2014 mid-season F1 driver rankings part one: 5-1

Driver rankings

Concluding the mid-season driver rankings, here are the top five racers of the year so far.

5. Valtteri Bottas

Valtteri Bottas, Williams, Silverstone, 2014

Key stat: Has taken all three of Williams’ podium finishes

Last year Bottas looked like a talent of the future in need of a better car, and his performances so far this season with the Mercedes-powered Williams FW36 have confirmed that impression.

He’s not been without room for improvement: his fifteenth-to-fifth recovery run in Austrlia was a fine drive but he would have finished higher had he not brushed the wall while trying to pass Fernando Alonso. And he missed a chance to take pole position in Austria when he skidded off at turn six.

But time and again Bottas has taken the best result available on the day with his car. He was fifth behind the Mercedes and Red Bulls in Spain, third behind the Mercedes in Austria, split the Mercedes for second in Germany and climbed 12 places to finish second at Silverstone.

He scored points in every race bar Monaco, where his engine failed, and is responsible for over 70% of Williams’ tally so far. He’s made three visits to the podium, which is three more than team mate Felipe Massa – and unlike his team mate he hasn’t participated in a full complement of practice sessions, making his achievements that bit more impressive.

4. Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2014

Key stat: Has never finished ahead of Hamilton having started behind him, except when Hamilton has retired

He’s leading the world championship, yet he appears only fourth on this list behind his team mate? It’s not hard to see why this may be considered an unduly harsh verdict on Rosberg. But results don’t tell the whole story, particularly in a season such as this when one team has the kind of performance margin we haven’t seen in more than 15 years.

Like Hamilton, Rosberg has the fastest car in the field underneath him and goes into every race weekend knowing he has a chance for victory. He’s taken four wins from eleven starts, the first of which came when Hamilton’s car failed on the first lap and the most recent of which was aided by Hamilton suffering a car failure during qualifying.

When the pair have gone head-to-head, Rosberg has tended to lose out, although his speed in qualifying and his resistance to errors is a key weapon in his armour, and arguably his best chance of prevailing in the championship.

Ironically his best performance of the season was probably one of the races he didn’t win. He took second in Canada despite an MGU-K failure, brilliantly holding off Sergio Perez by keeping the Force India more than a second behind at the DRS detection point.

3. Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2014

Key stat: In the last three months he has taken one win and no pole positions

Five races into the year, Hamilton looked capable of a maintaining Vettel-esque run of uninterrupted victories. The opening round in Australia had been a setback – no points following an engine failure – but consecutive wins over the next four races, with Rosberg behind him, put Hamilton in the lead of the championship.

Then a series of slip-ups in qualifying handed the initiative back to Rosberg. It began in Canada, and Hamilton was on the verge of recovering from that error when an MGU-K fault contributed to a brake failure which put him out. In Austria he spun twice and lined up ninth on the grid, and at home he abandoned his final run in mixed conditions only for Rosberg and four other drivers to beat his time.

Matters turned in his favour on race day, when this time it was Rosberg’s turn to retire with engine trouble. But in the two most recent rounds further car problems left Hamilton starting near the back of the field. It’s to his credit that he came away from both with podium finishes, although in Germany contact with Jenson Button may have cost him second place.

Without his surplus of technical problems Hamilton would certainly be ahead of Rosberg in the championship, and probably by quite a comfortable margin. But while his own mistakes haven’t cost him as much, it isn’t just mechanical misfortune which explains why Hamilton is second in the standings.

2. Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Shanghai International Circuit, 2014

Key stat: Alonso is eight places ahead of fellow champion Raikkonen in the drivers championship – no other driver is as far ahead of their team mate

A fellow world champion may have taken over the adjacent garage and Ferrari may have produced an even more vexatious new car, but Alonso continues to be one of the most consistent and dependably fast front-runners. He’s the only driver to have finished every lap and scored at every race.

Hungary was the latest example of how a driver of his calibre makes virtue out of necessity. Alonso hit the front despite the inconvenience of an early Safety Car and, of course, the F14 T’s shortcomings, and wielded an aggressive strategy to very nearly pull off a shock win.

Other Alonso performances earlier in the season rivalled this one for brilliance. He came third in a dry race at Shanghai behind only the two Mercedes, taking advantage of the Red Bull drivers’ delays. In Germany he battled long and hard to find a way past Daniel Ricciardo, then had to use all his cunning to keep the Red Bull driver behind when he hit trouble on the last lap.

He has never failed to finish in front of new team mate Kimi Raikkonen, although in Spain Ferrari arguably gave their quicker driver a more advantageous strategy to help him get ahead. But Alonso has had little else handed to him this season, and it’s hard to imagine where he might have missed any opportunities to score more than the 115 points he has.

1. Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Hungaroring, 2014

Key stat: In the seven races where both finished, Ricciardo was only behind Vettel on one occasion

There’s no doubting Ricciardo has been better served by the reliability of his Red Bull than his four-times champion team mate. Yet on the two days when Ricciardo crossed the finishing line in first place not only did Vettel finish behind him in a healthy car, but Ricciardo had started the race behind his team mate.

It would be hard to ask more of a driver making his move up to a top team. Ricciardo was second on the road in Australia before being disqualified for a technical infringement. Whatever performance advantage Red Bull’s fuel flow infraction might have incurred, Ricciardo’s ability to run with the front runners could not be doubted.

In the second race an error by his team in the pits spoiled his race, but since then he’s never failed to score and it soon became apparent he was going to give Vettel a run for his money. In Bahrain and China Vettel was told to move aside to let his team mate by.

Spain finally yielded his first ‘real’ podium, to which he returned in Monaco and again in Canada, this time as the victor. A timely spot of traffic for his team mate may have helped Ricciardo get ahead but he took his chances when they came – beginning with an exquisitely-judged pass on Perez, with two wheels dipped into the dirt on the outside of turn one.

His second win in Hungary was another example of preparation meeting opportunity. Yes the first Safety Car moved him into position but it was the decision to pursue an aggressive strategy at the second – and Ricciardo’s flawless execution of it – which won him the race. This time he passed Hamilton around the outside and picked off Alonso to seal his second victory.

Ricciardo is only the second of Red Bull’s development drivers to graduate from Toro Rosso to the top team. Based on his first half-season, they’ve unearthed another star.

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 five drivers have performed so far in 2014?

Have your say in the comments.

Images © Williams/LAT, Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, Red Bull/Getty

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119 comments on 2014 mid-season F1 driver rankings part one: 5-1

  1. BasCB (@bascb) said on 15th August 2014, 13:04

    Agree that Ricciardo is on top. He won 2 races when the opportunity arose, with Hungary showing more of the driver imput than Canada, and he has beaten Vettel more often than not. Yes, Alonso is showing why he is probably the best driver of the last 8-10 years, but I think he was not quite on that level from the start of the year, only getting into a groove after the first couple of races.

    As for Hamilton vs. Rosberg, I see Rosberg as doing a better job. On the other hand, I think its pretty clear that Hamilton is the more gifted driver of the two but had a bit more technical issues and made more a couple more crucial mistakes. Rosberg since Monaco has really been on top of Hamilton, although Hamilton did enough to promise a great second half of the season with his recent recovery drives. What I see as a great step for Hamilton, is that he seems to be doing his own thinking more than in the past.

    • Jabosha (@jabosha) said on 15th August 2014, 18:28

      How anyone can come to this Ros better than Ham is beyond me right now. Hams problems through no fault of his own is the only reason he’s not leading comfortably. I also know Ros has had the same issues but, not as much as Ham. Has Ham, made mistakes? Yes, but those mistakes are small compared to the reliability problems. IIRC, Ham started from pit lane twice and scored a 2nd and a 3rd? If he doesn’t do this and finishes 8th or whatever, Ros is comfortably in the lead. How in the world can you think Ros is better or even performing better? Lewis hands down, has been the better driver.

    • nmsi (@nmsi) said on 15th August 2014, 22:02

      Lets compare the Merc team mates race by race then
      In australia – Ham starts from pole with broken car, Ros wins from 3rd.
      No points to any driver as comparison is impossible.
      Malaysia – Ham wins from pole, Ros second from 3rd. Ham 1
      Bahrain – Ham wins from second, Ros second from pole Ham 1
      China – Ham wins from pole, Ros second from 4th. Ros has fuel telemetry issues in race. Was not catching team mate before it though so Ham 1
      Spain – Ham wins from pole, Ros second from 2nd Ham 1
      Monaco – Ham second from 2nd, Ros wins from pole. Ros achieves pole by making mistake and denying Ham last fast lap. With Monacos missing passing opportunities, pole usually means win. So giving a whole point looks generous. If mistake was deliberate though, then it was ingenious thinking so Ros 1
      Canada Ham retires from 2nd, Ros second from pole. Both cars have reliability issues. Ham retires from lead after overheating brakes (and admits later that it was probably because he was following too closely before that). Maybe less overheating if would have started from pole so Ros 1
      Austria Ham 2 from 9th, Ros wins from pole. Ros 1
      GB Ham wins from 6th, Ros retires due gearbox issues. Ham was hunting down Rosberg after recovering from qualy mistake. Even then Rosbergs failure was before he was catched so No points
      Germany Ham 3rd from 16th, Ros wins from pole. Ham has brake failure in qualy. No drivers battle due to mechanical issues No points
      Hungary Ham 3rd from 22nd, Ros 4th from pole. Ham has fire in qualy, Ros loses 3 places due to SC but manages to stay ahead of teammateHam 1

      That gives Ham 5 points and Ros 3. I see no way how anyone could say that Rosberg has been better driver this year. Yes he has upped qualy after Monaco but Ham has also had misfortune in last 3 qualifications.
      Or to look it other way – would you have said that Merc has been the fastest car in qualification if you look only Rosbergs qualy results in first 4 races?

      • Just to let you know that Hamilton started from 20th in Germany not 16th after incurring five place grid penalty.

  2. I can’t help but feel that if this was taken after 10 races then Alonso would not be top 2. It should be 1 – ric, 2 – ham, 3 – bottas 4 Ros/Alonso.

  3. @ everybody, i quiet agree that Daniel should be number one regarding the ranking for this season, I used to be a fan of Ferrari but now i watch Formula 1 only because a love the sport, and if there is anything this i believe nobody can deny it, is the fact that the only driver who has proven himself to be the number one ( in all the circumstances) …this is Fernando Alonso, there is not one single race that i’m not amazed by his moments, by his speed, ability to adapt in all sorts of machine that he has driven, playing fair and square all the time (not like rosberg(Monaco) this year)

    and now please feel free to name one driver who has performed better than alonso in the last 6 years…
    ( i know that Bernie would name Vettel :P )

    • Alonso not only did the best this 1st half, But he sometimes drove outside the car ability like in Germany, where he pass Ricciardo, Hungary, where he almost win it, and China. and some decent performances like in Austria, Great Britain. on other races, he were solid, except in Bahrain. he showed that Ferrari can fight with Red Bull and Williams. so, in my opinion Alonso should be number 1

  4. Robbie said on 15th August 2014, 13:17

    I don’t really have any issues with the rankings, but I do thnk there is a missing ingredient that hasn’t been mentioned that to me would affect the rankings. Who is under the most pressure and therefore has more playing on their minds, or let’s say more of a challenge keeping their mind calm.

    I think DR is in one of the least pressure situations since if he had been bested by Vettel that would have been no surprise given SV’s CV, and DR’s newness to the team, and besting SV is gravy for DR. So there’s not a lot of mind play going on for DR. He can just go out there and perform and let the chips fall where they may. SV would have more playing on his mind given his reversal of situations compared to the last 4 seasons.

    FA would be feeling pressure at still not having the car, but otherwise there is no mind play or him either. As the engrained driver on the team, and someone who most would have thought should have had no problem besting KR, as he is, FA can also just go out there and perform, as everyone acknowledges hs missing ingredient is the car.

    Bottas may be feeling some pressure to best FM, but again, without a WDC level car, he can just go out there and do his best and reap the rewards of looking pretty impressive more and more each day.

    NR and LH are in the rankings where they are for the same reason as the winner of a race often not getting driver of the weekend on the site’s polls…usually it is someone who does more with less that gets the nod. But it’s not their ‘fault’ that they have the very ingredient almost all WDC’s in the history of F1 have had…the WCC winning car. So while I get how these rankings work, I do think it should be highlighted that there is huge pressure and mind play going on between the two Merc drivers that simply does not and cannot exist for the other drivers. They have the best cars, and there is a responsibility that goes with that to not squander what they have, both for the team, and for themselves personally. So from that perspective it is a bit bizarre to me that the rankings don’t have LH and NR as 1 and 2, but I do get the perspective from which the rankings are approached which as I say is not unlike the dotw poll perspective.

  5. KeithR (@lockup) said on 15th August 2014, 13:32

    IMO Rosberg was driven to cheat by Hamilton’s crushing form in the first 5 races, so I put him 22nd.

    I think that betrayal got to Hamilton and affected his qualifying for the next 3 races, but not in any creditable way. So for me I discount that overaggression and put him up there with Alonso and Ricciardo. With the cars being so different, safety cars, reliability and all the rest of it I don’t see a basis to split them. They have all been terrific and wonderful to watch.

    Bottas needed that last half year to really get through the rookie phase, I reckon, so 4th works for me too.

    Vettel I think has been better than it’s looked. His rating is more the surprise factor and car issues than performance I feel.

    • Nascar Dave said on 15th August 2014, 14:28

      Driven to cheat really? I’m not a fan but Britney and Lewis are still professional racers who wouldn’t intentionally sabotage each other!

      • KeithR (@lockup) said on 15th August 2014, 22:36

        Nobody was more professional than Schumi. You could even say it was a professional foul, really. Go for a banker+ lap, get the option to run first and oops brake too late. Lewis was so dominant at that point we could say it was Rosberg’s only option.

    • KeithR (@lockup) said on 15th August 2014, 21:43

      @zjakobs most of the paddock thought he did it deliberately. Warwick was desperate not to find him guilty and shame Keke. There was a camera on the far outside of Mirabeau but FoM didn’t show the footage, which was damning. Sky did use the footage in their midweek report – the guest GP2 driver saw it and said confidently it was deliberate. Now the online copy of that midweek report is missing its video. You’ve fallen for the whitewash. Check the MotorSport race writeup. And think how Lewis is so sure, after he’s seen the data. Nico cheated, but F1 didn’t want that story. Well nor did I, but I recorded the midweek report so I have the evidence. Lots of people believe it was deliberate in fact, but call it something clever.

    • Breno (@austus) said on 16th August 2014, 16:19

      In the rare occasions where I agree with Massa, “the only one who really knows what happened is Rosberg”.

  6. So close to my top 8 – only i have Ricciardo and Alonso the other way round. Any criticism of either is nit-picking, but Ricciardo has had a couple of tardy starts, and has looked marginally slower than his team-mate at a couple of races (most of which was undone by bad luck for Vettel). On the other hand i can only think of one race, Spain, where Alonso was running behind his team-mate and was probably put on a better strategy to end up ahead (as pointed out in the article).

    But still, Ricciardo is undoubtedly the star of the season so far, and i’ll hold my hand up as one who didn’t give him much hope of competing against Vettel. It’s nice to be surprised sometimes ;)

  7. I just need to say that this picture of Ricciardo is epic. You just get the sense that this guy is pure emotion and pure drive. In a different era, such images would be on a red-figure vase. And yes indeed he is the best performer of the season to date.

  8. spoutnik (@spoutnik) said on 15th August 2014, 15:13

    I’d have put Alonso on top of Ricciardo, but apart from that, I quite agree with the whole ranking!

  9. Not a bad list, Ricardo has done well but I kind of expected it. He’s been showing it since F3 and I remember saying if he gets a chance at RedBull he would give Seb a serious run for his money. But since Seb has had a few problems here and there and a few bad strategic pit stops, its unfair to say Ricardo is overly outperforming him. Nevertheless, he’s been doing great and is clearly talented.

    As for the Ham and Rosberg debate. It doesn’t show in the result but looking at the races I don’t see which race Nico was better than Lewis that does not have an asterisks on it. Don’t get me wrong he’s doing a great job and pushes Lewis a lot, but Lewis is just that much faster than him. If it wasn’t for the problems here and there I feel Lewis would have won at least two more races.

    But its very easy to use a lot of ifs and buts, its a much more easier to compare where the two are vs where they should be.
    Nico : 1 retirement
    Lewis: 2
    This basically means Nico should be 18 points ahead of Lewis based on retirements given that Australia for Lewis and Britain for Rosberg cancels out. The other races like Germany and Hungary Lewis recovered but was not going to catch Nico so Nico maximized well there. In Hungary however Nico lost 3 points to Lewis where he was hoping to gain at least 7 to 10 points depending if Lewis finished 2nd or 3rd. So basically Nico probably is expected to be about 20 points ahead by now, so the fact that he is only 11 points ahead shows the excellence of Hamilton.

    I would also rank Hamilton higher given that so far he has been driving almost like Alonso. What I mean is Lewis has started racing with the long term season in mind. In three races he hasn’t made any lunges that would see him crash or have brake a front wing and take a penalty (except for Button incident, which did look like there was a lot of space). A few years ago when Lewis had a bad qualy he would go on an overtake rampage not thinking and most of the time he would end up crashing into someone (Monaco 2011, and a few times with Massa). This time he is thinking more long term which says a lot about he’s clearly seen his mistakes from the past and is clearly making better judgement calls in races this year.

  10. Scepter (@scepter) said on 15th August 2014, 17:15

    Just some observations, “In Austria he spun twice and lined up ninth on the grid” actually he went wide on the 2nd tot last corner on his 2nd attempt at pole, and spun once on his final attempt in Austria, the other is “it isn’t just mechanical misfortune which explains why Hamilton is second in the standings” the math says other wise it’s only the “mechanical misfortune” why he’s in 2nd in the standings, even if he finished second in the races he DNF’s he still leads the standings.

  11. Uzair Syed (@ultimateuzair) said on 15th August 2014, 17:52

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

  12. marcus hand (@wombat1m) said on 15th August 2014, 18:00

    Just purely for being impressive, having the potential in terms of delivering more the expected has to be RIC and then Bottas, both are up against very good drivers (esp RIC superb in Aus was at the race and he was impressive infringement aside) and beating them hands down. Then it is Alonso who really, really needs a good car, rather than just driving the wheels off a not so good one, (and then not fluff it the final race with Vettel as he done twice but that’s another story). The rest Hamilton or Rosberg should be super dominating, and even if you include HAM’s reliability woes, neither is really is the way you might expect.

  13. Though its fair to say hamilton came out on top when they went head-to-head, fact is both rosberg and hamilton managed to be in front when challenged by other from behind, so i would not say hamilton is better based on that point. Hamilton made so many mistakes, and rosberg never lost points due to mistakes, all things considered i would place rosberg ahead of hamilton.

  14. Baron (@baron) said on 15th August 2014, 18:45

    I don’t think these rankings are fair at all – I mean there has been zero consideration for drivers body art.

  15. John H (@john-h) said on 15th August 2014, 19:34

    ALO & RIC probably joint top if you could have that, but otherwise pretty much 22nd to 1st I agree with. From memory, the least contentious ranking on F1F ever.

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