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2021 Driver Power Rankings Sao Paulo GP Edition: Hamilton and Verstappen switch, Tsunoda drops down

(Sam Donsig/TIS)

By: Sam Donsig

Sunday's race in Brazil brought out the best in some drivers and the worst in other drivers. From Sir Lewis Hamilton's masterclass drive from 10th to a race victory, to Yuki Tsunoda causing another incident and bringing out a safety car. The Sao Paulo Grand Prix had it all. Here are my driver power rankings, starting with number one.

1. Lewis Hamilton - (10/10)

Previous rank: 2

Only one word can describe that drive from the seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton today, and that word is a masterclass. Against all odds, from starting the sprint race from the back of the grid and finishing fifth. To then starting the race on Sunday in 10th and finishing first. It was one of the greatest drives of his career. Mercedes did a great job with the two-stop strategy and pulling the overcut on Red Bull, which allowed Hamilton to have tyres that were three laps fresher.

2. Max Verstappen - (9.6/10)

Previous rank: 1

It was an excellent drive from Max Verstappen, but it wasn't enough to beat his fellow rival. He managed his tyres well in both stints. However, Red Bull got caught up twice in the Mercedes strategy. First with the undercut, then the overcut. Which was performed on lap 43 of 71 of the Grand Prix. Three laps after Verstappen had come into the pits and fitted his second set of hard tyres. Overall, a great weekend for Max Verstappen, as he was able to pick up two points in the sprint race on Saturday.

3. Charles Leclerc - (9.2/10)

Previous rank: 5

For both Charles Leclerc and Ferrari, it was a dream weekend. Both cars finished inside the top ten for double points finish. Since fitting that new engine, Leclerc has been making some massive gains in pure pace over the last few races. Ferrari decided that it was best to go for a two-stop strategy and it paid off. Leclerc had a decent pace and managed his tyres well for both stints.

4. Carlos Sainz Jr. – (8.8/10)

Previous rank: 6

Similar to his teammate, Carlos Sainz Jr. had a fantastic weekend. He had a great performance in qualifying, which carried over to Sunday's race. He was able to show some decent pace which allowed him to make some nice overtakes throughout the race. Sainz Jr. was able to manage both of his tyre stints well and come home to take sixth place. Which helped Ferrari increase their lead over McLaren in the fight for third in the constructors' championship title fight.

5. Valtteri Bottas – (8.5/10)

Previous rank: 9

Now, I know what you're all thinking. He finished third in the race. Why isn't he higher on the list. Well, it's quite obvious, to say the least. The first major mistake that Bottas made was not being more aggressive with Verstappen and Sergio Perez at the beginning of the race. Which allowed them to snag first and second within the first half of lap 1. As well, he wasn't far too aggressive on overtakes. He only overtook Perez after a perfectly timed virtual safety car (VSC) which allowed the Finn to get a free pit stop that only cost him one place. Now of course, he still finished third and managed his tyres well out there to help them last as long as they did. However, compared to the other drivers above him. I just felt that he didn't impress me that much during the race. Overall, it was okay for Valtteri Bottas.

6. Sergio Perez – (8.2/10)

Previous rank: 3

For Sergio Perez, things didn't finish as he had hoped they would. After getting a great start and getting ahead of Bottas on lap 1. Perez slowly started to drift back and never could stay with the top three. His strategy was good, and if it wasn't for the second virtual safety car that allowed Bottas to pit for a fresh set of hard tyres while still keeping his position. It could have been a double podium for Red Bull. Regardless, Perez still had a great weekend. Plus, he picked up some crucial points to help play damage control with Mercedes. All in all, an okay weekend for Perez.

7. Pierre Gasly – (7.6/10)

Previous rank: 11

Pierre Gasly had a great race, from start to finish. After some close battles with both Alpine cars of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon. He was still able to hold on and take home sixth place. Which helps keep the battle super close between Alpine and Alpha Tauri. As they are tied in the constructors' championship standings, both having scored 112 points this season. 92 of Alpha Tauri's 112 points have been scored by the Frenchman Pierre Gasly. He has been in excellent form this season, and it continued this past Sunday. He managed the tyres to perfection which allowed him to stay ahead of the two Alpines and score some significant points.

8. Esteban Ocon – (7.3/10)

Previous rank: 16

Esteban Ocon had a good weekend. Granted it could have been better, but he still managed to put in a strong performance leading to some major points for Alpine in their battle with Alpha Tauri. Ocon, who showed some decent pace all race. Was able to manage his tyres well and keep close with Gasly, however, he didn't have enough pace to overtake him. Overall, it was a good weekend for the Alpine driver, and it will be interesting to see how he performs next weekend in Qatar.

9. Fernando Alonso – (6.9/10)

Previous rank: 15

Fernando Alonso, similar to his teammate had a good weekend. The Spaniard showed some admirable pace in second free practise on Saturday and continued that form on Sunday. Alonso was able to help secure a double-point finish with some excellent driving from start to finish. Although he didn't do much overtaking, he still was able to hold off several drivers. Showing once again his great defensive driving skills, I believe that Alonso and Alpine can continue this strong form for Qatar this weekend upcoming.

10. Sebastian Vettel - (6.7/10)

Previous rank: 10

Sebastian Vettel didn't have the best of race weekends in Brazil. He struggled during both qualifying on Friday, which didn't put him in the best position for the sprint race. From there he, nothing really went his way. Vettel struggled with pace all race long and couldn't manage his tyres all that well. All in all, despite finishing 11th. Sebastian Vettel could have had a much better race weekend.

11. Kimi Räikkönen - (6.4/10)

Previous rank: 14

Not much to say about Kimi Räikkönen's race weekend. The Finn couldn't really find a good pace on track all weekend. Which is one of the main reasons he struggled to qualify in the top ten. In which he qualified 14th for Saturday's sprint race, which went terribly wrong. Räikkönen got overtaken multiple times before coming home to finish 18th. However, Sunday went a lot better for Räikkönen than expected. The Finn made his way up the grid five spots, from 18th to 12th. Overall, it was a rollercoaster of a weekend for Räikkönen, which finished on a positive.

12. George Russell - (6.1/10)

Previous rank: 13

For George Russell, not much was being expected of him. Even though he has driven the Williams car in places where it really shouldn't be. Regardless, this past weekend was a little different. As for the first time, George Russell had been out-qualified by his teammate Nicholas Latifi this season. Regardless, Russell still put in a superb drive on Sunday to finish 13th ahead of Latifi who finished 16th. Russell managed his tyres well enough to keep everyone behind him at bay and held his ground.

13. Antonio Giovinazzi - (6.0/10)

Previous rank: 12

Now with the news out, it's well known that Antonio Giovinazzi or "Italian Jesus" will no longer be racing for Alfa Romeo, as this is his last season. Regardless, politics aside from the situation with money and sponsorship deals. Giovinazzi had a great weekend in Brazil. He showed great consistency all weekend long. Qualifying, finishing the sprint race, and Sunday's race all in around 13th and 14th position on average. Although it's not in the points, he still gave it his all and when you consider the machinery at his hands. It makes sense why he's spending so much time at the back of the grid.

14. Lando Norris - (5.9/10)

Previous rank: 8

Lando Norris had a bit of a rollercoaster weekend in Brazil. Norris had a great qualifying on Friday and an even better sprint race on Saturday. Things all went wrong on Sunday for the young Brit. As going into turn one on the first lap of the race, collided with Carlos Sainz Jr. which resulted in him having to pit on the first lap. From there, he made a nice recovery to finish 10th and pick up one lonely point for McLaren. Regardless of Lando Norris effort's, Ferrari still ruled the weekend. Having both cars finish inside the points.

15. Nicholas Latifi - (5.8/10)

Previous rank: 20

Nicholas Latifi showed why he's not just a pay driver, by proving his worth during qualifying on Friday. Latifi put in a stunning lap to outqualify his teammate by nine-tenths (.897 - .953) of a second. Now after Friday's qualifying session, things started to go downhill for the Canadian. As Latifi struggled in both Saturday's sprint race and Sunday's race, as he managed to finish 16th. Hopefully, Latifi can turn things around a bit, for these last three races.

16. Nikita Mazepin - (5.6/10)

Previous rank: 19

Nikita Mazepin showed some raw emotion during qualifying on Friday, that some people might have forgotten about Formula 1. Despite, being in the worst car and knowing that you're most likely not going to make it out of Q1. Mazepin still was disappointed in himself with how he performed, which I felt was moving. As for the past nine months, he's been receiving a lot of hate towards him for his past actions. Regardless, he had a great race weekend in Brazil, and it was great to see. Mazepin made some nice overtakes, including one on his fellow teammate Mick Schumacher. Overall, it was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for Mazepin, but he handled it like a pro and did his best.

17. Mick Schumacher - (5.4/10)

Previous rank: 17

Mick Schumacher struggled quite a bit in Brazil this past weekend, and it showed. Despite Schumacher outqualifying his teammate on Friday and finishing above him in Saturday's sprint race. He struggled a lot during Sunday's race, with his overall pace and tyre management. Overall, not the best weekend for Mick Schumacher, but I am sure he will bounce back this upcoming weekend in Qatar.

18. Lance Stroll - (5.2/10)

Previous rank: 18

Poor Lance Stroll, I got to feel for him. After having a decent start to Sunday's race, he had to retire the car after an incident with Yuki Tsunoda. Although Stroll struggled to get the Aston Martin car out of Q1 and finished near the bottom in the sprint race. Stroll for the first bit of Sunday's race was showing some great pace and good control of the car around the Interlagos Circuit.

19. Daniel Ricciardo - (5.0/10)

Previous rank: 4

With Daniel Ricciardo not finishing the race on Sunday in Brazil, it ended a 34-race streak in which the Australian had not DNF'd dating back to the 2020 Styrian Grand Prix. Which is quite an impressive feat to pull off. Regardless, things did not go well for Ricciardo this past weekend. As he failed to score any points during Sunday's race and struggled with the pace and managing his tyres in Saturday's sprint race. As Ricciardo who qualified eighth on Friday, came home to finish 11th in the sprint race. Overall, not the best weekend for Ricciardo, but I am sure he will bounce back next weekend in Qatar.

20. Yuki Tsunoda - (4.8/10)

Previous rank: 7

Yuki Tsunoda, what a mystery of a driver he can be. Some weekends he's making superb moves and you think he's going to be a future race winner. Other times, he looks like he doesn't deserve his seat in Formula 1 at all. This past weekend in Brazil was one of those times where you question what he's doing. Tsunoda who was trying to make a bold overtake against Lance Stroll ended up hitting the back of Stroll and causing a safety car. Now, why's the safety car important? Well at the time, Red Bull was leading first and second after an amazing start. With Lewis Hamilton in third, and both Red Bulls starting to pull away. Everyone thought it was going to be a Red Bull one-two finish to the race. However, with the full safety car brought out. Everyone was bunched together, which allowed Hamilton to get nice and close to Perez. Making himself and his teammate in vulnerable situation. Overall, Tsunoda is still learning a lot and will continue to make mistakes, regardless he does need to know when to make a bold move or not.


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