2014 mid-season F1 driver rankings part one: 22-13

Driver rankings

The F1 Fanatic Driver Rankings are being produced for the tenth time this year, and as usual they began with a review of how the field has fared at the mid-season point.

Here are the ten drivers in the bottom part of the list – look out for the rest in two further articles to be published later this week.

22. Marcus Ericsson

Marcus Ericsson, Caterham, Monte-Carlo, 2014Key stat: Completed the fewest racing laps of any driver so far – 466 of the 698 which have been run.

Sporting Ronnie Peterson’s helmet design in Monaco, Ericsson produced the best performance of his short F1 career to date, and gave Caterham their highest-ever finish with 11th place. Yes it was aided by retirements, but also by several of his rivals making the kind of errors he avoided, which is particularly impressive given the car he has to drive.

But that was the sole highlight of a rookie campaign which has otherwise left a lot to be desired, even when allowances are made for the serious shortcomings of his machinery. We’ve quickly grown accustomed to the sight of Ericsson climbing from the cockpit of his Caterham, for which Renault’s persistent reliability problems have only been partly to blame. Qualifying has been a particular problem – he crashed in Malaysia, Monaco (taking out Felipe Massa) and Canada – and binned it just seven laps into the last race.

21. Max Chilton

Key stat: Record run of consecutive finishes for a rookie ended in Canada – when he took out his team mate on the first lap

It’s not immediately obvious whether a year’s experience has helped Chilton raise his game all that much. He continues to be a safe pair of hands for the most part – with the obvious exception of Canada – but otherwise doesn’t distinguish himself with speed in qualifying or races.

When the chequered flag falls Chilton can usually be found a considerable distance behind his team mate and not that far ahead of Ericsson. It was telling that even when Bianchi limped home with a badly damaged floor in Hungary, Chilton still couldn’t find a way past his team mate.

20. Pastor Maldonado

Pastor Maldonado, Lotus, Shanghai International Circuit, 2014Key stat: The only driver to be issued three penalty points for a single incident, when he flipped Gutierrez in Bahrain

The same old Maldonado mistakes persist – the careless collision which put Gutierrez on his head, the clumsy spin into the barrier during qualifying in Spain. But the greater impediment to his performance this year has been the dreadful unreliability and unsympathetic handling of his Lotus.

Because of that he has been unable to set a time during Q1 on three occasions and sidelined with technical failures during races four times. He didn’t even start the race at Monaco, which is usually one of his strongest circuits. But team mate Romain Grosjean has been similarly afflicted by Lotus’s problems, and he has had the car running and finishing in higher positions.

19. Adrian Sutil

Key stat: Has finished ahead of Gutierrez more often than he has finished behind him, and vice-versa in qualifying

Sutil had a lot of trouble getting the Sauber beyond Q1 in the early part of the season, and the unco-operative chassis has rarely been a willing partner in the races either. Much of the first half of the season was an unrewarding grind, punctuated with notable lows in Monaco, where he crashed out, and Austria, where a communications error meant he was accidentally told to stop.

But a glimmer of hope appeared prior to the summer break. With FRIC now banned, Sauber seem a little more competitive, and Sutil came within a second of scoring their first point in Hungary.

18. Kamui Kobayashi

Key stat: Equalled Caterham’s best ever starting position – 14th – in Australia

After a year away, Kobayashi’s fan-funded comeback has produced only disappointment thanks largely to his uncompetitive car. Even in China, where he put one over Bianchi in the final laps, he had the incredible misfortune to be robbed of the result because the chequered flag was shown too soon.

In Monaco Bianchi caught him by surprise at Rascasse and pulled off a pass which eventually gave Marussia a valuable two-point lead over Caterham in the constructors’ championship. The team may rue Kobayashi not being a bit more aggressive on that occasion, but more often than not it’s been the car which has let him down.

17. Esteban Gutierrez

Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, Circuit de Catalunya, 2014Key stat: Gained more places on lap one than any other driver: 26 (an average gain of 2.4 places)

Gutierrez has shown Sutil the way in qualifying and would probably have scored Sauber’s first points in Hungary had his energy recovery system not failed. Some poor luck also explains which his finishing record is not quite as good as his team mates – the collision with Maldonado in Bahrain, and Sauber’s pit error in Austria.

Yet it’s hard to shake the impression that, though the C33 is undoubtedly one of Sauber’s worst cars, it is capable of more than either of its drivers have extracted so far.

16. Felipe Massa

Key stat: Has retired on the first lap on three occasions

Massa has missed out on several points-scoring opportunities due to misfortune: he was blameless when he was hit by Ericsson during qualifying in Monaco, in his last-lap tangle with Sergio Perez at Montreal, and in the start-line crashes at Melbourne and Silverstone. But that’s not the whole explanation for why he has less than half his team mate’s points haul at mid-season.

On other occasions having started well he simply tried to make too much of the advantage, leading to tangles with Fernando Alonso in China and, most dramatically, with Kevin Magnussen in Germany. But most worrying for Massa are the increasingly common days when Valtteri Bottas has been just plain quicker than him.

15. Daniil Kvyat

Key stat: Toro Rosso is the only team where each driver has finished in front of the other the same number of times

There’s very little to choose between the Toro Rosso pair, and that reflects very well on the latest product of Red Bull’s junior driver programme. Despite a disrupted testing programme, including one day at Jerez when he didn’t get on the circuit at all, Kvyat scored in three of the first four races on unfamiliar tracks. He then used recent circuit experience to good effect at the Red Bull Ring, lining up seventh on the grid, only to be sidelined by one of Toro Rosso’s many car problems.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing – he ruined his race in Germany with a rash move on Perez, and the Hungarian weekend was a complete write-off. But he has more than justified Red Bull’s surprise decision to promote him.

14. Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2014Key stat: Sixth in Hungary was his best finish so far – Alonso has only finished lower than that once

Niggling problems during practice have been a feature of Raikkonen’s season so far, and that can’t have helped his qualifying and race day performances. But even making allowances for that, and the inevitable adjustment period involved when a driver switches teams, Raikkonen’s return to Ferrari has evoked more memories of his poor 2009 campaign than his 2007 championship victory.

At times it’s seemed as if his F14 T had been fitted with a Magnussen magnet, but while the McLaren driver bore responsibility for their tangles in Malaysia and Bahrain, the Monaco collision was down to Raikkonen. This began a poor run of races which included tenth places at Montreal (where he spun) and the Red Bull Ring, his nasty (and self-inflicted) smash at Silverstone, and a bruising encounter with several rivals at the Hockenheimring.

However he was happier with his car’s handling in Germany and that served as a springboard for his best performance of the season so far in Hungary, where he finished sixth despite being eliminated in Q1 due to an error by his team. Better days seem to lie ahead.

13. Jean-Eric Vergne

Key stat: Has the most retirements due to car failure of any driver: five

It’s a case of deja vu for Jean-Eric Vergne – at the mid-point of the season he’s had more mechanical failures than any other driver, which also happened last year. This has plainly affected his ability to score points, such as in Malaysia where he reached Q3 but had a power unit problem at the start of the race.

Car failures aren’t the only way he’s been let down by his team. In Spain a wheel came off his car during practice, leading to a grid penalty, and in Monaco having qualified seventh a pit release error led to a penalty. Wet weather conditions seem to bring out the best in him, as in Hungary where he got ahead of Nico Rosberg at the restart. Kvyat is certainly keeping him honest but Vergne narrowly has the upper hand at the moment despite his many misfortunes.

The next part of the rankings will be published tomorrow.

How the rankings are produced

Among the data referred to in producing the ranks 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 do you think these ten drivers have performed so far in 2014?

Have your say in the comments.

Images © Caterham/LAT, Lotus/LAT, Sauber, Ferrari/spa

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118 comments on 2014 mid-season F1 driver rankings part one: 22-13

  1. elf341 said on 12th August 2014, 20:44

    I hope Rosberg isn’t overlooked again. IIRC, Keith put Button above Rosberg last year (!)
    Rosberg is obviously not as good at passing as Hamilton, but he keeps generally calm head and challenges Hamilton for pole in the way that Button never could when he was Hamilton’s teammate.

    • Sven (@crammond) said on 13th August 2014, 2:09

      I do put Button above Rosberg this year. Button has been very consistent and has pretty much always gotten the result that´s in the car, sometimes more. On Merc they seem to be pretty much battling on who can combine individual mistakes with bad luck more, up to the point where there´s slight hope for a third (Ric) to mix in the WDC-battle while the Merc is obviously by far the fastest car.

      • elf341 said on 13th August 2014, 12:30

        Bit surprised you’re using consistency to justify Button over Rosberg when Rosberg has finished either 1 or 2 apart from Hungary (which he probably would’ve won without the safety car).

  2. petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 12th August 2014, 21:15

    22: Maldonado – Slow and the only driver on the grid who deliberately crashes into other cars.
    21: Ericsson – Blown away by Kobayashi. Perhaps don’t have the same gear but nothing to prove he doesn’t.
    20: Chilton – Similar story. No proof that he doesn’t have the same gear so – on face value, he’s been hammered.
    19: Raikkonen – Remember the talk of a titanic battle between him and Alonso. Completely outclassed.
    18: Massa – Very disappointing. Bottas has flown but despite some pace, Massa just can’t keep himself out of trouble.
    17: Guiterrez – Feel a bit harsh on both Sauber drivers. The car is clearly terrible so difficult to judge them.
    16: Sutil – Feel a bit harsh on both Sauber drivers. The car is clearly terrible so difficult to judge them.
    15: Kobayashi – Dominated his team mate. He’s done exactly what we would have expected him to!
    14: Magnussen – Struggling against Button. I think he’d lose to any of the top 13…
    13: Vettel – Struggling to adapt to the new regs. Hasn’t done anything particularly impressive yet….
    12: Perez – Hulk is the better driver but he’s holding his own. Great podium in Bahrain.
    11: Grosjean – Poor car but he’s fought hard for 8 points.
    10: Bianchi – Again showing he has a bright future in F1. Chilton can’t even get close.
    09: Kvyat – Great debut season.
    08: Button – Has performed well – unlucky with “McLarenish” strategical calls and a relatively poor car.
    07: Vergne – Poor car (reliability and pace) and a poor engine but has dragged the car into positions it doesn’t deserve to be in.
    06: Rosberg – Strong when out front but on several occasions, he’s struggled to make moves stick when Hamilton hasn’t.
    05: Hülkenberg – Another solid season in an average car. Would love to see him get a drive for a team with pace.
    04: Hamilton – Terrible luck in general but has made vital moves stick when he’s needed to.
    03: Alonso – Regularly finishes higher than the Ferrari should. Absolutely dominating his world champion team-mate.
    02: Bottas – Has a real knack of maximising the weekend for Williams. Always seems to finish as high as is possible.
    01: Ricciardo – Similar to Bottas. Has the better of his team mate and when he gets a chance, he usually takes it.

  3. Sauber (@mumito) said on 12th August 2014, 21:27

    Its a subjective ranking. I will give my subjective opinion.

    1) As a Sauber fan, I rate SUT over GUT. They both had awful first half of season (OK Sauber car was not great), but all and all, GUT was terrible. He had awful mistakes in Qualifying (despite the fact he did better than SUT in Q). But he could have done better. He crashed in Canada, he crashed in Rascasse (giving Marussia its first points)… The only thing he did better than SUT is starting…but SUT finished 11th several times, and was closer to scoring. Another fact….VDG ran FP1 more times in SUT car.

    2) Rating BUT, MAG, GRO, PER over KVT and MAS is just nonsense. I don’t want to enter a argument with Keith, but seriously….MAG and PER might have scored a podium each….but they are way down their teammates thus underachieving with their possibilities. GRO better than MAS?….

    • petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 13th August 2014, 13:40

      @mumito – How is rating Button over Massa nonsense? Button is ahead of Massa in the WDC despite being in a slower car! Magnussen is only just behind him!

      Massa has had a horrible season. Lots thought he was right to leave Ferrari and join a team where he could compete for the number 1 position but yet again, he’s being destroyed by his team mate.

      • Sauber (@mumito) said on 13th August 2014, 15:20

        You might be right there. Still….Massa lost at least 4 races in other drivers hands. So….
        I know he’s fading (has been for the last years at Ferrari), but he had great moments.
        Be that as it may….I hope you get my point.

  4. HoHum (@hohum) said on 13th August 2014, 0:02

    @keithcollantine, PEDANT ALERT, I think you meant “produced this year for the tenth time”

  5. Andy said on 13th August 2014, 8:09

    Keith you should definitely watch the China GP start again. It is actually Alonso who moved towards Massa. And Bottas’ lead is solely due to the points he scored in the races where Massa’s had DNFs because of 3 crashes with Koba, Perez and Raikkonen where he wasn’t at fault and because of his crash with Magnussen where he was 50% at fault. Just do the maths and you’ll see.

    • petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 13th August 2014, 13:45

      But drivers don’t just get hit all of the time at no fault of thier own. Often in F1, you see someone go for a move and everyone says “he knew he could trust Alonso/Hamilton/Vettel etc to give him space” but you can’t trust Massa to do that.

      If a driver moves towards Massa, it will be a crash because he won’t give an inch. It’s fine to say he’s aggressive but when it means DNF after DNF, the argument loses a bit of weight.

      You’ll never see anyone force their way past Massa or dive up the inside and make it stick because he’ll turn in on them and they’ll both be out. He’s in his right to hold his line or turn in on someone but it WILL and DOES cause a crash more often than not.

  6. Rick Lopez (@viscountviktor) said on 13th August 2014, 8:39

    Why is Raikkonen above Massa in the rankings?

    Massa has poll position, has done better compared to team mate, 3 results higher.


  7. Disagree with both Toro Rosso’s spots. Should be higher IMO. Vergne deserves a faster car, switch with Button.

    TOP 5 for me:
    5. Rosberg
    4. Bottas
    3. Ricciardo
    2. Hamilton
    1. Alonso

  8. Motormouth (@motormouth88) said on 13th August 2014, 10:54

    I’m a passionate Aussie F1 fan who only starting closely following the F1 Fanatic website recently, and I must say I’m very impressed by Keith’s in-depth analysis of everything related to F1, and this is no exception.

    The only thing I would probably change in these rankings would be to move Kvyat ahead of Vergne… I think he’s shown more raw speed considering his lack of experience compared to Vergne. Otherwise, bring on the rest of the rankings!

  9. Kaartik said on 13th August 2014, 11:49

    Hi Keith, it’s a fair mid season review of drivers from 22-13 maybe Massa misplaced but you know how the sport works. Top 12 for me
    12. Grojean
    11. Perez
    10. Bianchi
    9. Magnussen
    8. Hulkenberg
    7. Button
    6. Bottas
    5. Vettel
    4. Alonso
    3. Ricciardio
    2. Hamilton
    1. Rosberg
    I’m a Kimi fan and I would like to ask you one question is it really so difficult to setup a car to his liking?

    • petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 13th August 2014, 13:47

      I was going to question Rosberg being ahead of Alonso, Hamilton and Ricciardo but…..

      Vettel better than Bottas!?

      • Kaartik said on 13th August 2014, 18:28

        @petebaldwin I put Rosberg ahead of every driver bcoz I thought Ham would blow him away from the start of this season but ROS seems very canny driver, his driving may not be attractive but he his ahead of HAM in Qualifying and in points.

        Vettel ahead of Bottas by very small margin, well personally I like Vettel & it’s my ranking :) also he had few more retirements and bad luck than Bottas.

  10. Peter (@peterpegasus) said on 13th August 2014, 16:26

    Like many, I am a little disappointed about the little recognition JEV gets.
    Here’s my list:

    22: Ericsson
    21: Chilton (most boring driver)
    20: Gutierrez
    19: Sutil (ugh I hate the Sauber line-up, even though I used to be a major Sauber fan in previous years)
    18: Maldonado (still fast, still erratic – but I love watching him, because Maldonado is always interesting)
    17: Raikkonen (lucky to not be further back thanks to some really sub-par performances)
    16: Massa (I’m a bit biased here, because I hate how he can’t own up to mistakes.)
    15: Magnussen (apart from his 2nd place in Australia, not so impressive.
    14: Kvyat (sometimes pretty good, sometimes not so)
    13: Kobayashi (fairly high – he made a single critical mistake (despite signing for Caterham) this year. Difficult to tell how fast he really is, of course, since Ericsson is the worst driver on the grid, but judging by his years at Sauber vs Perez, he should get more respect for what he does.)
    12: Bianchi
    11: Perez (get your qualifying together!)
    10: Button (always good but never great. Except in Britain!)
    09: Vettel (still really fast, but some mistakes – and lots of bad luck)
    08: Grosjean (still so pissed he binned it behind the SC)
    07: Rosberg (not a fan of his; just doesn’t have that bite that Ham seems to have, despite making fewer mistakes)
    06: Hamilton (I consider him to be among the best 3 drivers on the grid, but he made several big errors (major spin in race, deciding spin in quali) that would have cost him major points scoring positions if it weren’t for that Mercedes)
    05: Vergne (I hadn’t been a fan of his before this season, but the many positive comments throughout the year made me pay attention. And let’s face it – if cars were equal, this guy would easily be in the top 10 this year, DNFs notwithstanding)
    04: Hulkenberg (better than Vergne; consistently fast; despite his crash in Hungary, he still made less errors than Hamilton)
    03: Bottas
    02: Alonso
    01: Ricciardo

    PS: I freakin’ love these kind of articles. Been waiting for it for weeks!

  11. This driver ranking sucks!
    My rankings:
    22 Ericsson
    21 Maldonado
    20 Gutierrez
    19 Chilton
    18 Sutil
    17 Kobayashi
    16 Raikkonen
    15 Magnussen
    14 Kvyat
    13 Grosjean
    12 Vergne
    11 Perez
    10 Massa
    9 Button
    8 Bianchi
    7 Vettel
    6 Hulkenberg
    5 Bottas
    4 Rosberg
    3 Hamilton
    2 Alonso
    1 Ricciardo

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