Hope this is in time for the article, especially since the site went down after I typed it up..
1. Sebastian Vettel
What a season he’s having. He hasn’t put a foot wrong this season and while you’ve come to expect great pace from Vettel, he keeps maturing and apart from his radio message in Hungary (ironically the same place as last year) he seems a lot more level-headed as well. He’s shown great overtakes and he doesn’t need to be on pole to win. If he keeps this up, he will be the very deserving winner of this year’s championship.
2. Kimi Raikkonen
Mr. Consistency; now with added race and qualifying pace. He had some off weekends in Monaco and Canada, but he has been intensely tight the rest of the year. He still is a little too self-centered to maximize team performance sometimes (shouting at his engineer in Germany, not seeming to want to do the extra miles in practise sometimes) but his driving is excellent. He and Lotus need to up their game much like last year, but not to ‘win that elusive win’, but to win more races to challenge for the championship.
3. Fernando Alonso
I wasn’t going to put him this high had I not given more thought to it. But I feel he edges the Mercedes drivers because he might not be having the amazing season he had last year, but still shows good race pace and often finishes a little above where I expected him. He and Ferrari need to work VERY hard to keep up with Vettel, Raikkonen and Mercedes, though. He needs to find his mojo, Ferrari needs to stop fooling around.
4. Lewis Hamilton
I was one of those people who just knew he would regret his move. Boy, was I wrong. He took his time to get used to the team and sometimes is a little immature about things, but generally his pace has been very good. Now he also manages to keep his tyres from going to bits (the tyres themselves didn’t at Silverstone, though) and is starting to look like a serious contender for the championship. If he keeps going like he has been since Canada, Kimi and Fernando ought to be worried.
5. Romain Grosjean
Suffered from a bad chassis at the beginning of the season, immediately picked up the pace once he got his car to his liking. Had a run of 4 bad races, of which Monaco was the only one where I would really blame him, with Canada ruined by the penalty. I think he is absolutely right in thinking his first win is right around the corner, he just needs to make sure his car stays in one piece and he keeps all 4 wheels on the track in getting there. He seems to have turned around his mindset this season with Monaco as low point, and Hungary as unexpected sympathy plea from a lot of F1 fans.
6. Nico Rosberg
Won two races, had 3 consecutive poles and still is hardly considered a contender for the championship by anyone. Rosberg seems to be cementing his status as a DC/Barrichello kind of driver. Fast, capable to win races, but lacking the raw pace the top 4 has and lacking the skill to make up for it. He has only been on the podium for his wins and has been rather all over the place when he hasn’t won. Is perhaps the unlucky one this year at Mercedes, but still having a great season, just not as great as it could be.
7. Mark Webber
Mark is utterly inconsistent in his final season, but when he’s there, he’s truly there. Perhaps unlucky, perhaps a little less dedicated, but he has lost none of his speed. The Multi-21 thing is perhaps a little telling of his driving this season; once you’re past, you’re past. I think he will end up winning a race this year and could very well bow out with a victory, but he doesn’t need too many races like Australia, Bahrain, or Spain.
8. Paul di Resta
After grading, I had to re-check to see if he really was in my top 10. But looking at his results, his comebacks from terrible qualifying sessions and 4th place in Bahrain, it makes a lot of sense I’m rating his races so well so far. He is easily having his best season so far and apart from his typical off-track demeanor, he seems to have matured and is driving very solid races. Had a terrible weekend before the summer break and hopefully it doesn’t break him up like not being signed by a top team last year did. It’s a weird year when a solid driver ends up in my top 10..
9. Nico Hulkenberg
Getting more from the Sauber than it has to give, but at the same time, that isn’t always enough for points. He’s been having good races, but hasn’t had any great ones so far. Finishing right behind Maldonado last weekend was mostly due to his clumsy mistake of speeding in the pitlane, which is something I didn’t expect him to do. Still, he is proving his worth again, he just needs a weekend in which he makes it hard to deny his speed and skill with an excellent result.
10. Adrian Sutil
Barely noticeable he’s been away for a year. He is less consistent than di Resta, but at the same time he sometimes looks to be miles ahead in pace sometimes, only to mess up the next race. If Force India wants to maintain their position in front of McLaren, the car and Sutil need some work.
11. Felipe Massa
‘Oh, he’s back!’ ‘I was wrong last week.’ ‘He was faster than Fernando? Good news!’ ‘He spun out like a rookie?!’ Basically every conversation about Massa this year. Much more extreme in his peaks than Webber or Sutil, he’s also facing much lower lows. His spin in Germany was a disaster, while he seemed to be headed for the podium at other races. He’s had enough chances, you can’t have such a flux in performance, especially compared to Fernando. Still, his peaks kept his average going for my ratings.
12. Jean-Eric Vergne
Vergne seems to be maturing faster than most drivers I’ve seen come to F1 in a team like Toro Rosso. His qualifying pace leaves something to be desired, but his races are top notch and if the car is there, he is there. He doesn’t seem to be able to extract more from the car than there is and has been pretty unlucky so far. Still, I predict him to be ahead in the team mate battle on points at the end of the season.
13. Daniel Ricciardo
Needs to work on his race pace, often appears to be going backwards, even if it makes sense from a car-performance standpoint. He doesn’t seem to be as-abled to make the car and tyres work for the entire race as Vergne. Still, they both impress me more than most Toro Rosso boys since Vettel.
14. Jenson Button
Poor Jense. A very bad McLaren by modern standards, while he isn’t the type of driver who can over-drive the car or maximize its performance. We saw him dropping off with the BrawnGP in 2009 and now we see again how his performances are tied to the car, much more so than the other 4 active world champions. He’s been doing his job, but hasn’t shown anything great like Belgium last year or Japan 2011. Not having a bad season by any means, but simply unimpressive to me, so far.
15. Sergio Perez
Reasonably keeping up with Button, but his showing at Monaco was one of a rookie who outqualyfied himself, not that of a McLaren driver. Realistic enough to know he won’t win a race this season, but I can’t fully judge his commitment yet. If McLaren want to beat Force India, it’s Perez who needs a kick in the butt and a long lecture by Ron.
16. Pastor Maldonado
I have to say I believe him when he says the car doesn’t suit him. Having watched some on-board footage from his win last year and some of this year’s races, it’s like the car responds the opposite of how it did last year (from an armchair expert’s point of view). Still, he has been close to the points a couple of times and took the first opportunity to finish in the points with both hands. Can he improve his season? I doubt it.
17. Jules Bianchi
As a Frijns fan in FR 3.5 and a VDG fan in GP2 in 2010, Bianchi didn’t do himself any favors for my view of his talent. Still, he has come into F1 and threw out my preconceptions within a few races. He’s fast, a good racer and the best rookie in my opinion. Marussia is losing out on Caterham in the development race, but that doesn’t seem to stop Bianchi from keeping up with them in practice. His 13th in Malaysia has probably brought the team their 10th in the constructors as well, unless we have another crazy late-season race.
18. Valtteri Bottas
I imagine he will loathe the media hype. He looks faster than Maldonado sometimes, but even for a rookie seems to be rather random as far as pace is concerned. Has been rather anonymous as well, so I find it hard to judge most of his races.
19. Charles Pic
Leading a backmarker team in only your 2nd season is an impressive off-track feature, his driving on-track has been very solid as well. Often taking back the position lost to van der Garde at the start during the race on pace or strategy, he seems to be a very mature young driver. I’m not too sure on his raw pace, though.
20. Giedo van der Garde
His excellent qualifying in Monaco and 14th place in Hungary are very mean features for a rookie at Caterham, even though he seems to have a lot of trouble making way for the leaders. He has great starts, often taking a Williams or two before losing those places on pace. He’s a good driver, but that’s about it. He needs more Monaco and Hungary and less Canada.
21. Esteban Gutiérrez
A talented driver who looks completely out of his depth in F1 right now. I think he debuted too soon and Sauber in 2013 is a terrible place to be a rookie. Has shown improvement since awkwardly crashing in Australia and China, but his crash in Canada was another typical rookie error and often finds himself fighting with cars that are slower than his. Could improve, could be a future candidate for ‘drivers who did amazing in touring cars/endurance racing but didn’t in F1’.
22. Max Chilton
Had some good battles with van der Garde, but even at a time where the Marussia was a better car by some margin. Seems to be unable to compare to Bianchi and simply lacks pace or skill. Unimpressive is all I can say.