RACE DEBRIEF

    Imola. A classic track and, in 2021, a classic race that saw Red Bull’s Max Verstappen take his first victory of the year over Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. But was it the Dutchman who claimed top spot in this week’s Aramco F1 Power Rankings? Read on to see how our judges scored the drivers at the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

    HOW IT WORKS

    • Our six-judge panel assesses each driver after every Grand Prix and scores them out of 10 according to their performance across the weekend – taking machinery out of the equation

    • Our experts’ scores are then averaged out across the season to create an overall Power Rankings Leaderboard (at the bottom of the page)

    1 NOR IMO.jpg

    “Lando is flying at the moment. He's definitely made the next step as a driver.” That was McLaren Team Principal Andreas Seidl’s verdict on Norris’ efforts this weekend – and our judges weren’t arguing. Norris would have been P3 on the grid, and ahead of Verstappen, had he not crept a tyre over the track limits at Piratella.

    Well, them’s the rules – but his race recovery was nothing short of spectacular, as he worked his way up to P2 and brilliantly eked out the life of his soft tyres, while there was no shame in failing to hold off Hamilton in the closing stages, as he came home third for his second career podium. Brilliant.

    READ MORE: Norris has ‘made the next step as a driver’ after Imola podium performance, says Seidl

    2 VER IMO.jpg

    Having come so close to victory in Bahrain, this was a fabulous race performance from Verstappen, who was punchy into the first corner with Hamilton and never headed from there, eventually crossing the line 22s up the road from his Mercedes rival.

    Verstappen’s score would certainly have been even higher had he not made a small mistake at Tamburello on his Q3 lap, which allowed team mate Sergio Perez to qualify ahead of him in P2 – the first time Verstappen’s been outpaced by a team mate in quali since Daniel Ricciardo did it at Abu Dhabi 2018. Still, as Verstappen said at the time, he’s not a robot.

    READ MORE: 7 Winners and 7 Losers from the 2021 Emilia Romagna GP – Who shone in the rain at Imola?

    3 LEC IMO.jpg

    The fact that Charles Leclerc left Imola frustrated with P4 was a sign of the progress Ferrari have made in 2021. Another fine lap from the Monegasque in qualifying gave him his second P4 on the grid in succession – while a strong race performance saw Leclerc come home as the leading Ferrari, even if a downforce-heavy set-up to help in the wet ultimately prevented him tilting for the podium. Ferrari progress continues – with Leclerc continuing to race at his potent, consistent best.

    READ MORE: Mixed feelings for Leclerc as wet set-up almost yielded Imola podium

    4 HAM IMO.jpg

    A rough diamond of a weekend from Lewis Hamilton, who brilliantly took pole on Saturday, before a big error from the seven-time champion while trying to lap the Williams of George Russell sent him into the barriers at Tosa. The red flag for his team mate Valtteri Bottas’ own contretemps with Russell moments later offered Hamilton a reprieve – but to then climb from a dejected P9 to an exultant P2 in the way he did was pure Hamilton genius.

    READ MORE: ‘I refused to believe the race was done’ – Hamilton revels in recovery drive to P2 after ‘first mistake in a long time’

    5 SAI IMO.jpg

    Eleventh on the grid and with so many trips through the gravel in the race it looked like he was trying to replicate his old man’s rallying exploits at times – no, this was not Carlos Sainz’s best ever weekend in Formula 1. But El Smooth Operator showed both his class and Ferrari’s improved form by climbing his way to fifth by the race end, crossing the line just behind Leclerc to record Ferrari’s first consecutive double points finish since Mexico 2019.

    READ MORE: Sainz left ‘frustrated' at Imola, even after recovery drive from P11 to P5

    6 STR IMO.jpg

    While Sebastian Vettel has yet to find his feet in the Aston Martin AMR21, Lance Stroll has quietly been doing some fine work in the #18 car. Stroll spent a large part of the race frustrating the advances of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas – while although his move for P7 on Pierre Gasly was later deemed illegal (with Stroll dropped to P8 as a result of a penalty) the Canadian came home for his second points finish in as many races.

    READ MORE: Stroll 'really happy' with Imola race after brake issue drama

    7 OCO IMO.jpg

    Esteban Ocon can take a lot of pride from having outperformed Alpine team mate Fernando Alonso across the weekend at Imola – especially given the Spaniard’s history at the circuit (2005 and all that). A decision to start on full wets proved to be the wrong one, forcing Ocon to pit at the end of Lap 1. But from there, the Frenchman’s recovery was solid, as he crossed the line 10th on the road (later bumped up to ninth) for Alpine’s first points in F1.

    READ MORE: Ocon says Imola result and first 2021 points a 'good reward'

    8 GAS IMO.jpg

    Like his fellow northern Frenchman Esteban Ocon, Gasly elected to start the Imola race on full wets. But while Ocon got rid of the blue-walled rubber quick-smart, AlphaTauri kept Gasly out on the tyres until Lap 14 – by which time he’d dropped from his superb fifth spot on the grid down to P17. That he eventually made it back to a classified seventh was a sign of how much potential the AlphaTauri had had on race day at Imola – making Gasly’s six points somewhat bittersweet.

    READ MORE: Starting on wets left us 'screwed' says Gasly as he rues AlphaTauri's Imola strategy

    9= RUS IMO.jpg

    George Russell landed on an average score of 6.8 post-Imola – but the Briton had by far the biggest divergence in scoring between our judges, some of whom appeared to side with Russell in his view of the accident with Bottas, while others clearly thought that a cooler head should have prevailed given the conditions.

    Once the hullabaloo around the crash has died down, though, Russell should take plenty of encouragement from the fact that he was lining up a genuine pass on a Mercedes, in what could have been a lucrative weekend points-wise for the improving Williams team.

    READ MORE: ‘I should have handled the situation better’ – Russell posts public apology to Bottas after Imola collision

    9= RAI IMO.jpg

    Give Kimi Raikkonen a classic drivers’ circuit – Spa-Francorchamps, Suzuka or, in this instance, Imola – and you’ll always get the best from the Finn. Raikkonen was indeed in good nick at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on race day, overcoming Alfa Romeo’s disappointing qualifying to head a pack that included a Red Bull and two Alpines as he crossed the line in P9.

    Alas, a slightly convoluted penalty for his off behind the Safety Car at the restart meant Raikkonen was hit with a 30-second addition to his race time that dropped him to P13. That aside, though, these were some more encouraging signs for Raikkonen and Alfa Romeo.

    READ MORE: Alonso scores first point of F1 comeback after post-race penalty drops Raikkonen out of top 10

    MISSING OUT

    It has to be said that the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was a fairly low-scoring affair, while of the drivers who failed to make the top 10, Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo team mate Antonio Giovinazzi was the leading protagonist.

    McLaren’s sixth-place finisher Daniel Ricciardo was close behind – the Australian philosophical about the disparity between his and team mate Norris’ races, as he continues to get up to speed with the MCL35M.

    READ MORE: Ricciardo ‘not letting ego get in the way’ after failing to match Norris podium heroics at Imola

    1313137070
    Ricciardo wasn't able to match team mate Norris' podium-claiming exploits

    THE OVERALL STANDINGS

    There’s a fresh batch of drivers who’ve managed to find their way into the top 10 on the leaderboard this week – where the scores, remember, are based on the drivers’ whole-season averages to date.

    To that end, Stroll, Raikkonen, Ocon and Giovinazzi are in – but the big news is a change at the top, with Lando Norris’ 9.3 (he had a 9.2 in Bahrain) giving him P1, as Hamilton slips down to P3 behind Verstappen.

    Imola Leaderboard Power Rankings.png