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Featured F1: Mid-Season Driver Rankings Part Two

Discussion in 'Formula 1' started by Chris, Aug 16, 2016.

  1. Chris

    Ted Kravitz Appreciation Society Staff Premium

    [​IMG]Following on from part one of our mid-season driver rankings comes the second installment, featuring drivers from 15th down to 6th place on the F1 grid.

    The mid-field and level of talent is unquestionably one of the most hotly contested things in Formula One in recent memory. These drivers were undoubtedly the hardest to rate given their talent proximity and the solid work they've done this season.

    Romain-Grosjean.jpg Romain Grosjean left the then Lotus F1 Team at the end of 2015 to start afresh with the F1-newcomers, Haas F1; an American-run team with a successful motorsport pedigree in the United States. Which is in America. The car was actually decently competitive in the first fly-away races of the season with Grosjean putting in some stunning drives to take sixth and fifth places in Australia and Bahrain respectively, followed by an eighth place in Russia.

    These strong results so early in the season turned heads in the paddock with many of the 'purist' teams disagreeing with the American's way of competing in F1 (that is, to buy as many pieces of kit from Ferrari and then go racing from there). Since then, car development has ground to a near halt as the team switch their focus to the 2017 season and as a result, the competition have caught and even overtaken Haas in performance. With retirements in Spain and Great Britain, Grosjean has had a gradually regressive season as the car fails to improve. His qualifying performances have been very good, but the car simply doesn't have enough pace to show Romain's true abilities, as have been seen at the back end of the 2013 season.

    His recent drop in performance which has lead to teammate Esteban Gutierrez often beating him on sheer race pace means he places no higher than 15th on my mid-season rankings, despite fantastic results in three of the first four rounds.

    Felipe Massa entered his fourteenth Formula One season and for the third year running he's teamed up with the young Fin, Valtteri Bottas. Whilst in previous seasons Massa has generally been the more reliable and speedy pair of hands on a Sunday, Bottas tended to outqualify him on a consistent basis. 2016 however is different. Not only is Felipe getting regularly beaten on Saturdays, but his Sunday performances have slipped too. Either that, or Bottas has stepped up his game. Either way, the net result is the same; Bottas is 20 points ahead in the championship standings and Williams are reportedly looking for a replacement driver *cough* Jenson Button *cough*.

    Granted, the Williams car for this season has not been quite as competitive as it was in 2015 nor 2014, but there's no getting away from the fact that Massa has been well and truly trounced by Bottas this year. His best placing of fifth has only occurred on two occasions and he is yet to score a single point since Baku. He was unlucky in Germany when he severely hampered thanks to a rear-ending from Kevin Magnussen, eventually being forced to retire from the race. Felipe is a better driver than he's shown thus far, but he's only got nine remaining races to show it, else the writing will be on the wall and Williams will no longer be employing the services of a veteran Brazilian in 2017.

    It pains me to place a driver of the calibre of Nico Hulkenberg in 13th place but there's no denying that the once tangible superiority he claimed over Sergio Perez is beginning to shift, if it's not already in the Mexican's favour. I suppose in a way this season has been much like the last two for "The Hulk". Very solidly in the points on a consistent basis, but unlike his teammate there have not been any performances that particularly jump off the page at you.

    He's consistently been in the lower half of the points scoring positions, with a single sixth place in Monaco (thanks to a brilliantly opportunistic pass on Nico Rosberg on the final dash to the line), a few sevenths, an eighth, a ninth and a tenth. Unfortunately however, it seems that with every passing race, Hulkenberg gets more and more forgotten about for top tier drives. In 2013 he was the hottest property on the grid when it came to up-and-coming-talent as he was able to wrestle a difficult Sauber into the points on several occasions and even kept a rampant Lewis Hamilton at bay in Korea to hold on to fourth place.

    Since then, he has seemingly slipped deeper and deeper into the role of a mid-pack runner and it's perhaps been reflected in his performances thus far. He's a brilliant Grand Prix driver and a Le Mans winner for heaven's sake, but he's never taken a Grand Prix podium in his career, despite being in a position to do so on several occasions. Since Monaco he's enjoyed an impressive run of points scoring races, but again, nothing that really says "Wow! This guy is special!", which is a crying shame, because Hulkenberg is worthy of a drive in a top team in my opinion and if he ever gets that opportunity, I hope he can embrace it with open arms.

    As mentioned in Felipe Massa's ranking, Valtteri Bottas has enjoyed a larger performance difference over Massa in 2016 when compared to their previous seasons together. Whilst they may have an equal share of finishing ahead of each other on race days, Bottas has driven down the road, so to speak, in the latter half of the first half of the season by outscoring his more experienced teammate by 28 points since his brilliant third place in Canada; a track that Williams have excelled at in recent years.

    But a slow start to the season sees him lower on this ranking list than he'd probably like. Additionally, since his podium he has only scored 14 points in total with a car that realistically should be in the fifth to eighth place range on a regular basis. But this is racing and not everything always goes according to plan. Bottas will undoubtedly be looking to (through his on-track performances) exert more pressure on Williams to have second thoughts about Massa retaining his seat for 2017. Undoubtedly one of the best young talents on the grid, yet due to the sheer quality that composes this Formula One grid, I cannot reasonably place Bottas any higher.

    I'll have to admit, I did not know what to expect from Pascal Wehrlein when this season got underway. I knew he was a quick driver in some of the lower categories but that was about it. Heck, I actually thought Rio Haryanto would probably beat him because at least I'd seen Rio in a GP2 car, and he was pretty impressive on his good days.

    But there was obviously a reason as to why Mercedes signed this young chap, and if he is any indication of their talent scouting ability, then they can really pick 'em! Little did I realise what an absolute gem this guy has turned out to be. He's utterly trashed Haryanto, equaled Manor's highest ever qualifying position in Austria (12th) and scored Manor's first point since Jules Bianchi drove for the team in 2014.

    However his teammate wasn't the fastest driver out there, and down the back of the grid it can be difficult to get noticed, but you don't get to Formula One by fluke, so Wehrlein has surely gotten some fat suits in Brackley and Fiorano (and probably even Woking) to sit up and listen. This kid can flat out drive. He out-qualified Haryanto 7-4, out-raced him 8-0 and has spent nearly the entirety of his time on track ahead of his Indonesian teammate and even some of the other back marker teams. I'm very interested to see how he performs at Monza; a track that should suit their car the most this season thanks to it's dependence on power and lack of drag.

    If there's one thing Sergio "Checo" Perez will be remembered for, it will be for his ability take podium places off the bigger teams in opportunistic circumstances. His podium drive in Monaco was nothing short of spectacular and very often he was the quickest car on track. They say that a driver's skill level plays a much larger role around the streets of Monte Carlo and this proved to be true yet again.

    Two races later and he was back on the podium yet again in Baku where he utilised the horsepower advantage of the Mercedes donkey in the back of his car to propel him down the preposterously long pit straight of the Baku circuit. This is his second season alongside the highly respected Nico Hulkenberg, and whilst last season was a more closely fought affair, Sergio has more than held his own this season and on the majority of occasions has looked like the better driver. He's taken seven podiums in his F1 career so far, all in cars that realistically had no business being there. With two podiums and seven points paying positions in eleven races, Perez cracks my top ten.

    Of the entire field, the two McLaren-Honda drivers were, I think, the hardest to separate. Both have driven well when the car is working for them and both have shown a little more spark and flare in their driving now that the car is gradually becoming more and more competitive. They've been incredibly close in the races this year with Fernando Alonso having an average finishing position of 10.5 to Button's 10.2.

    Whilst Alonso had to sit on the sidelines for Bahrain due to fractured ribs after his monumental crash in Australia, it's hard to imagine that it would have made too much difference given that Stoffel Vandoorne came home 10th. Still, it's been great to see Alonso driving with a little more ferocity this season. Last season was a big downer for us as fans because even Alonso himself admitted to being in a self-described 'Sleep mode' as the car remained noncompetitive to the very end of the season.

    Two brilliant drives in Russia and Monaco reminded us that Fernando has still got 'it' and that he's just as sharp and savvy in the cockpit as ever. His ability to hold off an off-the-pace Nico Rosberg in Monte Carlo was highly impressive, especially when you consider that even on an off-day for Rosberg, the Mercedes is still comfortably quicker than the McLaren.

    Despite the somewhat backhanded compliments he's been giving McLaren this year in press conferences and driver pen interviews, Jenson Button has been driving very well this season. In fact many believe that despite his relatively poor machinery, this could be the best the Brit has driven in his career. He's proven to be rather good at coping with tough situations like having to save fuel on an extreme level thanks to a thirsty Honda engine and still come home in the lower end of the points.

    Whilst Alonso may have had the best outright result (5th), Button has been a model of consistency with a smaller variation between best and worst results. I have a strong suspicion that the McLaren chassis may not be all that it's cracked up to be, given that even at the power-dependent circuits, they're not suffering too badly. This is particularly obvious with Button's sixth place in Austria; a power circuit, and 12th place in Silverstone; a more aero-dependent track.

    Watching onboards makes the car look highly frustrating to drive, boat loads of understeer and generally poor traction combined with an engine that is not as efficient has resulted in many tough days at the office yet again for the McLaren-Honda paring. But Jenson's ability to generally out-perform the driver (especially in qualifying) that many believe still to be the best in F1, in a car that's clearly not easy to drive, is a testament to just how good the veteran Brit has been this season.

    kimi-raikkonen.jpg To me it appears that the first half of 2016 has been... adequate, for Kimi Raikkonen. It hasn't been a terrible year for the Fin, but it hasn't been great by any stretch of the imagination either. For the majority of the first eleven races, the Ferrari had been clearly the second quickest car on the grid and had even threatened the Mercedes on the odd occasion. However whilst Raikkonen's performances have been incredibly consistent (outside of an utterly rubbish weekend in Monaco), he hasn't really ever provided much resistance to his teammate, Seb Vettel, during the course of the season.

    He put in two excellent drives in Bahrain and Spain to take two second places and was arguably faster than Verstappen in the latter, however the difficulty of overtaking at the Barcelona circuit proved too great and a move for the lead was never really on the cards. Gone are the days where steering sensitivity issues are complained about as a reason for under-performing, the 2016 Ferrari offers a balance that Kimi is happy with.

    His close relationship with Vettel has provided stability and continuity within the team, however it appears that despite the improved performance on last season, Kimi's continued 'good but not great' results have solidified him as a clear Number Two driver for Ferrari.

    It's safe to say that Carlos Sainz Jr. has driven the absolute wheels off his STR11. The sample size for a comparison against Max Verstappen is a little too small for 2016, but it's clear even then that Sainz made Verstappen sweat. In the four races they had together this season, both drivers suffered a retirement and both scored points, but it's the way they did it that really brings home the point as to why Verstappen was chosen to take Kvyat's place at the big boy table and not Sainz.

    In those four races, Sainz was out-qualified by Verstappen three to one, and outscored 13 points to four. But, Carlos is an incredibly safe pair of hands, he is not easily flustered (perhaps unlike Verstappen who has shown his frustration boiling over and affecting his performance from time to time), he's consistently on the pace and he's very clean when it comes to wheel-to-wheel racing.

    Since having Kvyat as a teammate, it's clear to see just how impressive Sainz is, and even more so as to just how unlucky he was to miss out on the top job. Whilst Kvyat admittedly hasn't been driving well - and that's being generous - Sainz has absolutely toweled him in every aspect. The two current Red Bull drivers are both under contract for the foreseeable future, so other top teams (hint hint: Ferrari) would be crazy to pass up an opportunity to snap him up quick smart.

    Don't agree with my rankings? Let us know in the comments section where you would've placed the 15th to 6th placed drivers and be sure to stay tuned for the final part of our mid-season driver rankings article!
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2016
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  2. JeffL

    Right on Brother, I hear ya, it's all good.

    Haven't followed F1 for years thanks for the quick update, now I can sound like I know what I'm talkin' about.:D.
    • Haha Haha x 6
  3. I don't think Hulkenberg deserves to be rated higher than Grosjean. He has been completely outclassed by Perez, and has been pretty mediocre. I don't think he's been as bad as Massa, but Grosjean definitely has been better.
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  4. ThatRacingGuy

    I drove 88 MPH last night... weird stuff happened Premium

    Hulk :( he needs to have some great races again.. he's one of my favorite drivers of all time. Hopefully he will recover, if not please go to Porsche in WEC. ​
  5. I don't think Button has been better than Alonso. Alonso has done one race less and is still ahead in the championship, and gets big point results, like the 5th place at Monaco. Button was also out qualified by Vandoorne on Vandoorne's first F1 qualifying session.

    Raikkonen I would have placed behind the McLaren drivers. I think he's such an average driver these days and I'm still confused why he has that Ferrari drive (Number 1 and Number 2 drivers don't work at the moment. Ferrari aren't the same team they were in the early 2000's) The only reason he's ahead of Vettel in the championship is by luck. One less retirement, better strategy call in Spain and has less grid penalties.

    Hulkenberg should be 14th with Grosjean 13th and Massa 15th. Hulk isn't getting any better and has been outshone by Perez (who should be 7th, he's done a great job this season!)

    So, I think the top should be like this
    5- Rosberg
    4- Vettel
    3- Verstappen
    2- Ricciardo
    1- Hamilton
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  6. Alex Townsend

    Alex Townsend

    Great write-up, Chris. Very hard to tackle this kind of update as so much going on this season.
    Looking forward to part 3!
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  7. Tim.E


    I think the biggest surprise for me here is the two Williams drivers that high up. They've lost a lot of ground since the last 2 years with on occasion even Force India and Mclaren beating them. Okay there's not turning around the fact that Bottas is better than Massa but I still think Bottas is a little bit too high placed. As much as I love seeing Sainz in 6th I think that, if you look at relevance, that Carlos has done an equal outstanding job as Pascal Wehrlein has done. It's just that Sainz has had the car to score points more often.
    • Haha Haha x 1
  8. burrito

    It's an opinion, nothing more, nothing less. Premium

    RAI hasn't even been able to pick up on VET's reliability issues this year which IMO is the only reason you have a no.2 and no.1. A no.2 driver shouldn't challenge for the win but should be able to pick up the pieces when it goes wrong for the no.1, I guess I can understand Ferrari want stability but he just isn't on par with other no.2 drivers Ferrari have employed. And don't tell me VET can't deal with other, more spiky teammates. His and Mark Webber's relationship was never on the positive side.
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  9. Cristian Haba

    Cristian Haba
    #555 | Roaring Pipes Maniacs Premium


    For the last five. I would've wanted Vettel higher bu he's been poor of late. Max is second purely on his skill as a young driver, his courage in the car and how he's performed so far in the tier 1 team (save for that Monaco blunder).
  10. *blunders
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  11. Raikonnen has nothing more to prove, imo. The car is the culprit here. Fullstop.
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  12. Rob

    XBO: OctoberDusk06 Premium

    Your article was fair and argued well, even if I, and many others, will disagree. Good fun too!

    If we were to rank the constructors (not sure F1 will ever realize hardly anyone gravitates toward that, yet F1 continues to reward it far more aggressively) then we would be tackling a much easier task. Point being, if you put
    (which are my top six, in order) in an open wheel, rally, GT, and Touring car (which only Raikkonen had done), of equal performance, then you would hardly be able to tell the difference. All are incredibly loaded with talent. Even my second tier (Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Perez, Massa, Gosjean) would beat them so often (Hulk has passed that test already) that many would wonder.

    But your article did not ask for an "overall" opinion (where we differ on the rank of other series'), and you also limited the rankings to this year. That said, I'm not sure you can rank a former world champion, who is the most popular driver, and had spent much of this year third in the WDC, in 7th. "Luck" has nothing to do with it. Or, rather, "luck" goes both ways...actually every way, in F1. Sometimes, I feel there is a U.K. bias in all of this, but then again, who's not biased?

    Where we may agree is that these guys could never hold a candle to "the old guard" since they faced much greater odds, danger, and diversity of track. My all time favorites were guys like Andretti, Brabham, Clark, Mansell, and Fangio. They could drive anything, anywhere, in any condition, and win.
  13. Yapci


    Alonso has done better than button
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  14. Ehm, Vettel has only one more technical DNF than RAI this year (Bahrain & Austria vs Australia). Vettel had DNF at Sochi, which partly was his own fault. Even if we add 20 more points to Vettel, he would only be marginally ahead of RAI. So if anything, Vettel is the one that has been underperforming against an aging Raikkonen, especially in the last couple of rounds. I never expected it to be this close after last year, and no, bad luck doesn't explain it all. Barrichello never even came close of scoring the same points as Schumi when they were team-mates at Ferrari, bad luck or not.
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  15. burrito

    It's an opinion, nothing more, nothing less. Premium

    Sure vettel is underperforming. The car is also underperforming. Defintely the Ferrari strategy pitwall are underperforming :p but I think RAI has had his day, his raw speed has not been there since 2013. The only highlight performance that springs to mind is Bahrain 2015 but I'll be happy to be proven wrong. Its only an opinion after all.
  16. Good list, look like the most sensible one.
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  17. Chris

    Ted Kravitz Appreciation Society Staff Premium

    I'm not from the uk, nor am I biased towards them. I've rated them purely based on the performance that I've observed from them this season. :)

    But, I very much appreciate that you've taken the time to read the article. The majority will simply scroll through the pictures, see the names and numbers and then think "HERESY!!!", lol. If people read my explanations, then they'll see it's actually not too difficult to understand why I've placed them where they've been placed.

    Thanks Rob, I always enjoy the debate with you :)
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2016
  18. You sure? Last time I checked Kvyat was a complete idiot and hit into him twice
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  19. arniesan


    Button and Alonso have shown that it is the sport that matters, along with loyalty...the podium is the icing on the cake; reserved for those with the best car/cars.
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  20. Milos

    Had things gone my way, who knows..

    and Alonso too.

    So, opinions.
    Personally, I don't think Rosberg performed well enough to be in the top 5. I think Perez and Wehrlein are placed too far down. The car is not as competitive as late-2015, and he managed to score two podiums to maybe launch FI into a battle against Williams, while scoring points in a Manor isn't exactly a small thing. Grosjean did much better than 15th also, and McLaren's good results on power dependant tracks are largely down to them taking off aero to compensate for the lack of power. The car is good, it got both drivers into the top 10 at Hungary.