A compelling end to the rain-hit Russian Grand Prix saw Lando Norris narrowly miss out on claiming his maiden F1 victory, coming home P7 instead as Lewis Hamilton reached a century of victories. Here’s how our Aramco F1 Power Rankings judges scored the race after a Sochi thriller.
HOW IT WORKS
Our six-judge panel assesses each driver after every Grand Prix and scores them out of 10 according to their performance across the weekend – taking machinery out of the equation
Our experts’ scores are then averaged out across the season to create an overall Power Rankings Leaderboard (at the bottom of the page)
No, Lando Norris didn’t convert a superb maiden pole position into what would have been a superb maiden victory. But the judges, like most in the F1 paddock, were in no doubt that the McLaren driver had delivered something truly special in Sochi, rewarding Norris with a 9.0 for his efforts – which would surely have been a perfect, or near-perfect, score had it not been for those nightmarish final few laps for the Briton.
After a crash-filled run of race weekends, this was more like the Carlos Sainz of old, the Spaniard excelling on Saturday to take P2 behind his old mate Norris – while Sainz then followed that up with third in the race, for his third Ferrari podium this season.
He knows there’s still work for him and Ferrari to do, and vowed that the next time he got into the lead – as he brilliantly did on Lap 1 – he wanted to stay there. But a great job nonetheless.
“If you would have told me this morning that I would come second today, I wouldn’t believe you,” said Max Verstappen after the Russian Grand Prix. It had indeed been a tall order for the Dutchman, starting the Sochi race P20 after taking on a new power unit.
In truth, P7 had seemed more likely for much of the latter part of the race, before a “perfect call” to pit for inters netted Verstappen his P2 finish – meaning he slipped just two points behind Lewis Hamilton in the title race.
George Russell continued to underline why Mercedes have put their faith in him for the future with a fantastic display on Saturday, securing what was, unbelievably, his second top-three start in four races. Russell then did a brilliant job to hold P3 in the opening laps, but Williams’ natural pace meant he was powerless to do better than P10 at the flag.
Lewis Hamilton endured what was actually a rather mixed weekend, failing to capitalise on Saturday to take just P4 on the grid (and spinning on his final qualifying lap, and crashing in the pit entry), while he then spent most of the early part of the Grand Prix snarled up behind the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo.
But once up to P2 after the first stops, he ruthlessly applied pressure to leader Norris – while finally acquiescing to Mercedes’ call to pit for inters ultimately netted him that landmark 100th victory.
Had conditions not worsened at the very end of the Russian Grand Prix, the race could have gone very differently for several drivers. One of those was Fernando Alonso, who’d relished the pace of his Alpine A521 in the dry, while as drizzle fell on the track, he was able to climb to P3 – only to then fall to P6 as the rain intensified and he accepted that inters were a must.
Disappointed though he may have been not to claim his first podium of the season, Alonso was taking the positives after being much the stronger of the two Alpine drivers on race day, and passing both Red Bulls on track for good measure.
As at the Belgian Grand Prix, while Norris was doing his high-flying act, it was actually Daniel Ricciardo’s lower key performance that netted McLaren more points. Ricciardo was reasonably satisfied with his P5 on the grid, which he followed up with a solid run to P4 in the race.
And although the performance lacked the sparkle of Norris’, it was further proof that Monza winner Ricciardo is beginning to understand more fully the demands of his MCL35M, and using his superior experience to good effect.
Absent for the previous two races he might have been, but Sochi was one of Kimi Raikkonen’s most convincing performances this year – as well as his, and the team’s, best finish of 2021. However, so impressed had Raikkonen been with his performance in the latter stages of the race that he was actually disappointed not to finish higher than P8, coming home right on the tail of near-winner Norris.
Charles Leclerc’s stony-faced expression at the end of the Russian Grand Prix told you everything you needed to know about how he thought his race had wound up. A superb opening lap from 19th on the grid saw him climb to P12 straight away, while he then did a good job of riding the coat-tails of the faster cars around him into the top 10.
Ultimately, things just didn’t go his way with the late switch to inters, leaving Leclerc a lowly 15th at the flag.
Sebastian Vettel, like Alonso, was another driver who’d wagered that the rain wouldn’t intensify at the end of the Russian Grand Prix in the way that it did – with the German paying a heavy price as he dropped from P6 on Lap 49 to P12 at the flag. That, plus a wheel-bashing moment as he surprise-passed team mate Lance Stroll, added up to an unhappy end to Vettel’s Sochi weekend.
It’s Lance Stroll who sits just outside of the top 10 this week. Stroll produced a quite phenomenal getaway, climbing to fourth on Lap 1 after starting in a season-best P7. But then it all began to unravel for the Canadian at the tail end of the race, as Stroll hit first team mate Vettel, then AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly before ending up P11 – and copping a 10-second penalty for the latter incident.
2021 Russian Grand Prix: Norris and Sainz battle for lead at race start
THE OVERALL STANDINGS
No massive movements this week, as Verstappen, Norris and Hamilton hold station at the top of the standings – while Leclerc loses his joint P3 with Hamilton, as he falls to fourth, ahead of George Russell.