Formula 1

Edd Straw’s 2023 Austrian Grand Prix F1 driver rankings

by Edd Straw
11 min read

Two qualifying sessions in different conditions, an inters-to-slicks sprint and an avalanche of track limits penalties – there was a lot for drivers to trip up on during F1’s Austrian Grand Prix weekend, and those who didn’t trip up can be deemed to have excelled.

But while Max Verstappen was his usual imperious self, taking maximum points and making that look a formality all throughout, one of his friends on the F1 grid left an even bigger impression in the context of his team’s season so far.


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.


Lando Norris McLaren F1 Austrian GP ranking

Started: 4th Finished: 4th

Gelled well with the upgraded McLaren despite the new parts not eradicating the handling quirks McLaren has long been battling, and got everything he could out of the car.

The sprint race was the one missing piece, but that was the result of being hindered by the battling Red Bulls at Turn 3 and the anti-stall kicking in when the revs dropped.

Drove an excellent race on Sunday both when running alone and in battle.

Verdict: A vintage Norris weekend.

Max Verstappen Red Bull F1 Austrian GP ranking

Started: 1st Finished: 1st

Another consummate weekend from Verstappen, resulting in a full house of pole positions and wins in both races.

Again, the comparison with Perez proved being in a Red Bull doesn’t make success a foregone conclusion and Verstappen’s ruthless determination to maximise everything ensured he executed all aspects of the weekend well and emerged with a maximum points haul.

Verdict: Utterly in control, as usual.

Nico Hulkenberg F1 Austrian GP ranking

Started: 8th Finished: DNF

Hulkenberg was head and shoulders above team-mate Magnussen and looked far more confident attacking the corners. That earned him eighth and fourth in the two qualifying sessions.

His sixth place in the sprint was superb, running second after seizing on the Red Bull drivers hindering each other before inevitably being shuffled back. The drying conditions presented the opportunity for a switch to slicks that sidestepped Haas’s tyre degradation problems and he did a superb job on mediums to climb to sixth.

His grand prix was brief, with a relatively early stop followed by a power unit failure.

Verdict: A high-class weekend all round.

Alex Albon Williams F1 Austrian GP ranking

Started: 10th Finished: 11th

Looked utterly assured behind the wheel and seemed to extract the most from the Williams in both qualifying sessions. A stop for slicks that came slightly too late likely cost him points in the sprint given he ran seventh for 18 laps – and although he had fed back that he was managing the tyres perhaps he should have questioned the subsequent slicks call emphatically.

He had a clean race but was always destined to be just outside the points, holding on to 11th despite a 10-second post race penalty for track limits violations on top of the five-second penalty he served at his second stop.

Verdict: A Canada-level weekend, but with many track limits violations.

Carlos Sainz Ferrari F1 Austrian GP ranking

Started: 3rd Finished: 6th

There were signs Sainz might have been the quicker Ferrari driver in terms of underlying pace, although he couldn’t match Leclerc’s commitment in the final two corners in Q3.

He produced “one of the craziest laps of my career” after a brake-by-wire problem restricted him to a brief run in SQ1 and went on to qualify fifth and finish third.

Ferrari’s double-stack pitstop under the VSC cost him a likely third place on Sunday, although given he racked up some of the track limits violations that led to a 10s post-race penalty while chasing Leclerc early on he can’t blame that entirely on the need to play catch-up.

Verdict: A strong, but unlucky, weekend with a few too many track limits infringements.

Fernando Alonso Aston Martin F1 Austrian GP ranking

Started: 7th Finished: 5th

An error on his final Q3 lap, when he picked up a little understeer in Turn 9 then ended up getting caught on the kerb and compromised his Turn 10 entry, forcing him to drop an extra gear, meant he gave away perhaps two places in qualifying.

But thereafter there were no major errors and he produced well-executed drives in both races.

Verdict: A decent, clean weekend amid one of the team’s weaker showings.

Charles Leclerc Ferrari F1 Austrian GP ranking

Started: 2nd Finished: 2nd

Judged by Friday and Sunday, Leclerc was impeccable.

First, he pulled a superb Q3 lap out of the bag by pushing himself to previously unexplored limits at Turn 9 and 10. Then, he had control of second place throughout the grand prix, at least once Sainz had been delayed.

But Saturday was marred by an impeding penalty and a poor sprint race in conditions where he lacked his usual confidence.

Verdict: Sprint struggles dent his ranking.

Lance Stroll Aston Martin F1 Austrian GP ranking

Started: 6th Finished: 9th

This was a decent weekend for Stroll, albeit one in which his grand prix result was compromised by a combination of getting boxed in on the inside of Turn 1 and, most significantly, the time lost when he caught the end of the VSC in his pitstop.

That turned a gap of running one place and 1.8s behind Alonso to a gap of around 10s, with Alonso still seventh but Stroll 16th.

He recovered decently from there, taking 10th on the road and ninth after penalties. His race performances were actually the most impressive aspect of his weekend – on paper, defeating Alonso in Friday qualifying seemed the highlight, but that was aided by his team-mate’s error through Turn 9/10.

Verdict: A good weekend on which bad luck compromised his GP result.

Sergio Perez Red Bull F1 Austrian GP ranking

Started: 15th Finished: 3rd

Any evaluation of Perez’s performance has to be within the context of his struggles with illness, so a haul of second in the sprint and third in the grand prix was a decent return.

But his triptych of track limits violations that left him without a Q2 time was inexcusable given he should have engineered in a margin. That once again hints that he might be focusing a little too much on pushing himself in his battle with Verstappen and putting himself on the back foot with unforced errors.

But he at least produced a solid second place on Saturday, after a fraught first-lap battle with Verstappen, then came through to third in the race.

Verdict: Qualifying again proved his undoing, but allowances made for his illness.

Lewis Hamilton Mercedes F1 Austrian GP ranking

Started: 5th Finished: 8th

Hamilton was certainly more comfortable with a Mercedes that he felt had regressed to its trickier early-season characteristics than Russell. That manifested itself with a good qualifying performance on Friday.

Saturday didn’t go well, as although Verstappen’s Turn 1 lunge cost him his last lap he had set a time earlier in that run good enough to advance to SQ2 had he not marginally exceeded track limits. That led to him starting 18th, which he turned into 10th – but in doing so had missed an opportunity to make bigger gains by stopping a lap or two earlier for slicks.

He struggled to get the car turned in on Sunday, having dialled in extra understeer to protect the tyres, leading to a frustrating afternoon in which he salvaged seventh on the road after a five-second penalty served at his second pitstop.

It became eighth place when he was hit with a 10s post-race track limits penalty.

Verdict: Quick considering the car limitations but too many track limits violations.

Pierre Gasly Alpine F1 Austrian GP ranking

Started: 9th Finished: 10th

While he perhaps didn’t show the flashes of peak pace Ocon did, Gasly executed qualifying for the grand prix and Sunday’s race far more effectively – albeit with track limits violations also costing him.

Saturday didn’t go so well as he struggled to get the car turned in, which meant an anonymous sprint day.

Verdict: Two-thirds of a good weekend.

George Russell Mercedes F1 Austrian GP ranking

Started: 11th Finished: 7th

Russell was the slower of the two Mercedes drivers, but battled on to pick up points in both races.

His early switch to slicks in the sprint turned 11th into eighth (via last place), then a clean race with no track limits violations allowed him to jump ahead of Hamilton on Sunday when the post-race penalties were issued.

Verdict: A dogged and ultimately effective, rather than exceptional, weekend.

Esteban Ocon Alpine F1 Austrian GP ranking

Started: 12th Finished: 14th

Ocon showed signs of having the edge on pace over Gasly, but track limits mishaps both in Friday qualifying and the grand prix proved costly and meant he didn’t execute well in the two key parts of the weekend.

However, he did partly offset that with a strong day on Saturday, qualifying well and then defending for his life in the race to pick up seventh place.

Verdict: There was pace in there, but rough around the edges when it really mattered.

Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo F1 Austrian GP ranking

Started: 14th Finished: 15th

Bottas appeared to have the edge over Zhou on underlying pace, although as the Alfa Romeo was not a points threat in the dry and even worse in the damp conditions that amounted to little more than a Q2 appearance in main qualifying with a spin along the way.

Bailing out of a slicks gamble in the sprint at the end of the formation lap (he then stayed on inters and was relegated to last by slick-shod Zhou on the last lap), then suffering front wing damage at Turn 1 on Sunday when he collected Tsunoda’s front wing debris, meant he was on a hiding to nothing in both races.

Alfa left him out with the wing damage in the forlorn hope of making a one-stopper work in the grand prix despite the loss of pace in the first stint before a nose change, which at least allowed for decent speed – car allowing – later on.

Verdict: Better than the results suggest.

Oscar Piastri McLaren F1 Austrian GP ranking

Started: 13th Finished: 16th

Piastri’s pace in qualifying was better than it looked as he had a Q3-worthy time deleted for track limits. And given he was running the old-specification McLaren, any comparison with Norris is unrepresentative.

From a lowly grid position in the sprint after being impeded by Leclerc, he drove a quietly effective race to climb from 17th to 11th after being the second driver to take slicks, but his Sunday race was ruined by front wing damage that forced a nose change after he clipped Magnussen at Turn 3 when “they [Magnussen, Stroll and Tsunoda] all slammed on the brakes mid-corner and I didn’t have anywhere to go”.

But he was also disappointed with his overall race pace.

Verdict: Underlying pace was good but an uneven weekend.

Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo F1 Austrian GP ranking

Started: 17th Finished: 12th

A tidy enough weekend for Zhou in a limited Alfa Romeo, albeit one in which Bottas appeared to have the edge on pace.

His sprint race was spent towards the rear, enlivened by passing Bottas on the last lap, having switched to slicks, while the fact he was 14th on the second lap of Sunday’s race and still there at the end (albeit then moved up by track limits penalties for others) was decent enough given the car didn’t have the pace to do much better.

Verdict: Respectable anonymity.

Logan Sargeant Williams F1 Austrian GP ranking

Started: 18th Finished: 13th

Sargeant bounced back from a difficult sequence of races with a weekend of fragmented encouragement.

Slightly quicker than Albon across the first half of the lap in Q1, he lost time in the quick corners and ended up eliminated.

His Saturday race was solid, but he produced probably his best grand prix drive so far to take 13th. His race pace wasn’t quite at Albon’s level, but it was a tidy enough outing.

Verdict:

Still needs fast-corner gains but a more encouraging weekend.

Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Austrian GP ranking

Started: Pitlane Finished: 18th

Despite a promising start on Friday, Magnussen never seemed quite as hooked up or confident as Hulkenberg was, although a downshift problem into Turn 3 cost him in qualifying proper.

He showed better form on the sprint day in the mixed conditions, but was always going to struggle in the main race thanks to the pitlane start.

He described the tyre deg as “the worst so far” and was forced off track by De Vries at Turn 5 (albeit having optimistically tried to hang on around the outside), in the main flashpoint of a frustrating afternoon.

Verdict: Not at Hulkenberg’s level this weekend.

Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri F1 Austrian GP ranking

Started: Pitlane Finished: 17th

De Vries didn’t quite have Tsunoda’s confidence and his attempt to eliminate a deficit at Turn 1 in Q1 led to him unsuccessfully attempting to carry too much speed in on his final qualifying lap.  That led to him clouting the inside kerb and losing time.

He did produce a good performance in the damp conditions in SQ1 but struggled in the tricky conditions in the sprint, then had a difficult race blighted by a penalty for forcing Magnussen off track and a hefty haul of track limits penalties.

Verdict: Not the worst weekend, but far from the turnaround he needs.

Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri F1 Austrian GP ranking

Started: 16th Finished: 19th

The positives were that he had he edge on team-mate De Vries and looked confident on-track, but the negatives well outweighed that.

While his sprint race performance was clean, the grand prix itself was a disaster – with an optimistic attempt to squeeze past Stroll on the inside at Turn 1 leading to him clipping Ocon’s Alpine before an off at Turn 4 when he braked too late for someone who knew he had front wing damage.

He then accumulated 15 seconds of time penalties in the race, and a further five seconds post-race, thanks to a massive haul of track limits violations.

Verdict: An anomalous return to his error-prone early days.

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