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Formula 1

Edd Straw’s 2021 United States Grand Prix F1 driver ratings

by Edd Straw
16 min read

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton stole the limelight during F1’s return to the United States, and whatever attention could be spared from that battle was probably drawn to Fernando Alonso’s hilarious antics.

But it was a race with plenty of action up and down the grid – and, as usual, Edd Straw has offered his take on how well each of the 20 drivers fared.

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: 2nd Finished: 2nd


With Verstappen quicker in the first sector and Hamilton faster in the second, it added up to a deficit of just 0.024s for Hamilton at the end of sector 2. It was tight through the final sector, but Hamilton fell behind right at the end of the lap, ultimately ending up 0.209s slower.


Made a better start than Verstappen and was able to take first place on the inside line at the first corner, which gave him the lead for the first stint. He lost that to Verstappen’s undercut, running three laps longer before his switch to hards.

That offset was extended to eight laps by the time he made his second stop for another set of hards with a deficit of 8.8s to make up. He closed the gap and at one stage looked favourite to catch and pass Verstappen, but once in the turbulent air was never quite able to get into DRS range – although he almost did on the last lap.

VERDICT: Gave Verstappen a run for his money but just lost out.

2021 Site Bot

Started: 9th Finished: 6th


Bottas took his sixth ICE at the start of the weekend, meaning he went into qualifying carrying a five-place grid penalty. Having shaded Hamilton on the first runs, he failed to improve on the second and ended up fourth-fastest.

That final lap had started adequately, but began to unravel at the end of the esses before he shipped significant time with front lock-ups and struggles to get the nose in later in the lap.

Oct 25 : United States Grand Prix review


Spent the short first stint in 10th, having been told to hand a place back to Gasly after passing him by taking to the Turn 1 run-off, ensuring he lost ground to the group ahead during the first 10 laps.

He gained one position through the first pitstop phase thanks to Gasly’s retirement, then overcut Norris at the second round of pitstops.

He then gradually closed the five-second gap to Sainz, who defended well, but Bottas took sixth place with a DRS pass on the penultimate lap.

VERDICT: Not quite at Hamilton’s level in qualifying and “made some progress, but quite slowly” in the race.

2021 Site Per

Started: 3rd Finished: 3rd


Hit the ground running in FP1 and strung together his strongest weekend of the year based on Friday and Saturday. He even managed to take provisional pole on the first runs in Q1, only to slip to third on the final runs.

The last sector made the difference in his battle for second with Hamilton, which Perez suspected might have had a little to do with the light rain but was more likely down to a couple of minor errors, with the final deficit only 0.015s.


Played the team game on the first lap by easing off into the esses to allow Verstappen to stay ahead. While he couldn’t quite stay with the leaders, he had third place under control throughout the race despite a drinks bottle problem meaning he had no water.

As a result, Perez described it as “my toughest-ever race physically”, which combined with the fact he didn’t have to push as hard explains why his pace relative to Verstappen dropped off so much in the final quarter of the race, exaggerating his deficit.

VERDICT: Probably Perez’s most complete weekend for Red Bull right from the start of FP1.

2021 Site Ver Correct 9.5

Started: 1st Finished: 1st


Headed into the weekend expecting Mercedes to have the edge, but after a tricky Friday found the car much more to his liking on Saturday. His pace advantage over Hamilton in the first and last sectors was key to taking pole position by 0.209s when the pace difference between the two looked a little smaller than that.


Verstappen bogged down a little at the start, which Red Bull put down to underestimating the available grip when evaluating its settings, and immediately moved left to cover Hamilton. He couldn’t keep the Mercedes behind, settling into second despite taking to the Turn 1 runoff.

After undercutting Hamilton at the first stop then taking an early second stop, the question was whether he could balance up speed and tyre management. He did so brilliantly, never allowing Hamilton into DRS range.

VERDICT: Delivered in qualifying and the race, particularly with his brilliantly-managed final stint.

2021 Site Ric

Started: 6th Finished: 5th


Came within a couple of hundredths of picking off Sainz’s Ferrari with a well-put-together lap, particularly in the closing corners where he avoided his team-mate’s mistake of pushing a little too hard and overworking the tyres. However, his underlying pace gap to Norris looked in the 0.1-0.2s bracket.


Had a lively first lap, initially jumping to fifth, then being passed by Sainz through the esses, then slipping behind Norris to run seventh. He then got back to where he started by repassing Norris through Turn 13/14 and Sainz – who thought he was letting Norris back past after gaining an advantage at Turn 12 by leaving the track – through Turn 17/18.

He controlled fifth for the rest of the race, although only held onto it under attack from Sainz after some hard but fair contact at Turn 17.

VERDICT: Beat two quicker cars and excelled in battle during the race.

2021 Site Nor

Started: 7th Finished: 8th


Looked to have the edge over Ricciardo on pace but pushed too hard late in the lap trying to get ahead of a Ferrari or two, overcooking the tyres and costing himself time in the final two corners.

That cost him at least one place on the grid to Ricciardo, and probably a second to Sainz, with the fact he was running a relatively aged engine compared to Ricciardo not helping his cause.


Ended the first lap at the back of the McLaren/Ferrari battle and stayed there for the rest of the race, save for the seconds after Sainz let him past after gaining an advantage by leaving the track at Turn 12 before the Ferrari driver DRS’d his way back past.

Bottas overcut him at the second round of stops to relegate him to eighth, and although he closed up on Sainz by the end he was never able to threaten the Spaniard.

VERDICT: Qualifying ultimately defined his weekend and left him at the back of the McLaren/Ferrari battle.

2021 Site Vet

Started: 18th Finished: 10th


Headed into qualifying with a back-of-the-grid penalty for a power unit change hanging over him, but prevailed in the battle of the three drivers to be in that situation to earn a starting slot ahead of Alonso and Russell.

While he believed he left a little time on the table, the 12th-fastest time was a decent result given the last thing he wanted to do was reach Q3 and therefore be locked in on a used starting tyre.


Had a good first lap to climb to 15th, which became 14th when Ocon pitted for a new nose.

He ran longer in the first stint than most, rejoining in 14th after his stop and soon getting ahead of Russell. Gasly’s demise, combined with passing Giovinazzi and Raikkonen’s spin while under growing pressure in the closing stages added up to a hard-fought and well-deserved point.

VERDICT: Made the best of a bad job to salvage a point despite his grid penalty.


2021 Site Str

Started: 13th Finished: 12th


Had to rely on his slightly untidy first-run lap for his Q1 position thanks to Giovinazzi’s spin destroying any chance he had of improving late in the session.

While that first lap was good enough for the top 15, he was shuffled down to 16th – and behind Giovinazzi, who had delivered a slightly stronger laptime on his first run then lucked in when he spun.


Stroll’s hopes of a points finish were effectively over at the first corner, when he spun after contact with Latifi, who felt squeezed between Schumacher’s Haas and the Aston Martin, and dropped to 18th.

He pressed on but with damage that didn’t help his pace and 12th after a late pass on Raikkonen was about as good as it was realistically going to get.

VERDICT: Unfortunate in both qualifying and the race.

2021 Site Alo

Started: 19th Finished: DNF


After a disrupted Friday, missing FP1 after an early failure then having a rare off in FP2, Alonso also had a back-of-the-grid penalty for a power unit change.

Having reached Q2, Alpine decided the best strategy was to use Alonso to tow Ocon, which he did effectively, this ultimately only costing him one place on the grid given Russell’s quicker time was deleted.


Had a characteristically dramatic race, with an attacking three-stop strategy ending in retirement because of what he reported to be problems with the rear wing.

At that point, he was running 13th behind Vettel after a race enlivened by contact with Raikkonen at Turn 1, then a battle with Giovinazzi during which both had to cede the position for abusing track limits.

VERDICT: Still found a way to entertain on a no-hope weekend.

2021 Site Oco

Started: 11th Finished: DNF


With Alpine worse off in Austin than in recent races, primarily thanks to struggling with the rear end in the fast corners, Ocon was given the benefit of Alonso’s tows in qualifying.

That helped him to 11th place with what was largely a strong lap, albeit with a few small errors – notably at the Turn 11 hairpin that cost him exit speed as he latched onto the rear of his team-mate. Tenth might have been possible, but given Alpine didn’t want to risk an enforced soft start, 11th was probably as good as it was going to get.


Ocon was outfumbled by the two Alfa Romeos on the opening lap, slipping to 13th. But the bigger problem was Giovinazzi had clipped his front wing in making the pass, forcing an early stop for a change of nose.

That dropped him to the back, and although he was able to get back ahead of the two Haas drivers, he had lost too much time to be a points threat and was 17th behind Latifi when he retired apparently as a precaution because of concerns about the rear wing.

VERDICT: Given Alpine’s struggles, produced decent enough pace but needed a clean race to have any chance of points.

2021 Site Lec

Started: 4th Finished: 4th


Shaded Sainz, largely thanks to mighty pace in the last sector, and came close to outpacing Bottas, which might have been possible but for losing a little time off Turn 1 at the start of the lap. Not that it mattered given Bottas’s penalty, as Leclerc put the Ferrari at the front of the pack chasing Red Bull and Mercedes, which is where it should be.


A good start allowed him to menace Perez approaching Turn 1, but more importantly ensured he stayed clear of the Ricciardo/Sainz/Norris battle behind.

From there, he constructed a fine race, pulling away from Ricciardo and eventually ending up in a no-man’s land all of his own between Perez and Ricciardo, keeping control of fourth for the duration.

VERDICT: Qualified and raced pretty much to the maximum of the car.

2021 Site Sai

Started: 5th Finished: 7th


Opted to use softs to set a conservative banker in Q2 in anticipation of improving on mediums, but the wind conditions at Turn 1 cost him time on the second run meaning he had to rely on his earlier lap. This locked him into a soft start.

In Q3, he wasn’t completely happy with his lap but slotted in behind Leclerc despite being a couple of tenths slower having lost time in particular in the final sector.


Didn’t make a great start and lost out to Ricciardo on the first lap, having been sandwiched between the two McLarens at Turn 12. But taking to the runoff at the exit proved costly as he was later ordered to concede a place to Norris to avoid a penalty.

He did that on lap eight, but did so late in the esses and was therefore behind at the DRS detection point, enabling him to retake sixth into Turn 12.

Having proved unable to pass Ricciardo, picking up minor endplate damage after contact, he came under increasing pressure from Bottas and lost seventh on the penultimate lap.

VERDICT: A solid weekend but ultimately finished behind a couple of cars he should have beaten thanks to the first lap.

2021 Site Gas

Started: 8th Finished: DNF


Softening off the car to deal with the bumps, which the AlphaTauri didn’t react well too, had a knock-on effect aero-wise and meant the AlphaTauri wasn’t quite the Ferrari/McLaren-botherer it usually is.

Gasly did flirt with having to use softs to escape Q2, but his first run on mediums was good enough to get through.

His final Q3 lap was excellent until the final corner, where he struggled slightly to get the nose in and had to make a small correction at the exit, costing him a little time – but likely not enough to change his position.


Slipped to 10th out of the first corner thanks to being sandwiched between Tsunoda on the inside and Bottas on the outside. He was even briefly behind Giovinazzi before repassing him at the end of the esses, then moved to ninth when Bottas was ordered to give the position back for breaching track limits at Turn 1.

Held position through the first stint and slipped back from the top eight thanks to being behind his team-mate and struggling with understeer and tyre overheating in the turbulent air, resulting in him being frustrated that there were no team orders.

Stopped a lap after Tsunoda to switch from mediums to hards, holding his position in the queue. That meant he was on target for a minor points finish when he slowed and retired with a rear suspension problem.

VERDICT: Did a decent job in qualifying and was unlucky in the race when a few points were on.

2021 Site Tsu

Started: 10th Finished: 9th


Tsunoda reached Q3 for the second race in succession, but had to use softs in Q2 to do it – albeit with a comfortable margin over Ocon – and was still eight tenths of a second behind Gasly.

Around half of the deficit was in the high-speed first sector, where Tsunoda wasn’t always completely confident the rear would stick and struggled a little to be precise with his turn-in points.


Made a good start to run eighth in the first stint, having passed Gasly through Turn 1, but was passed by Bottas during the second stint after putting up a good defence.

But he didn’t lose any other positions, dealing with pressure well when it was there and ensuring that the softs he had started on didn’t let him down during his short first stint.

VERDICT: Still lacking pace, but a good all-round performance with no significant mistakes to end his five-race points drought.

2021 Site Rai

Started: 15th Finished: 13th


Having failed to set a legal lap on his first run thanks to a track-limits violation at Turn 19, it all came down to the last run. But Raikkonen had a big moment through the high-speed Turn 4/5, saving it well but losing time.

On a lap of too many corrections, he ended up well off the Q2 cutoff. As the man himself put it, “It was one of those days in which nothing goes well”.


A characteristically attacking first lap got him up to 12th but having been undercut by the early-stopping Alonso he suffered floor damage when passing him around the outside of Turn 1 – legally given it was felt he’d partly been crowded off the track.

Gasly’s retirement and a team order for Giovinazzi to move out the way moved him up to 10th, but while pushing on in the closing stages in a bid to stay clear of the charging Vettel, Raikkonen spun in the esses, precipitating his drop to 13th.

VERDICT: The usual pattern of being mediocre in qualifying but quicker in the race prior to his costly mistake.

2021 Site Gio

Started: 12th Finished: 11th


Giovinazzi’s first run in Q1 yielded a decent lap time, which was vital given that he spun coming off Turn 1 on his final run. That brought out the yellow flag, which forced Lance Stroll to back off and prevented the Aston Martin driver from bumping Giovinazzi out of the Q2 slots.

“I’ve been in that position so many times, sometimes it’s good that the luck was on my side,” he said of the fortuitous circumstances, having set the 13th-fastest time in Q2, which looked about par for the Alfa Romeo.


Ran 11th after an attacking opening lap before being among the early stoppers. As he couldn’t hit the laptime required, he was ordered to let Raikkonen past on lap 18, which he did (unlike in the Turkish Grand Prix) before becoming embroiled in a battle with Alonso.

Both were forced to cede positions thanks to gaining an advantage by leaving the track, with Giovinazzi losing out but getting back ahead when Alonso made his third stop.

All of this added up to 11th before he lost the position to the charging Vettel on lap 50, meaning that he didn’t pick up the pieces when Raikkonen spun.

VERDICT: As has often been the case, qualifying pace was slightly better than race pace.

2021 Site Maz

Started: 17th Finished: 17th


Struggled for balance in the high-speed corners and proved a little untidy in qualifying, although on his final run a little understeer helped to give him confidence. He ended up three tenths behind his team-mate, having also lost potentially a couple of tenths to traffic in the form of Stroll’s Aston Martin.


Mazepin’s headrest was incorrectly fastened, meaning it came loose early on the first lap then lifted on the back straight. As a result, he had to pit at the end of the first lap and his drop off the back of the field was hastened.

That effectively ensured he would finish last, with his progress not helped by his feet burning in the cockpit, a known problem.

Finished almost a minute-and-a-half behind Schumacher, albeit with the extra stop.

VERDICT: Not particularly quick, but unlucky with the headrest.

2021 Site Msc

Started: 16th Finished: 16th


Found himself at the back of a very long and slow queue ahead of his final Q1 lap, partly as a result of having to take to the weighbridge ahead of his run, meaning that the tyres weren’t up to temperature for the start of it.

He was unable to improve as a result, which was “so frustrating” on a weekend where he felt it might have been possible to make it to Q2.


After early flirtations with battling with Stroll and Latifi, he slipped to the back ahead only of team-mate Mazepin in a car that didn’t have the race pace to do anything else. But despite being lapped twice, finished only 12 seconds behind Latifi.

VERDICT: Unlucky in qualifying but on a hiding to nothing in the race.

2021 Site Lat

Started: 14th Finished: 15th


Latifi described his final Q1 effort as “one of the worst qualifying laps of the season”, which was a consequence of the unexpected oversteer that cost him time through the final part of the esses at the start of sector two.

Given he was still only a couple of tenths off Q2 pace on that lap, and his deficit to Russell, a place in the second stage of qualifying was certainly within his means.


Chose the middle lane at Turn 1, which caught him out as it allowed Schumacher to come up the inside while Stroll came around the outside. Latifi was sandwiched, spinning and suffering front wing damage that forced a pitstop for a new nose after five laps.

Thereafter, he passed Mazepin and jumped Schumacher but was adrift from the rest of the pack, finishing half-a-minute behind Russell.

VERDICT: Another weekend with flashes of gentle promise ultimately frustrated.

2021 Site Rus

Started: 20th Finished: 14th


A power unit change and resulting penalty meant that Russell was battling with fellow back-of-the-grid starters Alonso and Vettel in qualifying, which he described as “a strange feeling”.

He appeared to have done enough to pick off Alonso on his final Q2 lap, only for it to be deleted for violating track limits at Turn 9, condemning him to a 20th-place start.


Jumped from last to 15th on the opening lap, primarily thanks to the Latifi/Stroll incident at Turn 1. But on a weekend where the Williams pace was subdued, he wasn’t ever going to be a points threat, meaning he finished 14th and ahead only of team-mate Latifi and the Haas drivers.

VERDICT: Did a good enough job but had nothing to work with.

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