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Formula 1

Edd Straw's 2024 Austrian Grand Prix F1 driver rankings

by Edd Straw
9 min read

Max Verstappen and Lando Norris's high-profile crash while fighting for the race lead dominated the headlines from the Austrian Grand Prix.

But that only tells half the story of a grand prix in which a Ferrari missed out on the points altogether while Haas scored a brilliant double-top 10.

How badly did Verstappen's and Norris's faults count against them on a Red Bull Ring weekend where neither was error-free? Here's Edd Straw's judgement.

How do the rankings work? The 20 drivers will be ranked in order of performance from best to worst on each grand prix weekend. This will be based on the full range of criteria, ranging from pace and racecraft to consistency and whether they made key mistakes. How close each driver got to delivering on the maximum performance potential of the car will be an essential consideration.

It’s important to note both that this reflects performance across the entire weekend, cognisant of the fact that qualifying is effectively ‘lap 0’ of the race and key to laying the foundations to the race, and that it is not a ranking of the all-round qualities of each driver. It’s simply about how they performed on a given weekend. Therefore, the ranking will fluctuate significantly from weekend to weekend.

And with each of the 10 cars fundamentally having different performance potential and ‘luck’ (ie factors outside of a driver’s control) contributing to the way the weekend plays out, this ranking will also differ significantly from the overall results.

Started: 3rd Finished: 1st

The win itself is not the reason for George Russell's lofty ranking. It's down to the third place that he was on course for before the Norris/Verstappen collision, which represented the best possible result on what was Russell’s most complete weekend of the season.

He maximised what was possible across both the sprint and proper grand prix components and also had the edge on team-mate Lewis Hamilton throughout.

Verdict: The result was secondary to the strong performance.

Started: 4th Finished: 3rd

It might seem surprising to see Carlos Sainz ranked so high after an unobtrusive weekend. But he did a good, clean job in a Ferrari that was fourth-best and tricky to drive, particularly after post-sprint changes.

He avoided the misfortune that made life difficult for Charles Leclerc, but also outperformed his team-mate and came away with good results in both qualifying sessions and both races.

Verdict: A quietly effective weekend.

Started: 7th Finished: 2nd

Running a few millimetres wide in qualifying and dropping from third on the grid to seventh likely cost Oscar Piastri the chance to be involved in the Verstappen/Norris battle, or at least pick up the pieces when they clashed.

But second in both races, the latter after a good drive to work his way forwards, was still a good haul.

Verdict: Marginal Q3 moment proved costly.

Started: 9th Finished: 6th

The weekend started badly for Nico Hulkenberg, who lacked confidence in the sprint part of the weekend and wasn’t at Kevin Magnussen’s level, on top of earning a penalty for forcing Fernando Alonso off track.

But he put in a superb qualifying performance, reclaiming the midfield-leading place he lost to Ocon at the first corner early in the stint then not putting a foot wrong.

The late rearguard to keep Sergio Perez's Red Bull at bay for sixth was particularly impressive.

Verdict: Superb after sprint struggles.

Started: 12th Finished: 8th

Magnussen was arguably the standout performer through sprint qualifying and the race, putting the Haas at the front of the midfield.

While Hulkenberg inched ahead in qualifying, Magnussen was only 0.085s off him in Q2 and effectively tracked him throughout the race. The only real difference was he couldn’t hold off Perez.

Verdict: His most convincing event of the year.

Started: 11th Finished: 9th

This was one of Ricciardo’s most impressive weekends of 2024 given he faced a battle to extract pace from the car and then had to execute the race very well to undercut his way past the Alpines before holding Pierre Gasly at bay to take a couple of points.

Having been just off Yuki Tsunoda in the sprint component of the weekend, he was marginally ahead for the grand prix.

Verdict: A good, battling weekend.

Started: 13th Finished: 10th

Gasly was just on the wrong side of the tiny gap to his team-mate Esteban Ocon, until the race where he managed to overtake him around the outside at Turn 4 on his way to taking the final point.

He couldn’t do anything about Ricciardo in the final stint despite chasing him down on fresher (and softer) tyres.

Verdict: A strong race to reverse the intra-Alpine battle.

Started: 2nd Finished: DNF

As he wasn’t to blame for the collision with Verstappen, that doesn’t harm Norris's ranking. In fact, much of what Norris did in Austria was superb.

However, what he called an "amateur" mistake after leaving the door open to Verstappen in the sprint race, which also led to him dropping behind team-mate Piastri, and earning a track-limits penalty in the grand prix (albeit one that had no impact) with a misjudged attack on Verstappen does count against him given it might have cost him victory even if he had been able to win on the road.

Verdict: A few shaky moments in battle.

Started: 1st Finished: 5th

Verstappen’s ranking takes a hit because of the way he responded to the unexpected pressure from Norris.

While he wasn’t responsible for the pitstop blunder that meant he fell into Norris’s clutches having been exemplary up to that point, he did overstep the mark and cause a collision that didn’t need to happen.

That turned a certain top-two finish into fifth on a weekend where he was otherwise destined to be at the top.

Verdict: Overly-aggressive in defence.

Started: 5th Finished: 4th

Hamilton still appears to be that fraction less comfortable with the car than Russell, meaning he was by a small margin the second-best Mercedes driver in Austria.

He briefly got ahead of Russell in the grand prix before being repassed, but had to cede a place to Sainz after running wide at Turn 1 at the start, then made a mistake that led to him sliding over the pit-entry line, earning a five-second penalty. Minor floor damage further compounded his tricky race.

Verdict: The second-best Mercedes driver.

Started: 10th Finished: 12th

Ocon shaded his team-mate Gasly through the sprint sessions and qualifying proper and was initially on course for a strong result after grabbing eighth from Hulkenberg at the start.

But the pace wasn’t strong enough to stay at the front of the midfield and a combination of that, losing out to Gasly in battle, the strategy not quite working out and losing his left-side rear brake duct winglets added up to a disappointing result.

Verdict: A good weekend slipped away in the grand prix.

Started: 16th Finished: 15th

Williams struggled again in Austria and Alex Albon did too early in the weekend, committing to a pitlane start for the sprint to allow set-up changes.

That meant a slightly improved performance in qualifying for the grand prix itself, although his hopes of being able to finish at least within a few places of the points were ruined by a penalty for crossing the pit-entry line and iffy strategy.

Verdict: Limited by the machinery.

Started: 17th Finished: 13th

Considering Aston Martin's struggles, Lance Stroll's weekend was solid enough, with his performance in sprint qualifying and the Saturday race particularly good.

Qualifying for the main event wasn't as good and that meant a difficult race, although his pace wasn’t bad compared to Alonso.

Verdict: Stronger in the sprint sessions.

Started: 18th Finished: 16th

The Sauber was the slowest car in Austria, meaning Valtteri Bottas had little to work with.

He outpaced Zhou Guanyu with relative ease and did what he could, which amounted to being resolutely 18th in the two qualifying sessions - admitting he didn’t get the best out of the car in qualifying proper - and the sprint before hitting the heady heights of 16th in the grand prix thanks to Logan Sargeant’s troubles and Norris’s retirement.

Verdict: On a hiding to nothing.

Started: 14th Finished: 14th

The performance of the two RB drivers was similar, with Tsunoda having a slender edge for the sprint but being just over a tenth off Ricciardo in main qualifying and having a tougher race thanks to opting for a far longer first stint.

His pace was decent without being extraordinary.

Verdict: A middling weekend by his standards.

Started: 6th Finished: 11th

With the exception of a good first lap in the sprint race, this was a painful weekend for Leclerc.

Some problems were out of his control, such as the engine shutting off while queuing to leave the pits and ensuring he couldn’t set an SQ3 time. Others, like his off while reaching for a miracle lap in qualifying proper, were his mistake.

As for the start, when he was squeezed between Piastri and Perez and suffered front wing damage, that was a mixture of misfortune and misadventure after finding himself in the ‘middle lane’ entering Turn 1. His grand prix pace was good, but with the benefit of an unusual strategy.

Verdict: One of those weekends.

Started: 8th Finished: 7th

While Perez’s deficit to Verstappen in the main qualifying session of 0.9s was exaggerated by the fact he set his time on used softs, he simply wasn’t at Verstappen’s level. Eighth in the sprint and seventh, albeit after picking up some damage that meant the car was “all over the place”, in the grand prix tells you everything you need to know about his struggles.

His ranking might seem harsh but this is significant underachievement in a car capable of winning.

Verdict: Another laboured weekend.

Started: 15th Finished: 18th

Aston Martin’s struggles continue to take the edge off Alonso, who laboured too much for pace against Stroll and clobbered Zhou clumsily while trying to work his way past the Sauber, which had yet to pit.

The Aston Martin wasn’t ever likely to be an Austria points-scorer, but Alonso at his best would have got more out of it.

Verdict: Another flat weekend.

Started: 19th Finished: 19th

The two qualifying sessions went well for Sargeant, reaching SQ2 and outpacing his team-mate on Friday and then lapping within a tenth of Albon in qualifying proper.

Unfortunately, the races didn’t go so well - with a difficult sprint followed by a terrible race after he suffered front wing damage on the first lap when he got caught out by the Turn 3 concertina and hit Stroll.

Verdict: Qualifying was fine, the races were difficult.

Started: 20th (pits) Finished: 17th

Zhou couldn’t build on the positivity from the Spanish Grand Prix after car changes, suffering a weekend in which he “just didn't really have the pace”.

A couple of tenths off and underachieving versus Bottas in qualifying proper was as good as it got, although being clobbered by Alonso in the race didn’t help after a pitlane start following car changes under parc ferme.

Verdict: Something still isn’t right.

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