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Formula 1

Edd Straw's 2024 Spanish Grand Prix F1 driver rankings

by Edd Straw
10 min read

Formula 1's Spanish Grand Prix is well known as a true test of car performance but that didn't prevent a number of standout drives shining through - though there were also some weekends to forget.

Here's Edd Straw's verdict on who did the best job over the course of the Barcelona weekend:

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: 2nd Finished: 1st

As the competition gets close, Verstappen’s excellence is thrown into ever-sharper relief. While he missed out on pole position, the gap to Norris was minuscule.

In the race, he did everything necessary to take a victory that was a little more comfortable than it should have been. The great start and early pass on Russell were crucial in allowing him to do that.

Verdict: A master at work.

Started: 7th Finished: 9th

Gasly’s difficult start to the season looks well and truly behind him.

He excelled in qualifying despite the car not looking especially well-balanced for him, outpacing Ocon before executing his race superbly to take the best possible result.

And while Perez got him on the last lap, Gasly’s huge tyre and car disadvantage made an easy DRS pass inevitable.

Verdict: His best drive of the season.

Started: 1st Finished: 2nd

Norris’s qualifying performance was outstanding, gaining time in the high-speed corners when he needed to at the end of Q3 to pip Verstappen.

The wheelspin in the second phase of his start was ultimately what cost him, along with not being able to pass Russell in the first stint, explaining why he was kicking himself for throwing away a potential victory.

However, he also deserves credit for his all-round pace, and his intelligence in backing out when the alternative was a near-certain collision at Turn 1.

Verdict: Tiny details cost him victory.

Started: 3rd Finished: 3rd

As the Mercedes improves, Hamilton’s season appears to be coming alive.

While still not completely at one with the Mercedes, he and Russell were evenly matched in qualifying.

Hamilton’s bad start made life difficult, but he came through to third late on having run long enough in the middle stint to be confident of bolting on softs for the final stint.

Verdict: Finding his form. 

Started: 5th Finished: 5th

Leclerc and his team-mate Sainz were closely matched, with both butting up against the same car limitations.

Leclerc was ahead in qualifying, but only by 0.005s and he ultimately prevailed in the battle between the two in the race thanks to the strategic offset that allowed him to avoid using the hards.

However, his misjudged swipe across Norris’s bows that led to contact in FP3 was a needless blunder that counts against him - even if it didn’t earn him a penalty.

Verdict: Maxed out the Ferrari. 

Started: 12th Finished: 16th

With the Sauber working better at a track that puts less demand on bump/kerb riding than the recent run of races, Bottas produced a superb qualifying performance to miss Q3 by just 0.118s.

Unfortunately, any opportunity for points dissolved with the poor decision to take a second set of softs for the middle stint that were never going to last and forced a long final stint on hards - meaning he was the only driver not to run the medium that proved to be the best compound for the race.

Verdict: Fast but unfortunate. 

Started: 4th Finished: 4th

Russell was near as makes no difference as quick as Hamilton in qualifying, but as is often the case his pace across race stints and tyre management wasn’t quite at his team-mate’s level.

That meant he ended up on hards in the final stint and slipped back behind Hamilton. But his brilliant, calculated swoop around the outside at Turn 1 - rehearsed on laps to the grid - added a dash of magic to his race.

Verdict: Raced and qualified strongly.

Started: 6th  Finished: 6th

Sainz was right there with Leclerc on pace and there was little to choose between them.

His early pass - one that his team-mate wasn’t happy with both because of the contact and the fact Leclerc believed they were meant to be holding station and conserving tyres in that phase of the race - got Sainz ahead, but the diverging strategy meant he slipped behind again. 

Verdict: Closely matched with Leclerc.

Started: 13th Finished: 11th

As Barcelona doesn’t play to the strengths of the Haas, Hulkenberg did a superb job to put the car firmly into Q2.

In the race, he held 10th for the majority of the first stint after jumping ahead of Alonso and Perez but was always destined to slip behind the Red Bull.

That made his 11th place on the road, close to Ocon, probably the best possible result, but he did blot his copybook with a lockup at his final pitstop that led to a five second pitlane speeding penalty.

Verdict: Got the best out of the Haas. 

Started: 8th Finished: 10th

While Ocon was second-best of the Alpine drivers, he still produced a good weekend to qualify well and grab a point.

That’s despite struggling with a car that puzzled him in the race, complaining about oversteer at entry and exit and understeer mid-corner.

He confirmed after the race that the team detected a loss of the expected downforce, meaning he did a good job to ensure he didn’t slip out of the points.

Verdict: Good, but second-best Alpine.

Started: 10th Finished: 12th

Alonso was surprisingly happy after qualifying despite missing Q3 in a car that ultimately was a marginal top-10 runner at best.

His difficult first stint, which started with an excursion at Turn 1 when he reacted to Piastri having to check up ahead of him, ultimately took the sting out of his push for points and locked him into a course to finish behind Ocon and Hulkenberg in a car that might have been able to nick a point with a perfect race.

Verdict: Decent but not peak Alonso.

Started: 18th Finished: 15th

Amid RB’s struggles, Ricciardo underachieved slightly in qualifying but then executed the race well in a hopeless cause.

Effectively he ‘won’ the stragglers' group at the back of the field given the gap to the cars ahead was 20s by the end of the race.

Having made some good progress in the middle stint, he inevitably slipped back after hitting blue flags. 

Verdict: About where an RB should be at Barcelona.

Started: 9th Finished: 7th

Piastri seemed bewildered by his inability to produce anything like his usual form at Barcelona, where he struggled for confidence and consistency throughout the weekend.

That meant a big gap in qualifying, which inevitably meant he was up against it in the race. His drive to seventh was good, although he was far from happy with it. 

Verdict: Laboured in a winning car.

Started: 11th Finished: 8th

Perez was frank in admitting “we’ve been a little bit too far [off]” as he struggled for balance.

However, the three-place grid penalty he carried into the weekend made his life much harder in the early stages of the race in particular.

But Perez at least stuck at it on a three-stop strategy and salvaged a few points on one of those weekends where he primarily seemed to exist to show just how much Verstappen is getting out of the machinery.

Verdict: Like Piastri, also laboured in a winning car.

Started: 15th Finished: 13th

Zhou described himself as “confident, more comfortable with the car” after a switch of chassis and parts in the hope of eliminating a problem he has carried since Imola.

That worked, but he was still half a second off Bottas in Q2 after struggling with understeer, having been right with his team-mate in Q1.

He drove a good race on an orthodox strategy, which allowed him to beat his quicker team-mate, and did a particularly good job to keep Stroll behind in the middle stint.

Verdict: Car changes yielded an upturn in form.

Started: 14th Finished: 14th

Stroll was just under a quarter of a second off Alonso in qualifying.

Despite passing his Aston Martin team-mate early on, he finished 16s behind thanks to being undercut at the first round of stops by the early-stopping Zhou.

That meant he was stuck behind the Sauber in the middle stint, curtailing that in an attempt to undercut himself and forcing too-long a final stint on the hards.

Verdict: Solid but nothing special.

Started: 17th Finished: 19th

Tsunoda shaded Ricciardo in qualifying but had one of those races where nothing went right, losing places in the first stint, making an early stop, and compounding his problems with a pitlane speeding penalty.

In his defence, he was baffled by a car he felt had something wrong, although the pace he showed at times relative to Ricciardo and the team’s uncertainty suggested it might just have been down to the car’s limitations at this track.

If something is definitively found, then this ranking will be harsh but as it stands there's little other merits ranking him any higher.

Verdict: The race got away from him.

UPDATE: RB discovered floor mounting bracket damage during its post-weekend checks of Tsunoda's VCARB 01.

Started: 20th (pitlane) Finished: 18th

Albon didn’t expect much from Williams at Barcelona in terms of performance, but was anticipating more than this.

He failed to make Q2 for the first time this year, which was more down to car than driver even though it wasn’t a perfect lap.

He executed the race well after starting from the pits having taken a fresh control electronics and energy store to reduce the risk of penalties later in the year, but his wind-assisted trip through the gravel at Turn 4 drops him down the rankings.

Verdict: On a hiding to nothing.

Started: 16th Finished: 17th

Despite his complaints about traffic, most significantly his own team-mate who Haas had tried to release from the garage a few seconds after Magnussen did before getting stuck in an almighty traffic jam, he still didn’t have Hulkenberg’s edge of pace in qualifying.

A jump start, which he took responsibility for, meant a penalty and made sure it would be a long afternoon buried in the lower order.

Verdict: Another patchy weekend.

Started: 19th  Finished: 20th

Sargeant’s excitement at finally having the new lightweight floor turned to frustration when it didn’t produce the intended downforce.

That made it difficult to judge his performance, but the deficit to Albon in qualifying and the race was definitely smaller than it looked on paper.

Partly down to this problem, he went nowhere in the race, describing it as “a disaster” and “probably one of the worst I’ve had in F1”.

Verdict: As he said, “a painful weekend”.

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