My rating of every driver's performance in the 2020 F1 season so far.
I got bored. Clearly.
I'm currently bored and have nothing else to do, so I figured that I should practice my writing skills. Apologies for the length of this article. I'm making a habit of this. Ask the fellas over at the F1 Debate Show. They know.
Hamilton - 8.5/10 - Hamilton has been extremely dominant in an extremely dominant car. He's won the vast majority of the races, upped his qualifying game as demonstrated by taking almost all of the pole positions so far this year, and has made few on-track mistakes. However, a few clumsy strategical mistakes which were partly his fault and partly the team's fault (illegal pit stop in Italy, illegal practice start in Russia) as well as the incident in Austria with Albon which I believe was 50% Hamilton's fault, has resulted in a heavy accumulation of penalty points which leaves Hamilton alarmingly close to a race ban. Also, I don't feel that Lewis has done anything spectacular this season, partly due to the supreme performance of his car, so I can't rate him anything above a 9 or anything below an 8. 8.5 it is.
Bottas - 7/10 - Bottas has been solid. That's probably the best word to use for him. He's not been amazing, because if he was, he'd be taking the fight to Hamilton, but I wouldn't say he's been terrible, because he has won races and has finished on the podium in almost every race this season, so he's not exactly wasting his machinery, but he is being a Barrichello 2.0 - a solid rear gunner for his more accomplished world champion teammate. I almost feel that Bottas is slightly underrated by fans in recent times. You'd think that he'd be on Albon's level based on the criticism he receives, but I think he's done far better than Albon. Not a high bar though, I must say. I was almost tempted to give Bottas a 7.5 but then I remembered his Albon-esque performance in Italy where he was stuck behind midfield cars. Slightly embarrassing, but never mind.
Verstappen - 9.5/10 - I'm almost tempted to give Max the perfect 10 because honestly, where can I fault him? I'm struggling to recall a single mistake from him this year. A stark contrast to his turbulent 2015-18 period, where it was quite evident that Verstappen was a young teenager finding his footing in the sport. Verstappen is now the complete driver. All he needs is the car. Put him in a Mercedes and I'm sure that he will be right on the level of Hamilton. His recent performances are highly reminiscent of Alonso's efforts in Ferraris that weren't quite as strong as the all-conquering Red Bulls. Max is extracting absolutely everything out of his car, but unfortunately it's not enough to overhaul the Mercedes empire. But yeah, a 9.5. Why? Because nothing is perfect and there is always room for improvement.
Albon - 3/10 - I don't want to be too harsh on Albon, because we have already seen what happened to Pierre Gasly, where he went from performing well in the Toro Rosso, to massively underperforming and failing to consistently finish in the top five in a fast Red Bull, to being demoted back to the sister team where he is currently enjoying a purple patch in his career. The dilemma of the second Red Bull seat is rather confusing, I must admit. It's almost as if a witch has cast a spell to sabotage whoever drives that car.
But ultimately, it IS the second-best car. Albon should consistently finish in the top four in every race barring mechanical gremlins, but he has done that in a grand total of two races this season. TWO. That's 20%. I want to defend Albon, because he is a nice guy, but these results are well below par for the machinery he is equipped with. I actually want to see Albon demoted to Alpha Tauri, because I want a head-to-head fight with Gasly to see who is better out of the two. Put Checo, a proven quantity who has shown that he is the king of the midfield on many occasions throughout his career, in that second Red Bull. If he performs as badly as Gasly and Albon did, then we know for sure that it is the car and not the driver. But right now, there's no way of knowing that, so I'm sorry Alex, but unfortunately, I can only give you a 3. And I feel that is a slightly generous score. Worst driver of the season in my view.
Norris - 8/10 - A big improvement from last season, which to be fair is not hard to envisage, because it was his debut season last year, but despite that, Lando's 2019 season still left a lot to be desired in my view. Yes, he was unlucky, suffered a handful of reliability issues on his car, but so did his teammate, and yet, he scored half of the points of Carlos last season.
However, although Lando hasn't suffered from as much mechanical misfortune as last year, he's still been having a quietly brilliant season, currently leading the midfield battle, ahead of Albon despite driving an inferior car to Alex, has scored points in almost every race bar two, and also has a podium and fastest lap to his name. Not a bad performance at all, but there have been a few other midfielders who have impressed me slightly more which is the reason why I can't give Norris higher than an 8.
Sainz - 7/10 - Is Carlos the unluckiest driver of the season so far? Because I definitely think he's at the very least, in strong contention for that award. Bad enough getting a puncture on the last lap in Britain, bad enough not even being able to start the race in Spa (for the second year in a row may I add), but then on top of that, not being able to avoid an unfortunate accident on the safety car restart in Tuscany? Yeah, Carlos has lost a lot of points through no fault of his own this year, and probably would be right up there with Norris, had things gone his way. Having said all of that, his crash in Russia was..... embarrassing. Probably the most embarrassing mistake I've seen since Hamilton crashed in the pit lane in Canada 2008. So I'll have to dock him half a point for that but still, not a bad season and a year in which the points tally doesn't tell the full story.
Stroll - 8/10 - Lance Stroll for me is the biggest surprise of the season. The most improved driver of the season without a doubt. In the recent past, I've been a Stroll critic and to be fair, it wasn't without reason. Stroll was genuinely bad in his first three seasons, beaten by Massa who was well past his best and was in retirement mode. Perez took Stroll to the cleaners last year, and Lance didn't even manage to score 50% of his teammate's points tally in 2019. The thing with Lance though, is that his Sunday performances were never a point of concern. His racecraft is probably his biggest strength. But the performances on Saturday matter more than ever, especially in these big, heavy, aerodynamically sensitive cars which are difficult to overtake in. Stroll's qualifying performances in his first three years were frankly, terrible, and he often found himself knocked out in Q1 with cars that should have consistently made it to Q2.
In 2020, it seems that Stroll has turned over a new leaf in qualifying. It is an area in which he has demonstrated a clear improvement, as he is no longer qualifying in the bottom five on a regular basis, but is instead asserting himself as a frequent member of the third part of qualfying. This has undoubtedly allowed Stroll to finish races in higher positions, and he now finds himself in a position where he is currently outscoring his highly rated teammate. I'm glad that Stroll is finally proving me wrong.
Perez - 7/10 - I expected more from Perez this season, to be completely honest. With all the hype surrounding the "pink Mercedes" as it was known, I was anticipating Perez making a return to the podium this season, but that is yet to happen, and instead it is his teammate who has reached the rostrum. Not something I would have ever predicted after last season. Perez hasn't been bad however, and has scored points in every race he has competed in 2020. But even if you remove the races that he missed due to COVID, which some people say was his fault, he is still being outscored by Stroll if you remove the three retirements that Stroll has incurred this year, none of which were his fault. Perhaps Vettel's announcement has removed the fire from his belly.
Ricciardo - 9.5/10 - Am I biased? Perhaps. But in my opinion, Ricciardo has been every bit as impressive as Verstappen so far this season. Unfortunately, Ricciardo isn't blessed with the machinery to match his talent, but he has finished in the top four on more occasions than Albon, despite driving an inferior car. I'd say that Ricciardo is unlucky not to have reached the podium yet, because there have been multiple races where I feel he has been deserving of one. Still, the old saying that nobody deserves anything, everything is supposed to be earned probably applies here. Daniel has been the best midfield driver this year in my view.
Ocon - 5/10 - I remember the days when Esteban was hailed as Mercedes's next world champion. The hype surrounding Ocon in 2017 and 2018 was biblical. Yet, in one fell swoop, the hype was taken away from him when he was involved in a collision with F1's Golden Boy, Max Verstappen. From that point onwards, Ocon went from Mercedes Young Driver Number One to Public Enemy Number One. His career swiftly went downhill, becoming the first victim of Lawrence Stroll's bank account, and he now finds himself at Renault, where he is currently being decimated by Ricciardo. I don't expect Ocon's career to last for much longer if he keeps this up, and who knows, maybe he will be replaced by Gasly soon? Renault wants a French driver in their car, and I believe that Gasly is better than Ocon.
Leclerc - 7.5/10 - Charles has been hugely impressive in what is probably the worst car Ferrari has built this century. I get flashbacks to Alonso wrestling that piece of rubbish in 2014 to podiums, because that is what Leclerc is doing here. He's been miles better than his multiple world champion teammate, and is currently beating both Racing Point drivers in the standings. I could give Leclerc an 8, but his mistakes in Styria where he took both himself and his teammate out of the race on lap one, and in Italy where he lost the back end of his truck and crashed at the Parabolica mean that I will have to dock Leclerc half a point, but otherwise, a very impressive showing so far. Hopefully he is rewarded with better Ferraris soon.
Vettel - 3.5/10 - I'm deeply sorry to Seb and his fans, but what choice did I have? Vettel is a great driver, but he is currently 40 points behind his teammate and hasn't been at all good this season. Perhaps he has mentally checked out and is waiting to drive the Aston Martin next season, but I cannot make assumptions and only base my ratings on the performance, which has not been good. Vettel is currently 40 points behind his teammate, and has been thoroughly outqualified and outraced by Leclerc. The worst season of Vettel's career and I hope he finds his confidence again in Aston Martin next year.
Gasly - 8/10 - What a turnaround for Pierre Gasly. 12 months ago, we were all calling for his execution, how awful he was and how he doesn't deserve to be in F1. But as I stated earlier, is the second Red Bull seat a poisoned chalice? Because Pierre has been far superior in a team which he clearly feels more comfortable and at home in, compared to the Red Bull team which is focused pretty much entirely on Verstappen. Is that an excuse to underperform in the Red Bull? No, but it could partially explain why. Gasly has been bringing the points home in most of the races and is comfortably beating his more experienced teammate, Kvyat. I was particularly impressed with Gasly's performance at Spa, where it felt like he was overtaking cars on every lap of that race.
Kvyat - 5/10 - The more Kvyat's career progresses, the more confused I find myself about his 2015 season. Was it an anomaly? Or was he genuinely as good as Daniel Ricciardo because he was a match for him that year. Ultimately, Kvyat has pretty much underperformed since his demotion to Toro Rosso in 2016. He's had spells of good form, particularly in the first half of 2019 where it seemed like Kvyat got his mojo back, but he seems to have lost it again since Gasly's return. Having said that, Kvyat's been quite good in the last couple of races, getting on top of his teammate, but perhaps he is driven by the possibility of Yuki Tsunoda taking his seat, a possibility which might have become slimmer after the recent news of Honda's shock withdrawal.
Raikkonen - 5/10 - We are now at the stage where assessing driver performance will be difficult, because the car performance is lacking. It is hard to impress in a car which can't even score points, let alone challenge for podiums and wins. Initially, I had thought that Kimi would finally retire after this season, but with the emergence of Schumacher 2.0, I get the feeling that Kimi would like to stay on for at least one more year to give Mick a bit of help.
All I can say about Kimi is that for a 40-year-old, he's not done too badly beating a driver who is in his mid-20s, in other words, his prime. However, said driver is not very good, as I'm about to explain.
Giovinazzi - 4/10 - I cannot recall a single moment where Giovinazzi did something which made me shocked or surprised. I sometimes forget that he's on the grid. The least Antonio could do is beat a geriatric who's on his way out of the sport, but he can't even manage that, and for this, I will have to give him a 4. I expect Mick Schumacher to win the F2 title and take his seat at Alfa Romeo next year.
Magnussen - 5/10 - The Haas car this year is a heap of garbage, but I truly feel that Magnussen is one of the most underrated drivers on the grid and there's talent there. He's a proper racer when the car is good enough to display it, he's not afraid to get his elbows out. But with a car like the VF-20, what more can he do?
Grosjean - 4/10 - When the car is quick and suits Romain, he can perform. But there are times where Grosjean is so bad that I struggle to understand how he's managed to last nearly a decade in this sport. However, I can't really fault or praise him this year, because as I said, the car is trash. However, I feel that Romain is getting bored of F1 and is ready to move on, and he might have to get ready quickly because I would not be at all surprised to see a Ferrari junior driver take his seat next year.
Russell - 5/10 - Russell has been very impressive in qualifying, putting that Williams in places where you would not expect, and reaching Q2 on multiple occasions. However, the dizzying heights in qualifying mean a huge tumbling down the order in the races, because I don't know if it's George, or the car, or both, but the race pace is lacking, so Russell usually falls down the order during the races. I still don't really know where to rate Russell, because some people rate him highly while others do not. I only wish that there were more competitive teams in this sport, so that I could see Russell be provided with a chance to display his skills, but as of now, I don't really know how to rate him. His qualifying is good, and that's all I've got.
Latifi - 4/10 - Honestly, Nicholas Latifi has not been as bad as I thought he was going to be. Usually, drivers who debut in their mid 20s after years of mediocrity in junior series turn out to be awful F1 drivers, but at least during the races, Latifi is not massively behind his teammate, which is a nice surprise. I don't know whether that says more about him or George though.