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Formula 1

Edd Straw’s 2023 Italian Grand Prix F1 driver rankings

by Edd Straw
10 min read

The history books will show the Italian Grand Prix as another 2023 Formula 1 race won routinely by Max Verstappen, one in which he set a new record for 10 consecutive grand prix wins.

But that doesn’t tell the full story of a race or a weekend in which Verstappen had to contend – at least for some time – with the ultra-impressive Ferrari of Carlos Sainz.

And that begs an important question of the two former team-mates, who were the two standout drivers at Monza: which one of them had the more impressive weekend?

Here’s how Edd Straw ranked them and the rest of the F1 field.

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.

Sai Ita 23

Started: 1st Finished: 3rd

Sainz built on his strong Zandvoort form by putting together a superb Monza weekend from the start of FP1.

His pace into and through the second chicane in Q3 was phenomenal and he nailed pole position, then showed he was willing to fight very hard to keep the Red Bulls, and his own team-mate, at bay on his way to a third place that was, realistically, as good as it was going to get.

Verdict: At his determined best.

Ver Ita 23

Started: 2nd Finished: 1st

Verstappen was always confident he would have the measure of the Ferraris on Sunday and was content with his qualifying performance, having lacked a bit of front-end bite thanks to tyre temperature in the first half of the lap.

The Ferrari’s straightline speed made passing Sainz tricky, but even when Verstappen was stuck behind victory never seemed in doubt.

Verdict: Completely in control, as always.

Alb Ita 23

Started: 6th Finished: 7th

Albon has become dependably excellent in a Williams that may have shown good speed at Monza, but that required his knack for pulling out excellent qualifying performances, defensive skills and straightline speed to convert that into a tangible result.

He did that both in qualifying and the race, where it’s difficult to see how he could have achieved better results.

Verdict: Another superb weekend.

Rus Ita 23

Started: 4th Finished: 5th

Russell credits his ‘back-to-basics’ approach for his revived qualifying form and put the Mercedes as high as it was realistically going to get in qualifying. He did the same in the race with fifth place, having fought a futile rearguard against Perez early on.

Verdict: His strongest weekend for some time.

Lec Ita 23

Started: 3rd Finished: 4th

Leclerc wasn’t as comfortable at the start of the weekend as Sainz and had to switch to his team-mate’s set-up after Friday, having struggled with the mechanical characteristics of the car. He recovered well, but wasn’t quite able to join his team-mate on the front row.

His race was similar to Sainz’s, but his pace was strong even though he couldn’t quite turn the tables in their late-race battle.

Verdict: Second-best Ferrari driver by a small step.

Bot Ita 23

Started: 14th Finished: 10th

While Piastri’s troubles handed Bottas the final point, it was a just reward for a well-executed weekend.

He qualified well in a car that ultimately produced decent straightline speed but at the cost of trading off some corner speed. Bottas ran an inverted strategy in the race, starting on hards, running long and then switching to mediums before passing Sargeant through the first chicane for 10th.

He survived a hit from Sargeant at the second chicane on his way to a first point since the Canadian GP.

Verdict: A strong weekend given the Alfa Romeo’s so-so pace.

Per Ita 23

Started: 5th Finished: 2nd

By his own admission, his free practice crash set Perez back and his deficit was clear in qualifying; like many a driver trying to keep pace with a world champion F1 team-mate he was attacking the corners but not able to match Verstappen’s minimum speed.

Considering overtaking was difficult he did a good job to clear Russell, Leclerc and Sainz to take second.

Verdict: Did the job of a Red Bull number two.

Nor Ita 23

Started: 9th Finished: 8th

Norris lost out in the qualifying battle with team-mate Piastri, ending up almost a tenth and a half and two positions off. He got ahead of Hamilton at the start and ran with his team-mate before being given an undercut on Piastri thanks to concerns about the threat posed by Alonso pitting a lap earlier.

That put the two McLarens on a literal collision course when Piastri exited the pits, which fortunately both survived. But Norris could do nothing about Albon ahead and later in the stint lost a place to the medium-shod Hamilton.

Verdict: Left pace on the table in qualifying.

Alo Ita 23

Started: 10th Finished: 9th

Alonso squeezed up against what appeared to be the ceiling of what he called a difficult car in qualifying and the race.

The Aston Martin’s lack of pace on softs meant the Q3 deficit was large, but he’d been quicker on the hards and mediums – while in the race he was resoundingly 10th before being promoted a place by Piastri’s extra pitstop.

“It’s the worst result and no-one will remember this, but I will do in my head because it has been a tough one,” was Alonso’s verdict after what he felt was his most difficult race of the season car-pace-wise.

Verdict: Extracted what he could from the car.

Pia Ita 23

Started: 7th Finished: 12th

Piastri had the edge on his team-mate by 0.134s in qualifying thanks to a strong end to the lap.

He then got around Albon at the first corner, a position he lost again on lap two before surviving the brush with Norris after being undercut by his team-mate. He was on target for ninth place when Hamilton hit him while making a pass, leading to a second stop that dropped him to 11th on the road, which became 12th when he was penalised five seconds for gaining an advantage by going off track while passing Lawson.

Verdict: Strategy and Hamilton clash hurt his race, but Norris clash should have been avoided.

Lawson 2023 Monza Graphic

Started: 12th Finished: 11th

This has to be considered Lawson’s first proper F1 weekend given he was pitched into his debut weekend on the Saturday of the Dutch GP. And he did exactly what he needed to do, qualifying only 0.164s off Tsunoda (albeit with both drivers admitting there was more on the table), further acclimatising to the car and driving a tidy and effective race.

Having to two-stop meant his flirtation with the points yielded nothing, although he climbed to 11th once Piastri was penalised. This was another step in the right direction.

Verdict: Built on his Zandvoort foundations well.

Ham Ita 23

Started: 8th Finished: 6th

Hamilton and the Mercedes weren’t entirely in unison at Monza, with Hamilton four places and a tenth and a half behind Russell in qualifying. Hamilton’s ragged run through Ascari led to the decisive swing against him as he was markedly more ragged through the fast chicane.

He executed an inverted hard/medium strategy well in the race, although his careless clash with Piastri counts against him despite it not ultimately impacting the result.

Verdict: Careless Piastri clash hurts his ranking.

Hul Ita 23

Started: 13th Finished: 17th

The Haas was far from at its best at Monza, but Hulkenberg did what he could in qualifying to haul it up to 13th, having struggled on the hard tyre in Q1. He admitted his Q2 lap “wasn’t super-smooth” but at most there was probably just one more place to be gained.

He battled on in the race, but the pace of the Haas meant he inevitably slipped back, having committed to a lap-14 pitstop and therefore a two-stopper.

Verdict: Made what he could of unpromising circumstances.

Gas Ita 23

Started: 17th Finished: 15th

Gasly described his and Alpine’s weekend as “super-painful” and felt he was on a hiding to nothing.

The results agreed with him, with the lack of pace on the straights making Alpine an also-ran. His qualifying lap wasn’t perfect and he probably left a little time on the table even though it didn’t dramatically harm his result, while in the race he did what he could on a two-stopper that went nowhere.

Verdict: Did a serviceable job in limited machinery.

Oco Ita 23

Started: 18th Finished: DNF

Ocon’s weekend was much the same as Gasly’s. He too left a bit of time on the table in Q1, with an untidy run through the first chicane costing him, and toiled away down the order until retiring from 15th place “as a precaution after feeling some steering wheel lock early on in the race”.

Verdict: Little to choose between him and his team-mate.

Zho Ita 23

Started: 16th Finished: 14th

In qualifying, he was held back by traffic that compromised his prep lap on his final Q1 run with a slow first sector meaning he couldn’t advance to Q2. With Alfa Romeo splitting strategies, he ended up making an early stop that ultimately turned the race into a two-stopper that meant he spent the grand prix in the lower order.

Verdict: A reasonable weekend despite being second-best at Alfa.

Mag Ita 23

Started: 19th Finished: 18th

“Horrendous, really bad” was Magnussen’s post-race verdict after a weekend when he battled a lack of grip and balance problems.

He didn’t extract the pace Hulkenberg did on hards in Q1, although that was partly because the laptime delta rules forced him to start his final lap too close to Stroll. He spent most of his two-stop race at the back.

Verdict: On a hiding to nothing in uncompetitive machinery.

Tsu Ita 23

Started: 11th Finished: DNS

Tsunoda’s weekend was curtailed by a power unit problem on the formation lap, meaning he had little opportunity to make up for what he felt was a qualifying session where there were “a couple of places that I could have done a better job”. He had the edge on Lawson in qualifying by just over a tenth and a half, but by his own admission should have made it to Q3.

Verdict: No chance to make an impact in the race.

Str Ita 23

Started: 20th Finished: 16th

Stroll failed to complete a flying lap on Friday thanks to sitting out FP1 for Felipe Drugovich, then experiencing a fuel-system problem in FP2.

That was a big setback, although he at least squeezed 31 laps into FP3 before qualifying last in what he described as “the worst session we’ve ever had”. That led to a race spent down the back, with his struggles at the end of his second stint on hards meaning he had no rear grip and slipped behind Zhou and Gasly late on.

Verdict: Never recovered from his Friday misfortune.

Sar Ita 23

Started: 15th Finished: 13th

At his best, Sergeant’s pace stacked up respectably against Albon’s once you factored in he was using an older-specification front wing (a knock-on effect of his Zandvoort shunts) and older power unit that the team reckoned added up to “a tenth or two” in terms of deficit.

Brisk on hards in Q1, he struggled to find extra grip with the shift to mediums in Q2 and ended up slowest. He briefly ran 10th after Piastri’s retirement but soon lost that position to Bottas as he faded on his aged hards, earning a five-second penalty for his overly-robust defence against the Alfa Romeo driver.

Verdict: Promising signs but end product was missing again.

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