POWER RANKINGS: Bottas? Leclerc? Verstappen? Which driver was rated highest in Sochi?
Valtteri Bottas secured a much-needed victory at the Russian Grand Prix, to inject some tension and hope into the 2020 championship fight once again. But who performed best at the Sochi Autodrom? Our judges’ scores are in…
HOW IT WORKS
Our five-judge panel assesses each driver after every Grand Prix and scores them out of 10 according to their performance across the weekend – taking machinery out of the equation
Our experts’ scores are then averaged out to produce a race score – with those scores then tallied up across the season on our overall Power Rankings Leaderboard (at the bottom of the page)
Max Verstappen continues to do things with the Red Bull RB16 that, from the outside at least, seem nigh on impossible. Off the pace and in the clutches of the midfield all the way up until Q3, on his final qualifying run he produced a stunning lap (Christian Horner reckoned it was one of his best ever) to split the Mercedes and take P2 on the grid. That he couldn’t ultimately challenge Valtteri Bottas for the win is comprehensible. That he ended up just 7.7s behind the Finn, 15s up the road from Lewis Hamilton and over 90s ahead of his team mate Alex Albon at the chequered flag, is less so.
As Ferrari continue to struggle in 2020, Charles Leclerc continues to do fine work in an SF1000 that, despite its updates this weekend, still appears to be a bit of a handful. On almost exactly the same strategy as team mate Vettel, Leclerc climbed from 11th on the grid to as high as second, before ending up sixth at the flag – as the German, who also crashed heavily in Q2, came home behind an Alfa Romeo and a Haas in 13th, just one place up on where he’d started.
Barring a lovely move on Daniel Ricciardo to claim a net P4 early in the race, it was an eerily quiet Russian Grand Prix for Sergio Perez, who qualified brilliantly to take fourth on the grid, fluffed his lines at the start (as did most drivers starting on the slippery right-hand side of the track, to be fair) before getting that fourth place back and holding it for an untroubled run to the end. A stealthy, supremely effective race from the Mexican – and a timely reminder of why he’s such a valuable asset for F1 teams.
If it seems slightly unfair that the Russian Grand Prix race winner should find himself fourth on the Power Rankings, that’s probably a reflection of how fate conspired to make Bottas’ win a near-certainty. He was well off the pace of team mate Lewis Hamilton in qualifying (deliberately? Discuss) but once Hamilton’s penalties had ruled him out of contention, it was actually a relatively straightforward, albeit well-executed race win from Bottas, his first since Austria.
Daniil Kvyat called his performance at the Russian Grand Prix “perfect” – and really, there wasn’t much wrong with it at all. In the improving AlphaTauri, Kvyat used a bold strategy call to start on the hards to good effect, running as high as third at one point, while just one more lap and he might have nailed Renault’s Esteban Ocon for P7.
The RICnaissance continues apace. Daniel Ricciardo has never got on with the Sochi Autodrom, but seemed to magically slot into the track’s groove in the opening free practice sessions, before qualifying and finishing fifth – a better result than he ever managed here before, even when driving for Red Bull. Ricciardo has now finished in the top six at the previous four races, and sits just one point behind fifth-placed Alex Albon in the drivers’ standings – and two points behind fourth-placed Lando Norris.
Pierre Gasly might have finished higher than his P9 had AlphaTauri not overestimated how long the VSC period was likely to last after Romain Grosjean devastated the Turn 2 exit bollards. But having dropped their man out of the points to 11th, Gasly’s fight back was terrific, as he confidently muscled his way past Norris and Albon (that must have been satisfying) on pure pace to regain ninth.
With hordes of Ferrari juniors eyeing up Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo seat for next year, this was a timely moment for the Italian to put in one of his most convincing drives of the season. A fantastic start saw him climb from 17th on the grid to P12, before he showed enough pace to frustrate the afternoon of Sebastian Vettel in the works Ferrari and finish just out of the points in 11th, having passed Haas’ Kevin Magnussen six laps from the end.
If Giovinazzi’s start was good, Kevin Magnussen’s was unbelievable, the Dane shooting from his P18 grid slot up to P9 by the time the Safety Car was called halfway through Lap 1. Although he’d end up seventh at one point during the race, Magnussen knew that he was a sitting duck for the faster cars behind him – so should be congratulated that he didn’t fall further than 12th, finishing ahead of Vettel’s Ferrari for good measure.
Not a huge amount went right for Lando Norris in Russia, who got all out of shape at Turn 2 at the start, allowing the chasing pack to stream past him, before then having to avoid his spinning team mate Carlos Sainz and running over debris, meaning that he was last when he pitted at the end of Lap 1. After that it was a spirited, battling drive back up the order that saw Norris involved in plenty of action, before a late flat spot saw him pitted out of contention.
Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen was just on the bubble after his record-tying 322nd Grand Prix start this weekend, while a notable absentee in the top 10 was Lewis Hamilton, who ended up well down the Power Rankings order despite his impressive pole lap at Sochi – the six-time champion having never looked like seriously troubling Max Verstappen after serving his penalties, as he came home a distant, disgruntled third.
THE OVERALL STANDINGS
Hamilton holds onto the top slot in the overall standings, but his lead has shrunk to a solitary point over Verstappen. Daniil Kvyat replaces Alex Albon in the top 10 (Albon having earned just a 5.2 for his 10th-placed Russian performance), while Kvyat and Charles Leclerc are the biggest climbers post-Sochi, both moving up two spots.