Austrian GP driver ratings: Max Verstappen and Lando Norris star as Lewis Hamilton loses title ground

Max Verstappen: 10

Qualified 1st, Finished 1st

Max Verstappen entered the France-Austria-Austria triple-header having never won consecutive races in Formula 1. He left it having racked up three on the spin to establish a more-than-useful points lead over Lewis Hamilton after nine of the season’s scheduled 23 events.

No two races are ever the same in Formula 1, but the two at the Red Bull Ring came pretty close for Max. Indeed, as he mentioned himself on the radio afterwards, runaway race two was arguably even better than runaway win one. Lando Norris almost threw a spanner in the works at the end of Q3 but once Verstappen was again on pole for the start and then cleanly out of Turn One in the lead, he was barely seen again. That’s what you call dominance.

Valtteri Bottas: 8

Qualified 5th, Finished 2nd

A best result of the season for Valtteri Bottas, who for the first time in a long while benefitted from a spot of luck rather than suffered from it.

Bottas, just outqualified by Lewis Hamilton, would very likely have finished third without his team-mate’s car damage, and possibly even fourth without Lando Norris’ penalty, but made the most of that to secure what was surely the maximum result considering his grid position and Red Bull’s pace advantage. A welcome result on the weekend Hamilton’s Mercedes future was secured, but Bottas needs more rounds like this to earn his own new contract.

Lando Norris: 10

Qualified 2nd, Finished 3rd

A sensational weekend amid a sensational season for Lando Norris, who has already scored more points in nine races than either of his two previous campaigns in F1. That’s also three third-place podium finishes in 2021 too, with this one in Austria probably the most emphatic.

With McLaren’s already-fast car featuring further revisions, Norris came within a whisker of almost unthinkably taking pole position off the dominant Verstappen and then on Sunday drove very strongly all race to initially stay ahead of the Mercedes’ and then split them when Hamilton’s pace slowed.

The one moment of contention was that lap-four, Turn Four incident with Sergio Perez. The stewards and Perez saw it one way, Lando and McLaren the other, and the five-second sanction imposed did certainly seem to cost Norris second to Bottas, even if another third was still a terrific result.

Lewis Hamilton: 8

Qualified 4th, Finished 4th

Lewis Hamilton came into race day stressing the need for “damage limitation” against Verstappen, he finished it ruing a very different sort of damage – and an eighth championship now looks a steep uphill task this year.

Biding his time to overtake Norris, Hamilton was set for second place behind Verstappen in Austria before picking up floor damage from the kerbs – losing more than half a second per lap to rivals behind – and he was a sitting duck to both his team-mate and the McLaren as he slumped to fourth.

While there’s only six points difference between the position Hamilton was in and where he finished, Verstappen’s lead is now more than the equivalent of a race win. And Hamilton has never won a title from this far back.

Carlos Sainz: 8.5

Qualified 11th (Started 10th), Finished 5th

Carlos Sainz picked up 11 places from his grid positions across the Austrian double-header in a fortnight that has seen him move right up on team-mate Charles Leclerc in the championship. Both missed Q2 here, with Ferrari determined not to sacrifice more durable tyres for the opening race stint, and Sainz duly played the longest game by running the hards to his lap-48 sole stop.

It paid dividends with the Spaniard returning in eighth place and then racing forwards on fresher tyres. After being let through by Leclerc with six to go to try and challenge Ricciardo, he overtook the McLaren for fifth too.

Sergio Perez: 6

Qualified 3rd, Finished 6th

After outqualifying both Mercedes for the first time this season to give him a great chance of backing up Verstappen in the race, Sergio Perez had a “disaster” of a Sunday – involved in three incidents which led to penalties.

The first of those, while adjudged to be Norris’ fault, was the most costly for the Mexican as Perez attempted an optimistic move around the outside of the McLaren on the first lap post-Safety Car, forced onto the gravel as a result.

That gave him a bit of damage while also dropping him into a midfield train he couldn’t get out of, and he was handed two separate five-second penalties of his own after combatively and unfairly pushing Charles Leclerc away at Turns 4 and 6. “I’m really sorry if I affected the race of Charles because that’s not the way I do my racing,” said Perez.

Daniel Ricciardo: 7

Qualified 13th, Finished 7th

When measured against Lando Norris’ weekend, Daniel Ricciardo’s seventh place certainly looks like a clear underperformance given what the impressive McLaren car was capable of. But at least the gain of five positions in the race pointed more encouragingly to progress for Ricciardo after qualifying 13th for the second weekend in a row.

The Aussie was involved in a fairly intense race in the midfield after making up crucial early ground either side of the Ocon-triggered Safety Car. Couldn’t quite keep Sainz at bay in the end but seventh was still a good recovery drive. Now the big target is to get more out of the car over a single lap at Silverstone.

Charles Leclerc: 7

Qualified 12th, Finished 8th

A rather frustrating eighth place in the end for Charles Leclerc. He seemed to have more pace than both Ricciardo and Perez but – illegally blocked by the Red Bull driver when he did get close enough to overtake – just wasn’t able to show it.

Credit to him, he managed to park his anger and think of the team late in the race as he allowed Carlos Sainz through, helping Ferrari limit the gap to McLaren. The end of a chaotic and incident-packed Austria back-to-back for the Monegasque.

Pierre Gasly: 7.5

Qualified 6th, Finished 9th

At least this time it was an Austrian race that lasted for more than one lap and delivered points for Pierre Gasly, but there may have ultimately been a sense of disappointment for the Frenchman given he twice put the AlphaTauri on the third row here.

But the team always appeared vulnerable on Sunday by virtue of being locked into starting on the soft tyres and so it proved, with several cars from the middle of the grid jumping ahead via one-stoppers after Pierre’s lap-13 stop. Given that, this was yet another very decent drive from Gasly.

Fernando Alonso: 8

Qualified 14th, Finished 10th

One point gained by Fernando Alonso to extend his top-10 streak to four races – but he could have been a lot higher up the order without his Saturday misfortune. A rapidly improving Alonso was showing top-five pace in qualifying before he was blocked by Sebastian Vettel on his last Q2 lap, which left him down in a disappointing 14th.

From there it was always going to be difficult to recover, and he just managed to secure 10th via a late and somewhat heart-breaking overtake on George Russell. Alonso is really starting to dominate Alpine team-mate Esteban Ocon.


George Russell: 9

Anyone but Fernando… no wonder George Russell’s heart sank a little when he realised it was the two-time world champion, the man who has spoken so glowingly about the young Briton over the past year, who was the man chasing him down for the race’s final point.

Alonso got it in the end, despite an impressive and long defence from Russell, so the Briton’s wait for that first elusive Williams point continues. Q3 and ninth-fastest in qualifying – ahead of the Ferraris, also on the medium tyre – was a sensational effort and although losing places on lap one was not ideal, Russell raced strongly to the end.

Yuki Tsunoda: 6

A best qualifying result of seventh for Yuki Tsunoda but his race-day was completely ruined by two very clumsy, and identical, penalties. Twice crossing the white lines when entering the pits, the combined 10-second penalty essentially left the F1 rookie out of points contention. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, he just needs a clean weekend.

Lance Stroll: 6

It was a difficult Sunday for both Aston Martin drivers, with Lance Stroll 13th after slipping out of the points positions the team had qualified in. First stint on the soft tyre was certainly more straightforward than the second, with traffic and strategy just not working out compared with one-stopping rivals around them. Debris lodged in a brake duct didn’t help Stroll’s cause either.

Antonio Giovinazzi: 6.5

Antonio Giovinazzi is giving George Russell a good run for his ‘Mr Saturday’ nickname at present, now 7-2 up on Kimi Raikkonen, but he continues to struggle on Sundays – and in Austria, he was once again plagued by contact on the first lap. That led to an early pit-stop, and he was never going to recover from that.

Kimi Raikkonen: 6

You’ll probably never see a less acrimonious fallout to a collision in Formula 1, but Kimi Raikkonen was nonetheless found at fault by stewards and handed a time penalty for shutting the door on good pal and former team-mate Vettel in their messy tangle on the final lap. A shame for Kimi, who had again raced well on a one stop to run on the verge of the top 10 after yet again being outqualified by Giovinazzi.

Nicholas Latifi: 5.5

He started 18th and that is where he would have finished without Ocon’s stoppage and the late crashes. Not an enjoyable Austrian GP for Nicholas Latifi. “We stayed out of trouble on the opening laps and then I ran on my own for most of the race,” he said. A not-so-fun Sunday then ended with a late 30s penalty for a yellow-flag infringement.

Sebastian Vettel: 6

As phlegmatic as Raikkonen was about spinning into the gravel, Vettel suffered a similar race to Stroll with his own chance of points further complicated by the three-place grid penalty received for blocking Alonso amid that late melee of slowing and overtaking cars in Q2. Was quickly back in the top 10 before his stop but ended up being jumped by one-stopping rivals.

Mick Schumacher: 7

Half a second ahead of Nikita Mazepin in qualifying and 50 seconds up the road in the race, that’s all you can really ask of Mick Schumacher, whose only real battles with other drivers came on the first lap.

Nikita Mazepin: 5.5

Like Latifi, Nikita Mazepin fell foul of the stewards after the race for not slowing enough for the yellow flags waving for the Raikkonen-Vettel tangle. The retrospective half-minute penalty didn’t change the Russian’s finishing position, 19th and last of the classified runners.

Mazepin qualified half a second behind team-mate Schumacher, struggling with the rear of the Haas car, and then endured what he described as “a long afternoon” in the race on a two-stopper that didn’t pay particular dividend.


Esteban Ocon: N/A

Another alarming Q1 exit, another dismal weekend. After starting 18th, Esteban Ocon’s race only lasted a few corners thanks to an early shunt into Turn 3. “The only way we can go is forwards”. You can say that again, Estaban. Just where has his early-season pace gone?

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