How it’s done
- 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
When he got out of his car after driving from 14th on the grid to victory in Germany, Lewis Hamilton uttered the Hollywood line: “For those who don’t know me, now you do.” While we doubt that there are many F1 fans who weren’t aware of the British driver’s grit and tenacity before that stellar drive, it’s true that the last three races from Lewis Hamilton have all seen touches of the sublime. It’s hard to pick a highlight, but his pole lap in Hungary, once again demonstrating his mastery in the wet, was truly mesmeric. That he remains top of our list should come as no surprise.
In truth, Nico Hulkenberg’s weekend in Hungary wasn’t great, as he struggled to get a balance going in his R.S.18, something which saw him qualify 13th and finish only one place higher. Another reason for that was Renault twisting on their original strategy of running The Hulk on medium tyres till the end after his first stop, instead bringing him in under the Virtual Safety Car for fresh ultrasofts. But with track position at a premium at the Hungaroring, that ultimately hobbled the German, leaving him out of the points at a race that he’s finished for the first time since Malaysia 2017. Luckily for Hulkenberg, though, he’s sitting pretty on a fantastic pile of results – sixth in Great Britain and fifth in Germany – while having at least finished in Hungary as opposed to his DNF in Austria, his three-race average moves him up a spot this week.
Max Verstappen had quite the potty mouth when he retired from the Hungarian Grand Prix. This is a family website, so we won’t print the Dutchman's rant here, but suffice it to say he was unamused at his second retirement in three races (although he was classified 15th in Great Britain). Verstappen was bound to descend in the rankings this week, having won the Austrian Grand Prix four races ago. The fact that it’s only by one place shows how well he is still driving. It would have been nice to see him challenging for pole on Saturday in Hungary instead of ending up seventh in the grid – “it hasn't been working out for us in the rain all year,” was his assessment at the Hungaroring – but it’s worth noting that, had he finished in the positions he was in when he began having problems in Britain and Hungary, his points tally from the last three races would have been 37, rather than 12. Chin up, Max.
Sebastian Vettel rises a place in our top 10 this week, despite that crash in Germany in what were, let’s be fair, very tricky conditions. In truth, Vettel seemed to have a slightly lukewarm Hungarian Grand Prix, failing to launch a proper assault on Valtteri Bottas for second place until lap 65, when the Finn was on 50 lap-old softs compared to Vettel’s 16 lap-old ultrasofts, and by which time Hamilton was long gone. Looked at another way, though, starting from fourth on the grid, Vettel did a good job to limit the damage to Hamilton, while his scintillating Silverstone win keeps him in the top four here.
It hasn’t been the happiest recent run of races for Valtteri Bottas. Destined to finish fourth at Silverstone having led with a few laps to go, he was called off the attack on team mate Lewis Hamilton in Germany, before spending the Hungarian Grand Prix acting as the British driver’s rear gunner to fend off the threat from the Ferraris. He then had a flustered end to that race, getting involved in incidents with both Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo before finishing fifth. You can’t argue with the results, though, and his tally of 4-2-5 over the previous three (eclipsing his DNF in Austria) is decent, while who knows if he he’d have broken his duck for 2018 had been allowed to race Hamilton at Hockenheim. Just don’t call him ‘wingman’.
After Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen is the driver who’s been most frequently on the podium in 2018. He of the granite face and 1,000-yard stare is performing super-consistently this season, certainly the best he’s done since his 2014 return to Ferrari. And while you sometimes want to see Raikkonen laser-focus his tremendous talent and really go after wins, it’s hard to imagine someone driving the second Ferrari better. The last time Kimi finished off the podium was back in Canada, and the Finn’s succession of fine three-race tallies is seeing him on the up-and-up in our rankings, having returned two editions ago.
Esteban Ocon is carrying a lot of weight on his young shoulders at the moment. He’s one of the key lynchpins in the driver market speculation, while his current Force India team have just been put into administration. It’s a lot for a driver in his second full season of Formula 1 to be dealing with, but that’s just what the likeable Frenchman is doing. He’s demonstrating an unflappable maturity in an F1 car at the moment, as excellent seventh and eighth places in Britain and Germany attest to. He qualified poorly in Hungary, later revealing that he had lost use of his front brakes during the session, and could only race through to 13th. Having been sixth in Austria four races ago, a slide in the rankings was inevitable, but no-one doubts that Ocon is nonetheless doing a fine job in his sophomore season.
Pierre Gasly did some pretty special things with ‘the Gasmobile’ – his phrase, not ours, we assure you – in Hungary. He qualified ahead of Max Verstappen in P6 – Toro Rosso team mate Brendon Hartley deserves praise, too, for going P8 in the grotty conditions – before maintaining that position in the race, putting in a terrific 32-lap stint on his ultrasoft tyres to bring the mercurial STR13 home in the points. He may only have a 13th and a 14th in his locker from the other two races (he was 10th on the road at Silverstone, but dropped to 13th after a post-race penalty) but his exceptional Hungary performance is enough to pull him back into our rankings. Bienvenue Pierre!
And bienvenido Fernando! Problems persist at McLaren, but no one could accuse the team of not trying to find solutions, with a number of high-level personnel changes in recent months. Out on the track, Alonso is still the driver that many top bosses would love to slot into their cars on a Sunday, as he continues to get the job done time and again. He’s now taken three eighth places in four races, putting a strong enough three-race average together – despite not finishing Germany – to make it back into the rankings. He also maintained his record of always scoring points on his birthday with his eighth place in Hungary, so feliz cumpleaños to the 37-year-old to boot.
Romain Grosjean returned to our rankings last week, having finally started to collect points on a regular basis (Haas team mate Kevin Magnussen has seven points finishes this season to Grosjean’s three). He was in at number seven in the rankings last time out, his score boosted by a quite phenomenal drive to fourth in Austria, and further bolstered by his lightning drive through the field to P6 in the closing laps of the German Grand Prix. Grosjean was not a happy bunny to have not finished higher than 10th in Hungary, convinced as he was that he had the race pace to be far higher. But points on the board are points on the board, and Grosjean’s run of DNF-6-10 keeps him in the top 10 – albeit teetering around the fringes.
Dropping out and on the bubble
It’s worth mentioning at this point that it’s very tight at the top of our rankings, so being on the bubble or losing your spot in the top 10 is not the end of the world. That said, our two casualties this week – both top 10 players last time round – are Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen. Magnussen loses out primarily because he had such a good three-race average last week, while Perez finishing 14th in Hungary, having been 7-10-7 after Germany, sees him slide out.