The two Formula 1 championship protagonists of 2023 had diametrically opposite weekends at the Monaco Grand Prix, as Max Verstappen dealt Sergio Perez’s title hopes a brutal blow, capitalising on the opportunity presented by a big Perez error.
That mistake came in qualifying but, as always in Monaco, that was the session that counted most, albeit with late-race rain providing opportunities for some drivers to improve their position – both in the race and in our rankings.
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.
Started: 3rd Finished: 3rd
For a moment, it seemed Ocon might have done enough to get pole position given the offset strategy Alpine opted for in Q3 that meant he was perfectly-placed for when the seemingly-inevitable late yellow or red flag prevented others jumping him. That didn’t happen and he was shuffled back to fourth, but it was still a beautifully-executed lap.
He didn’t put a foot wrong in the race, starting third thanks to Leclerc’s penalty and holding position at the start.
He quickly fell back from the top two, but always covered those behind and absorbed pressure from Sainz – who hit him at the chicane after launching an over-optimistic move and caused some minor damage to the rear of the Alpine – and later Hamilton.
Verdict: Executed qualifying and the race superbly for a great result.
Started: 1st Finished: 1st
Verstappen struggled with the car in FP1, something fixed by a significant increase in front ride height. Come qualifying, it was always going to be tight but a combination of Aston Martin’s struggles at the end of the lap and a wall-brushing effort to shave just over a tenth and a half meant Verstappen bagged a pole position that was never a foregone conclusion.
From there, he controlled the race from the lead with a long first stint on mediums waiting for the rain to come and, despite that wall-leaning moment at Portier, weathered the late rainstorm superbly.
Verdict: Only the Portier glance of the wall, which could have gone worse, costs him top spot.
Started: 2nd Finished: 2nd
Alonso knew he had a chance to bag his first pole position in over a decade and gave it his all on the final lap. After two strong sectors, he knew the final sector was the weak point given the struggles Aston Martin had all weekend but perhaps might wish he’d have upped the risk level, as he’d lose out by just 0.084 seconds. But it was still a strong performance.
In the race, he opted to start on hards and held out until the rain came. That matched Verstappen’s approach, albeit with the Red Bull driver on mediums, but by the time the rain came he was just over 13 seconds back.
And while Aston Martin’s switch to fresh mediums proved to be a mistake and he had to pit immediately, that didn’t cost him a place. What it did cost is time to Verstappen and perhaps a chance to jump ahead – but the gap was likely too big to have been made up with a one-lap undercut despite the low-grip conditions.
Verdict: Another classic Alonso weekend.
Started: 6th Finished: 6th
Leclerc was only 0.106s off Verstappen in qualifying, but despite his virtuosity on the streets of Monaco he never quite looked like a pole position threat. His final Q3 lap was a good one, but he struggled with the ride of the car that was being run perhaps a little too low in pursuit of performance.
“You release the brakes and you don’t see anything because the car is moving like crazy with the bumps,” was his verdict on Saturday. But far worse was the Ferrari pitwall’s poor communications, which led to a three-place grid penalty for impeding Norris in the tunnel.
He held sixth at the start, losing a place to Russell thanks to stopping for slicks while the Mercedes driver held out for the rain to come, but regaining it thanks to avoiding the mistake Sainz made in spinning once the rain came.
Verdict: Modest results but a strong performance.
Started: 5th Finished: 4th
Hamilton was quietly positive about the improvement of the upgraded Mercedes, which gave him better front-end characteristics in particular. Sixth fastest in qualifying, which became fifth on the grid, was a decent return given the struggles with front tyre temperature.
He held fifth in the queue behind Sainz, coming in on lap 31 after starting on mediums. When the rain came and the field switched to intermediates, he fell behind Russell, who had run long and therefore cut out a pitstop, but regained that place when his team-mate went off at Mirabeau. Sainz running a lap longer and spinning ensured Hamilton picked up fourth place, which is where he finished despite telling the team he felt like he was driving on ice while struggling to build tyre temperature on the intermediates.
Verdict: A good weekend’s work.
Started: 15th Finished: 11th
Bottas was a little disappointed with qualifying given traffic cost him “one or two tenths” on a weekend where the upgraded Alfa Romeo had shown flashes of the pace needed to make it into Q3.
He then drove a good race to 11th, running long on hards before pitting for intermediates when the rain hit. That had followed losing time behind De Vries, who was acting as cover for Tsunoda.
But given traffic compromised him in qualifying and he maximised the places that could realistically be gained with a well-executed race, there wasn’t a great deal more that Bottas could have been done.
Verdict: Better than the bare results suggest.
Started: 11th Finished: 10th
Piastri’s first Monaco Grand Prix weekend as an F1 driver was a strong one, despite a relatively slow start that led to him suggesting he needs to look into why he didn’t get onto the pace quicker. But the important thing was that, when it mattered, he was there.
He put genuine pressure on Norris in terms of pace and didn’t put a foot wrong in either qualifying or the race. His reward was 10th place after passing the struggling Tsunoda during the wet phase of the race, during which both McLaren drivers showed good speed.
Verdict: Low-profile but impressively assured.
Started: 13th Finished: 14th
Albon crashed at Ste Devote in FP1, with the repair job limiting him to just 10 laps (using the 2022-spec high-downforce wing to protect the spare) in FP2.
The set-up setback meant changes that would ideally have been made overnight were made between FP3 and qualifying, but despite that Albon set the third-fastest time in Q1. The second segment didn’t go so well, but considering the limitations of the Williams and the fact warm-up lap traffic meant his tyres weren’t up to temperature at the start of the lap, he did a solid enough job.
Starting on mediums compromised Albon’s race as it ensured he had to stop long before the rain came, meaning it was a two-stopper. That left him 14th in the queue on a weekend where, if things had gone right for Williams, he could have unexpectedly been in the hunt to nab a point.
Verdict: A good weekend despite the cards not falling in his favour.
Started: 7th Finished: 7th
Gasly had a solid weekend, but not one at the level of Ocon.
He complained of struggling with rear locking and sliding in qualifying in particular, which left him almost four tenths slower than his team-mate. But having started on hards and run seventh ahead of Russell early on, he was frustrated by the team’s decision to call him into the pits just before the rain came.
Had he stayed out a little longer, he would have finished up there with Ocon.
Verdict: A tidy weekend but just not at Ocon’s level.
Started: 10th Finished: 9th
Things almost went badly wrong for Norris in Q2 when he twice hit the wall. Fortunately, he’d done enough to advance to Q3 and the team did a great job to get the car prepared for him to run again. Unfortunately, the pace of the car wasn’t good enough to do better than 10th, much to Norris’s disappointment.
He didn’t put a foot wrong in the race, not quite making it to the rain before pitting to take hards, which necessitated a second stop four laps later. He held 10th throughout that phase, but showed great pace on intermediates and passed Tsunoda to take ninth.
Verdict: Double wall hit in Q2 drags his ranking down.
Started: 9th Finished: 15th
Tsunoda wasn’t delighted with the car on Friday, but set-up changes overnight meant he was more confident heading into qualifying and produced a superb ninth place. While the AlphaTauri is usually at its best at tracks like this, it’s difficult to imagine he could have done much better.
He had a solid grip on ninth place while the race was dry despite some braking problems that afflicted him all weekend.
Starting on hards and running until the rain came was also the ideal strategy. But once on inters in the wet, the braking problem was too much to mask and the two McLarens passed him with ease before a trip up the escape road cost him more positions. But that’s excusable given the extent of the braking troubles.
Verdict: A strong weekend blighted by the off, albeit with braking troubles in mitigation.
Started: 4th Finished: 8th
Sainz didn’t feel his confidence was dented by the FP2 crash exiting the second part of the swimming pool chicane. He believed a top-three was on in qualifying but for traffic on his final lap.
That set the stage for a frustrating race spent chasing Ocon, a battle that almost ended badly when Sainz launched a hugely optimistic attack at the chicane and damaged his front wing on the back of the Alpine. Fortunately, the damage was light enough that he could finish the race without a nose change.
Sainz was furious Ferrari brought him in the lap after Ocon in a failed overcut attempt, given he felt he was quick enough to have extended the stint further. Another attempt to pass at the chicane resulted in a track cut and having to let Ocon back past.
When the rain came, he stayed out and spun after locking the rears at Mirabeau, tapping the wall but surviving. That turned fourth into eighth once he’d come in for intermediates, which is where he finished.
Verdict: Too many rough edges despite good fundamental pace.
Started: 8th Finished: 5th
Although Russell emerged from the weekend with a decent result, finishing just behind Hamilton, his execution wasn’t as smooth. In qualifying, he was, by his own admission, a little too aggressive and was “kicking myself” after that meant he went slower than he should have done – and almost a quarter of a second off his team-mate.
Running long on hards until the rain came was the ideal strategy and allowed him to jump from his original eighth place to third ahead of Ocon. But he threw that away with a trip up the escape road at Mirabeau. He felt that was the consequence of backing off and losing concentration in tricky conditions, saying “there was a yellow flag, I backed off and as soon as I touched the brakes I locked up and followed Stroll up the escape road – when you’re not on it and you’re not focused, you make those mistakes”.
He also rightly earned a 10-second penalty for rejoining unsafely, albeit one that didn’t cost him a position. But the damage was done by the off that cost him two places.
Verdict: Solid on-paper result belies the fact he underachieved in qualifying and threw away two places in the race.
Started: 12th Finished: 12th
De Vries needed a clean weekend at Monaco and he produced one.
While he didn’t have the edge of pace Tsunoda had, he kept out of trouble and played the team game in the race by backing up Bottas to help protect his team-mate’s position.
A long stint on hards meant he could pit just as the rain came, although stopping after Bottas meant he lost a position to the undercut.
Verdict: Produced the solid, clean weekend he needed.
Started: 17th Finished: DNF
Magnussen was happy with the feel of the car and felt that he produced a good lap in Q1 – and that the Haas didn’t have the pace to do better. Given Hulkenberg’s lap was very similar, it did suggest both Haas drivers were butting up against the ceiling imposed by the car’s level around Monaco.
It was always going to be a long race but Magnussen kept it clean on his long first stint on hards – aside from the moment when the anti-stall kicked in after he clouted the chicane kerb, leading to Perez nudging him.
When the rain did come, it seemed ideally timed for that strategy but he stayed out for too long and ended up hitting the wall at Rascasse. He then pitted and was cast right to the back before retiring the car a few laps from home.
Verdict: Pace seemed fine but he was on a hiding to nothing.
Started: 19th Finished: 13th
Zhou was confident going into qualifying but disappointed to be eliminated in Q1. As he said, “we were feeling reasonably good coming into qualifying but we missed the cutoff by too much and I didn’t have the feeling of grip to improve that much”.
From 19th, it was always going to be difficult to make gains so starting on softs and then pitting for hards at the end of the first lap was a logical approach. Still 19th after that stop, the strategy paid off because he was able to jump those who stopped before the rain came. That added up to a solid 13th place.
Verdict: Solid but seemed a step behind Bottas.
Started: 14th Finished: DNF
While Stroll never looked like replicating Alonso’s pace, he was brisk enough and a shoo-in for Q3. Until, that is, Q2 went wrong.
Having missed the weighbridge, he had a single shot on his second run and a big moment in Ste Devote cost him time. He was still on target for Q3 when he went deep into Rascasse, potentially as a result of hitting some debris from Norris that damaged the floor and forced a change before the race, with the time lost ensuring he was eliminated.
Stroll started on hards and ran long, which allowed him to switch straight to intermediates. But it was to little effect as he hit the wall at the hairpin and Mirabeau Bas, albeit at a time when he was struggling with a problem that appeared to be pushing the car on a little.
But the way the race played out, he was never a threat to recover a points position.
Verdict: Q2 problems magnified the gap to Alonso, but he wasn’t at his usual level.
Started: 18th Finished: 17th
Hulkenberg set a near-identical laptime to Magnussen in qualifying, albeit fractionally slower – but given the similarities in pace across the lap it suggested both were at about the right level for the car.
Hulkenberg decided to take an attacking approach at the start to try to make something happen, describing it as “I went all in”. That didn’t pay off as although he made initial gains, he clouted Sargeant at Mirabeau and ended the opening lap at the back. Given he didn’t make enough gains, he pitted for hards at the end of the lap.
That left him at the back and with a five-second penalty for the collision – later a 10-second one because he didn’t serve it at a pitstop – and with terrible track position, there was no way back from there.
Verdict: All-or-nothing approach to the race couldn’t reverse the trend of a difficult weekend.
Started: 16th Finished: 18th
Sargeant’s first visit to Monaco as an F1 driver produced a mostly clean weekend, albeit one on which he didn’t have Albon’s pace. But there were no big mistakes, particularly in qualifying, as he ended up four tenths slower than his team-mate in Q1, with much of the deficit down to time lost into Massenet and through the second part of the swimming pool section.
His race was a difficult one from the moment he was clobbered by Hulkenberg at Mirabeau on the opening lap. He struggled with degradation on the mediums, picked up a puncture after his first stop and then his clean weekend was lost when he tapped the wall once the rain came. That made for a messy race.
Verdict: A tricky race but a mostly tidy weekend.
Started: 20th Finished: 16th
Perez ruined his weekend when he was caught out by the rear stepping out relatively late at Ste Devote, putting him into the wall on the second push lap of his first Q1 run. He didn’t use the traffic that had cut across into the pit exit to keep out of his way as an excuse and “I cannot believe what I’ve done” was his verdict.
Given the cost, neither could anyone watching – especially the Red Bull pitwall as the resulting recovery exposed its floor design to the world.
There was little option in the race but to stop on lap one and run to the end, a strategy Perez initially executed well by quickly closing back up to the pack then passing Sargeant and, with the help of wheel-banging and a chicane cut, Stroll before being caught out by the stuttering Magnussen at the chicane. The resulting contact meant a trip to the pits for a new nose and ruined any hope of points, Perez ultimately finishing two laps down.
Verdict: “Unacceptable” Q1 blunder meant “it was a terrible weekend”.