Here’s how we rated each driver in F1’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix...

Lewis Hamilton (Qualified 2nd, finished 1st) - 10

A performance fitting of a knight, Sir Lewis Hamilton added yet another remarkable victory to his collection. In what was clearly the second fastest car this weekend, an aggressive strategy from Mercedes allowed Hamilton to get ahead of Verstappen albeit on 10-lap older tyres. Verstappen handed the lead back after his only overtaking attempt was done off the track. From then on, Hamilton didn’t give the young Dutchman another sniff as he went on to claim his first season-opening win since 2015.

Max Verstappen (Qualified 1st, finished 2nd) - 9

The 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix looked destined to be won by Verstappen. While he lost track position to Hamilton through the differing strategies, the Red Bull driver’s sheer pace advantage looked like it was going to be a slam dunk victory. Verstappen completed the overtake on Hamilton around the outside of Turn 4, although outside of the white line and thus he had to give the position back to avoid a penalty. Verstappen couldn’t get close again and will be left to rue his misjudged overtaking attempt on Lap 53.

Valtteri Bottas (Qualified 3rd, finished 3rd) - 7

Bottas never quite had the pace of the leading pair, however, a slow second pit stop put the nail in the coffin for the Finn. Bottas’ pace after the first round of stops was impressive as he managed to close within four seconds of Verstappen. Mercedes pulled Bottas in on Lap 31 in an attempt to force Verstappen’s hand. Had it not been for a slow second stop, Bottas would have either undercut Verstappen or forced Red Bull to respond a lap later, ensuring Verstappen wouldn’t have the tyre advantage he ultimately had and thus handing Hamilton a comfortable victory.

Lando Norris (Qualified 7th, finished 4th) - 9

A near-perfect weekend for Norris in Bahrain as he finished well clear of McLaren’s midfield competitors. Norris’ aggression in the opening few laps proved to be crucial as he duelled with Ricciardo and later passed Leclerc on Lap 9. The only blemish on the Briton’s weekend was being beaten in qualifying by new McLaren teammate Ricciardo.

Sergio Perez (Qualified 11th, finished 5th) - 8 

Perez’s Red Bull debut started from the pit lane after suffering a loss of power on the formation lap. The Mexican showed impeccable race craft and race pace to recover to fifth place, just six seconds behind Norris. Although, his qualifying performances will have to improve after he failed to progress into Q3. 

Charles Leclerc (Qualified 4th, finished 6th) - 9

Sixth was the best Ferrari could muster in the hands of Leclerc in Bahrain. As we saw countless times last season, Leclerc’s Q3 lap was arguably the lap of the weekend as he qualified fourth, just a tenth shy of Bottas in the Mercedes. Leclerc didn’t quite have the race pace to challenge Norris but it was still an encouraging weekend for Ferrari. 

Daniel Ricciardo (Qualified 6th, finished 7th) - 7

Ricciardo’s McLaren debut started well after beating Norris to sixth in qualifying. The Australian looked to have the pace in the early phase of the race but dropped off, ultimately finishing over 20 seconds behind Norris. An encouraging start for Ricciardo, however, plenty of scope for improvement if he is to get on level terms with his teammate.

Carlos Sainz (Qualified 8th, finished 8th) - 7 

Like Ricciardo, Sainz couldn’t match the pace of his teammate on race day. A significant mistake at Turn 1 in qualifying meant Sainz could only manage eighth on the grid, then a poor start dropped him behind Alonso and Stroll. An extended middle stint gave Sainz a significant tyre advantage, allowing him to recover back to eighth place.

Yuki Tsunoda (Qualified 13th, finished 9th) - 9

Tsunoda had the pace to make Q3 in qualifying but struggled to get the lap together on the medium tyre in Q2. The Japanese rookie showed impressive overtaking prowess during the race to finish ninth, making a stunning late lunge on Alonso into Turn 1. He then overtook Stroll on the final lap with a similarly daring move to come home with two points on his F1 debut.

Lance Stroll (Qualified 10th, finished 10th) - 8

Stroll scored Aston Martin’s solitary point of the weekend. The Canadian made it into Q3, whereas teammate Sebastian Vettel fell at the first hurdle. Stroll mixed it with Alonso and Sainz during the early phase of the race, but he faded as it progressed highlighting Aston’s Martin’s sheer lack of pace at the moment.

Kimi Raikkonen (Qualified 14th, finished 11th) - 8

Raikkonen was just two seconds shy of scoring Alfa Romeo’s first points since Imola last season. The Finn overturned a significant qualifying deficit to teammate Giovinazzi and notably overtook former Ferrari teammate Alonso into Turn 1 midway through the race. 

Antonio Giovinazzi (Qualified 12th, finished 12th) - 7

Giovinazzi’s 0.5s advantage in qualifying over teammate Raikkonen was the highlight of his weekend in Bahrain. A slow first stop for the Italian dropped him down the order and he struggled to get back on terms with Raikkonen for the remainder of the race.

Esteban Ocon (Qualified 16th, finished 13th) - 6

An underwhelming race for Ocon meant he only gained three places from his starting position. Had it not been for an incident with Vettel, the Frenchman could have been ahead of Giovinazzi, although Ocon never looked like he had the pace to threaten the top ten this weekend.

George Russell (Qualified 15th, finished 14th) - 8

There’s not much more Russell can do while driving for Williams. The Mercedes junior made it into Q2 yet again and wasn’t threatened by teammate Latifi in the race. 

Sebastian Vettel (Qualified 18th, started 20th due to a penalty, finished 15th) - 4

It was a disastrous weekend for Vettel in Bahrain. He failed to make it into Q1 and then picked up a five-place grid penalty for failing to slow down sufficiently for yellow flags in qualifying. Aston Martin put him on an aggressive one-stop strategy in a bid to get him up the order and he showed some impressive racecraft against former F1 title rival Alonso. After being overtaken by Ocon into Turn 1, Vettel locked up and ran into the back of the Alpine driver, adding yet another high profile mistake to his name. 

Mick Schumacher (Qualified 19th, finished 16th) - 7

There’s only so much you can do when you’re driving in the slowest car on the grid. Schumacher convincingly out-performed teammate Mazepin in qualifying and the only blemish on his maiden F1 race was a spin at Turn 4 following the brief early Safety Car period.

Pierre Gasly (Qualified 5th, DNF) - 6

Gasly was one of the stars of qualifying as he made it into Q3 on the medium tyre. Gasly lost out at the start and a small misjudgement at Turn 6, where he hit the back of Ricciardo’s McLaren cost him his front wing and a chance of scoring big points. A missed opportunity for the Frenchman.

Nicholas Latifi (Qualified 17th, DNF) - 6

An anonymous race for Latifi after he was beaten yet again by Williams teammate Russell in qualifying. A suspected boost leak in his Mercedes engine affected the power levels and driveability of his car, ultimately retiring with six laps to go to avoid further damage. 

Fernando Alonso (Qualified 9th, DNF) - 8

Alonso’s return to F1 ended prematurely but we saw glimpses of the Spaniard’s immense skill and talent in a mediocre Alpine car. Alonso made his way up to seventh in the early phase of the race but his progress was halted by a small deployment issue. A stray sandwich wrap got stuck in his brake ducts, which overheated his car in the process and forced him into an early exit. 

Nikita Mazepin (Qualified 20th, DNF) - 1

Mazepin’s maiden F1 race ended on the opening lap with a spin into the barriers on the exit of Turn 2. The Russian spun twice in qualifying and twice during practice - a torrid weekend overall for the Haas driver.

 

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