F1 POWER RANKINGS: Hamilton reclaims top spot as Leclerc snaps at his heels
An imperious French Grand Prix for the Mercedes driver sees him head our Power Rankings – but who’s managed to claw their way back into our top 10?
How it’s done
- In a new feature for 2018, our team of experts assess each driver after every Grand Prix and score them according to their performance across the weekend - taking machinery out of the equation
- Our experts' scores are then combined to produce an ongoing overall ranking which reflects driver form - taking only the three most recent races into account
This week’s Top 10
Hamilton’s performance in France was, to put it mildly, absolute class. Top of the two proper practice sessions (we’re going to gloss over the Poseidon Adventure that was FP3…), top in qualifying – his 75th pole position – and absolutely untroubled in the race as he took his 65th F1 victory. Hamilton’s endured a funny run of form in the last three races – third fiddle to Daniel Ricciardo in Monaco, fifth in Canada with a swansonging Mercedes engine – but his ability to get the car home and high up the order on a bad day, and blow the rest of the field away on a good one, means he’s back on top.
It’s getting tough to keep dishing up the superlatives to describe Charles Leclerc’s rookie F1 season. A fixture in the Power Rankings since Baku, where he began his run of five straight Q2 appearances, he upped the ante by making Q3 in his Sauber in France, before finishing the race in P10. Off the back of equally strong performances in Monaco and Canada (he can’t be blamed for the brake failure that saw him non-finish in Monte Carlo), Leclerc’s presence in the top three was really a matter of course.
There’s been a gradual cooling down for Danny Ric ever since his brilliantly managed victory in Monaco. Quieter races to P4 in both Canada and France – in the latter he was hobbled by front wing damage that dialled too much dreaded understeer into his RB14 – have left Ricciardo watching on as Red Bull team mate Max Verstappen reached the podium at both of those events. But Verstappen has yet to score a race win this season, while Ricciardo has two, with the Australian’s Monaco victory plus two solid results bumping him up into our top three.
As in the drivers’ standings, Vettel’s top spot in our rankings, achieved post-Canada, has been taken away from him after a race of two halves in France. Criticised by some in the paddock - the stewards included - for clattering into Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes at the start of the French Grand Prix, the Ferrari driver was then brilliantly incisive as he marauded through the field to go from P17 to P5 in just 15 laps. That’s where he finished too and, taken with a strong second in Monaco and a win in Canada that matched the supremacy of Hamilton's in France, Vettel maintains his high standing here.
One of the most consistent performers of 2018, in France Sainz managed to maintain both his 100% Q3 record for the season (matched only by Vettel, Hamilton, Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen) and his 100% points-scoring record for the last six Grands Prix (matched only by Vettel and Hamilton). He also deserves kudos for keeping it together in France when it looked as though his Renault was about to give up the ghost in the closing stages of the race. Sainz's string of points finishes is not only helping his Renault team cement their ‘best of the rest’ standing in the constructors’ championship – it’s also the reason the Spaniard clocks up his fifth straight appearance in our top 10, while taking his highest placing of the year so far.
It’s getting better all the time for Max Verstappen. A wonky start to his season meant that the Dutch driver only made his first appearance in the Power Rankings after Canada, but it looks as though his 2018 is well and truly on the mend. He made his second podium appearance in as many races in France and that, viewed alongside a laudable recovery drive to P9 in Monaco that went a long way towards righting the wrong of his FP3 crash there, means that the Red Bull prodigy remains in the ascendant.
2018’s unluckiest F1 driver was an innocent first-corner victim in France to Vettel’s out-of-control Ferrari, although his recovery drive to seventh wasn’t quite as dazzling as his assailant’s. But Bottas was impressive in qualifying, ending up just a tenth off Lewis Hamilton after missing large chunks of practice at this 'new' track thanks to a water leak in FP2 and torrential rain in FP3. Pre-race, he’d looked a likely contender for another podium to add to the second place he took last time out in Canada, while P5 in Monaco keeps the Mercedes driver's three-race average ticking along nicely. That win must be due any time now though, right?
The popular Frenchman has been a welcome full-time addition to F1 in 2018, and has plenty of fans up and down the pit lane. But it must be said that Gasly's maintenance of his position in our top 10 is largely down to his performances in Monaco and Canada after a French Grand Prix that was disappointing for the Toro Rosso driver. Gasly showed great pace in the weekend’s first two practice sessions – he was eighth fastest in FP1 – but qualifying 14th was a disappointment, while he didn’t make it past Turn 4 in the race. Given that he's made no secret of his desire to get into the senior Red Bull team PDQ, Gasly will be hoping to be back on form at the Red Bull-owned Austrian Grand Prix track this weekend.
A pair of DNFs in both Baku (his fault) and Spain (not his fault) saw Nico Hulkenberg slip out of our Power Rankings after Barcelona. He’s been putting things right ever since though, and now with three top 10 finishes in three races, the moment has come to welcome the Renault driver back into the fold. The Hulk had a difficult qualifying in France, failing to make it out of Q2 and getting trumped by team mate Sainz for only the third time this year. But the German got his head down in the race to claw back up to P9 come the chequered flag, helping him seal his return to our standings in the process.
Esteban Ocon’s French Grand Prix lasted as long as his compatriot Pierre Gasly's after the pair tussled on the first lap. The Force India driver had been unlucky to miss out on Q3 by two-hundredths of a second thanks to a brilliant performance by Charles Leclerc, and was then gutted not to be able to put on a decent show for his home fans come the race. But although he was out of luck in France, Ocon is still able to trade off two extremely respectable points-scoring results, particularly a fantastic P6 in Monaco, in the last three races which help him cling onto his place in the top 10.
On the bubble
Haas’ Kevin Magnussen topped our list after the first two Grands Prix of this season, and the Dane’s looking good for a re-entry if he can string together a solid weekend in Austria next time out.
A difficult series of races for Fernando Alonso sees the Spaniard plummet out of the top 10, with his three-race average shot to pieces thanks to three straight retirements. In the previous two he was running in the points before dropping out, but in Paul Ricard he was strangely off colour, as were McLaren. Overdriving? Well, at least he won Le Mans…