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Formula 1

Edd Straw’s 2023 Miami Grand Prix driver rankings

by Edd Straw
13 min read

All the drivers on the current Formula 1 grid reached the finish in the 2023 Miami Grand Prix – with those who had a big mistake (or two) in them getting those out of the way in practice and qualifying, albeit with one glaring exception.

But the lack of attrition meant those pre-race mistakes proved costly, admittedly more so for some than others, and conditioned several drivers’ weekends – while out front the arguable standout performers of the season so far impressed again.

Here’s how the F1 roster stacked up the second time around in Miami in our eyes.

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 or not 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.

Miami GP F1 rankings Fernando Alonso

Started: 2nd Finished: 3rd

Alonso was his usual effective self in qualifying, making it through Q1 on one set of tyres then putting in a decent lap on used softs on his one Q3 run to take second on the grid. That gave him a crucial track position advantage for the race, which he turned into third place.

Verstappen was always going to catch and pass him, doing so earlier than Alonso predicted, but thereafter the battle was with Sainz, then Russell.

He won the Sainz battle by repassing him after being undercut at the pitstop. He then ensured Russell didn’t get close enough in the second stint to pose a threat. His reward was a fourth third place in five races.

Verdict: Maximised the result in both qualifying and the race.

Miami GP F1 rankings Max Verstappen

Started: 9th Finished: 1st

Aside from complaints about his HANS device getting caught in the headrest, Verstappen had a strong run throughout practice and the first two parts of qualifying. That made him the overwhelming favourite for pole position, but an error approaching Turn 7 on his first run in Q3 led to him aborting the lap. When Leclerc crashed and brought out the red flag, denying Verstappen a second attempt, it was a costly reminder of the importance of a banker lap.

Starting on the hards, Verstappen produced a ruthlessly efficient race. It took just 15 laps to reach second place. Superb pace as that stint progressed meant he was closer to Perez after his pitstop than anticipated, making the subsequent pass for victory a foregone conclusion.

While in the end he had a strategy that worked well and spent more of the race on the stronger hards, Verstappen’s pace ensured he made it work.

Verdict: First run of Q3 aside, a perfect weekend.

Miami GP F1 rankings George Russell

Started: 6th Finished: 4th

Given the difficulties Mercedes had in qualifying trim, and its stronger race pace, Russell maximised his results.

Luck played its part in qualifying so high, but from there he drove an excellent race, dispatching Gasly in the first stint then catching and passing Sainz in the second.

He and Hamilton were at a similar level throughout the weekend, with the only difference the slender advantage he had in Q2 after Hamilton’s tyre-prep troubles. That meant a more straightforward race for Russell, who made the most of his opportunity.

Verdict: Maximised his qualifying and race result given the machinery.

Miami GP F1 rankings Sergio Perez

Started: 1st Finished: 2nd

Perez described Miami as “my worst weekend up to qualifying” as he struggled to find a consistent balance and confidence as the grip level fluctuated. Given the closest he got to Verstappen in the three practice sessions and first two segments of qualifying was 0.350s, heading into Q3 he’d likely have been happy enough with second place.

But by putting in a strong banker lap on the first run, Perez put himself in a position to benefit from a disrupted second run and his reward was an unexpected pole despite a time fractionally slower than Verstappen’s Q2 pace.

It was always about the battle with Verstappen in the race for Perez, who held the lead in the first stint on medium Pirellis that didn’t prove as strong as anticipated. Having pitted for hards, he was always set to regain the lead when Verstappen stopped, but as Verstappen’s hard stint went on the expected gap reduced. That meant it was inevitable Perez would lose the lead after Verstappen switched to mediums, despite doing his best to defend. Unlike in Jeddah and Baku, he didn’t quite have the pace to cover Verstappen.

Verdict: Wasn’t quite at Verstappen’s level.

Miami GP F1 rankings Lewis Hamilton

Started: 13th Finished: 6th

Hamilton fell the wrong side of the cut-off in Q2, with the 0.232s deficit to team-mate Russell largely down to a moment on entry to Turn 1. Hamilton attributed that to traffic on the out-lap that compromised his tyre preparation.

The Mercedes had stronger pace in the race. Hamilton survived a brush with Hulkenberg through Turn 2 on the opening lap and spent the first 14 laps stuck behind Albon in a DRS train, having started on hards. But once he had some clear air to exploit, he made good use of the pace.

That put him ninth after he’d pitted for mediums, once Stroll had stopped a few laps later. He then dispatched Magnussen, Leclerc and Gasly to take sixth.

Verdict: The only difference to his team-mate’s high level was slight Q2 underachievement.

Miami GP F1 rankings Carlos Sainz

Started: 3rd Finished: 5th

Sainz looked far more assured after his Baku nightmare. While he didn’t quite have the livewire pace of Leclerc, he was the more consistent of the Ferrari drivers.

Sainz ended up third on the grid, which is what he was aiming for, but his first Q3 lap was an untidy one, slower than his Q2 pace, which would have been good enough to put him second ahead of Alonso had he replicated it. Given Sainz was on fresh softs and Alonso on used for that crucial first run, it was a missed opportunity.

The race was “tough”, according to Sainz. After a good stint on the mediums, he undercut his way past Alonso. But trouble on the hard Pirellis meant that he faded back to fifth after being passed by Alonso and Russell. He also picked up a five-second penalty for speeding entering the pitlane, but that didn’t cost him a position.

Verdict: A good and, penalty aside, clean weekend in a tricky car.

Miami GP F1 rankings Pierre Gasly

Started: 5th Finished: 8th

Gasly was confident in the car, although more often than not he looked just on the wrong side of the tight battle between the Alpine drivers. But he put in what he described as a “strong” lap on used softs in Q3 to pick up fifth – although he just missed out on beating Magnussen to fourth place.

Competitive gravity was always against him in the race given the Alpine was the fifth-quickest car, but he drove well and largely avoided squandering time in lost causes, and finished eighth ahead of Ocon.

Verdict: Class-winning midfield form.

Miami GP F1 rankings Yuki Tsunoda

Started: 17th Finished: 11th

Tsunoda appeared to have the legs of his team-mate until the final Q1 runs, where De Vries had the edge in Turn 7 and turned that into an advantage of 0.104s. Tsunoda complained of a lack of grip, although he found the balance of the car to his liking.

He emerged from a busy and hard-fought first lap in 15th and settled into a long stint on the hards. He overcut Hulkenberg, then made passes on Albon and Bottas once on the mediums to get within a place of the top 10, finishing just 1.364s behind Magnussen.

Verdict: An accomplished weekend unrewarded.

Miami GP F1 rankings Alex Albon

Started: 11th Finished: 14th

Albon continued his strong 2023 form by putting the Williams on the brink of Q3 with 11th on the grid. As Williams head of vehicle performance Dave Robson put it, that was “a few places higher than the FW45’s natural pace”, and it’s possible that with a more aggressive run plan to make the most of the rapid track evolution that he would have been in the top 10.

Albon slipped to 12th behind Hulkenberg at the start and spent most of the race struggling for grip and battling a tendency to slide. In the second stint, he was passed by Tsunoda and Stroll as he slipped to 14th place.

Verdict: Flattered the car in qualifying.

Miami GP F1 rankings Kevin Magnussen

Started: 4th Finished: 10th

Although there were hints that Magnussen didn’t quite have the edge of pace Hulkenberg did, he did put together a more rounded weekend. He outqualified Hulkenberg for the first time in 2023, then put in a “pretty decent lap” on used softs in Q3 to earn fourth on the grid thanks to the red flag.

Magnussen was never going to be able to stay there and although he admitted to abusing his tyres in a battle with Leclerc he was never going to be able to win, by the end of the race he was in about as good a position as he could be in a Haas given the Alpine was a little quicker.

Verdict: Very effective in a congested part of the field.

Miami GP F1 rankings Valtteri Bottas

Started: 10th Finished: 13th

This was a classic example of a weekend where a driver flattered the car in qualifying and regressed to the mean on race day. As Bottas admitted after the race, the Alfa Romeo just didn’t quite have the race pace to hold on to a points position.

Bottas was in his element on the smooth, low-grip Miami track surface, particularly after overnight set-up changes following a difficult Friday. That resulted in Alfa Romeo’s first Q3 appearance of the year, albeit one frustrated by the red flag that prevented him setting a laptime there.

He held 10th after being passed by Ocon in the first stint, but was always destined to fall behind the quicker Hamilton, then was passed by Stroll and Tsunoda, who were on the ‘inverse’ hard/medium strategy late on.

Verdict: Flattered the car in qualifying.

Miami GP F1 rankings Esteban Ocon

Started: 8th Finished: 9th

Ocon was frustrated not to have his second run in Q3, which meant he had to rely on his first-run time on used softs – a set he’d struggled with sliding on earlier in qualifying. The lap was a tenth and a half off what Gasly managed, with the time loss in the second half of the lap.

Ocon went for the inverse strategy, starting on hards and running a long first stint. Wheelspin off the line meant he lost a place to Bottas before losing another position to Verstappen later on the first lap. He soon got back ahead of Bottas and ran ninth.

From there, a brief shortcut of the chicane aside, it was a relatively straightforward race for Ocon as he closed out ninth place. But he felt more was possible had qualifying played out as he’d hoped.

Verdict: Showed good pace all weekend.

Miami GP F1 rankings Lando Norris

Started: 16th Finished: 17th

Norris flattered McLaren with sixth-fastest in FP2 before being eliminated in Q1. He put that Friday overachievement down to cooler conditions and a strong lap, but although he admitted he should have made Q2 he didn’t believe it would have been possible to do much better than 15th thanks to the car’s struggles in the lower-speed and longer corners.

With little chance of points on merit in a straightforward race, Norris started on softs, which gave him the extra bite to gain at the start. Unfortunately, he was then rear-ended by De Vries, which dropped him to the back.

An early switch to hards made little difference, other than to leave Norris on a marathon stint to the end.

Verdict: Should have reached Q2, but was on a hiding to nothing in the race.

Miami GP F1 rankings Nico Hulkenberg

Started: 12th Finished: 15th

Despite an FP1 mishap (a spin into the wall), Hulkenberg showed eye-catching pace and looked a shoo-in for Q3 until he missed the apex by a distance at the first corner on his final Q2 run. He put that down to tyre temperature being compromised by Alonso passing him approaching the last corner, which proved costly as it led to him aborting the lap.

He started on hards, committing to a long first stint, but the race never really came together. He found the car tricky in traffic, not the first time that’s been the case for the Haas this year, then was unable to make further progress once on the mediums.

With a better starting position, there’s every chance he’d have been in the points and potentially ahead of Magnussen.

Verdict: Quick, but couldn’t undo the damage of Q2 in the race.

Miami GP F1 rankings Charles Leclerc

Started: 7th Finished: 7th

Leclerc showed himself capable of serious speed in Miami, but also of errors thanks to what he described as an “aggressive set-up” and the way he dances on the knife-edge and backs himself to gather up moments. That caught him out on Friday when he crashed at Turn 7, but he didn’t heed the warning.

After failing to close out what would have been a superb first lap when he locked up at Turn 17 and ran wide, Leclerc then took too much kerb at Turn 6, bottomed out and spun into the barrier. As he put it, “there was the potential to do great today and I put it all in the bin”.

Leclerc made little progress in the race, dicing with Magnussen early on and eventually getting ahead of him in the second stint.

Tyre troubles and the inconsistency of what he felt was a wind-sensitive car made for a difficult race, and he lost sixth place to Hamilton in the closing stages.

Verdict: Fast but flawed.

Miami GP F1 rankings Oscar Piastri

Started: 19th Finished: 19th

Piastri was just nine hundredths off Norris in Q1, which added up to a difference of two positions. He considered that to be a “decent” lap but admitted he’d left a little on the table.

The race was a long and difficult one, not helped – after a good start – by a long brake pedal that was caused by a BBW problem. As he put it, “I had a brake pedal that was about two metres long”.

The ‘reward’ for his afternoon was a lapped 19th.

Verdict: Marginally the second-best driver in the 10th-best car.

Miami GP F1 rankings Zhou Guanyu

Started: 14th Finished: 16th

Zhou didn’t seem to have the last edge of pace Bottas did on Saturday, although the lack of slipstream in Q2 was blamed for him not advancing to Q3. Even with the slipstream, which Zhou provided to Bottas, he likely would not have matched his team-mate, although the half-second gap in qualifying was a massive exaggeration.

Alfa Romeo split its strategy, meaning Zhou started on the hards. He spent the first part of the race in a DRS train, but did show good pace once in clear air. But he was always up against it given the car pace and the strategy and was only able to pick off Norris once onto mediums for his final stint.

Verdict: Solid, but not quite at Bottas’s level.

Miami GP F1 rankings Lance Stroll

Started: 18th Finished: 12th

Stroll’s weekend turned on one misjudgement, which was Aston Martin persevering with its plan to get him through to Q2 on just one set of tyres despite a first-run time that always looked short of what was needed.

The three-tenths deficit to Alonso always seemed too big, leaving Stroll down in 18th, although he was on course to match his team-mate until laptime ebbed away from Turn 11 to the end of the lap.

From that unpromising position, Stroll did a decent job in the race. He was stuck in a DRS train early on, impressive pass on Zhou aside, but did then also overtake Hulkenberg, Albon and Bottas in the second stint on his way to 12th.

Verdict: As he put it, the damage was done in qualifying.

Miami GP F1 rankings Nyck de Vries

Started: 15th Finished: 18th

After his recent struggles, De Vries did a good job to reach Q2 and outqualify team-mate Tsunoda. That was mainly down to finding time in Turn 7 on the second run in Q1.

Unfortunately, his weekend unravelled at the race start. Norris had a good getaway in the soft-shod McLaren and got ahead, with De Vries locking up under braking for Turn 1 and rear-ending the McLaren. Although he got away without major damage, he did pick up a vibration.

That meant a quiet afternoon at the back, aside from a dice with Piastri in his first stint.

Verdict: Qualifying boost wiped out by Turn 1 blunder.

Miami GP F1 rankings Logan Sargeant

Started: 20th Finished: 20th

Last in qualifying and last in the race added up to a disappointing weekend for Sargeant in his first home grand prix. But his performance level was solid enough for a rookie, even if he lacked the pace Albon showed.

In qualifying, he felt he had the pace to have reached Q2 but the failure to nail the first lap on his final Q1 run cost him. With the tyres past their best, he ended up a couple of tenths off.

Any chance to improve in the race vanished when he clipped Stroll in the chicane on the first lap, suffering damage that hobbled him for the rest of the race and forced an early stop for a new nose and hard tyres. That added up to last place, 14 seconds off the back despite respectable pace in the circumstances.

Verdict: First-lap damage proved costly.

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