With 22 rounds in the books and a world champion long-crowned, it’s time to rate the drivers for their performances in the 2023 Formula 1 season.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull: 10
Championship position: 1st – 575 points
There may never be another season quite as dominant as what Verstappen has delivered in claiming a third successive world championship, setting record win, point and podium totals in the process.
After two wins in the first four races of the season for Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez, the Dutchman went on to make talk of a title race between the Red Bull pair look absurd, reeling off 17 victories in the remaining 18 Grands Prix.
While the RB19 was undoubtedly the best car on the grid, Verstappen’s incredible dominance of Perez – and the rest of the field – required remarkable consistency.
The 26-year-old displayed a growing maturity to handle wet and chaotic races throughout the campaign, many of which could have easily been lost by a mistake or moment of poor judgement.
Verstappen’s near-faultless campaign has established him as a complete driver, who now rightfully sits among the greats of the sport with three titles.
Sergio Perez, Red Bull: 5.5
Championship position: 2nd – 285 points
It all started so brightly with those two wins in the first four races, but unfortunately, the prospect of going toe-to-toe with Verstappen for a full campaign got in Perez’s head.
After failing to seize a world championship lead when being comprehensively outperformed by Verstappen in the fifth race of the season in Miami, the Mexican’s campaign completely fell apart.
The next five races were five of the nine occasions when he failed to make it through to the final part of qualifying, a completely unacceptable figure given the RB19’s speed advantage, particularly at that stage of the season.
Perez would complain that the car had been developed away from his driving style, but would eventually come under major pressure with a first-corner crash at his home race in Mexico only heightening speculation that Red Bull could choose to replace him a year before the end of his contract.
Ultimately, the fact that he held onto second to secure Red Bull’s first ever one-two in the drivers’ championship, with a relatively consistent finish to the campaign, has likely guaranteed he will at least start the 2024 season as Verstappen’s team-mate.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes: 7.5
Championship position: 3rd – 234 points
2023 was something of a bounce-back campaign for the seven-time world champion, as he overcame the disappointment of being given another uncompetitive car to largely get the most out of the W14.
Having been notably outscored by George Russell in 2022 in their first season as team-mates, Hamilton dispelled any notion that – at the age of 38 – his powers are waning.
While he has now gone two full seasons without a victory, Hamilton did at least manage to add to his record pole position tally with a memorable lap in Hungary.
After dismissing rumours of a blockbuster switch to Ferrari, Hamilton signed a two-year contract extension that will keep him in the sport until the end of 2025.
While he couldn’t quite chase down Perez for second in the drivers’ standings, Hamilton showed more than enough to suggest that if Mercedes can finally master F1’s current era of design regulations, he is more than capable of challenging Verstappen.
George Russell, Mercedes: 6
Championship position: 8th – 175 points
Having hardly put a foot wrong in his superb debut campaign with Mercedes, Russell’s 2023 season couldn’t have been in much greater contrast.
While he was rarely far off Hamilton’s pace, a combination of misfortune with reliability and some unnecessary errors saw Russell finish 59 points back from his team-mate.
The Brit’s bold approach is admirable and entertaining but three five-second penalties and a late crash to give up a podium finish in Singapore hinted at some poor decision-making.
Russell did end the season on a positive note, claiming a crucial podium in Abu Dhabi to keep Mercedes ahead of Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship.
In 2024, Russell must reaffirm his status as Hamilton’s successor as the leader of the team, with what seemed like a formality 12 months ago not quite so certain now.
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari: 7.5
Championship position: 5th – 206 points
It’s been something of a season of two halves for the Monegasque.
He endured a miserable start with two retirements in the first three races, along with some surprising qualifying struggles, leaving him to play catch up.
Leclerc was second only to Verstappen in claiming five pole positions, with three in a span of four races towards the end of the season providing a reminder of his prodigious one-lap speed.
While Leclerc has a remarkable active streak of 12 starts from pole without a win, he appeared to have every chance of ending it in Las Vegas until an unfortunately timed Safety Car handed the advantage to Red Bull.
Another strong showing in Abu Dhabi rounded off a hugely consistent end to the campaign, which suggested he is ready to take the fight to Verstappen if Ferrari can provide a car capable of challenging.
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari: 7.5
Championship position: 7th – 200 points
The only non-Red Bull driver to win a 2023 race, Sainz produced a campaign that further dispelled the notion that he is merely a solid number two option to Leclerc.
The smooth-operating Spaniard’s win in Singapore was the clear highlight of his season, as he showed incredible race-craft and composure to keep Lando Norris’ McLaren within DRS range behind him to create a buffer to the faster Mercedes cars behind them in the closing stages.
The victory in Singapore came after a second successive pole position, the first of which he converted into a podium finish at Monza following a remarkable late scrap with Leclerc in front of the Tifosi.
Sainz – along with most of the grid – is never going to have the raw pace of the incredibly fast Leclerc, but his ability to manage a race, sometimes overruling questionable calls from the Ferrari pit wall, is proving to be an equaliser.
If there was a criticism it would be that there were a few too many crashes, with a crucial one in Abu Dhabi practice playing a key factor in Ferrari failing to top Mercedes in the constructors’ standings.
Lando Norris, McLaren: 8.5
Championship position: 6th – 205 points
Somewhat regrettably for Norris, he ends the 2023 season having reinforced his standing as the best driver on the grid without a race win.
Once McLaren sorted out the MCL60 with some major upgrades at the ninth race of the season in Austria, Norris was comfortably the highest points scorer behind Verstappen.
The Brit reeled off seven podiums, with perhaps his most memorable display of the season coming at Silverstone as he took the lead from Verstappen at the start before holding off Hamilton for second in a thrilling battle.
However, he was ultimately left frustrated as a win continued to evade him, regularly chastising himself for failing to produce a perfect lap in qualifying when pole had been there for the taking.
A huge crash in Las Vegas brought his only retirement of the season, but Norris’ campaign left no doubt that it is merely a matter of time until he joins the winners’ circle.
Oscar Piastri, McLaren: 7.5
Championship position: 9th – 97 points
Adding to Norris’ frustration was the fact that McLaren’s only (Sprint) win of the season came from his rookie team-mate.
Having claimed a first Grand Prix podium a round earlier in Japan, Piastri converted Sprint pole to victory in Qatar to punctuate a very impressive debut campaign.
The fact that the victory came on the same day Verstappen sealed the title may even have suited the understated 22-year-old.
Piastri clearly struggles to match the tyre management on Norris over a full-distance race, and improving in that area should be his main focus during the winter.
However, the fact McLaren extended his contract midway through the season tells you everything you need to know about what the team made of his driving.
Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin: 8.5
Championship position: 4th – 206 points
The feel-good story of the season, or at least the first half of it, was Alonso’s return to prominence with Aston Martin.
Many eyebrows were raised when the Spaniard, in a season during which he would turn 42, opted to join the team that had finished seventh in 2022 constructors’ standings.
However, they began the season as Red Bull’s nearest challenger, with Alonso rolling back the years to take six podiums in the first eight races.
He came up agonisingly short in a thrilling pole contest with Verstappen in Monaco, in which victory would have given him an excellent chance of claiming the 33rd Grand Prix win he has waited more than a decade for.
Aston Martin’s failure to match the development of the other front-runners saw Alonso struggle in the latter stages of the season amid a few uncharacteristic errors, but he did have one more trick up his sleeve with an incredible defensive display and last-lap pass on Perez in Brazil sealing an eighth and final podium of the campaign.
Lance Stroll, Aston Martin: 5
Championship position: 10th – 74 points
The Canadian’s remarkable recovery from a pre-season cycling accident to take sixth in Bahrain only added to the positive vibes around the team, but it would be largely downhill from there on Stroll’s side of the garage.
A dismal run of qualifying form saw him make it through to Q3 on just four of 17 occasions, limiting his opportunities to back up Alonso.
While Stroll’s possession of his seat at Aston Martin appears to be unconditional while his father Lawrence remains the team’s owner, his form was so disappointing and his body language so indifferent that he began to be questioned over his desire to remain in the sport.
An unsavoury incident in Qatar where a frustrated Stroll pushed his trainer in the garage after being knocked out in Q1 marked a new low, and led to a warning from the FIA.
However, just when most had written him off, Stroll recorded back-to-back fifth-place finishes in Brazil and Las Vegas to at least provide some positivity going into 2024.
Pierre Gasly, Alpine: 6
Championship position: 11th – 62 points
It’s hard to view either Alpine driver’s performance outside the prism of a hugely disappointing campaign for the team, which has seen them fall back from last year’s fourth, to sixth in the constructors’ standings.
After losing Alonso and Piastri, Alpine were delighted to pluck Pierre Gasly from the Red Bull driver pool, despite the fact he and his new team-mate Esteban Ocon were known to have a difficult relationship.
Given he had to make the adjustment to a new car, the fact that Gasly has outscored Ocon, albeit marginally, represents something of a success.
The highlight of Gasly’s season came as he claimed a podium in a rain-hit Dutch Grand Prix, once more showing his ability to excel in challenging conditions.
Along with hoping for a more competitive 2024 challenger, Gasly will be out to establish himself as the team’s lead driver.
Esteban Ocon, Alpine: 6
Championship position: 12th – 58 points
Ocon might argue that if it weren’t for his six DNFs, he wouldn’t have been outperformed by Gasly.
He had a couple of fine moments with a podium in Monaco and a fourth-placed finish in Las Vegas, and consistently scored points on a Sunday on the occasions he did see the chequered flag.
However, Ocon’s uncompromising – perhaps sometimes to a fault – driving style continues to rub many of his rivals up the wrong way.
Ultimately, Alpine will hope to produce a car that can give Ocon and Gasly more to think about than battling each other for the final points positions.
Alex Albon, Williams: 8
Championship position: 13th – 27 points
The rebuilding of Albon’s career took another big step as he led Williams to a much-improved campaign.
The British-born Thai driver displayed his natural speed with three top-six qualifying displays, but unfortunately didn’t always have a car capable of keeping him in the points-scoring positions.
On almost all of the occasions, the opportunity was there, Albon took it, scoring in seven grands prix, with the only major blemish of his campaign a crash in Australia.
Albon’s performances have caught the eye around the paddock, and Williams will know that they may need to continue to progress to avoid losing the 27-year-old to a more competitive outfit.
Logan Sargeant, Williams: 4.5
Championship position: 21st – 1 point
It’s been a hugely challenging campaign for the rookie, who has too often been unable to produce under pressure.
It took Sargeant 13 races to reach a Q3, and his first F1 point only came under the rather fortuitous circumstances of both Hamilton and Leclerc being disqualified after the race.
Williams’ and Formula 1’s keenness to have an American driver in the sport means that Sargeant might get a second bite at the cherry in 2024.
A P6 in Las Vegas was easily his best qualifying performance of the campaign, but the positivity from that display was somewhat undone by a careless double breach of track limits a week later in Abu Dhabi.
The 22-year-old must cut out the errors and produce in qualifying more regularly if he is to extend his F1 career beyond 2024.
Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri: 7
Championship position: 14th – 17 points
The Japanese driver has produced a solid campaign, comprehensively outperforming rookie Nyck de Vries in the opening half of the season before the Dutchman was dumped by the team.
Tsunoda has measured up solidly against Daniel Ricciardo since the eight-time race winner joined the team, with the pair generally quite evenly matched.
After AlphaTauri improved their car with late-season upgrades, Tsunoda claimed strong points-scoring finishes in Texas, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
The 23-year-old, who has already amassed 63 Grands Prix appearances, has yet to show the sort of skill to suggest he belongs in the Red Bull senior team alongside Verstappen, but a full 2024 campaign alongside Ricciardo should provide an intriguing measuring stick.
Tsunoda still has areas to improve, with one area he can do so being his temperament, although his emotional responses to the track action have continued to create great entertainment.
Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri: 7
Championship position: 17th – 6 points
Ricciardo’s mid-season return was blighted by an unfortunate accident in Dutch Grand Prix practice that would result in a five-race absence caused by a hand injury, which means we only have a seven Grands Prix sample size from which to assess his season.
There was one standout result in that run, with Ricciardo’s only point-scoring finish coming in Mexico after he took a stunning fourth in qualifying.
That performance showed there is life in the old dog yet after the struggles at McLaren that left him without a seat, but it appears some of his most valuable work may have come off the track.
The AlphaTauri and Red Bull leadership have been effusive in their praise of the feedback Ricciardo has been able to provide on how to improve the car.
2024 is a huge season for both AlphaTauri drivers as they seek to stake a claim what looks set to be a vacant Red Bull seat the following year.
Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo: 6
Championship position: 15th – 10 points
The former Mercedes driver’s season started with an encouraging eighth in Bahrain, but there have been few celebratory moments since.
Only three further point-scoring finishes have followed for Bottas, who has made more headlines with his off-track promotional work than he has behind the wheel.
While he has quite comfortably outperformed his team-mate, Bottas would appear to be falling short of doing enough to convince the team’s future owners Audi of keeping him on beyond 2025.
The Finn did show that there are some benefits to all the long-distance cycling he does between races by using his extreme fitness to take eighth in the hugely challenging heat of Qatar.
Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo: 6
Championship position: 18th – 6 points
F1’s first Chinese driver has backed up his rookie season with another competent campaign, but has failed to set the world alight.
He has been disappointing in qualifying, aside from a shock P5 in Hungary, and has consequently left himself with too much to do on a Sunday, with points coming from three ninth-placed finishes, in Australia, Spain and Qatar.
Zhou will have the honour of driving at his home race as the Chinese Grand Prix returns to the calendar, but he is another driver whose long-term future in the sport is currently far from secure.
Nico Hulkenberg, Haas: 6.5
Championship position: 16th – 9 points
On his return to F1, Hulkenberg showed that he has plenty left to give by comprehensively out-classing his team-mate in qualifying.
Unfortunately for the German, Haas’ car was so hard on its tyres that many brilliant displays over one lap came to nothing on race day.
As a result, the 36-year-old didn’t come close to losing his unwanted tag as the F1 driver who has the most starts without a podium.
If Haas can get on top of their tyre issues next year, there will be a better opportunity to assess whether Hulkenberg can still mix it with the best on a Sunday.
Kevin Magnussen, Haas: 5.5
Championship position: 19th – 3 points
Having looked impressive alongside Mick Schumacher last season, Magnussen struggled to match another veteran in Hulkenberg over one lap.
While he will be disappointed with his qualifying performances, he generally appeared to be up to the task on race day, but simply didn’t have a car capable of scoring points regularly.
Having been given another year in the seat by the ruthless figure that is Guenther Steiner, Magnussen will be under pressure to produce in 2024.
While there was little joy on the track, Magnussen did produce some of the best viral moments of the season as he shared several heart-warming moments before and after races with his toddler daughter.
Nyck de Vries, AlphaTauri: 4.5
Championship position: 22nd – 0 points
It just never quite worked out for the not-so-inexperienced rookie.
De Vries failed to take advantage of a big break that came largely as a result of one hugely impressive display for Williams as he stepped in at Monza in 2022.
The AlphaTauri (and Red Bull) hierarchy seemed to quickly begin to regret their decision to put former Mercedes man De Vries in a seat that could have been used for a driver from their own academy.
As the pressure built, the errors kept coming and a decision was taken to let the Dutchman go after just 10 races, without a point to his name.
Liam Lawson, AlphaTauri: 7
Championship position: 20th – 2 points
This rookie made an impressive impact as he stepped in to replace Daniel Ricciardo for five races.
The New Zealander calmly went about his business, not over-pressing, and was eventually rewarded with a points finish in Singapore.
The late-season cameo has elevated to being one of the first names being talked about for any potential vacancies, with speculation already out there over whether Williams could consider giving him Logan Sargeant’s seat in 2024.
Either way, it seems pretty certain that Lawson will be a permanent fixture on the F1 grid before long.
24 races in 2024! Watch every round of next season live on Sky Sports F1, starting with the Bahrain Grand Prix from February 29-March 2.
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