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Formula 1

Edd Straw’s French GP driver ratings + reader debate

by Edd Straw
14 min read

An absorbing 2021 French Grand Prix was by far the best Formula 1 race at Paul Ricard since its return to the calendar.

But amid some brilliant progressive drives, we also saw drivers tumbling down the order and some clumsy lapses.

Edd Straw gives his take on all 20 drivers’ performances – and you can debate his scores with him live in the comments section at 5.30pm UK time on Monday.

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


Hamilton was more comfortable with the car balance in qualifying than during practice and admitted to being “relieved” after set-up changes brought the Mercedes alive in qualifying.

The pace didn’t appear to be there to beat Verstappen, but he was delighted to have secured a front-row place.


He dealt with the front tyre graining problems in the first stint well after taking the lead when Verstappen had his excursion at the start, but giving away an undercut to the Red Bull driver cost him the lead.

Once the race settled into a battle of his one stop against Verstappen’s two stopper, Hamilton managed his hards well and was close to holding on, but realistically it was always a big ask.

VERDICT: Could have won, but it was strategy rather than his driving that was costly.

2021 Site Bot

Started: 3rd Finished: 4th


Bottas hoped to have the edge on his team-mate after free practice, but ended up 0.142s slower than Hamilton.

That seemed a fair reflection of his single-lap potential as he always seemed that step behind during qualifying, save for his pace on mediums in Q2.


Bottas held third in the first stint and was 2.2s behind Verstappen when he pitted at the end of lap 17 despite a lock-up and off-track excursion at Turn 3 earlier in the stint that gave him a flatspot and meant an early stop was inevitable.

An attacking start to the second stint hurt him later on as he struggled getting to the end on his set of hards. After being passed by Perez he hoped to at least keep within five seconds in the hope of benefitting from a penalty that ultimately didn’t come.

VERDICT: Pace was good all weekend, but despite strategy complaints his tyre management fell short of his team-mate’s.

2021 Site Per

Started: 4th Finished: 3rd


By his own admission, Perez “didn’t put it together” in Q3.

After his first run was compromised by a drop in power out of Turn 9, he tried to carry too much speed into Turn 12 on his final attempt and couldn’t get the front end in, costing him any chance of beating a Mercedes or two.

Jun 20 : French Grand Prix review


Perez appeared to be struggling in the first stint and lost ground on the top three, but it proved to be part of a tyre management race that allowed him to stop later than the leaders.

That offset allowed him to catch and pass Bottas in the closing stages – even if he was fortunate to avoid a 5s penalty for exceeding track limits in making that move. A penalty ultimately wouldn’t have cost him a place anyway.

VERDICT: Didn’t nail qualifying but drove an intelligent race.

2021 Site Ver

Started: 1st Finished: 1st


Verstappen looked odds-on for pole and delivered, setting the fastest time on both runs in Q3 and making the most of the lower-downforce Red Bull set-up and dealing with the resulting understeer well.


The polesitter looked to have held the lead at the start, but the rear stepped out coming through Turn 1 and he had to take to the runoff, handing the lead to Hamilton.

Verstappen undercut his way back into the lead, then after a 14-lap middle stint produced a beautifully measured run to the finish on mediums, passing Perez, Bottas and, on the penultimate lap, Hamilton to win.

VERDICT: Imperious in qualifying and superb in the race – but first-lap off means his rating is nudged below Hamilton’s even though it didn’t ultimately cost him victory.

2021 Site Ric

Started: 10th Finished: 6th


Ricciardo seemed relatively comfortable in the car after his recent struggles, although he did go out on softs for his second Q2 run given he was on the bubble for elimination.

He was able to abandon on that lap, giving him a medium-tyre start, then couldn’t improve on 10th in Q3.


Ricciardo swept around the outside of Turn 1 to run ninth, mounting a robust defence against Norris and then picking off Alonso and Leclerc in the first stint.

He was the second of those at the front of the midfield to pit, two laps after Leclerc, and undercut past Sainz and Gasly, but his pace wasn’t as good on the hards as on the mediums and Norris passed him for fifth.

VERDICT: Still not quite at Norris’s level, but getting there.

2021 Site Nor

Started: 8th Finished: 5th


Norris left a little time on the table thanks to running wide into Turn 12 on what he described as a “not very good” final Q3 lap.

But it didn’t appear to make any difference to his grid position given Leclerc was three-tenths quicker. He also again had the edge on pace over Ricciardo.


Norris slipped behind Ricciardo at the start and had an off at Turn 1 on the second lap while trying to retake the position.

He ran long on the mediums, stopping on lap 24, which in real terms cost him five places, but he passed the Alfa Romeo drivers, Gasly, Leclerc, Sainz and Ricciardo in the second stint and finished 11.8s clear of the gaggle behind.

VERDICT: Other than giving away a tenth or two in qualifying, which didn’t cost him a place, another stellar weekend.

2021 Site Vet

Started: 12th Finished: 9th


Vettel struggled for front-end grip on his second run in Q2 on mediums, but never quite looked quick enough to make Q3.

While he perhaps could have picked off Ocon with a cleaner final lap, the sixth row looked about right for the Vettel/Aston Martin combination.


Vettel started on hards and ran 11th after passing Ocon on lap two, then also overtook Alonso. He ran to lap 37/53 before pitting, although he did lose 3.5s during that stint with a 28th-lap off at Beausset.

He rejoined 11th, with Leclerc immediately pitting and handing him a place, then passed the struggling Sainz for ninth. Despite good late-race pace, Vettel couldn’t close up on the Alonso/Gasly/Ricciardo battle.

VERDICT: Qualifying was about par but it was another well-executed race – brief off aside.

2021 Site Str

Started: 19th Finished: 10th


Stroll was eliminated in Q1 having failed to post a time, with the one lap he did get to complete amid the red flags deleted for the slenderest of track limits violations at Turn 6.

On his final run he did have time to attempt a flier, but aborted it because of traffic, then hit the red flag on the next attempt. The lap that was deleted was good enough for eighth in Q1, so pace wasn’t a problem and there were hints he might have had the edge on Vettel.


Stroll was aggressive early in the race, climbing from 19th to 13th before anyone made a pitstop.

Like team-mate Vettel, he ran long then picked off Russell, Tsunoda and Sainz in the final stint to pick up a point for 10th.

VERDICT: Despite the red flags, his Q1 lap deletion still counts against him, but he drove an excellent race.

2021 Site Alo

Started: 9th Finished: 8th


Like team-mate Ocon, Alonso wasn’t as happy on the mediums that he used for both his Q2 runs and the first in Q3, but was able to deal with the understeer limitation it dialled in better.

His one attempt on softs in Q3 was a good one, although he did lose a little time to being a little too aggressive on the kerb at the chicane and perhaps could have picked off Norris with a perfect lap.


Alonso held eighth early on but struggled massively with graining and lost places to Ricciardo, Norris and Vettel before making a pitstop to avoid holding up his team-mate.

He showed strong pace in the second stint on hards, passing the Alfa Romeos and Ocon on his way to eighth place – blaming Gasly ahead having a DRS assist from Ricciardo ahead of him for not being able to attack late on.

VERDICT: Continues to get stronger on his return and did well to recover from first-stint struggles.

2021 Site Oco

Started: 11th Finished: 14th


Although his pace on softs was very similar to team-mate’s, but once on the mediums in Q2 Ocon struggled with the balance shifting towards understeer.

That was despite dialling in a little more front end for the second run having decided to gamble on another attempt on mediums, with the gap to Alonso just under two-tenths on both Q2 runs.


Ocon slipped behind Vettel early on to run 12th after starting on hards, but the strategy didn’t work for him.

After he made his stop, he came out behind the Williams drivers and, despite picking off Latifi, couldn’t do anything about Russell or Tsunoda ahead.

VERDICT: Ocon had Alonso’s qualifying pace on softs, but not on mediums, with the hard-tyre start working against him in the race.

2021 Site Lec

Started: 7th Finished: 16th


Leclerc had a difficult weekend and was struggling with understeer. He also admitted he wasn’t driving well, although his final effort in Q3 got him within a tenth-and-a-half of Sainz and salvaged seventh place.

“Before that, it was a bit more a disaster,” he admitted.


Leclerc held seventh behind Gasly in the first stint before becoming the first to make a pitstop at the end of lap 14 after struggling with front graining.

Although that early stop allowed him to become the de facto midfield leader for a time, he then plummeted down the order, which led to a second stop and a painful run to the finish behind Giovinazzi’s Alfa.

VERDICT: Dealt less well with Ferrari’s front-axle problems and slumped in the race.

2021 Site Sai

Started: 5th Finished: 11th


Sainz looked to have the edge on pace over Leclerc throughout the weekend and delivered the best-possible result with fifth in qualifying, with his mighty first sector making the difference in the battle with Gasly.


Things looked good early on as Sainz held fifth and, despite struggling with front graining and degradation, was still there when he pitted at the end of lap 17. That cost him positions to Leclerc and Ricciardo, although he later passed his team-mate.

But Sainz was struggling with the same tyre drop-off as Leclerc, just not as accelerated, and lost positions to Norris, Gasly, Alonso, Vettel and Stroll to finish outside the points.

VERDICT: Outperformed Leclerc in qualifying and the race, but it wasn’t enough to salvage points given Ferrari’s tyre nightmare.

2021 Site Gas

Started: 6th Finished: 7th


The pressure was on for his final Q3 lap after a track limits violation led to the deletion of his first attempt.

He was delighted with his second go, but was disappointed to miss out on fifth by 0.028s with a very slightly untidy run through Turn 1/2 potentially making the difference.


Gasly held sixth behind Sainz in the first stint but lost a position to Ricciardo’s undercut.

He was also caught and passed by Norris during the second stint, although he did overtake Sainz for what was effectively seventh place on lap 36. Despite catching Ricciardo in the final stint, he was unable to challenge.

VERDICT: Although he was disappointed, seventh in the fourth-best car all-round was a very good result.

2021 Site Tsu

Started: 20th (pits) Finished: 13th


Tsunoda took a little too much kerb at Turn 1 on his first qualifying lap and spun, ending his session and bringing out the red flag.

He should have made Q2 with ease but instead had to start from the pits after a gearbox change.


Tsunoda started from the pits on mediums and managed to make his way past the Haas and Williams drivers in the first stint before stopping on lap 15.

But he made little progress on hards in the second stint, ultimately slipping behind Russell to finish 13th.

VERDICT: Was unable to recover after the needless Q1 error put him to the back.

2021 Site Rai

Started: 17th Finished: 17th


The Q1 disruption meant that, like so many others, he only had one shot at setting a lap time and he was unable to make it count, lapping six-tenths off Giovinazzi.

He was much closer to his team-mate on the aborted final lap, although based on his first two sectors it would have been touch and go to make Q2.


Raikkonen produced another charging first lap to gain three places and run behind Giovinazzi, but ran five laps longer than his team-mate before pitting to change his starting hards for mediums.

That cost him ground and he missed out on jumping Leclerc when the Ferrari driver made his second stop as a result.

VERDICT: Poor in qualifying despite the ill-luck, but race pace was similar to his team-mate.

2021 Site Gio

Started: 13th Finished: 15th


Giovinazzi banked a good first Q1 lap that got him through to Q2 comfortably. After an initial attempt on mediums, he went for softs for the final run.

He ended up two-tenths away from the Q3 cut-off after an untidy final sector and felt that finishing two places higher in 11th “was maybe possible”.


Giovinazzi held 13th in the first stint on hards and pressured Ocon but wasn’t able to launch a move before being passed by Stroll.

But tyre management was a struggle, which didn’t improve when he switched to the mediums, meaning that after losing a place to Russell’s long undercut he shook out 15th.

VERDICT: Did a good job in qualifying, while his race performance was about par for the Alfa.

2021 Site Maz

Started: 18th Finished: 20th


Mazepin was just under seven-tenths off team-mate Schumacher on the first runs in Q1 but despite being confident he’d improve on the second run, he was still on course for a significant deficit.


The Russian launched a forceful pass on Schumacher at Turn 3 on lap four to claim 19th and did inch away – albeit running on hards compared to his team-mate’s mediums.

He stopped on lap 31 and dropped behind the other Haas, closing to 3.253s behind at the end of lap 38/53 before he hit tyre trouble – eventually dropping to 14s adrift and having a brief last-lap off at the chicane after letting Norris lap him.

VERDICT: Aside from his forceful moment with Schumacher, kept it clean but still lacked pace.

2021 Site Msc

Started: 15th Finished: 19th


A curate’s egg of a session for Schumacher, who reached Q2 for the first time thanks to a superb first Q1 lap but then assisted his own progression by crashing and causing a red flag on his second run.

Had the session played out, judging by the split times it’s likely he would have been shuffled down to 16th or 17th.


Schumacher tried to be aggressive after starting on the eighth row but had an off at Turn 3 that dropped him to 19th.

On lap five, he was unhappy with Mazepin leaving him no space when he was passed at Turn 3, but thanks to running the medium/hard strategy, jumped back ahead of his team-mate when Mazepin made his pitstop to change to mediums.

VERDICT: Had the advantage over Mazepin, but the Q1 crash counts against him.

2021 Site Lat

Started: 16th Finished: 18th


The deficit of 0.002s to Russell was the closest he’s ever been thanks to a good first effort in Q2. However, he was around three-and-a-half tenths down on Russell on their final laps before the session was red flagged.

Once again he struggled to match his team-mate’s progression through the session.


Latifi got ahead of Russell at the start and stayed there until lap 12/53. He then dropped back from Russell and despite matching his team-mate’s strategy and only making his stop a lap later, emerging behind, he didn’t have the pace to make the same subsequent gains.

In the end, Latifi finished 15s, and six places, behind his team-mate, but did show good pace late on.

VERDICT: Some promising signs but ultimately still fell short of Russell’s level.

2021 Site Rus

Started: 14th Finished: 12th


Russell kept up his 100% record of reaching Q2 this season, but only just having lapped a mere two-thousandths faster than Latifi on his first Q1 run.

His second Q1 run was set to be significantly quicker and he was three-and-a-half tenths up on Latifi when the red flags flew, but he had to rely on lightly-scrubbed softs for his Q2 lap.


Russell found himself stuck in the middle of Turn 1 and lost positions, later being passed by Stroll at the penultimate corner of the opening lap. It took a while to clear Latifi, but once he did he immediately started to drop him.

On the orthodox strategy, he undercut past Ocon and the Alfa Romeos, jumped Leclerc when the Ferrari driver stopped for a second time then unexpectedly passed Tsunoda to finish 12th. He rated this as his best Williams drive.

VERDICT: An excellent weekend’s work, provided you disregard the first lap.

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