Edd Straw’s 2024 F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix driver rankings


The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix may have been another straightforward Red Bull 1-2 at the start of the 2024 Formula 1 season, but ranking the drivers was a task that involved a couple of curveballs.

Taking into account a last-minute F1 debut, a real Jekyll-and-Hyde performance in the midfield and much more, here’s Edd Straw’s final verdict on how the field performed in Jeddah.

The 20 drivers will be ranked in order of performance from best to worst on each grand prix weekend. This will be based on the full range of criteria, ranging from pace and racecraft to consistency and whether they made key mistakes. How close each driver got to delivering on the maximum performance potential of the car will be an essential consideration.

It’s important to note both that this reflects performance across the entire weekend, cognisant of the fact that qualifying is effectively ‘lap 0’ of the race and key to laying the foundations to the race, and that it is not a ranking of the all-round qualities of each driver. It’s simply about how they performed on a given weekend. Therefore, the ranking will fluctuate significantly from weekend to weekend.

And with each of the 10 cars fundamentally having different performance potential and ‘luck’ (ie factors outside of a driver’s control) contributing to the way the weekend plays out, this ranking will also differ significantly from the overall results.

Started: 11th Finished: 7th

Bearman’s lofty ranking reflects the fact he was in completely different circumstances to the rest of the field, cast into a car he’d never driven before for FP3 and doing an accomplished job. He had the pace to reach Q3, but couldn’t quite string it together, then turned in a fine race drive with some crucial overtakes, the most impressive being on Tsunoda, then showing good enough pace to stay clear of Norris and Hamilton.

Verdict: Couldn’t ask for more in the circumstances.

Started: 1st Finished: 1st

The Verstappen/Red Bull combination was once again in a class of its own and won from pole position with ease. The second Q3 run could and should have been better, by Verstappen’s own admission, although his first attempt was outstanding and more than enough to top qualifying. That inconsequential criticism aside, he was as good as ever.

Verdict: Utterly in control.

Started: 2nd Finished: 3rd

Leclerc’s weekend wasn’t defined by not being as quick as Verstappen, for the Ferrari was clearly the second-quickest car. Instead, look to the fact he picked off Perez in qualifying, albeit not with one of his best qualifying laps, and was clear of the jostling pack behind. He’s set to have a lot of weekends like this in 2024.

Verdict: Maximised the qualifying and race result given Red Bull’s pace.

Started: 5th Finished: 4th

Shaded Norris in qualifying and the McLaren’s DRS disadvantage meant that fifth was likely the best he could have achieved. He turned that into fourth by passing Alonso into the first corner on the second lap. He spent a long time trapped behind Hamilton after the safety car thanks to the McLaren’s top-speed disadvantage, with a lock-up and brief off during that frustrating spell, but shook out fourth once the Mercedes pitted.

Verdict: Maximised the qualifying and race result.

Started: 15th Finished: 10th

Hulkenberg had a puncher’s chance of nicking a Q3 place, but for stopping on track before starting a push lap in Q2 thanks to a lack of fuel caused by a technical problem while fuelling the car. After running 14th early on, he stayed out under the safety car and thanks to a combination of his own decent pace and, most significantly, Magnussen becoming a rolling roadblock, claimed a point for 10th.

Verdict: Needed Magnussen’s help, but did his part.

Started: 4th Finished: 5th

Another strong weekend for Alonso, who extracted good pace from the car in qualifying. It was a similar story in the race, although had he been able to keep Piastri at bay at the start of the second lap that would likely have translated into finishing the race a place higher, albeit in an Aston Martin that was more competitive over a single lap than on race pace.

Verdict: Perhaps left a place on the table in the race.

Started: 3rd Finished: 2nd

Perez had a good weekend, but as always with the misfortune of being benchmarked against an all-time great team-mate. He really should have been on the front row, but didn’t make the most of the final Q3 lap thanks to understeer. However, he relieved Leclerc of second place for good on lap four having briefly got ahead at the start before behind shuffled back. An unsafe release was, as he put it, “my bad” and earned Perez a five-second penalty that didn’t cost him second place having shown decent race pace even compared to Verstappen.

Verdict: A good weekend, just not ‘Verstappen good’.

Started: 6th Finished: 8th

Norris ended up on the wrong side of the close battle with his team-mate Piastri, lapping 0.043s slower in qualifying after losing time across the second half of the lap. He ran sixth in the first stint and was the lead car to stay out under the safety car, which allowed him to lead briefly. Without the assistance from another interruption, when he eventually stopped the pace advantage of the softs wasn’t enough to climb from eighth.

Verdict: Marginally the second-best McLaren performer.

Started: 12th Finished: 11th

Albon flirted with disaster in Q1 thanks to traffic ruining his final lap and forcing him to abort it before banking a solid starting position in Q2. He was part of the train that built behind Magnussen in the second stint and did a good job to come through to ‘win’ that battle at the back, despite carrying a little damage from the earlier contact with Magnussen.

Verdict: Was near the maximum of what the Williams was capable of.

Started: 7th Finished: 6th

Russell was more comfortable with the tricky Mercedes than Hamilton throughout the weekend, although didn’t make the most of qualifying after the rear stepped out at Turn 10 on his final Q3 lap and pitched him onto the runoff. Even so, he was a tenth-and-a-half faster than his team-mate. Spent the race following Alonso around, with seventh in the first stint turning into sixth thanks to Norris dropping behind with the late pitstop.

Verdict: Qualifying could have been better.

Started: 9th Finished: 15th

Tsunoda was again the RB spearhead, comfortably outpacing Ricciardo in qualifying and earning a place in Q3 thanks to beating not only the underprepared Bearman but also Hamilton, who were both in quicker cars. The race was a frustrating one, although had Magnussen not got past him with an illegal overtake thanks to going off track it could have been very different. He also lost a place at the flag thanks to an unsafe release from his pitstop.

Verdict: Fast, although the race was a mix of untidiness and bad luck.

Started: 8th Finished: 9th

Battled rear instability throughout the weekend and the car’s lack of pace in the high-speed corners. He was shaded by Russell in qualifying by 0.144s, running eighth in the first stint then staying out under the early-race safety car. That ultimately cost him a place to Bearman, which he couldn’t cancel out by passing Norris, who had also made a late stop.

Verdict: Second-best Mercedes on a difficult weekend.

Started: 13th Finished: 12th

Magnussen’s single-lap pace looked far stronger than it had been in Bahrain, although he was denied the chance to show it in Q2 when he failed to complete his outlap and tyre-prep lap before the chequered flag thanks to the pitwall’s poor timekeeping. His race was messy, in particular the clash with Albon, but elevated by his remarkable, if at times forceful, rearguard action in service of team-mate Hulkenberg that earned Haas a priceless point.

Verdict: Rearguard action elevates his ranking.

Started: 17th Finished: 13th

While Ocon perhaps left a little time on the table in qualifying in the second half of sector one and was apologetic over the radio, he described the car as less “together” than it had been. He did edge into the periphery of points contention in the spell after the safety car before the Magnussen roadblock ruined that, although the Alpine’s lack of pace always meant he was not going to be able to capitalise on it.

Verdict: Battled hard in a losing cause.

Started: 14th Finished: 16th

Ricciardo felt he’d taken a step forward in terms of pace this weekend, blaming the 0.461s deficit to Tsunoda in Q2 on a struggle to find the increased grip he anticipated as qualifying progressed. His race was effectively ruined by problems at the safety-car pitstop that dropped him to last, finishing ahead only of the two Saubers having had a late spin after losing it when he clouted the kerb.

Verdict: A subdued weekend.

Started: 18th Finished: DNF

Until the final run of Q1, Gasly potentially appeared to have the edge on Ocon but a puzzling lack of rear grip on his final lap cost him what he thought was a shot at Q2. Unfortunately, he had no chance to show what he could do in the race after a gearbox problem struck on the formation lap, forcing his retirement at the end of lap one.

Verdict: Circumstances, rather than performance, ruin his ranking.

Started: 16th Finished: 17th

On paper, this was an awful weekend for Bottas. But it included some characteristic bad luck for him, having to get out of the throttle because of traffic on his final qualifying lap and missing out on what he reckoned was a shot at Q2. His race went nowhere thanks to being unable to get the C2 Pirellis switched on given the Sauber’s weakness in energising the tyres, meaning he fell away from the group at the back even when it was backed up before making another stop for softs.

Verdict: Difficult, but not quite as bad as it looked.

Started: 20th Finished: 18th

Zhou’s weekend turned on his FP3 crash. As he said, “it was my mistake and I paid for it”, and he kept paying with the resulting repairs meaning he couldn’t set a qualifying time despite heading out late in the session. He paid a double price for the crash in the race as after the repairs there were cooling problems, meaning he had to lift and coast from early on. In the circumstances, his race pace was impressive, but unrewarded thanks to losing 25 seconds in his pitstop.

Verdict: FP3 shunt ruins his ranking despite a race drive that was better than it looked.

Started: 19th Finished: 14th

At times, Sargeant showed solid pace compared to Albon. The trouble was that he also set himself back by clipping the wall on his first timed lap in FP3 and costing himself the session. He had a respectable first Q1 run, albeit not fast enough for the top 15, then a tricky prep lap left him without the grip he anticipated and he couldn’t improve by enough. His race was adequate, although he dropped away from the back of the Magnussen-led pack once it picked up the pace and struggled more with tyre deg.

Verdict: FP3 crash and fading in second stint count against him.

Started: 10th Finished: DNF

Stroll peaked in Q1 with a lap that proved his fastest of qualifying, although he was unable to replicate that when it counted in Q3. He pointed to a lack of electrical power towards the end of his lap, which left him 10th. He struggled badly for pace early on and fell back from the top eight before clipping the inside wall and sustaining damage that pitched him into the wall and out of the race.

Verdict: A weekend to forget.



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