Styrian Grand Prix Driver Ratings
Guess who's back, back again...
After an incredible season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Austria one week ago, Formula 1 was back to do it all again. However, this race was called the Styrian Grand Prix and it was a much different weekend to what we saw in round one.
The midfield was once again impossibly close to predict on Friday, but it did seem that Racing Point had managed to find the speed that they showed in winter testing. Once again they were hopeful of a podium, but this time it didn't look like they could be challenged on race pace. However, then it rained. And it rained hard.
Qualifying was the wettest session that we have seen for a long time, and it was also one of the most exciting and unpredictable sessions I've ever watched. The rain has always been a great leveller in Formula 1, as it relies much more on driver skill than the speed of the car. If you don't believe me, I'll remind you that George Russell was only 0.091s away from Q3.
Let's get to the ratings.
1st Place: Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton did not have the best of weekends last time out in Austria, as he was penalised for mistakes in both qualifying and the race. He ended up finishing in fourth place after his penalty was applied, with a car that was on its last legs due to the kerbs. However, what we saw this weekend was the six-time world champion at his best.
When the delayed qualifying session eventually started, it was anyone's guess as to who would end up on pole. However, you would have been smart to place your bets on the Brit as he has shown us plenty of times before how much he likes the wet conditions. Even though he has amazed us time and time again, I was genuinely shocked at how big the gap to second-placed Max Verstappen was. Hamilton was 1.2s ahead of the field on his final lap, finding speed and grip on the circuit when it seemed like nobody else could. Or, like James Hunt famously said, he could just have big balls.
After dominating qualifying, Hamilton was clearly the favourite for the race. He had a few cars in between himself and his nearest challenger Valtteri Bottas, with the Mercedes car in a class of its own in the dry conditions. Hamilton drove the race like we have seen him do so many times before, controlling the field with a comfortable gap at the front.
He came away with second place in the championship, but he's only six points away from Bottas going into the third race of the season. He will be hoping for another stellar performance in Hungary, as he aims to equal the great Michael Schumacher with seven world titles. If he can keep pulling out performances like this weekend, then I really don't see how he can be stopped.
2nd Place: Valtteri Bottas
Bottas had the perfect start to the season in the last race, but unfortunately for the Finn, he couldn't keep it up this weekend. He by no means had a bad weekend, but he was a tad off the pace of his teammate all weekend. His qualifying lap was 1.5s slower than Hamilton, something which he would not have liked to hear at the end of the session.
Due to his qualifying not going the way he would have liked, he started from fourth place on the grid. This meant that both Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz were in his way at the first corner, preventing him from mounting a challenge to Hamilton on the first lap. He had a solid race once he got past Sainz early on, and then managed his tyres well to get past Max Verstappen in the closing stages.
Bottas silenced the people that say he isn't very good when it comes to wheel to wheel racing, as he went side-by-side with Verstappen without contact through one of the fastest sections on the circuit. He kept a clear head in this battle and didn't take any unnecessary risks, a clear sign of an experienced driver.
However, even though he leaves Austria as the championship leader, he will need to be at the top of his game if he wants to stay there until the end of the season. We have seen incredible pace from Bottas in the past few seasons, and with what was dubbed 'Bottas 2.0' last season it looked like he would be able to challenge for the title. However, he will be hoping that his challenge doesn't fade away this season as it has done in the past. The Finn seems to have moments of brilliance but then cannot continue that into the next race, so only time will tell if things have changed this time around.
3rd Place: Max Verstappen
Many would have seen Verstappen the main challenger to Hamilton in a wet qualifying session, but a spin on his final push lap dented any chances of getting close to the Brit. He did still manage to get his Red Bull onto the front row, but as I have mentioned he was 1.2s away from his first pole at the Red Bull Ring.
The Dutchman was still comfortably ahead of his teammate Alex Albon who qualified down in seventh. When it came to the race on Sunday, Verstappen also had his teammate covered. At one point he was around 35 seconds ahead of the Anglo-Thai driver, a hugely impressive feat given that Albon is no slouch on a Sunday.
Even though it may have not been the most exciting race for Verstappen, he still drove the arse off his RB15 to even mount some sort of challenge to the Silver Arrows. He was running in second place around 5 seconds behind Hamilton for the majority of the race, but his tyres fell off the cliff towards the end and as a result, was passed by Bottas.
He then came in for a new set of tyres since he had a pitstop in hand to Albon in fourth, presumably with the aim of setting the fastest lap. He didn't achieve this, but it was still one hell of a drive from Verstappen in my eyes. He was the only driver to even remotely worry the Mercedes, so that has got to count for something. He went on to say the car was simply 'too slow' to take the win, but Red Bull will be hoping to come back stronger on the tight and twisty Hungaroring next weekend.
Fourth Place: Alex Albon
After last weekend, I thought we had seen a new version of Albon in the car. He was not only much closer to his teammate Verstappen, but was also challenging for the win for the first time in his career. However, unfortunately, it looked more like it was Pierre Gasly in the car again when you looked at the timesheets this weekend.
He was around 0.8s away from Verstappen in qualifying, but it was the race where he really dropped back. Granted, he had to overtake a couple of cars before settling into the race, but he did this relatively early on and they didn't hold him up too much. At one stage in the afternoon, he was a huge 35 seconds behind his teammate in an equal car.
Towards the end of the race, he was being caught at a rate of knots by the Racing Point of Sergio Perez. Perez went for a late move down the inside of Albon at turn four, the corner which Albon will remember all too well from last week where he collided with Hamilton. This week he managed to escape without any damage to his car, but he was very lucky to do so. Perez misjudged the move and broke his front wing on the Albon's rear tyre, somehow not puncturing it.
With all of the rumours regarding Sebastian Vettel's conversations with Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz circulating, there has never been a better time for Albon to impress the team. Now, I don't think these rumours have any substance, but I still think there is pressure on him to perform well against Verstappen. We saw how quickly Gasly was dropped from the team, I would hate to see the same happen to Albon.
5th Place: Lando Norris
If you had asked me before the start of the season, there is absolutely no way I would have predicted Norris would be sitting in third place in the driver's championship after two races. Norris has been on top form around the Red Bull Ring, delivering two amazing drives for McLaren in as many weeks.
Norris was consistently around the top of the leaderboard in qualifying, but was unlucky on his final push lap to be stuck close behind the Renault of Esteban Ocon. This meant that he couldn't see the dry line on the circuit, but even so he still finished in a respectable sixth place. He did receive a self-inflicted three-place grid penalty however for passing Gasly under a yellow flag in practice, so he ended up starting the race in ninth place.
He had quite a slow start to the race, stating in a post-race interview that he was stuck in a 'DRS train'. This is when both the car in front and behind have DRS, which means that the effects of the system are neutralised. He decided to look after his soft tyres so he could be left with fresher ones at the end of the race, a decision which certainly paid off.
He gained around fifteen seconds on the cars in front in his final stint, setting the fastest lap of the race at one stage. He was let past his teammate Carlos Sainz, set free to catch Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll. He caught them with a lap to spare, pulling off some impressive overtakes to earn sixth place. He then managed to catch the damaged car of Perez and pass him on the final corner on the final lap to finish what he described as the 'best race' of his career.
6th Place: Sergio Perez
Last weekend, Perez will have left the circuit knowing that the car had the pace for a better result. He was unlucky with the strategy, but this weekend was a chance to put that right. As I said at the beginning of this article, in Friday practice the Racing Point's looked formidable. However, they obviously didn't manage to copy the wet weather set up of the 2019 Mercedes.
Qualifying could not really have gone worse for Perez, with the Mexican driver eliminated in the first part of the session. He started from seventeenth on the grid, but he was clearly a man on a mission. He made light work of the other midfield cars at the start of the race, and managed to climb up to ninth place by the time the first round of pitstops came around.
He was then overtaken by Carlos Sainz along through third DRS zone, but was not having any of it. Perez went side-by-side with the Spanish McLaren driver around turn four and the next couple of corners, winning his position back with a gutsy move.
He then won the battle with his teammate in what was an aggressive but fair fight, something we never used to be able to say when the Pink Panthers came together. This is when he was able to show his true speed, chasing down and passing the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo with ease. He then set after Alex Albon, setting fastest lap after fastest lap. We know how this turned out, but even with the contact, it doesn't take much away from the fact that it was a hugely impressive drive from Perez.
NOTE: The rating is more a 4.5/5 than a four, but I can't do that yet on DriveTribe so he'll have to settle with a 4.
7th Place: Lance Stroll
I'm not sure about you, but I saw a side of Lance Stroll today that I've not really seen before. People always accuse him of being a pay driver (which he totally is), but I was seriously impressed with what he achieved over the weekend.
The Canadian's lap time in Q1 was two seconds faster than his teammate's best effort in the session, and he put his Racing Point in thirteenth on the grid for the race. He also made light work of the cars ahead of him, easily climbing into the top ten during the opening laps. He was running in seventh place until the first round of pitstops, but after jumping Sainz in the pits he began his race-long battle with Ricciardo.
He demonstrated his racing skill during this battle, not making any stupid errors to stay within the DRS zone of the Renault for numerous laps. He made a ballsy move on the penultimate lap, a move which was investigated by the stewards but no further action was taken. It is clear that he still wasn't on the same level as Perez in the race but I was encouraged by what I saw. I was reminded that although his money is the reason he got into the team, he does deserve to be there.
If Stroll can build on the pace he showed this weekend then he is definitely in for a good second season with the Pink Panthers.
8th Place: Daniel Ricciardo
Ricciardo was another driver hoping for a better result in the second race in Spielberg, but his weekend started off in a pretty bad way. He lost the rear of the car on the penultimate corner, spinning off into the tyre wall. He walked away from this high-speed crash with a bruised knee, but was given the all-clear to go racing.
He was outpaced by his new teammate Esteban Ocon for the first time in qualifying, but only by around two-tenths of a second. However, with the midfield as tight as it is, this was the difference between his ninth place start (eighth after Norris' penalty) and the Frenchman's fifth place on the grid.
The Honey Badger made up for this at the start of the race though, as he managed to work his way through the field to challenge Ocon for sixth place in the first stint. After a few laps of getting close, he overtook his teammate with a clean move around the outside of turn four. He then stayed in sixth place for the majority of the race, holding off Stroll for many laps.
He couldn't hold the Racing Point back forever though, eventually having to concede the position to Stroll after being pushed wide at turn three. Ricciardo called for the Canadian to be penalised for this move, but no further action was taken. He also lost a place to Norris at the same time, crossing the line in eighth place when the chequered flag was waved. He will be hoping for a smoother weekend as we head to Hungary in one week's time.
9th Place: Carlos Sainz
Sainz was not happy with himself after missing out on the fight for a podium one week ago, and he seemed determined to put in a good lap on Saturday. He went above and beyond with this ambition, as the Ferrari-bound Spaniard put in a stunning lap to put his McLaren in third place on the grid. This is their best qualifying result since Jenson Button in 2014, and also the second time in as many weeks that the team has lined up in third for the race (Norris qualified fourth but was promoted to third last week due to Hamilton's penalty).
Sainz was running well in the first stint, holding his own in fifth place after unsurprisingly being passed by both Bottas and Albon in the early stages of the race. However, he unfortunately had a slow pitstop which brought him out of the pits behind Ricciardo and both of the Racing Point drivers. He took a lot of life out of his tyres chasing down Perez at the start of the stint, temporarily getting ahead of the Mexican driver until he was re-passed.
Sainz then struggled with his tyres in the latter stages of the race and had to let Norris by so he could go and attack the cars in front. However, he did have a pitstop in hand to Daniil Kvyat in tenth so the team brought him in to bolt on a fresh set of soft tyres. He smashed the long-standing lap record of a 1:06.957 by Kimi Raikkonen with a 1:05.619 on lap 68 of the race.
This means that it is two fastest laps from as many races from McLaren, and with the bonus point applied those extra points could be crucial in the constructor's championship.
10th Place: Daniil Kvyat
Kvyat is a driver that had a rather quiet race weekend, as he could only manage fourteenth in qualifying compared to a fantastic eighth for his teammate Gasly. It is worth noting that he was impeded by Leclerc on one of his efforts in the session, with the Ferrari driver receiving a three-place grid drop for the offence.
Kvyat was also slightly outspoken as he was one of the drivers that decided not to take a knee during the build-up to the Austrian Grand Prix last weekend, nor the Styrian Grand Prix this weekend. He explained his reasoning well in the quote which I have included below.
He did not let the disappointing result in qualifying hamper his chances of a points finish, as the Russian put his head down and executed a good strategy to get the most from his AlphaTauri.
He was considerably faster than Gasly with his race pace and had a good battles with the Alfa Romeo drivers of Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen throughout. It is unfortunate that the team have not got the performance they would have been hoping for, but Kvyat will be hoping that things improve as the season progresses.
11th Place: Kimi Raikkonen
I have to feel for Raikkonen, as he does appear to be doing the best he can with the poor tools he has been given. He did well in qualifying to beat Giovinazzi quite comfortably, and then pulled off a few good overtaking moves in the race to just finish on the outskirts of the points.
I'm not sure if he will continue in the sport if Alfa Romeo can't consistently fight for points, so we could have witnessed Kimi's last race at the Red Bull Ring. Only time will tell if this is the case.
12th Place: Kevin Magnussen
Magnussen is another driver that is doing as much as he can with what he has to work with, but Haas' struggles must be getting to the Dane. The team have not been in a position to contend for points for a while, but this year you have to wonder whether it is their fault or Ferrari's.
We all know Magnussen will always try and extract the best he can from the car, but sadly his best is not enough to drag that car into the top ten.
13th Place: Romain Grosjean
Grosjean was unlucky in qualifying, as the team discovered a problem with his ERS system, meaning that the car could not recover any energy and recharge its batteries. Grosjean did manage to have a scary moment on his out-lap though as he was seen flying off into the gravel before returning to the pits.
He did do well to regain the lost places in the race to finish behind his teammate after starting from the pitlane.
14th Place: Antonio Giovinazzi
Giovinazzi had a weekend to forget at the Styrian Grand Prix, as the Italian driver qualified slowest of all the drivers in the wet qualifying session. He was a long way off his teammate in these conditions, and then had to have an unscheduled gearbox change which earned the team a five-place penalty. As it was, this had no negative consequences as Grosjean started from the pitlane.
15th Place: Pierre Gasly
It was all going so well for Gasly on Saturday, as he excelled in the wet conditions to qualify in eighth place. He was only a tenth away from his Red Bull replacement Albon, and his pace looked promising for the race.
However, the Frenchman could not repeat his brilliant seventh-place finish of one week ago and instead saw his pace evaporate during the race. He struggled on his tyres and was forced onto a two-stop strategy in a race that I'm sure he'll want to forget about.
16th Place: George Russell
It was all looking so good for Russell on Saturday, as the British driver put in what felt like the lap of his life to put his Williams in twelfth place on the grid. He was miles clear of his teammate Latifi in the session and was only 0.091s away from dragging that much-improved Williams into the top ten.
He started from eleventh due to Leclerc's three-place grid penalty and tried to capitalise on this early on in the race. However, this unfortunately did not go as planned as he misjudged a move and sent himself into the gravel trap. He managed to recover, but at that point, his only competition was his teammate.
17th Place: Nicholas Latifi
At one point it looked like Nicholas Latifi would join his teammate Russell in the second part of qualifying, but the Canadian couldn't quite put the lap together when it counted. He was also overtaken by Russell in the race, but even so, I feel he showed a good level of improvement compared to his debut.
I'm sure he will be looking to close the gap to Russell even further in the coming weeks, and I hope that he can. I have faith that with a bit more experience under his belt Latifi can excel at Williams, a team he might be at for a long time given his father's financial relationship with them.
I don't award a rating to drivers who fail to finish the race, but I can give them an honourable mention. Esteban Ocon deserves this mention this weekend, as the Frenchman put in an excellent lap to qualify in fifth. He was unlucky to retire with a cooling issue but I'm sure he will be back stronger than ever in Hungary.
What do you think?
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