From the moment George Russell stepped into Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes for the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix and almost drove it to victory, his Mercedes future became inevitable.
At least, that was how it was supposed to be.
Even Russell had to admit that he expected to have more success than he and Mercedes were able to achieve over the start of the 2022 season. The team’s W13 was radical, rigid but not rapid. And as Russell prepared for his first weekend as a full-time Mercedes driver, he and the team knew they would likely not be fighting for the win, for the first time in almost a decade.
After memorably drawing attention to his predecessor Valtteri Bottas qualifying ninth in a Mercedes at Imola in 2021 after the pair collided during that race, Russell started his new season by qualifying ninth in a Mercedes for the opening round of the year in Bahrain. Meanwhile, Bottas put his Alfa Romeo sixth.
But after a strong start, Russell moved up the order and ran behind Hamilton for most of the race, following him home in fourth after the two Red Bulls retired. Then the next weekend in Jeddah, Russell maximised his points by taking fifth place behind Red Bulls and Ferraris after being far ahead of Hamilton in both qualifying and the race.
With Mercedes scrambling to unlock performance from their stiff and sensitive new car, Russell did a commendable job of getting the most he could out of each weekend. Surprisingly, he even built up an impressive streak of beating Hamilton on Sundays – albeit with a little bit of luck along the way.
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As Formula 1 returned to Albert Park, Russell took advantage of a perfectly-timed Safety Car to pit and keep track position, jumping up to third place ahead of Hamilton before being passed by Sergio Perez. When Max Verstappen’s Red Bull broke down, he inherited third place back and stayed there to secure his first podium in Mercedes’ colours.
His race in Imola was deeply impressive. Starting 11th on the grid with Mercedes clearly struggling for pace relative to their rivals, Russell drove well and even overcame a pit stop equipment failure that left him on too high a front wing angle when switching to slicks to hold off Bottas in the final laps and take fourth place. Then in Miami, fortune smiled on him again when a convenient Virtual Safety Car worked perfectly for his strategy, allowing him to recover from a disappointing qualifying to again finish ahead of Hamilton in fifth.
When Mercedes shipped a wealth of upgrades to Spain, Russell made the best of them and took his second podium of the season after leading some of the race as strategies played out at the front of the field. The car especially did not enjoy the bumpy surface of street circuits, so coming away from Monaco and Baku with a fifth place and a podium in third was about as good as he could have hoped to achieve.
Suddenly, Russell had earned a reputation for being the most consistent drivers at the front aside from Verstappen. Eight races, eight top five finishes – about as much as Mercedes could have asked from their new driver. And in Canada, he kept his streak alive into a ninth race. Although this time, after spinning off in qualifying with dry tyres on a wet track, he had to settle for being behind Hamilton in the race, off the podium.
After a first retirement of the season at home in Silverstone, involved in the horrific start line accident involving Zhou Guanyu, his weekend at the Red Bull Ring was scrappy. Russell spun off and crashed in Q3 (as did Hamilton), but still secured fourth place on the grid. In the grand prix he earned a penalty from opening lap contact with Perez but still managed to get home in fourth place.
He was equally aggressive with Perez at Paul Ricard. His divebomb attempt into the chicane on the Red Bull was a little ridiculous, but mugging Perez as the race restarted after a late Virtual Safety Car to snatch a podium was superbly opportunistic.
Mercedes had now bridged most of the gap to the two teams ahead and Russell demonstrated this perfectly with an excellent lap in Hungary to stun Red Bull and Ferrari by taking his first career pole position – Mercedes’ first of the season. He led the early laps of the race and fought hard to keep the quicker Ferraris behind him but eventually succumbed. Despite taking a podium in third, he again followed Hamilton home.
A brave call to pit under a late Safety Car at Zandvoort put him at an advantage over Hamilton once the race started. He duly caught and passed his team mate, but there was no chance he was going to catch Verstappen at home. Another third place finish in Monza took his tally of podiums for the season to seven and he was also only seven points behind Perez in fourth place in the championship.
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Singapore was easily Russell’s weakest weekend. He kissed the barriers multiple times in practice, then was eliminated in Q2 while complaining of braking problems. After starting from the pit lane on a wet track, he ran off the circuit in the early laps, then took a gamble on slicks at least 20 minutes too early, dropping him a minute off the rest of the field. After catching up with a Safety Car, he carelessly drove into Mick Schumacher while overtaking the Haas into turn one, was lucky to avoid a penalty, but received a karmic puncture instead.
In the late stage of the season, Russell was now regularly being bested by Hamilton. He very clumsily barged into Carlos Sainz Jnr in the first corner at the Circuit of the Americas and finished fifth while Hamilton fought for the win. He pipped Hamilton by five-thousandths of a second in Mexico qualifying, but lost places to Hamilton and Perez at the start, eventually finishing fourth behind the pair of them.
But in Brazil, his moment of moments arrived. Yes, he likely benefited from his own spin in qualifying which brought out the red flag that prevented anyone else from improving in the wet conditions, but chasing down and passing Verstappen in the sprint race to secure pole position was no mean feat. With the pressure of a possible first race win, Russell kept his cool throughout the race, even breaking clear of Hamilton following a late race restart to lead his team mate home for his maiden grand prix win and finally give Mercedes their first win of the season. Mercedes were not quick enough to challenge for the win in Abu Dhabi, but that mattered little as the team’s focus was long since on 2023.
Russell’s first season at a race-winning team left a strong impression. He’d been consistent, reliable and had headed Hamilton home far more often than many would have predicted before the season started. Hamilton may have begun to reassert himself over the latter part of the year, but Russell will take pride in having been the only one of the two to take a chequered flag first this season.
With Mercedes unlikely to make the same mistakes with their car design two seasons in a row, no one driver will likely be looking forward to getting back on the grid next season as much as George Russell.
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51 comments on “2022 F1 driver rankings #5: George Russell”
20th December 2022, 8:57
The position of Alonso is becoming a joke now
20th December 2022, 11:58
Russell and Hamilton both were outperformed by the other for half a season therefore not extracting the maximum from the car. Alonso was there or thereabouts almost every weekend and had some great quali, wet weather and strong racecraft races.
20th December 2022, 17:41
People are confusing car performance with driver performance again. The actual data shows his performance was way stronger than it appears at first glance. Jolyon Palmer also ranked him #4.
The data doesn’t lie:
20th December 2022, 18:40
Nice point. They both underperformed and made a lot of mistakes, in qualifications and races.
20th December 2022, 8:59
Alonso in the top 4 of the season.
What a joke.
20th December 2022, 9:39
Alonso is good for TOP 4 :-)
21st December 2022, 6:35
Alonso should be P2 for those who were paying attention.
20th December 2022, 9:42
20th December 2022, 11:59
Leclerc had a superb season – he’ll definitely be second.
20th December 2022, 13:07
Norris will be 2nd, based on the race by race ratings. The top 4 are-
20th December 2022, 13:12
He will be third as per Will’s average rating.
20th December 2022, 17:43
He also made tons of mistakes. Both George and Lewis (whom I both detest, especially George) should be higher. When Alonso was coming 2nd to Vettel in a car a second a lap slower, he never made mistakes. Leclerc shouldn’t have been in last gasp competition with Perez EVEN if Ferrari made their own dumb mistakes.
20th December 2022, 18:41
Verstappen made a similar amount of mistakes as leclerc, I see no reason he shouldn’t be 2nd.
20th December 2022, 18:42
As in leclerc has mainly imola and france, verstappen has hungary, singapore, spain, that looks worse to me even, he just got lucky he didn’t pay for 2 of them.
20th December 2022, 18:47
Several costly mistakes to call his season superb. Most people only mention his crashes in races in Imola and France. But he also crashed I think couple of times in practices, which compromised the whole weekend, collecting data and setup for his team. He made that mistake in Q3 at Silverstone, which put him P3 even behind Sainz. He then damaged his front wheel at the start, all of that compromised his race and the result eventually. That mistake in Japan made under pressure of Perez was also quite telling. Don’t get me wrong, he was fast, no doubts, but neither Alonso nor Norris did make those mistakes, both made probably just one mistake in Brazil. For me it’s quite tough to decide where to put those three in the rankings. Either of those could be placed on p2/p3/p4, depends on the personal preferences.
20th December 2022, 18:49
Of course it’s easier to rank Leclerc 2nd based on his stats, three wins and 9 pole position. Alonso and Norris didn’t enjoy the luxury of having the best car for half of the year.
20th December 2022, 22:11
@stn I’m not sure I’ve ever heard practice mistakes being cited as detracting from a season. Leclerc was off the road multiple times in Bahrain practice but the race finished a Ferrari 1-2 with a Leclerc pole and fastest lap.
Schumacher aside, 9 poles is the most for any Ferrari driver ever in line with Lauda in 74 and 75. His qualifying ability alone is more consistently impressive than any other driver at this moment.
If we consider the races from Spain to Austria Leclerc won 1 and was off the podium in the others. But the context is that of those other 5 races he was leading all when an external factor cost him the race other than Canada were he started at the back. In effect, he could have won 7 of the opening 11 rounds with 2 second places and one grid penalty. Whichever way you cut it that is impressive.
There were driving errors of course – Imola was overdriving but I’d argue that was forced upon him by poor strategy. His France error is no worse than that of Verstappen in Spain just with much harsher consequences.
I don’t think a couple of silly errors takes away from the fact that most fans would have Charles in their car if Max wasn’t available.
20th December 2022, 12:41
Leclerc has to be second. Although he made errors in Imola and France, he took 3 wins this season and it could easily have been 4 more – Monaco, Spain, Britain and Hungary. All of them were either mechanical DNFs from the lead of the race or Binotto and squad trying their level best to take a win away from Leclerc.
People forget how strong Leclerc was at the start of the season,.. he was as impressive as Max if not more in the opening 5 races of the season. And people who say Sainz had the measure of him are just kidding themselves.
20th December 2022, 10:06
* Grabs popcorn *
20th December 2022, 10:15
I find it quite bizarre that people act as if this ranking order is a surprise, while it’s just based upon the average of the individual race rankings of this season by Racefans. Just find the final race ranking, someone has been so kind to keep track of the average and you would have known the order of the list weeks ago.
20th December 2022, 11:23
Maybe that’s why people didn’t look at those comments. The “reveal” is part of the end of season fun for some people.
20th December 2022, 12:48
I’m guessing they’ll put Alonso at P4, but to be honest, if they swap Hamilton and Alonso in the rankings, it makes a whole lot more sense. Alonso was mega this season.. but he still made a few driver errors and missed his opportunity on some Saturdays. Also, Norris is being flattered a little bit.. he was great at the start of the season.. but just went a little invisible.
If I had to rank the drivers this season, it would be –
20th December 2022, 16:10
So much hate for Ocon. Alonso sure knows how to overhype himself even though his gap to Ocon was closer than Hamilton’s gap to Russell
20th December 2022, 23:02
Ocon got blown away by Ricciardo (I think Daniel is excellent though) who is supposedly the worst driver ever if you go by RF commenters and was neck and neck with Sergio Perez. Not sure where you’re getting hate. He’s being ranked as a middle of the road driver. I think he should be way higher than 13th though. Not sure how anybody could think Magnussen, Vettel, Albon or Bottas out performed him.
21st December 2022, 6:44
Just saying Ocon’s performance against Perez was more impressive than Lando’s performance against Sainz. He wiped the floor with Perez in quali(16-5) in 2018.
20th December 2022, 12:55
From jff’s comment after the AD GP
Full year average of @WillWood‘s ratings (1st half – 2nd half):
Max Verstappen: 7.3 (7.2 – 7.4)
Lando Norris: 6.7 (6.6 – 6.8)
Charles Leclerc: 6.6 (6.8 – 6.3)
Fernando Alonso: 6.5 (6.5 – 6.3)
George Russell: 6.0 (6.4 – 5.6)
Lewis Hamilton: 6.0 (6.2 – 5.7)
Sebastian Vettel: 5.8 (5.4 – 6.3)
Esteban Ocon: 5.8 (5.5 – 6.2)
Carlos Sainz Jnr: 5.7 (5.7 – 5.8)
Sergio Perez: 5.6 (5.8 – 5.4)
Valtteri Bottas: 5.6 (5.8 – 5.2)
Kevin Magnussen: 5.5 (5.7 – 5.3)
Alexander Albon: 5.5 (5.4 – 5.8)
Pierre Gasly: 5.5 (5.5 – 5.4)
Lance Stroll: 5.0 (4.8 – 5.4)
Zhou Guanyu: 5.0 (4.8 – 5.1)
Yuki Tsunoda: 5.0 (4.8 – 5.1)
Mick Schumacher: 4.7 (4.5 – 5.0)
Daniel Ricciardo: 4.6 (4.5 – 4.8)
Nicholas Latifi: 3.9 (4.0 – 3.7)
These rankings are based on these scores if I understand them correctly.
20th December 2022, 14:51
It’s the correct order as well, all these comments about Lewis shopuld have been ranked above Russell….
I am getting totally bored by all these fanatic Hamilton fans on various forums…braggin how he ‘beat’ Alonso when they where tied on points, now Russell is ahead by 35 (!!) points, Hamilton is still supposed to be the better performing driver…?
20th December 2022, 16:59
Lewis cannot lose to anyone in these people’s minds.
He is the only guy who is given the excuse of losing to Button or Rosberg because they were WDCs. Rosberg was never considered an elite driver before his Merc stint yet beat Hamilton to a title (apparently this boosts Hamilton’s stock somehow), although with minor reliability luck (which frankly shouldn’t have mattered given how great Hamilton supposedly is) and Button outscored Hamilton over three years together. And neither was Button considered an elite talent, just like Rosberg.
Oftentimes many of these fans ignore his poor weekends and give a billion excuses some of which include experiemntal setups which even Merc have backed up but Russell has denied.
Let me put another driver rating over the season by Edd Straw from The Race. This is on a scale of 10, unlike Will’s which is for all practical purposes on a scale of 8.
1. Verstappen (8.43)
2. Leclerc (7.73)
3. Norris (7.64)
4. Alonso (7.61)
5. Hamilton (7.18)
6. Russell (7.16)
7. Sainz (6.91)
8. Perez (6.7)
9. Ocon (6.5)
10. Bottas (6.433)
11. Vettel (6.425)
12. Albon (6.33)
13. Gasly (6.18)
14. Magnussen (5.98)
15. Zhou (5.45)
16. Tsunoda (5.21)
17. Stroll (5.05)
18. Ricciardo (4.86)
19. Schumacher (4.66)
20. Latifi (2.77)
Here once again, you can see that Russell or Hamilton are evenly matched and Alonso is well clear of them.
Reality is Hamilton was around the 5th or 6th best driver in 2022.
He hasn’t been the best driver definitely for 2 years now, and the best driver credentials are debatable for 4 since Verstappen became consistent in 2019 or late 2018.
I think the last season where one could easily say he was the best driver was 2018.
20th December 2022, 18:04
How dare you provide context and a wider spectrum of rankings!
20th December 2022, 18:24
20th December 2022, 18:48
I generally like the race’s rankings, they seem better and ofc the scale 10 is important, then even on that site you have people accusing of british bias, which I don’t find justified.
But it’s a surprise, I wasn’t aware till now that these rankings were exactly like the scale-8 race by race ratings.
20th December 2022, 14:37
Man, is Alonso taking P1 from Max?
What is this?
As for Russell, great season. He is quick, resourceful and reliable. That car was in no-man’s land for most of the season and he brought the max points or close to it for most of the time.
That said, he obviously was overly cautious too, and that’s the main reason he got Hamilton beaten. He wasn’t taking risks, but mostly gaining on the misfortune of others.
Next season he’ll be a full fledged top driver, so i expect him to act like he belongs at the top, and not like some kind of intruder, understandably this year as he was trying to bring the points.
20th December 2022, 18:06
He outpaced Norris according to all the data and I don’t see people screaming “this is becoming a joke with Norris!”
20th December 2022, 18:23
Because Norris scored way more points than him and was the leading driver of his team for 99% of the time in a similar car.
All the while Alonso was banging wheels with Ocon and moaning on the radio. And you don’t see people praising Ocon for his good races either, but Alonso qualifies well “oh, God he’s the best”.
He’s rated too high. Norris too, but not as much.
20th December 2022, 18:26
Data is against you.
Expert Ratings averaged over a season is against you.
Alonso performed better than Hamilton in 2022.
End of Discussion.
20th December 2022, 18:44
I said he’s rated too high and all you see is “Hamilton”.
You should seek help.
20th December 2022, 22:49
He mentioned Hamilton because he’s been ranked higher than Hamilton and not Norris so far. You and others were saying or implying he shouldn’t be in front of either. Get it?
21st December 2022, 0:43
I have no issues with him being above Hamilton and never said that, but above Russell is too much for a guy who LOST TO HIS TEAM MATE.
But i guess you guys agree with him that he lost 60+ points due to reliability too.
Don’t expect me to buy that talk.
20th December 2022, 18:50
There’s no comparison between alonso’s and norris’ reliability, so the points comment doesn’t make sense to me.
20th December 2022, 19:00
There’s also no comparison to their supremacy to their team mates. He looks worse there too.
Yet he is rated better. It’s all about perception.
Most likely because people like him. And now it became cool to praise him.
20th December 2022, 22:47
Yeah, everyone is talking about how cool it is to praise Alonso. My Twitter feed is blowing up.
20th December 2022, 16:06
Wake up people. Fighting at the front is a whole different ballgame to shining in the midfield. It should be obvious by now. Hamilton, Russell, Leclerc and Verstappen are mega talents. Sainz should be elite if we consider Norris an elite level talent. He should get far more credit for being close to Leclerc. He had his problems in the early part of the season but closed the gap admirably. There are big question marks over Alonso and Norris. Norris didn’t suddenly become much better than Sainz just because he is paired with an underperforming Ricciardo. While Ocon is pretty close to Alonso’s level and Alonso is far more inconsistent than he used to be. Even though he still has great peaks. So I think a much fairer and conservative ranking would be
20th December 2022, 16:19
We’ll see about Norris next season. It’s easy to look otherworldly when the only other guy driving the same car is doing a terrible job.
20th December 2022, 17:47
Because Alonso didn’t shine when he was fighting in the front. Because what Senna was doing in a Toleman and then Lotus didn’t mean anything. Thanks for the laugh though.
20th December 2022, 18:01
Wow. Such an intelligent answer. Every driver stays the same forever. Lol. Alonso has one podium in the last 8 years. His performance level relative to Ocon is questionable at this point given how much Ricciardo destroyed Ocon in 2020. Vettel is in the same boat.
20th December 2022, 18:52
You can’t hold alonso’s podiums against him, he’s not been in a car that’s supposed to get on the podium! It’s the same as complaining about russell no scoring points in williams till he got that mercedes chance in 2020.
21st December 2022, 6:47
So didn’t Ricciardo beat Ocon by bigger margins than Alonso did?
Alonso’s performance nowadays is questionable. I think he was absolutely amazing in years like 2016 and 2018 though.
20th December 2022, 18:53
21st December 2022, 7:55
Doesn’t let me reply to you, but yes, ricciardo indeed beat ocon by a bigger margin than alonso, however you see now ricciardo’s current form: it’s not arguable that ricciardo at mclaren was nowhere near his best, I have the feeling ocon was also not performing at his best at renault.
20th December 2022, 23:20
My issue is not whether this year’s rating for GR is correct per se, but whether – in relation to the other drivers on the grid of course – he was three places better than last year, or conversely, three places worse last year than this, given that this is about the driver and not the car?
21st December 2022, 9:14
George was great this season, IMO he should be ahead of Alonso and Norris
He was under a lot of pressure to prove himself in a big team, and he kind of carried them for half a season with results that sometimes seemed incredible for the car’s early performance.
It’s easy to forget that he’s only in his first year with Mercedes, and the new car regulations where you have no setup reference from previous years haven’t made him any favors.
Comments are closed.