Bahrain F1 driver ratings: Magnussen stars on return in the desert F1 journalist Connor McDonagh runs through the field’s driver ratings following the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Bahrain F1 driver ratings: Magnussen stars on return in the desert

Charles Leclerc (Qualified 1st, finished 1st) - 10

It was the perfect weekend for Charles Leclerc to kick off the season as he won from pole position in Bahrain. Leclerc was at his best in qualifying to secure the 10th pole position of his career and he was clearly the fastest man on race day. His ability to keep Max Verstappen at bay also deserves credit, particularly his clever car positioning when battling the reigning world champion.

Carlos Sainz (Qualified 3rd, finished 2nd) - 8

Carlos Sainz took top spot ahead of the final runs in Q3 but couldn’t improve to secure his maiden pole. The Spaniard was a little bit off Leclerc throughout the weekend, citing a wrong setup direction in Friday practice. He slowly clawed back the time as the weekend progressed, running comfortably in third behind Leclerc and Verstappen. On course for P3, Verstappen’s issues allowed Sainz to move into second to secure Ferrari’s first 1-2 at a season-opener since 2010.

Race winner Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari and second placed team mate Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari celebrate with the team.
Race winner Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari and second placed team mate…

Lewis Hamilton (Qualified 5th, finished 3rd) - 9

The seven-time champion got the most out of the W13 in Bahrain with Mercedes trailing the top two teams by over 0.5s in both qualifying and race trim. A good start moved him up to fourth but Red Bull’s superior pace and straight-line speed meant Sergio Perez regaining the position was only a formality. Mercedes’ choice to switch to the hards was perplexing but ultimately it had no effect on the end result with a big buffer to the midfield behind. With technical issues for the Red Bulls, Hamilton secured a surprise podium in Bahrain.

George Russell (Qualified 9th, finished 4th) - 7

George Russell’s first weekend as a full-time Mercedes driver didn’t go entirely to plan as a mistake into Turn 1 left him ninth on the grid. Russell made progress quickly up the field as he quickly overtook Kevin Magnussen for sixth. Russell mirrored his more experienced teammate fairly well in race pace, later benefitting from Red Bull’s two DNFs to secure fourth.

Kevin Magnussen (Qualified 7th, finished 5th) - 10

A fairytale return for Magnussen as he scored Haas’ best result since the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix. Had it not been for a hydraulic issue at the end of Q2, the Dane probably would have pipped Bottas to sixth. Magnussen ran as high as fifth in the first stint, running ahead of Perez before dropping into a comfortable position ahead of his midfield rivals. Magnussen was the clear winner of the midfield and the star of the Bahrain GP weekend.

Valtteri Bottas (Qualified 6th, finished 6th) - 8

Valtteri Bottas starred in qualifying with sixth, ahead of his Mercedes successor Russell. In typical fashion, Bottas plummeted down the order to as low as 14th on the opening lap. The Finn did reveal after the race that Alfa has been struggling with a mechanical issue with its clutch which explained his and teammate Guanyu Zhou’s poor start. Bottas recovered well into the points and was closing down Pierre Gasly before the Frenchman’s retirement at the end of the race. 

Mick Schumacher (GER) Haas VF-22 and Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Alfa Romeo F1 Team C42 battle for position.
Mick Schumacher (GER) Haas VF-22 and Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Alfa Romeo F1…

Esteban Ocon (Qualified 11th, finished 7th) - 7

Ocon was the quicker of the two Alpines on race day in Bahrain despite running the older specification of sidepod. A clumsy collision with Schumacher on the opening lap halted his progress slightly while an untimely final stop meant he lost out under the Safety Car. Still, a strong performance from Ocon where he overtook teammate Alonso twice.

Yuki Tsunoda (Qualified 16th, finished 8th) - 7

After a poor qualifying, Tsunoda quickly found himself running just outside of the top 10. The Japanese driver kept his cool when defending against Bottas during the middle part of the race. Tsunoda couldn’t benefit from the Safety Car but with the late retirements, he came away with a nice haul of points. 

Fernando Alonso (Qualified 8th, finished 9th) - 6

It was one of Fernando Alonso’s weaker races since returning to F1 at the start of 2021 with the Spaniard struggling with tyre degradation. Alonso was overtaken by his teammate on two occasions despite running as high as ninth in the opening stint of the race. Work to do for the two-time champion in the upcoming rounds.

Guanyu Zhou (Qualified 15th, finished 10th) - 7

Zhou enjoyed a respectable F1 debut as he came away with a maiden championship point. While he did benefit from some of the retirements ahead of him, Zhou shadowed more experienced teammate Bottas throughout the 57 laps. Zhou looked assured when wheel-to-wheel and will come away from Bahrain more confident going into the rest of the season.

Mick Schumacher (Qualified 12th, finished 11th) - 6

A disappointing weekend for Schumacher given the performance of teammate Magnussen. The contact with Ocon on the opening lap wouldn’t have aided his chances, potentially giving him some damage in the process as Schumacher admitted afterwards ‘it didn’t feel amazing to drive’. Haas decided to keep Schumacher out under the Safety Car but on worn tyres, meaning he couldn’t hang onto P10 and his first-ever championship point.

Lance Stroll (Qualified 19th, finished 12th) - 6

With Sebastian Vettel’s absence due to COVID-19, Lance Stroll was expected to be the lead Aston Martin. His qualifying performance was poor as he was out-qualified by Nico Hulkenberg, who hadn’t driven the AMR22 before this weekend. Stroll fared better in the race and given Aston Martin’s poor level of performance currently, 12th was probably the maximum.

Lance Stroll (CDN), Aston Martin F1 Team
Lance Stroll (CDN), Aston Martin F1 Team

Alex Albon (Qualified 14th, finished 13th) - 8

A good start on the opening lap allowed Alex Albon to move up to 11th from 14th on the grid. The Williams’ lack of pace meant he soon slipped down the order, battling Stroll, Schumacher and the McLarens. Overall, Albon comprehensively out-performed teammate Nicholas Latifi making it a successful return to F1.

Daniel Ricciardo (Qualified 18th, finished 14th) - 6

Given that Daniel Ricciardo missed the entirety of the Bahrain test due to COVID-19, it was hardly surprising to see the Australian knocked out in Q1. McLaren’s lack of pace was confirmed by Lando Norris’ exit in Q2 and the fact that the team were running 18th and 20th on merit. 

Lando Norris (Qualified 13th, finished 15th) - 6

Norris got the most out of the McLaren in qualifying with 13th on the grid. The race didn’t get any better for the Woking outfit with Norris and teammate Ricciardo running around at the back of the field with Williams’ Nicholas Latifi. A lot of work to do going into Saudi Arabia this weekend.

Nicholas Latifi (Qualified 20th, finished 16th) - 5

A lacklustre weekend for Latifi as he wasn’t on the pace of new teammate Albon. The Canadian mixed it with the Aston Martins and McLarens, ultimately beating Hulkenberg. 

Nico Hulkenberg (Qualified 17th, finished 17th) - 6

Nico Hulkenberg hadn’t driven the AMR22 before practice on Friday but he still managed to out-qualify teammate Stroll. The German ran 15th in the early laps but lost out to his teammate as he struggled with the braking into Turn 1. Overall, a respectable performance given his lack of track time before the weekend. 

Sergio Perez (Qualified 4th, classified 18th) - 7

Perez enjoyed one of his better qualifying outings as a Red Bull driver, trailing teammate Verstappen by just under three-tenths. After losing out to Hamilton and Magnussen at the start, Perez soon recovered back up to fourth. He didn’t have the pace of the leading trio but his lap times on the mediums - when the leading trio were on the softs - were strong, showing the rest of the field it was a competitive race tyre. Perez kept Hamilton at bay until a fuel system issue caused his engine to shut down and spin at Turn 1.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB18 retires from the race.
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB18 retires from the race.

Max Verstappen (Qualified 2nd, classified 19th) - 9

The reigning champion was the favourite for pole position for a wobble out of the final corner cost him a shot at beating Leclerc’s benchmark. The Ferrari was the superior package on race day with its better straight-line speed and performance in the middle sector of the lap. Verstappen took the lead on three occasions with Red Bull’s efficiency on the straights paying off but Leclerc’s defence was impressive. A third pit stop proved to be Verstappen’s undoing as it appeared to slightly damage the front suspension of his Red Bull, affecting the handling of his RB18. A loss of power on Lap 54 forced him to retire prematurely, costing him P2.

Pierre Gasly (Qualified 10th, DNF) - 8

Even after topping FP1, AlphaTauri didn’t look like it was a Q3 contender but Pierre Gasly made the top 10. Gasly ran as high as eighth in the first stint and was on for a couple of points before his car caught fire on Lap 46. A good weekend for Gasly in an AlphaTauri car which isn’t as competitive as last year.

Pierre Gasly (FRA) AlphaTauri AT03 retired from the race.
Pierre Gasly (FRA) AlphaTauri AT03 retired from the race.

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