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Formula 1

Edd Straw’s 2023 Canadian Grand Prix F1 driver rankings

by Edd Straw
11 min read

The 2023 Canadian Grand Prix had an illustrious podium of three Formula 1 world champions, but were they actually the top performers in Montreal?

Edd Straw reckons someone further down the order surpassed them all – here’s his full ranking of the 20 drivers’ Canadian GP efforts from best to worst.

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.

2023 Site Alb Can

Started: 9th Finished: 7th

The only real downside to Alex Albon’s weekend was the error at the chicane on his only shot at a meaningful Q3 lap. But he’d already excelled, topping Q2 thanks to an inspired slicks call and getting the upgraded Williams to Q3 in the first place.

As has become his style of late, he drove a precise race on an offset strategy, not stopping again after the safety car, keeping the quicker cars of George Russell and then Esteban Ocon behind after holding his own on the periphery of the points early on.

Verdict: A classy weekend.

2023 Site Ver Can

Started: 1st Finished: 1st

This was another classic Max Verstappen weekend, one in which he didn’t put a foot wrong while his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez showed how easy it is for things to get away from you even in a great car.

Verstappen nailed qualifying then did his usual consummate job controlling the race from the front without the luxury of the big margin Red Bull has had at times this year.

Verdict: Another superbly-executed weekend.

2023 Site Alo Can

Started: 2nd Finished: 2nd

Despite a poor start that allowed Lewis Hamilton to jump ahead (something he corrected with a pass on track early in the second stint), a glance of the wall early on and a cut of the Turn 7/8 chicane, Fernando Alonso produced a strong weekend to be best of the rest behind Verstappen in both qualifying (after Nico Hulkenberg’s penalty) and the race.

He was determined to attempt to take the fight to Verstappen, but in the later stages of the race his focus was on ensuring he kept Hamilton behind given a (wrongly) suspected fuel system problem that forced him to save fuel. That precaution wasn’t necessary, but he had Hamilton well-covered.

Verdict: Not flawless, but still plenty good enough to get the best possible qualifying and race result.

2023 Site Ham Can

Started: 3rd Finished: 3rd

Hamilton did a very effective job through practice and qualifying – a Q2 scare aside – to end up third on the grid, ahead of a number of potentially quicker cars – having ensured he nailed laps when needed in tricky conditions at the right time.

He jumped Alonso at the start but lost the position on track during the second stint in a Mercedes that perhaps wasn’t quite as strong in the race as the Aston Martin.

Verdict: Very little to fault in his performance.

2023 Site Oco Can

Started: 6th Finished: 8th

Ocon continued his recent good run of form with another good qualifying performance and decently-executed race.

However, there was perhaps the sense of a missed opportunity given he could perhaps have made a bigger improvement on his second lap in Q3, and given he slipped back from his first-stint fifth place to eighth thanks to being jumped by the Ferraris, Perez and Albon’s alternate strategy.

But despite the distraction of a wobbly rear wing, he kept Lando Norris behind in the closing stages even though he couldn’t do anything about Albon ahead.

Verdict: The small amount potentially left on the table in qualifying was largely incidental.

2023 Site Nor Can

Started: 7th Finished: 13th

Once again Norris revelled in tricky conditions in a car that switches on the tyres well, converting that into seventh on the grid. But it was always going to be a rearguard action in the race.

He lost a place in Turn 2 to team-mate Oscar Piastri, which he reclaimed later in the race, but did a good job to finish ninth on the road. There were some good passes along the way, although he failed in his last-lap bid to overtake Ocon.

That would have been a Pyrrhic victory given he already had a five-second penalty for unsportsmanlike behaviour – namely backing up too much under the safety car to facilitate a double-stack pitstop. This dropped him to 13th.

Verdict: A well-earned point lost to a safety-car infringement.

2023 Site Lec Can

Started: 10th Finished: 4th

Charles Leclerc complained with some justification about Ferrari disregarding his call for slicks while on his Q2 out-lap, but he had a first-lap window once on dry tyres to have set a top-10 time and that was squandered by a mistake at the final chicane.

But his race was very well-executed, staying out under the safety car to gain track position and turn ninth in the early running into fourth place. He managed the tyres well, grasped the strategy and ultimately couldn’t have done anything to challenge those ahead.

Verdict: Shaky qualifying, well-executed race.

2023 Site Bot Can

Started: 14th Finished: 10th

Bottas showed promising pace in practice, so was a little disappointed to end up slowest in Q2 thanks to a combination of the tyre choice not being perfect and not quite nailing a lap when he had the chance.

With ground to make up, he was one of a group of four cars to stay out under the safety and leap into the top 10. From there, it was about mitigating the losses. Bottas did that reasonably well, slipping behind Ocon and Norris before losing 10th in the dash to the line to Lance Stroll by just three hundredths of a second after running out of battery.

The pain of that was eased by the fact Norris had a penalty, allowing Bottas to take his first point since Bahrain three months ago.

Verdict: Uneven in places, but a point was a fair reward for his pace.

2023 Site Sai Can

Started: 11th Finished: 5th

Saturday was up and down for Carlos Sainz, with the downs coming at the wrong moment. He recovered well from his Turn 1 crash in FP3 and made it through Q1 and Q2 comfortably, but didn’t nail the lap when he needed to before the rain returned in Q3 and managed only eighth place.

That was compounded by a three-place grid penalty for impeding Gasly that, although it frustrated him, seemed fair given he’d been told explicitly by the team not to back up.

He prevailed in his early battle with Perez, which proved vital given he was able to keep him behind for the race distance. Like his Ferrari team-mate Leclerc, Sainz executed the strategy well and, under orders not to challenge his team-mate, remained in relatively close company for much of the race.

Verdict: Saturday errors meant Sunday was all about recovery.

2023 Site Pia Can

Started: 8th Finished: 11th

Piastri again showed the pace to give Norris something to think about at times, although he notched up his first F1 crash on his second push lap in Q3. That was a disappointing end to what had been a good qualifying session.

The first stint of the race went well and Piastri fared well in battle as he climbed to sixth, but he struggled a little more with the tyres early in the second stint – where he felt he should have been more aggressive.

That ultimately led to him falling back to 12th on the road, which became 11th when Norris was penalised.

Verdict: Again showed decent pace relative to Norris.

2023 Site Hul Can

Started: 5th Finished: 15th

Nico Hulkenberg excelled in Q3, putting in a lap good enough for second on the grid moments before the red flag flew and effectively locked the positions. Unfortunately, having done the difficult bit he became baffled by the red flag delta times system and went too quickly, leading to a three-place grid penalty.

That didn’t substantially change his race, but after a decent first stint the safety car being deployed just after he pitted flung him down the order.

From there, there was no way back given the pace of the Haas was nothing special even if the extreme tyre problems of Barcelona weren’t repeated.

Verdict: Downhill from the moment he grabbed second in qualifying.

2023 Site Tsu Can

Started: 19th Finished: 14th

The AlphaTauri wasn’t at its best but Yuki Tsunoda showed a good turn of pace at times. Sadly, he also failed to get a decent lap in when he needed to in qualifying and picked up an impeding penalty for his troubles that he felt was harsh.

A first-lap pitstop was a logical enough strategy and might have paid off but for the early safety car blunting the edge of that attack. From there, 14th place was a reasonable enough return.

Verdict: He had decent pace, but qualifying put him on the back foot.

2023 Site Gas Can

Started: 15th Finished: 12th

Pierre Gasly’s weekend was entirely defined by two pieces of misfortune. The first was being eliminated in Q1 thanks to being impeded by Sainz on a lap that would have comfortably seen him through to Q2. The second was being called into the pits for a proactive early pitstop that would allow him to capitalise on clear air, that preceded the deployment of the safety car.

That added up to 12th place, only a few seconds off the points. So while it’s possible he might have been able to nick a top-10 place with a perfect race, the problems were outside of his control.

Verdict: Bad luck ruined his weekend.

2023 Site Rus Can

Started: 4th Finished: DNF

Russell was having a very similar weekend to his Mercedes team-mate Hamilton, albeit not quite as good, until he hit the wall exiting the Turn 7/8 chicane on the 12th lap of the race when running fourth. That was the consequence of running a little deep but being surprised by the way the car reacted to hitting the sausage kerb.

He thought he was likely done for but persevered and cycled up to eighth by attempting to run to the end on hards. He couldn’t do anything to challenge Albon ahead in a slightly hobbled Mercedes, and ultimately retired with front-left brake overheating problems.

Verdict: Mistake in the race ruined a good weekend.

2023 Site Per Can

Started: 12th Finished: 6th

You could frame this as a good recovery from 12th to sixth in the race after getting caught out by weather conditions in Q2. But that would be overly generous to Perez, who struggled for pace throughout the weekend.

Struggling for confidence on the brakes, his Q2 strategy wasn’t ideal but it matched that of plenty who advanced to Q3 so he had the chance.

Then in the grand prix, his pace was unremarkable as his one-stop strategy (plus late stop to bag fastest lap) did much of the heavy lifting in a perfectly respectable, but unspectacular, race drive.

Verdict: Not in Verstappen’s class this weekend.

2023 Site Str Can

Started: 16th Finished: 9th

There was lots to be positive about in Stroll’s race, which was well-executed and produced a thrilling overtake of Bottas in a dash to the line on the final lap.

The trouble was, his Q2 errors meant that he was well below the potential of the car in terms of results.

As is often the case on home soil, Stroll at least recovered from his disappointing qualifying, but with Alonso showing what the car was capable of it was clear there was a lot left on the table.

Verdict: A good race, but so much was lost in qualifying.

2023 Site Zho Can

Started: 20th Finished: 16th

Zhou Guanyu’s qualifying was almost over before it had really started thanks to a throttle problem. He made it back to the pits, but there was still a hangover when it came to throttle performance and he ended up slowest by half a second.

Starting last, combined with the fact he was forced into the pits with seven other cars under the safety car, meant he found it difficult to make gains in the race and finished a lapped 16th.

Verdict: Qualifying problem made for a difficult weekend.

2023 Site Mag Can

Started: 13th Finished: 17th

While the tyre strategy wasn’t perfect in qualifying, the fact Kevin Magnussen effectively matched Haas team-mate Hulkenberg’s runplan proves that a Q3 place was possible. Instead, he was eliminated in Q2.

He gave it his best in the race and did put himself into the fight for the lower points positions early on, but he was always likely to miss out even before he became embroiled in a scrap with Nyck de Vries that ended with him being forced up the Turn 3 escape road by the AlphaTauri driver. That condemned him to finishing a lapped 17th.

Verdict: Missed an opportunity in qualifying but unfortunate in the race.

2023 Site Sar Can

Started: 18th Finished: DNF

Logan Sergeant was stuck with the old-specification Williams but is due to get the upgrade for the Austrian Grand Prix in a fortnight. That meant he was always on the back foot in Canada, but he went into qualifying confident after a strong FP3. Unfortunately, he struggled to get the rears working and ended up 19th.

Sergeant started 18th and held that position in the early going before retiring on lap seven with what the team described as an oil leak that affected the power unit.

Verdict: No big mistakes but was on a hiding to nothing.

2023 Site Dev Can

Started: 17th Finished: 18th

This was largely a nothing weekend for De Vries, who didn’t seem entirely at ease with the fluctuating conditions. A combination of traffic and not nailing the lap when he had to led to his Q1 exit.

His race went reasonably well until he became embroiled in battle with Magnussen, first clashing exiting Turn 1 then locking up while into Turn 3 and sending himself, and Magnussen, up the escape road.

Verdict: A mixed bag even before he threw everything away with his error while battling with Magnussen.

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