Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Baku City Circuit, 2021

2021 mid-season F1 driver rankings part 4: 8-5

2021 F1 season

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While some have struggled with team moves in 2021, two of the next drivers in our top 20 ranking have shown how it’s done.

8. George Russell

George Russell

Beat team mate in qualifying11/11
Beat team mate in race7/9
Races finished9/11
Laps spent ahead of team mate463/584
Qualifying margin-0.37s
Points4

It must be galling for Russell to have out-driven his team mate as comprehensively as he has, yet see Nicholas Latifi’s name above his in the championship standings. But does he have anyone to blame but himself?

After all, Russell had chances to end Williams’ point-less streak before their bonanza result at the Hungaroring. And not just at Imola, scene of his now-infamous collision with Bottas, but arguably also the Red Bull Ring, where he first broke into Q3, and Silverstone, where he lined up eighth for sprint qualifying.

These opportunities all came about thanks to his consistently excellent qualifying performances. Considering that at the majority of races this year Williams have had the ninth-quickest car, and therefore by rights should be starting no higher than 17th, Russell’s average qualifying position of 12.9 is remarkable. Given those numbers, it is a bit much to expect him to convert his two top-10 starts this year into points finishes, as the limitations of his car’s performance will inevitably be harder to overcome in a 300-kilometre grand prix than a single flying lap.

Even so, he came remarkably close to scoring prior to Hungary. The Imola crash was the product of a racing incident, and represented probably he best scoring opportunity of the first 10 races. He was too robust with Carlos Sainz Jnr on the first lap of Silverstone’s sprint race, copping a penalty. Just a couple of weeks earlier he came within four laps of taking that first point, before being passed by Fernando Alonso.

Russell has raw speed in abundance, and on the strength of 2021 so far there’s little cause to doubt he can capitalise on the opportunity to become a race winner should Mercedes hand it to him.

7. Pierre Gasly

Pierre Gasly

Beat team mate in qualifying9/9
Beat team mate in race7/9
Races finished10/11
Laps spent ahead of team mate433/559
Qualifying margin-0.51s
Points50

With a well-sorted AlphaTauri chassis underneath him and Honda’s increasingly competitive power unit at the back, Pierre Gasly is again showing what he can do with a competitive package outside of the pressure-cooker environment of Red Bull’s top team. He’s qualified in the top three rows at eight of the 11 races so far and regularly converted that into strong points-scoring finishes.

After a tyre choice error at Imola left him 18th he regained 10 places in tricky conditions. In Monaco he out-qualified and out-raced Lewis Hamilton. Azerbaijan was arguably his best result, picking off Charles Leclerc and keeping the Ferrari driver behind for third place with a faltering engine.

There have been a few errors, such as a silly grid penalty for being too far forward in his grid box at Circuit de Catalunya, or the collision with Daniel Ricciardo which spoiled his start to the season. That said, he was blameless for the Styrian Grand Prix collision with Leclerc which led to his only non-finish. His eight points scores are enough to single-handedly put AlphaTauri in their current championship position of sixth.

He has obliterated his team mate, though that really says more about Yuki Tsunoda’s inexperience than Gasly’s quality. Nonetheless, it’s no wonder there are finally murmurings coming from Red Bull that Gasly’s mid-season departure in 2019 may not have been a definitive end to his time at the top team.

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6. Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

Beat team mate in qualifying6/11
Beat team mate in race3/8
Races finished10/11
Laps spent ahead of team mate223/550
Qualifying margin+0.04s
Points38

There are several experienced drivers in different cars this season who took time to gel with their equipment. Daniel Ricciardo still hasn’t. And while another has arguably acclimatised more quickly than Alonso has, the two-times world champion wasted little time in getting up to speed.

Even with his sluggish start, Alonso should have been in the points from the off in Bahrain, but was thwarted by a worsening power delivery problem and – of all things – an errant sandwich bag. He did not look like the Alonso of old when rain arrived on race day Imola and he slithered off on his reconnaissance lap. Nonetheless, despite a scrappy race, he came home on the tail of team mate Esteban Ocon.

Though Alonso clearly wasn’t at feeling one with the Alpine A521 over the opening races, he delivered race day performances every bit as punchy as those from his title-winning days. He raced well in Portugal, passing Gasly and Sainz on his way to eighth place. The two-lap restart in Azerbaijan produced vintage Alonso: He passed three rivals on the first tour and kept them behind to the flag for sixth place.

By this time Alonso was on par with Ocon, who he out-qualified for the first time since Bahrain and continued to for all bar one of the subsequent races. He’s added to his points haul at every race since, and put in another star turn on soft tyres in the qualifying sprint race at Silverstone, the precursor to a solid seventh place.

Fourth place in Hungary while his team mate won looks like a missed opportunity. Realistically, Alonso was only six-hundredths off Ocon in qualifying and from that point on circumstances made a victory unlikely: Once he’d been held up at turn one he was always going to lose time in the pits behind his team mate. His 10-lap defence against the flying Hamilton was a joy to watch, however, and helped secure victory for the team.

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5. Carlos Sainz Jnr

Carlos Sainz Jnr

Beat team mate in qualifying3/11
Beat team mate in race3/9
Races finished11/11
Laps spent ahead of team mate174/547
Qualifying margin+0.1s
Points83

On paper, this looked like a tough gig for Carlos Sainz Jnr. Charles Leclerc had taken little more than a season to make Ferrari his own in 2019, and utterly outclassed a four-times world champion last year.

Sainz dropped into Sebastian Vettel’s seat with limited pre-season running and it was to little surprise that he qualified over half a second off his team mate first time out in Bahrain. But the progress he has made since then has been clear and measurable. What’s more, with a little fortune on his side, it’s propelled him past Leclerc in the points standings at this stage.

As early as round three Sainz beat Leclerc in qualifying, though his race was ruined by his team’s choice of medium tyres at his pit stop. Sainz deserved to qualify ahead in Monaco, where he kept his car out of the barriers while Leclerc didn’t, though the repercussions of Leclerc’s crash helped the newcomer move up to second on race day.

After Azerbaijan – where his qualifying effort was thwarted by another driver crashing in front of him – Sainz had a good run of races. He coped with Ferrari’s disintegrating tyres better than Leclerc in France, and has finished in the top six every race since. In Hungary he returned to the podium (thanks to Vettel’s disqualification) with a solid recovery drive following a crash in qualifying, playing a vital role in the team’s strategic decisions on the way.

Though it’s debatable whether he deserves to be ahead of Leclerc in the points standings at present, Sainz has fully vindicated Ferrari’s decision to drop Vettel, for which they took a lot of heat 12 months ago.

The final part of RaceFans’ mid-season F1 driver rankings will appear on Monday.

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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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77 comments on “2021 mid-season F1 driver rankings part 4: 8-5”

  1. I mostly agree with the ranking of the drivers in this list, but i really can’t see how Hamilton made in in the top 4.

    He has done a significant amount of mistakes (Imola, Baku were race ending,rookie mistakes), he was totally off the pace in Monaco and he then sent his main competitor in the barrier with a really poorly executed move into Copse during lap 1 at Silverstone….

    1. @miltosgreekfan

      He has done a significant amount of mistakes (Imola, Baku were race ending,rookie mistakes), he was totally off the pace in Monaco and he then sent his main competitor in the barrier with a really poorly executed move into Copse during lap 1 at Silverstone….

      Yeah, I kind of agree, but despite being one of Hamilton’s biggest critics here (at least in number of arguments against, not quite there on loathing levels), I also understand that most of other drivers also lost points on mistakes and underwhelming performances that would be amplified if they were further up front. Take for instance Russell’s bad starts, it would make him lose a lot of points as from 1st to 3rd it’s already 10 points difference. Even Alonso, a driver that I believe is the best performer of the last six races relative to his machinery, would have lost a similar chunk of points due his inconsistent beginning of the season if he was in a top team, for the same reason. Of course Verstappen and Norris were considerably better than Hamilton across all season so far, and probably Leclerc too despite also losing his share of big points on clumsy mistakes, but anyway it’s likely very close in terms of performance between the 3rd and the 6th or 7th ranked drivers, when you adjust performance to the format of the points system.

      1. @rodewulf 2021 has been quite a strange year, with pretty much everyone doing mistakes(and not just once). It’s a bit like 2008 in that aspect.

        The reason why i would expect Hamilton to be lower in the ranks is the fact that he had done quite significant ones(while others did smaller ones) and in comparison to other drivers(Alonso,as you mentioned, for instance), he remained in the same team, being their leader in an environment he knows.

        Alonso came back after a 2 year absence, switched teams so he did struggle a bit in some aspects (tyre understanding mostly). That’s why i would have Lewis a bit further down.

        1. @miltosgreekfan

          Alonso came back after a 2 year absence, switched teams so he did struggle a bit in some aspects (tyre understanding mostly). That’s why i would have Lewis a bit further down.

          Makes sense. I ranked them very close overall despite being for very different reasons. Hamilton was more solid in the beginning of the season, so the opposite applies for Alonso. And likewise recently Nandito is close to absolutely maximising his haul of points with the 7th fastest Alpine, 33 points in just 6 races without any significant help of luck is quite a feat. And Hamilton became even more erratic entering mid-season, despite remaining very fast except for Monaco.

          1. Well said, Fernando found his feet after a bit and he is performing really well once again, while Lewis had his moments here and there.

          2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            20th August 2021, 17:10

            @miltosgreekfan

            Lewis had his moments here and there.

            I agree – Lewis had his moments here and there but he still managed to be leading the championship when all is said and done! Lewis was trailing massively in terms of points and Verstappen seemed firmly in control of the championship heading possibly with a 50+ point advantage into the summer break.

            Guess what? Not only is Lewis back on top but he has also put Max, Horner, and Marko on tilt with 1 full month in tilt-mode. Red Bull are having fits and hoping for bans and all kinds of other ways to assist them. Meanwhile Lewis is sitting there calmly and asking for his tea and biscuits. Not much more a driver can do.

            Even with the mistakes, Lewis deserves to be where he is in the championship and that’s at the top…

            The rest is just talk about 51Gs, 4 X-rays, 3 suppositories, 2 laxatives, and 1 champion!

          3. Michael, very questionable comment, he’s not at top of the championship for skill but for luck.

          4. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            20th August 2021, 18:09

            @esploratore1

            Michael, very questionable comment, he’s not at top of the championship for skill but for luck.

            Is he, though? If it were just luck, why are Red Bull on tilt then? They are guaranteed to win the championship with an error-prone driver like Lewis there.

            They should be celebrating Lewis’ short-lived victories just like Lewis celebrates Ocon’s victory!

          5. Red Bull are having fits and hoping for bans and all kinds of other ways to assist them. Meanwhile Lewis is sitting there calmly and asking for his tea and biscuits. Not much more a driver can do.

            Any type of questionable traits that those fans of the entitled Sir come to find on him and his team in a while might be handily projected into others. Sometimes it seems a joke, really. Are you fooling us around all this time with this foolishness, @freelittlebirds ?

          6. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            20th August 2021, 18:42

            @rodewulf no more a joke than Horner asking Albon to recreate the Silverstone incident in Forza Horizon and then coming out and saying that Lewis braked 23m too late when Verstappen remained ahead of Lewis and gained ground, clearly braking WAY more than 23m too late.

            Or did you conveniently forget that?

            The only positive thing that came out of that was that Albon collected enough skill points for 23 Super Wheelspins that Horner and Marko used to get themselves some cool gear and a Red Bull horn.

          7. @freelittlebirds

            no more a joke than Horner asking Albon to recreate the Silverstone incident in Forza Horizon and then coming out and saying that Lewis braked 23m too late when Verstappen remained ahead of Lewis and gained ground, clearly braking WAY more than 23m too late.

            Well, one joke doesn’t take away the amusing fun of the other, does it?

            Or did you conveniently forget that?

            I’m not like you, so I don’t deny stuff that’s plain obvious and would involve a full conspiracy theory to make dusk look like dawn.

            The only positive thing that came out of that was that Albon collected enough skill points for 23 Super Wheelspins that Horner and Marko used to get themselves some cool gear and a Red Bull horn.

            Yep, Red Bull failed to prove Lewis was the only one to blame, as much as their rivals failed to prove Max was the only one to blame, as not even 50/50 it actually was. Now you just try to divert the topic from that fact. I’m still awaiting a true argument of yours and not just making goofy rhetoric stunts that doesn’t prove anything like Albon’s.

          8. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            20th August 2021, 19:46

            @rodewulf

            Okay… yeah, I’m going to go check on some TPS reports! Don’t mind me.

    2. I agree. I feel the nr 8 spot (or slightly higher 6-7) the audience gave him on the power rankings on Formula1.com is a fair representation of his season so far. Especially vs the drivers you otherwise have to rank below him, which is simply not the case looking at their output. Only luck put him at the top spot points wise. With the tyre situation leaning heavily towards the Mercs this season might just become his luckiest ever.

      1. Yeah, he has been quite lucky to lead the championship going into the summer break as he and Mercedes weren’t the best package for the majority of the first half of the season

    3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      20th August 2021, 13:20

      @miltosgreekfan First, his mistakes are exaggerated. The button mistake was just a weird fluke. Silverstone is not a mistake – it just depends on who you apportion blame to. Obviously, he couldn’t take the corner from the white line as he showed the stewards in the same race. He took his line and Max cornered into him.

      Once a driver makes a mistake then they need to be judged by their recovery and in this case Hamilton’s recoveries have been exceptional. He’s bounced back better than any driver out and the best indication of that is that he’s now leading the championship.

      Verstappen put one of his wheel on wet grass on a start and didn’t pay a price – the car didn’t lose any traction even or require a correction. Sadly, we’ve seen people die from putting a wheel on the white paint at LeMans.

      1. After reading this maybe I should change my ranking and put Hamilton first.
        And leave positions 2-9 empty ;)

        1. Or Keith should take a leaf out of FB’s operating model book.
          Develop and algorithm which shows each fan what he/she wants to see, and add a like button. Guaranteed more clicks and screen-time.

      2. @freelittlebirds

        First, his mistakes are exaggerated. The button mistake was just a weird fluke. Silverstone is not a mistake – it just depends on who you apportion blame to.

        Baku restart: race ending mistake overlooked by you. Any driver should know the consequences that a fuffled restart can bring. So poor excuses once more. As for the British GP collison, blame for both involved, but more on the driver that was the main cause of it: Lewis, not Max.

        Obviously, he couldn’t take the corner from the white line as he showed the stewards in the same race. He took his line and Max cornered into him.

        Then you’re implying that he needed to cause the collision? How astonishing. It shouldn’t be difficult for a seven times world champion to simply follow a safer line when trying to overtake, only half car alongisde his rival. But of course Lewis’ word alono worths for you one thousand times more than any stewards’ veredict and good reasoning.

        Once a driver makes a mistake then they need to be judged by their recovery and in this case Hamilton’s recoveries have been exceptional. He’s bounced back better than any driver out and the best indication of that is that he’s now leading the championship.

        Broken window fallacy. This argument is so flawed that if not for a striking lucky safety car at Imola just in time he would not be able to recover about 15 points or even more. We don’t even know in which lowly position he could finish otherwise. It only proves that’s he a fast and skilled driver, not that is deserving of WDC lead as being so erratic.

        Verstappen put one of his wheel on wet grass on a start and didn’t pay a price – the car didn’t lose any traction even or require a correction. Sadly, we’ve seen people die from putting a wheel on the white paint at LeMans.

        In the Styrian GP Lewis almost lost control of his Mercedes on top of his fully consolidated mistakes, so what? Pure despair with your idol’s inconsistent display, it seems, if you have to keep trying to dig up anything that looks like a race ending mistake from Max. He corrected that Imola slide well, regardless of any luck involved, that’s why he paid no price for, and more importantly for performance records, not needing any external help to do it, and the same is the case for Hamilton in his Austria I race wooble. There’s a difference from those two situations to effective big mistakes, can’t you see? It isn’t so hard, is it? ;)

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          20th August 2021, 18:33

          @rodewulf no offense, I didn’t read the whole thing but since I’m a child as you’ve suggested elsewhere, my attention span is too short.

          If you want to win championships, you have to be willing to make the right mistakes. I said in Spain 2016, that Rosberg’s intentional collision would win him the championship.

          I would not be surprised if Verstappen’s mistake at Silverstone doesn’t cost him the championship either.

          It shouldn’t be difficult for a seven times world champion to simply follow a safer line when trying to overtake,

          I think Lewis showed the stewards what happens when you take the line that you and they were suggesting. I think the stewards should have thanked Lewis for the private lesson and asked Masi to be excused from stewarding responsibilities in the future so they can focus their efforts on the more appropriate sport of tic-tac-toe which is more in line with their abilities and judgment. One wishes them well and hopes they will not use the letter Y in that endeavor and stick with the letters X and O.

          Let me guess, you are not even aware of the lesson, right?

          1. @freelittlebirds

            no offense, I didn’t read the whole thing but since I’m a child as you’ve suggested elsewhere, my attention span is too short.

            I don’t think you’re a child, but sometimes you brought stances that remind me of one.

            If you want to win championships, you have to be willing to make the right mistakes. I said in Spain 2016, that Rosberg’s intentional collision would win him the championship.

            What a weird requirement of skill for someone to win a WDC. Rosberg’s example just confirm it, as that championship was decided mostly on very questionable mind games. We’d be glad to ask Fangio about that, if not caring to minimise mistakes would have helped him to achieve more titles. If easily conquered titles in a dominant Mercedes, equal machinery only to a weak teammate like Bottas are into question, then I understand why one can give the luxury to reward himself for careless and clumsy driving. But this is not what performance and excellence is about. Without luck’s aid, Lewis would be down 40 points against Max, so he’s used to an easier pattern that might not repeat this year.

            I think Lewis showed the stewards what happens when you take the line that you and they were suggesting. I think the stewards should have thanked Lewis for the private lesson and asked Masi to be excused from stewarding responsibilities in the future so they can focus their efforts on the more appropriate sport of tic-tac-toe which is more in line with their abilities and judgment. One wishes them well and hopes they will not use the letter Y in that endeavor and stick with the letters X and O.

            Okay, what happens when you take that line then? Which findings of him shaked the world and proved he’s smarter than all and a poor wronged soul? As far as I’m aware he took the same line against Leclerc, without any problem. The difference is only the Ferrari driver surrendered the lead. Is him that much entitled to a lonely track?

            Let me guess, you are not even aware of the lesson, right?

            How about less cheap talk and more arguments? What could prove that Lewis had less blame than Max for the incident, or even further, no blame at all? It looks really much like fanfic to me, but I’ll give it a chance. The level of worshiping you guys do for him is borderline sickness, it looks very much like a deranged sect.

          2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            20th August 2021, 19:47

            @rodewulf

            I think it might be more productive for me to join Horner and Albon and play Forza Horizon.

          3. @freelittlebirds

            I think it might be more productive for me to join Horner and Albon and play Forza Horizon.

            It looks like you should. Unsurprisingly you have nothing relevant to show. You’ll pretend you won the debate and just loudly run away like if your claims were universal truths, after Sir Still-I-Whine, your god, preached his words. Just like @f1oclown, your fellow worshipping mate.

          4. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            20th August 2021, 20:58

            @rodewulf

            At least, you got the run away part right.

      3. Lewis recoveries pretty exceptional…? C’mon Mercedes versus Ferrari, McLaren and Aston Martins exceptional..?

        Let’s face it, if these cars where on par with Mercedes and RBR, lewis would have finished outside the points in Imola, and Hungary…. there was no competition left… yes Alonso in a much slower car.

    4. Baku was obviously not race ending, and wouldn’t have even kept him out of the points if not for it resulting from the unusual late red flag that prevented him having time to make up lost ground. As errors go it was also a particularly bizarre one that probably deserves a little more leniency than Imola or Silverstone.

      I think also his highs have been particularly high. That may be slightly easier in his car, but his first 3 wins were all pretty special. And even his Silverstone and Imola races can’t be discounted because of the way he decisively made up ground after the incidents. While he certainly shouldn’t have made those errors and was lucky to have the opportunity to race back, he then excelled in doing so.

      I think 3rd or 4th would be about right.

      1. Can agree with 3rd or 4th, can’t agree with 2nd and 3rd race being special, I rate mercedes the clear best car in those, not by the same extent as red bull was in austria, but still a driver similar to hamilton like verstappen had no chance in spain and portugal, in fact I saw verstappen leading spain for that long as a heroic effort.

        1. @esploratore1
          Most fans and even some “specialised” journalists don’t know how to identify the fastest car or don’t even bother to try because they need to enter that Toto mind mode of talking up the opposition, but it’s clear that Imola, Portugal, Spain and France were races in which a leading Merc would be able to pull a significant advantage if in clean air, whilst Max in a Red Bull wasn’t able to do the same. One could argue that in Britain it was the opposite for Red Bull, and in Hungary it remained an unknown variable, but Mercs were faster in quali when it usually had been Red Bull more often than not.

    5. I think there is always a bit of top team bias. For example… “how could you put Hamilton outside of the top 3 if he’s won 4 races in 2021?” You could also go the route of benchmarking him against his teammate and Hamilton actually looks quite good.

      So I get the comment, I imagine we’ll the following rankings:

      1. Verstappen
      2. Norris
      3. Hamilton
      4. Leclerc

      Another factor to consider is that Hamilton hasn’t been significantly harmed by his most egregious mistakes this year, so that tips the scales a bit too.

  2. ”may not have been a definitive end to his time at the top team.”
    – Seems otherwise, though, given how unkeen Marko and Horner have been on repromoting him. I hope he gets repromotion, but I’m not hugely hopeful unless this happens for next season.

    1. I bet the 1-4 order will be VER-HAM-NOR-LEC, but we’ll find out on Monday.

      1. @jerejj

        I bet the 1-4 order will be VER-HAM-NOR-LEC, but we’ll find out on Monday.

        That would be unfair on Norris and Leclerc to a lesser extent. It would require a significant overlook on Hamilton’s huge mistakes this season.

        1. I agree. For me, Verstappen and Norris have been the class of the field this season by a long way, and have to be first and second. Hamilton and Leclerc are closer together and could be either way around, but I believe Leclerc has been that little bit better and should be third. Hamilton is fourth in my rankings, marginally ahead of Gasly, Russell and Alonso.

          1. I’m pretty sure hamilton will make it to 3rd in these ranking, there’s always a certain car effect, been there for years too, such that when a driver is doing a good job with a bad car and another is doing an arguably similar job in a better car, the driver with the better car will be ahead, just look at russell, arguably he could’ve been ahead of some in this article, this is why I expect leclerc to be behind hamilton.

            I would be surprised however if he makes it in the top 2.

      2. @jerejj

        I bet the 1-4 order will be VER-HAM-NOR-LEC

        Me too

  3. He did not look like the Alonso of old when rain arrived on race day Imola and he slithered off on his reconnaissance lap. Nonetheless, despite a scrappy race, he came home on the tail of team mate Esteban Ocon.

    The worst race of Alonso in many years and he still managed to finish less than one second behind his teammate. This is quite telling.

    1. Indeed, it’s just an impressive average form across alonso’s career.

    2. @rodewulf You’re forgetting the red flag. Without it, Leclerc would have walked to second (he was half a minute ahead of Norris) and Hamilton would’ve been nowhere. Instead we got an artificial bunching of the order which allowed changes in front and Alonso to finish just behind his teammate.

      1. @wsrgo

        You’re forgetting the red flag. Without it, Leclerc would have walked to second (he was half a minute ahead of Norris) and Hamilton would’ve been nowhere.

        True. The red flag made lots of changes on the outcome of this race, like very few in the recent past.

        Instead we got an artificial bunching of the order which allowed changes in front and Alonso to finish just behind his teammate.

        Well, it was a messy race for his teammate too so we’re talking about strange measures. Ocon made two extra pit stops, one for wrongly starting on full wets, and another shortly after the Russell/Bottas incident (following a regular pit stop to discard intermediates which he did it first and then passed Alonso), when he made an unscheduled pit stop again for some reason that is unclear, maybe debris on track, and he emerged behind Alonso for the red flag period. After the race resumed he repassed Alonso with another off track excursion from the latter, who was struggling the most with grip. But they remained within close distance from each other during the entire race, even though in terms of performance it doesn’t mean that much. It was a painful race for Alonso nevertheless, a clear sign that he would take some time to readapt and rebuild his old impressive form in Formula 1, as he did. For Alpine, one point in the WCC soon became three points in the bag after Raikkonen’s penalty but not many great reasons to celebrate about. It should’ve been a huge relief for them that both their two drivers brought their cars home, given the scenario.

  4. I can buy Russell as being no. 8 as his starts being poor is now beginning to feel like a George issue rather than a Williams issue. (Mercedes = watch out). Alonso 7 is also ok given that Ocon showed him the way at the start of the season and these rankings should be based on the races alone and not the background of the driver (coming from other team / non-F1 categories).

    But Sainz is too high. He still makes mistakes either, race day (Imola) or qualifying (Hungary, Baku) and needs to fix those. Also, Gasly is too low. His mistakes have been much lesser than Sainz’s and his drivers in Imola, Baku were vintage.

    Also, I expected Hamilton to come at #5. On the whole, I feel Gasly has been better than him as well.

    I would say 8 = Russell, 7 = Alonso, 6 = Sainz, 5 = Hamilton, 4 = Leclerc, 3 = Gasly, 2 = Max, 1 = Lando

    1. sumedh

      But Sainz is too high. He still makes mistakes either, race day (Imola) or qualifying (Hungary, Baku) and needs to fix those.

      Definitively true. It further enhances the overly favourable case for Sainz made by the author of these articles.

      Also, Gasly is too low. His mistakes have been much lesser than Sainz’s and his drivers in Imola, Baku were vintage.

      As for Gasly, it takes more than two superb drives and very good qualis to earn him a position as high as 3rd. Not rarely he is swallowed by the midfield most notably with poor strategy calls. At first it looked like a weak race pace from AlphaTauri but it’s not completely the case. Recently Alonso is there to remind people that a driver is responsible for race planning too, as in the last six races he scored 33 points, just one short of Gasly (34pts.) with considerably inferior machinery (lucky played out against Gasly with retirement in the Styrian GP and an extra pit stop in the British GP, whilst Alonso was impeded in qualifying for the Austrian GP, salvaging only one point, and both were delayed in the first lap Hungarian GP chaos, so Gasly had only a little more bad luck than Alonso for this stage of the season). Of course Gasly is in the mix for the top performers, but maybe from 5th to 7th it would be more accurate, as his beginning was nearly the same level than mid-season despite his mistake in the Bahrain race, but certainly he’s above Sainz overall.

    2. You forgot the Baku race mistake too, Sumedh.

      But Sainz will always get a high placing here as a firm site favorite together with Hamilton. Sainz was for example placed ahead of Leclerc in 2019 even as Leclerc was new to Ferrari and knocked it with wins and poles.

  5. there’s little cause to doubt he can capitalise on the opportunity to become a race winner should Mercedes hand it to him

    This is true for a significant part of the grid, not necessarily something that makes Russell stand out.

    1. Ruben

      This is true for a significant part of the grid, not necessarily something that makes Russell stand out.

      For a race winner, certainly it’s not difficult in a Mercedes. Even Kovalainen became a GP winner with a top McLaren car in 2008. But to become world champion, that’s another story. To date the only time Hamilton lost the WDC to a teammate was against Rosberg in 2016, and he’s the one who has seven titles and raced almost always in a title contender car.

      1. I wasn’t trying to talk down Lewis’s achievements at all. I think he’s an amazing driver and a legend of the sport. Of course you could argue that the advantage Mercedes held over the competition in some of his championship years might have flattered his results slightly. At the same time you can easily argue that Lewis was (and is) part of the team that built that car and that advantage and managed to keep the team motivated and hungry for more success over all those years.

        That said: the bit I quoted was about George Russell, who is a great talent, but saying that ‘he can win a race if Mercedes hands him the opportunity’ doesn’t make him stand out from the rest of the grid. Therefore (in my opinion) it’s a bit of an odd thing to say in an evaluation.

        1. Ruben

          I wasn’t trying to talk down Lewis’s achievements at all. I think he’s an amazing driver and a legend of the sport.

          Neither I intented to claim you did, so that’s okay.

          Of course you could argue that the advantage Mercedes held over the competition in some of his championship years might have flattered his results slightly. At the same time you can easily argue that Lewis was (and is) part of the team that built that car and that advantage and managed to keep the team motivated and hungry for more success over all those years.

          Yes, he has been flattered by the Mercedes for quite a while but he’s not automatically driven by his car or something like that. He still has to drive it himself to such results and very few on the current grid could do the same or better. And he still seems hungry, if not he wouldn’t have resorted to mind games again, even if this practice also signalises insecurity.

          That said: the bit I quoted was about George Russell, who is a great talent, but saying that ‘he can win a race if Mercedes hands him the opportunity’ doesn’t make him stand out from the rest of the grid. Therefore (in my opinion) it’s a bit of an odd thing to say in an evaluation.

          For sure, he’ll need more than just one win to prove himself at Mercedes.

        2. “Slightly” obviously.

  6. I agree with these drivers being 5-8, but I would put them in a different order. Despite being ahead in the standings, I think Sainz has actually been quite a way below Leclerc this season, and I had him in eighth. Leclerc is third, in my ranking. Then I had Alonso in seventh as he has been excellent the past few races but struggled in the first part of the season (up to Monaco) and was clearly outpaced by Ocon, who I had eleventh. I put George Russell in sixth, as I think his only significant error this season was Imola, and even that was slightly unlucky. His main flaw is his poor starts and opening laps, but that is what stops him from being higher. When watching Russell’s onboards for qualifying laps, there is a sense that he is absolutely at the limit of the car and cannot go any faster. And I had Pierre Gasly in fifth, as he has utterly dominated teammate Tsunoda, who was highly rated before he entered Formula 1. His qualifying has also been outstanding, with eight top-six starts in eleven races, and he has been unlucky not to score more points, with bad luck in Imola and in both Austrian GPs. His only major error was hitting Ricciardo in Bahrain. I believe the top four should be: Hamilton 4, Leclerc 3, Norris 2, Verstappen 1.

    1. @f1frog

      His qualifying has also been outstanding, with eight top-six starts in eleven races, and he has been unlucky not to score more points, with bad luck in Imola and in both Austrian GPs

      In the Austrian II race it was due to poor strategy, wasn’t it? It was better for them to qualify 12th using the mediums in Q2 than making it to Q3 using the softs and qualify 6th. How many weird strategies this rule created.

      1. Yes, it was down to poor strategy, as was Imola (starting on wets). The Q2 tyre rule is an absolute disaster in my opinion; it should never be an advantage to qualify lower down the grid.

        1. Well, even without the rule it CAN be an advantage to qualify low down the grid, look at hungary, you can be ahead like verstappen and have your race ruined or behind like someone and come out in great positions.

    2. +1 Verstappen & Norris have been outstanding!

  7. @f1frog

    I agree with these drivers being 5-8, but I would put them in a different order. Despite being ahead in the standings, I think Sainz has actually been quite a way below Leclerc this season, and I had him in eighth. Leclerc is third, in my ranking. Then I had Alonso in seventh as he has been excellent the past few races but struggled in the first part of the season (up to Monaco) and was clearly outpaced by Ocon, who I had eleventh.

    I put George Russell in sixth, as I think his only significant error this season was Imola, and even that was slightly unlucky.

    Those were exactly the same for me, except for bringing the Alpine drivers two positions up for each. Particularly I thought Vettel and Stroll above Ocon didn’t quite make sense, but your rankings were about accurate regardless of any of those details.

  8. Unbelievable. Alfa drivers have no fault their car is slow but Perez and Bottas who are clearly underperforming are ahead, then some drivers that drive faster cars are somehow higher up than they should even though they have made many mistakes like sainz jr, just because he got away with some mistakes, like imola, Baku and Hungary Q, it does not mean he made up for them, he just got lucky.

    1. @peartree
      So how would Giovinazzi or Raikkonen perform if they were driving a Red Bull, a Mercedes or even a McLaren? Imagine Giovinazzi in present day McLaren being teammate to Norris. Despite having improved a lot, it would be hard to imagine him beating the Ferrari drivers regularly (the cars are close, Gio’s best feat has been quali what would not be enough, plus Leclerc and Sainz are better racers than him anyway) so if the average race finish for Norris is at least 5th place, Giovinazzi’s would be not much better than 8th. That’s already a minimum of 6 points difference per race and more than double points for the leading driver. In fact, there’s no reason to conclude that neither Giovinazzi nor Raikkonen would be doing any better than a battered Ricciardo in the McLaren, as much as it might seem otherwise it’d be the most likely thing to happen. In 2019 he was outclassed by Raikkonen who was already far from his own peak so, the thing is Gio improved from subpar to just okay, whilst Raikkonen has worsened significantly ever since.

    2. Raikkonen and giovinazzi have been underwhelming, raikkonen is absolutely not ok in quali and still not great in races, giovinazzi is ok in quali but not in races. These rankings slightly tend to favour drivers in fastest car, but not to the extent that raikkonen and giovinazzi would’ve been any further ahead, imo it was generous enough as it is to them.

      1. Ricciardo is very low in the rankings here and he drove a McLaren.

        Reply moderated
    3. @rodewulf we can only judge drivers based on their cars potential. If alfa’s problems were gio and rai then sauber should save 200 million a year on the car and spend a fraction of it signing a quicker driver pairing. We can’t know how different drivers will perform on different cars, Daniel was good against Max, good against Hulk and weak against Norris, norris was okay against sainz but sainz was really bad against hulk who was okay against ric.
      Sainz has made way too many mistakes to be on the top 5.

      1. @peartree

        we can only judge drivers based on their cars potential. If alfa’s problems were gio and rai then sauber should save 200 million a year on the car and spend a fraction of it signing a quicker driver pairing.

        Of course their problems are not only Gio and Rai performances, but Vasseur already noted how a driver like Russell could not rarely take their car to the Q3 and be in good shape to score more points. Alfa Romeo/Sauber didn’t lose so much power from 2019 to this season being outscored by a Williams team that actually improved very little. They’re still the 8th best car and despite the fact that the gap to Alpine, the next strongest car, has been increasing lately, their current potential is far to be materialised in driving performance. An in-form Raikkonen would have occasionally scored points this season with longer stints in races, as well as if Giovinazzi further raised his game on quali, plus making more decent starts and race strategy with his team. So as much as their car might have got stuck in development recently and Williams improved from their nadir in 2019, part of their deficit is probably explained by the relatively weak performance level of their drivers, there’s no many ways to escape from this fact for now.

        We can’t know how different drivers will perform on different cars, Daniel was good against Max, good against Hulk and weak against Norris, norris was okay against sainz but sainz was really bad against hulk who was okay against ric.

        We can only make hypothesis, that’s right. For this reason it’s easier if you limit yourself to the current level of drivers for the performance rankings, regardless of alternative scenarios. With his set of capabilities, Ricciardo would be better right now if he was at any other team? Difficult question, but his ongoing issues appear to come from the very fact that he is at McLaren, driving a car for which he’s having an incredible amount of trouble to adjust, so the answer might be yes. It means Ricciardo is probably (or rather, obviously) a better driver in terms of abilities than 16th place. But if we take that into consideration, we’d mess up the rankings with endless “what ifs”. Even then, we need to do that on a limited scope, or else we can’t really compare drivers beyond their machineries.
        Giovinazzi never drove a car decent enough, but does he have the pace, the skills and the expertise to do great performances? Do we have any reason to believe it so far? No, simply put. Even though, if he had improved wonders this season it’d be enough to contrast very well with his driving history. Did he improve? Yes, but probably not enough. It just seems that he can’t convincingly overcome a journeyman like Raikkonen who undoubtedly is in a decline trend of his level which was already below any of his peaks during the last few seasons. It all makes an unlikely picture for Giovinazzi doing well against any teammate in the entire field, unless he’s paired against the currently struggling drivers who had been trounced by fairly good rivals. As for Raikkonen, he’s arguably below Giovinazzi now, and with little perspectives of recovering his past form, so not a good standard of comparision. There’s no way to make performance rankings of drivers in Formula 1 based on sure things alone, so we should stick to what is part of the most likely scenarions.

        Sainz has made way too many mistakes to be on the top 5.

        I perfectly agree. I had him ranked 8th and Leclerc 3rd, but with a somewhat closer score than it looks from the positions difference. How does that sound? Clearly Leclerc performed better, but I think much further below that you’d be embarking on the opposite agenda of this site. Instead of pumping Sainz up, you’d be bashing him down. The latter option you apparently had chosen to do sometimes, to be fair, so be careful with the anti-bias that is biased in itself.

  9. I think these rankings are generally right, two that I think aren’t fair. Firstly Mick Schumacher, it’s tough to see how strong he is but the only real measure is his teammate who he has completely outclassed. It’s not shown anything too special yet but some decent performances where he could. He certainly hasn’t had a spectacular debut but he’s not done enough wrong to only be rated above Mazepin and Tsunoda.
    Secondly Ricciardo, I have no doubt he is one of the top drivers in F1 and his poor form won’t last forever but if you look at his results and performance relative to his teammate this year he has been massively down. If it were a rookie without Ricciardo’s reputation in that seat I’m pretty sure he’d be further down. So if it is judged purely on performance this year so far he should be lower.

    Reply moderated
  10. These rankings inevitably cannot entirely separate the driver from the car/team performance. Indeed it is probably impossible.

    But if I did then Norris should be number one on a pure driver measure and I am not sure Verstappen nor Hamilton should be in the top three, while Vettel and Russell would be higher. Although considering those chase and catch Hammertimes Hamilton has had that might be a little harsh.

  11. My order so far is as follows. I have taken into account some views on here as well and moved one or two drivers up or down:

    20. Mazepin, 19. Tsunoda, 18. Latifi, 17. Schumacher, 16. Raikkonen, 15. Giovinazzi, 14. Ricciardo, 13. Perez, 12. Bottas, 11. Stroll, 10. Vettel, 9. Ocon, 8. Russell, 7. Alonso, 6. Sainz, 5. Gasly.

    This section is very tricky to rank. I have the same drivers as I expect most people do, but placing them in order is quite a tricky and subjective business. I think Sainz is too high in this list but then I have noticed over the years, that our author often tends to rank Sainz over-generously shall we say. He’s good but not that good.

  12. Surprised Hamilton is in the top 4 given the serious errors he’s made this year, coupled to a fair degree of luck. But then I can’t really think of anyone who deserves to be ahead of him either! To me the only obvious stand-outs from this year have been Verstappen and Norris, I’d have Lando 1st. Everyone else has either made too many mistakes (Leclerc, Hamilton, Sainz etc) or had too many underwhelming races (Gasly, Alonso, etc).

    1. @tflb

      To me the only obvious stand-outs from this year have been Verstappen and Norris, I’d have Lando 1st. Everyone else has either made too many mistakes (Leclerc, Hamilton, Sainz etc) or had too many underwhelming races (Gasly, Alonso, etc).

      From the 3rd to the 6th-7th in the performance rankings it’s all pretty much close, exactly for the reasons you cited. If not for Alonso’s underwhelming first few races of the season, he’d be fully deserving of a top-3 ranking overall.

  13. I actually did a Top 10 every race, based on my view of their weekend performances, and gave them the F1 points system. After 11 races, this is how it looks:

    20- MAZ 0
    19- TSU 1
    18- RAI 4
    17- LAT 8
    16- MSC 11
    15- BOT 18
    14- GIO 19
    13- RIC 20
    12- PER 29
    11- STR 41

    10- OCO 56
    9- VET 59
    8- RUS 63
    7- SAI 73
    6- GAS 79
    5- LEC 83
    4- ALO 86
    3- HAM 129
    2- VER 164
    1- NOR 168

    For the Hamilton discussion, I saw him best in Bahrain, Portugal and Spain. Podiums in France and Hungary.

    1. I did the same:
      1. Norris 169
      2. Verstappen 164
      3. Leclerc 118
      4. Hamilton 102
      5. Alonso 97
      6. Russell 83
      7. Gasly 74
      8. Vettel 73
      9. Ocon 54
      10. Sainz 43
      11. Stroll 33
      12. Bottas 32
      13. Ricciardo 15
      14. Perez 14
      15. Giovinazzi 10
      16. Tsunoda 9
      17. Schumacher 8
      18. Raikkonen 7
      19. Latifi 6
      20. Mazepin 0

      I don’t believe this is the best way to rank drivers, and my actual rankings are quite different.

      1. Very interesting, both of yours, nice to see that with an equal car it’s not a fight between hamilton and verstappen but norris replaces hamilton, a fair reflection of the season.

  14. My ranking keeps differing, with only Gasly at same block by now:

    5) Hamilton
    : too many mistakes and a lead built on heavy luck, a pinch of ruthlessness and some lenience-coating to an extent. Still, decent pace on occasions and good tenacity.
    6) Gasly: Great pace and form with a dose of unlucky moments.
    7) Ocon: kept Alonso behind when really few expected to. Pulled out a win he actually had to fight for. Expanding from his form before his chassis problem, I understand he could very well have taken bigger results than what his team mate presented.
    8) Vettel: great overturn from the abysmal season prior, he came up with solid performances, good battling at the midfield, 2 podiums on merit… that with the far least mileage and with Stroll having the preference on new parts. Still, a clumsy spin at Silverstone and some unexceptional presentations here and there makes him good enough for no higher than 8th.
    9) Alonso
    10) Russell
    11) Stroll
    12) Mick Schumacher
    13) Bottas
    14) Perez
    15) Raikkonen
    16) Giovinazzi
    17) Latifi
    18) Ricciardo
    19) Tsunoda
    20) Mazepin

    1. I would not usually comment on someone else’s rankings but Ricciardo in 18th! That’s a bit harsh. He’s been a little poor but not that bad. I have him 14th in mine and the consensus seems to be around 14th to 16th.

      1. @phil-f1-21 – not really, if we remember only Tsunoda and Mazepin are having a harder time with both car and team mate. McLaren shouldn’t be in any way behind Ferrari, and that’s all on Daniel. He is taken a rough beat by Norris and isn’t keeping up with the pace.

        All that said, fair enough the consensus being around 14-16th. Though, it is also consensus he is a well-cherished guy which, one may admit or not, brings up the bias. Swap his name for any driver other than ALO/HAM/VER and odds are it’d be placed even lower.

        He still got time though, it’s only mid-season after all. I don’t expect him so low at the end of the season.

        1. @niefer

          Swap his name for any driver other than ALO/HAM/VER and odds are it’d be placed even lower.

          Interesting, I think you’re the most counterculturally oriented poster on this site. And I appreciate your critical remarks of the famous great guys in Formula 1 though, despite disagreeing in some stances or amounts. It helps me to keep my feet on the ground when taking my own persepctives about Alonso, a guy that I have to admit I’m very fond for haha ;)
          But anyway I think peformance rankings must be based only on what actually happens within a season or mid-season in the case. The fame or charisma of a driver as well as what one “could have done better if he was better prepared for that” will only create distortions that turn the rankings into a popularity contest or a what if maze.

          1. Interesting, I think you’re the most counterculturally oriented poster on this site.

            Haha, gotta say I chuckled reading this! Thanks.
            Generally I agree with you, though I reckon subjectiveness always finds a way into play.

          2. @rodewulf – forgot to tag!

          3. @niefer

            Generally I agree with you, though I reckon subjectiveness always finds a way into play.

            I feel the same, sometimes the subjectiveness is more with the one that make a case, but sometimes it comes into play for who objects the case, like an anti-bias that is biased in itself. No one will know where the truth is all the time, but we can further refine our views that way.

          4. @rodewulf – yes, the evergoing fine tuning!

  15. I really hope Keith doesn’t rank Hamilton ahead of Norris. I understand he doesn’t seem to separate car from driver too much, but that would be madness.

  16. Personally, I’d have been happy to see both Sainz and Gasly in the top 4 at the expense of Hamilton and Leclerc. As far as I’m concerned both of the latter have underperformed in their respective machinery and have left opportunities go begging whereas the former, particularly the one new to his team have exceeded expectations.

    Pound for pound I’d expect Lando to come in at No 1 because I believe he’s extracted just a fraction more from what he has than Max but no doubt I’ll get a lot of disagreements.

    1. @dbradock

      Personally, I’d have been happy to see both Sainz and Gasly in the top 4 at the expense of Hamilton and Leclerc. As far as I’m concerned both of the latter have underperformed in their respective machinery and have left opportunities go begging whereas the former, particularly the one new to his team have exceeded expectations.

      Despite of that, Leclerc isn’t ahead of Sainz in the WDC only because of luck. The Hungarian GP alone would make a different picture had it not gone crazy. There are many good reasons to rank Leclerc above Sainz in performance even without overlooking his big mistakes in Monaco and Styria races. He is faster, and Sainz also had lots of mistakes on his own account, albeit less memorable. The gap between them is smaller than quali results show, though, as Sainz had a fair amount of solid races.

      Pound for pound I’d expect Lando to come in at No 1 because I believe he’s extracted just a fraction more from what he has than Max but no doubt I’ll get a lot of disagreements.

      The best performer accolade should be between Verstappen and Norris. For the reasons you rightly stated, Hamilton cannot have this distinction for the mid-season. Lots of blunders and squandered opportunities must not be forgotten. Other drivers could be on that fight too, if not for likewise having big mistakes tarnishing excellent performances, some underwhelming stints contrasted with bouncing back to great form, some deficit in any important driving quality measure, and many variations in order or degree of those.

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