Formula 1 pre-season testing began with fans hoping for a four-way battle for the title – and even the most pessimistic fan wouldn’t have predicted Red Bull winning every single race.
That’s exactly what happened though, and it already looks like Max Verstappen has sewn up the drivers’ title with 10 F1 races to go.
But there have been 20 other drivers in the championship and there’s been plenty of other battles going on up and down the field too. So how do they stack up?
21: Nyck de Vries
Trailed Yuki Tsunoda 8-2 in both Saturday and Sunday head-to-heads, while his replacement was immediately on Tsunoda‘s pace and could’ve pulled ahead of Nyck de Vries in the standings at both the Hungarian and Belgian Grand Prix.
Only one driver’s been sacked in 2023 so it was a pretty easy decision to rank De Vries last, he’s undoubtedly a talented driver but was never able to really show that at AlphaTauri.
20: Daniel Ricciardo
It’s very difficult to rate Daniel Ricciardo, so we have put him second to last for now simply because he’s only competed in two weekends.
Hungary was a great return to F1 as he outqualified Tsunoda and had decent race pace. However, a track limits violation during qualifying in Belgium meant he was unable to repeat the same performance a week later.
19: Logan Sargeant
The best racing driver in the world named after a rank of the US military, Logan Sargeant unfortunately looks like the worst driver on the F1 grid after De Vries‘ dismissal.
Sargeant did say he felt like he was getting on top of the challenges of F1 ahead of the British GP – his best performance of the season – but then looked nowhere at Spa a few weeks later.
However, it’s important to remember Sargeant‘s promotion after just a year of F2 was ahead of Williams‘ schedule for their junior and the big judgement should come in 2024.
18: Lance Stroll
It’s never a great look when your teammate has scored six podiums and you have one top-five to your name, which is exactly the case with Lance Stroll.
Instead of attacking Mercedes for second place in the constructors’ championship, Aston Martin are looking over their shoulder at Ferrari – predominantly due to Stroll‘s lack of results.
17: Kevin Magnussen
Kevin Magnussen is actually level with teammate Nico Hulkenberg in Sunday head-to-heads, but trails nine-three in qualifying and most importantly of all, nine points to two in the championship.
The way Hulkenberg‘s gone from three years out of F1 to dominating Magnussen speaks volumes and just seems to be chipping away at the Dane’s confidence.
If any F1 drivers are going to lose their seat for 2024, Magnussen must be the prime candidate as things stand.
16: Zhou Guanyu
How do you evaluate Zhou Guanyu‘s season? He hasn’t been hammered by Valtteri Bottas but has still trailed his teammate, who’s certainly not the toughest opponent on the grid.
Zhou hasn’t had a second-season surge but his 2024 F1 seat hasn’t been the basis of many, or any real replacement rumours.
His numerous special helmet designs have been the only flashes of anything we’ve seen from him in an F1 car in 2023.
15: Valtteri Bottas
Another tough one to analyse, realistically Bottas should hope to be further ahead of Zhou based on what we’ve seen over their careers.
Alfa Romeo emerged from testing as one of the potential dark horses which hasn’t materialised but it’s impossible to escape the feeling that they’d be much closer to Alpine with a top-five driver pairing.
Bottas once again showed well in Bahrain but will be disappointed not to convert his seventh in qualifying at the Hungarian GP into points.
14: Sergio Perez
A lot was made about Sergio Perez‘s failure to reach Q3 for five consecutive events, rightly so because it’s just not acceptable when you have the best car.
Any driver would find it tough against Verstappen in F1 right now, but Perez went from being a threat to the two-time world champion early in the season, to a driver who has no confidence.
Forget about the title race, Perez might be driving to stay with Red Bull for 2024 if he returns to his poor qualifying form in the final 10 rounds.
13: Pierre Gasly
Hasn’t ceded too much ground to Esteban Ocon despite what the 13-point championship deficit suggests, Pierre Gasly just hasn’t had the headline results of his compatriot.
It’s also worth noting both drivers have fared well considering all that’s gone on in the Alpine boardroom – especially given the expected fireworks between the two former enemies.
His superb seventh place in Monaco was overshadowed by Ocon‘s stunning podium but his drive a race earlier in Miami was arguably even better, Gasly leading Alpine‘s response to Laurent Rossi‘s burning criticisms of the team.
12: Yuki Tsunoda
Tsunoda is much improved, or so it seems if you compare him to De Vries. Your perception of De Vries will shape how much you rate the Japanese driver.
There’s no doubt though that the AlphaTauri driver is starting to show the talent he displayed in Formula 2 and Formula 3, with three points finishes.
If he can beat Ricciardo and Perez has trouble at Red Bull, maybe there could be a shock move for Tsunoda to the Milton Keynes-based team next year…
11: Esteban Ocon
Maybe a bit unlucky to miss out on the top 10, Ocon‘s podium at Monaco remains almost the only bright spot of a disappointing and bloody first half of the season for Alpine.
But throughout the upheaval Ocon‘s remained impressively consistent, scoring in over half his race weekends and remaining capable of that trademark standout performance when the stars do align.
10: Nico Hulkenberg
Hulkenberg has been very good in 2023, with some excellent qualifying performances including second place at the Canadian GP in wet conditions.
Either side of this came Q3 appearances in Spain and Austria, so Hulkenberg certainly hasn’t lost much, if any, of his raw speed. It’s just a shame the poor race pace of the Haas has limited him to one points finish in a grand prix – seventh in Australia.
9: Alex Albon
Where is that Williams really at? Alex Albon seems to be extracting the most from the car, and it’s solely his 11 points that have fired the team to seventh in the constructors’ championship.
But it’s tough to mark Albon against his inexperienced teammate, hence why he’s not higher in the list. Still, his Canadian GP drive was absolutely sublime and almost worthy of a top-ten on its own.
8: George Russell
This is perhaps what people expected last year with George Russell versus Lewis Hamilton. Russell has generally been slightly off the pace compared to Hamilton, particularly over a race.
That said, Russell has been more misfortunate. In Australia, his engine broke down, at Silverstone he was ahead of Hamilton until the safety car and Mercedes made a mess of his Hungary qualifying, so he started towards the back.
It’s not as bad as it looks for Russell and he is up against one of the greatest F1 drivers ever, let’s not forget.
7. Oscar Piastri
What a start to Oscar Piastri‘s F1 career. It’s a year on from his rejection of Alpine, and that decision looked like a pretty daft one when he became the first retirement of the 2023 season 13 laps into the Bahrain GP.
But it’s been some turnaround since then, Piastri‘s gelled well with McLaren‘s revolutionary upgrades and celebrated that with his second-place in the Belgian GP sprint – it surely won’t be long before he gets his first real podium either.
He’s been outperformed by Lando Norris but that’s no disgrace, he’s not been dominated like Ricciardo was and shown more than enough to make some believe he’ll be the next to join F1‘s elite club.
6. Carlos Sainz
Carlos Sainz is very close to Charles Leclerc this season, he just hasn’t had the podiums to show it. Similarly to Russell, safety car timing and strategy calls haven’t gone Sainz‘s way compared to Leclerc.
The Spaniard seems to be closer than ever over one lap to Leclerc, although both drivers have been extremely frustrated with Ferrari‘s performance. You could argue Sainz has handled it slightly better, which has put him level with Leclerc.
5. Charles Leclerc
We could just copy and paste Sainz‘s paragraph here really. They’ve been pretty equal but Leclerc has performed best when the biggest prizes have been on the line.
When Leclerc‘s been good, he’s been great and he’s secured his three podiums on merit by being the best car in a six, seven or eight-car fight for the rostrum – hence why he’s ahead of Sainz.
He was also the only non-Red Bull driver to lead an F1 lap from Baku until the start of the British GP, which is a pretty mad stat. Speaking of which…
4. Lando Norris
Recency bias might make you put Norris higher up the ranking, but there were a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes – such as hitting the wall in Saudi Arabia and colliding with Hamilton in Spain, that drop the McLaren driver down the order.
Nevertheless, Norris has largely performed when it mattered most and his drives to hold off Hamilton at Silverstone and Perez at the Hungaroring were very impressive.
3. Fernando Alonso
Has faded slightly in the second quarter of the season – Fernando Alonso was surprisingly off the pace in Spain and aside from his podium in Canada a week later, Aston Martin‘s year hasn’t quite been the same since.
But that shouldn’t overshadow his fantastic start to the season, Alonso set the tone from the off with a brilliant Bahrain GP, scything through the field for the first of five podiums in the opening six races.
With another driver in the car, Aston might’ve wasted their early superiority but even aged 42, Alonso has shown he has what it takes to drive the team forward relentlessly.
2. Lewis Hamilton
While Hamilton hasn’t been on the level of Verstappen, he’s had a better season compared to 2022 and really turned on the style since Mercedes brought their first big upgrades at the Monaco GP.
Despite a small error at the last corner of his pole position lap at the Hungarian GP, Hamilton produced one of the moments of the season and is visibly driving with more confidence.
1. Max Verstappen
There’s not really much to say on Verstappen‘s 2023 that’s not either blatantly obvious or been said already.
Perhaps the best indication of his superlative first half of the season is the way there’s so little questioning of whether the RB19 is one of the most dominant cars in F1 history despite Perez‘s struggles.
It’s undoubtedly the class of the field, but Verstappen‘s brilliance is undoubtedly elevating its status even further as he continues his unstoppable march to world championship number three.
Where is the next F1 2023 race?
F1 will return from its summer break with the 2023 Dutch Grand Prix from Zandvoort on August 25-27, where championship leader Max Verstappen will be racing on home soil.