until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Edd Straw's 2024 Australian Grand Prix F1 driver rankings

by Edd Straw
9 min read

With a Ferrari 1-2, Red Bull woe, a Mercedes on its side on the final lap and a penalty for a ‘dangerous’ driving for a double champion, the Australian Grand Prix was by far the most eventful of the 2024 Formula 1 races so far.

So who made the best of those circumstances and who contributed to the messiness? Here’s Edd Straw’s judgement on the drivers’ performances and his best-to-worst ranking for the Melbourne 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 result.

Started: 2nd Finished: 1st

Carlos Sainz oozed class in Australia, something made all the more impressive by the fact he returned to the cockpit just two weeks after an appendectomy.

He showed greater aptitude for extracting the most from the tricky C5 Pirellis than Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc in qualifying and might have grabbed pole position but for a small mid-corner moment in Turn 9/10 that turned into a bigger snap at the exit. His race drive was executed superbly.

Verdict: Outstanding but time on the table in qualifying.

Started: 8th Finished: 7th

Yuki Tsunoda comprehensively outperformed RB team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and was the class of the second half of the field throughout the weekend.

He was efficient in qualifying, reaching Q3 for the second time this season with pace Ricciardo didn’t believe was possible, then drove a clean and tidy race with the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll ahead never quite within reach.

Verdict: Maximised both qualifying and race result. 

Started: 3rd Finished: 3rd

One of those weekends Lando Norris grew into, gaining good confidence in the nick of time in qualifying to claim a place on the second row after what he called a “turnaround” having battled balance problems.

That laid the foundations for a good, clean race drive. He briefly lost third place to McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri after running five laps longer before the first pitstop but Norris would have got back ahead even without team orders intervening. A first podium of 2024 was the reward.

Verdict: Recovered well after practice struggles.

Started: 1st Finished: DNF

This was another one of those weekends where the Red Bull’s weakness in firing up the front tyres and the capricious soft compound could have tripped up Max Verstappen, but didn’t.

It came together in Q3, the first session Verstappen topped all weekend, for what he called an “unexpected” pole position.

Unfortunately, the right-rear brake calliper seizing did ruin Verstappen’s race through no fault of his own.

Verdict: Early exit limited the impression he could make.

Started: 13th Finished: 15th

It took Valtteri Bottas time to build up confidence in the rear end of the Sauber after his high-speed spin in FP1. But he was on the money in qualifying and had a slight edge on his team-mate even before Zhou Guanyu’s wing trouble.

Bottas was 11th and on course for a points finish when he made his ill-fated first pitstop, losing almost half a minute to a left-front wheelnut problem.

Verdict: Would have scored but for bad luck.

Started: 4th Finished: 2nd

Things started to get away from Charles Leclerc in final practice. He spent Saturday struggling to get the tyres working for a single lap and found himself “going from understeer to oversteer” on his abandoned fresh-tyre lap in Q3.

The quarter-of-a-second deficit to Ferrari team-mate Sainz on Saturday, combined with the fact he struggled a little with the tyres in the second stint, meant better than second in the race was never on.

Verdict: Couldn’t match Sainz’s tyre mastery.

Started: 5th Finished: 4th

Piastri showed good pace, but there were a few areas that swung the McLaren battle against him.

As he admitted, he made “too many mistakes when it mattered” in Q3 after outpacing McLaren team-mate Norris in the first two segments of qualifying.

While Piastri jumped Norris thanks to a five-lap undercut after making an early stop in a thwarted attempt to undercut Leclerc, he would have fallen behind again even without team orders.

Aside from a difficult second stint, where he battled graining and had a brief off, it was a decent race drive.

Verdict: Marginally second-best McLaren driver.

Started: 16th Finished: 9th

Nico Hulkenberg looked to have the pace to reach Q2 despite the Haas not being at its best at Albert Park, but had a frustrating Q1 with Sergio Perez impeding him on his first run then trouble with the change of wind direction and overloading the front tyre in Turn 9/10 that cost him time. As he put it, “not the cleanest of quali days”.

But he drove a good race, capitalising on pitting under the VSC to gain places and, with the help of Haas team-mate Kevin Magnussen letting him past, picking up ninth. 

Verdict: Disappointing Saturday, strong Sunday.

Started: 15th Finished: 16th

Esteban Ocon celebrated making Q2 over the radio almost as if it was a win, which was fair given the Alpine was the slowest car around Albert Park.

But he flirted with disaster getting there, surviving a brush of the wall at the last corner on his first Q1 run.

The race was a losing battle with futility once a tear-off got caught in a brake duct and forced an early second pitstop, costing what he perhaps optimistically felt was a shot at points.

Verdict: Did what he could with limited machinery.

Started: 14th Finished: 10th

Magnussen put in a tidy performance in qualifying to make it to Q2, outpacing Ocon’s Alpine to earn a place on the seventh row.

While the Haas wasn’t a points contender on merit, he drove a good race on the orthodox two-stopper, passing Alex Albon using DRS in the final stint to take what became 10th late on when George Russell crashed. He also played the team game along the way, letting Hulkenberg through.

Verdict: A decent weekend’s work.

Started: 6th Finished: 5th

Sergio Perez was unable to pick up the pieces after Red Bull team-mate Verstappen’s retirement, but there were at least mitigating factors.

Firstly, the three-place grid penalty for impeding Hulkenberg in Q1 that was the team’s fault and secondly, the fact the Red Bull didn’t have the huge race pace advantage of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

That added up to a weekend that was not as bad as it looked, but still a little disappointing.

Verdict: A little underwhelming.

Started: 9th Finished: 6th

Stroll had a quietly efficient weekend in Australia, leaving a couple of places on the table in qualifying thanks to a moment in Turn 9/10 and then executing a clean race to pick up a good result.

While there were no eye-catching peaks, he was at a decent enough level throughout and was rewarded with what was, after Fernando Alonso’s penalty, sixth place from what he called a “solid” race.

Verdict: Not as quick as Alonso, but cleaner.

Started: 7th Finished: 17th

Russell appeared more at peace with the limitations of the Mercedes than his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, although he struggled with the soft tyres in qualifying and felt that left a couple of tenths of laptime inaccessible.

His race went well until getting caught out by Alonso’s antics at Turn 6 on the penultimate lap, leading to a heavy crash while running seventh.

Could he have avoided it? It’s difficult to be certain but, as the stewards’ analysis of the data found he was caught out by suddenly closing on Alonso when the Aston Martin driver braked for a second time, Russell gets the benefit of the doubt.

Verdict: Coped better than Hamilton with Mercedes’ troubles.

Started: 11th Finished: DNF

Hamilton struggled to come to terms with the swings of a Mercedes he described as being on a knife-edge once the wind built up on Saturday.

He would have made Q3 - at Russell's expense - but for a small moment in the penultimate corner, which left him 11th on the grid.

His race didn’t last long as he retired after 15 laps with a loss of oil pressure while running a couple of seconds behind eventual sixth-place finisher Stroll.

Verdict: Not as comfortable as Russell.

Started: 10th Finished: 8th

Lots of small errors combined to make this an unsatisfactory trip to Australia for Alonso.

He suffered floor damage in a Friday off, had another trip through the gravel on his final Q3 run that left him 10th and then didn’t execute his attempt to hinder the chasing Russell at Turn 6 cleanly, resulting in the penalty that cost him two places.

Verdict: An uncharacteristically messy weekend.

Started: 17th Finished: 13th

Pierre Gasly appeared to struggle to build momentum through the weekend, albeit while fighting a losing battle against the lack of pace of the Alpine.

He couldn’t join team-mate Ocon in Q2, complaining of a downshift problem in Q1 but ultimately not hooking up a lap as good as his team-mate.

Then he did what he could in the race - save for a needless five-second penalty for crossing the white line at pit exit that he’d already been caught out by earlier in the weekend. 

Verdict: Slightly untidy at times.

Started: Pits Finished: 15th

Zhou’s pace in Australia was decent, but his weekend was undone by a tiny moment of imprecision at Turn 10 when he ran fractionally wide on his final Q1 lap.

That tore up his front wing and cost him a Q2 place, resulting in starting from the back of the grid as Sauber didn’t have a spare of the new-spec assembly.

Progress was always going to be difficult in the race even before his lengthy pitstop, the consequence of a gearbox/anti-stall problem that led to the car stalling.

Verdict: Another wasted weekend.

Started: 18th Finished: 12th

Ricciardo was perplexed by the pace deficit to RB team-mate Tsunoda even before his final Q1 lap was deleted, meaning he didn’t make Q2.

When he saw Tsunoda’s Q2 pace, he was even more baffled and said he was sceptical that the car was working as it should have been. There was no way back in the race and the pace wasn’t there to threaten the points.

Verdict: Something is still missing.

Started: 12th Finished: 11th

On Saturday and Sunday, Albon dragged what he could out of the Williams and got it into a position that would have yielded a points finish had the car had the pace to do so. It didn’t, but Albon did what he could.

Unfortunately, Albon’s FP1 shunt had massive repercussions and led to team-mate Logan Sargeant being unable to race after having to relinquish the one remaining intact monocoque. That means Albon plummets down the rankings.

Verdict: FP1 shunt proved disastrous. 

Started: N/A Finished: N/A

Sargeant relinquished his chassis to allow team-mate Albon to run on Saturday and Sunday, so he's unranked on this occasion.

Prior to having to hand his car over, he showed a flash of pace on Friday but cost himself a heavy-fuel run by damaging his medium tyres when he spun in FP2.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks