Coming off one of the most tightly contested World Championship battles in Formula 1 history, many were hopeful that momentum and action would carry over into the 2022 season.
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen‘s battle in 2021 was one for the ages, with the back and forth title fight between the two drivers coming down to the last lap of the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.
Fast forward a few months later, and to the delight of everyone involved in F1, the overhauling of the technical regulations, including the reintroduction of ground effect, in 2022 has in fact resulted in some of the closest racing we’ve ever seen in the sport.
However, almost paradoxically, that hasn’t translated into a close World Championship battle thus far, thanks in large part to the brilliance of Ferrari and Charles Leclerc.
The Monegasque has taken victories in Bahrain and Australia, along with second in Saudi Arabia, giving him 71 out of a possible 78 points available in 2022.
His 34 point lead over George Russell only adds to the brilliance, which begs the question: Is Leclerc on course to take the 2022 F1 World Championship?
Only time will tell if that’s the case, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at where Leclerc‘s point tally ranks in terms of highest point scorers after three rounds in F1 history.
8. Lewis Hamilton 2020 – 63 points
The season that saw Hamilton equal Michael Schumacher‘s historic mark of seven World Drivers’ Championships, the Mercedes ace didn’t exactly come out of the gates flying.
Teammate Valtteri Bottas took pole and victory at the Austrian Grand Prix, which opened the season in July 2020 due the COVID-19 pandemic. Hamilton‘s hopes of catching the Finn were dented by a three-place grid penalty for failing to slow down for yellow flags in Q3, and he could only manage to move up one spot in the race, finishing fifth.
The Brit made things right at the following two races however, taking pole and victory at the Styrian and Hungarian Grand Prix. The latter race saw Hamilton earn an extra point for fastest lap as well, which, in the grand scheme of things it, didn’t mean much given he finished the year 124 points clear of Bottas.
7. Sebastian Vettel 2011 – 68 points
Still riding the wave of clinching his first World Championship at the final race of the 2010 F1 season, Vettel began what was a dominant title defence in impressive fashion.
The German took victory in Australia and Malaysia from pole, and looked set for another win in China after beating Jenson Button to top spot in qualifying.
Unfortunately for Vettel, he had to settle for second behind race-winner Lewis Hamilton. However, it was Vettel who would get the last laugh, winning 11 times and scoring 392 points to finish 122 points clear of his nearest rival in the standings.
6. Lewis Hamilton 2015 – 68 points
Having won his second Drivers’ Championship the season prior, Hamilton was involved in another battle with teammate Nico Rosberg for the 2015 title.
The two were on another level all season, winning 16 of the 19 races, claiming 32 out of a possible 38 podium finishes to go along with 18 poles.
Their dominance was evident from the opening race, with Hamilton taking pole ahead of Rosberg, while the the closest non-Mercedes driver, Felipe Massa, was over 1.3s slower in the Williams.
Hamilton took the chequered flag ahead of Rosberg, while Ferrari‘s Sebastian Vettel rounded out the podium over 30 seconds back. Although the Brit took another pole at the following race in Malaysia, he had to settle for second as Vettel took his maiden win for the Scuderia.
Hamilton took another stunning pole in China at the next race, with Rosberg second and Vettel almost a full second back. He later took the chequered flag under Safety Car conditions after Max Verstappen‘s Toro Rosso came to a stop on the start-finish straight.
5. Sebastian Vettel 2017 – 68 points
Although he didn’t take pole at any of the opening three races in 2017, it was Vettel who came flying out of the gates in search of his fifth World Championship.
After failing to win a race the previous season, Vettel wasted no time in righting that wrong at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. Starting second on the grid, the German got the better of pole-sitter Hamilton and took the chequered flag, Ferrari‘s first win at the Albert Park Circuit since 2007.
Vettel could do little to prevent Hamilton from winning the following race in China, crossing the line second after dropping as far back as sixth at one point on the drying track.
The two rivals entered the Bahrain Grand Prix level on points, with Vettel leaving the Bahrain International Circuit with the upper hand. The German won the race with relative ease, as Hamilton‘s hopes were dashed after he was handed a five-second penalty for holding up Daniel Ricciardo in the pits.
4. Lewis Hamilton 2019 – 68 points
Having dealt with Ferrari and Vettel‘s challenge the year before, Hamilton was in a league of his own in 2019.
He ended up winning his sixth World Championship by 87 points over Bottas, but it was the Finn who got off to the better start.
While Hamilton claimed pole in Australia, it was Bottas who took victory by over 20 seconds, along with taking a bonus point for fastest lap.
Hamilton was on course for second in Bahrain before Leclerc‘s engine issue handed him the lead, eventually taking victory ahead of Bottas. He added a second victory in China, getting the better of pole-sitter Bottas at the start to give Mercedes their third 1-2 finish to start the season.
3. Lewis Hamilton 2021 – 69 points
Every F1 fan knows how dramatic the 2021 championship battle between Hamilton and Verstappen was. What’s perhaps overlooked is the fact it was the Mercedes driver who sat atop the standings after three races.
The Brit held off the fast-charging Verstappen at the season-opener in Bahrain, while he pulled off a massive recovery drive to finish second at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
Although Hamilton missed out on pole in Portugal by just seven-thousandths, he bounced back on raceday, taking victory despite falling to third at one point.
The result gave Hamilton an eight-point lead over Verstappen in a season that, ultimately, saw him come up just short.
2. Charles Leclerc 2022 – 71 points
As mentioned up top, Leclerc‘s start to the 2022 season is one of the best we’ve seen in F1 history.
If it weren’t for a late overtake by Verstappen in Saudi Arabia, the Monegasque would sit atop this list thanks to an additional seven points on top of his already impressive total of 71.
The big question for Leclerc and Ferrari is how long that form will carry on for, as the Scuderia look to end their lengthy Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship drought.
1. Nico Rosberg 2016 – 75 points
In what proved to be a championship winning season, Rosberg sent a message to Mercedes teammate Hamilton at the opening three races.
The German took the chequered flag in Australia, getting the better of Hamilton, who started on pole. The Brit started first in Bahrain as well, however, after being passed by Rosberg, he fell as far back ninth, before finishing third.
Unfortunately for Hamilton, he crossed the line more than half a minute back of Rosberg, who finished 10 second clear of Ferrari‘s Kimi Raikkonen to make it two wins from as many races.
Everything finally came together for Rosberg in China, who won from pole in convincing fashion, finishing over 37 seconds clear of Vettel.
Rosberg would later go on to make it four wins from four by winning in Russia, with his strong start helping him take his lone World Championship, which he clinched at the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.