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Old 30-07-18, 17:18   #1
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Race Car Mid-Season F1 Driver Ratings: Who Has Excelled So Far

Mid-Season F1 Driver Ratings: Who Has Excelled So Far and Who Needs to Do Better in 2018?

The Telegraph UK, 30 July 2018.

It has been a very tight championship in 2018 so far but who has performed well in the first part of the F1 season? Credit: getty images

The 2018 Formula One season is now beyond the half-way point and the traditional summer break is finally here. What a season it has been. Two drivers vying for their fifth world drivers title and to match Juan Manuel Fangio, Mercedes dominance seemingly over and emotion. So much emotion from drivers and teams alike. And mistakes. Let's not forget mistakes. And on-track action. It has really been one of the best F1 seasons in recent times with a disproportionate (by recent standards) amount of breathless, chaotic races.

With 12 of 21 rounds finished and around a month until the next grand prix in Belgium we assess how the field of 20 drivers has done so far. Some have a lot of work to do, for sure, whilst a few have outclassed their team-mates and out-performed their unfavoured cars.

Must do Better

20. Stoffel Vandoorne - McLaren

Stoffel Vandoorne has had a difficult second season in F1 Credit: afp

Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne would have - like his team - started the season with the hope of regular points finishes for McLaren. Things started reasonably, with points finishes in three of the first four races, but since then he has not scored a single point.Vandoorne has not been able to get anything close to the maximum out of the MCL 33 - which has now slipped to the back of the midfield on raw pace. He also has been out-qualified by Fernando Alonso at every race this season. Unless there are rapid improvements, a seat at McLaren in 2019 looks unlikely.
Points so far: 8 (16th, 32 behind team-mate)
Qualifying record against team-mate: 0-12
Rating: 4.5/10

19. Brendon Hartley - Toro Rosso

Brendon Hartley has struggled in his first full season of F1. The former World Endurance Champion was an unlikely choice for Toro Rosso this year, as they tend to favour younger drivers. It was a sensible choice made in the hope of consistent performances from an experienced racer but a combination of mistakes and bad luck have cost the Kiwi this season. There is a big performance gap to his team-mate who took advantage of Toro Rosso's early season pace, which has since faded. Still chance to come good, though.

Points: 2 (19th, 24 behind team mate)
Qualifying record: 3-7
Rating: 5/10

18. Lance Stroll - Williams

Lance Stroll has had just one points finish in 2018 so far Credit: getty images

The Williams FW41 is the team's worst for quite some time, possibly ever. Its fundamental aerodynamic problems have meant that they have been lucky to score any points at all. Lance Stroll did indeed do that in Baku with eighth place as those around him fell out of contention but he has failed to make any impression since then. Trails Sirotkin in qualifying too.

Points: 4 (18th, four ahead of team-mate)
Qualifying record: 5-6
Rating: 5/10

17. Sergey Sirotkin - Williams

Sirotkin, currently the only driver in the field yet to score a point, gets a bit of a pass because it's his first season and the car he drives is unusually bad. Stroll has the points but Williams's two best qualifying performances of the season - in Monaco and Germany - came at the hands of the Russian. Little to chose between him and Stroll this year but the Russian deserves another season with Williams.

Points: 0 (20th, four behind team mate)
Qualifying record: 6-5
Rating: 5/10

16. Romain Grosjean - Haas

A mistake by his pit crew in the first round of the season cost Grosjean dearly but for a while after that the mistakes were all his. Stuffing it into the barriers whilst sixth under the Safety Car in Baku, keeping his foot on the throttle in Spain ending his own race and the races of others. Bad luck again cost him in Montreal but he crashed again in final qualifying in France and then failed to close his DRS at Silverstone in FP1. Only three points finishes in 12 races in the fourth quickest car is disappointing but with fourth in Austria and sixth in Germany he is finally scoring and heading in the right direction. Looks to have now turned the metaphorical corner.

21 (14th, 24 behind team mate)
Qualifying record: 3-7
Rating: 5.5/10

Decent but Inconsistent

15. Marcus Ericsson - Sauber

Compared to Charles Leclerc Marcus Ericsson is having a poor-to-average season. But that is not an entirely fair comparison. Although he is miles behind his team-mate on average in qualifying he has now scored points on three occasions this year; making it already his second best season in F1 with the potential to be his best. Ericsson is not one of the quickest on the grid but he is no mug and semi-regular points finishes and Q2 appearances are now a possibility.

Points: 5 (17th, eight behind team mate)
Qualifying record: 3-9
Rating: 6/10

14. Sergio Perez - Force India

A podium in Baku has been the highlight of Sergio Perez's season Credit: ap

The first half of the season has been a tale of two...er...halves for both Force India drivers. The team have not been able to match the consistent pace they had in 2017. A third in Baku was a superb result for the Mexican but there was only two points in the next four races. 13 came in the next three but Esteban Ocon would score 22 in this same period. He has been frequently out-qualified by the Frenchman as well but is performing solidly in an improving car.

Points: 30 (10th, one ahead of team mate)
Qualifying record: 3-9
Rating: 6/10

13. Carlos Sainz - Renault

Carlos Sainz is fairly evenly-matched with his Renault team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, so at the start of the season it was a battle to keep an eye on. Sainz, in his first season at Renault on loan from Red Bull, has fared reasonably well against the more experienced German. He had an incredibly impressive run of making it to Q3 for the first nine races and managed to reduce a 22-3 points deficit to his team-mate at the end of round three to just 34-28 six races later. Three consecutive non-scoring weekends when Hulkenberg scored heavily held him back. Has the pace and ability to overturn it and challenge for seventh in the championship - the first driver behind the top three teams - but a 22-point gap looks tough to overturn from here.

Points: 30 (11th, 22 behind team mate)
Qualifying record: 5-7

12. Max Verstappen - Red Bull

Max Verstappen's early season was marred by numerous crashes Credit: action plus

Max Verstappen has turned his season around quite well after a fairly rotten start, mostly of his own doing. Errors in Australia, Bahrain, China, Azerbaijan and Monaco led to much criticism and a lot of dropped points. By the end of Monaco Daniel Ricciardo had two victories and was 37 points ahead. But once Verstappen stopped driving into other cars and the barriers he took four podiums and a win in the next five races. Going into Hungary he was just one point behind Ricciardo but a mechanical failure dropped him back a handful of points. Has much better one-lap pace, though.

Points: 105 with one win (6th, 13 behind team mate)
Qualifying record: 9-2
Rating: 6.5/10

11. Pierre Gasly - Toro Rosso

Gasly has put in a few superb performances when it has been possible; taking fourth in Bahrain (where he ran every session in the top 10) and seventh in Monaco. In Bahrain he significantly outperformed his car and in Monaco too but to a lesser extent. As his team started to slip behind Sauber on raw pace, scoring too many more looked a struggle but he finished an excellent sixth in Hungary, with genuine pace, for his third points finish of the year.

Points: 26 (13th, 24 ahead of team mate)
Qualifying record: 7-3
Rating: 7/10

Good But Some Room for Improvement

10. Kimi Raikkonen - Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen (and his shades) has been a regular feature on the podium in 2018 Credit: reuters

In truth Kimi Raikkonen could be ranked anywhere in the top three categories. Some might describe his performances in 2018 as "mercurial" but "just about good enough" is probably more accurate. His pace in the early part of the season was good and much closer to Vettel than in 2017 but the Finn struggled to keep up with him in the following rounds and made a few costly mistakes in qualifying as well. That said he has delivered enough points to be third in the title and eight podiums out of 12 (and five in a row!) is a very good return. He is probably exactly what Ferrari need at the moment. But he is in the quickest car of the lot...

146 (3rd, 43 behind team mate)
Qualifying record: 2-10
Rating: 7/10

9. Esteban Ocon - Force India

After sitting on a solitary point from the end of Bahrain until the Monaco Grand Prix, Esteban Ocon found some of the form he had in his first full season in F1, taking points in five of the next six races and closing up the gap to Sergio Perez to a single point. But for an unlucky retirement in his home race it might have been six in six. Has also stuffed Perez in qualifying.

Points: 29 (12th, one behind team mate)
Qualifying record: 9-3
Rating: 7.5/10

8. Sebastian Vettel - Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel has made a few costly errors in a tight championship Credit: getty images

It seems strange to say it but going into the summer break, Sebastian Vettel's season hangs in the balance. Unlike Hamilton's championship, the heaviest damage to Vettel's title chances have been mostly of his own doing. A misjudgment and over-eagerness in Baku cost him the chance of a win, he tagged Bottas into the first turn at Paul Ricard and we all know what happened in Germany. They have not been huge errors in themselves but add them all up and they have huge significance. And are not the sort you want to be making if you want to maximise your chances of beating Lewis Hamilton. Ferrari now have the quickest car but we will only know at the end of the season how crucial these mistakes will come to be. Still, he has put in some superb weekends too but how he responds under pressure might be what decides the championship.

Points: 189 with four wins (2nd, 43 ahead of team-mate)
Qualifying record: 10-2
Rating: 7.5/10

7. Daniel Ricciardo - Red Bull

In the first six races of the season Daniel Ricciardo was irresistable: taking a stunning victory through the field in China and then a dominant drive in Monaco (thought not without its jeopardy), leaving him on two wins - the same as Vettel and Hamilton at that stage. Since Monaco his results have paled in comparison to Verstappen's, not featuring on the podium when the Dutchman has been a regular and with two retirements (four in total for the season) as well. Hungary represented a good chance of a win but Red Bull just didn't have the pace in the wet or the dry. The Aussie drove his way through the field, as he said he would, from 15th on the first lap to fourth by the chequered flag. Needs and deserves a better package, like his team-mate.

Points: 118 with two wins (5th, 13 ahead of team mate)
Qualifying record: 2-9
Rating: 7.5/10

6. Valtteri Bottas - Mercedes

Valtteri Bottas has had some rotten luck in 2018 but has picked up regular second place finishes Credit: afp

They used to say that if Mark Webber did not have bad luck he would have no luck at all. Valtteri Bottas might currently feel like the 2018 Mark Webber. He has been much closer to Lewis Hamilton's overall pace and performance this year than last year but still has not won a race. He drove well enough for it in China and Azerbaijan and had an outside chance in Bahrain too, which he did not take. But Safety Cars, debris, a mechanical failure, Sebastian Vettel and (perhaps) team orders have all conspired against him. He was rightly rewarded with a new contract for 2019 but will want a win so desperately in 2018. It might be hard with Ferrari the quickest car and Hamilton hitting form.

Points: 132 (4th, 67 behind team-mate)
Qualifying record: 5-7
Rating: 7.5/10

Top of the Class

5. Nico Hulkenberg - Renault

F1's Mr Consistent has lived up to his name this year. Apart from one uncharacteristic error in Azerbaijan, Nico Hulkenberg has found the most from his car and currently sits behind only Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes drivers in the standings. Has finished in the points every race he finished apart from Hungary (two DNFs were not his fault), including two top-four finishes. He sits comfortably ahead of Sainz in the standings, although it might be much closer come the end of the season.

Points: 52 (7th, 22 ahead of team mate)
Qualifying record: 7-5
Rating: 8/10

4. Kevin Magnussen - Haas

Lining up with the same team for a second full season in a row seems to have been a big help for Kevin Magnussen. After his debut race podium at the start of 2014 he looked like McLaren's next big thing. He will be glad he ended up getting shunted out of that team a few years back, too and even happier with his decision to go to Haas, who have become the fourth quickest team on raw pace. Unlike his team-mate, Magnussen has generally taken the chances when they have appeared, having seven points finishes in 12 races and four in the last five. Alongside Sainz, Alonso and Hulkenberg he is in with a good possibility of taking seventh in the championship. Has also found the qualifying pace over Grosjean when he needs it.

Points: 45 (8th, 24 ahead of team mate)
Qualifying record: 7-3
Rating: 8.5/10

3. Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton has put in strong performances after a slow start to the season Credit: reuters

It was a slow and strange offish start to the year for Lewis Hamilton. A fortunate win in Azerbaijan got him back on track and he has held an (admittedly, quickly changing) championship lead for six of the next eight rounds. Further wins in Spain, France and Germany put him 24 points ahead of Vettel going into the summer break. Has been his usual sensitive and up-and-down self character-wise but he has been increasingly quick and consistent in the car much more so than Vettel and with fewer mistakes than the German. A long way to go but the work is Vettel's to do at the moment.

Points: 213 with five wins (1st, 67 ahead of team mate)
Qualifying record: 7-5
Rating: 8.5/10

2. Fernando Alonso - McLaren

Fernando Alonso has got the absolute maximum out of another poor McLaren, a package which has regressed as the season has gone on. No worry for Fernando, though, as he is up in the championship with drivers in much quicker cars. He may struggle to keep up his ninth place in the championship given McLaren's direction and the fact that he scored a ton of points in the first five races. If the opportunity is there he will probably take it, though. As he has done all year. Has not been out-qualified by Vandoorne once in 2018, either. What a waste it is to see him here and not up the front. But the days of Fernando in a front-running car are over. McLaren will rightly worry who to replace him with when he does leave the sport.

Points: 44 (9th, 32 ahead of team mate)
Qualifying record: 12-0
Rating: 9/10

1. Charles Leclerc - Sauber

Could Charles Leclerc be in a Ferrari next season? Credit: getty images

He took a few races to find his place in F1 but when he did, well, he arrived with a stunning sixth place in a chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix. He followed this up with another four points finishes in the next five races to take him to 13 championship points. He has out-qualified his team-mate 9-3 this season and has one of the biggest average gaps among team-mates in the field and several Q3 appearances. Although the Sauber is much improved this season - with Alfa Romeo help and current Ferrari power - Leclerc is still outperforming his car, much like Alonso. Ferrari awaits. But when?

Points: 13 (15th, eight ahead of team mate)
Qualifying record: 9-3
Rating: 9/10
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