Driver ratings from the Sao Paulo Grand Prix

Date published: November 15 2021 - Finley Crebolder

Valtteri Bottas pours champagne on Lewis Hamilton. Sao Paulo November 2021.

One man stood above the rest of the field in PlanetF1’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix driver ratings, with Lewis Hamilton in a league of his own.

Here’s how we think every driver performed at Interlagos…

Lewis Hamilton: Hamilton has delivered a huge number of excellent weekends over the course of his career, but there have been few as good as this one was.

After a stunning performance in traditional qualifying on Friday, it looked as if not even a five-place grid penalty would stop him from claiming victory in Brazil, but he was given a huge mountain to climb when he was disqualified from that session for a technical infringement and forced to start the sprint from the back. How he did so was remarkable.

On Saturday, he gained 15 places thanks to his excellent pace and perfectly executed overtakes, and he picked up where he left off the next day, being in P2 after just 19 laps. As has often been the case this year, it then became a one-on-one battle between himself and Verstappen, and even with some rather aggressive defending the Dutchman, he just had no answer to his rival’s blistering pace.

Granted, it was partly because he had the best machinery, but the seven-time World Champion was simply untouchable all weekend, overcoming numerous hurdles to take the win he so desperately needed. When he can produce performances like that, you’d be mad to rule him out of this title fight. 10 

Max Verstappen: It was a case of close but no cigar all weekend for Verstappen with the Red Bull driver finishing P2 to a Mercedes in all three of the non-practice sessions.

There wasn’t much he could have done on Friday and Sunday, with the Dutchman generally getting everything out of his car and simply not having the pace to beat Hamilton. On both occasions, finishing ahead of the other Mercedes of Bottas was a good achievement in itself.

He’ll be kicking himself about the poor start he made to the sprint though which ultimately cost him pole position and a point, and his extremely aggressive move to initially keep Hamilton behind on race day wasn’t his finest piece of driving with him very lucky to avoid a penalty.

Nevertheless, the 24-year-old still drove very well for most of the weekend and maintained a decent lead in the standings as a result. 8.5

Valtteri Bottas: Bottas’ performances were very much overshadowed by his team-mate’s heroics, but he drove pretty well all weekend himself too.

The Finn couldn’t find his groove in qualifying but more than made up for it in the sprint, making an excellent start to take the lead from Verstappen and not putting a foot wrong after that to take a point and pole from the Red Bull man.

He couldn’t continue to hinder the Dutchman on race day, losing the lead and also falling behind Perez on what was a really poor first lap for him. But after being a team player and letting Hamilton through, he got his head down, took advantage of some good fortune to get back in front of the Mexican and maintained strong pace after that to stay there.

The fact that he was so far off his team-mate may suggest he didn’t drive too well in Brazil, but Hamilton’s much fresher power unit undoubtedly played a big part in that. Ultimately, Bottas played the part of number two driver perfectly, not getting in the Brit’s way but being quick enough to cause problems for Red Bull. 8

Sergio Perez: Checo has been in much better form in recent races and that generally remained the case in Brazil, although he wasn’t quite as good as he was in the three previous rounds that saw take three consecutive P3 finishes.

Friday qualifying was solid but not spectacular as he was faster than the midfield runners and narrowly slower than Verstappen and Bottas. Things didn’t go as well the next day though as he fell behind Sainz at the start and then couldn’t take back P3 when he really should have given his machinery.

The Mexican managed to get ahead of the Spaniard at the start of the race and also got past Bottas. The rest of his first stint was very good as he did everything he could to help out his team-mate, holding off Hamilton for a good while with some great racing. Bad luck then dropped him back behind Bottas and he wasn’t fast enough to attack the Finn, although he did stay very close to him and also took the fastest lap point from Hamilton at the end.

It was generally another positive weekend for Checo, with his poor sprint the only thing stopping him from getting the same rating as his Mercedes counterpart. If both number twos keep performing as they did in Brazil, it will make the fight at the front very interesting indeed. 7.5

Charles Leclerc: For the second race in a row, Leclerc delivered when it mattered to give his team some crucial points, but it was from the perfect weekend with him often being second-best to his team-mate.

Usually one of the best qualifiers on the grid, he struggled on Friday, finishing just over a tenth and one place down on Sainz. He then fell further behind the Spaniard in the sprint, being passed by Norris while the other Ferrari claimed P3.

The Monegasque found his form when it mattered most though, making an excellent start on race day to get ahead of Sainz and staying ahead of him until the end, making no mistakes and maintaining strong pace.

It wasn’t a great weekend for him prior to the main race, but that was very good and is ultimately what matters most. 8

Carlos Sainz: Returning to the circuit where he claimed his first-ever F1 podium last time he raced there, Sainz was every bit as good this time around.

In both qualifying formats, he was excellent, beating Leclerc on Friday and being arguably the best performer of all bar Hamilton in the sprint, taking P3 from Perez and doing a top-notch job to stay ahead of the Red Bull man.

His start didn’t go well at all on Sunday, with him getting off the line very poorly and then making slight contact with Norris. Things got better again after that though, with the Spaniard staying close behind Leclerc and ahead of the rest of the midfield, prevailing in a battle with Gasly.

There’s little doubt now that he’s more than a match for Leclerc, which is a big compliment. 8

Pierre Gasly: While Gasly didn’t finish as the best of the rest as he did in Mexico, that was largely due to his car’s comparatively poorer race pace. In terms of driving, he was very good once again.

The AlphaTauri remained excellent over the course of one lap and Gasly made the most of that to take P5 on Friday but in the sprint, it quickly became clear that his machinery was no match for the Ferraris in race trim. Even so, he’ll be disappointed with his performance in the sprint, with a terrible start causing him to finish down in P8.

His drive the next day was much better as he prevailed in a tough and hugely important battle with the two Alpine drivers to take P7. He may have had a faster car, but given he was on his own aginst two of them, beating both was a good achievement. 8

Esteban Ocon: Heading into the weekend level on points with AlphaTauri, Alpine were expected to drop down to P6 in the standings. They needed both drivers to be on form to hold on to their top-five spot, and that was very much the case.

Ocon was second-best to Alonso on Friday but it was still a decent showing, with him less than a tenth off the Spaniard and ahead of the Aston Martins and Tsunoda in P11. The Frenchman was then even better in the sprint, getting ahead of his team-mate and Ricciardo.

He carried that form into the race, managing his tyres well and possessing strong pace to cross the line in P8 just ahead of Alonso. All weekend, there was little to choose between the two, which is a good look for the younger of the Alpine pair. 8

Fernando Alonso: Alonso’s weekend consisted of one disappointing day sandwiched by two good ones, with him making it into Q3 and climbing back up into the top 10 after dropping down to P12 in the sprint.

In clean air, he very much looked the faster of the two Alpines, although not by much, impressing in qualifying and being the man to lead the fight against Gasly in the race, only finishing behind Ocon as he chose to give the place back to his team-mate once it became clear he couldn’t catch the AlphaTauri.

His starts on both Saturday and Sunday were uncharacteristically average and probably cost him a couple of places, but it was still a strong weekend from the 40-year-old. 8

Lando Norris: After really good drives on both Friday and Saturday that saw him qualify in P8 for the sprint and finish it in P6, disaster struck on Sunday when Norris picked up a puncture at the start, causing him to drop down to the back of the field.

A mixture of good pace and good luck in the form of a Safety Car and issues for three other midfield drivers put him back in the mix for points though and he had enough pace to take P10 ahead of Vettel.

That’s a good result for the McLaren man given where he was after the first lap, but as mentioned, it was largely due to issues for others that he finished so high up – he only beat two midfield runners that finished and one had incidents of their own – and, as he admitted himself, it was largely his own fault he picked up the puncture that massively hindered his race. 7

Sebastian Vettel: Vettel simply didn’t have a good enough car to score points in Brazil but was once again very much Aston Martin’s lead driver, being stronger than Stroll all weekend.

The German did well to take P11 on Friday and P10 on Saturday while the Canadian couldn’t get near the top 10 in either session, and he didn’t do much wrong wrong in the race either, only finishing behind cars that were clearly faster than him.

All in all, he drove well throughout the weekend and deserved some points for his efforts. It’s a shame he doesn’t have the car to get them. 8

Kimi Raikkonen: It was a strong weekend for Kimi as he was faster than his team-mate in traditional qualifying and recovered excellently after spinning in the sprint and starting the race from the pit-lane.

The Finn climbed all the way up to P12 thanks to very solid pace that he put down to changes made with his car and a good strategy from his team, as well as a few issues for others. Looking at how well things went, he could well have scored some points if not for the incident with Giovinazzi on Saturday. 8

George Russell: It was very much a weekend to forget for Russell with the Brit unable to fight the midfield and far less dominant over his team-mate than usual.

Indeed, he was beaten by Latifi on both Friday and Saturday, simply being slower than the Canadian on both occasions. He did at least recover to become Williams’ lead man on race day, also beating one Alfa with a strong drive, but it’s fair to say he didn’t quite meet the lofty standards he’s set for himself. 6

Antonio Giovinazzi: This was probably Giovinazzi’s last F1 race at Interlagos, and it wasn’t a good one.

The Italian was slower than his team-mate on Friday, hit the Finn – causing him to spin – on Saturday and was second best to him on Sunday too, also being beaten by a slower car in the form of Russell. 4

Yuki Tsunoda: Given they had a faster car, AlphaTauri really should have overtaken Alpine in the standings in Brazil, but failed to do so, and that’s ultimately due to Tsunoda.

While his team-mate spent the entire weekend inside the top 10, the rookie never got near it, only taking P13 on Friday, dropping down two spots on Saturday due entirely to poor pace on his part and finishing the race there after being given a penalty for a collision with Stroll.

It’s clear that he has a lot of talent, but on weekends like this one, you cant help but be surprised he’s being retained by the team for the 2022 campaign. 3

Nicholas Latifi: Latifi can take a lot of positives from the weekend with him being stronger than Russell in both qualifying formats for the first time in their time as team-mates.

The race didn’t go as well, although that was largely due to the timing of the VSC hurting him. Even so, he was definitely second best to the Brit on Sunday, but will still be fairly happy with his weekend. 6

Nikita Mazepin: A weekend that started with Mazepin on the verge of tears would have ended with him feeling pretty good about how he drove.

He was only upset in qualifying because he had strong pace and made a mistake that undid that his hard work, and such pace was evident on race day too, with him climbing up to P15 early on and pulling off a nice move on Schumacher at the restart.

His team-mate was compromised by an incident with Raikkonen that lost him his rear wing, but it was still a decent drive from Mazepin. 6

Mick Schumacher: While he finished behind the Russian, Schumacher still looked the faster Haas man, beating Mazepin on both Friday and Saturday.

He failed to so on race day due to his tangle with Kimi and in hindsight, he’ll maybe wish he didn’t race the Finn so hard given he was in a slower car and was going to be passed eventually.

Even so, it wasn’t a bad weekend by any means. 6

Did not finish:

Daniel Ricciardo: Ricciardo had a difficult weekend prior to the race, being out-qualified by Norris before dropping down to P11 in what was a poor sprint for him, but things were going better on race day.

The Aussie was running in P8 right behind Gasly and looked set to score some good points when a loss of power forced him to retire. It was a cruel end to what had been a good day for him, but the weekend as a whole wasn’t a great one. 6

Lance Stroll: Stroll’s race was ruined and ended by a collision with Tsunoda that he couldn’t do much to avoid, but judging by his pace earlier in the weekend, he wouldn’t have scored points anyway. 5