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Formula 1

Edd Straw's 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix F1 driver rankings

by Edd Straw
9 min read

No one in the Formula 1 field had a straightforward Las Vegas Grand Prix, as the circuit's quirks, various form fluctuations, the first-lap mess and safety car timing meant qualifying positions became pretty irrelevant and almost every position was uncertain until the final stages.

All of which made ranking the field's efforts tricky. Edd Straw looked beneath the results and assessed who really performed.

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: 1st Finished: 2nd

Charles Leclerc was on fine form in Las Vegas and felt “the win was ours” given he was in control when the safety car appeared for the second time.

That happened shortly after he’d pitted for hard tyres, meaning he had no choice but to stay out.

His five-lap tyre-life advantage was flipped to an equivalent deficit and he couldn’t keep Max Verstappen at bay, albeit seizing second by repassing Sergio Perez with a superbly-executed last lap move.

There were a few minor criticisms, such as the small lock-up at the first restart and perhaps being a little cautious in battle while being passed, but he left very little on the table while fighting Red Bull single-handed.

Verdict: Deserved the opportunity to close out the win.

Started: 3rd Finished: 1st

Victory number 18 of 2023 was far from a foregone conclusion once Verstappen’s race was compromised by serving the five-second penalty for his over-ambitious first corner move at his first pitstop.

But George Russell turning in on him and triggering the safety car to clear up debris swung the race back in Verstappen’s favour despite giving him minor front-wing endplate damage, presenting an opportunity he seized.

Verdict: Took his chances effectively.

Started: 7th Finished: 17th

Valtteri Bottas was eighth-fastest in qualifying despite feeling ill, which was a fine achievement in the Alfa Romeo, and held his seventh-place starting spot into Turn 1 when Fernando Alonso spun into his path.

The resulting delay and front wing damage meant he dropped to the back, with “significant” floor damage hobbling him for the rest of the race.

Had he been able to run the race normally from seventh, a strong result was on the cards - the fact he couldn't was entirely down to external factors in a race where plenty of others made their own errors that drag them down our order.

Verdict: Excellent but desperately unlucky.

Started: 16th Finished: 4th

Esteban Ocon lamented the fact that he couldn’t “catch a break” after being eliminated in Q1. That was the consequence of traffic on his first push lap, then Verstappen dive-bombing him at Turn 1 on his final push lap, which followed Ocon passing Verstappen amid concerns about exceeding the maximum out-lap time.

But the race opened up for him well as he vaulted to eighth thanks to the Turn 1 chaos. From there, he drove an excellent race to take fourth, avoiding the worst of the graining problems that hurt his Alpine team-mate Pierre Gasly.

Verdict: Once the bad luck from Q1 was offset, Ocon proved how strong he was.

Started: 11th Finished: 3rd

While he was eliminated in Q2, Perez was within the magic three tenths a second of Verstappen that Red Bull considers acceptable in that part of qualifying.

He was running a little more rear wing, an advantage for qualifying but, he felt, something that made life harder for him in battle.

Fortune swung against him when he crunched his front wing on Bottas’s Alfa Romeo when the Finn checked up because of Alonso’s spin, although Perez was then able to effectively do a one-stopper using two sets of hards.

He should perhaps have been more aware of Leclerc’s threat on the last lap, which cost him second place.

Verdict: Decent but had the opportunity to be first or second.

Started: 5th Finished: 12th

Aside from a mishap in FP3 when he tagged the wall and shed his left-rear tyre, Alex Albon performed strongly throughout the weekend.

He was in the points for much of the race, but thanks to stopping before the safety car and suffering from graining his strategy was compromised and he was dumped out of the points with around 10 laps remaining.

Verdict: Denied a likely points finish by the safety car timing.

Started: 19th Finished: 5th

Lance Stroll showed decent pace in qualifying, although a loss of straightline speed meant he couldn’t get the result that might have been on the cards.

On top of that, he had a five-place grid penalty for ignoring yellow flags in FP3 that meant he was up against it from the start.

But the first corner chaos and a well-executed race drive meant he was rewarded with a second consecutive fifth place.

Verdict: All things considered, one of his stronger weekends of 2023.

Started: 4th Finished: 11th

Gasly put himself in the podium mix with an outstanding qualifying performance, and ran fourth early on.

However, serious graining problems set in on his second set of tyres and he slid backwards out of the points.

There were also complaints about engine 'clipping', although this didn’t appear to be the result of an underlying fault.

Verdict: Quick but undone by the tyres in the race.

Started: 18th Finished: 10th

While Oscar Piastri suffered the same Q1 exit fate as McLaren team-mate Lando Norris in qualifying, extracting slightly less pace from his one set of softs, he had the chance to make more of the race.

However, the clash with Lewis Hamilton that goes down as a racing accident forced him into the pits earlier than expected - with taking another set of hards the only option then.

That meant while he held fourth for a long time, he was always going to drop back when he pitted to comply with the two-compound regulation, dropping out of the points then recovering to take 10th and fastest lap.

Verdict: A decent weekend despite strategic and puncture misfortune.

Started: 10th Finished: 7th

Hamilton complained of a lack of confidence and grip on his way to elimination in Q2.

But his race pace was good and he climbed to sixth after dropping to 15th when he was hit by Carlos Sainz at Turn 1.

Banging wheels with Piastri in the chicane was costly, giving him a puncture that meant he was restricted to seventh place on a day when he had the pace for a strong result.

Verdict: Underachieved in qualifying but unlucky in the race.

Started: 3rd Finished: 8th

Russell seemed to be on a trajectory that would have netted his first podium finish since early June, only for things to fall away when he turned in on Verstappen, having not spotted him.

That was an honest mistake, but one he has to carry the can for given it gave him light damage and also led to a safety car to clear debris that wasn’t well-timed for him.

Russell still finished fourth on the road, which became eighth when his five-second time penalty was added at the chequered flag.

Had he spotted Verstappen coming, he was on target for the podium.

Verdict: Wasted the edge he had on Hamilton in qualifying.

Started: 6th Finished: 16th

Logan Sargeant put together probably his most impressive two days of practice/qualifying of the season and was rewarded with his best qualifying position, within two tenths of Williams team-mate Albon.

He held sixth early on, having repassed Kevin Magnussen on the opening lap and hung in there until he lost the DRS from Albon and immediately dropped back.

While that, along with the safety car timing, ended his points chances, it was largely a decent race drive.

Verdict: His most complete race weekend so far.

Started: 12th Finished: 6th

This was a weekend of exasperation for Sainz, who was furious about the 10-place grid penalty he got for power unit component changes caused by hitting a water valve cover and the fact that oil dumped on the track during the drivers’ parade made the first corner treacherous.

That led to him clouting Hamilton at the start and dropping to 18th.

But his underlying pace was decent, if fractionally off Leclerc, and he recovered well to a solid result.

Verdict: Good performance undermined by misfortune.

Started: 8th Finished: 13th

Magnussen’s season has largely been a moribund one, but he comes alive on street tracks and produced a good turn of speed.

He stuck with the new-specification Haas, running the Austin upgrade, and was happy with its turn-in characteristics.

However, an early tyre change meant he was committed to a two-stop strategy that was never likely to yield points.

Verdict: Good form wasn’t rewarded with a good result.

Started: 9th Finished: 9th

There was a lot of good about Alonso’s weekend, although he perhaps could have qualified a little higher had Q3 been nailed.

The big mistake came at Turn 1 where he was surprised to spin thanks to the desperately low grip.

He recovered well, but that moment cost him a better result.

Verdict: Turn 1 misjudgment was costly.

Started: 14th Finished: 14th

Given AlphaTauri’s struggles, Daniel Ricciardo did a good job to reach Q2 and produced a decent lap despite traffic compromising tyre prep for the start of it.

The same applies to the race as despite being nowhere thanks to the lack of pace in the AlphaTauri and struggling on restarts, he did a decent job in a losing cause.

Verdict: Performed well, but it was futile given the car lacked pace.

Started: 17th Finished: 15th

Zhou Guanyu struggled in practice, particularly with confidence under braking, but started to make progress in qualifying despite being eliminated in Q1.

In the race, his pace was strong but the safety car forced him to change off hards earlier than ideal and led to him fading from points contention in the closing stages.

Verdict: Started slowly but improved.

Started: 13th Finished: 19th

Nico Hulkenberg opted to run the old-specification Haas given he prefers its handling characteristics and felt he had the speed for Q3.

However, he “messed up” with a lock-up into the chicane that cost him time.

He drove a good race, although ground lost in the first corner and a relatively early first pitstop meant he was never a real points threat.

Verdict: Didn’t make the most of the pace he had.

Started: 15th Finished: DNF

Not much went right for Norris in Las Vegas. He failed to escape Q1, having not been able to extract the necessary pace on his one set of softs.

He was running behind McLaren team-mate Piastri early on when the car bottomed out on a bump after the VSC ended, potentially costing him tyre pressure and therefore ride height, and pitched him into the wall.

That has to go down as a driver error given his line was slightly imprecise, but it was a small one with big consequences.

Verdict: Had little opportunity to show what he could do.

Started: 20th Finished: 18th

Like team-mate Ricciardo, Yuki Tsunoda struggled with the lack of pace of the AlphaTauri but found it more difficult to extract what pace there was in there.

When he retired with a power unit problem from last place, it was a merciful release.

However, his struggle relative to Ricciardo was partly down to set-up gambles that didn’t work.

Verdict: A nothing weekend in a nothing car.

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