Driver ratings from the United States Grand Prix

Date published: October 25 2021 - Finley Crebolder

Max Verstappen raising his fist to the air. Austin October 2021

In an utterly absorbing affair in Austin, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton reminded us of just how good they are.

Here’s how we think every driver performed at the United States Grand Prix…

Max Verstappen: Verstappen has produced a lot of great performances this season, and his drive at The Circuit of The Americas was right up there with the best of them.

After taking pole with an excellent lap, he made life harder for himself when he lost out to Hamilton at the start of the race. After that setback though, he got back ahead via the undercut and didn’t put a foot wrong for the rest of the day.

He had a monumental task on his hands after pitting so much earlier than his title rival, and it seemed inevitable that he’d be passed. However, while also delivering strong and consistent lap times, he managed his tyres perfectly to ensure he was able to pick up the pace once he was caught, and it earned him the victory.

Under absolutely enormous pressure, he was flawless, somehow staying ahead of a man who was on tyres that were eight laps fresher than his. Simply put, it was a drive worthy of a World Champion, and that result could well make him one in the long run… 10

Lewis Hamilton: Hamilton will undoubtedly be disappointed that he wasn’t able to claim another victory in Austin, but there’s not too much he could’ve done better.

He wasn’t able to challenge Verstappen in qualifying but made amends with a simply stunning getaway on Sunday to pass the Dutchman and take the lead. With the strategy they put him in though, his team asked him to do so again, and he couldn’t quite manage it.

His tyre management was second to none – after all, he could only pull off the strategy because he made his first set last so long – and his pace was strong too, but the Brit struggled once he was in Verstappen’s dirty air and one small mistake at Turn 11 was enough to end his hopes of tasting victory.

The Mercedes man did incredibly well to come so close given he was in a slower car but will be rueing his not-quite-perfect final few laps. 9.5

Sergio Perez: He may have finished a long way behind the front two in the end, but in terms of the weekend as a whole, this was arguably Checo’s best showing of the season.

Unlike in so many rounds this year, he was right up there in qualifying, taking provisional pole before losing out to the top two after some drizzle hindered his final run. Even so, starting P3 was a decent achievement, and finishing there was an even better one given the bad luck he was hit with.

After staying within touch of the title contenders in the opening stages, he then fell away, but that’s somewhat understandable given he didn’t have a drink. On such a hot day at such a demanding circuit, that’s a big hindrance, as was very shown by just how exhausted he was after the race. Bearing that in mind, staying in P3 comfortably ahead of the rest of the field was a good result.

While his outright pace is still a bit of an issue, if he performs as well at his home race as he did in Austin and doesn’t have issues again, he could well give his fans a lot to cheer about… 8.5

Charles Leclerc: Not for the first time this season, Leclerc was barely seen or mentioned throughout the race, purely because he was on another level to the rest of the midfield.

His rivals throughout the weekend were his team-mate and the McLarens, and he comfortably out-qualified them all before cruising off into the distance on race day, ultimately crossing the line just under 25 seconds ahead of Ricciardo.

There’s really not much else to say. It was simply the perfect weekend. Looking at how he performed in his first weekend as a 24-year-old, there’s little doubt that, if Ferrari can give him the car, he can pick up a fair few wins before he turns 25. 9

Daniel Ricciardo: After his struggles in Turkey, the big question was whether that was just a blip in Ricciardo’s revival or whether his struggles had returned for good. The answer to that is now abundantly clear.

Throughout the weekend, he was the stronger of the two McLaren drivers and pretty comfortably too, out-qualifying Norris and staying ahead of him from the first lap to the last on race day.

What’s more, he prevailed in a titanic battle with the Ferrari of Sainz, getting ahead of him with a glorious move at the start and then holding him off despite having inferior machinery.

In a weekend in which he got his reward – a drive in hero Dale Earnhardt’s car for his Italian Grand Prix heroics – he produced a display that was second only to the one in Monza. 9

Valtteri Bottas: On a weekend in which Perez was on top of his game, Mercedes really needed Bottas to fight his way to the front and help Hamilton after taking a grid penalty, but he didn’t come close to doing so.

It was a poor start that largely cost the Finn, with him dropping down a place to P10 and immediately losing touch with the front four as he struggled to overtake the midfield runners ahead of him.

He had enough pace in clean air to gain a few places via strategy and secured a top-six finish with a late move on Sainz, but given the car he had, he really shouldn’t have struggled to pull off overtakes so much.

If he wants to leave Mercedes on a high by helping them win both titles, he’ll need to find better form in the final five rounds. 5

Carlos Sainz: While his team-mate stayed well clear of any action, Sainz had more than perhaps any driver, and will be a bit frustrated with how things panned out for him.

With the Spaniard starting on softs, staying ahead of the McLarens at the start was always going to be a big ask, but while he lost out to Ricciardo, he did well to keep Norris behind him while staying in touch with the Aussie.

Once the pits eradicated his tyre disadvantage, he had much stronger pace and looked set to pass the man who replaced him at McLaren, but some slight contact between the two left him with wing damage and caused him to be passed by Bottas at the end.

It was a decent drive on the whole, but he could have finished in P5 rather than P7 if he timed his move on Ricciardo a little better. 7

Lando Norris: He only finished behind his team-mate and those in faster cars than him, but by his own lofty standards, it was a bit of a disappointing weekend for Norris.

So often this year, he’s been leading the charge in the fight against Ferrari, but this time around, he didn’t have the pace to do on either Saturday or Sunday, with Ricciardo being the lead McLaren instead.

He wasn’t worlds away from the Aussie by any means, but undoubtedly had less pace on the whole and wasn’t able to pull off a move on Sainz early on as his team-mate did, which proved costly.

All in all, a pretty average weekend, but compared to most of his season, a poor one. 6

Yuki Tsunoda: After making yet another costly mistake last time out in turkey, Tsunoda really needed to produce a good drive, and he did just that, scoring vital points for his team.

After making to Q3 on Saturday, the AlphaTauri driver made an excellent start to the race, gaining two places, and despite coming under enormous pressure for the rest of the race, stayed inside the top 10.

He had hugely experienced heads such as Bottas, Raikkonen, Alonso and Vettel all over him at points but kept his cool to defined perfectly, while he also completed two great moves on Stroll.

In terms of both pace and wheel-to-wheel racing, he was very good throughout. If he can maintain that form, he can be a real asset to the team. 8

Sebastian Vettel: Starting in P18 due to an engine penalty in a car that wasn’t exactly thriving at the circuit, it looked hugely unlikely that Vettel would score any points in Austin, but he had other ideas.

The German made a great start, gaining three places, and settled into a good rhythm after that, going long on his both of his stints and using his fresher tyres to pull off some good overtakes after pitting on both occasions.

He did admittedly benefit from a number of spins and mechanical issues for cars that he was racing against, but it was a very good drive from him nonetheless. 8.5

Antonio Giovinazzi: It was an all-too-familiar story for Giovinazzi; a strong performance on Saturday followed by a race in which he didn’t have enough pace to score points.

Qualifying in P13 was a good effort, and he moved up to P11 at the start, but soon afterwards he was passed by his team-mate and was given the job of holding off Alonso for him. He initially did so well, racing hard but fair, but had to give the Alpine the place after going off-track.

Ultimately, he just didn’t have the race pace, but did at least impress a fair amount when it came to qualifying and wheel-t0-wheel racing. 6

Lance Stroll: While he did finish one place up on where he started, that’s only because two cars ahead of him retired. All things considered, it wasn’t the best of races for Stroll.

It all went wrong early on as he spun on the opening lap after making contact with Latifi. That dropped him down the order, and he simply wasn’t quick enough to get himself back in the mix for points.

Add in the fact that he went out in Q1 while his team-mate wasn’t far off Q3 and it’s hard to find many positives from the Canadian’s weekend. 4

Kimi Raikkonen: Stroll wasn’t the only one to go spinning, with one from Kimi costing him points after what was a very good performance from the Iceman.

Despite having slower machinery, he more than held his own in battles with Alonso and Tsunoda to give himself the chance of a top-10 finish, but that chance disappeared when he lost it defending P10 from Vettel in the closing stages.

If not for that error, he’d be getting at least an 8, with his pace and racing very impressive, but given how costly it was, it brings his rating down a fair bit. 6

George Russell: Starting from the back of the grid, it was always going to be a tough race for Russell, and he couldn’t pull off any surprises.

It looked like he’d maybe be able to when he gained six places on a stunning first lap, but he just didn’t have the pace after that and could only finish ahead of one driver in the same car as him and two in much slower ones in the end.

Qualifying was good, with him making it out of Q1, as was the opening lap, but there weren’t any highlights after that. 6

Nicholas Latifi: Given how things started for Latifi, he’ll just be pleased that he was able to finish the race ahead of the Haas drivers.

He had to pit after the first lap after being hit by Stroll, and with that dropping him down to the back of the order, passing Mazepin and Schumacher was realistically all he could hope to do.

The Canadian managed that but will be keen to move on from the weekend in which he was firmly second best to Russell again too. 5

Mick Schumacher: Schumacher beat his team-mate comfortably on both Saturday and Sunday and didn’t make any major mistakes, while he also kept up with Latifi for a bit. All in all, a decent weekend. 7

Nikita Mazepin: The same can’t be said for Mazepin, who was firmly second best to the German throughout and finished a long, long way behind him. We’ll cut him some slack as a loose headrest forced him to pit at the start, but looking at his pace, he wouldn’t have been able to challenge Schumacher even without that issue. 4

Did not finish:

Fernando Alonso: Lining up towards the back of the grid due to an engine penalty, Alonso made a strong start and was firmly in the mix for points before retiring.

He could well have found himself inside the top-10 if he executed his moves on the Alfa Romeo drivers a little better, but his attempts to get past them did at least provide us all with a lot of entertainment, and he did get past Giovinazzi in the end. 7

Esteban Ocon: Ocon’s race was ruined early on after front-wing damage forced him to pit at the start. He didn’t have the pace to get back into the midfield fight after that. 6

Pierre Gasly: Gasly only completed a handful of laps before a suspension failure ended his day. N/A