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Formula 1

Edd Straw's 2024 F1 Bahrain Grand Prix driver rankings

by Edd Straw
9 min read

A new Formula 1 season means it's once again time for Edd Straw to rank the performances of all 20 drivers across qualifying and the grand prix.

Here's who he thinks were the best performers at the season-opening Bahrain GP:

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: 1st Finished: 1st

This was textbook Verstappen, with the relentless battling to get the car right through practice followed by a well-executed qualifying, where he stole pole from a potentially quicker Ferrari.

He controlled the race as you would expect, taking fastest lap along the way and being as untouchable as you would expect a driver of his quality to be with a performance advantage.

Verdict: Picked up where he left off last year.

Started: 3rd Finished: 5th

Russell overachieved in qualifying thanks to being one of the few in Q3 to deliver something approaching the maximum the car was capable of. That earned him a surprising third on the grid.

After briefly running second, cooling management defined his race and fifth place was realistically the best he could have done considering the car issues and the race pace of the Ferraris.

Verdict: A strong start to an important season.

Started: 6th Finished: 9th

Alonso’s self-proclaimed overperformance in qualifying suggested the Aston Martin was better than it was.

That meant his race was one of regressing to the mean, which ultimately meant a lonely ninth place finish, that was as good as the car’s race pace would allow.

Verdict: Did what he could with the fifth-best car.

Started: 2nd Finished: 4th

Leclerc had the pace for pole position, setting the fastest time of qualifying in Q2, but admitted “the last lap wasn’t the best lap”.

That was partly thanks to having only one set of fresh softs available and feeling he lost rhythm and couldn’t nail the front-wing flap setting on the used-tyre run in Q3. But several small moments, notably at Turn 11, cost him.

The dramatic brake temperature offset, which there’s no indication he was responsible for, compromised his race and meant what he felt could have been second place ahead of Perez, turned to fourth.

Verdict: Shades Sainz given he’d likely have finished ahead without the brake problems.

Started: 4th Finished: 3rd

Q3 was disappointing, especially after a strong Q1 ensured he had two fresh sets of softs available, and he ended up a tenth off his team-mate despite Leclerc also underperforming.

Losing a place to Perez at the start ultimately cost him a shot at second place, as he wasn’t able to threaten the Red Bull driver despite never losing sight of him, which given the car-pace disadvantage was no great failure.

Verdict: Disappointing qualifying but a decent race.

Started: 5th Finished: 2nd

Perez was much happier with the entry stability of the car compared to last year, describing it as “a step better”.

However, he was too conservative into Turn 1 on his final Q3 lap, costing him a quarter of a second to Verstappen, and therefore should have been closer.

He put the pace of the car to good use and had second place in the bag after the first stint, albeit without being able to drop Sainz completely.

Verdict: Did the Red Bull number two job well.

Started: 17th Finished: 11th

Zhou was on the wrong side of a 0.001s split to Bottas in qualifying after what he called a “tricky and inconsistent” run through practice. But he drove a strong race, keeping out of trouble at Turn 1 thanks to being on the outside line and turning 13th on the first lap into 11th thanks to a pro-active pitstop strategy, stopping early to make use of the undercut to gain positions.

Although he held 10th in the middle stint, Stroll’s pace in a quicker car on a similar strategy meant Zhou was always destined for 11th.

Verdict: A well-executed race to start the season.

Started: 12th Finished: 10th

As Aston was the clear-fifth fastest car, 10th place was probably the pre-target for Stroll, but life was made unexpectedly difficult for him when he was booted into a spin by Hulkenberg at Turn 1.

From there, he delivered a calm recovery drive with a strategy based on harnessing the undercut to take an accomplished 10th.

Verdict: Qualifying was mediocre, but his race recovery impressed.

Started: 7th Finished: 6th

Had he nailed his final Q3 lap rather than only making a mild improvement with a lap that started to slip away with a slide in Turn 1, Norris could have put it on the front row.

However, that would have flattered the McLaren and made little difference to his race, save perhaps giving him a chance to beat Russell, who he ended up parked behind without the pace to attack.

Verdict: Could have qualified and finished higher with a stronger final Q3 lap.

Started: 13th Finished: 15th

With the Williams not being as “refined” as he would like, Albon was content to have put the car a couple of places higher up the grid than anticipated.

Unfortunately, his race was blighted by cooling troubles that meant it was a frustrating race of management, preventing him from getting seriously involved in the battle on the periphery of the points.

Verdict: Showed good pace, but contained in the race.

Started: 11th Finished: 14th

Tsunoda’s performance level was impressive and he was unfortunate to miss out on Q3 by 0.007s.

He put that down to the wheelspin at Turn 8, but the 0.149s advantage over Ricciardo was a fair reflection of their relative pace.

Strategy was against him and led to undercut losses at both stops having run 10th in the first stint.

Ricciardo’s soft strategy created the late-race situation where he delayed letting his team-mate past, with his frustration turning into embarrassing slowdown lap behaviour.

Verdict: Unnecessary late-race/slowdown lap antics damages his ranking.

Started: 8th Finished: 8th

Piastri always looked a fraction off Norris throughout the weekend, struggling with the balance of the car and not being able to produce his confident best.

Despite that, he was within a tenth in qualifying and would have followed Norris home in seventh, but for McLaren allowing Hamilton undercut his way past at the second stops - helped on by a lairy moment for Piastri out of Turn 1 when coming out of the pits.

Verdict: A solid opener but the second-best McLaren driver this weekend.

Started: 19th Finished: 17th

Ocon had the more orthodox weekend of the two Alpines, producing roughly what the car was capable of in qualifying and then running a conventional strategy.

Although he briefly slipped behind Gasly at the start, he got back ahead when his team-mate was delayed at Turn 1.

But saddled with the slowest car in the field, there was little to race for.

Verdict: Good performance in futile circumstances.

Started: 20th Finished: 18th

Neither Alpine driver had the tools to do anything but be at the back, although Gasly arguably had more misfortune.

Being at the back of the queue for the final Q1 runs meant his tyres weren’t in a good place for his push lap and he ended up a tenth-and-a-half behind Ocon.

A good race start was then undone by the Stroll/Hulkenberg clash, with Gasly’s well-executed three-stopper allowing him to chase down his team-mate in the final stint.

Verdict: A good job in a doomed cause.

Started: 10th Finished: 16th

Hulkenberg was one of the stars of qualifying and produced good race pace.

It’s just that this was all undermined by the first corner misjudgement that led to him tapping Stroll.

That gave him front wing damage and forced a first-lap pitstop, after which he showed pace good enough to have challenged for a point, albeit with the caveat that he benefitted from plenty of clean air.

Verdict: A superb weekend undermined by a Turn 1 error.

Started: 9th Finished: 7th

Despite being far more confident with the rear end of the Mercedes W15, Hamilton wasn’t able to show it thanks to underachieving in qualifying with a setup that was only fractionally slower than Russells, far less than the 0.225s deficit with a snap at Turn 4 costing him.

Like his team-mate, cooling concerns meant it was a race of survival rather than attacking, meaning little progress could be made.

Verdict: Cooling troubles meant little chance to recover in the race.

Started: 14th Finished: 13th

Ricciardo was the second-best RB driver throughout the weekend, with his late-race contretemps with Tsunoda the consequence of having a fresh set of softs for an attacking last stint compared to his team-mate’s hards.

What is clear is that he isn’t yet completely at ease with the car, which was reflected in his struggles to put together a clean qualifying lap.

Verdict: A so-so weekend.

Started: 16th Finished: 19th

After a solid but unspectacular qualifying, setting a near-identical time to his team-mate, the first 15 seconds of Bottas’s race went superbly, hooking up the start superbly and making gains.

Unfortunately, that put him right behind the Stroll/Hulkenberg collision and he dinged the back of the Haas.

That gave him front-wing damage he carried for the rest of the race, with a wheelnut problem in his second pitstop costing him another 50 seconds.

Verdict: Race misfortune gave him little opportunity to impress.

Started: 15th Finished: 12th

Although Magnussen didn’t have the single-lap pace of Hulkenberg and couldn’t get close to joining his team-mate in Q3 after struggling with mid-corner understeer, he strung together an effective race to take 12th place and was able to keep potentially quicker cars behind.

This was the kind of race drive last year’s tyre problems made impossible.

Verdict: Qualifying pace remains a concern.

Started: 18th Finished: 20th

Sargeant’s pace deficit to Albon was exaggerated by his struggles with tyre temperature on the final Q1 run, on which he failed to improve his laptime. That left him 0.373s behind Albon.

His race was effectively over on lap 10 when an electronics problem meant the brake bias launched forward. Although he recovered to the pits and had a new steering wheel fitted, that condemned him to a distant last.

Verdict: Unfortunate but unremarkable weekend.

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