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Formula 1

Edd Straw's 2023 United States Grand Prix F1 driver rankings

by Edd Straw
9 min read

The two rare post-race disqualifications had a huge impact on the United States Grand Prix outcomes up and down the grid - but didn't really change the maths on who impressed at the Circuit of the Americas and who wasn't so good, perhaps flattered by the positions gained on Sunday night hours after the chequered flag.

Edd Straw ranks the field after a busy Austin weekend, taking also into account their performances on the sprint-focused Saturday.

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: 3rd Finished: DSQ

Hamilton was delighted with the upgraded Mercedes and was quick all weekend, markedly stronger than his team-mate.

While perhaps there was a little time left on the table in qualifying proper, he put the car where it should be and then drove two good races.

He could have given Verstappen more to think about with a more on-point strategy, too.

Verdict: On top form at a track he loves.

Started: 7th Finished: 6th

Gasly described this as “the best weekend so far this year” in terms of execution by both driver and team. His 10th place in sprint qualifying looked like underperformance but was down to a lack of fresh softs, but overall he did everything he could have done with the machinery - and had the edge on team-mate Ocon.

Verdict: A standout weekend from Gasly.

Started: 6th Finished: 1st

With the bumpy track cutting into Red Bull’s advantage, Verstappen had a couple of ragged qualifying sessions - with a track limits violation costing him the top spot on Friday and a spin on his way to sprint pole.

After a straightforward sprint win, he made light work of a potentially complicated climb from the third row to the lead despite braking problems.

Verdict: Under pressure in qualifying, exemplary in the races.

Started: 2nd Finished: 2nd

Norris felt he could have taken pole position, although it would have required a perfect lap to do so. But beyond that, and a wide moment at Turn 11 on lap 25 of the race that cost time, his weekend was excellent and there was little he could do to avoid slipping behind Verstappen and Hamilton given the McLaren was the third-quickest car in race trim.

Verdict: Reasserted himself as McLaren’s spearhead.

Started: 15th Finished: 9th

Albon wasn’t happy with his performance in the main qualifying session, albeit with the caveats that the wind conditions made it difficult.

That meant he was always going to be on the backfoot in the race.

However, his Saturday was far stronger, reaching SQ2 then opting to start on fresh mediums to maximise the chance of a points finish. That came so close to paying off with ninth in the sprint, but having again finished one spot outside the points on Sunday the exclusions gave him two places and a couple of hard-earned points despite a track-limits penalty.

Verdict: Friday qualifying compromised a strong weekend.

Started: 1st Finished: DSQ

Leclerc did a great job to grab pole position, which he secured with a livewire second lap he reckoned was more ragged than the first in Q3. His sprint was well-executed but the one-stopper in the grand prix itself proved catastrophic as he was powerless to avoid fading to sixth on the road. Things got even worse when he was excluded for excess plank wear.

Verdict: Quicker than Sainz but undone by GP strategy.

Started: 11th Finished: 8th

Had a frustrating time on Friday and Saturday, missing out on Q3 in the former and failing to cross the line in time to start his final SQ1 lap on Saturday. But the races were better, climbing to 14th in the sprint then running in the points hunt all afternoon on Saturday before taking 10th (that became eighth after the exclusions). He also had the rare chance to make a free pitstop and nail fastest lap with what he felt was a genuine qualifying-style lap in terms of his approach.

Verdict: Made up for previous disappointments with a strong race drive.

Started: 4th Finished: 3rd

This was a real curate’s egg of a weekend for Sainz. He was simply not as quick as Leclerc, which he put down to being less comfortable with the car being too lively on the bumps in the high-speed.

But he produced an exceptional drive in the sprint race, having started on softs, then put together a good grand prix to take fourth on the road, which later became third place. It added up to a good set of results.

Verdict: Lacking the edge of pace, but the weekend was intelligently executed.

Started: Pits (19th) Finished: DNF

Alonso wasn’t delighted with Aston Martin’s struggles, in particular given they were caused by gambling on introducing an upgrade package on a sprint weekend.

Qualifying didn’t go well on either day and his sprint was undermined by an off-track moment on the first lap while being over-aggressive. But he drove superbly from the pits on Sunday, having reverted to the old-spec car, and was on course for a good result when he had to retire with floor damage.

Verdict: Race was strong, but the rest of the weekend was ragged at times, even factoring in Aston’s struggles.

Started: 9th Finished: 4th

The days of work at the factory to get to the bottom of his struggles didn’t yield a dramatically different performance level.

However, Perez did put together a solid, clean weekend, albeit one on which the results fell short of what the Red Bull was capable of in the hands of Verstappen.

He did feel there were real signs of progress.

Verdict: A gentle positive step after recent trouble.

Started: 5th Finished: 5th

Russell described Austin as his “bogey track” and never looked as comfortable with the car as Hamilton.

He felt on the backfoot throughout the races as a result, being relegated from seventh to eighth in the sprint thanks to a track limits time penalty, then picking up fifth in the race after the exclusion of two cars.

Verdict: Solid but nothing more than that.

Started: 10th Finished: DNF

Piastri had a point-less weekend thanks to slipping back in the sprint after taking too much out of the tyres early on, then retiring on Sunday with radiator damage after the first-lap clash with Ocon.

That was unfortunate given he’d jumped to sixth. But it was an untidy weekend at times - notably in Q3 when he made a costly mistake at the hairpin - albeit one on which his underlying pace was good.

Verdict: A rough-round-the-edges rookie weekend.

Started: 8th Finished: DNF

While Ocon was second-best of the Alpine drivers, this was a weekend that promised more than it delivered, with struggles on a set of mediums both in sprint qualifying and the sprint race making Saturday difficult and his clash with Piastri on Sunday ruining the grand prix.

Verdict: Second-best of the Alpines.

Started: Pits (18th) Finished: 11th

Hulkenberg didn’t produce the pace he had in him in Friday qualifying thanks to traffic in the form of both Red Bulls, and also probably had the speed to have escaped Q1 in the sprint shootout.

The two first-segment eliminations put him on the backfoot in the races, doubly so given he started the grand prix from the pits after a rear wing change.

But from there he showed good pace in the race and only lost what ultimately became 10th place to Sargeant late on.

Verdict: Didn’t always show his underlying pace.

Started: Pits (20th) Finished: 7th

His practice session was ruined by the brakes overheating thanks to a blanking miscalculation. He then struggled to adapt to the modified braking characteristics of the upgraded car, although his sprint retirement was ultimately to a water leak.

After starting from the pits, he drove a good race and made genuine progress to climb to ninth, which became seventh thanks to the exclusions.

Verdict: Salvaged his weekend with an effective Sunday drive.

Started: 14th Finished: 15th

Returned to action after five races out and reported no problems with his injured hand, although did admit to being a little rusty in battle.

His underlying pace was a little off Tsunoda’s, although he did make a step between Friday and Saturday qualifying.

He executed the sprint well, but picked up debris that compromised his pace for much of the grand prix.

Verdict: A solid, but inconclusive, comeback weekend.

Started: 16th Finished: 10th

Sargeant didn’t show the pace Albon did and struggled with a car that he described as “disconnected from high- to low-speed”.

That meant a weekend spent at the back until he came alive on Sunday with a good race drive that, after exclusions, netted him his first F1 point. More importantly, he was just six seconds behind his team-mate before Albon had his five-second penalty applied.

Verdict: Strong Sunday turned around an underwhelming weekend.

Started: 13th Finished: 12th

Struggled to keep the rear tyres alive across a lap on Friday and ended up behind Zhou, and also lost out on Saturday.

But his race pace was better as he handled the Alfa Romeo’s tendency to slide around too much better than Zhou.

However, given the car lacked pace, it was always going to be an anonymous weekend.

Verdict: Not one of his best, not one of his worst.

Started: 12th Finished: 13th

Zhou’s underlying pace was similar to Bottas, and he did a better job in Friday qualifying.

However, in race conditions he struggled a little more with the sliding that blighted Alfa Romeo’s weekend thanks to what the team believes was a mechanical set-up problem.

That led to him finishing behind Bottas in both races, on Saturday thanks to a penalty for track limits and on Sunday after struggling for pace and being ordered to let his team-mate by.

Verdict: Single-lap pace was good, but race pace was more of a struggle.

Started: Pits (17th) Finished: 14th

Like his team-mate, Magnussen was frustrated not to get the best out of qualifying. It was a similar story in the races, with the pace by his own admission disappointing.

That meant he didn’t manage to match his team-mate and at least flirt with the points places, albeit not aided by a different strategic approach that didn’t work as well.

Verdict: Flashes of pace but a disappointing weekend.

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