until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Edd Straw's 2023 Mexican Grand Prix F1 driver rankings

by Edd Straw
10 min read

A Mexican Grand Prix Formula 1 weekend that had promised above-average intrigue ultimately ended with a familiar outcome, and a record-breaking one at that.

But though Max Verstappen was at his reliably high level en route to victory, he was just one of a handful of drivers with a legitimate case for being named the most impressive performer at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

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: 3rd

Charles Leclerc was one of the few drivers who strung together their best three sectors when it counted in Q3, although even then he gave away a little time at the end of the lap. But he was strong throughout qualifying and a deserving polesitter.

The combination of losing the lead at the start and the red flag denied him the chance to try to defeat Verstappen with one fewer pitstop, with the timing of the stoppage also meaning he lost out to Lewis Hamilton when he should have been at least second.

Verdict: Red flag timing compromised his race.

Started: 3rd Finished: 1st

Verstappen probably could have taken pole position, but it didn’t make much difference given he took the lead on the first lap anyway.

Thereafter, he drove a strong race, albeit with the complexity of the two-stopper he was on simplified by the assistance of the red flag.

He’d probably have won regardless, but it made his life far easier.

Verdict: Red flag denied the chance to win even more stylishly.

Started: 6th Finished: 2nd

Hamilton’s rich vein of form continued as he had a clear edge over Mercedes team-mate George Russell and produced a strong race drive that, with a little help from the red flag that allowed him to beat Leclerc, yielded second place.

While he wasn’t quite as comfortable with the car as he had been throughout the Austin weekend, he extracted good pace from it and delivered a consistently strong race drive, with the insistent grass-biting overtake on Leclerc the highlight.

Verdict: Strong, but left a little on the table in qualifying.

Started: 4th Finished: 7th

This was something approaching the Daniel Ricciardo F1 looked to have lost, with the improved front end of the AlphaTauri allowing him to get the most out of a car that worked very well in Mexico.

While by his own admission he left a little time on the table in qualifying thanks to not improving on his second Q3 lap, that’s the only thing he gave away in what was a convincing weekend.

Verdict: Ricciardo’s best weekend since Monza ‘21.

Started: 2nd Finished: 4th

Sainz was very slightly off Ferrari team-mate Leclerc’s level, but not by much.

The first part of the race proved difficult thanks to a poor launch and what he described as a “weird stint on mediums” with graining kicking in “almost on the formation lap”. That led to him dropping 10 seconds behind Leclerc.

But after switching to the hard tyres, he was back to being very close to his team-mate’s pace.

Verdict: Second-best Ferrari, but only by a small margin.

Started: 17th Finished: 5th

Were this ranking based purely on the race rather than the whole weekend, Lando Norris might well be top.

However, what he called his “silly mistake” on the one Q1 lap he had the chance to do fundamentally changed his weekend for the worse and meant a qualifying and race result below what was possible.

His brilliantly incisive race drive partly made up for the losses, but overall a bigger result was left on the table. However, as the mistake was on a single qualifying lap - with a fuel system "uncertainty" forcing McLaren to write off his first run, and a yellow flag costing him a second flier - that’s not as big a ranking hit as it could've been.

Verdict: Qualifying dents his ranking.

Started: 11th Finished: 11th

Pierre Gasly finished behind his team-mate Esteban Ocon, but did have the edge in the Alpine camp on pace during the weekend.

With Alpine struggling for speed, 11th on the grid was a decent effort - but the timing of the red flag allowed medium-shod Alex Albon and Ocon to jump Gasly given he started on hards he’d fitted before the stoppage.

That cost him a minor points finish.

Verdict: Deserved a few points in a struggling Alpine.

Started: 12th Finished: 13th

Nico Hulkenberg characterised the Haas as a car that “didn’t have balance, rhythm and grip” after qualifying - and was surprised to be as high as 12th.

He translated that into a race in which he came within six laps of scoring an unlikely point before inevitably falling behind the Alpines and Yuki Tsunoda.

His cause wasn’t helped by the red flag that left him with too long a final stint on mediums in a Haas that is still hard on his tyres.

Verdict: Overachieved in a car that was fundamentally limited.

Started: 15th Finished: 10th

Ocon was happy with the feel of the Alpine, albeit not the pace, on Friday but struggled more on Saturday and was frustrated by a compromised outlap on his second Q1 run that contributed to his elimination.

He opted to start on hards, losing three places on the first lap, but was helped out by the red flag that gave him a free tyre stop.

Getting ahead of Gasly through the first complex at the restart was key as he went on to pass Hulkenberg for the final point.

Verdict: By a small margin seemed second-best of the Alpines.

Started: 14th Finished: 9th

Albon showed eye-catching pace during practice but couldn’t make it count in qualifying.

While the high track temperatures at the start of qualifying made the car slower, he still should have made Q3 - and would have done but for having his Q2 time deleted for what he felt was a dubious track limits violation at Turn 2.

He credited two very good starts for his rise to ninth after what he described as a “weird” race.

Verdict: Ultimately disappointing but still salvaged points.

Started: 8th Finished: 6th

The pace came and went in qualifying as Russell struggled in Q3, ending up just over two tenths of a second off Mercedes team-mate Hamilton.

In what he described as a “race dictated by tyres” he was threatening Sainz in the second stint before having to back off because of overheating brakes, losing tyre temperature and “driving on ice for the last 15 laps”. He felt he was lucky only to slip to sixth.

Verdict: A frustrating step behind Hamilton all weekend.

Started: 7th Finished: 8th

Some rookie rough edges showed this weekend, Oscar Piastri underachieving in Q3 then having markedly worse tyre use than McLaren team-mate Norris in the race.

However, that was compounded by the damage he picked up when Tsunoda turned in on him while battling for seventh. But he kept his head and brought home points.

Verdict: Fell short of the potential of the car.

Started: 13th Finished: DNF

When you see Fernando Alonso spinning, you know something’s wrong. When you see him spinning twice, something is badly wrong. And when he admits “I always felt on the back foot and was not trusting the car” you know that there’s no hope.

There were signs of the belligerence behind the wheel that can set in when he’s frustrated, but given the car pace and damage from debris sustained at Turn 1, who could blame him.

Verdict: Weak car seemed to rub off on Alonso’s performance.

Started: 16th Finished: DNF

Considering Kevin Magnussen sat out FP1 for Ollie Bearman, then lost much of FP3 to a left-rear wheel problem, lapping a couple of tenths off Hulkenberg in Q1 was very respectable.

He carries no blame for the heavy Turn 8 crash that brought out the red flag given it was caused by a suspension failure, which brought to an end a race that had been reasonable up to that point.

Verdict: A solid effort with circumstances against him.

Started: Pits Finished: 17th

Lance Stroll struggled with what he described as “no grip” in qualifying, but despite being eliminated in Q1 the 0.379s deficit to Aston Martin team-mate Alonso was adequate by recent standards.

But he started from the pits with a car that was largely reverted to the pre-upgrade specification, passing the hobbled Alonso early on.

He held 14th when he overtook Valtteri Bottas at the hairpin only to clash with the Alfa Romeo heading at the exit, putting him out.

Verdict: Fared OK compared to Alonso in a poor Aston Martin.

Started: 10th Finished: 14th

Zhou Guanyu showed good pace but was kicking himself for his Q2 elimination, only to be reprieved when Albon had his laptime disallowed.

He wasn’t quite at the level of Alfa Romeo team-mate Bottas pace-wise, but ended up closer than he was trending to be thanks to his team-mate’s Turn 13 error.

On Sunday, Zhou held 10th early on before being passed by Albon, but having to restart on hards that had 13 laps on them (the most mileage on the compound of anyone at the restart) meant he had no chance in the second half of the race.

Verdict: Did a solid job but was undone by the red flag.

Started: 5th Finished: DNF

Amid the drama of being outqualified by Red Bull stablemate Ricciardo, it was important not to miss the fact Perez was only 0.160s slower than Verstappen in qualifying. That suggested he is making some progress with the car.

But the feat was undone after a fast start got him alongside Leclerc and Verstappen heading into Turn 1 - where ambition overpowered good racecraft and he turned in on a Ferrari that had nowhere to go and ended Perez’s race.

Verdict: Turn 1 rashness harpooned his best weekend in months.

Started: 9th Finished: 15th

This was a weekend that promised much and Bottas was able to extract good pace from the Alfa Romeo. A lock-up in the Turn 13 hairpin cost him significant time in Q3, three tenths against his best, which might possibly have cost him a position or two.

He slipped to 12th at the start, not helped by losing gear sync, then pitted just before the red flag, which left him well down the order and stuck in a traffic jam for the rest of the race.

Verdict: Underlying pace promised a little more.

Started: 18th Finished: 12th

Things were going so well for Tsunoda until he bafflingly turned across Piastri while making what looked like an inevitable pass.

He sat out FP1, knew he had a back-of-the-grid penalty and played his role perfectly in qualifying by towing AlphaTauri team-mate Ricciardo in Q1 and Q2, then showed good pace in climbing the order.

The pace was there and he really should have finished eighth.

Verdict: One big misjudgement destroyed an impressive weekend.

Started: 19th Finished: 16th

Sargeant headed into the weekend eager to build on a strong Austin race performance - but failed to do so.

He described qualifying as “a bit of a waste of a session” thanks to “stopping in pitlane, losing tyre temp, chaos outlap, impeding on lap, yellow flags”. That, combined with two track limits violations, left him without a time and last in Q1. On top of that, he was also penalised for passing under yellows and not slowing enough on his final lap.

The race was more encouraging, although wheelspin at the restart dropped him to the back.

He had to retire on the last lap to avoid engine damage when a fuel pump problem Williams had been managing led to the team being “unable to scavenge the fuel from the tank to the fuel rail”.

Verdict: Promising signs in the race but only after two iffy days.

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