Following the Belgian Grand Prix, won unsurprisingly by Max Verstappen for a tenth time in 2023, Formula 1 has entered a three-week summer break, with all car development paused to allow teams to rest and drivers to enjoy a holiday. There is, therefore, no better time to reflect on each driver’s performance so far this season with a mid-season round-up!
Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
Championship Position: 1st (314pts)
Formula 1 has always seen periods of dominance from a particular driver-team combo, whether it was Schumacher in Ferrari, Hamilton in Mercedes, or now Verstappen in Red Bull. The latter combination is currently, statistically, unbeatable – Verstappen has won the last eight races, with the potential to break the record of nine consecutive wins after the break, and leads the championship by 125 points. Any driver with that level of dominance inevitably faces cries of “it’s all down to the car”, but Verstappen has been flawless all season. A third world title awaits – it’s a question of when, not if.
Sergio Pérez (Red Bull)
Championship Position: 2nd (189pts)
There was a period at the start of the season when it looked like, in spite of the dominance of Red Bull’s RB19, we could see a championship battle unfold if Pérez could challenge his teammate. Alas, that has not been the case, and Pérez has fallen away spectacularly since Miami. Failing to make Q3 five times is inexcusable in a car this dominant, as is failing to finish on the podium five times in a car that should easily finish 1-2 in every race. A second-place finish in Belgium looks to have avoided the risk of a mid-season swap with Ricciardo, but his seat is not safe if he continues to underperform.
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Championship Position: 4th (148pts)
Although the current state of his Mercedes team seems a world away from those heady days of 2014-20, Lewis Hamilton has proven this season he still has all the top qualities of a seven-time world champion. He has shrugged off talk of retirement to be one of this year’s most consistent drivers with four podium finishes, a shock pole position in Hungary and just one point off P3 in the championship.
George Russell (Mercedes)
Championship Position: 6th (99pts)
Beating your world champion teammate in your first season in a top team is not something done easily, but Russell did just that in 2022. However, he has not looked the same driver in 2023, particularly since the team’s Monaco upgrades removed the infamous “no sidepods” approach. There have been some strong drives, such as a podium in Spain from P12 on the grid, but also too many clumsy moments.
Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)
Championship Position: 3rd (149pts)
Alonso always seems to carry an incredible amount of hype wherever he goes in Formula 1, and his shock switch to Aston Martin this year was no different. Initially, that seems to have paid off, with six podiums in the first eight races, but the team has fallen off in performance since Canada. Nonetheless, at 42 Alonso has proven he can beat the young guns, and still has the hunger for a third title.
Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
Championship Position: 9th (47pts)
Stroll’s broken wrist just before the opening race in March seems like an eternity ago, and considering at one point it looked like he may miss multiple races, P6 in Bahrain was impressive. However, his performances have been mediocre at best since then. Being the son of the team boss fuels some unjust resentment, but with just seven points scored in the last five races, criticism is inevitable.
Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
Championship Position: 5th (99pts)
If Charles Leclerc didn’t have bad luck, he would have no luck at all. An engine failure in Bahrain cost him a podium and led to a grid penalty in just the second race, and further bad luck has led to the Monégasque becoming somewhat underrated. He has performed well and consistently this season, with three podiums (that should have been six without said luck) and two pole positions. As speculation about his future continues, it is down to Ferrari, not Leclerc, to prove that he can achieve a childhood dream of winning a title for the Italian team.
Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
Championship Position: 7th (92pts)
On the face of it, Sainz’s pace has looked reasonable, and he is just behind his teammate in the standings. However, Sainz has got into a habit of making silly, unforced errors when he is performing strongly, whether it’s crashing into Alonso in Australia, being penalised for track limits in Austria, or taking out Piastri in Belgium. Moreover, his attitude of gamesmanship, particularly towards his own teammate, is rapidly becoming unappealing.
Lando Norris (McLaren)
Championship Position: 8th (69pts)
There was something tragic about seeing McLaren turn up to the opening race and effectively being the slowest team on the grid, especially considering the faith Norris has put in the Woking-based team. They have, however, transformed their season spectacularly, and Norris has led the way with a pair of second-place finishes in Silverstone and Hungary (even briefly leading his home race). If he continues to shine, don’t rule out a late charge for P3 in the championship.
Oscar Piastri (McLaren)
Championship Position: 11th (34pts)
Don’t let the somewhat lopsided head-to-head with his teammate fool you – Piastri has been exceptional. The Australian prodigy, one of only three drivers to win F2 and F3 titles back-to-back in their rookie seasons, has held his own against a world-class teammate. He was unlucky to miss out on a podium in the last three races (although did manage one in the sprint race in Belgium), but it is only a matter of time before we see him up there.
Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
Championship Position: 10th (35pts)
Throughout his life, from humble beginnings in northern France, Ocon has seemingly always been underrated. A shock podium in Monaco proved some of his doubters wrong, and contrary to expectations, tensions with his teammate have not boiled over. He has arguably been the best driver outside of the top five teams.
Pierre Gasly (Alpine)
Championship Position: 12th (22pts)
If not for the silly season drama that erupted 12 months ago, Gasly could still be in the now-backmarker AlphaTauri. Thankfully, he has been able to show his talent in a solid Alpine car, including a sprint race podium in Spa. However, he has seemed to be a bit behind Ocon, and a silly error in Australia cost him P5 when he crashed into his teammate – the biggest no-no in F1.
Alexander Albon (Williams)
Championship Position: 13th (11pts)
Albon has been given a new lease of life at Williams, and is justifiably optimistic that he can lead the team into a new era. Any points finishes this year are impressive when the top five teams seem so far ahead of the rest, and his P7 in Canada and P8 in Silverstone were remarkable. He is the only driver to beat his teammate in every qualifying session this year, and has more than proven his place on the grid.
Logan Sargeant (Williams)
Championship Position: 19th (0pts)
It shows how low our expectations of rookie drivers have fallen that Sargeant is considered to have done relatively well. He has only reached Q2 once, and his best race finish is P11 in Silverstone. There have been far too many errors and crashes that have cost his Williams team dear.
Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
Championship Position: 18th (2pts)
The Dane’s shock return to F1 last year was much lauded, but in 2023 he hasn’t looked as good as his similarly experienced teammate. The qualifying head-to-head is very lopsided at 9-3, although there have been a few highlights, including P4 in Miami qualifying and two points finishes. Most importantly, he has mostly kept it clean, in spite of crashes in Australia and Monaco.
Niko Hülkenberg (Haas)
Championship Position: 14th (9pts)
The Hulk’s F1 career looked to be over until Haas called him up to replace fellow German Mick Schumacher for 2023. It has been unnoticeable that he hadn’t had a full-time seat in any racing series for three years, with his qualifying being particularly impressive – he has made Q3 six times, and even qualified on the front row in Canada. His race pace hasn’t held up, however, aside from a P7 in the chaos of Australia.
Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)
Championship Position: 15th (5pts)
Bottas rightfully is enjoying life and driving since being freed from the pressure machine of Mercedes, although there has been speculation about how much longer he’ll stay in the sport. He has been solid and mostly looked superior over his teammate, but hasn’t been overly impressive aside from a points finish in the opening race.
Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo)
Championship Position: 16th (4pts)
Zhou has faced surprisingly little speculation about his seat, despite his performances looking mediocre at best. There have been a handful of highlights, including a P5 in qualifying in Hungary (that ended disappointingly when he crashed at turn 1). He has been consistently close to, but rarely beaten, his experienced teammate. Alfa should be looking to F2 prodigy Théo Pourchaire if he continues to fail to deliver.
Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
Championship Position: 17th (3pts)
Holding on to his seat for a third season shocked some, but seemed initially to be justified with an impressive string of results in the opening races in a backmarker car, with two P10s and three P11s. He then seemed to fall into old habits, and now faces a new challenge against far more experienced teammate and De Vries replacement Daniel Ricciardo, in what could determine his Red Bull future.
Daniel Ricciardo (AlphaTauri)
Championship Position: 21st (0pts)
Called in last-minute to replace De Vries after Silverstone, Ricciardo just seemed grateful to be back on the grid, even if it was in the slowest car. For him, AlphaTauri is clearly a stepping stone to a potential Red Bull seat. He has looked solid, with a P13 in Hungary and on the fringes of the points in the Spa sprint race. Most important is for him to beat Tsunoda and stay error-free if he wants an opportunity to fight for wins again.