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Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2021

Esteban Ocon, Lewis Hamilton and Antonio Giovinazzi were RaceFans’ Star Performers of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Here’s why.

Stars

Esteban Ocon

  • Reached Q3, unlike his team mate, and qualified a respectable ninth place, behind the two AlphaTauris
  • Was up to fourth after the first red flag, then surprisingly restarted the race from the lead after a second red flag and controversial manoeuvres between Verstappen and Hamilton
  • Held off Ricciardo admirably, and gave Bottas a hard task to overtake him for the final podium position
  • Was gutted to lose out on a podium finish by just a tenth of a second, but still happy to score 12 points for Alpine

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton kept his cool for points-tying win
  • Fastest in first two practice sessions, and fastest in qualifying – after avoiding grid penalties for alleged impeding and a double waved yellow ‘false alarm’
  • Asserted control in the first ten laps of the race, but lost the lead to Verstappen after the second red flag restart when his rival got away quicker on fresher rubber
  • Held his nerve in one of the most controversial lead battles in recent Formula 1 memory to take the lead for good with eight laps to go
  • Won his eighth race of the season to set up a championship showdown in Abu Dhabi

Antonio Giovinazzi

  • Strong effort in Q3 allowed him one more chance to finish his F1 tenure on a strong note
  • Vaulted from tenth on the grid to seventh after two red flags and a ‘free’ pit stop to take on hard tyres
  • Spending most of the race ahead of both Ferraris and Norris’ McLaren was a great boost of confidence, but he couldn’t fend off Sainz and Leclerc until the end
  • Scored points for the first time in 16 races as he finished a season-best ninth place in his penultimate F1 appearance

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Strugglers

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2021 Tsunoda was in the wars again

Yuki Tsunoda

  • Another Q3 appearance and eighth on the grid was enough to build confidence
  • After the second red flag, restarted in ninth – on the same tyre strategy as Verstappen
  • Lost another points-scoring opportunity in another needless clash with a rival, this time Verstappen

Sergio Perez

  • Qualified fifth, almost half a second off his team mate, despite Verstappen ruining his last lap with a crash
  • Held position in the first ten laps, but lost three places as he pitted during the first Safety Car period which cost him when the red flag came out
  • Failed to account for Leclerc alongside him at the first restart, triggering a messy crash

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And the rest

Valtteri Bottas

  • Qualified within a tenth of Hamilton to ensure all-Mercedes front row in the race
  • Was passed by Ocon and Ricciardo after the first red flag, dropping from second to fifth
  • Though it took quite a few laps, he was able to eventually dispatch Ricciardo, then pipped Ocon at the line for third, giving Mercedes a strong claim to another constructors’ championship triumph

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2021 Verstappen crossed the line – literally – in his fight with Hamilton
  • What looked like being a majestic lap for pole position ended in the turn 27 barrier
  • Was handed the lead when an early Safety Car period, which the Mercedes drivers pitted under, became a red flag, under which he could change tyres.
  • Dived off the track at the first restart and forced Hamilton aside as he rejoined, which led to him being relegated to third at the restart
  • Took full advantage of another tyre change – to mediums – at the second red flag restart, vaulting into the lead
  • Couldn’t shake off the pursuing Hamilton and repeatedly overstepped the mark while defending his position, collecting penalties for abusing track limits and slowing excessively while trying to hand the lead to Hamilton “strategically”, in a place he was certain to lose it again
  • Medium tyres fell away too much at the end, but even with penalties, finished second

Lando Norris

  • Advanced to Q3 on soft tyres, then qualified seventh
  • Overtook Gasly on the opening lap, but then pitted from sixth for hard tyres, dropping him to 14th once the first red flag was shown
  • Instead of competing for a top-five finish, spent the rest of the race in recovery mode fighting back to finish tenth

Daniel Ricciardo

  • Narrowly missed out on Q3 appearance – by five-hundredths of a second – and qualified 11th
  • Gained two places on the opening lap and another four places after the first red flag courtesy of a ‘free’ pit stop
  • Ran ahead of Bottas for most of the race thereafter, but ultimately conceded the position and finished a solid fifth place

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2021 Vettel’s wounded Aston shed debris around Jeddah
  • His 17th place qualifying result firmly underlined Aston Martin’s struggles
  • After a good first lap, and aided by the red flags, made his way up to eighth place with a chance to salvage points
  • Two collisions with F1’s youngest (Tsunoda) and oldest (Raikkonen) drivers – neither of which were chiefly Vettel’s fault – ruined his race and led to an early retirement

Lance Stroll

  • Took 18th in qualifying behind his team mate on a bad day for Aston Martin
  • Made a decent start from the first lap, but dropped to the rear of the field after pitting on lap nine following first safety car
  • Found himself back in the top 10 after multiple incidents in front of him, but didn’t have the straight-line speed to fend off Norris and finished out of the points

Fernando Alonso

  • Missed Q3 off the back of his return to the podium in Qatar
  • Worked his way into the top 10 before the first safety car; lost track position after pitting for hard tyres on lap 10
  • A spin on lap 25 compromised his chance to score points as he finished off the lead lap in 13th
  • Suffered increasing tyre vibrations so the team called him in for soft tyres towards the end

Charles Leclerc

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2021 Leclerc was back to his best in qualifying
  • Another superb effort in qualifying saw him qualify ahead of Perez in fourth
  • Dropped to sixth after the first red flag; after the restart, was left with nowhere to go in collision with Perez
  • Suffered from flat spotted tyres after the collision, which hurt his pace – but he escaped significant damage and fought on to a seventh place finish

Carlos Sainz Jnr

  • Was quick in final practice but could not post a representative lap in Q2 after picking up damage, leaving him down in 15th on the grid
  • With a free choice of tyres he started on the hard rubber, and got the benefit of the red flag to jump back into the top 10
  • Ran as high as seventh position in the closing laps, but dropped behind Leclerc to eighth after his used medium tyres fell off at the end

Pierre Gasly

  • Put in another fine qualifying effort, just 0.002s behind Perez in sixth
  • Got the ‘free’ pit stop after the first red flag, undoing the damage of being passed by Norris, Ocon, and Ricciardo in the opening laps
  • Kept out of trouble to bag sixth place ahead of the two Ferraris

Kimi Raikkonen

  • Missed the cut for Q3 by less than three tenths to team mate Giovinazzi, qualified 12th
  • Was hanging around the fringe of points before colliding with Vettel at half-distance
  • Last classified finisher in 15th after pitting for damage in his penultimate Formula 1 grand prix

Mick Schumacher

Mick Schumacher, Haas, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2021 Schumacher was the evening’s first retirement
  • Another comprehensive demolition job on team mate in qualifying
  • Unfortunately performed the wrong kind of demolition job on his car – and the turn 22 barrier – during the race, having passed Latifi at the start

Nikita Mazepin

  • Over a second slower than Schumacher in qualifying, a gap almost as big as the gap between Schumacher and the fastest driver in Q1
  • Gained places after a ‘free’ pit stop
  • Joined his team mate in retirement as he ploughed into the rear of Russell’s car in the chaos which unfolded after the first red flag restart

George Russell

  • Another strong Q2 appearance and 14th on the grid in an emotional weekend
  • Dropped three places on the first lap, then fell behind Mazepin after losing out due to the red flag
  • Hit from behind by Mazepin in a multi-car pileup on lap 15, ending his race

Nicholas Latifi

  • Out-qualified both Aston Martins on pace, managing 16th on the grid
  • Took care of his car as other drivers – including his team mate – found themselves involved in compromising accidents
  • Last lead lap finisher in 12th, around 20 seconds away from another points finish

Over to you

Vote for the driver who impressed you most last weekend and find out whether other RaceFans share your view here:

  • Vote for your 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Driver of the Weekend

2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

  • How Hamilton and Verstappen’s roughest scrap yet played out on the radio
  • Brawn defends Masi following criticism of Saudi Arabian GP decisions
  • F1 drivers want safety changes to Jeddah’s “Suzuka with walls” layout
  • 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Star Performers
  • How the drivers and teams’ titles will be decided in Abu Dhabi

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