It’s that time of year again! F1 is on its summer break, gifting us holiday pics of drivers on jet skis and thirst trap Instagram posts. Yet, this F1 fan cannot rest, and the break has given me time to wonder, who are the top-performing drivers of this season so far? Some have failed to get a hold of the new cars, whilst one driver is in a league of his own.
Ranked from worst to best, I analyse which drivers have performed the best in 2022 and those who could do better. The drivers received a score out of ten based on their pace, racing ability, level of mistakes and how they performed compared to their teammates.
Without further ado, let the list begin:
20. Nicholas Latifi – 2.5
I’m afraid your P1 for FP3 in Hungary wasn’t enough to save you from the bottom of this list. In fairness, the Williams FW44 is not the best car to work with, but being at the bottom of the field in practically every qualifying session shows a lack of pace, particularly when your teammate has managed a few impressive finishes in the points this season. Coupled with many mistakes across the year, qualifying in Australia being one of the most obvious, Latifi has been unable to prove himself deserving of a seat in F1 next year.
19. Lance Stroll – 3
Admittedly the Aston Martin has been as bad as the Williams, but a few Q3 appearances and four P10’s put Lance Stroll higher on this list. However, Stroll has probably cost his team a lot of time and money in crashes despite him entering his 6th season in Formula 1! You have to be less error-prone at this stage, in my opinion.
Not only was he part of the Latifi shunt in Australia, but he also crashed twice in Azerbaijan Qualifying this year. Furthermore, his team’s radio messages seem irritable and not at all constructive to a team that intends to build itself as a race-winning outfit. You cannot help but feel Stroll’s poor attitude and lack of technical feedback hampers the teams’ progress in Formula 1.
18. Yuki Tsunoda – 4
Undoubtedly the young Japanese driver has improved this year. However, Tsunoda hardly takes Alpha Tauri to higher, more exciting places. He’s failed to beat an arguably underperforming Pierre Gasly and can still be rather accident-prone. Colliding with your teammate at the British GP is not a good move.
17. Daniel Ricciardo – 4.5
Ahh, Danny Ric! The pain of placing you 17th! One of the most discussed stories of this season has been Daniel Ricciardo’s form, or lack thereof. Daniel Ricciardo habitually lingers outside the points, contrasting with his teammate Lando Norris, who pulls incredible top 10 results most weekends. You can tell the talk of being replaced at McLaren is getting to him with uncharacteristic collisions at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Yet, at the same race, the classic late-breaking style we love from Danny Ric remains, taking both Alpine’s in one move.
16. Pierre Gasly – 5
When initially writing this list, I struggled to decide where to place Pierre Gasly. The fact is that he’s had a somewhat anonymous season. The French driver is becoming rather forgettable, stuck in machinery that does not showcase his talents. An impressive 5th place in Baku and winning his qualifying head-to-head against Tsunoda is what places him a bit higher on this list.
15. Mick Schumacher – 5.5
Guilt nearly prevented me from ranking Mick so low, but in the end, it was justifiable. At the start of the season, it felt like we saw blunder after blunder from the young Schumacher. A crash in Monaco, colliding with his mentor and friend Sebastian Vettel in Miami and that horrifying incident in Saudi Arabia. Haas does not have the budget for these crashes, and Schumacher was starting to provide them with little reason to keep him on for an extra year.
Especially, as an out-of-shape Kevin Magnussen was out-qualifying him, their head-to-head 11-2 in favour of the Dane! Only recently has he been showing up for Haas. He earned his first points in Silverstone and a 6th place in Austria, silencing discussions about replacing him.
14. Guanyu Zhou – 6
Challenging to assess, this rookie has had lousy luck with reliability this season. Often out-qualified by his teammate Valtteri Bottas, Zhou is never far behind his pace and finished his first race of the season in the top 10. You can’t give Zhou more or less than six because we still don’t have an accurate representation of his pace, but so far, so good!
13. Sebastian Vettel – 6.5
If this list decided who was the unproblematic king of F1, Sebastian Vettel would be leading by miles. Scoring 10/10 all day, every day. However, this is a driver performance ranking, and with a sedated Aston Martin, Vettel has been unable to showcase his talents. With a few impressive points finishes where he can, and outpacing Stroll, Vettel has done his best this season. What stops him from getting a 7 are a few incidents where he has put his car into the wall, which again is not helpful for a small team like Aston.
= Alexander Albon – 6.5
Alex Albon’s return to F1 shows why he was wise to move away from the Red Bull programme. Seemingly happier and more comfortable at Williams, he has pushed the worst car on the grid to its absolute limit with some impressive point finishes. His form dropped slightly during the European part of the season, but Albon is the stable driver Williams needs to grow; now, George Russell has moved to Mercedes.
= Kevin Magnussen – 6.5
Returning drivers have fared well this season, but none more so than everyone’s favourite Viking, Kevin Magnussen! With little preparation and probably the most unfit of all the drivers, he jumped into that Haas and brought a smile back to Steiner’s face. That in itself is worth a bonus point!
Not only has he proved that he belongs back in F1, but he is quicker than his teammate Mick Schumacher, starting the season with high-finishing results. Similarly to Albon, the form we saw early season has dissipated, but that feels more car-related. An impressive showing so far this season from Kevin Magnussen.
10. Esteban Ocon – 7
Here we are! The top 10! It wasn’t easy to decide who would get these following few places, as the performance of the car masks these drivers’ capabilities. Esteban Ocon, however, is worthy of his 10th position. Yes, he’s not quite got the same speed as Fernando Alonso. However, Ocon’s consistency in qualifying and the race is essential to Alpine secure their place as the 4th best constructor. Rarely finishing out of the points this season, Ocon avoids trouble extracting everything of the Alpine.
= Valtteri Bottas – 7
Who could forget Bottas out-qualifying his replacement George Russell at Mercedes at the start of the season? Not me! Bottas may be in a mid-field team, but he seems more relaxed and happy with himself than ever. The beginning of the season saw an impressive score of points, and he is the established Alfa Romeo team leader, not allowing young Zhou to take his place. More than that, however, 2022 gave us Valtteri’s perfectly sculpted bum, and for that work of art, F1 Twitter is eternally grateful.
= Sergio Perez – 7
It seems decades have passed since the media were on the Checo hype train, but his chances of fighting for the World Championship are over. He quickly fell back into his role as the 2nd Red Bull driver to Max, and in recent races, he has been nowhere near the front of the grid. Without a doubt, Perez is a better driver than last year, his win in Monaco a highlight. However, he now seems deflated by the team favouring Max.
7. Carlos Sainz – 7.5
Despite winning his first race this season, Carlos has been the lesser of the two Ferrari drivers. As the season continued and he struggled to be on the same pace as Charles and Max, it became evident that he was out of championship contention. Let me say this now. Carlos is a fantastic driver and has the potential to win many more races.
Regrettably, he does not yet possess that extra pace Charles has, nor the ruthless spirit of a World Champion. Bonus 0.5 points, though, for multitasking as a racing driver and Ferrari’s strategist. Someone give this man a pay rise!
6. Fernando Alonso – 8
An oldie but a goldie Fernando Alonso is still rapid. Outperforming Ocon most weekends in qualifying shows, he is still at the top of his game. He is scarcely out of the points all season, and that bonkers 2nd place qualifying position in Canada shows why he is still the class of a field. Put him in that Red Bull, and you have a guaranteed spicy season!
= Lando Norris – 8
As the only driver outside the top three teams to score a podium, Lando is having an impressive season, especially in that McLaren. Consistently best of the rest, Norris is a permanent feature of the top ten. However, is Norris’ talent being wasted at McLaren? Signing a deal until 2025 seems like a poor decision, and I worry that Norris is wasting his best years trundling around in the mid-field during the peak of his talent, his loyalty to the team demonstrating poor judgement.
= George Russell – 8
Whilst the W13 is not what George Russell was hoping for during his maiden season at Mercedes, five podiums and twelve top 5 finishes is a ridiculous stat for the third-best car. We’ve come to expect consistency from Russell during his impressive tenure at Williams, and he is delivering the same at one of the top teams.
Despite winning a close head-to-head with his teammate Lewis Hamilton, he cannot quite match Lewis’ pace. Yet, George has proved himself as one of the strongest drivers on the grid, claiming his first pole position in Hungary, and a first win feels just around the corner.
3. Charles Leclerc – 8.5
Ferrari, what have you done to Charles Leclerc!? Do you think you’re clever throwing the championship away?! Do you want to finish third in the championship? Leclerc has made a couple of championship-defining mistakes, a spin at Imola and that crash in France, but Charles Leclerc has been extraordinary apart from that.
He is the man to beat in qualifying, and his racing against Perez and Hamilton at Silverstone on worn tyres showcased his talent and class. It says a lot about his form that he would be in contention or potentially leading the world championship now if it wasn’t for Ferrari’s mistakes- some have estimated Leclerc and Ferrari have lost over 100 errors!
Charles Leclerc is an incredible talent that is beginning to go to waste at Ferrari. I could not help but wonder about his ranking if Ferrari were the same well-oiled machine as Mercedes or Red Bull.
2. Lewis Hamilton – 9
If you were one of those people called Lewis Hamilton washed at the start of the season, I bet you’re feeling rather silly now. Undeniably, George had a better handle on that Mercedes than Lewis at the beginning of the year. However, Sir Lewis Hamilton soon caught up with six podiums (5 on the bounce!)
The season’s highlight was his racing at Silverstone, “Through goes Hamilton” gave me chills every time. How he drives Mercedes forward fundamentally sets Lewis Hamilton apart from the others. He goes beyond an exceptional driver on the track, his priority shaping that Mercedes into a race-winning car again.
1. Max Verstappen – 9.5
Max Verstappen has transformed into a complete driver this season. Gone are those aggressive mistakes we saw in his championship battle last year. The intense fight with Lewis has given him the maturity and composure a multiple world champion needs, leaving no points on the table. A little spin in Hungary? I’ll still win the race, mate! His on-track battles with Leclerc have been spectacular, where you know he just has the edge.
The ease with which he wins races now indicates his dominance to come, gaining that unbeatable, almost mystical quality of F1 greats. More than anything, Max Verstappen and Red Bull work together cohesively, with Max firmly embedded as the number one driver in the team, creating an unstoppable partnership for the next few years. It feels the only driver that could challenge him in future seasons is Lewis Hamilton.