Driver ratings from the Dutch Grand Prix

Date published: September 6 2021 - Finley Crebolder

Max Verstappen holding a Dutch flag in celebration. Netherlands September 2021

In the first Dutch Grand Prix since 1985, Max Verstappen excelled in front of the Orange Army…and he wasn’t the only one.

Here’s how we think every driver performed…

Max Verstappen: Verstappen was under immense pressure driving in his first home race in front of an enormous, expectant crowd, and he couldn’t have handled it any better.

Perhaps helped by the demonstration laps he did there in the past, the Dutchman immediately looked more comfortable on the Zandvoort circuit than any other driver and that was very much evident in qualifying where he claimed pole position, even with DRS issues on his flying lap in Q3.

He was equally in control throughout the race, making a perfect start and not putting a foot wrong for the 72 laps that followed. Even when Hamilton closed the gap at times, it never really felt like the Red Bull man was in danger of losing the win, with him always able to pull away again.

Yes, he had the fastest car on the grid, but holding off two Mercedes drivers on his own was still a big challenge, and one he handled perfectly. 10

Lewis Hamilton: It’s not in Hamilton’s nature to be happy settling for second place, but all things considered, he can be pleased with how he performed on his title rival’s home turf.

He was on the back foot heading into qualifying after missing most of FP2 the previous day, but still managed to deliver an excellent lap when it mattered, going three tenths faster than his team-mate and only missing out on pole position by 0.038s.

On race day, he simply didn’t quite have enough pace to take victory, but he couldn’t have driven much better. The Mercedes man didn’t make any mistakes and generally got everything out of his car once he was in the zone. The only downside was his average – though not poor by any means – start that lost him his biggest chance of taking the lead.

Verstappen may have taken the victory and the lead of the standings, but if Hamilton maintains the level he was at in the Netherlands, this fight is far from over. 9

Valtteri Bottas: On a weekend in which it became very much clear that his team is replacing him with George Russell at the end of the year, Bottas would have been keen to show them why they’re making a mistake, but he didn’t really do so.

As is often the case, he looked the stronger of the Mercedes drivers throughout practice and early on in qualifying, but was no match for Hamilton when it mattered on Saturday, and that was the case again on Sunday.

From the off, he couldn’t keep up with his team-mate and his role thus quickly became a supporting one, with his own race being sacrificed for the sake of the Brit. It’s hard not to feel a little sorry for him when he’s made to stay out on worn tyres and told not to go for the fastest lap, but he only has himself to blame really.

The Finn deserves some credit for staying near the front throughout the weekend and being close enough to help his team-mate, unlike Perez, but at this point, it doesn’t feel like he can offer the team anything that Russell can’t. 6

Pierre Gasly: As has been the case so often this year, there were few, if any, drivers on the grid that had a more impressive weekend than Gasly.

The AlphaTauri driver was once again one of the stand-out performers in qualifying, securing P4 in a car that his team-mate couldn’t even get into Q3.

There’s not too much to say about his race, with it being rather uneventful, but that’s only because he was comfortably ahead of the rest of the midfield throughout, asides from a brief period where Leclerc was catching him. On a very tricky track, he was pretty much faultless from start to finish.

He said over the weekend that he didn’t really understand why Red Bull aren’t giving him another chance, and with how well he’s driving, it is difficult for us to understand, too. 10

Charles Leclerc: Leclerc was the only midfield runner anywhere near Gasly, and while his weekend wasn’t quite as perfect as the Frenchman’s, it was still pretty impressive.

He looked good throughout qualifying, topping Q1 and finishing Q2 in P2, but made a mistake on his flying lap in Q3. Still, the fact that even with that he still qualified in P5 shows how strong his one-lap pace was on the circuit.

With his team-mate starting alongside him, it looked like we’d be treated to an intra-team battle the following day, but in truth, it was never much of a fight, with the Monegasque far quicker than Sainz throughout.

He came close at one point but could never take P4 from Gasly, and looking back it feels like his Q3 error cost him that place, but that was the sole blotch on what was a very good weekend. 8.5

Fernando Alonso: With Kimi Raikkonen retiring, Alonso is set to become the oldest driver on the grid, but he once showed that age is but a number.

He had a point to prove after being out-qualified by his team-mate in what was a fairly disappointing Saturday for him and quickly set about doing so, making a trademark start to gain two places immediately on race day.

After that, he was initially slower than Ocon but defended well to stay ahead, and really found his feet towards the end, pulling away from the Frenchman and hunting down and passing Sainz to secure an excellent P6 finish. 8.5

Carlos Sainz: In terms of results alone, Sainz had a fairly decent weekend, but he undoubtedly won’t be fully happy with how he drove.

Saturday was a bit of a mixed bag as, after making a mistake and crashing out in FP3, he recovered to secure P6 in qualifying, effectively matching his team-mate’s time.

The Spaniard wasn’t anywhere near as close in the race though, dropping a long way behind Leclerc and not having enough pace to hold onto P6 either, despite having a seemingly stronger car than the rest of the midfield. 6

Sergio Perez: Not for the first time since he joined Red Bull, Checo very much had a weekend of two halves in the Netherlands.

Before he came out of the pits after making his first stop of the race, things had gone terribly. He had been knocked out in Q1 after too slow an out-lap and then had quickly ruined his initial race strategy by locking up and flat-spotting his hard tyres.

After that though, things went much better, with the Mexican finding some strong pace and making a huge number of overtakes to fight his way up to P8 after starting in the pit-lane and earn the official Driver of the Day award in the process.

Given how hard overtaking is at that track, it was undoubtedly a very good recovery drive, but he needs to stop getting himself into situations where such recoveries are necessary. 8

Esteban Ocon: Given he won it, this race was never going to be as good as Ocon’s last proper one – no, we don’t count Belgium – but he still would have hoped for a slightly better Sunday.

He started it in P8 after, not for the first time this season, displaying very strong one-lap pace to out-qualify Alonso, but he lost out to his team-mate at the start and couldn’t get back ahead. The Frenchman’s race pace wasn’t poor by any means, with him often all over the back of his team-mate and actually looking quicker, but he couldn’t find a way past.

That cost him later on as he was caught and passed by Perez, meaning that he finished the race a place down on where he started. Not a disaster, but not great either. 6.5

Lando Norris: With his first half of the season, Norris has set incredibly high standards for himself, and he never really met them at Zandvoort.

The McLaren was uncharacteristically slow in qualifying, only making it into Q2 by the skin of his teeth and not coming close to Q3 with his first and only lap in that session, with some bad luck in the form of a Red Flag admittedly playing a part in him being knocked out.

Things went much better on race day, with him gaining four places thanks to a good first stint in which he made his tyres last while maintaining decent pace. He was helped by his team-mate and issues for Giovinazzi though, and his defence against Perez wasn’t his finest piece of driving.

Nevertheless, it was still a fairly solid recovery drive. 7

Daniel Ricciardo: Ricciardo’s weekend was the opposite of his team-mate’s, consisting of a decent Saturday and a disappointing Sunday.

His confidence would have been done the world of good by the fact that he was quicker than Norris throughout and qualified four places ahead of him, but he couldn’t carry that momentum into the next day.

The Aussie made a decent start, gaining a place despite having some clutch issues, but then struggled to keep up with those ahead of him. His lack of pace ultimately led to his team prioritising Norris, and he played the team game well, holding up Russell before letting his team-mate through.

Being a good number two isn’t the role he wants to play though, but he can at least take some positives from the weekend, with him being closer to Norris over one lap. 6.5

Lance Stroll: Stroll was one of the drivers to be hindered by the early end to Q2, and it ended up costing him dearly in the race.

The Canadian just didn’t have enough of a pace advantage to find a way past Russell ahead of him, losing a huge amount of time behind the Williams driver, and therefore never came close to scoring points.

The one positive he can take from the weekend is that he beat his team-mate on both days, but that’s about it; pretty average on the whole. 6.5

Sebastian Vettel: Due to some misfortune and some mistakes, it was very much a weekend to forget for Vettel.

The German was knocked out in Q1 through little fault of his own after being blocked by the Haas drivers, giving him a mountain to climb on Sunday, and he didn’t climb it too well.

Things didn’t start off too badly with him gaining a few places, but the Seb of the late Ferrari days then reappeared as he went spinning. After that, he recovered fairly well and nearly overtook his team-mate, but still, not the best of rounds. 6

Antonio Giovinazzi: With his future very much uncertain, Giovinazzi needed to impress on Dutch soil, and he did just that on Saturday, securing P7 with an excellent lap, going faster than many in better cars than him.

While he lost some places, he managed to stay in the points at the start of the race too, dropping down to P10, but a puncture then ended his chances of scoring a strong result.

Bad luck on what was a good weekend for the Italian. 8

Robert Kubica: Kubica was thrown in the deep end when Raikkonen tested positive for COVID-19, being asked to step in at the last minute on a challenging circuit that he had no experience of.

The Pole handled things admirably, not making any mistakes, qualifying ahead of the Haas drivers and finishing ahead of both Williams cars, too.

He may not have had much in the way of pace, but keeping things clean and not being miles off the rest of the grid is an achievement in itself. 7.5

Nicholas Latifi: The Williams had solid pace at Zandvoort, and Latifi made the most of that to make it to Q2, although that achievement was dampened by the fact that he crashed in that session.

The Canadian had a pretty quiet race, running behind the midfield but ahead of the Haas drivers throughout, which is probably about right for his car. He’ll be disappointed he couldn’t beat Kubica though. 6

George Russell: Russell would have been on Cloud 9 heading into the weekend on the back of his first podium at Spa and a Mercedes move seemingly done, but the race weekend that followed would have brought him back down to earth.

While he made it to Q2, he couldn’t repeat his qualifying heroics, crashing out, and he did a decent job of holding off Stroll the next day but undid all of his hard work by speeding in the pit-lane, causing him to drop down the field. 6

Mick Schumacher: Schumacher’s name was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons across the weekend, with his falling out with Mazepin being far more of a talking point than his driving.

Such driving wasn’t exactly bad, with the German out-qualifying his team-mate, but it’s been better, shown by the fact that the Russian was ahead of him before being forced to retire. 5.5

Did not finish

Yuki Tsunoda: It may not have been his fault he retired, but things weren’t going well for Tsunoda before that either.

While Gasly qualified and spent the race in P4, the Japanese driver was battling at the back of the midfield throughout. Few drivers are so far off their team-mate right now. at least he didn’t crash… 5

Nikita Mazepin: On and off track, it was a messy weekend for Mazepin, with his decision to publicly criticise his team-mate not too wise and his defence against the German at the start of the race being very much on the limit.

The one positive is that he was running ahead of Schumacher and looked to have decent pace before retiring. 5.5