Who have been the ten best drivers of 2017 so far? Here’s the F1 Fanatic verdict – keep an eye out for the final part tomorrow.
10. Nico Hulkenberg
|Beat team mate in qualifying||10/10|
|Beat team mate in race||4/6|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||320/418|
Given the quantum leap Renault has made during the off-season, Nico Hulkenberg should perhaps have more to show from his season so far than five points finishes. However it was clear in the opening races the RS17’s race pace wasn’t quite on a par with its much improved qualifying performance.
The upgrade introduced at Silverstone – which Hulkenberg got his hands on one race before his team mate – helped change that. He rewarded the team immediately with fifth on the grid a best-of-the-rest sixth in the race (ahead of Sebastian Vettel’s delayed Ferrari).
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He’s had a few incidents though not all of his doing. He should have finished higher in Hungary but a gearbox change penalty and a slow pit stop left him behind Kevin Magnussen who then pushed him off the track. But Baku was a missed opportunity to claim a long-overdue first podium.
He may deserve to be higher but there’s only so much credit you can give for annihilating the guy at the bottom of the list. Expect bigger things from him after the summer break with Renaut’s rapidly-improving car.
9. Kimi Raikkonen
|Beat team mate in qualifying||3/11|
|Beat team mate in race||1/10|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||169/608|
The first races didn’t go well for Kimi Raikkonen. He was consistently out-qualified by his team mate who was beating the Mercedes drivers while Raikkonen struggled to split them.
He went up a gear when the ‘European season’ began and since then has performed better in qualifying. A couple of first-lap tangles, for which he was blameless, limited his points-scoring capabilities.
It’s added up to a substantial championship deficit which is now adding up more quickly as Ferrari appear to operating a ‘Vettel first’ policy. As yet they’ve stopped short of actually ordering Raikkonen aside, though they’ve had few opportunities to, which also says something about Raikkonen’s driving.
And the fact remains he has a race-winning car and hasn’t won anything with it yet. It’s all well and good complaining about the team’s approach, but Vettel showed last year he wouldn’t meekly follow Ferrari’s tactics if he disagreed with them. Would Raikkonen dare be so bold?
8. Carlos Sainz Jnr
|Beat team mate in qualifying||6/11|
|Beat team mate in race||5/5|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||357/395|
Sainz was one of the stand-out drivers of the midfield last year. He still punching at or above the Toro Rosso’s weight, but a few errors have taken the shine off his season so far.
These included a careless collision with Lance Stroll in Bahrain. And his wild first-lap crash in Canada, which eliminated the other Williams, looked like something his team mate might have done.
However the points tally makes it inescapably clear which Toro Rosso driver is pulling their weight. Every time both cars have taken the chequered flag Sainz has been ahead.
He was superb in Monaco, finishing ‘best of the rest’ behind drivers from much quicker teams and staying ahead of the recovering Lewis Hamilton. In China he was the only driver who persuaded his team to fit slick tyres before the formation lap, and survived a hairy opening lap on a damp track to take a fine seventh place.
7. Sergio Perez
|Beat team mate in qualifying||9/11|
|Beat team mate in race||8/10|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||532/661|
The tension is building at Force India. Sergio Perez has done fine work for the team over the last couple of seasons and the first half of this one in racking up the points finishes.
So he was understandably furious about his tangle with team mate Esteban Ocon in Azerbaijan. Perez was on course for a strong podium finish at the time, perhaps even better with a little luck.
Although Perez has clearly been the quicker of the two Force India drivers so far, it hasn’t been by much. Canada was very telling: with the two drivers on slightly different strategies, Perez refused to consider letting Ocon through even when the team offered to swap their positions back again if Ocon failed to make further progress. Contrast that with how Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas handled things in Hungary, with the higher stakes even higher between the two championship contenders.
But with Ocon keeping him honest, Perez has delivered a strong first half of the season which looks set to ensure Force India repeat their excellent fourth position in the championship from last year.
6. Daniel Ricciardo
|Beat team mate in qualifying||4/11|
|Beat team mate in race||1/3|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||64/249|
With five podium finishes to his team mate’s one, plus a fortunate win in Azerbaijan, it may seem harsh to place Daniel Ricciardo behind Max Verstappen. But Red Bull’s poor reliability has accounted for much of that difference – Ricciardo has usually been shaded by his team mate in terms of outright pace.
At times it’s seemed like the pressure from his team mate is telling. Qualifying crashes in Australia and Azerbaijan were atypical of a driver who normally keeps his nose clean.
However he’s battled hard with a steadily improving car. At Silverstone the RB13 let him down in qualifying but he clawed his way back through the field in the race. (That Silverstone stoppage is one reason why the qualifying margin figure above is somewhat misleading. Based on eight representative sessions Ricciardo’s average deficit is actually 0.07s.)
He was in excellent form in Austria too, passing Kimi Raikkonen and resisting Lewis Hamilton at the end of the race. And that three-for-one pass in Baku, which ultimately won him the race, was vintage Ricciardo.
5. Fernando Alonso
|Beat team mate in qualifying||9/10|
|Beat team mate in race||2/3|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||270/318|
There is nothing new to be said about Fernando Alonso’s plight. Despite the disadvantages of Honda’s under-powered and unreliable engine, he’s consistently dragged the MCL32 into places far higher than it deserves.
His superb sixth place in Hungary was an obvious high point. But Alonso’s been in the hunt for points on many occasions without reward – he’s spent over half of his 421 laps on track so far running inside the top ten.
He was up there at the first race in Australia before dropping out due to floor damage. His car let him down in China too when he was running well in tricky conditions.
Spain promised great things as he qualified ‘best of the rest’ behind the Mercedes, Ferraris and Red Bulls, only to tangle with Felipe Massa at the start. And on many other occasions the car simply hasn’t gone the distance.
Over to you
Do you agree with the rankings for the 16 drivers featured so far? Which other drivers should be rated higher or lower?
Have your say in the comments and look out for the final part of the mid-season driver rankings on F1 Fanatic tomorrow.
2017 F1 season
- Stripping Verstappen of 2017 US podium was “one of the toughest decisions” – steward
- Sepang pays Haas compensation for Grosjean’s 2017 crash
- Williams revenues rose in 2017 after Bottas deal with Mercedes
- New kerbs at COTA in response to Verstappen’s corner-cutting
- Australian Grand Prix cost government £56 million last year