2013 F1 season driver rankings part one: 22-17

2013 F1 season review

One of Formula One’s most appealing characteristics is also the factor which makes assessing the drivers so frustrating.

As each team designs their own cars from scratch, there is no level playing field across which we can rank each of the competitors. Except, of course, between pairs of team mates.

The F1 Fanatic Driver Rankings is an attempt to use the best available information to rank the drivers based on how well they performed. The 2013 rankings begin today and will run over the course of the next four days, ending with your vote for the best driver of the year.

As usual, we begin with the drivers at the bottom of the list.

Not ranked: Heikki Kovalainen

Beat team mate in qualifying 0/2
Beat team mate in race 0/1
Races finished 2/2
Laps spent ahead of team mate 0/57

Kovalainen’s two-race stint in place of Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus is not sufficient to give a representative view of his performance compared to the other drivers.

He started inside the top ten in Austin but dropped back in the race with KERS and front wing problems. Brazil was less successful – he finished 14th again after failing to make the cut for Q3.

Lotus were relying on Kovalainen to help shore up their points score in their championship battle with Ferrari, and his failure to do so cannot have done much good for his chances of gaining a seat next year.

Heikki Kovalainen 2013 form guide

22: Max Chilton

Max Chilton, Marussia, Monte-Carlo, 2013

Beat team mate in qualifying 1/18
Beat team mate in race 2/16
Races finished 19/19
Laps spent ahead of team mate 207/993

Little was expected from a driver who’d never finished in the top three in a single-seater championship on his way to Formula One but it’s fair to say Max Chilton exceeded those modest expectations.

The much-quoted statistic about him being the first driver to finish all 19 races in his rookie season showed he was a safe pair of hands – though to some extent that was down to him often not being in close proximity to his rivals.

However Chilton proved a quick learner and there was an upward curve to his performances as the year went on. Having finished the first race a full minute behind fellow rookie Jules Bianchi in the other Marussia, Chilton was appreciably closer to his team mate’s pace at the end of the year.

That his team mate didn’t achieve the same record of finishing was at least partly Chilton’s fault, as a careless piece of driving triggered a collision with Pastor Maldonado which also claimed Bianchi. That was a low-point in a season that was otherwise competent but unremarkable.

Max Chilton 2013 form guide

21: Giedo van der Garde

Beat team mate in qualifying 8/19
Beat team mate in race 4/12
Races finished 15/19
Laps spent ahead of team mate 367/814

Van der Garde had more than a few wayward moments in his debut season but he made up for it by getting on terms with his more experienced team mate and even leading the Caterham charge on more than one occasion.

Indeed it was Van der Garde who produced the team’s best qualifying results of their short history: 15th in Monaco and an opportunistic 14th in a rain-hit session in Belgium. In Abu Dhabi his race pace was conclusively better than Pic’s, so much so his team mate was instructed to get out of the way.

But at times it seemed he just couldn’t keep himself out of trouble. Canada was one of those days as he tangled with Mark Webber and Nico Hulkenberg while being lapped.

He collided with Maldonado in Monaco and was involved in a spate of incidents at the end of the season. First-lap crashes – both of which largely his fault – meant an early bath in Japan and India. And he was hit with drive-through penalties in Korea and Brazil. All of this was rather poorly-timed as Caterham failed in their endeavours to claim that all-important 13th place.

Giedo van der Garde 2013 form guide

20: Charles Pic

Beat team mate in qualifying 11/19
Beat team mate in race 8/12
Races finished 15/19
Laps spent ahead of team mate 447/814

It was not a very convincing second season for Charles Pic following his move to Caterham. He was not decisively quicker than Van der Garde often enough and he made the kind of errors F1 rookies shouldn’t make, let alone a sophomore driver.

On his day Pic looked like the team leader Caterham needed him to be following their off-season ousting of Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov. He gave the Williams drivers grief in Spain and Britain, and that scoreline against Van der Garde would look better had Pic not had a few technical failures.

Getting a reprimand for passing a red light without stopping would have been bad enough once, but Pic managed to do it on consecutive race weekends in Korea and Japan (and had done something similar in Singapore last year). He therefore exceeded three reprimands during the season, picking up a ten-place penalty.

Charles Pic 2013 form guide

19: Esteban Gutierrez

Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, Suzuka, 2013

Beat team mate in qualifying 1/19
Beat team mate in race 3/15
Races finished 17/19
Laps spent ahead of team mate 135/943

Gutierrez was dealt a tough hand by making his F1 debut for a team who began the season disappointingly far from the pace, and alongside a driver widely tipped as a future star.

Things began badly with a crash during the rain-hit qualifying session in Australia. That was the first of ten times he was knocked out during Q1 – something which never happened to Nico Hulkenberg.

After the team’s mid-season breakthrough Gutierrez had a strong weekend in Singapore and finally demonstrated what he’s capable of with seventh place on his first visit to Suzuka. But those proved his only points of the season.

There were also some reminders of the ragged edge that characterised his GP2 performances: a silly collision with Adrian Sutil in China, a crash at the pit exit in Canada and a penalty for a rather reckless move during qualifying at the Circuit of the Americas.

Esteban Gutierrez 2013 form guide

18: Jean-Eric Vergne

Beat team mate in qualifying 4/19
Beat team mate in race 5/11
Races finished 14/19
Laps spent ahead of team mate 302/893

For a brief moment it looked as though Jean-Eric Vergne, not team mate Daniel Ricciardo, would be Red Bull’s logical choice to replace Mark Webber.

Vergne equalled his best-ever result with eighth in Monaco, then bettered it with sixth place in Canada. The latter showed what he could do with a car that was on the pace as he dispensed with Valtteri Bottas and pulled clear.

However by the end of the season the story was much the same as last year. Particularly in qualifying, where Ricciardo thrashed him to the tune of a one second difference between the pair on average.

Vergne often moved closer to his team mate in the races, and his cause was not aided by some poor fortune. That included a few collisions that were not his fault and a series of failures in Britain (tyre), Germany (hydraulics), Italy (engine) and qualifying in Japan (brakes).

Jean-Eric Vergne 2013 form guide

17: Pastor Maldonado

Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Monza, 2013

Beat team mate in qualifying 7/19
Beat team mate in race 9/14
Races finished 16/19
Laps spent ahead of team mate 508/989

Pastor Maldonado was not exactly a model of good team leadership during a difficult season for Williams.

The FW35 proved a huge disappointment when assessed against the competition in Australia. Maldonado faced a repeat of 2011, scrabbling to pick up any crumbs dropped by the smaller teams. He ended up with a single point.

This is a somewhat unfair reflection on his race pace which was often very good – better than his rookie team mate’s, as you would expect. A battling yet unrewarded drive at Singapore was a particular highlight, and he narrowly missed out on points in India and Abu Dhabi as well.

But he was outdone by Valtteri Bottas in qualifying over the course of the season and even lost at tracks which have been Maldonado’s forte in past seasons: Monaco and Singapore, for example. His better moments included an excellent lap to reach Q2 at Monza.

Maldonado was again involved in more than his fair share of incidents, though not all of them were his fault – he was blameless for the collisions with Van der Garde and Chilton in Monaco. But the blundering contact with both Force Indias in Belgium was another one of those times that left you wondering when he’s going to get his act together.

Pastor Maldonado 2013 form guide

How the rankings are produced

This is a ranking of how drivers have performed in the 2013 season, irrespective of their form in previous years. Among the data referred to in producing the rankings are notes on each driver’s performance at each race weekend, compiled data on car performance, direct comparisons between team mates and each driver’s form guide.

Over to you

How highly do you rate the drivers who’ve appeared so far in the rankings? Give your views on them in the comments.

Images ?é?® Marussia, Sauber, Williams/LAT

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36 comments on 2013 F1 season driver rankings part one: 22-17

  1. Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 13th December 2013, 17:56

    I rate VDG above Pic, because of his ability to improve and eventually comfortably beat his teammate in the second half of the season.

    Also, I don’t think Maldonado did a better job than either Gutierrez or Vergne – he had no glimpse of talent unlike in the previous season with a car in which Bottas (a rookie) shone more. Gutierrez had nice moments, like in Suzuka, and also got on terms with Hulkenberg occasionally. Vergne also had bright races around Monaco-Canada and was on par with Ricciardo in terms of race pace more often tha not.

    So for me, it is

    22 – Chilton
    21 – Pic
    20 – van der Garde
    19 – Maldonado
    18 – Gutierrez
    17 – Vergne

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 13th December 2013, 21:11

      Not completely sure about VdGarde getting the better of Pic for the season. Yes, VdGarde does look the more interesting one for the future, as he was clearly showing an upward trend after mid season while Pic didn’t. But in the first races VdGarde made so many errors that it put him quite a bit behind his teammate. Overall I think its pretty much a draw between them.

    • James (@speedking84) said on 13th December 2013, 22:46

      Ok… out of Bianchi, Pic, van der Garde and Chilton who has the highest average finishing position…… Charles Pic, so why you have put him behind van der Garde and Bianchi, you’ll have to explain.

      • James (@speedking84) said on 13th December 2013, 22:51

        I don’t think van der Garde beating Pic in the second half of the season is a good reason to rate him higher than Pic, as Pic was leading the backmarkers in Brazil before his suspension failed, Charles had an understeer issue in Austin and Abu Dhabi, then he beat van der Garde in the other races if i’m correct. Pic is a safer pair of hands, he’s 23 so still has a lot more time to improve, in a few years van der Garde will be at the age where most drivers go into decline.

  2. craig-o (@craig-o) said on 13th December 2013, 18:00

    Not too many surprises here, I think you’re spot on so far with this Keith!

  3. Aditya F. Yahya (@adityafakhri) said on 13th December 2013, 18:00

    wow, Bianchi’s not there (yet)! pretty bold assessment but fairly made. sums up his good season with a minnow team. I hope his career would turn up great.

    • W (@yesyesyesandyesagain) said on 13th December 2013, 18:46

      Too bad Bianchi didn’t get a midfield drive for next year, I was hoping he would end up at Sauber.

    • James (@speedking84) said on 13th December 2013, 23:01

      Am I the only person that has noticed Bianchi is overrated, he’s a great driver but he’s been up against a poor team mate, so it’s hard to judge Bianchi, all I can say is that because he has destroyed his team mate that shows he is a good team leader. I know he’ll end up in a midfield team eventually but there are other rookies that could do well in a midfield team that will also miss out on driving for a midfield team. I appreciate Bianchi is good but lets be honest, since his 13th place in Malaysia what has he done that’s even relatively significant.

  4. HUHHII (@huhhii) said on 13th December 2013, 18:04

    Gutierrez should definitely be here. Vergne had more bright moments than him.
    And as mentioned above, I would also place Van der Garde one place higher than Pic.

  5. Given Gutierrez was was partnered alongside the aptly named Incredible Hulk, I suppose we must give him the benefit of the doubt.

    However, I think Vergne was the better driver, perhaps ahead of Maldonado too but I happen to think he did a fair job with a terrible car.

  6. PhilEReid (@philereid) said on 13th December 2013, 18:55

    Personally my rankings at this point are almost the same, though I’d have Van Der Garde ahead of Pic. I think for a rookie, he did pretty well in the second half of the season. Not quite Bianchi and Bottas level, but better the Gutierrez over the whole season. However, his first half season was pretty awful in comparison. However, I would, have him at equal 20th place with Gutierrez. Agree with Vergne and Maldonado. Whilst you’d expect Maldonado to beat a rookie, considering it was his third year with the team, it wasn’t that conclusive, but neither was it as bad of a season as some people mention. Vergne was underwhelming really this season, and I put him only just above Gutierrez and Van Der Garde, and a bit off of Maldonado.
    To reflect their positioning’s relative to each other, here’s what I’d show:

    Chilton
    .
    .
    .
    Pic
    Van Der Garde, Gutierrez
    Vergne
    .
    Maldonado.

  7. Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 13th December 2013, 19:00

    Great to have the rankings coming out, I always look forward to them!

    So far I’m broadly in agreement with the list. All the drivers listed deserve to be here, but I’d probably put Van Der Garde ahead of Pic and Vergne ahead of Maldonado, who I though let himself down badly this year, even with the car he had.

  8. Girts (@girts) said on 13th December 2013, 20:00

    Unfortunately don’t have enough time to write a long comment this evening so I’ll just say this: I’m really proud to be an F1 Fanatic member after reading articles that are as excellent as this one.

  9. rulox777 said on 13th December 2013, 20:21

    I would put GUT ahead of MAL, at least I would give him the benefit of the doubt given that it was his first year while MAL is in his third. He showed improvement on the second half of the season and even got more points.

    • David Margono (@woshidavid95) said on 14th December 2013, 1:49

      We shouldn’t rank drivers based on their expectations, Maldonado may have performed below what is expected of him while Gutierrez didn’t but I believe it’s quite apparent that Maldonado > Gutierrez this season when their performances are viewed on an absolute scale, taking into account their machineries. Yeah Gutierrez scored more points but there’s no doubt that Williams was worse than Sauber this year.

  10. dragoll (@dragoll) said on 13th December 2013, 21:45

    The last 3 matched my rankings, however, JEV so far back, that was a surprise, yes, he hasn’t been brilliant, however, he hasn’t been worse than Maldonado, Sutil, or Di Resta according to me.

    In my list I have JEV as 11th… Nice article, great talking point, loving your off season work Keith :)

  11. James (@speedking84) said on 13th December 2013, 21:55

    Ok, I’m not fully convinced by these rankings, so lets remember than Vergne was runing 6th in Silverstone when he retired and I think 7th in Monza, so had he not had the mechanical failure he’d be ahead of Ricciardo or very close to Ricciardo. So effectively i’m saying that Ricciardo is marginally better than Vergne whilst these ranking show Maldonado to be marginally better than Vergne, so effectively you’re saying Ricciardo and Maldonado are very similar in ranking? Also the fact Bianchi isn’t here is ridiculous, I’ll agree Bianchi has shown much more promise than the other rookies but he is overrated, what has he done honestly, he finished ahead of the Caterham’s when Caterham were struggling and Marussia improved hugely but after Bahrain, Jules finished behind the Caterham’s more often than not, the only impressive thing about him was how quickly he got to grips with an F1 car and used that to his advantage in the early races. In my view Pic is the best driver of the backmarkers, he’s the most consistent, the second best qualifier (behind Bianchi) and his race pace is excellent on most occasions, sure he had a dismal second half of the season but just like Raikkonen, he struggled with the new tyres, he struggled with understeer in the last few races but lets not forget, he was running ahead of Bottas and Gutierrez in Britain, finished ahead of Gutierrez in Bahrain whilst maintaining the gap to the Toro Rosso in front, finished 14th in Malaysia, 14th in Korea and would have been 14th or better in Monaco had he not had the gearbox seizure. In my view, the backmarkers are ranked 1. Pic 2. Bianchi 3. van der Garde 4. Chilton.

  12. Steven (@steevkay) said on 13th December 2013, 22:04

    What I’m really wondering about now is when a driver will finally graduate from the backmarker teams to a midfield/front-runner. Ricciardo did have an HRT stint (although I think there was some help or association with Red Bull to facilitate this) and is now with RBR, and Bruno Senna had his stint with HRT as well, had his chance at a mid-level team, and was understandably dropped.

    I wonder what successes, if any, these young backmarkers will have: will we ever see Pic, Van der Garde, D’Ambrosio, Chilton, etc. in anything else? More and more it seems like F1 dreams come to die at the back end of the grid. Ricciardo was an exception since he’s had Red Bull backing the whole time, but not all drivers who’ve been on these backmarker teams have enjoyed such an advantage…

  13. I don’t like how these driver rankings invariably reflect the pace of the car. How is it that the worst drivers somehow end up in the cars they deserve (sarcasm smilie needed)

    Max Chilton was the slowest driver of the year but I don’t think he was the worst. I would have put Maldonado last on his attitude alone.
    Frankly I think that drivers like Massa and even Grosjean warrant being in this list. Massa’s stats to Alonso must be atrocious and he got on the podium once to Alonso’s nine.
    Grosjean seems to be in everyone’s good books because he finished strong and has an endearing smile. But, he finished 51 points behind a Kimi who skipped two races and clearly didn’t care for a few before that. (Being in the bottom 6 might be a bit harsh but I think he should be close).

    But neither Massa or Grosjean will ever make it into the bottom ranked drivers. Why? Because they are getting the credit that their cars deserve.

    I hope that Hulkenberg is number 1 by the way

    • gwenouille (@gwenouille) said on 13th December 2013, 22:48

      Grosjean was the only one who seemed able to contest SV’s supremacy in the closing stages of the championship. Could have been even more impressive without this engine blowing up. Was clearly second best in the last 6 races. That alone is enough not to have him in the bottom 6…

    • @tony

      he finished 51 points behind a Kimi who skipped two races and clearly didn’t care for a few before that. (Being in the bottom 6 might be a bit harsh

      Seriously??! In that case, Webber should be ranked last coz he finished a whoppin 198 points behind Vettel and didnt even win a single race whereas his teammate won the championship with 13 wins out of 19!!

      • OK. I rescind my judgement on Romain. Even as I wrote my first comment I thought it might be a little harsh.
        But my point is that had JEV been in a Lotus he wouldn’t have been in the bottom 6 yet these rankings are meant to be about driver ability not car ability. I think Massa (I will leave Grosjean alone) more than almost anyone failed to realize the potential of his car and so should come in last in the rankings.
        And if the rankings are about how drivers performed in 2013 then Mark isn’t going to do well either. He did win one race in Malaysia and I give him the benefit of the doubt on some untimely retirements and strangely bad team strategies.

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 14th December 2013, 9:33

          He didn’t win any race in Malaysia. Team orders tried to gift him a win, but he managed to lose anyway.

          • Patrick (@paeschli) said on 14th December 2013, 11:00

            Yep, even if his engine was turned down, Mark could have it turned it up again to beat his team-mate but he didn’t. If he had to save fuel, it means that Vettel better managed his fuel and deserved that win.

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