initially slipped behind team-mate Raikkonen, but found his way back past into 12th place in the middle of the opening lap. He survived being hit by Raikkonen on the start-finish straight undamaged and held 12th in the opening stint.

In fact, he finished there having lost a place to Alonso but regained the position by passing the struggling Vettel.

VERDICT: Profoundly 12th, which was a decent all-round performance in the machinery.

2021 Site Maz

Started: 20th Finished: 19th


Struggled for pace throughout the weekend compared to team-mate Schumacher, ending up just under half-a-second off in qualifying. That was a fair representation of the pace difference, with Mazepin seemingly finding it a little harder to keep the tyres in the right window late in the lap.


Finished over a minute behind his team-mate and was only really noticed when he was being lapped, notably when he baulked leader Perez and was hit with a five-second penalty for ignoring blue flags.

While his pace wasn’t good, the race gap exaggerated it and in the first stint his deficit to Schumacher was 0.363s per lap

VERDICT: While taking a deliberately conservative approach is sensible, he was simply lacking in pace and adaptability in race situations.

2021 Site Msc

Started: 19th Finished: 17th


Schumacher looks increasingly comfortable behind the wheel of the Haas and was within a couple of tenths of picking off Latifi. While he did give away a tenth or so to a slightly slow start to his lap, set on the first push lap of his final Q1 run, he always had a comfortable advantage over team-mate Mazepin and ended up 0.460s quicker.


Schumacher showed good pace in the race and stayed within range of Latifi throughout. Thanks to running eight laps longer before his pitstop, he had a slight tyre advantage in the second stint and despite constant blue-flag interruptions, passed Latifi late on.

VERDICT: His intelligent, methodical approach yielded an impressive – and brisk – first clean race weekend.

2021 Site Lat

Started: 18th Finished: 18th


Struggled for pace all weekend and ended up half-a-second off Russell in Q1 despite being a lot happier with the car in FP3 than he had been on Friday. As is often the case, he struggled to adapt to the varying grip levels that caused problems for everyone in qualifying and only just kept Schumacher at bay.


Latifi struggled even more with the wind-sensitive Williams in race trim than Russell and spent most of the grand prix trying to keep out of reach of Schumacher.

That proved impossible in the closing stages with a nine-lap tyre life disadvantage compared to the Haas driver, and as he locked up and ran wide he allowed Schumacher to pass him with four laps remaining.

VERDICT: Aside from a flash of promise before qualifying on Saturday, another difficult weekend.

2021 Site Rus

Started: 11th Finished: 16th


Russell was just 0.057s off a Q3 place, but although such a slender gap indicates a top 10 might have been achievable, he was only 0.021s off his theoretical ideal lap.

While he had a close shave in Q1, he improved with every run to deliver Williams’s best qualifying performance since Stroll was 10th at Monza in 2018.


Had a frustrating time both on the first lap and on the restart lap and ended up being shuffled back to 15th quickly. But as Russell himself said, that only hastened the inevitable given it was a “race of survival” as the car proved terrible in the gusty conditions.

He was passed by Tsunoda for 16th during the first stint, which was where he finished – 27s clear of his team-mate.

VERDICT: Inspired in qualifying, but the four places lost early on didn’t impact his race result given the pace of the car.

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