2014 mid-season F1 driver rankings part two: 12-6

Driver rankings

The mid-season driver rankings continue with part two – you can read part one here.

12. Sergio Perez

Sergio Perez, Force India, Red Bull Ring, 2014Key stat: Scored Force India’s best result with third in Bahrain but only had one other top-eight finish

By a stroke of fortune, having left ‘top team’ McLaren for ‘midfield team’ Force India, Perez arguably now has a more competitive car underneath him. But while his team mate heads both McLaren drivers in the points, Perez is behind the pair of them. This has largely been down to some sub-par qualifying performances – getting his tyres up to temperature has been the problem on more than one occasion, notably at Silverstone and Barcelona.

He has, however, given Force India their biggest payday so far in terms of points by getting on the podium in Bahrain, passing Nico Hulkenberg along the way. He was in fine form in Austria, too, leading on his way to sixth, a gain of nine places over his starting position.

Part of the reason he started so low down on that occasion was his penalty from the previous race, where he had been on course for another big points haul before unwisely deviating from the racing line in the braking zone as Felipe Massa moved to pass him on the last lap. Up against a team mate of Hulkenberg’s calibre and with Force India aiming for the top five, he can’t afford to squander points like that.

11. Kevin Magnussen

Key stat: Made it into Q3 eight times – twice more than Button has

Being the first rookie to make his F1 debut for McLaren since Lewis Hamilton, expectations were inevitably high for Magnussen. Astonishingly he met them in his first race, taking third place in Australia which became second after Daniel Ricciardo’s exclusion.

The keys to that result were an error-free driver on a track he’d never raced on before and an excellent qualifying performance, the latter being an area where he has impressed compared to his world champion team mate. He was fourth on the grid again in Germany, but his race was ruined at the first corner by Felipe Massa.

With McLaren having produced another indifferent machine, their new driver has usually been found plugging away in the midfield. There have been blips along the way, including contact with Kimi Raikkonen in Malaysia and Bahrain, and a hefty smash in the rain-hit qualifying session in Hungary. But on the whole Magnussen has coped well with being thrown in at the deep end.

10. Jules Bianchi

Jules Bianchi, Marussia, Monte-Carlo, 2014Key stat: Scored Marussia’s first ever points with ninth place in Monaco

The stand-out moment of Bianchi’s season so far was, of course, ending Marussia’s three-year wait (plus two years as Virgin) for a point in Monaco. He managed it by elbowing Kamui Kobayashi out of the way at Rascasse in a brilliantly opportunistic move.

But there have been other occasions when Bianchi his proved his talent deserves to be put in a more competitive machine. In a wet qualifying session at Silverstone he took Marussia to new heights with 12th on the grid, and in Hungary demonstrated he is the team’s quickest driver even in a badly wounded car.

It bears remembering that he began the year with a couple of rash incidents in Malaysia (with Jean-Eric Vergne) and Bahrain (with Adrian Sutil), but that’s pretty much all to count against him so far. He’s building a solid case for Ferrari to finally promote him to the very top.

9. Romain Grosjean

Key stat: Qualified 4.5 places higher than his team mate on average – the best of any driver

At times, Grosjean’s driving has been capable of making even the sinfully ugly Lotus E22 a joy to behold. Dragging the unworthy car to fifth on the grid at the Circuit de Catalunya, and eighth at the chequered flag despite yet another power unit problem, ranks as one the best giant-killing performances of the year.

He repeated that result at Monaco and remains the sole contributor to Lotus’s points tally. Arguably just as impressive as his points-scoring feats was his performance in Malaysia, where despite a major handling imbalance due to a broken diffuser he resisted pressure from Raikkonen to finish 11th.

Lotus have struggled to make further gains in recent races, and the FRIC ban clearly hasn’t helped. And Grosjean took the shine off an otherwise excellent first-half performance by spinning off during a Safety Car period in Hungary.

8. Jenson Button

Key stat: In the ten races where both McLarens finished, Button was ahead eight times

Button has consistently got the job done for McLaren this year and it will be to the frustration of both that occasional opportunities for much better results have narrowly passed them by. Such as in Hungary, where he was the first driver into the pits during the first Safety Car period – and the team made the baffling decision to put him on intermediate tyres.

Australia was another such missed opportunity – Button backed off for Raikkonen’s crash during Q2 and failed to make the cut. That meant it was his team mate who scored the team’s best result of the year so far, though Button made his way up from tenth to finish behind him.

Button has usually spearheaded challenge of the ‘other’ silver cars, notably on home ground at Silverstone where he claimed an excellent third on the grid in damp qualifying positions and narrowly missed out on a podium finish. He was fourth in Canada as well after springing a double-pass on Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg.

7. Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Hockenheimring, 2014Key stat: Ricciardo has been in front of Vettel for 267 laps, Vettel has been in front of Ricciardo for 260 laps

People sat up and took notice when the world champion team ended Mercedes’ dominance in Canada because it wasn’t their world champion driver who won the race. Vettel had been leading team mate Daniel Ricciardo but came out of his second pit stop in traffic, giving his team mate to jump ahead and eventually claim the win.

That was one of several reminders this year that the comfortable margin Vettel once enjoyed over his team mate is a thing of the past. He’s looked uncomfortable at the wheel of the RB10 even when it has been working – which all too often it hasn’t.

His races in Australia, Monaco and Austria were scuppered by technical problems, and further glitches hampered his qualifying efforts on other occasions. But cancelling these out would not tip the qualifying scoreline (7-4 to Ricciardo) or race results (6-1 to Ricciardo) decisively in Vettel’s favour. Vettel has admitted Ricciardo has done a better job with a car he hasn’t fully got to grips with yet.

Partly because his team mate has driven so well, and partly because we have come to expect so much from Vettel, it’s been easy to overlooked some of his better moments this year. Such as coming within five-hundredths of a second of taking pole position off Lewis Hamilton in the rain in Malaysia, or battling from 15th on the grid to finish fourth in Spain. But there is no denying Ricciardo has him under the kosh, and how he responds will be one of the fascinating storylines of the second half of the season.

6. Nico Hulkenberg

Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, Albert Park, 2014Key stat: Has the best qualifying scoreline against his team mate: 9-2 (Alonso has the same over Raikkonen)

Having been passed over by too many top teams Hulkenberg must be drawing some satisfaction from having his new team mate and former McLaren driver comfortably handled so far. But it’s not been as one-sided at Force India as some expected.

Hulkenberg had been piling up the points until the last race in Hungary, where exuberance seemed to get the better of him in the kind of damp conditions where he usually excels. Having just passed Sebastian Vettel at the restart he went wide at turn five and later collided with his team mate.

Until then he had been a model of points-scoring consistency and the bedrock of Force India’s best season so far. A regular in Q3 and a fixture in the points, the only question mark over Hulkenberg’s performances this year is how Perez managed to get the car into stronger finishing positions on occasions, such as in Bahrain and Austria.

The final part of the rankings will be published on Friday.

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 seven drivers have performed so far in 2014?

Have your say in the comments.

Images © Force India, Marussia, Red Bull/Getty

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76 comments on 2014 mid-season F1 driver rankings part two: 12-6

  1. nmsi (@nmsi) said on 13th August 2014, 14:01

    Agree with pretty much all of them. I would maybe rise HUL in top 5 but i can’t decide who to ditch from current top 5 – ROS, HAM, ALO, RIC, BOT

  2. Jimbo Hull (@kartingjimbo) said on 13th August 2014, 14:12

    I imagine you’ve got your work cut out with the order of that Top 5 Keith ;) 100% on aboard with all these esp the Bianchi/Grosjean votes and again Hulkenburg leading those mid pack runners!

  3. craig-o (@craig-o) said on 13th August 2014, 14:16

    So that leaves Rosberg, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Bottas and Alonso as Keith’s top five, which seems pretty fair. I had Hulkenberg in my top five in favour of Rosberg (fourth to be precise) but I’m glad that you’ve given Grosjean the recognition that he deserves for his efforts this season.

    • craig-o (@craig-o) said on 13th August 2014, 14:17

      Obviously not in that order, I do not know what order Keith has them all in yet.

      • @craig-o Neither Hamilton or Rosberg are in my top 5.

        • craig-o (@craig-o) said on 13th August 2014, 14:40

          @xtwl The issue I had when I came to deciding my order was that because the Mercedes is clearly so far ahead of the rest of the pack, it’s quite tough to decide just how good they have been. If you check my ratings which I posted yesterday, you’ll see that I have managed to split the two, but ultimately it was very difficult to decide where they should end up. I’d like to think where I placed them is fair considering.

          • Paul (@frankjaeger) said on 13th August 2014, 17:21

            +1

          • Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 13th August 2014, 18:34

            The issue I had when I came to deciding my order was that because the Mercedes is clearly so far ahead of the rest of the pack, it’s quite tough to decide just how good they have been.

            Funny how I was criticized by a lot of people for not rating Vettel as highly as everyone else did last year for precisely the same reason.

          • craig-o (@craig-o) said on 13th August 2014, 18:53

            @kingshark I don’t think Red Bull ever had the sort of performance advantage that Mercedes have now, especially over a race distance. There were maybe a few instances in 2010 and 2011, but not at effectively every single event.

          • Eric (@) said on 13th August 2014, 20:05

            @kingshark

            The difference being you’ll never rate Vettel highly no matter what year.

          • Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 14th August 2014, 0:40

            @craig-o

            I don’t think Red Bull ever had the sort of performance advantage that Mercedes have now, especially over a race distance. There were maybe a few instances in 2010 and 2011, but not at effectively every single event.

            China 2009, Silverstone 2009, Germany 2009, Japan 2009, Spain 2010, Silverstone 2010, Hungary 2010, Brazil 2010, Australia 2011, Turkey 2011, Europe 2011, Brazil 2011, Europe 2012, Japan 2012, Korea 2012, every race post the summer break in 2013.

            How can we know that Vettel actually performed that great in these races, or was it just the car that flattered him?

            Also, unlike the Hamilton-Rosberg combination, Vettel’s teammate rarely pushed him either.

            Of course, Mercedes haven’t been dominant at every single event this season either. Take Austria and Hungary for instance, they weren’t dominant there.

          • Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 14th August 2014, 0:41

            @baron-2

            The difference being you’ll never rate Vettel highly no matter what year.

            Actually, I do rate Vettel highly, just not as highly as everyone else did late 2013. I never bought into the whole “Seb is a clear cut above the rest” nonsense.

  4. kpcart said on 13th August 2014, 14:20

    It is interesting how the count usually ends up with the drivers in the best cars at the front, but has hulkenburg done any worse then rosberg or Hamilton considering the car he has? Hamilton will no doubt be number one in this sort of count, but look how many mistakes he has made in qualifying, the drivers in the inferior cars don’t have the luxury of making mistakes and still getting a result.

    • Breno (@austus) said on 13th August 2014, 14:25

      Well, for one he crashed during a race. The only time I really recall a dumb mistake from Rosberg was when he went off in Monaco during qualifying. I think Hamilton having the better speed against Rosberg helps balance his qualifying performances in the grand scheme of things.

    • Jake (@jleigh) said on 13th August 2014, 15:13

      You mean all 3 mistakes. Without a single mistake in the race, in fact, making up for all but 1 of those mistakes the following day by either beating Rosberg or retiring whilst ahead.

      • petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 13th August 2014, 16:52

        @jleigh – well he hit the barrier at Hungary and admitted that some of his slower pit stops were due to him overshooting his marks so that’s a few mistakes in a race.

        I’d put Hamilton ahead of Rosberg though. When the two have had a fair fight, Hamilton has usually ended up on top. We’ve seen Rosberg stuck behind plenty of drivers when things haven’t gone his way whereas Hamilton usually dispatches them fairly quickly.

    • tmekt (@tmekt) said on 13th August 2014, 16:04

      *Hülkenberg

    • marcusbreese (@marcusbreese) said on 13th August 2014, 16:53

      I don’t see Hamilton or Rosberg being number 1…I think that will have to be either Alonso or, most likely, Ricciardo given that he’s (a) been the only non Merc winner and (b) come into the team of a 4xWDC and beaten him.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 13th August 2014, 17:42

      I think its probably not going to be Hamilton that will be first. He made too many costly mistakes himself to be there. Ricciardo or Alonso or maybe even Bottas did more right and less wrong in the first half of the season, and you might argue that even Rosberg is a tad better as he has so far beaten Hamilton this year, even though car issues have hampered his teammate more

  5. I have neither ROS or HAM in my top 5. They have neither done something exceptional. Just drove their car to what was possible.

    Bottas, Hülkenberg, Ricciardo, Alonso, Grosjean, Kvyat have done more to impress me with the material they had.

    • Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 13th August 2014, 14:57

      Hamilton and Rosberg missed the cut for me as well, but I don’t agree that they haven’t done anything exceptional – on the opposite, in fact I think they produced a lot of superb drives and in the process I feel like they went over the edge too many times compared to other drivers. One can say they have to withstand more pressure than anybody else, but I always considered pressure as an at least partly subjective phenomenon.

      So for me, they’ve missed the top 5 not because of the lack of great performances, but because they did not feel the limits quite as well as e. g. Ricciardo, Alonso, etc. in the heat of the championship chase.

    • So are you saying it would be better if Rosberg and Hamilton were removed from this years F1 altogether?

    • @porscheF1 So for you that wasn’t exceptional what Hamilton did in Bahrain by keeping Rosberg behind who was with the much faster soft tyres and even using a setting to get more power over Lewis.

  6. PhilEReid (@philereid) said on 13th August 2014, 14:31

    This means we agree on who belongs in the top 6. There is only one thing I’d dispute here, and that is I would change Button and Vettel around. Button has been the most solid of the ‘non standout’ drivers, and Vettel, whilst he’s been poor to his team-mate, had definitely done better than everyone else.

    Perez has been relatively solid, if not a little slow, but has also put the car into a position to get the teams best finishing positions. Are we starting to see that maybe Hulkenberg lacks that killer edge? I doubt that, but it’s something to think about.

    Magnussen. Hasn’t been nearly as impressive as I thought we’d be seeing, however he hasn’t also been a disappointment. I think there was much surrounding his arrival and how he’d be a world beater, and whilst we haven’t seen that (the McLaren hasn’t helped), we also haven’t see him do that many things wrong. Pretty much the most middle driver on the grid, and this position would suggest that.

    Bianchi has once again been a star in the slow Marussia. It’s very hard to tell exactly how his performance has been, and where he’d put a top car. Bianchi will always be a hard one to places as we can never know exactly how good he is. The only thing that stops him from being higher is that whilst he has once again been trouncing Chilton, it’s ever so slightly closer.

    Grosjean is also the other star in a slow car. Other than the SC crash, he’s been pretty much as solid as one can be, with some great performances, and slightly more than Bianchi, which is why he ranks slightly ahead.

    Here I’d have Vettel. I think pretty much every driver from 14th (if you change Kvyat and Raikkonen’s position from the last order) to 8th has done solid jobs with the occasional flourish of talent. Vettel is the only one of those that’s a bit different in that his solid performances have been better than most, but he has had less ‘flourishes of talent,’ but this is because his talent makes his ‘solid’ drives better than most. He’s definitely been beaten by his team mate, and I think a 6/7 place difference in the order is totally justified (assuming Ricciardo is 1st or 2nd, which I’d assume he will be), but no more and no less.

    Button is now the only driver for me in the middle ground between solid and doing great things. His qualifying has been decent, and considering he’s not considered as a qualifier, he’s done a good job. His races though once again are where he’s proven his worth. I’d argue he has come close to maximising his own performance on pretty much every occasion, showing his best at both Silverstone and Canada. I wouldn’t put him in as one of the 6 top performers, but nor is he one of the 7 drivers who have been only solid. He sits in the middle ground essentially on his own, proving that he still has enough to warrant a position in F1. How long that will last in another question.

    And then there’s Hulkenberg. The way I’ve seen it this season is that there is a top 2, 4 drivers just behind them, Button, the 7 behind Button and then the 8 under achievers. I think the way this season has gone, Hulkenberg is probably on the lower end of the 4 behind the top 2. For me, the way I see the positions of 3-6, is that so long as Bottas is placed ahead of Hulkenberg, and Hamilton ahead of Rosberg, then they can be in any order. Personally, I think 6. HUL 5. ROS 4. HAM 3. BOT is the way it should be.
    Actually on Hulkenberg, he’s once again proven that he deserves that top seat. I think one day he’d be the perfect replacement for Alonso, and I think he’ll end up alongside Bianchi there at Ferrari. Hulkenberg continues to put in some absolutely brilliantly consistent, but not just consistent, high achieving performances. Other than his blip in Hungary, he’s been absolutely brilliant. Also, I think there’s some justification in saying that had the Hulk not held Ricciardo up in Bahrain, with some good driving, then maybe Perez would have never had that podium. Obviously this is conjecture, but not completely baseless. The more I see this guy drive, the more I’m angry he isn’t in the top teams, but the more happy I am to know that one day, he definitely will.

  7. dam00r (@dam00r) said on 13th August 2014, 14:32

    I don’t understand why you are ranking Kevin Magnussen below Romain Grosjean and Jules Bianchi (unusual amount of DNF:ers) and Sergio Perez should also be lower down.

  8. Gideon Hadi (@) said on 13th August 2014, 14:41

    My prediction for 12-6 almost correct, but Sergio should be ahead of Kevin

  9. Jakob said on 13th August 2014, 15:00

    Being a Dane, I have been looking forward to your assessment of Magnussen for quite a while now. Expectations were (too) high here in Denmark but to be fair he hasn’t had the machinery to really set the World on fire. I do have to say though, that while he has really begun to show his strength in qualifying, he does seems a little too timid in race situations that require him to overtake – for instance Hungary or Canada. Perhaps it’s the tire management that he still needs to master or perhaps the early tangles with Raikkonen made him a bit over-cautious. I do hope that McLaren gives him a second season so he can become more mature/confident and consistently not only show speed but also place himself well in the races. Good luck, Kevin :)

  10. My top 5:
    1 Ricciardo
    2 Bottas
    3 Alonso
    4 Hamilton
    5 Rosberg

    • Todfod (@todfod) said on 13th August 2014, 15:35

      Surprised that people are rating Bottas that high. I thought he wasn’t spectacular for the opening few races, and only found his form over the past 5 races.

      My top 5 would be slightly different –

      1) Ricciardo
      2) Alonso
      3) Hamilton
      4) Bottas
      5) Rosberg

      • mantresx (@mantresx) said on 13th August 2014, 16:06

        He wasn’t spectacular for the opening few races, and only found his form over the past 5 races.

        @todfod Yeah but when he found his form is very important, it shows that he’s gaining more confidence, that he’s now getting the maximum out of the car and that he is very comfortable when fighting at the front.

        If it was the other way around (that he had his best races at the beginning of the season) then it would be a sign that he couldn’t handle the preassure when a podium finish is possible.

    • Prof Kirk (@prof-kirk) said on 14th August 2014, 0:56

      1. Ricciardo
      2. Rosberg
      3. Bottas
      4. Alonso
      5. Hamilton

  11. Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 13th August 2014, 15:11

    My list from 6th to 12th:

    6. Hülkenberg – not much because of his speed (Pérez often matched or bettered him when both finished), but because of his consistency with which he delivered – one can feel – near the maximum. That Hungary error was pretty much all his mistake.
    7. Grosjean – found him surprisingly good, when I assessed these performances (Button was similar for me, quite undersold, but overachieved). Followed up on his immaculate second half of 2013, only the car let him down, not allowing him to shine as much. Once again, close on pure pace with his team-mate, but almost error-free (bar Hungary for him as well).
    8. Hamilton & 9. Rosberg – I found the Mercedes pair to be too much over the edge in the heat of the championship battle. Assuming most of the 22 drivers are 22 of the most professionals, they handle pressure exceptionally well and operate near the limit all the time, but I feel like both Hamilton and Rosberg went past it too many times (which was good for the WDC by the way). Hamilton had a whole string of quali issues in Canada, Austria and GB, before his costly error in the German GP, while an otherwise almost metronomically methodical Rosberg was strangely off-song in China (quali & start) and Hungary (race) and him cranking under pressure in Canada tips this very very very close battle in Hamilton’s favour as it was something the latter never did in battle with his team-mate this year.
    10. Kvyat – his only two really error-prone weekends came at the end of the first half of the campaign, but was dependable and very quick despite being a rookie otherwise.
    11. Vergne – two things stand out mistake-wise as well (Malaysia crash, poor starts), generally on pace with Kvyat, so I think this is one of the closest team-mate battle of 2014 beside the Hamilton-Rosberg one. I think he got very unlucky with Ricciardo and Kvyat as his team-mates in 2013-14.
    12. Pérez – just as fast as his team-mate, but still can’t keep a high enough consistency, which plagued him here before in 2012 and at McLaren in 2013 as well and which is all the more apparent aside one of the most consistent driver of the field.

  12. Jake (@jleigh) said on 13th August 2014, 15:24

    Judging by many comments, a lot of people seem to suffer from a recency bias whilst doing this kind of ranking, something I think @keithcollantine avoids very well.

    For example, I’ve seen Bottas at the top of many lists, despite his mistakes early season, when he was also frequently out qualified by Massa. Hamilton for example, seems to have been punished on many lists for his recent qualifying struggles, almost forgetting that he got 4 poles and 4 wins in the first 5 races, only not winning all 5 due to a retirement. I also think Alonso is getting a boost from his recent wheel to wheel battles, and Hungary podium, despite very average performances earlier in the year such as Bahrain, Spain and Monaco.

    For what it counts, I would rank the top 5:
    1. Ricciardo
    2. Hamilton
    3/4. Alonso/Bottas ( really can’t split these)
    5. Rosberg

  13. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 13th August 2014, 16:15

    I think none of the Mercedes drivers will head the rankings.

    I’d bet on Ricciardo for the top spot. Lewis 2nd and Alonso 3rd.

  14. Edvaldo said on 13th August 2014, 16:32

    The top 5 to me would be like
    5-Bottas
    4-Rosberg or Hamilton
    3-Hamilton or Rosberg
    2-Alonso
    1-Ricciardo

  15. wsrgo (@wsrgo) said on 13th August 2014, 16:38

    Magnussen ahead of Kvyat? One had 2 FR3.5 seasons, the other spent those years in FR2.0 and GP3/F3.

    Is this because of the car, I wonder?

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