POWER RANKINGS: Which drivers impressed our judges at an entertaining Sprint weekend in Qatar?
It was a frenetic few days of action in Qatar that saw Max Verstappen take a dominant 14th win of the season – after he was crowned world champion in Saturday’s Sprint. The Dutch driver impressed our judges, as did Sprint winner Oscar Piastri. So, who else joins the pair in this week’s top-10?
How it works
• Our five-judge panel assess each driver after every Grand Prix and score 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)
On a weekend where he put his name amongst some of the greats by winning his third drivers’ title, we were treated to a performance that has become so typical of Verstappen over the last two years, as he was dominant from start to finish.
He put his Red Bull machine on pole, before going to another level on race day, claiming another win. His only black mark from the weekend was that he qualified third in the Sprint Shootout and had a bad start in the 100km dash. But he still recovered to finish second, showing the fighting spirit that makes him the great that he is.
McLaren Team Principal, Andrea Stella, described Piastri as a unique talent and his performances this year, particularly this weekend where he won the Sprint, show why he is starting to be considered one of the best drivers on the grid.
He took an outstanding pole in the Sprint Shootout and then made up for his error in Friday’s qualifying – where he exceeded track limits on his final lap – by making a brilliant start in the race to go from sixth to second. From then on, he was as composed and as impressive as ever, sealing a second consecutive podium.
It was a weekend of what might have been for Norris, who felt that if not for his mistakes, pole position for both the Sprint and the race would have been his to celebrate. But even on a weekend where it did not go for him, two top three finishes show his and McLaren’s current level of performance.
He exceeded track limits on his final lap in qualifying and ran wide at the last corner in the Sprint Shootout, but he put that all behind him on Sunday, where he recovered from 10th to third. If he can put it together for an entire weekend, that maiden victory is surely not far away.
A typical understated yet remarkable weekend from the Finn who reminded people that when he has the car underneath him and at tracks where there may be less grip, he is one of the better drivers on the grid – as eighth place represented his best result since the season-opening Bahrain GP.
A great Friday qualifying saw him start the race from ninth, and while Saturday did not prove as fruitful, going from 13th to 10th in the Sprint showed he had pace to burn. And he showed that on Sunday, finishing well in the points, as he and Alfa Romeo begin to show signs of life at the back end of the season.
Whisper it quietly, but Ocon and Alpine are beginning to recapture the form they showed last year, as the French driver impressed many this weekend finishing seventh – although he missed out on points in the Sprint when he crashed out with Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg.
A strong qualifying saw him start the race in 10th and he looked set to get points in the Sprint before the crash. But he returned on Sunday to make up for the points he lost out on and drove brilliantly despite feeling sick in his helmet during the race.
The headlines from Russell’s weekend were centred around his early collision with his team mate, Lewis Hamilton, but actually when you look back on his three days of running in Qatar, plenty should be made off how well he was driving.
He started and ended the Sprint in fourth before lining up second for the race. While he was forced to go to the back of the field after clashing with Hamilton, his pace from then on was superb, recovering to take a well-earned fourth place.
He may only have finished in ninth because of penalties to others ahead but Zhou’s performance on Sunday would have been worthy of scoring a top-10 finish at plenty of races this year.
It had not been his weekend until then, qualifying last, and not scoring any points in the Sprint after starting 15th. But the sophomore driver was in fine form on Sunday, using strategy and his pace to find himself mixing it at the sharp end of the field.
Albon failed to score points in the race for the third weekend in a row but looking at his performance, it was yet again a drive that deserved a top-10 finish, as he continues to extract the maximum from the car and with the strategy each weekend.
And while he was disappointed to not score points, the Thai racer will take plenty of solace from his outstanding Sprint performance. Starting in 17th, he mastered his way through the field to finish seventh, scoring a crucial couple of points for Williams.
Things have not always gone Leclerc’s way this year, so when he was given a five-second penalty for going off track and gaining an advantage in the Sprint – which demoted him from seventh to 12th – frustration would have been mounting for the Ferrari driver.
But barring that, it was another strong weekend from one of the top drivers on the grid. He qualified fifth for the race, but he just did not have the pace to contend with Verstappen, Russell, and the McLarens. So, fifth place was the maximum he could do this weekend, and he did just that.
With other teams jumping ahead of Aston Martin in the pecking order, the results have not been as fruitful for Alonso of late. But his performances have shown no sign of slowing down, as he consistently pushes his car into the top-10.
He qualified fourth for the race and used that strong starting position to have himself in contention for the podium early on. But he did not have the pace over a race distance, with a costly mistake that saw him run through the gravel later dropping him from fifth to sixth.
Carlos Sainz is extremely unlucky to miss out on a place in this week’s top-10 after a fuel leak caused him to miss the race in Qatar. He was set to start the race from 12th after missing out on Q3, but had a much-improved Saturday showing, finishing sixth in the Sprint after starting fifth.