Jun 5, 2019
Jake MichaelsESPN Assistant Editor
- Jake Michaels is a multi-sport journalist but his heart belongs truly to motorsport, particularly Formula 1. He joined ESPN Australia’s team in June, 2013.
Ahead of each race in 2019, ESPN is ranking every driver on the grid in our Formula One Power Rankings.
In compiling these standings, we have taken out the car factor and focused solely on the drivers and how each has been performing. This is not a prediction for how the race will go this weekend. Nor is it a prediction for how things will look at the end of the season. Instead, read this as a gauge for who has the most influence over everything that lies ahead, who’s hot and who’s not ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix.
Previous rankings: Australian GP | Bahrain GP | Chinese GP | Azerbaijan GP | Spanish GP | Monaco GP |
Note: Teammate head-to-heads are compiled in qualifying sessions in which both drivers set a representative time and in races in which both drivers were classified as finishing.
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
If Hamilton can sustain the form we saw in Monaco, the drivers’ title will be decided well before Abu Dhabi. Period. He showed us in Monte Carlo that a fired-up Hamilton — who was clearly shaken by the death of close friend and Formula One legend Niki Lauda — is a near unbeatable Hamilton. The five-time world champion has now won four of six races this year and is beginning to break title rival and teammate Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton could really put a healthy gap between himself and the pack in the coming races, particularly given the next grand prix is at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, a track Hamilton has won at on six occasions.
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
Verstappen is really unlucky to lose top spot. This time last year many were questioning whether or not the Dutchman was mentally ready to challenge for a Formula One title. He’s well and truly proven he is in the 12 months since, most recently with a controlled and patient drive in Monaco, one which saw him extend his top-five finish streak to 15 races. Yes, 15! Not many would have believed that last time we went to Montreal. He went into the 2018 Canadian Grand Prix out of sorts and made the podium, just imagine what he can do when he’s in red-hot form…
3. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
In the last edition of Power Rankings I noted just how confident Magnussen was feeling and it’s only going to grow after qualifying fifth in Monaco — a place where confidence is absolutely everything. On any given day Magnussen looks as though he can be best of the rest, something he’s already done twice in 2019 and really should have been three times if not for a botched Haas strategy in Monte Carlo. If there’s one driver in the midfield I’d love to see in a top team, it’s K-Mag. He’s confident. He’s ruthless. And, most importantly, he delivers.
4. Carlos Sainz (McLaren)
If you look at the three races leading into Canada, Sainz is arguably the dominant midfield driver. The Spaniard has tallied 18 points since Baku and the next best haul outside of the top three teams is just eight points. There’s no doubt he started the season slowly (very, very slowly) but he’s hit his straps now and reminding rookie teammate Lando Norris who the No. 1 driver is at McLaren. Last year’s trip to Canada yielded points for Sainz, albeit when driving at Renault, and it’s hard to imagine a top 10 this year without him in it.
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
For all the talk of Bottas 2.0 and his brilliant start to the season, the Finn already finds himself with a 17-point deficit to teammate Hamilton in the drivers’ standings after just six rounds. Ouch! He really must be wondering what more he can do. The scary part for Bottas is that we all know Hamilton can perform at a higher level if necessary, so right now his season is on the ropes. Bottas must strike back with a win this weekend in Canada — a race he’s scored a podium finish at every year since 2015 — because second place might not cut it anymore.
6. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
Vettel’s second place finish in Monaco last time out will be worth far more than 18 championship points that came with it. The confidence he will take from it, and Ferrari finally getting a strategy call correct, is sure to get him in a positive frame of mind ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix — a race he won last year, two weeks after finishing runner-up in Monte Carlo… Everyone’s been super quick to knock Vettel this season, yet he’s still managed to outscore teammate Charles Leclerc 82-57. That’s certainly not bad.
7. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso)
Based on what we’ve seen from Kvyat in 2019, perhaps more drivers should consider taking a year off! The Russian has arrived back on the grid with more hunger and motivation than ever before and has well and truly justified his return to Formula One. It only gets better for Kvyat who can now focus on racing and not worry about whether or not his seat is safe. This weekend in Canada, Kvyat has the opportunity to stretch his points scoring streak to three races, something he hasn’t achieved since the final three rounds of 2015.
8. Sergio Perez (Racing Point)
When you think of drivers extracting the most out of the car they have at their disposal, Perez should be right up there. It’s been a somewhat disappointing start to the season for Racing Point but Perez continues to be a shining light. He leads Lance Stroll by 13-4 in championship points and is yet to be out-qualified by him. Ever the opportunist, you just feel he will cash in at some stage this season for a third or fourth place finish when those out front have issues. Who knows, maybe it will happen this weekend in Canada, a track he has had success at in the past. Remember 2012?
9.George Russell (Williams)
Rock solid. It’s the best way to sum up Russell’s first six races in Formula One. Nobody ever expected he’d be in a position to score points in what is a horribly uncompetitive Williams, but the Brit has impressed with his consistency and upbeat attitude. Don’t forget, Russell is still one of just three drivers (the others being Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen) to have out-qualified and out-raced his teammate at every single grand prix this year. If he was driving literally any other car this weekend in Canada, I’d be backing him in to score points.
10. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault)
The Ricciardo we saw in the opening rounds of the season was a shadow of the Ricciardo everyone has come to know in recent years, but the Australian is beginning to show glimpses of why he is a seven-time race winner. Poor strategy cost him a potential fifth place finish last time out in Monaco, but he should take comfort in the fact he’s already getting the better of Nico Hulkenberg and we’re not yet a third of the way through the season. This weekend he returns to Canada, the scene of where he won his first Formula One race back in 2014, and that should surely fire him up.
11. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
We saw the first real signs of frustration from Leclerc in Monaco after he endured a wretched weekend at his home race. It’s going to be very interesting to see how that impacts him moving forward to Canada. Will he come back stronger or has all his hard work for almost zero reward crushed the young man’s self-belief? Either way, his start to life as a Ferrari driver isn’t quite as impressive as many want to believe. Only once has he out-qualified teammate Vettel and only once has he finished ahead of him in a race.
12. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)
Now that his 300th race is in the books and attention is off him, we might just see the best of Raikkonen again when racing resumes in Canada, a place he has finished in the top 10 every year since it returned to the Formula One calendar in 2010. The wheels haven’t quite fallen off, but Raikkonen’s certainly slowed down after what was a mighty impressive beginning to the year. However, even with a dip in performance, the 39-year-old continues to wipe the floor with teammate Antonio Giovinazzi and is still the clear main man at Alfa Romeo.
13. Alexander Albon (Toro Rosso)
14th (7 points) 2-3
The consistent Albon faces a big test this weekend when he takes to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the very first time in his racing career. Melbourne’s Albert Park was the only other track Albon hadn’t visited before this season and he struggled there, particularly in the race where he finished 14th. While track experience should not be underestimated for a rookie, Albon has strung together an impressive run since the season-opener — with five consecutive top 11 finishes — and certainly won’t be lacking in confidence.
14. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
The words ‘luck’ and ‘Grosjean’ generally don’t fall into the same sentence, but they certainly did last time out in Monaco. Let’s be honest, Grosjean hasn’t been on Magnussen’s level this year but catching a break, at least for once, could be just what he needs to ignite his season. It’s certainly not impossible, look at how Sainz has been able to turn things around at McLaren. Unfortunately, Grosjean doesn’t have a great recent record in Canada with only two championship points from the past six races.
15. Pierre Gasly (Red Bull)
Every single championship point Gasly scores has to make him feel a whole lot better. It’s no secret he’s under enormous pressure at Red Bull and facing a huge challenge in trying to match teammate Verstappen, so 19 points from the past two races is certainly a step in the right direction. Perhaps, like Kvyat at Toro Rosso, we might start to see Gasly flourish once the pressure gauge has been released a fraction. Until then he must continue to finish in the top half a dozen cars and close the qualifying gap to Verstappen.
16. Lando Norris (McLaren)
He’s one of the best young qualifiers we’ve seen for some time, but when you’ve lost a grand total of 19 places on opening laps, what’s the point of having strong Saturdays? We shouldn’t forget that Norris is a rookie, but right now I’m more impressed with what I’ve seen from Russell and Albon through the first six race weekends. Still, he’s had impressive moments and scored more points than nine of the 20 drivers, so maybe I’m being a really tough critic!
17. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault)
You could certainly make an argument that Hulkenberg has been the most underwhelming driver of the year. He’s only finished in the points once and is slipping further behind Ricciardo as the Australian gets more comfortable in the Renault. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is a make or break year for Hulkenberg. If he struggles against Ricciardo it’s hard to ever see him get a shot at a top team. Right now he’s struggling big time.
18. Robert Kubica (Williams)
Remember when Kubica won in Canada back in 2008? It might have been a long, long time ago but it’s still his finest moment on a race track. I just wonder if those memories will hold him in good stead this weekend. As it stands he’s had a horrid start to the season, being out-qualified and out-raced by rookie teammate Russell at every single event. He desperately needs to get the better of Russell, if only for a slice of confidence. Maybe this race is his chance.
19. Lance Stroll (Racing Point)
A streak of 10 consecutive Q1 exits is an appalling statistic and not something you want to be carrying into your home grand prix. To be completely honest, season 2019 has been an absolute shocker for Stroll. He had a somewhat impressive opening race in Australia, but since then it’s been one let down after another. Heading to Canada he’s been outscored by teammate Perez 13-4 and won’t be receiving much support from the grandstands. It’s actually quite amazing that another driver ranks lower than him in this edition of Power Rankings.
20. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)
He can’t match Raikkonen when the Finn is having a good weekend and he can’t match him when he’s having a poor weekend. Honestly, what hope does Giovinazzi have? The Italian continues to be outclassed and is yet to show anything this year to suggest he has a future in Formula One beyond 2019. If there’s one statistic which sums it all up for him then it’s this one: other than the Williams drivers, Giovinazzi is the only man not to score a world championship point this year.