By: Sam Donsig
Words cannot describe the 2021 Russian Grand Prix. It was a rollercoaster from beginning to end, with lots of drama throughout. Some drivers made enormous leaps up the rankings, while others proved why they were picked over other drivers for seats in 2022. So here are my driver power rankings for the Russian Grand Prix.
1. Max Verstappen - (10/10)
Previous rank: 17
Max Verstappen did some massive damage control during Sunday's race, as he was able to keep the points gap between Sir Lewis Hamilton and himself to just two points. As he charged up the field from 20th on the grid to score second place and 18 points. He managed his tyres well, made some brilliant overtakes and made the right strategy call when the rain started to hit the track.
2. Carlos Sainz Jr. - (9.5/10)
Previous rank: 6
Carlos Sainz Jr. is highly underrated as a driver in Formula 1. He needs to be appreciated more. He got a great hop off the start, moved right into first place, and sat comfortably for a good chunk of the race. If it wasn't for the early pit stop that cost Sainz Jr. the race win, I think he would have been on the top step of the podium. Although he bounced back after the early pit stop and the rain helped him regain some of those positions back.
3. Lewis Hamilton - (9.3/10)
Previous rank: 16
Although Lewis Hamilton got the race win, I think the performances from Sainz Jr. & Verstappen were just a little better and deserved to be placed above him. Regardless, Hamiton still showed up and saved what a disastrous weekend was. Things weren't going Lewis Hamilton's way from a poor qualifying session to a slow start in the race. However, the crucial call that the Mercedes pit wall made to Hamilton to come in for intermediate tyres saved his race. If the team let him stay out like Lando Norris' team did, he too would have finished 7th or 8th, and Verstappen would have taken a much more prominent lead in the Driver's Championship. Regardless, he pulled it off, and now only two points separate the two of them with only seven races to go in the season. So it's going to come down to the last race.
4. Lando Norris - (9.2/10)
Previous rank: 2
Gutted is how Lando Norris and almost every Formula 1 fan out there feel after losing out on his first career Formula 1 win. It was a decision made during the last few laps, and it was ultimately the wrong decision. Regardless, he still drove excellently throughout the race. He was managing his tyres to perfection and making them last for much longer than expected. He was able to also keep Lewis Hamilton at bay for a large majority of the race. Other than the wrong strategy call near the end of the race, it was an excellent weekend for Lando Norris.
5. Daniel Ricciardo - (9.0/10)
Previous rank: 1
Daniel Ricciardo had a great race weekend, qualifying 5th on the grid and coming home fourth place. He had a great start to the race, jumping right past Lewis Hamilton and maintaining his positioning for most of the race, even leading at one point. However, he did drop back a bit due to a slow pit stop, although he could make an excellent recovery at the end. Nevertheless, he managed his tyres well and was able to keep Lewis Hamilton behind him for a few solid laps.
6. Valtteri Bottas - (8.8/10)
Previous rank: 3
Although he came home to finish fifth in the race, Valtteri still didn't have the best race weekend. He couldn't keep Max Verstappen behind him at the start of the race when they were both sitting outside the points. As well, he didn't defend at all when Verstappen was making his move around him. This begs the question, and maybe it was the right move to let George Russell get the 2022 seat over Bottas. As well, if it weren't for the rain, he would have never finished fifth and help Mercedes extend their lead in the Constructors' Championship.
7. Fernando Alonso - (8.6/10)
Previous rank: 8
Fernando Alonso was showing great pace in the Alpine car all weekend, and it paid off during Sunday's race. After qualifying sixth on the grid, he used that excellent position to score some significant points for Alpine. Alonso had a great strategy and managed his tyres well, giving drivers like Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr. a run for their money early in the race. He was also able to hold Max Verstappen at bay for a large majority of the second half of the race. Which then made Verstappen's tyres wear out quicker than expected and forced him to pit.
8. Kimi Räikkönen - (8.2/10)
Previous rank: N/A
Kimi Räikkönen couldn't have made more of a statement in his first race back since contracting COVID-19. After not making it out of qualifying one and starting 16th on the grid, he could surge his way up the field to come home eighth. It was an incredible drive from the seasoned veteran, and it goes to show that F1 fans will miss moments like this next season. As he will be at home watching the races from the comfort of his home or maybe even his yacht.
9. Sergio Perez - (8.0/10)
Previous rank: 5
Unlike his teammate Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez didn't have the best weekend of racing. After a sluggish qualifying session that saw him qualify ninth on the grid and not even close to the top times. Getting a good result on Sunday was up in the air. However, he did have a good start and was able to make some progress through the field. At one point, he was leading the race for a good portion. However, because he stayed out longer, they comprised his race at least twice with two slow pit stops and wrongly timed ones. So, in reality, it wasn't all Perez's fault that he finished ninth, but at the same time, he could have put more effort on his end.
10. George Russell - (7.8/10)
Previous rank: 9
George Russell overall had a good weekend at the Russian Grand Prix. He had an outstanding qualifying once again, starting on the second row. However, Williams' race pace is nowhere near Mclaren's speed or Mercedes' pace. So Russell was unable to capitalize on some significant points for Williams. However, he still ran a great race and was able to finish just inside the points.
11. Lance Stroll - (7.5/10)
Previous rank: 7
For Lance Stroll, he didn't have the best of weekends in Sochi. He had an okay strategy, but his race was somewhat compromised due to his collision with his teammate Sebastian Vettel. As a result, he struggled with pace throughout the race and was unlucky near the end when the rain started to fall as he lost two positions in the last few laps. Hopefully, Aston Martin will have a better weekend in two weeks when F1 heads to Turkey.
12. Sebastian Vettel - (7.2/10)
Previous rank: 12
Similar to his teammate Lance Stroll, Sebastian Vettel didn't have the best race weekend either. After struggling to get out of qualifying 2, Vettel continued to battle during Sunday's race. He failed to manage his tyres which caused him to work to make his way up the grid. However, once the rain started to fall, he lost multiple positions in the last few laps. It ultimately pushed him outside the points.
13. Pierre Gasly - (7.1/10)
Previous rank: 19
For Pierre Gasly, it was a tough race weekend all around. After having a poor qualifying session in which he was able to only get 13th on the grid. He continued to struggle with race pace on Sunday and could not make much noise on the track. He was stuck in a large DRS train for the majority of the race. As well, he failed to manage properly
his tyres which were one of the reasons he struggled.
14. Charles Leclerc - (7.0/10)
Previous rank: 4
Unlike his teammate Carlos Sainz Jr, Charles Leclerc struggled all weekend. After a sluggish qualifying session in which he barely made it out of Q1, Leclerc knew he was in for a long weekend. He struggled throughout the race with pace and couldn't make any moves up the field. His strategy wasn't the best, and a slow pit stop didn't help his race. However, I'm sure he has written off this weekend and is looking ahead to Turkey in two weeks.
15. Esteban Ocon - (6.8/10)
Previous rank: 10
For Esteban Ocon, unlike his teammate Fernando Alonso. He struggled with pace all weekend and was unable to find a solid racing line around the track. As a result, Ocon, who qualified 10th for Sunday's race, could not capitalize on the opportunity to score some points for Alpine. After his victory in Hungary, Ocon has slowly wobbled back down the grid and fallen into a bit of a slump.
16. Antonio Giovinazzi - (6.5/10)
Previous rank: 13
Antonio Giovinazzi, who is driving to survive for his career in Formula 1, had a tough weekend. After not getting out of Q1 and struggling for pace, the trend continued in Sunday's race. Giovinazzi was only able to make two overtakes throughout the race and was beaten by his teammate Kimi Räikkönen who finished eighth. Overall, it's all still up in the air whether he will retain his seat for 2022. Only time will tell.
17. Yuki Tsunoda - (6.2/10)
Previous rank: 20
For Yuki Tsunoda, it was another tough weekend for the rookie driver. After failing to make it out of Q2, he qualified 13th on the grid. However, he did not have an excellent start to the race, which pushed him to the back of the grid. He was quickly overtaken by multiple drivers and struggled to find any pace.
18. Nikita Mazepin - (6.0/10)
Previous rank: 18
During what was considered his "home Grand Prix," he technically can't race under the Russian Flag due to the ban on Russian athletes. Mazepin did what Mazepin always does, disappoint week after week. He struggled massively in qualifying, being three seconds slower than teammate Mick Schumacher and qualifying technically last as Verstappen did not set a time. Overall it was a tough weekend for Nikita Mazepin. Hopefully, things will be better for him in Turkey in two weeks.
19. Nicholas Latifi - (5.5/10)
Previous rank: 11
For Nicholas Latifi, he did not have a good weekend. He struggled in qualifying, as he was only able to make it into Q2. Nevertheless, he managed to qualify 14th after not setting a time in Q2. Unfortunately, he struggled even more on Sunday. He couldn't control his tyres' wear properly or find any pace at all. Which ultimately caused him to drop to the back of the field.
20. Mick Schumacher - (5.4/10)
Previous rank: 15
Similar to his teammate, Mick Schumacher struggled all weekend to get a good result. In qualifying, he was able to snag 17th on the grid to start Sunday's race. Ultimately, halfway through his race, he had to retire the car due to a mechanical issue. Haas didn't want to further damage his car to the point of having lingering issues. Schumacher has been having a tough season, and hopefully, 2022 will bring some new hope for Haas and himself.