2022 F1 driver rankings #2: Lando Norris

2022 F1 driver rankings

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At the age of 22, most Formula 1 drivers are still fighting to establish themselves on the grid – that is if they’ve even reached the pinnacle of motorsport to begin with.

So when McLaren presented Lando Norris with a multi-year contract extension worth tens of millions of pounds before season had even started, it was a seismic vote of confidence in the then-22-year-old’s abilities. And throughout 2022, Norris proved that he was worth every penny of McLaren’s investment in him.

A new era of Formula 1 offered a wealth of opportunities for Norris and McLaren. But as they prepared for the first round of the season in Bahrain, it was in the knowledge that their car had a fundamental problem.

With their brakes overheating far too easily, both Norris and team mate Daniel Ricciardo had no chance of challenging for points. Instead, the pair had to settle for 14th and 15th, with Norris following his team mate home after a well-timed Safety Car helped Ricciardo jump ahead.

Lando Norris, McLaren, Imola, 2022
Norris took the only podium finish for a midfield team all year
But any fears that McLaren were in for a truly painful 2022 season were dispelled just a week later in Jeddah. Norris was less than half a tenth away from reaching Q3 at just the second attempt of the season and ran in the top ten throughout the race. He only just missed out on sixth place by less than a tenth after a final lap battle with Esteban Ocon, but seventh meant Norris and McLaren would return home from the opening two rounds with more points than they would have expected.

When they arrived in Melbourne, McLaren were on top of their braking troubles. Around an Albert Park circuit notorious for heavy braking zones, Norris unquestionably made the most of his car by securing a second row start in fourth, ahead of the two Mercedes. In the race, he brought the car home in fifth ahead of Ricciardo – aided by his team mate agreeing not to attack Norris in the closing laps as he ran low on fuel.

Imola came next. In qualifying, Norris committed his first mistake of the season. He slid off the slippery track in Q3 at Acque Minerali, but ironically secured himself third on the grid in the sprint race by doing so. Despite limited running in second practice, he took fifth on the grid in the grand prix, then he beat Charles Leclerc on the run down to turn one at the start. When Leclerc eventually got ahead of him, Norris was unable to keep pace with the Ferrari and two Red Bulls ahead – but he was also well out of reach of everyone else behind. Leclerc’s spin late in the race handed Norris third place: He cruised over the remaining laps to take a brilliant, unexpected and richly deserved podium finish.

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In typical Norris style, he downplayed his Imola achievement due to the problems that had befallen both Ferraris in the race. But he would have perhaps appreciated it more had he known it would be the only time the entire season that any driver outside Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes would stand on the podium – making it one of the most outstanding results of the year. Sadly, Norris was given a hard dose of reality the next round in Miami, retiring after a collision with the wounded AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly on the back straight.

An unwell Norris battled to the points in Spain
With upgrades coming for Barcelona, Norris should have had plenty to look forward to for the Spanish Grand Prix. However, when he arrived, he immediately began to feel ill. After being excused from media duties on Thursday by his team, Norris’s participation in the race seemed under genuine threat after he was diagnosed with tonsillitis. But despite his illness, he was determined to race.

Norris could have reached Q3 had his last lap time not been deleted for running too wide at turn 12, but from 11th on the grid he did a remarkable job on race day. Combating his low energy levels and the scorching Spanish heat, Norris did not let his physical state cost him any time on the track, rising up the order to drive to eighth place at the finish – four places ahead of his team mate. An exhausted Norris later admitted it had been one of the hardest races he’d ever endured.

But there was little recovery time for Norris as Monaco beckoned just days later. After putting his fitness level at around “90-percent”, he promptly stuck his McLaren fifth on the grid to secure ‘best of the rest’ once again. In the race, he lost only one position to George Russell in a neck-and-neck race out of the pits. Thanks to Fernando Alonso holding up half of the pack over the second half of the race, Norris had enough time to pit and take the fastest lap of the race on his way to sixth place. Over a two-race stretch battling tonsillitis, Norris had scored 14 points while Ricciardo had finished outside the top ten both times.

By the time Baku rolled around, Norris was back to full strength. However, he didn’t appear to quite have the same race pace as Ricciardo around the street circuit and likely would have been passed by his team mate in the early laps had team orders not kept him ahead. By the end of the race, the roles were reversed, but this time it was Norris ordered to hold position. He duly crossed the line behind his team mate for only the first time since Bahrain.

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At Silverstone, he secured another ‘best of the rest’ grid position of sixth and should have gained one position in the race except for a far too late call to pit under Safety Car that dropped him behind Alonso. In Austria, he again should have finished one place higher than he did – a five-second penalty for exceeding track limits four times proving costly after he finished fewer than three seconds behind Mick Schumacher.

Lando Norris, McLaren, Circuit Zandvoort, 2022
Norris regularly out-qualified faster cars
Norris’s qualifying heroics continued in France where he split the two Mercedes to line up fifth on the grid, taking seventh in the race after losing out to Alonso at the start. Then at the next round in Hungary, he was the fastest qualifier outside the top three teams yet again – this time equalling his best starting position of the year in fourth. Although he fell to seventh at the finish of the race, he was once more the first driver in a midfield car to reach the chequered flag.

Heading into the summer break, McLaren were just four points behind Alpine in fourth place in the constructors’ championship on 95 – with 76 of the team’s haul courtesy of Norris. After a frustrating race stuck in traffic at Spa after a power unit penalty, Norris was right back in the hunt in Zandvoort, taking his customary grid slot as best of the midfield. He may have been beaten by Alonso in the race, but seventh place was still 10 positions ahead of his team mate, who was about to get his P45.

After another six points in Monza, Norris arrived in Singapore with a range of updated parts on his car. He made full use of them through a long and difficult race, passing Alonso at the start and maintaining a strong pace to take fourth – realistically the best result possible on the day and over half a minute ahead of his team mate behind him. Suddenly, McLaren were back with a realistic chance of fighting for fourth in the constructors’ championship against Alpine – even if 100 of the team’s 129 points belonged to Norris.

He secured another ‘best of the rest’ finish at Circuit of the Americas by catching and passing Alonso on the penultimate lap while Ricciardo endured possibly his worst performance of the season. Norris had to settle for ninth in Mexico as the hard tyres proved to be wrong compound for the race and McLaren’s hopes of securing fourth in the championship all but died in Brazil when he retired with a car problem late in the race – although only after earning a penalty for hitting Leclerc while they battled for third after the Safety Car restart.

But Norris signed off his deeply impressive season with another formidable performance in Abu Dhabi that encapsulated his year. He took seventh on the grid behind the top three teams for the final time, then passed Russell at the start to run in sixth in the early laps. Using a two-stop strategy, Norris ran in seventh before picking up sixth when Lewis Hamilton retired late on, holding off Ocon in the closing laps to take a minor victory over the Alpine as well as the bonus point for fastest lap in the process.

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Although McLaren had been unable to beat their rivals to fourth place at the end of the season, there was little more Norris could have done to change that. Over the course of the season, he had been the highest qualifying driver not from the top three teams eight times and the highest finishing driver not from the top three teams a further eight times – comfortably more often than any other midfield driver.

Lando Norris, McLaren, Yas Marina, 2022
Norris scored 122 of McLaren’s 159 points
His sole podium in Imola stuck out as a unique achievement in the midfield and despite Alpine beating McLaren, Norris ended the season 30 points clear of Ocon and 41 points ahead of Alonso in the drivers’ championship. He had committed fewer mistakes than many of those ahead of him in the standings. Norris had not just been the outstanding driver of the midfield teams – he had been one of the most outstanding drivers of the entire grid.

With team principal Andreas Seidl departing the team to spearhead Audi’s entry into F1, work improving McLaren’s resources continuing at their factory and an exciting rookie team mate in Oscar Piastri joining McLaren in 2023, the years ahead for the team offer great promise. Should they manage to bridge the chasm to the front of the field, they will have full confidence that they will be able to compete against the best with a driver like Lando Norris in their car.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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35 comments on “2022 F1 driver rankings #2: Lando Norris”

  1. Fully agree with Lando’s rating. Give him the Ferrari of Leclerc and he would be much more consistent over the course of the season. THAT’S what’s making the difference between a great driver and an elite one. That’s the difference between Max/Lewis vs Leclerc. Norris fully deserves to be 2nd this year. His car was abysmal for the first part of this year.

    1. I’m not sure about this “great versus elite” argument. Lando made 4 mistakes this season – Imola quali where he got away with it, Austria where he dropped points, Spain where track limits also cost him in quali and Brazil where he ran wide into Leclerc. All fairly small but to compare with CL. Imola and Ricard spin, Spa pit lane speeding, Japan track limits.

      Their error record is broadly the same and both are very low considering it’s a 22 race season. I’d argue Leclerc was under more pressure and scrutiny than Lando also.

      Lando was consistent – but what were the high points? Alonso had a similar car performance and many times fought well above where it should be. It’s difficult to say if Norris was always outdriving the McLaren or if Ricciardo was simply poor.

      I think Lando drove superbly at times but I would certainly have him below Leclerc as we simply don’t know how to benchmark his car performance. Not enough breathtaking results and to my mind a failure of the rankings scoring system.

      1. All fairly small but to compare with CL. Imola and Ricard spin, Spa pit lane speeding, Japan track limits.
        So, you mentioning Lando’s spin in Imola, which actually directly benefited him and his result, and completely forgetting Leclerc’s spin in Q3 in Silverstone, which arguably costed him pole(P2 at very least), and directly affected his Sunday race and final result. That mistake, his collision with Perez(which was also mostly Leclerc’s mistake), put him behind Sainz for the whole first stint, whereas he should have been miles ahead with undamaged front wing.

        There is massive difference between these mistakes, but you fail to even mention Charles mistake.

        1. Counting mistakes, one have to count the consequences. In case if the outcome and result wasn’t affected(like Verstappen’s mistake in Spain and Hungary), these mistakes barely even deserve counting as mistakes. Worth noting surely, for the sake of interest.

        2. That’s simply not true @stn.

          The Silverstone quali incident nor the Perez collision had any bearing on the result. When the safety car came out Leclerc was in the lead. He lost that race due to not pitting for the softs as all others did.

          The Perez collision is not a mistake either – he did an identical move on Hamilton at the first start, Perez darts to the left at the last moment; I’m not having that as an error, you race and have to go for these gaps.

          Lando’s clash with Gasly in Miami had a direct consequence on his race (Norris retired) so I don’t see Norris as impervious to criticism in this regard either.

    2. You can’t simply give #2 in the ranking to a driver who spent the whole year suspended in a limbo below top 3 teams and well above bottom 5 teams, with the sole exception of Alpine who was occasionally in fight with him.
      Lando never had to take risks in that position, also given that his teammate (usually the first competitor to each driver) was consistently behind him, struggling in understanding the car.
      Leclerc did mistakes but went all out in many occasions to match RBR race pace, not too mention messy Ferrari mangment along the season who surelly took him away from the right focus.
      He did very well in quali but in the race he simply avoided any risk and settled for the best result possible; this is smart but to fight for a championship you should rise your driving up a couple of nothces…unless your car is well above your competitors.
      The higher is the prize, the higher is the pressure

      1. Exactly, in most races, it would have been pointless for Norris to push more than he did, and to take risks. He was never going to beat the top three teams on pace. His only real competition most of the time were the two Alpine drivers.

        1. Yeah, I also feel that Norris might be there, but that this year is not the one to judge him better than Leclerc because he was never really in the fight, unlike Leclerc who was at least during the 1st half to two-thirds of the season (and both Russell and Hamilton had more to lose and fight over the season, so them making more mistakes isn’t strange, nor is them having a worse record earlier in the season because the car was more difficult; having him ahead of them is okay I guess, but if you put Ricciardo as far back as he is this year, not undeservedly, then having his teammate this much higher, well I’m not convinced).

    3. Give him the Ferrari of Leclerc and he would be much more consistent over the course of the season.

      If he’d been in the Red Bull alongside Max, I think Max would have been lucky to come second.
      Lando is a top level driver in a prima donna car. Put a lower level driver in the McLaren and you get the results that Daniel had.

    4. I’m not sure how people arrive at this fantasy that Norris is better than Leclerc. When Ferrari were 6th in the constructor’s table in 2020 Leclerc had more podiums than Lando this year who had one. The article talks up Lando’s qualifying heroics when Leclerc had more poles than anybody this year. You can point to two major mistakes Charles made in ‘22 which were closely but Norris also made had self inflicted errors that seem to go unnoticed more often since he’s not a title contender. Beating Ricciardo for some reason is considered worthy of massive praise but Leclerc beating Vettel isn’t as good I guess?

      1. Both beating mclaren ricciardo and 2020 vettel aren’t worthy of praise because they were well below their best level; beating vettel 2019 at the first year in ferrari, as I predicted (people were saying leclerc would be the number 2 at ferrari, because vettel was the de facto number 1, I said he would probably outperform him and if he does he’d become the number 1, and he did) was worthy of recognition, even though that vettel also wasn’t at peak, but more decent.

        Ricciardo was never decent at mclaren, except a handful of races where he was good or better.

  2. With the Ferrari of Leclerc it is doubtful if could even beat Sainz. Leclerc is on a different level speedwise.

  3. For all the bashing Ricciardo gets he appears to still be highly regarded. Because destroying him earned Lando the runner up spot. A good driver undoubtedly but after 4 years still rather unonymous most days.

    1. @philby77 Yeah, that seems to be a huge part of it (and that Norris is English, probably).

      ‘Ricciardo was so bad at #19, but look how amazing Norris is because he beat Ricciardo!’

      That doesn’t add up.

      For Norris to be ranked above Russell, Hamilton and even Leclerc (!) I’d have expected some heroic drives. Things that made people take notice, and that would stand out in any story about F1’s greatest stars. What did Norris do, exactly? He finished 3rd at Imola (let’s not forget he was also 3rd on lap 1!) while both Ferrari’s were out of the picture, and Mercedes was way off the pace. Note also that Ricciardo started 6th. Coming in third is then kind of what you expect from what was arguably the 3rd best car on the day.

      1. What does being English have to do with it?

      2. Yep! Fully agree. For Ricciardo to get such a low rating it leads logically to that conclusion Norris had the car where it was supposed to be.

        The first half of the season Norris clearly had the benefit of the pit wall with Ricciardo being asked to move aside time and time again. And by the second half of the season Ricciardo had been told he was pushed out…

        On average, throughout the season Ricciardo was only 2.6 places behind Norris in races where both cars finished. How that leads to a 17 place difference in the driver rankings here is absolutely beyond me.

        1. 3.2, maths error, but the point stands.

      3. I guess the difference here is that you are comparing finishing positions, while Racefans is comparing driver performances. Lando extracted everything out of that McLaren and has been about the most consistent driver all year, apart from Max. He did not get more podium finishes and he did not win a race, while Leclerc obviously did. But Lando’s car never brought him in a position to do so. Imagine Verstappen driving a Williams car this year, the way he drove the RBR this year. The performance would be the same, the podiums and victories would be none, but by your logic he couldn’t be #1 just because he’d been driving a woeful car. This rating is about driver performances. Nothing else.

  4. I like Norris and rate him very high, he’s naturally gifted and in my perception he’s Jim Clark type of driver, but this just looks like “ok, we can’t make Lewis second it’s to ridiculous, also we can’t do that with George because Lewis is still our #1 superstar, but we have to promote some British driver in top 3 at any cost”.

    1. I agree. Norris did a great job this year, but not significantly better or worse that Gasly the previous year in my opinion. And I don’t remember Gasly getting nearly as much praise last year.

    2. Hi Jogo I hope you are more than right and Lando is more than just like Jim Clark but equally as talented . Max and the rest of the boys can take up tiddlywinks if he ever gets a competitive car.

  5. Far too generous! Ric made his season look so much better than it actually was.

    I can’t think back to any special Lando drives at all, whereas Leclerc and Alonso had plenty of special world class moments and performances.

  6. To me, we have plenty of data to know that Lando was significantly better than his teammate.

    Unfortunately, we have no new data from this season to suggest where in the great competitive structure he fits, and the old data we have does not support ranking him at #2.

  7. Everybody’s ok that Norris does not deserve #2 bar the writer. This ranking is a clown show.

    1. While I agree norris 2nd seems too high, like others said because of the lack of heroic drives and the fact he didn’t really have competition, he was in no man’s land (except the alpines), what I find strange is that the season average of the rankings was usually considered ok by people, there was someone who kept making updating the averages after every race, but now they’re being used for the final season rankings we start complaining about them!

      1. Are you talking about driver of the day rankings? If that’s what they’re using then that’s crazy… Let’s public poll a completely skewed audience where second place can outrank the rest by a few percentage points.

        There’s a difference between saying Norris was the rated the second highest by fans of this site on average in driver of the day polls; and saying Norris is the second best driver of the season. That would probably lead to the lack of complaints about the former…

  8. Constantinescu Felix
    23rd December 2022, 12:43

    Could it be more biased ? Lando is good, but he made quite a few mistakes this season, a no pressure season. Last year he showed he can’t make a right call, so he lost Sochi, yet he gets so much praise. For what ? For beating DR ? The guy seemed disconnected for a long time.
    Lando is counting years, but the wins just don’t appear. And when that chance of winning comes, he either makes a capital mistake or someone else (Monza) gets it.
    I understand he has a fan base, but Sainz (who you rate as modest) used to beat Lando…so yeah.

  9. Surprisingly high ranking like for Seb.

    1. I was fearing something like Lando and Max could not be separated so a joint number1 would be declared.

  10. Interesting almost British media pro choice… but I know he is at Least top 5. think 4 or 5, but OK with one off media giving him number 2

  11. Ridiculous! If Norris had a performing teammate, he would likely be ranked 5th – 9th. He drove around in the safe no man lands with zero pressure and a team that has confidence in him.

    Leclerc had massive pressure, driving for a championship, up against a super confident and crazy fast competitor in Verstappen. Although I don’t rate Sainz, being his teammate can’t be too easy with all the politics that surround him, plus Ferrari throwing every wrong decision Leclerc’s direction.

    2nd for Lando is serious bias and no one could take this seriously.

    1. Amen to that, or if that’s not allowed

  12. Rating Nor high while rating Ric as one of the worst drivers at the same time does not make sense to me. If Ric is Lat level, why isnt Nor similar to Alb? If Ric is Ver level, then Nor should be number 1.

    1. I agree. Lando is good but it’s hard to say how good. I get a feeling he is very good, just not Charles/Max/Lewis level. It’s really hard to say until he’s really tested, which he wasn’t this year at all as Riccardo was utterly useless throughout the season. Way too generous, in my opinion but it’s a British website with British writers so a bit of bias is to be expected, I’m ok with that.

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