1. VETTEL – Finished every race in the top four this year (should have finished second at Silverstone, behind Hamilton). Two phenomenal wins in Bahrain and Germany, but he has made errors: tyre choice in Malaysia, last lap in China, brushing the wall and going onto the grass in Canada and damaged the front wing in Hungary. But his qualifying performance has been near flawless this year.
2. HAMILTON – Has finished every race bar one in the top five so far. Struggled a lot in the first three races (settling in at Mercedes?), but has had good races in Bahrain and Canada, whilst Silverstone and especially Hungary were very impressive. The Spanish GP was a strange anomaly. Both Hamilton and Rosberg have been strong in qualifying, but Hamilton outperformed Rosberg in most races.
3. ALONSO – Had a good start to the season, constantly making fantastic starts. His victory in China was well-deserved; brilliant win in Spain, amazing pass ‘round the outside of turn 3. Two bad races: damaged the front wing in Malaysia and got passed a lot in Monaco. Since then other teams seem to have made more progress and Alonso has had average races exclusively, though Canada was not bad.
4. RAIKKONEN – Has had six top two results so far this year, though the podiums in Australia, Bahrain, Spain and Hungary were mostly due to making one pit stop less than others. Tangled with Perez in Malaysia and Monaco, although the latter proved his overtaking skills, passing three cars in two laps. Canada and Malaysia were not highlights at all, but overall a good season so far.
5. ROSBERG – Probably the unluckiest driver so far, with three retirements. He has had three poles in a row, with Monaco giving him a victory. Generally able to keep up with Hamilton, but has had too few occasions at which he was clearly better, in contrast to Hamilton. Though I’m still massively impressed by his sense of honour at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
6. BUTTON – Had an incredible start to the year, should have scored points in all of the first six races. Malaysia, China Monaco stand out as his best performances. Like Lotus, McLaren seems very willing to do one stop less than the competition, which has helped Button’s points tally tremendously, though his steady and quiet races have certainly helped too. Overall a very good first half.
7. DI RESTA – Has had many races in which a bad qualifying left him with much to do in the races: Malaysia, Monaco, Canada, Silverstone and Hungary. He has pretty much been flawless in the races though, making the best of the Force India’s kindness to its tyres (China, Spain and especially Canada). Monaco stands out as the most impressive, making some sweet overtakes to take P9.
8. WEBBER – Poor in qualifying all year, slower than Vettel, lots of bad luck: KERS in Australia, VDG in Canada, lost wheel in Germany and China, qualifying in Hungary was a disaster. But he has recovered very well in races like Spain, Britain, Germany and to lesser extent Canada and Hungary. Made a rookie error, taking out Vergne in China. Should have won in Malaysia, tyre choice was spot-on.
9. HULKENBERG – Severely compromised by the Sauber’s inability to make the tyres last, although the Hungarian GP looked promising. Has had some great qualifying results, made few mistakes in races (Spain and Canada) and showed exceptional pace in the rain. I’m impressed how he manages to get into points scoring position pretty much every race. Malaysia and Spain are his highlights so far.
10. SUTIL – Showed great potential right from the first race, but let down by the team on too many occasions. But generally outpaced by Di Resta, hasn’t been able to keep his tyres last like his teammate and has had made some silly errors in Bahrain and twice in Canada. Silverstone was good, but like his teammate, Monaco (P5) was his most impressive performance so far.
11. RICCIARDO – Exceptional in qualifying (especially from Canada onwards), but the Toro Rosso’s tyre issues prevents him from shining in the race. Despite that, he has had some excellent results in China, where he clung on to seventh, and Britain, where he could have finished even better than eighth had he come in for tyres. He has looked better than Vergne in the majority of races.
12. GROSJEAN – Struggled a lot in the first seven race (apart from the Bahrain GP where he finished third with the new chassis), usually a poor qualifying followed by a mediocre race. Showed off his old self in Monaco, Silverstone and Hungary, clumsily making contact with other drivers. The last three races he has shown better pace than Raikkonen, with the German GP being his season’s highlight so far.
13. BOTTAS – Has beaten his more experienced teammate Maldonado in qualifying, the team (unsuccessfully) let him run alternative strategies in the races, but he simply hasn’t been able to make his mark in the races so far. Highlight was doing a Hülkenberg in qualifying in Canada, though the Williams’ inability to preserve the tyres meant he dropped like a stone in the race.
14. PEREZ – Struggled to match Button’s pace in the first three races, but Ferrari would have been proud of him when he took the bit between his teeth from Bahrain onwards. Occasionally faster than Button, but generally inconsistent and way too many incidents. But he has shown he has the pace to be a McLaren driver: Spain, Silverstone and Germany were all solid performances.
15. VERGNE – Has had a lot of bad luck this season so far, but hasn’t been able to make his mark. The Canadian GP was an exceptional performance which he hasn’t even come close to repeating in the other races. Generally slower than Ricciardo, particularly in qualifying. Has scored more points than Ricciardo though, but hasn’t really impressed in the races where he took those points.
16. BIANCHI – A bit overhyped at the beginning of the season, but definitely challenging Bottas for ‘best rookie’. Especially Malaysia (13th place), China (undercutting Pic) and Spain (impressive despite front wing damage) were solid performances. Although his performances have been a bit irregular, this is still quite an impressive first half for a rookie.
17. PIC – Has had some bad luck along the way, but he was typically much faster than Van der Garde in qualifying, stayed out of trouble and was more consistent than Bianchi. He finished ahead of the struggling Gutierrez in Bahrain and pressured Bottas in Spain. Difficult to judge his true pace though, since there is no real benchmark.
18. MALDONADO – Scored Williams’ only point so far, but was a bit lucky in that race. Has had some scruffy races, like Australia, Malaysia and Canada. The Williams is unable to make the tyres last, so in general both drivers struggled in the races. Despite that, Maldonado has been beaten by rookie Bottas regularly in qualifying. His season can be summarized as bleak.
19. MASSA – Seemed to be able to match Alonso’s pace early in the season. Australia was good, Spain was an excellent drive. Generally struggling with tyre degradation. Lots of crashes and incidents: tangled in Bahrain and Hungary (both followed by very poor recovery drives), crashed in Monaco, Canada, GB, and spun in Germany. Unacceptable for a Ferrari driver.
20. VAN DER GARDE – Typically out-qualified and out-raced by Pic, though there are a couple of good results: P15 in Monaco qualifying and he finished 13th in Hungary. But apart from being slow, he has had a couple of incidents too: he hit Chilton in Australia, Maldonado in Monaco and Webber and Hülkenberg in Canada.
21. GUTIERREZ – Consistently poor in qualifying and unable to make up for that in the races. He has made a lot of mistakes so far: crashed in Australia, Canada and took out Sutil in China. Tried to run alternate strategies, but he failed to make the tyres last pretty much every time (Australia, Malaysia, Canada). Spain was a pretty good race, climbing from P19 to P11.
22. CHILTON – Way off Bianchi’s pace in qualifying and finishes almost every race far behind his teammate. He has not yet come to grips with the tyre wear issues he has had right from the very first race, where Bianchi seems to be doing fine lately. The collision with Maldonado in Monaco was unacceptable.