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Formula 1

Edd Straw's 2023 Brazilian Grand Prix F1 driver rankings

by Edd Straw
10 min read

Lando Norris looked like he might be able to upstage Max Verstappen in the Brazilian Grand Prix, but the man who joined them on the podium was a hero of the weekend too.

Which of them does Edd Straw rate as the best performer from Interlagos? And how does he rank what drivers struggling with their machinery - such as the troubled Mercedes pair - achieved in adversity?

Find his full best-to-worst rankings below.

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: 4th Finished: 3rd

While there were a few areas where Alonso could have done slightly better, for example in Q3 when he was shaded by Aston Martin team-mate Lance Stroll, the disappointing, if racy, Saturday was largely down to Esteban Ocon’s moment while being let through at Turn 3 during the sprint shootout and their consequent crash.

On Sunday Alonso was at his brilliant best, using every trick in the book - and writing a few new ones of his own - to beat Sergio Perez to the final podium slot by the narrowest of margins.

Verdict: Brilliance in battle elevates his ranking.

Started: 1st Finished: 1st

Aside from missing out on sprint pole by six hundredths of a second thanks to “a few little moments with the rear”, Verstappen’s weekend was as immaculate as usual.

He dealt with the sketchy Q3 conditions well to take pole, took the lead at the start of the sprint and controlled it from there on, and repulsed the attack of Lando Norris in the grand prix. Many drivers would have made harder work of it.

Verdict: The only tiny negative was missing sprint pole.

Started: 6th Finished: 2nd

While Norris was frustrated with his qualifying performances, conditions swung against him in Friday’s session while despite an untidy run through the Senna S in sprint qualifying the rest of the lap was good enough to take pole position.

He couldn’t challenge Verstappen in the sprint, but did at least manage one attack in the grand prix after a great start to jump from sixth to second.

But a brace of second places was good as it was going to get.

Verdict: A great weekend, despite self-criticism.

Started: 2nd Finished: DNS

Leclerc continued the recent trend of having the edge on Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz, albeit only by a small margin.

Sprint Saturday was compromised by keeping back the best of his softs, not to mention cooling troubles, so Leclerc’s fifth place after passing Lewis Hamilton was a good result in the circumstances.

That should have set him up for a strong grand prix before an engine problem that locked the rear wheels spat him into the wall on the formation lap.

Verdict: Excellent but desperately unlucky.

Started: 15th Finished: 7th

While the two qualifying sessions and the sprint were much of a muchness compared to team-mate Ocon as Alpine struggled, Gasly's grand prix drive was, by his reckoning, “one of our best races of the year”.

That was based on a pair of good starts and then a strong race, passing both Mercedes and keeping Sainz in sight, all while avoiding the tyre degradation troubles that struck the other Alpine.

Verdict: Outstanding race performance elevates his weekend.

Started: 5th Finished: 8th

There’s not much more Hamilton could have done to prevent his struggles in both races given the performance and tyre deg struggles of the Mercedes.

He had the edge on George Russell in terms of pace, although he didn’t make the most of that on Saturday by qualifying and finishing just behind his team-mate.

But having jumped to third on Sunday, he was powerless to prevent his slow slide backwards.

Verdict: A decent weekend considering the car’s weaknesses.

Started: 3rd Finished: 5th

This was exactly the weekend Stroll needed after his recent struggles, and a reminder that when things are going right he is a capable performer at this level.

He did an excellent job to qualify third ahead of Alonso, who had similar track position in the sketchy Q3 conditions, although he was frustrated by traffic in sprint qualifying.

But he drove a clean race despite being shuffled back to seventh early on, passing the two Mercedes to take fifth, within seven seconds of his team-mate.

Verdict: Far more confident than in recent races.

Started: 18th Finished: DNF

With a car that was slow on the straights thanks to carrying plenty of rear wing and didn’t offset that with corner speed, Bottas was on a hiding to nothing.

But he was at least the stronger Alfa Romeo driver and slipped through to SQ2 having struggled in qualifying proper, not helped by the team completing its two runs with several minutes remaining in Q1.

Bottas went backwards in the sprint thanks to being stuck on the left side of the track through the first couple of corners, on top of being passed by Alex Albon.

His grand prix was on course to yield a point after a strong drive when he was forced to retire with cooling troubles.

Verdict: A good weekend in unpromising circumstances.

Started: 8th Finished: DNF

Russell had similar problems to those that held back Hamilton, but while struggling slightly more for pace and picking up a two-place grid penalty for failing to keep to the left in the pit exit in qualifying.

His frustration was clear from the radio communications, and even before his retirement from Sunday’s race he had slipped to ninth place after a painful race.

However, he did have a slightly stronger Saturday than Hamilton, which helps his ranking.

Verdict: Had a small deficit to Hamilton.

Started: 9th Finished: 4th

This was a positive weekend for Perez given he showed decent pace relative to Red Bull team-mate Verstappen, and more importantly compared to his low ebbs earlier in the season.

He was unlucky in qualifying proper as he’d likely have been third on the grid but for Oscar Piastri’s off, but climbed the order to come within half-a-tenth of third place having been outraced by Alonso in the final battle.

He also produced a decent sprint race run to third.

Verdict: Gently encouraging but still not maximising car potential.

Started: 7th Finished: 6th

Not as quick as team-mate Leclerc, but despite that Sainz still pieced together a decent weekend by hanging onto eighth in the sprint on a day when he kept back his best tyres and taking sixth, 10 seconds behind Stroll, in the main race having passed both the Mercedes drivers.

He was also struggling with a clutch problem that compromised his starts.

Verdict: Delivered solid results despite pace limitation.

Started: 13th Finished: DNF

The pace of the Williams put Albon firmly in what he called the “slow race” at the back. With the Williams unwieldy in the middle sector and not especially fast on the straights, he did what he could to reach Q2 and would have been slightly better off than 19th in the sprint shootout without the red flag.

He battled through to 15th in the sprint and finished hanging onto the back of the midfield, but his main race ended after seconds after being part of the squeeze with Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen.

Verdict: Did what he could before unlucky start crash.

Started: 16th Finished: 9th

This was probably the most fair comparison there has been yet of the relative performance of the two AlphaTauri drivers, and Tsunoda was the one who came away with with a double points finish having outqualified Daniel Ricciardo in both sessions (albeit only by six-thousandths then a tenth).

However, his off at Turn 10 in the race cost him, as did a rash attempt to repass Gasly on the first lap, which combined with a few management issues cost him a shot at perhaps seventh place.

Verdict: A couple of Sunday misjudgements blotted an otherwise strong weekend.

Started: 14th Finished: 10th

Ocon appeared to have similar pace to Gasly when he was initially just behind his team-mate on Friday.

However, things started to unravel when a moment through Turn 3 led to him hitting Alonso in sprint qualifying.

After running ninth early in the main race, he was frustrated by the poor second start thanks to a clutch problem.

What made his race so tough was the accelerated tyre degradation caused by the lack of traction whenever he tried to push. That forced a three stopper and added up to a 10th place finish, 14 seconds behind Gasly.

Verdict: Tyre troubles and Alonso collision undermined his weekend.

Started: 17th Finished: 13th

Ricciardo’s pace was good and very similar to Tsunoda's, albeit with him ending up on the wrong side of it in both qualifying sessions - with both underachieving on Friday.

He was frustrated to miss out on points in the sprint, particularly after leaving the door open to Piastri, although could do nothing to prevent his Sunday being ruined by start crash debris that damaged his rear wing.

After restarting a lap down, all he could do was beat the hobbled Piastri.

Verdict: Pace was good, but bad luck and rough edges meant no points.

Started: 10th Finished: 14th

The underlying pace was absolutely there for Piastri, but by his own admission the execution wasn’t.

He had some misfortune too, notably the massive gust of wind that sent him off at Juncao at the end of his Q3 lap.

He jumped from 10th to seventh by the exit of Turn 3 in the sprint, but an ambitious move around the outside of Leclerc didn’t come off and he ran off the track, dropping back to 10th.

Blending attack and defence neutralised his pace for much of the sprint, though he did surprise Ricciardo with a nice overtake into Turn 8 - an attack Ricciardo reversed a few laps later to demote Piastri to 10th.

The grand prix was ruined by being hit at the first corner, leaving him a lap down and with a car still carrying damage that restricted his pace.

Verdict: Good speed, poor execution and bad luck.

Started: 20th Finished: DNF

As the second-best driver in a car that offered little in the way of grip of laptime, Zhou was never going to make much of an impact.

Three-tenths off Bottas in qualifying, then two-tenths in sprint qualifying, he was frustrated to spend the whole sprint in 19th stuck in what he called a “Haas train” then retire with a cooling-related engine problem while 15th in the race.

Verdict: Second-best of the Alfa drivers.

Started: 11th Finished: 12th

Hulkenberg seemed to have a tiny edge on Haas team-mate Magnussen, although was beaten by him on sprint Saturday.

Hulkenberg can’t be blamed for the start shunt, but survived to drive a tough race in car that he described as having “no performance”, finishing 12th behind Logan Sargeant.

Verdict: Did what he could on a tough weekend.

Started: 19th Finished: 11th

Another sprint weekend at an unfamiliar track made life difficult for Sargeant, who as usual showed some promising pace in fits and starts.

Unfortunately, an error at Turn 10 cost him in qualifying proper, while he was unhappy with traffic on his lap in SQ1.

Buried at the back in a slow Williams, he didn’t make any progress in the sprint, but his pace was reasonable in the grand prix itself.

Verdict: Another slightly disjointed weekend but not without promise.

Started: 12th Finished: DNF

Magnussen seemed marginally second-best of the Haas drivers, although he put the car roughly where it should have been in both qualifying sessions.

While he had the edge on Hulkenberg on Saturday, he qualified behind for the main event and, in moving right at the start, inadvertently caused the squeeze on Hulkenberg and Albon that triggered the shunt.

Verdict: Brisk enough, but tiny start misjudgement counts against him.

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