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Formula 1

Edd Straw’s 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix F1 driver rankings

by Edd Straw
12 min read

The Hungarian Grand Prix was another Max Verstappen walkover, but the runaway Formula 1 points leader will be the first to admit he didn’t have the smoothest of weekends.

But none of his F1 peers did, either, leaving something on the table either on Saturday, when the experimental alternative tyre allocation qualifying format posed a novel challenge, or Sunday, when the Hungaroring happily chewed away at various cars’ tyres at high but also substantially different rates.

Amid all that, which driver put together the most complete 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 results.

Lando Norris Hungarian GP F1 ranking

Started: 3rd Finished: 2nd

It says a lot about McLaren’s progress that Norris was disappointed with a Q3 lap that was just 0.085s away from pole position. He described it as “not the cleanest” and felt there was time to be gained at the last corner.

Norris held third at the start, but only after losing a place to Piastri, then doing a great job to go around the outside of Hamilton at Turn 2.

When McLaren responded to Hamilton’s undercut threat at the first stop, Norris was brought in and therefore able to jump Piastri. Thereafter he didn’t put a foot wrong as he closed out second place despite the looming threat of Perez.

Verdict: A little left on the table in qualifying, but he drove a fine race.

Max Verstappen Hungarian GP F1 ranking

Started: 2nd Finished: 1st

Verstappen grappled with balance problems on Friday and Saturday – as he put it, “with understeer and you try to correct it and it’s oversteer” – and added that “every time I got to the apex of the corner, it was just not gripping up for me and that’s probably the worst balance I can have in a car”.

But he had the pace for pole, failing to improve on his second run and ending up with a laptime 0.239s off his theoretical best, mostly losing out in the sweeps in the final sector.

However, qualifying pace was always secondary to race pace, and the focus on improving starts paid off as he got a great launch from the dirty side of the grid to take a lead he turned into a commanding victory.

Verdict: Qualifying could have been better.

Lewis Hamilton Hungarian GP F1 ranking

Started: 1st Finished: 4th

While the characteristics of the Hungaroring and Red Bull’s struggles mitigated the gap, Hamilton’s super lap in Q3 made the difference and allowed him to pip the fundamentally quicker Verstappen/Red Bull combination to pole position by 0.003s.

But wheelspin at the start gave Verstappen an opening, with Piastri also getting ahead. Hamilton was then passed by Norris around the outside of Turn 2.

A so-so first stint was followed by a difficult hard stint that he and Mercedes began too conservatively, but his pace was stronger after changing back to mediums and he picked off Piastri to salvage fourth place, having been passed by Perez through the pitstop phase earlier in the race.

Verdict: The race couldn’t match his inspired qualifying.

Alex Albon Hungarian GP F1 ranking

Started: 16th Finished: 11th

Given the Williams isn’t at its best at a high-downforce track like the Hungaroring and its qualifying form was further blunted by having to use the hards in Q1 that didn’t have the grip level of softs that usually help to mitigate the grip deficit, Albon had a strong weekend.

The key to him finishing only one place outside the points was an aggressive strategy as he was the first to make an unforced pitstop at the end of lap eight.

That set the stage for what he called a defensive race, which he executed well to finish in the best position possible.

Verdict: Another low-profile weekend of excellence.

Fernando Alonso Hungarian GP F1 ranking

Started: 8th Finished: 9th

Alonso felt he could have been fourth on the grid but for an untidy lap, but went into the race expecting to be able to move forward.

In the end, all he did was slip one place backwards after being passed by Perez on lap eight and overcut by Russell’s Mercedes late on.

From there, the car didn’t quite have the pace to do anything about Sainz’s Ferrari but he had the other cars behind covered, Alonso describing ninth as “the maximum”.

Verdict: Disappointing qualifying but effective, if straightforward, race.

Daniel Ricciardo Hungarian GP F1 ranking

Started: 13th Finished: 13th

But for being punted by Zhou at the first corner and dropping to the back, Ricciardo felt he could have contended for a point.

Certainly, that changed the complexion of his race, and he pushed for an early second stop to capitalise on free air that allowed him to jump ahead of Magnussen, Sargeant, Hulkenberg, Tsunoda and Zhou.

He had settled in well on Friday despite the loss of track time in FP1, did all that could have been expected in qualifying and although there are further gains to be made – especially as Tsunoda was without the new-spec wing and therefore wasn’t as emphatically outpaced as Saturday suggested – Ricciardo still shook off any rust well and has given himself a foundation to build from.

Verdict: Ranking reflects a good job done on comeback in an unfamiliar car.

Charles Leclerc Hungarian GP F1 ranking

Started: 6th Finished: 7th

Given Ferrari’s deficit to Red Bull was in line with the usual expectations on a weekend when Verstappen didn’t nail qualifying and Leclerc was happy with his lap, it was a disappointing qualifying session. This was mainly down to the struggle to keep the rears alive, meaning the deficit grew later in the lap.

Leclerc was on a trajectory that should have netted fifth place, but a wheelgun failure that led to a 9.4s first stop combined with a five-second penalty for speeding in the pitlane proved costly.

Verdict: A deceptively strong weekend, but speeding penalty counts against him.

Oscar Piastri Hungarian GP F1 ranking

Started: 4th Finished: 5th

After running a spec behind Norris in both Austria and Britain, Piastri was on even terms here.

The two-tenth qualifying deficit to Norris was largely down to the first sector and the final corner but it was good enough to slot in alongside him on the second row.

Piastri’s race started well, holding second in the first stint before Norris undercut him. But damage sustained with a Turn 4 wide moment and some contact with Perez blunted his pace dramatically.

He faded from third to fifth, losing places to Perez and Hamilton, although the damage – which he could have avoided – and resulting tyre management troubles meant his real race pace was better than it seemed in the second half of the race.

Verdict: A strong weekend, but he had a hand in the damage that stymied his race.

George Russell Hungarian GP F1 ranking

Started: 18th Finished: 6th

Fell in Q1 thanks to a disastrous end to his prep lap, with Norris, Bottas and Gasly all passing him between Turn 13 and the entry to Turn 14. He blamed that on “a big cock-up” with track position and traffic management and would certainly have had the pace to make Q3 – even if there was no indication he’d have been at Hamilton’s level.

Sunday went far better as he confidently executed a two-stopper after starting on hards, climbing to sixth.

Verdict: Q1 disaster meant his pace was shrouded.

Carlos Sainz Hungarian GP F1 ranking

Started: 11th Finished: 8th

A minor crash in the wet on Friday was a bad start to his weekend and he always knew Q2 was going to be dangerous given his struggles to make the medium work in particular in sector one. “The lap wasn’t too bad but I just lacked quite a bit of grip” was his verdict as he failed to reach Q3.

A soft-tyre start allowed him to jump to sixth on the first lap but his strategy and pace always meant he was destined to finish behind Leclerc and Perez.

Verdict: Solid but unspectacular.

Nico Hulkenberg Hungarian GP F1 ranking

Started: 10th Finished: 14th

As for so many Hulkenberg weekends this season, he qualified superbly and then inevitably fell back in the race in a Haas that works the tyres too hard.

This time, he went relatively long in the first stint (he was the 10th to pit on lap 18) but that meant his first-stint ninth place turned immediately to a lower-midfield position that he held to the end of the race.

Verdict: Qualified well and did what he could with a difficult Sunday car.

Sergio Perez Hungarian GP F1 ranking

Started: 9th Finished: 3rd

A crash on his first flying lap in FP1 after dropping a wheel on the grass at the entry to Turn 4 was the worst possible start to Perez’s weekend.

He recovered to show good pace, although that underlying speed didn’t show in qualifying as despite ending his Q3 drought he ended up only ninth and 0.433s off Verstappen. That was thanks to a tenth and a half given away compared to his first Q3 lap in Turn 1-2 where he was tentative, which Perez reckoned cost him what should’ve been fourth on the grid otherwise.

His race drive was well-measured and allowed him to climb from eighth on the first lap to third, although beating Norris looked achievable.

Verdict: A mixed bag, but more good than bad.

Esteban Ocon Hungarian GP F1 ranking

Started: 12th Finished: DNF

Like Gasly, Ocon struggled to get the mediums working for the start of the lap in Q2. But he dealt with the problem better and produced what he described as “one of my best laps around here”, albeit still ending up a tenth and a half away from the Q3 cutoff.

Like his team-mate, he was an innocent party in the Turn 1 shunt that ruined his race.

Verdict: The more convincing Alpine driver.

Lance Stroll Hungarian GP F1 ranking

Started: 14th Finished: 10th

After having his first Q2 attempt, which would have put him one place higher on the grid than his eventual slot, deleted for a track limits infringement, Stroll hit traffic in the final sector in the form of Piastri and particularly Perez in Turn 13. The team estimated the loss at a couple of tenths and felt he would have been “on the bubble” to make Q3 but realistically he was up against it given he was just over four tenths away.

He had a straightforward, but well-executed, race, jumping to 10th at the start after gambling on starting on softs, then had a vice-like grip on the final points place for the rest of the race.

Verdict: Lacked Alonso’s pace but executed the race well.

Zhou Guanyu Hungarian GP F1 ranking

Started: 5th Finished: 16th

Up until the start of the race, Zhou had had a superb weekend that peaked with his second Q3 run. Despite having had three laptimes deleted for track-limits infringements he put together a final lap that maximised his potential and put him ahead of three quicker cars.

But a problem with the brake system at the start triggered an engine failsafe, meaning a painfully slow getaway. And while that wasn’t his fault, rear-ending Ricciardo at Turn 1 – clearly distracted by the bad launch and misjudging his braking – was.

From 16th and with a five-second penalty, there was no way back.

Verdict: Brilliant in qualifying and unlucky at the launch but only had himself to blame for Turn 1 incident.

Valtteri Bottas Hungarian GP F1 ranking

Started: 7th Finished: 12th

Bottas’s difficult start to the lap was the main reason why he was outqualified by Zhou given their pace was similar. But his race came undone almost immediately as he had to swerve to the left to get round his stuttering team-mate when the lights went out. That cost him three places to Alonso, Perez and Sainz.

Those loses were multiplied by some questionable car placement over the rest of the lap that contributed to losing further places to Hulkenberg, Stroll (who did appear to exceed track limits in passing him at Turn 4) and Tsunoda. That put him 12th, but without the pace to regain ground.

Verdict: A mix of good pace, slight qualifying underachivement, bad luck and failure to stem the losses after initial start misfortune.

Pierre Gasly Hungarian GP F1 ranking

Started: 15th Finished: DNF

Gasly particularly struggled with the mediums, knowing he’d be in difficulty from practice already, and wasn’t at his best on the hardest tyre either. He did like the soft, but didn’t get to use it in qualifying.

His race was ruined after an incisive attack down the outside entering the first corner, when Ocon collected him at Turn 1 as part of the chain reaction triggered by Zhou rear-ending Ricciardo.

Verdict: Disappointing in qualifying but innocent in the race.

Yuki Tsunoda Hungarian GP F1 ranking

Started: 17th Finished: 15th

Being beaten in qualifying and the race by the returning Ricciardo looks disastrous, although the details of his weekend show it wasn’t that clear-cut. An off at Turn 4 in the wet late in FP1 proved costly as it damaged his new-spec front wing, leaving him on the old spec for the rest of the weekend.

“That’s my fault” was Tsunoda’s accurate verdict, but although that hurts his ranking it does also make the fact he didn’t make Q2 and Ricciardo did look a little better – especially as Tsunoda had an untidy final sector on his final lap and left time on the table, with just 0.013s separating the two.

He ran 11th in the first stint but a 7.3-second stop thanks to a slow front-left change ruined his race. The team opted to run him long in the middle stint and once he made his second stop he rejoined 16th, which became 15th when Sargeant spun.

Verdict: Better than the result suggests, but he contributed to his fate.

Kevin Magnussen Hungarian GP F1 ranking

Started: 19th Finished: 17th

Continues to struggle more with the slightly unstable rear end more than Hulkenberg, which meant another poor qualifying performance in a car that he can’t get to his liking.

That set the stage for another long afternoon as despite climbing to 13th at the start thanks to the Turn 1 crash, he was inevitably destined for last on the road.

Verdict: Continuing qualifying struggles meant he had no chance.

Logan Sargeant Hungarian GP F1 ranking

Started: 20th Finished: 18th

Qualifying last and retiring from 15th to preserve the car after spinning at the chicane, having clouted the high kerb at the first apex, doesn’t sound great on paper.

But while it was another frustrating weekend for Sargeant, particularly in qualifying where he said “I could pick out at least half a second from that lap that was just left out there” after struggling to maximise the hards in Q1 on his first experience of them, his pace was reasonable.

The same applied in the race, although a slightly slow first stop meant he had traffic trouble in his second stint. He was 15th and chasing down Hulkenberg when his race came to an end.

Verdict: Underlying pace was reasonable but he again didn’t string it together in qualifying and the race.

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