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Russian GP driver ratings

It was an afternoon filled with controversy, but who shone and who struggled at Sochi? Rating all 20 drivers from the Russian GP.

Qualified 3rd, Finished 1st

"To whom it may concern…" (and the rest) is becoming Valtteri Bottas' rather punchy catchphrase at the end of gaps being race victories that the critics he is addressing clearly feel have been too long. The original radio riposte to the naysayers was made back in Australia 2019, which ended a 21-race winless run over and beyond a full calendar year. This time the 'drought' was only nine events and not even three months, but it was undoubtedly a big and timely return to the top step for the Finn.

It was one both driver and team felt was overdue although, as Valtteri acknowledged himself, he certainly had the rub of the green over his team-mate here. He may have beaten Hamilton anyway owing to his more advantageous starting tyre strategy, but his team-mate's penalty made it rather more comfortable to gain the lead and sail away into the distance from Max Verstappen.

Bottas insists he isn't out of the championship fight yet and, 44 points back on Hamilton with seven races and 182 points still to play for, he isn't. But a first back-to-back career win at the Nurburgring next week is an absolute must if Sunday in Sochi is to kick start any kind of title momentum.
Rating out of 10: 8.5

Qualified 2nd, Finished 2nd

Whether Max Verstappen would have finished ahead of Lewis Hamilton without his penalties is certainly debatable - but on a weekend where Red Bull and Verstappen himself expected to fall back into the midfield rather than challenge the Mercedes, this was without doubt one of his strongest performances of a superb season.

Ever the realist, it's rare to get big Verstappen soundbites after a session so when you hear him describe his qualifying lap as one of his "best ever", you trust him. Over a second faster than Alex Albon in the same car and splitting the Mercedes made it easy to do so.

His race was less spectacular, but just as impressive. He managed to hold off Daniel Ricciardo despite running wide at the start and then, on an afternoon where he received radio messages such as "Mercedes are six-tenths faster than you on the straights", Verstappen quite rightly managed his own race, finishing within eight seconds of Valtteri Bottas at the chequered flag. He's no longer a title threat, but he certainly is one on Sundays.
Rating out of 10: 9.5

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Qualified 1st, Finished 3rd

Michael Schumacher's F1 wins record remains unmatched for now then after Lewis Hamilton experienced the type of messy weekend that has become so rare for him. Perhaps the most amazing thing about Sochi was that he still actually claimed pole position - and dominantly so in the end, by half a second - in a session he had nearly been timed out of Q2.

The consequence of those dramas in the second knockout stage, when his first time was deleted and he ended up having to switch to the unfavoured soft tyres for his second after a Sebastian Vettel-triggered red flag, were expected to be the biggest obstacles to victory on Sunday. In the end, it was that combined 10-second time penalty, picked up for pre-race practice start infringements, which proved his undoing.

Whether harsh or not, that's the second time in three races that Hamilton and Mercedes have been uncharacteristically caught around pit-lane rules and will be something they'll look to tighten up for the remainder of the season as they bid to close out both titles again.
Rating out of 10: 7.5

Qualified 4th, Finished 4th

Just think what Sergio Perez could do with the full Racing Point upgrade. Still running an older version of the RP20 compared to Lance Stroll, Perez was faster than his team-mate all weekend and then delivered a typically consistent Sunday - on which he was never in danger from those behind and finished closer to Lewis Hamilton's podium position than Daniel Ricciardo behind. Oh, and that's failing to mention what was the overtake of the day on the fancied-Renault - sweeping to the inside at the high-speed Turn Three on lap 14.

Just seven seconds off Hamilton and 30 seconds off race-winner Bottas, Perez insists he could "show even more" than fourth with an upgrade, which he has certainly earned for the next race in Germany. Teams looking for a dependable driver who is still one of the grid's most talented - Perez is your man for 2021.
Rating out of 10: 9

Qualified 5th, Finished 5th

A fourth successive top-six result for Daniel Ricciardo who has moved himself very nicely into contention for fourth place in the Drivers' Championship - the unusually high position being fought over as 'best of the rest' this year. Practice had offered a little more than fifth on the grid behind Sergio Perez's Racing Point, but he got ahead of the Mexican at the start on Sunday - although dropped behind fast-starting team-mate Esteban Ocon.

Overtaken impressively by Perez on lap 14, Ricciardo somewhat clumsily picked up a five-second penalty after the stops for his re-entry to Turn Two when he was allowed past Ocon's sister RS20. When told of the sanction, a knowing Ricciardo simply said: "OK. I'll drive faster". To his credit, his solid drive to the end of the race meant the time delay was inconsequential once it was applied.
Rating out of 10: 8.5

Qualified 11th (Started 10th), Finished 6th

Turning in poles and victories in 2019 made Charles Leclerc an F1 star, but his drives this year in a tough-to-handle and, more importantly, slow Ferrari, deserve just as much praise. Sunday was another one of those starring afternoons, and one that keeps him well in contention in a tight battle for fourth in the championship.

Leclerc started 10th after missing Q3, unluckily so as Ferrari misjudged the gap he needed for his final Q2 lap, but then made up for it a day later. His nudge into Lance Stroll was certainly contentious but by the end of the first lap he was up to eighth, while he then successfully ran long on his first stint - with team-mate Sebastian Vettel helping him out by holding up Esteban Ocon. With Ocon tasked with keeping an AlphaTauri at bay, Leclerc, who couldn't quite stay in the 5s required for Ricciardo's position, was able to solidify a superb sixth place - his best result since Silverstone.

"He was aggressive after the start and then drove a very mature race for someone who is not yet 23," said Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto.
Rating out of 10: 9

Qualified 7th, Finished 7th

The first lap was the best moment of Esteban Ocon's race. A great launch from seventh on the grid and run through Turns Two and Three, briefly put him ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez. Sadly from there things got a little trickier.

"When we put on the hards, the car was not the same. It was a bit tricky to drive and I was struggling with grip and balance and I just wasn't as happy as I was on the softs," rued Ocon, who was overcut by Perez, told to allow Ricciardo past, and then also beaten by Ferrari's Leclerc.
Rating out of 10: 7

Qualified 12th (Started 11th), Finished 8th

His F1 2020 hasn't hit the heights of Pierre Gasly but that's now three consecutive points finishes for Daniil Kvyat - something he has only achieved once before in his long career with Red Bull's sister team. Four points at his home race was aided by a hard-tyre starting strategy which allowed him to go long on the first stint and then be fast on the second, although not quite fast enough to overtake Ocon's Renault, which he trailed in DRS range for around 20 laps. Still, a good weekend for a driver whose F1 future is very much unknown.
Rating out of 10: 8

Qualified 9th, Finished 9th

Back in the points for Pierre Gasly after a nightmare Mugello, although finishing behind Kvyat will rank as a disappointment given he had outqualified the Russian and run ahead of the sister AlphaTauri through the race's first stint. Losing out to Charles Leclerc in the stops, and then being caught behind long-running traffic, compromised Gasly's afternoon and he spent the closing laps trying to regain the ninth place he'd originally held before a supposed 'free' stop under the briefest of Virtual Safety Cars proved anything but. Still, another very solid weekend for the Monza winner.
Rating out of 10: 7.5

Qualified 10th (Started 15th), Finished 10th

This is not what Alex Albon would have had in mind when tasked with building on the momentum of his Tuscany podium. Albon was quite simply off the pace all weekend, losing time "everywhere" compared to Verstappen, according to team boss Christian Horner - and that saw him finish over a second slower than his team-mate in qualifying.

A five-place gearbox penalty from a disappointing 10th didn't help his race-day exploits, nor did a difficult opening lap and early pit-stop, and while there were a few great overtaking moves - particularly the one on Antonio Giovinazzi - Albon didn't move through the field as easily as we have seen before. He also didn't cover himself in glory during a battle with Norris and Pierre Gasly for points positions in the closing stages.

A minute and a half off Verstappen at the chequered flag, Albon must do better.
Rating out of 10: 5

Outside the points

Antonio Giovinazzi extracted about as much as he could out of the Russian GP, particularly after starting 17th in an Alfa Romeo which is much more competitive on a Sunday than it is Saturday. 11th probably flatters him a bit due to the retirements and struggles of faster cars, but the Italian still impressed - with a bold overtake on the Haas of Romain Grosjean and a late one on the Haas of Kevin Magnussen helping him to his best finish since the season-opener.
Rating out of 10: 7

After the chaos of the opening lap, the biggest surprise from the timesheet was seeing the Haas' of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean up in ninth and 10th. And Magnussen, who started down in 18th, battled well from that position despite clearly not having the pace to sustain it. Through the race, he was only overtaken by much faster midfield cars before Giovinazzi's late move.

"We absolutely did the best we could today," he said. "We weren't quick enough at all to be up there - in and around the top 10, our pace should have been down the back."
Rating out of 10: 7

In 250 Formula 1 starts, Sebastian Vettel has only finished - minus his Toro Rosso days - 13th or lower three times. Two of those have come this season, and one of those was on Sunday.

Despite promising pace in practice, Vettel was slower than Leclerc in qualifying before crashing out, and then struggled in the race - in which he was more of a road block to help Leclerc than an attacking force himself. He'll be disappointed not to have got past Magnussen and Giovinazzi at the end on fresher tyres.

"I did the maximum today but I was just not quick enough." Indeed.
Rating out of 10: 5

Kimi Raikkonen was unable to celebrate any points on the day he equalled Rubens Barichello's F1 starts record, but did about as much as you could ask on Sunday after his mistake in qualifying left him starting 19th. Raikkonen was the last driver to take his first stop, but was then stuck in the Gio-Mag-Vet train at the end and couldn't make up more ground despite his tyre advantage.
Rating out of 10: 6

A difficult Sunday for McLaren, and a difficult weekend for Lando Norris. After being out-qualified by Carlos Sainz for the fifth time in a row, Norris got away safely from eighth - but then backed out at Turn Two to avoid other cars and the stricken car of his team-mate. Norris subsequently pitted, and believed he also had damage which hampered his race. After going very, very long on his hard tyres, Norris - despite his best defending efforts - lost points-scoring positions to Gasly and then Albon, before a late pit-stop took him out of contention completely.
Rating out of 10: 6

He was more than a second slower than George Russell in qualifying, but this was the second time in three races that Nicholas Latifi finished ahead of his team-mate on race day. That's about the only positive he can take.
Rating out of 10: 7

Romain Grosjean was struggling in his Haas all weekend and, while he did well to beat Magnussen in qualifying and was in the top 10 after Lap One, he fell back after that.

"It was a handful to drive," he said. "I could feel from the first few laps that there was something not right, I had no rear-end."

Not ideal.
Rating out of 10: 6

"It was a really tough day in the office with a lot of mistakes from my side."

An honest assessment of his race from George Russell, who is desperate to prove he can be Mr Weekend rather than just Mr Saturday. A sixth Q2 appearance of the season highlighted Russell's obvious talent, but he had a tricky opening lap and eventually pitted three times in the race.
Rating out of 10: 6

Did Not Finish

Lance Stroll believes he would have been in contention for strong points on Sunday, and it's easy to see why. He started on the medium tyres, moved up to seventh from 12th after the opening corners and was in an upgraded, and fast, Racing Point. Unfortunately, he was shunted off track by Leclerc, who Stroll insisted should have received a penalty. After a mechanical failure knocked him out in Q2 on Saturday, a pretty unlucky weekend all round.
Rating out of 10: 7

It's rare to see Carlos Sainz make a mistake these days, but the in-form Spaniard could only apologise to McLaren after misjudging the tightness of the Turn Two run-off bollards and smashing into the wall. After qualifying sixth, this was a missed opportunity.
Rating out of 10: 6

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