2021 Qatar GP Review
Hamilton takes a dominant victory in the Desert
After a stunning victory last time out in Brazil, Mercedes and Hamilton carried their momentum into the weekend at Qatar. Mercedes' and Lewis' pace was evident from the very start of weekend and resulted in them taking pole over his title rival Max Verstappen by half a second, a bleak reality for the Dutchman as he had a huge mountain to climb if he wanted to challenge for the win on Sunday. To add insult to injury he was awarded a five place grid penalty for ignoring yellow flags on his last lap of Q3 after Pierre Gasly's front right tyre punctured and forced him to stop on track, if Hamilton didn't have the upper hand before he certainly did now. The race got underway and the start was fairly tame, Hamilton got away in the lead whilst Verstappen too had made a good start climbing up to 4th. Max made light work of both Gasly and Alonso passing them in a matter of laps, however when he was unleashed into second he found himself around 5-6 seconds down on Hamilton. This gap grew larger as the race drew on with the Red Bull simply no match for the mighty Mercedes and Hamilton combo, who came home to take a lights to flag victory nearly 25 seconds ahead of Verstappen who finished a comfortable second. Fernando Alonso made a welcome return to the podium, capitalising on poor weekends for both Perez and Bottas to claim third place.
Hamilton: 10/10, A flawless weekend for the seven time champion, his pace was outstanding which left his rivals unable to even get close to him. This was an important victory for Hamilton, with the pace he exhibited today certainly giving Red Bull something to worry about and shifting the momentum towards Mercedes as the season comes to a head.
Bottas: 4/10, An underwhelming weekend for Bottas who just didn't seem to be able to match the pace that his teammate could produce, which was evident in qualifying when he finished nearly 6 tenths down on Lewis. After being demoted down the field for ignoring yellow flags Bottas had a big job on his hands if he wanted to compete with Hamilton, a job he didn't make any easier when he lost substantial ground on lap 1. Valterri floundered for a while being stuck down in the low end of the points, however he soon found his groove and began moving his way towards the front of the pack with some impressive overtaking. This groove would be interrupted abruptly when his front left tyre punctured towards the end of his first stint, undoing all of the good work he'd done up to that point. Bottas was put out of his misery on lap 48 when he retired from the race due to puncture damage, he'll be hoping for better luck next weekend as he moves into his last two races for the Silver Arrows.
Verstappen: 8/10, With Mercedes' looking mighty Red Bull and Max knew that this was always a damage limitation type of race, and limit damage they did as the claimed a well deserved second. Max was under pressure as he started seventh and knew any mistakes would allow Hamilton to take the lead in the championship, however Max rose to the occasion as he scythed his way through the pack early limiting the gap Hamilton was able to get over him in the early phases. An impressive drive from Max, but he and Red Bull will definitely be worried about Mercedes recent upturn in form as he only holds a slender 8 point lead going into the final two rounds
Perez: 4/10, Many believed Perez had turned a corner in his Red Bull career after a recent upturn in form, however he reverted back to type this weekend with a quizzical lack of pace in qualifying leaving him in 11th for the start on Sunday. Despite this poor qualifying he did do a good job recovering his way through the field as he easily navigated his way through the slower midfield cars. Red Bull opted for a two stop strategy with the threat of punctures looming large, which in the end appeared to be the wrong decision as he lost out on third narrowly to one-stopping Fernando Alonso; losing valuable points in Red Bulls close fight with Mercedes in the constructors championship.
Norris: 6/10, This weekend continued Norris' miserable run of just 4 points in the last 3 races, not necessarily due to a lack of pace but a lack of fortune for the young Brit. He did well in qualifying as he took 4th for the start of the race, far ahead of his experienced teammate Daniel Ricciardo. His race was quiet but successful as he was running in fourth with just a few laps left to go until he was struck with a puncture and was forced to pit. Luckily the team had noticed the puncture before the tyre completely delaminated and meant Norris was still able to recover well and take 9th, claiming McLarens only two points of the weekend as Ferrari extend their constructors championship advantage over the Woking based outfit.
Ricciardo: 4/10, As has been the case many times this season, Daniel simply struggled to extract the same amount of pace from the car as his teammate could and this showed in qualifying as he was left down in 14th place. The race was a similar story as he once again struggled to find any pace; reportedly he did spend much of the race fuel saving but regardless the pace just simply wasn't their for him from the very start. A worrying weekend for Ricciardo as he seems just as off the pace as he was earlier on in the season, calling into question the 'progress' he seemed to make at races like Monza.
Vettel: 6/10, It was a successful qualifying session for the 4 time champion as he made it 4 consecutive races in which he's outqualified his teammate, sneaking into 10th place for the start. Aston had exhibited some good pace and hopes would've been high for a good points finish going into Sunday, however a disastrous start which saw Vettel drop 7 positions dashed any hopes of a top 6 or 7 finish out of the window. Regardless Sebastian soldiered on and showed some impressive speed to recover to tenth to claim a solitary point for his efforts.
Stroll: 7/10, Lance achieved his best result of the season in Qatar, a race which opposed his teammates with a poor qualifying followed by a great race day. He began the day in 12th but a wonderful opening lap launched him up into the top 10, a status which he held onto the whole race with a good strategy and good speed allowing the Aston driver to compete in the upper midfield for the first time in a while. He narrowly missed out in P5 as he chased down Ocon right to the very end of the race however this was a promising result after a pretty miserable season for the Canadian.
Alonso: 9/10, This weekend marks Fernando's first podium since the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2014, which in my personal opinion is far too long for a driver of his quality. He and Alpine both looked quick from the outset of the weekend and this was confirmed in his qualifying performances as he claimed P3 after the penalties of Bottas and Verstappen were applied. His experience paid off on race day as he took to the head of the midfield cars and remained their until the end of the race, capitalising on Perez and Bottas' misfortune to take a well deserved 3rd place.
Ocon: 7/10, Esteban's weekend wasn't quite as spectacular as his teammates but he still put on a very good showing and claimed a good result for the Alpine team in their fight for 5th in the constructors. A solid 9th in qualifying followed by a smooth, clean drive allowed him to take 5th in the race, a position he had to fight hard for as he came under heavy pressure from Stroll and the Ferrari's behind towards the end. An impressive drive from the Frenchman who continues his impressive season after a poor return to F1 in 2020.
Leclerc: 6/10, It was a tricky weekend for Charles as chassis problem halted his progress in qualifying and forced him to start a lowly 13th, far off where the Ferrari should've been. Following a chassis change his pace looked much better and after a good race he was able to finish within just a second of his teammate in 8th, a great recovery from the Monegasque driver.
Sainz: 6/10, Carlos may've been a tad disappointing leaving this weekend given the fact he was beaten by an Aston Martin and both Alpines, both cars which are on paper slower than the Ferrari. Still it was another solid points finish from the Spaniard who claimed 7th as he extends his points finishing streak to 13 in a row, the current highest on the grid. Despite a fairly underwhelming weekend in the context of the rest of the season, the Scuderia will still be pleased to extend their advantage over McLaren in the constructors as they begin to distance themselves in third place.
Gasly:5/10, This weekend was a case of what could've been for Pierre as a promising start to the weekend finished with him leaving the venue empty handed. It was a great effort from the Frenchman to qualify 2nd for the race (post Verstappen and Bottas penalties) in spite of a tyre failure on his last lap of qualifying. The race signalled a change in fortune for Pierre as whilst he made a good start he began to fall back from Alonso and his chances of a podium began to slip away. The team opted for a two-stop strategy contrary to those around him who were one-stopping, this dropped Pierre down to 11th a position he held until the end of the race as he was unable to use his tyre advantage to make any significant progress. Alpha Tauri's strategy gamble cost them points in Qatar, putting them significantly on the back foot in their fight for 5th in the constructors as we head into the penultimate round of the season.
Tsunoda:3/10, This weekend showed a small improvement for Yuki, however he was still unable to maximise the pace of his Alpha Tauri. He had a promising qualifying, 8th place just two tenths off his teammate suggested perhaps he could challenge for points on race day, but as has so often been the case he slid back in the race failing to show the pace required to challenge those in the top 10. It's been a nightmare rookie season for the young Japanese driver and he'll be happy to know there's just two races until he can get away from F1 and prepare for what he'll hope is a much more successful second season.
Raikkonen:5/10, After a promising run after the summer break this weekend saw Alfa Romeo return firmly to the back end of the field. Given Alfa's lack of pace it was unlikely Kimi would challenge for points which turned out to be the case, however he bested his teammate in both qualifying and race which in my eyes marks a good weekend for the 42 year old.
Giovinazzi:5/10, A similar story to his teammate this weekend as the Italian looks to bring to an end what can only be described as an underwhelming F1 career. The blockbuster qualifying performances of Zandvoort and Monza seem like an age ago now for Antonio as lowly 13th and 14th places have become the norm for he and the team.
Schumacher:5/10, The young German once again didn't put a foot wrong this weekend, quietly going about his business and comfortably beating his teammate. Whilst 19th in qualifying and 16th in the race doesn't exactly scream good performance; when you consider the machinery he's in you couldn't expect much more from Mick.
Mazepin:2/10, Even by his standards this weekend was a disappointment for the Russian driver. He qualified well off the pace of his teammate on Saturday and he didn't find much in the way of speed the following day either, as once again this season he rounded up the end of the field in 18th. After a good weekend in Brazil Nikita will be disappointed with this backwards step he seems to have taken in Qatar.
Russell:5/10, The Mercedes bound George produced a performance that you'd come to expect from him, once again showcasing his dominance over teammate Latifi. His pace in qualifying wasn't too far off those in the midfield so hopes for a good race we're high, however he didn't live up to such expectation as he was unable to challenge the drivers in the points. His disappointing weekend came to a spectacular end as he suffered a puncture late on, limping home to a 17th place finish
Latifi:4/10, After outqualifying his teammate for the first time last weekend in Brazil Nicholas would've hoped to carry some of that form into the race weekend in Qatar, however things didn't pan out as such with his lack of pace becoming evident in qualifying only managing 17th. He showed very little of worth in the race either and suffered the same fate as his teammate late on in the day with a puncture, which eventually forced him to retire on lap 50. This race continues a lacklustre recent run for Williams as they're upturn in form around the mid seasons seems to have fizzled out.