2023 Formula 1 driver rankings #7: Oscar Piastri

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In his first year of grand prix racing Oscar Piastri was not only the most impressive rookie in the 2023 field by a wide margin, he also had one of the strongest rookie campaigns of any driver in recent years.

Piastri’s performance over the season was not just admirable for someone who had never raced in Formula 1 before or even participated in a grand prix weekend prior to his debut in Bahrain. It also came after he spent a full year out of racing as Alpine’s reserve driver following his Formula 2 title triumph in 2021.

Although he may not have raced for almost 450 days by the time he made his debut, Piastri at least had the benefit of thousands of kilometres of running in a 2021 Alpine in private tests prior to being poached by McLaren. Ironically, Alpine’s investment in his talent but failure to provide him a race meant their rivals reaped the benefits of all their work.

Piastri arrived into Formula 1 with McLaren on the back foot from the very start of the season. The MCL60 did not appear to be a car worthy of honouring sixty years of McLaren and their legendary achievements and this resulted in a grand prix debut to forget. After all that time waiting to finally race in Formula 1, Piastri was knocked out of Q1 in his first qualifying session and his grand prix debut was spoiled by an electrical problem which effectively ended his evening before he could sink his teeth into the race.

Oscar Piastri< McLaren, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2023
Piastri showed potential with Q3 appearance in second round
McLaren were still struggling for pace when they arrived in Jeddah, but Piastri managed not only to break out of Q1 for the first time in qualifying but even reach Q3 immediately after. Sadly, any opportunity to get in the thick of the action was taken away when he suffered damage from opening lap contact with Pierre Gasly and he fell to the back after replacing his front wing. But despite this being his first proper race, the rookie pulled of a deeply impressive 49 lap stint on his hard tyres, passing team mate Lando Norris before nailing Logan Sargeant on the final lap with a great move around the outside of turn one. It may have only been for 15th place, but it was an early demonstration of his talent.

As a Melbourne man, the third round at Albert Park was a true home grand prix for Piastri. After narrowly missing out on Q2 and starting from 16th, Piastri rose up to 11th by the second red flag stoppage, then managed to navigate his way successfully through the hectic restart and rise up to eighth, claiming his first world championship points at his third attempt. He almost had a second top ten finish at the next round in Baku, finishing in 11th after battling a bout of food poisoning over the weekend. A brake-by-wire failure in Miami was arguably his third stroke of bad luck from his first five grands prix.

His first Monaco Grand Prix experience was made more challenging by rain late in the race, but he did not make a single mistake and followed Norris home in 10th for his second points finish of the season. Piastri’s meticulous driving and lack of errors was becoming a defining characteristic of his rookie season until he crashed out of qualifying in Montreal to commit his first ‘big mistake’ in Formula 1. Thankfully, he had waited until Q3 to do so and was able to start from eighth on the grid, but his pace seemed to fade over the course of the race and he missed out on another point in 11th.

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Then, suddenly, everything changed for McLaren. The team arrived in Austria for round nine with a raft of upgrades that would transformed their season and transform them into contenders at the front of the field virtually overnight. Piastri had to wait until the following round at Silverstone for his first taste of the updated McLaren, but when he did, he took full advantage by backing up his team mate to secure a sensational third on the grid in qualifying. In the race, he showed supreme self-confidence to attack Max Verstappen on the opening lap and was running third until an unfortunately-timed Safety Car allowed Lewis Hamilton to jump ahead of him and deny him a maiden podium appearance in his tenth start.

Oscar Piastri

Best Worst
GP start 2 19
GP finish 2 19
Points 97

He was in the mix at the front of the field again the next race in Hungary, leaping from another second row start into second place and running there for the first 17 laps. But from there he faded over the course of the race to finish in fifth, later claiming to have suffered from minor floor damage.

At Spa, a celebrated driver’s circuit, Piastri was in excellent form. He beat Norris in both qualifying sessions and put his car on the front row for the sprint race. Then, as the race began behind the Safety Car, Piastri was the first to pit for intermediates and jumped Verstappen to lead his first laps in Formula 1. Although Verstappen easily passed him after the restart, Piastri still finished in second and showed just how comfortable he could be out front in Formula 1. Starting from fifth and eager for a second major result in consecutive days, he was frustrated to be eliminated on the opening lap after clashing with Carlos Sainz Jnr into La Source.

Zandvoort was Piastri’s weakest weekend of the year up to that point in the season. He crashed in second practice and he could not match Norris in qualifying. Staying out on dry tyres in the rain did not pay off in the early laps of the race and although he still took points in ninth, it had not been his best showing of the season. After out-qualifying Norris in Monza, Piastri suffered front wing damage from a hit by Hamilton and fell out of the points, earning a penalty later on when he decided to blatantly pass Liam Lawson outside of track limits.

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McLaren brought a second major aerodynamic update of the season to Singapore but Piastri again had to wait a race to have it installed on his car, at Suzuka. Once it was, he stormed onto the front row of the grid behind Verstappen and almost challenged the champion into turn one at the start, before deciding better of it and falling behind Norris. He may not have had the pace to keep up with the two leaders ahead, but Piastri more than held his own over the rest of the race, keeping a distance from Charles Leclerc behind to take third place and join a select group of drivers to have taken a podium finish in their rookie seasons.

Oscar Piastri, McLaren, Suzuka, 2023
At Suzuka, a real driver’s track, Piastri finished on the podium
Already, Piastri was enjoying a memorable debut season. But he was about to enjoy even greater success in Qatar. He out-qualified Norris in grand prix qualifying on Friday, despite losing his best Q3 time for track limits, but Saturday was the best day of the entire season for Piastri. Not only did he sensationally take pole in sprint qualifying, he managed to re-pass George Russell after losing the lead at the start of the sprint race to overtake the Mercedes and take the chequered flag and victory with it. He could not beat Verstappen on the Sunday, but in the punishingly hot conditions he kept ice cool to take a second successive grand prix podium and the best finish of his rookie season in second.

After two incredible performances, Piastri was humbled somewhat over the next few rounds. Mostly in Brazil, where he was not on the level of Norris across the weekend, spun out of Q3 and was then caught out by an unfortunate set of circumstances when the grand prix was red-flagged on the second lap, leaving him a lap down for the rest of the afternoon. Despite his misfortune, however, he could not catch Daniel Ricciardo’s AlphaTauri, who had suffered the same fate.

By the time Piastri’s rookie campaign had ended, he had secured his place with McLaren until the end of 2026 and established himself as a future star. Although he had been comfortably beaten by Norris in every statistic, the numbers failed to accurately reflect how well Piastri had managed to match his highly rated, more experienced team mate over the course of the year.

At the end of the season, the FIA summoned him to Baku to receive their award for Rookie of the Year which spans all their competitions and categories. For once, it was hard to disagree with a FIA decision. It may be some time before a driver can come into Formula 1 and make as strong an impact in year one as Oscar Piastri did in 2023.

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    27 comments on “2023 Formula 1 driver rankings #7: Oscar Piastri”

    1. Piastri is the best rookie for some years, but the metrics don’t lie; he was still quite far behind Norris in most cases.

      He’ll want to get on top his tyre management skills sooner rather than later, because Pirelli is here to stay.

      This ranking is quite generous, and some off the glow of Norris’ inflated reputation gained from beating a hapless Ricciardo has brushed off on him.

      Hopefully McLaren can start the next season strong so we don’t have to constant take the limitations of the car, or the staggered introduction of updates, into account when weighing his performance.

      1. He did very well, but I also think the ranking is generous.
        Two places ahead of Sainz…? Not sure about that.

        1. Sainz comes accross more proven and consistent than both Mclaren drivers.

        2. Agree.. The rankings are giving him brownie points for being a rookie. I thought he was really good.. but not better than Sainz. If I had to rank them #9 to #7, it would be – #9 Russell, #8 Piastri, #7 Sainz

          1. Yeah, not sure why he should be rated so highly because he’s inexperienced. To be this guy if wildly overrated – he’s very good in qualifying but his race pace is generally very poor compared with Norris.

            I think I’ve mentioned this before, but the true legends of the sport (basically all of the champions of the last few decades) arrive in the world of F1 absolutely on fire. They do not turn in race after race of anonymous performances. I predict piastri will have a very solid career but it’ll be a Fisichella, Barrichello, Massa, Webber or Coulthard kind of a career at best (or Perez if you want a contemporary example). If he lucks into the right combo of amazing car and insipid team mate then maybe he could fighting for a title but seems like a long shot.

    2. I find this ranking way too high. Yes, it was a promising first season but he was still far from the level of Norris. There were many races were they qualified close, Piastri sometimes having an edge on his team mate, but Norris was comfortably the better of the two on Sunday. In fact, Piastri scored a smaller percentage of McLaren’s points than Pérez of Red Bull’s. Given how quick the McLaren became, Piastri was often able to score decent points despite being clearly slower than Norris. I wonder what his ranking would have been like had McLaren been as slow all season as in the beginning?

      This ranking seems to be based on potential rather than performance. I find it difficult to rank Piastri inside top 10. However, given his promising rookie season we can expect him to keep on improving. Whether he is a potential champion remains to be seen.

      1. “Piastri scored a smaller percentage of McLaren’s points than Pérez of Red Bull’s.”
        – I see your point, but that’s a terrible metric to use as the point scoring system in F1 is non-linear, and the points discrepencies between drivers get larger as you go down the field.
        If Verstappen finishes every race 1st (25pts), then Perez may finish even 2 places behind him at 3rd to score 15pts, which is only 40% less.
        If Norris finishes every race 9th (2pts), then even if Piastri finishes 1 place behind him, he scores 1pt, which is already 50% less. And if he finishes 2 places behind him, he scores zero points, which is 100% less than Norris.

        1. Correction: the point system would have to be exponential to have the same points differential ratios uniform across the field. In a linear system, the points differences (and not differential ratios) are consistent.

      2. I think he probably deserved a top half ranking but not much more. I agree he was largely overrated on the grounds of him being a rookie, had Ricciardo been in the car we’d have been talking about him having been dominated by Norris. Lets hope next year we get a better read as if he isn’t regularly beating Norris, the rookie moniker will not wash.

      3. Coventry Climax
        19th December 2023, 16:06

        This ranking seems to be based on potential rather than performance.
        If this ranking was based on performance only, you’d already know the outcome, namely similar to the WDC outcome.
        It may be based on potential, but al least it’s based on potential shown, which makes all the difference.

        As to the points percentage, that’s why I advocate that the points you get represent , 1-on-1, the number of drivers you’ve beaten in a race. Example: 20 drivers at the start, and you finish 3rd? That means you’ve beaten 17 drivers, so 17 points. Simple, straightforward, truly based on merit and as fair as you can get.
        Though it would maybe make the RF driver rankings mostly superflous..

        1. Coventry Climax
          19th December 2023, 16:07

          Forgot to make the first sentence a quote, as stated by anon.
          Sorry about that.

        2. The effect of luck\reliability would be massively amplified with such a points system.

          1. Coventry Climax
            21st December 2023, 0:15

            I’ve suggested this pointssystem before, and then also suggested that you could double, triple, quadruple etc. the points.
            That might solve your luck/reliablity problem with it, while still staying simple, straightforward, based on merit for all and completely fair.
            Apart from that I don’t really see how it would magnify luck/reliability or even how that plays a less important role with the current system, but even if, that’s why it’s called luck/reliability, right?

        3. If this ranking was based on performance only, you’d already know the outcome, namely similar to the WDC outcome.

          That is of course not true.
          WDC is a ranking based on driver performance plus car capabilities.
          This ranking is based on driver performance only. But as it is a subjective ranking, it can/will be different based on who is ranking and will drive many comments (many based on skewed facts and flawed statistics).

          1. Coventry Climax
            21st December 2023, 0:32

            Ofcourse it isn’t true. Maybe I should have said ‘quite similar to’.
            But it is not based on just driver performance only also, even if the name suggests that. They try to ignore car performance, but it’s not always simple nor straightforward to do so. One thing that’s consistently omitted is how suited a car is to the driver. But that’s OK, it would be impossible to take everything into account anyway.

            The point I was trying to make really, is that I don’t agree with it being based on potential over performance, like anon suggested.
            And then asd added something about points systems that, to my opinion, is way to fuzzy and complicated for the purpose.

    3. Coventry Climax
      19th December 2023, 16:18

      This also means Albon is ranked in the top 6, together with Verstappen, Hamilton, Alonso, Norris, and Leclerc, if I’m not mistaken.

      I like Albon, and he’s indeed done a very decent job, but 6th – and potentially though not likely- even higher?
      I’m not too sure of that. But I am sure that many here will not agree.

      1. Especially since we already know what Albon can do in a race winning car.

        He gets way too much credit for outpacing Sergeant and Latifi.

        1. Coventry Climax
          19th December 2023, 19:15

          Well, quickly turns out I was right, saying there’d be those with opinions disagreeing with Albon’s ranking.

          Your’s though, MichaelN, is not just disagreeing, but right down at the other end of the spectrum, and I can’t agree with that. There’s quite a bit more than just Sargeant and Litifi he outpaces. Also, there’s a bit of a double standard in that, sorry to say, rather shallow opinion, as there’s often talk of cars not suiting driver styles. Usually then, it’s the drivers that get the benefit of the doubt, instead of the disadvantage of the doubt. Your opinion would be justified if he’d also utterly fail at other teams, in other cars, which is clearly not the case.

          1. Albon had two different Red Bull cars at his disposal in the RB15 and RB16. In both he wasn’t close to Verstappen. Now sure, he was put into that seat in his rookie season, but nevertheless, he never showed himself to be more than competent. That doesn’t make him a bad, but it’s also true that when Red Bull ditched him, nobody else was interested in hiring him, so he sat out an entire year in 2021.

            Sometimes a driver only gets one shot at this and Albon, by all accounts, failed to stake his claim to a top seat. So while there’s nothing wrong with praising him for some solid drives this season, it has to be kept in mind that he does not have a record that backs up the idea that he’s getting all the performance out of his cars. That makes it quite a leap to take him doing better than his quite mediocre and/or inexperienced teammates and turn that into being a sign of him being among the very top of drivers in F1 today.

            The perception of Williams also lags reality; in quite a few races it was not a bad car to have, and Albon, to his credit, usually delivered in those races. But we can’t know if – as he claims – he only missed one chance to score, or if he missed a few more. Based on his races at Red Bull, there’s room for some doubt on that point.

            1. Coventry Climax
              21st December 2023, 1:10

              Look, I was the one that expressed doubts about his ranking 6th here in the first place, right?

              I know Albon can’t show us a career resumé with straight A’s, but he did do good enough in the Torro Rosso to be selected to go to RB to be assessed in his rookie year. (And arguably, that was not a good (driver) management decision.)
              Would Verstappen or Hamilton take the Williams higher up than Albon? Maybe, not unthinkable even, to be fair, but by how much would certainly also depend on how well the Williams suits them. Bottom line is it’s just guessing. Fact is also that he did outperform his teammates to about as much as is possible, and he did show some cunning racing to get those 7th places.
              Then lastly it is ‘in your opinion’ the perception of Williams lacks reality; we have no means of really knowing. Although: Russell qualified quite well in it too, to then usually fade in the race. That difference was somewhat smaller this year, which may very well have to do with car development.
              But what we do know is that he’s done a fairly decent job this year and this ranking is -as far as I’m concerned – more or less right.

      2. Personally Albon fits within my top 6 of the year, together with the other 5 we are waiting for. We can only rate drivers based on what we see, and in 2023 Albon drove some great races. His qualifying record of 23-0 is undeniable, even on his weakest day he was faster than his team mate (who’s finished 3rd in F3 and 4th in F2, so even if Sargeant is not a champion, the American definitely can drive).

        1. Unfortunately, the f3 and f2 records you mentioned are not impressive at all, if anything that indicates you’re talking about a bad driver, and when you link it to his performance this season you shouldn’t be surprised.

          I still think albon had a very good season and I don’t mind him being in the top 6, but sargeant is not a good enough comparison, would need a decent driver like bottas\gasly\ocon to see if albon is really better than the typical midfielder.

    4. Piastri’s only weakness is not matching Norris on race pace. But there were times he left Norris in his wake, like that sprint win. Norris reacted to Piastri by upping his performance noticeably, and now it’s up to Piastri to push himself, in turn, to a new level. If he does he will become a fully paid up member of the F1 elite. Then it becomes a matter of whether McLaren is where he should be….

    5. Piastri has been the best rookie we have had from quite some time, but no way he was better than Russell and Sainz. Slightly better than the Alpine duo, yes, probably.

    6. This is too high. Personally I’d put him behind Russell, Sainz, and the Alpines. Piastri was overshadowed by Norris almost to the same extent Perez was by Verstappen. He won a sprint in Qatar, that was amazing, but that does not take away from the fact Norris scored 205 to Piastri’s 97. That’s more than double. Norris finished in the podium 7 times to Piastri’s 2.

      Piastri’s strength is his speed over one lap, yet Norris outqualified Piastri 15-7 (if a random website I found is right! 😄 ). His weakness, tyre life, was far too pronounced in his debut season and he must remedy it quickly. Yes, Piastri is up against one of the absolute talents of this generation, but scoring less than 50% of his points is not great even in your rookie season.

      1. Yes, agree, and as far as I know these rankings aren’t supposed to give bonus points for lack of experience.

      2. Henry Williams
        21st December 2023, 7:28

        interesting to note though, piastri outqualified norris 6-5 in the MCL60B.

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