Jun 19, 2019
Jake MichaelsESPN Associate Editor
- Jake Michaels is a Melbourne-based multi-sport journalist who covers everything from AFL to Formula 1. He joined ESPN 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 French Grand Prix.
Previous rankings: Australian GP | Bahrain GP | Chinese GP | Azerbaijan GP | Spanish GP | Monaco GP | Canadian 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)
You can throw up any number of statistics to justify Hamilton holding the top spot, but at the end of the day there’s really only one that matters — a dominant five wins from the past six races. Despite Valtteri Bottas’ impressive start to the year, Hamilton really has been the main man through the first third of 2019 and already holds a 29-point lead in the drivers’ championship. Honestly, it would almost be a shock if he didn’t win this weekend in France, a race he won last year when it returned to the calendar.
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
Expect the young Dutchman to be hungrier than usual this weekend after bad luck in qualifying cost him a chance to fight for a podium in Canada. Even with that disappointment in Montreal, Verstappen still managed to extend his top-five finish streak to a stunning 16 races in what is probably the fifth-quickest car on the grid. Oh, and don’t forget he finished second to Hamilton last time he was in France. Forget Bottas 2.0, how good is Verstappen 2.0!?
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
We’re either going to see the emergence of a despondent Vettel or an encouraged Vettel after he was cruelly denied victory last time out. My money’s on the encouraged version. You don’t become a four-time world champion without facing some adversity, and deep down he’ll know that he had his best weekend of the season in Montreal, and should take confidence from it. If he can move on quickly and put it all behind him, we might soon see him snap Mercedes’ nine-race winning streak.
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault)
We’re starting to see Danny Ric’s wide grin on a far more consistent basis, and that’s a great sign, not only for the Australian but also for Formula One. As we get deeper into this season, Ricciardo’s only going to get more and more comfortable in his Renault and, with a reliable car, could make a serious push to finish best of the rest in the championship. Would anybody be surprised if he did? Not me. He earns a big, bold tick for the fact he already seems to have the edge over experienced teammate Nico Hulkenberg.
5. Carlos Sainz (McLaren)
There’s certainly been a few moments to forget, but overall there’s plenty to like about Sainz’s year so far. He’s cemented himself as McLaren’s No. 1 (even though Lando Norris has had the edge in qualifying), twice finished best of the rest in races and, most importantly, scored more championship points than anyone not driving a Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull. You could definitely make the case he’s the most in-form midfield driver and Ricciardo’s biggest threat to finishing seventh overall.
6. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso)
I don’t think there’s a single person who would have believed me at the start of the year if I told them Kvyat would make the top six in these rankings after seven rounds. Seriously, what a difference a year off has made for the Russian. He’s much more composed, much more measured and driving really, really well for Toro Rosso. Outside of the three big teams, Kvyat is the only driver to score points in each of the last three races and in doing so has snuffed out the early-season charge from rookie teammate Alexander Albon.
7. George Russell (Williams)
You could count on one hand how many drivers haven’t put a foot wrong in 2019, and Russell is certainly one of them. He’s performing off-Broadway at Williams but doing his job and doing it as best he can with little complaint. He’s topped experienced teammate Robert Kubica in every competitive session this season, and that’s the sort of driving that is likely to land him a far more competitive seat in the future. Unfortunately, for now it’s just a hard slog.
8. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
We’re entering phase three of Leclerc’s 2019 season. The first was his bright start in the opening races, and his second was a disappointing lull in the few rounds that followed. I think phase three is going to give us consistency and podiums, just like we saw in Montreal, and could see him rising up the Power Rankings and drivers’ championship table. Don’t forget what Leclerc did last year in France, where he qualified eighth and finished in the points for Sauber. Imagine what he can do in a Ferrari…
9. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault)
Season 2019 hasn’t been kind to Hulkenberg, but we’ve already seen what one positive result can do for a driver. Think Sainz. Think teammate Ricciardo. Drivers would never admit it, but there’s no doubt pressure mounts with every passing race without a championship point. Now that his run of five races without a point is over, the Hulk has one less thing to worry about and can focus on the European leg of the championship — a stretch of the season where he has always performed well.
10. Lando Norris (McLaren)
If there’s been one knock on Norris in what’s so far been an impressive rookie season, it’s his inability to make ground, or even hold position, early in races. However, the 19-year-old was able to reverse that trend in Canada with a super Lap 1 pass on Verstappen, and I really expect that moment to play an important role in his driver development. We all know he can qualify well, we all know he is consistent when he settles into the race, so if he adds the quality starts he could become a superstar.
11. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
How many ladders has Grosjean walked under in his time? I mean, he is seriously unlucky! On paper, his teammate Kevin Magnussen has had the more impressive season to date, but the tables could be about to turn in the Frenchman’s favour as he arrives at his home race. The results haven’t quite been there, but Grosjean has looked much better in the last few outings and is certainly the Haas driver in the good books with team boss Gunther Steiner right now.
12. Alexander Albon (Toro Rosso)
The two race tracks Albon had never visited before — Albert Park and Circult Gilles Villeneuve — produced his two worst results of 2019, so the young Thai driver will be pleased to return to a more familiar setting this weekend at Paul Ricard. With five top-11 finishes and seven championship points, Albon has been highly impressive this year and continues to give the rejuvenated Kvyat a real run for his money at Toro Rosso. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, what a great rookie class we have in 2019!
13. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
You get the feeling the further we go into this season, the more Hamilton is going to pull away from Bottas. Most fans will hope that doesn’t happen, but it sure seems that way right now. Despite all of Bottas’ hard work and great driving in the opening seven races, he has just two wins to Hamilton’s five and trails him by 29 points. I don’t care if this is Bottas 1.0, 2.0 or 10.0; that has to be enormously deflating for the Finn and I’m just not sure he can turn it around against one of the sport’s all-time greats.
14. Sergio Perez (Racing Point)
A run of three straight races without a championship point is grounds for being dumped out of the top 10. Sorry, Sergio. Not only did he finish 12th in Canada last fortnight, but he was beaten by teammate Lance Stroll — someone who seems to be allergic to qualifying well. Both Racing Point drivers have had three points finishes this year, so perhaps Perez’s season isn’t quite taking off as many (myself included) had expected after the first four rounds.
15. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
It’s obvious Magnussen’s heading to France with dented confidence and his tail between his legs. I said last time that his confidence had to be sky-high; well, it’s fair to say it would have taken a significant hit after a huge qualifying crash last time out in Canada. He’d had such a strong start to the season that you could almost forgive one error, but it didn’t end there as K-Mag criticized the rebuilt car only to be given a very public spray by team boss Gunther Steiner. That’s what you call having a shocker.
16. Lance Stroll (Racing Point)
Part of me feels Stroll deserves bottom spot and part of me feels he should be on the cusp of the top 10 — so I’ve split the difference. He’s already shown three times this season that he can be a crafty and clever race driver, but his inability to qualify in the top 15 is really, really concerning. Believe it or not, Stroll hasn’t progressed out of Q1 this year, and I’m just not sure his solid drives from time to time make up for that glaring weakness. If he fixes his Saturday performances, he’d no doubt be in the top 10.
17. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)
I’m not quite sure how it’s happened, but the wheels have well and truly fallen off Raikkonen’s season. After four rounds he was the standout midfield driver, but he hasn’t even looked like scoring a point in the three races which have followed. Getting bested by the usually uncompetitive Antonio Giovinazzi in Canada (yes, I was stunned with that as well) should fire him up for this race.
18. Pierre Gasly (Red Bull)
If Red Bull hadn’t fired Kvyat in 2016, I suspect the Russian would be close to getting a call-up to replace the out-of-sorts Gasly. Sure, being teammates with Verstappen is a difficult task, but Gasly just isn’t up to it and hasn’t shown much sign of improvement in seven races. After the first third of the season he’s trailing his teammate 88-36 in points and probably won’t even be the most supported Frenchman this weekend at Paul Ricard.
19. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)
Ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix, Giovinazzi’s Formula One career was on life support. I’m not saying it’s alive once again, but what was basically a career-best performance has to give him a slice of hope and confidence going forward. Still, he is yet to score a championship point but he won’t be thinking about that this weekend, just the prospect of beating the experienced Raikkonen two races in a row. Surely not, right?
20. Robert Kubica (Williams)
If he couldn’t deliver anything in Monaco or Canada — two of his favourite Formula One races — what hope is there for Kubica this season? It’s such a shame that he ranks plum last for the sixth time this year, especially after his remarkable return to the sport, but it’s obvious he isn’t the same driver who once stood on the top step of a podium. It might be time Kubica starts thinking about his 2020 plans as it’s unlikely he’ll retain a seat at this rate.