Portuguese GP Driver Ratings: Lewis Hamilton defeats rivals while Lando Norris and Esteban Ocon shine

May 03, 2021

Lewis Hamilton: 9

Qualified 2nd, Finished 1st

On the weekend that he gave his strongest indication yet that he'll be sticking around in Formula 1 beyond this season, this was a performance that showed that, even at 36 and after seven world titles, Lewis Hamilton remains a formidable force.

The Mercedes W12 was in a good place around Portimao, certainly far more so than back at Bahrain when 2021 began back in March, but the gap to Red Bull was still tight, meaning fine margins were again going to determine the outcome of the weekend.

Hamilton wasn't especially happy with his qualifying performance after losing out on pole to team-mate Valtteri Bottas, and neither was he when a brief glance in his mirrors to see where Verstappen was just before the restart meant he missed the sister Mercedes drop the hammer and let the Red Bull on his tail to overtake.

But from there it was classic Lewis Hamilton: brilliant in wheel-to-wheel and shrewd in tyre management for win number 97.

Max Verstappen: 7.5

Qualified 3rd, Finished 2nd

As Nico Rosberg said, it must now be eminently clear for Max Verstappen just how good Lewis Hamilton is - and just how hard it is going to be to wrestle an F1 championship away from him.

"You need to be perfect," added Rosberg and Verstappen - while extracting the most of a slightly slower Red Bull - wasn't that. The Dutchman, unhappy with grip levels, made a small mistake in qualifying, falling foul of track limits by running wide to delete what would have been a pole-sealing lap, while another tiny error soon after passing Hamilton at the start of the race allowed the seven-time champion back through.

At least he secured second place with a nice move on Bottas, and an eight-point title deficit certainly isn't massive.

Valtteri Bottas: 7.5

Qualified 1st, Finished 3rd

Most importantly for his confidence, this was a whole lot better than Imola for Valtteri Bottas. Although, saying that, the weekend still ended with that too-familiar sense of disappointment at not converting pole position into the race win.

Second place also eluded the Finn in the end too, although Mercedes held their hands up afterwards for the exhaust temperature sensor issue which cost him five seconds just as he was shaping up to have a late run at Verstappen to try and regain the position he lost to the Red Bull immediately after his pit stop.

On the flip side, a 'free' pit stop for fresh tyres in the closing laps became a no-brainer and Bottas, who stayed within track limits, was the one who earned the fastest lap bonus point. But given his starting position, this was an early-season opportunity missed for Valtteri to get in the Lewis-Max shake-up at the championship's sharpest end.

Sergio Perez: 7

Qualified 4th, Finished 4th

A case of what could have been for Sergio Perez. He appeared to have similar pace to the top three when in clear air - but it took him too long to show that after falling behind Lando Norris early on. Perez was eight seconds behind Verstappen after finally passing the McLaren but as he admitted: "I think the damage had already been done".

Still, certainly not a disaster of a weekend for the Mexican, who was just a tenth off Verstappen in qualifying and went on to secure his best race finish as a Red Bull driver.

Lando Norris: 8.5

Qualified 7th, Finished 5th

Lando Norris is becoming a familiar figure in the Sunday top five and his latest strong points haul was certainly hard-won in Portugal, particularly after a tricky start on Friday when he had feared making Q3 might be an ask.

As it was, it was team-mate Daniel Ricciardo who endured the Saturday struggle, knocked out in Q1, as Norris qualified seventh amid a congested midfield. A cracking start to the race saw him run fourth for eight laps after the restart and, although he was repassed by Sergio Perez's faster Red Bull, he won one the midfield duel and beat Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to fifth by five seconds. Impressively, he remains third in the championship after three rounds.

Charles Leclerc: 7.5

Qualified 8th, Finished 6th

It says a lot about the high standards Charles Leclerc has set for himself that he insisted after finishing sixth at Portimao: "I haven't been performing at my best this weekend". His qualifying performance must have a lot to do with that assertion, with Leclerc down in eighth and out-qualified by his team-mate for the first time. But he couldn't have done much more in the race, as while Norris was always just that little bit faster, Leclerc won his battle with the Alpines.

Esteban Ocon: 8

Qualified 6th, Finished 7th

For Alpine, the Algarve represented what they hope will be their true arrival into that fight at the upper end of the midfield this year. For Esteban Ocon, it was another weekend where he showed that Fernando Alonso isn't going to have it easy to win this head-to-head in his F1 comeback year.

There hadn't looked much between them through a promising practice for the team, but Ocon was the only one to make Q3 when it mattered as he kept the grid and the sister car didn't. Sixth on the grid, the Frenchman lost a place to Norris and then Leclerc soon afterwards but kept battling and moved ahead of Gasly and Sainz after the stops. The charging Alonso finished on his tail on fresher tyres, but this was still Ocon's weekend at Alpine.

Fernando Alonso: 7

Qualified 13th, Finished 8th

That's more like it, Fernando Alonso. F1 2021's returning two-time world champion had been, uncharacteristically, largely anonymous through the opening two rounds - and he was hardly bursting into contention through the first half of the Portimao race, running long on his first stint after qualifying a disappointing 13th.

But a ferocious final flourish saw Alonso, who displayed similar pace to the leaders, overtake Gasly, Ricciardo and Sainz on his way to eighth place. "You could see the gladiator Alonso that we all remember from the back of the day," said Nico Rosberg - while Alonso admitted he drove with "anger".

Alonso will hope to continue that race-ending form for his home GP next weekend.

Daniel Ricciardo: 6.5

Qualified 16th, Finished 9th

Daniel Ricciardo did what few do better on Sunday, getting on a charge and coming through the field. He'd have still much rather have been fighting in the positions the McLaren should have been occupying from the start, though, after that messy Q1 on Saturday had left him languishing in 16th on the grid. "I think there were moments of the race that were really positive and having got another race distance under me," he reflected at the end of the weekend. "I feel like I've got quite a bit of feedback for the team." Losing marks for qualifying well out position despite the fine recovery, Ricciardo at McLaren remains a work in progress.

Pierre Gasly
7

Qualified 9th, Finished 10th

After qualifying fifth in Bahrain and Imola, Pierre Gasly and AlphaTauri couldn't replicate that pace in Portugal and in the end were happy just to come away with a point. "Honestly, today was really difficult," said Gasly. "It was what we expected. We've really struggled here across the weekend."

Credit to the Frenchman, who beat team-mate Yuki Tsunoda again in qualifying, for chipping away in a car that clearly wasn't as fast as the McLaren, Ferrari or Alpine - and he overtook Carlos Sainz late on for that 10th place.

Out of the points

Carlos Sainz: 6.5

A cliched weekend of two halves for Carlos Sainz, who certainly wouldn't have been expecting to record zero points from a race he made the finish from starting a fine fifth on the grid. Running well behind Norris approaching the single stops, Ferrari attempted to undercut the McLaren which was fine enough, but it was the switch to the medium tyres that proved Sainz's undoing. It proved a whole world of pain on that compound from there, dragging down his ratings score as he slumped to 11th.

Antonio Giovinazzi: 7

For all Alfa Romeo's improvement over the winter, they still probably need one of the midfield cars to have an off day/collision to get into the points. As it turns out, Kimi Raikkonen was the only man to retire from the race. Antonio Giovinazzi did have a very good weekend, though, 12th in qualifying and the race - just unable to challenge those faster cars in front. Still, an overtake on Sebastian Vettel must have felt nice.

Sebastian Vettel: 6.5

A weekend in which Sebastian Vettel clearly made a step forward with his feeling for the Aston Martin AMR21 - as evidenced by his long-awaited return to Q3 on Saturday - but one that shows that the team are not where they want to be yet in performance. Dropped down the midfield order in the race, with the long stint on medium tyres particularly tricky. He'll now try the team's updates that Stroll used at Portimao in Barcelona this week.

Lance Stroll: 6

Not a weekend Lance Stroll will fondly remember. After out-qualifying Vettel and making Q3 in Bahrain and Imola, Stroll crashed back down to earth somewhat in Portugal with a Q1 exit in 17th. His pace in the race was better, and he was even let through by Vettel at the end of the race to have a crack at the cars ahead on fresher tyres. Sportingly, Stroll gave the position back on the final lap.

Yuki Tsunoda: 5

Yuki Tsunoda admitted he "struggled all weekend with the balance of the car" as the Japanese rookie trailed a long way off Pierre Gasly's pace in the lead AlphaTauri on his first outing at Portimao. Four tenths of a second adrift of his team-mate in Q2 and qualifying 14th, Tsunoda finished the race a lap down in 15th.

George Russell: 6.5

A superb qualifying turned into a "race of survival" for George Russell, who quickly went backwards on Sunday after a best-ever 11th as a Williams driver on Saturday. "I couldn't battle with anybody because I was so focused with keeping the car on the circuit," explained Russell, with Williams struggling in the blustery Portimao conditions.

Mick Schumacher: 7

Seventeenth may not sound particularly impressive, but Mick Schumacher can be very proud of his weekend. The German rookie continued his qualifying domination of his team-mate - half a second faster on Saturday - and a day later he put another composed performance, with a morale-boosting overtake on Nicholas Latifi the cherry on top. Nice work.

Nicholas Latifi: 5.5

A surprise pass on his team-mate aside, Nicholas Latifi had a disappointing Portuguese GP. He qualified 18th to Russell's 11th, and similarly struggled in that Williams car on the Sunday, overtaken by a Haas late on. Ouch.

Nikita Mazepin: 5

Nikita Mazepin "made progress, as much as the result may not show it", said Haas boss Guenther Steiner. That may be the case, but a five-second penalty for almost crashing into Sergio Perez as a lapped car will hardly endear himself to the F1 grid. He was a minute down on the nearest car when the race finished.

Did Not Finish

Kimi Raikkonen: 5

Oh, Kimi. Raikkonen overtook two cars on the first lap but very clumsily made contact with his team-mate on the main straight just as he was starting his second. "He's the most experienced man on the grid... but that looked like the touch of a rookie error," said Sky F1's Martin Brundle. Beaten by half a second in qualifying by Giovinazzi, this wasn't Kimi's finest weekend all in all.

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