2016 Japanese Grand Prix driver ratings

2016 Japanese Grand Prix

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All 22 drivers finished the Japanese Grand Prix but some fared better than others. Here’s F1 Fanatic’s verdict on the entire field.


Lewis Hamilton – Mere hundredths off Rosberg on Friday, Hamilton said he’d been pursuing a different set-up direction which he gave up on before qualifying. He was quickest on the first runs in Q3 but Rosberg shaded him by 13 thousandths of a second on their final run. That left Hamilton on the slightly damp side of the grid for the start, though he said that didn’t cause his subsequent poor getaway. His recovery from eighth place was pretty much faultless – he seized every opportunity to gain a position, excerpt perhaps when he got Verstappen on the defence starting the final lap.

Nico Rosberg – Finally took the victory to go with the speed he has shown at Suzuka in the past. He delivered under pressure in Q3 and started cleanly, after which he had a straightforward run to the chequered flag.


Sebastian Vettel – His three-place grid penalty from Malaysia meant he started behind the Red Bulls instead of in front of them. However he jumped Ricciardo at the start and demoted Perez soon afterwards. A podium looked a strong possibility but his long middle stint – which Vettel said he was “keen to go for” – left him vulnerable to being undercut by Hamilton. That’s exactly what happened after Vettel lost a huge amount of time in traffic. An aggressive switch to softs for the final stint wasn’t enough to claim the place back and he had to nurse his tyres to the end.

Kimi Raikkonen – Complained of understeer on Friday but beat Vettel in qualifying by a few hundredths of a second. A gearbox change penalty wrecked his chances of a podium bid, however. He passed both the Force Indias, taking Perez with a little help from Palmer, but was jumped by Hamilton. He undercut Ricciardo at the beginning of the final stint which meant running a long final stint on hards.


Felipe Massa – Right on his team mate’s pace in practice, Massa was pipped by his team mate in qualifying and picked up a reprimand for driving too slowly. He was somewhat fortunate to finish the race in front of Bottas. With both Williams drivers making a single pit stop the team’s decision to bring Massa in two laps earlier, and the fact his pit stop was quite a bit quicker, decided this battle.

Valtteri Bottas – Said Friday was “straightforward” but neither he nor Massa were able to get the FW38 into the top ten shoot-out. After being dropped behind Massa through the pit stops he spent the final laps holding Grosjean at bay.

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo – Both Red Bull drivers had their qualifying simulations on Saturday interrupted by a Virtual Safety Car period. Ricciardo said a gradual loss of engine power impaired his qualifying effort, but he was promoted to fourth by the Ferrari drivers’ penalties. That was a mixed blessing as he started directly behind Hamilton, whose own slow getaway compromised Ricciardo. He made life more difficult by going off at Spoon at the beginning of his second stint. His final pit stop was both slow and too late to prevent Raikkonen demoting him to sixth.

Max Verstappen – Enjoyed “one of the strongest Fridays so far” and was consistently the quickest driver through Suzuka’s maximum-commitment first sector. Penalties promoted him to third, and Hamilton’s slow start handed him second, but he was quick enough to thwart the recovering Mercedes driver’s efforts to beat him to second place. He once again played it to the letter of the law when it came to defending his position.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg – Didn’t have the measure of his team mate in qualifying and though he gained places at the start Raikkonen and Hamilton took them back easily. There wasn’t much to choose between the Force India drivers on race pace. Hulkenberg’s pass on Bottas was one of the highlights of the race.

Sergio Perez – Held third in the opening stages and the four cars which passed him by the end of the race were all much quicker. He might have stood a chance of keeping Raikkonen behind for longer had Palmer not got in the way. Despite a strong start to his final stint there simply wasn’t the pace in the car to jump the delayed Ricciardo.

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Kevin Magnussen – Both Renaults were in the top ten in final practice but couldn’t find the same grip in qualifying. Magnussen fared worst, dropping out in Q1. He gambled on starting the race on hard tyres, pitted once, and finished the race with an even longer, 27-lap stint on mediums. It lifted him ahead of Ericsson, Alonso and Sainz but meant his race was an unexciting exercise in tyre preservation.

Jolyon Palmer – Had only done one lap of Suzuka before Friday so he could have done without missing much of first practice with an electrical problem. Nonetheless he made it into Q2 and reckoned he could have started as high as 12th had he not caught yellow flags on his last lap. Like Magnussen he was closer to Renault’s practice pace in the race, rising to finish 12th, despite a minor off while being lapped by Verstappen and Hamilton.

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat – A gearbox problem at the end of first practice which cost him some time in the second session. He was also vexed by an ‘octopus’: strands of discarded tyre rubber which caught on an antenna. On a tough weekend for Toro Rosso he narrowly out-qualified Sainz and finished ahead too, albeit only 13th.

Carlos Sainz Jnr – Enjoyed a trouble-free Friday but the rest of his weekend was a frustration, particularly in the race. Toro Rosso’s lack of straight-line speed continues to dog them and Sainz was plainly over-driving the car at times in his battle with the Williams drivers. The result was an unhappy 17th place.


Marcus Ericsson – Disadvantaged by yellow flags in second practice which spoiled his qualifying simulation, but beat Nasr in qualifying. His own description of his race as “decent” seems fair: he was more consistent than his team mate and finished comfortably ahead.

Felipe Nasr – A substantial lock-up near the end of his first stint forced him into the pits earlier than planned and meant he finished off the back of the lower-midfield pack his team mate was in.


Fernando Alonso – Spun off at Spoon on Friday doing some damage to the car. He was McLaren’s only representative in Q2 and found the race highly frustrating: early on he spent several laps edging closer to Massa in the hope of making a pass, only to be thwarted by yellow flags at the chicane. Two-stopping meant he spent more time in traffic and despite quick stops on both visits he finished one place lower than he had started.

Jenson Button – Friday set off alarm bells about the car’s performance, though the team had suspected they would be particularly weak at Honda’s home circuit. The team hadn’t planned to fit Button’s new power unit this weekend, but he wanted them to do it on Friday evening. After he went out in Q1 the new unit was put in for the race, meaning he started last. He couldn’t make any progress with the hard tyres on his car initially, but two stints on softs got him up to 18th, setting the ninth-fastest lap on the way.


Pascal Wehrlein – Experienced Suzuka for the first time on Friday and said he felt happier with his car’s balance. However gearbox problems compromised his qualifying preparation and Ocon was quicker than him again. His race pace was generally good but he lost more time with blue flags and in the pits and finished almost 20 seconds behind his team mate.

Esteban Ocon – Also had his first experience of Suzuka but enjoyed a smoother weekend. Nonetheless the Manor didn’t appear to have the pace to challenge the other cars, consigning him to 21st.


Romain Grosjean – His braking problems continued on Friday, causing a minor off at Degner which damaged his front wing. However he was in great form in qualifying and had it not been for a DRS problem he might have started fifth. The Haas did not like the combination of worn soft tyres and a green track surface, but once he got the hard tyres on he was in great shape. Grosjean reckoned an earlier final stop could have earned him some points, and it looks like he was right.

Esteban Gutierrez – Stopped in the middle of the second practice session due to a turbocharger fault. In qualifying he accompanied Grosjean into Q3 but he spoiled his race with a spin while trying to pass Sainz. He finished with just the Manors behind him.

Vote for your driver of the weekend

Which driver do you think did the best job throughout the race weekend?

Who got the most out of their car in qualifying and the race? Who put their team mate in the shade?

Cast your vote here:

2016 Japanese Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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26 comments on “2016 Japanese Grand Prix driver ratings”

  1. Bang on.

  2. Verstappen 5. I´m curious what the anti-Max brigade has to say about that!
    (Btw, my DOTW is Rosberg).

    1. How quickly we moved from being pro/contra Vettel or pro/contra Hamilton (and that one lonely guy being contra Alonso) to being pro/contra Verstappen.

      He’s clearly shaping up to be next big star in F1.

    2. He will potentially kill a few people again, you know the usual stuff. Rinse and repeat for the internet experts.

      1. Didn’t he kill 10 drivers already?

    3. With DRS and all that the new generation of drivers has lost the art of feinting. And to overtake Max the Weaver, that is just what the doctor ordered.

      Nigel Mansell had it down pat. No wonder the move came to be known as the “Nigel dummy”.

      Here you have a perfect example, in Silverstone ’87, watch seconds 15 to 25.


      (some may say Nigel was unfairly aided by ‘tache downforce, but it was just an ’80’s myth)

  3. Think Raikkonen should also be a 5. He outshone Vettel all weekend on one of Vettel’s strongest tracks, and would have started ahead of the Red Bulls but for that gearbox penalty, which obviously wasn’t his fault. I do think he could have mixed it with Rosberg if he’d started from 3rd, at least judging from the fantastic speed he demonstrated on the hards at the start of his final stint, constantly banging in fastest lap after fastest lap. I just don’t see where you can dock a point from him here.

    1. I think Raikkonen should by default be deducted 1 point, just because he is so incredibly boring and uninteresting.
      By far the most boring and uninteresting driver I have ever witnessed in F1.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        10th October 2016, 22:32

        That is harsh. Many also say Bottas is really boring. That doesn’t make any drivers less good. Both Raikkonen and Bottas maybe haven’t bee that interesting to watch but they are both doing really solid jobs. I really was unimpressed by Raikonen’s performance the last couple of seasons but he really is doing well this season and finally seems to be getting on with his car. I can quite comfortably say he is doing better than Vettel a fair bit of the time. He is making many less mistakes too.

        Anyway, it really would be silly deducting a point for a driver by default just because your view is that they never are interesting to watch.

  4. My driver ratings:

    Hamilton – 4/5
    Rosberg – 5/5

    Vettel – 3/5
    Raikkonen – 5/5

    Bottas – 4/5
    Massa – 4/5

    Red Bull:
    Ricciardo – 3/5
    Verstappen – 5/5

    Force India:
    Perez – 5/5
    Hulkenberg – 4/5

    Magnussen – 3/5
    Palmer – 5/5

    Toro Rosso:
    Kvyat – 4/5
    Sainz – 2/5

    Ericsson – 4/5
    Nasr – 2/5

    Alonso – 4/5
    Button – 3/5

    Wehrlein – 3/5
    Ocon – 4/5

    Grosjean – 4/5
    Gutiérrez – 2/5

    1. Rosberg was my DOTW.

      1. Vettel deserves at least a 4. Very good race.

        1. Same here, 3 is harsh.

          1. His constant sweary blue flag complaining annoyed me, so that’s -1 point in my opinion. He was also not as good as Kimi.

  5. This rating is almost perfect, the only changes I would have made would be the McLaren’s bumped a rating a lower and sainz too

  6. Most people rate the drivers based on their results. Personally I consider that results are driven 80% by the machinery and 20% by the driver. So results are often grossly unfair for the drivers.
    It is plain to see that if the new Fangio was driving a Manor today he wouldn’t be winning races, the occassional pòint at most. He would show great racecraft but probably we would see very little of that in TV. So I tend to rate most highly drivers who seem to outdrive their machines, regardless of the results.
    The paradox here is that it is often very hard to rate a driver in a very dominant car. If they are simply average, they only need to outqualify their partner to secure pole. And from there, after the dash for the first corner they only need to coast along while reading the Sunday paper or snapchatting or whatever all the way to the checkered flag.
    So was Nico Rosberg sublime last Sunday, or just average? Hard to say. Being merely competent was enough. Being godlike wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
    Anyway Nico 1) outqualified Lewis, and 2) managed the clutch better at the start. So he deserves to be at least one notch above. I’d give Lewis a 2/5, and Nico anywhere between 3/5 and 5/5

    1. Just like poor cars can underestimate the drivers’ skill so can the really good cars. Poor cars hide hide the skill and limit it. Good cars make it look super easy and effortless. After all the truth is pretty much anyone on the grid can win a dwc if they get to drive a mercedes. Provided if they can beat their team mate. And that’s a big if. Not many can beat lewis. Not many can beat rosberg. And in the end the team mate is the best yardstick for any racing driver. This year rosberg has beated hamilton and as such is the more deserving to win.

      That being said how much more could rosberg even have done this weekend to earn a higher rating? Spin in quali and start p5 and win from there? Should rosberg have instructed hamilton how to start the car so they could have had a proper duel for the win? Or maybe rosberg should have ruined his own start as well to make it “even”?

      The same thing could be said about vettel. How he completely absolutely destroyed webber in equal car. Sure, the rbr was in class of its own but only when vettel was driving it. Vettel made it look super easy which imho has had negatively effected his ratings. Similarly when button won his dwc his car was absolutely head and shoulders above the rest. As such many people see button’s dwc being a bit less in value than in some other case.

      Analyzing skill in F1 is very difficult because the machinery is 99% of the performance. But it is not just the slow cars that can misrepresent talent.

      1. Both comments are spot on.
        And just to give an example, I remember vividly the first 3 races of 2006 season where Schumacher couldn’t score a single point. His best performance was about to be an 8th place but Vidantonio Liuzzi, driving a RBR Cosworth, overtook him easily to claim the final point.

        1. @sakis, maybe you got it all somewhat mixed up
          Indeed Schumacher had a disastrous start to both 2005 and 2006 seasons. But in Malaysia, 2nd round in 2006, he managed a 6th position worth 3 points, after a 10 position grid penalty. The Renaults were mighty in the early season, and Fisichella had an easy pole and win as Alonso’s side of the team made a mistake with the fuel load in quali. Alonso started 7th and finished 2nd.
          Vidantonio Liuzzi in 2006 drove for Toro Rosso and scored his single point of the season at Indianapolis (10th round) but the race was won by Schumacher. In 2005 Liuzzi also got a single point, in San Marino (4th round) in a RBR Cosworth, but Schumacher was 2nd.

          1. You are right, it was STR. It was Melbourne, 3rd race of the season.
            Here is the gif. http://imgur.com/VUUV3Km. I may forget the details, but not the essence!
            Which is the main point on these comments above.

          2. Great pass!!

            But both were DNFs in the end, Liuzzi a total wreck btw

  7. Interesting that the rankings seem to defaulted this time to a score of around 4 rather than 3.

    Also that Gutiérrez gets a 2 because he lost time avoiding crashing into an idiot who moved in the braking zone, but Hamilton got a 4 after doing the same.

  8. @peartree

    The grisjean bias strikes again. 4 for a performance guti has had 2s for in the past.

    1. @faulty Yes. I don’t bother pointing it out anymore, thanks for reminding me of what an 11th place means in french.

  9. Guybrush Threepwood
    12th October 2016, 11:35

    I think Ricciardo drove an OK race given his engine issues and the fact he got stuck behind Hamilton at start which put him behind Perez and ruined his race. Probably more a 4/5 IMO.

  10. Kimi deserved 5.

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