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Formula 1

Ben Anderson's 2024 F1 Miami Grand Prix driver rankings

by Ben Anderson
12 min read

Formula 1's third Miami Grand Prix was by far its most entertaining as first-time winner Lando Norris defeated Max Verstappen.

But was Norris the top performer of the weekend? And who else impressed?

Here's the verdict from Ben Anderson (subbing in for Edd Straw this weekend) on which drivers performed best across the whole 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.

Started: 6th Finished: 13th

On a weekend when pretty much everyone, including his race-winning team-mate, made errors, Piastri’s performance really stood out for how clean and efficient it was. 

His McLaren was light on upgraded parts, and reckoned to be 0.2s per lap down on Norris’s according to the team, but Piastri was within that margin of Norris throughout qualifying - and ahead in Q2.

Piastri’s first lap in the race was superb - and he put moves on Charles Leclerc, kept Verstappen in check through the first stint and got inside Carlos Sainz’s head later in the race too. 

Until the safety car gave Norris his chance to take control, I’d argue Piastri was the more consistent and marginally more impressive McLaren driver in Miami.

Verdict: A highly effective drive that didn’t get the result it merited. 

Started: 2nd Finished: 3rd

Not a perfect weekend from Leclerc, but a pretty strong one overall. 

He paid a heavy price for a small mistake in FP1 and basically missed all of that session as a consequence, but his recovery from that was exemplary in extracting pretty much the maximum from the Ferrari in both qualifying sessions and the sprint race.

I’m not sure the Ferrari was quite worthy of the podium here in normal circumstances, so Leclerc finishing third - without benefitting from the safety car timing - probably represents a slight overachievement.

Verdict: Not much in it, but marginally the better Ferrari driver.

Started: 5th Finished: 1st

The final stint after the safety car restart was obviously superb from Norris. There’s not been many races over the past three seasons where someone has genuinely driven away from Verstappen. 

But up until the safety car gave him that crucial track position boost, I feel Norris had slightly underdelivered in the heavily upgraded McLaren - in both qualifying sessions - and was having to work too hard to extract a podium finish from a car that was clearly fast enough to win.

Verdict: Supreme final stint, but not a complete weekend.

Started: 1st Finished: 2nd

It’s almost frightening to consider how, even on a weekend such as this when he’s not comfortable in the car and making small mistakes, Verstappen is still basically dominating everyone.

He couldn’t get the two axles balanced properly in either qualifying session, but no one stepped up to take the chance to beat him. OK, he was eventually beaten in the grand prix, but there’s little doubt in my mind that the safety car intervention, as well as handing track position to Norris, also cost Verstappen the chance to fire up those hard tyres properly. By the time he did, the race was lost.

Verdict: Not his best or cleanest weekend, but still strong enough.

Started: 10th Finished: 7th

Tsunoda continues to put himself near the front of the queue of the midfield interlopers ready to pounce if any drivers from the top five teams underperform or hit trouble. 

This time it was Mercedes and Aston Martin tripping up and Tsunoda was right there to capitalise, nestling between the two faster Mercedes cars and genuinely outpacing George Russell’s over the final stint of the grand prix.

Going out early in SQ2 is about the only thing Tsunoda did wrong this weekend.

Verdict: Another strong performance picking off inherently faster cars.

Started: 8th Finished: 6th

There were a couple of occasions this weekend when the Mercedes W15 somehow got the tricky Pirelli tyres into the correct working temperature range, where Hamilton was absolutely mighty. 

His Q2 lap was so good he lapped within two tenths of Verstappen and Leclerc, and Hamilton’s final race stint after the safety car restart was also impressive, as he fired up the medium compound, despatched Tsunoda and menaced Sergio Perez’s Red Bull.

He was lucky to get away with hitting Alonso in the sprint, lost a point from that race to a speeding penalty, and slightly underperformed in Q3 compared to Russell, but was very good in the grand prix itself.

Verdict: Probably his best Sunday of the season so far.

Started: 13th Finished: 10th

Ocon is driving well this season and there was almost nothing to choose between him and Gasly at the business end of this weekend.

It was impressive to see him go wheel-to-wheel with his team-mate for almost half of the first lap of the grand prix without making contact, and although he lost that fight Ocon did win on-track skirmishes with Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin and Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas.

It's just a shame Ocon's pace fell away a bit across the final stint and he lost out again to the Aston. 

Verdict: Slightly underwhelming in qualifying but a really strong race.

Started: 12th Finished: 12th

Gasly finally got his hands on the upgraded, lighter Alpine chassis and floor that team-mate Ocon had first dibs on in China - and mostly put it to very good use.

Considering the lack of track time on a sprint weekend, and being a race behind in terms of familiarity with the updated car, Gasly drove well in the sprint and did a good job to shade Ocon in grand prix qualifying.

An inferior strategy of pitting early meant he got trapped in the Hulkenberg DRS train and that cost Gasly his chance of being in the mix for that final point.  

Verdict: Couldn’t make things happen in the race, but impressive underlying pace.

Started: 3rd Finished: 5th

Sainz would have been higher in this list had he not gone to pieces during that late-race battle with Piastri. Up until the safety car reset things, Sainz was looking quite strong and in contention to finish on the podium depending on how the strategies shook out. 

His underlying pace was within a tenth of Leclerc's, and Sainz was also quite unlucky to not gain track position, having outgunned his team-mate at the start but almost been collected by Perez’s wayward Red Bull at Turn 1.

Sainz is normally so calm and collected, but he took exception to the way Piastri defended position into Turn 11 - fairly, the stewards concluded under 2024’s new racing guidelines - and seemed to lose his head thereafter. 

The move Sainz pulled at Turn 17 was out-of-control and a bit desperate - and it completely ruined Piastri’s race.

Verdict: Strong pace again, but let Piastri get into his head.

Started: 4th Finished: 4th

Not Perez’s most effective weekend really. Probably the best thing he did was make sure Daniel Ricciardo didn’t embarrass him by beating the Red Bull to third in the sprint race. The move Perez pulled there was decisive and crucial, and something Sainz couldn’t manage.

But Perez let both Ferraris sneak ahead in grand prix qualifying, then decided to go full Mexico 2023 kamikaze-spec into Turn 1 and came within a hair of wiping Verstappen out of the lead.

Perez never found a rhythm after that and his pace during the final stint was disappointing, losing him contact with the leading cars and forcing him into a rearguard action against Hamilton’s Mercedes.

Verdict: OK result, but a laboured performance.

Started: 9th Finished: 11th

Up until the end of the first six or so laps of the grand prix, Hulkenberg was a serious contender for the top two or three in this ranking. 

He’d been fast and consistent all weekend, scored strongly in the sprint race, qualified very well for the grand prix itself and had just forced his way ahead of Hamilton’s Mercedes.

But then it all unravelled. A relatively early pitstop to get off the medium and onto the hard tyre didn’t work and Hulkenberg went backwards in his second stint. 

He was a bit better once the mediums went back on for the final part of the race, but two stops was one stop too many regardless and by the time Hulkenberg rediscovered his rhythm the damage was done. 

Verdict: Outstanding underlying pace but a disappointing race.

Started: 15th Finished: 9th

For a large part of this weekend the extraordinary, overachieving version of Alonso appeared to have vacated the paddock. He was slower than Lance Stroll in both qualifying sessions, only 15th on the grid and lamenting some misguided set-up changes.

But Alonso did a much, much better job in the race, making the same one-stop strategy as Hamilton (hard/medium) work and salvaging two points by forcing his way back past Ocon in the final stint. 

Verdict: His most muted weekend of 2024 but you can never count him out.

Started: 7th Finished: 8th

A difficult weekend characterised by losing crucial ground at the start of the races and not being able to coax useful grip out of the tyres over a stint.

Russell got stuck behind Logan Sargeant’s Williams and Zhou Guanyu’s Sauber in the sprint race, after the first corner three-way between Hamilton and the Astons, and could only really hang with Hamilton in the first stint of the grand prix (despite starting on the faster tyre) before dropping away from Tsunoda’s RB on the hard tyre at the end.

Kept it clean at least, and Russell also retained the tiniest edge of absolute qualifying pace over Hamilton this weekend.

Verdict: His least effectual weekend of 2024 so far.

Started: 20th Finished: 15th

Full disclaimer: the only reason Ricciardo isn’t towards the bottom of this ranking is that absolutely mega sprint performance, where he qualified and finished inside the top four, scored his first points of the season and looked again like the Mexico 2023 version of himself that deserves to stake a claim to Perez’s Red Bull seat.

The rest of Ricciardo’s weekend was poor. He was so mystified by his Q1 exit that he blamed a dud set of Pirellis while admitting he had no evidence for that claim.

And where Alonso and Hamilton made a hard/medium one-stop strategy work to great effect, Ricciardo made basically no progress at all save for incidents in front of him. 

Verdict: Ricciardo fans, just cling to how good that sprint was.

Started: 11th Finished: 17th

It’s not often that Stroll puts Alonso in the shade, and the job he did in Saturday’s qualifying session was even more impressive considering he had to revert to a pre-Japan car spec following the damage done in that first-lap sprint collision - for which, it must be said, Stroll was at least partly to blame.

His grand prix was OK except he got stuck behind Gasly after making an early pistop, then made another one, then got stuck behind Ricciardo for a time, and then undid his result by overtaking Alex Albon’s Williams illegally. 

Verdict: Decent underlying performance but couldn’t convert it.

Started: 17th Finished: DNF

This was one of those rare weekends when Sargeant’s underlying pace was comparable to Albon’s, and it was also one of those even rarer weekends when Sargeant was driving more cleanly and making fewer mistakes than his team-mate.

Sargeant produced a quietly effective but ultimately unrewarded drive to 10th in the sprint and was running comfortably within two or three seconds of Albon throughout the grand prix until Magnussen decided to leave his nose in where it didn’t really belong. 

Verdict: One of his better weekends but no reward.

Started: 19th Finished: 14th

Did a good job to beat his team-mate Valtteri Bottas in both sprint qualifying and the sprint itself, but then underperformed in qualifying for the grand prix - even before missing the cutoff to complete his final run, Zhou was almost three tenths off Bottas’s pace.

He made a very respectable job of the first part of the grand prix, getting ahead of Bottas and Magnussen’s Haas and pretty much running at the pace of Alonso’s Aston.

Zhou's final stint on the soft tyre didn’t go well, though, and he got picked off by Hulkenberg and Stroll and generally went backwards. 

Verdict: Not too bad considering the Sauber wasn’t great here.

Started: 14th Finished: 18th

You could sense the quiet frustration in Albon, as the combination of difficult and hot track surface, tyres not quite firing up consistently, and the Williams no longer being the relatively efficient weapon in a straight line that it used to be, severely limited his scope to somehow pull off a miracle result.

When top 10 qualifying scalps are there to be had, it’s now RB and Haas (and increasingly Alpine) rather than Albon’s Williams there to capitalise. You could see Albon was trying hard to make something happen, but the sort of miracle offset stint holding off a train of cars to nick points looks completely beyond the car now, and this latest attempt ended in a cloud of brake smoke with points already well out of reach.

Verdict: A tough weekend in a car that’s limiting him.

Started: 16th Finished: 16th

Bottas has been performing relatively well in this first part of the season, but this was a more subdued performance than we’ve seen of late - maybe not helped by the feeling he is being eased towards the exit door by Audi’s recent swoop for Hulkenberg’s signature and sudden reshuffling of the engineering team.

Qualifying for the grand prix was about the only time Bottas was on top in the Sauber intra-team battle, and even then he only just beat Sargeant’s Williams while narrowly missing the chance to scalp Alonso’s underperforming Aston for a Q2 spot.

Bottas didn’t take any advantage from starting the grand prix on the soft tyre, and actually regressed in his first stint before having to switch to a two-stop strategy because his pace on the hard tyre after his early first pitstop was nothing short of horrendous. 

Verdict: A weekend to forget and move on from.

Started: 18th Finished: 19th

Magnussen copped so many penalties this weekend that it was almost as if Pastor Maldonado had returned to the grid in spirit form.

This was overall a very difficult weekend anyway for Magnussen, who apart from SQ1 on Friday wasn’t able to consistently extract the same one-lap pace from the Haas as Hulkenberg.

Although Hamilton was impressed with Magnussen’s honesty in admitting to dirty tactics in the sprint race, the stewards took a dim view - and a deserved further penalty for needlessly wiping Sargeant’s Williams out of the grand prix puts Magnussen on the verge of a race ban that McLaren feels he should be serving already.

Verdict: Collecting way more penalty points than championship points is never a good look.

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