The 2023 Formula One season has finished and it did not look like a great deal of fun for anyone whose name was not Max Verstappen. Of course, there were highs and lows for every driver and team as well as a lot of performances which fall firmly in the middle.
To sort through it all though, we rated and ranked every driver who took part in more than five grands prix (sorry Liam Lawson). Some are arguably lucky to keep their seats, whilst others should be on the lookout for a move up the grid.
21st. Nyck de Vries, AlphaTauri
Qualifying record vs team-mate: Lost 8-2 to Tsunoda
Points: 0 (22nd in official standings)
A short and not very sweet season for the debutant Dutchman. He had until the British Grand Prix before he was dropped by his team. Although it seemed harsh given the quality of the car, in that time it was hard to make a strong case for his continued place in the team. Would he have done any better in the improved car than his replacements in Daniel Ricciardo and Liam Lawson? Unlikely. 3/10
20th. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
Qualifying record: Lost 19-3 to Alonso
Points: 74 (10th)
The Canadian did little in 2023 to dispel his reputation as a driver who only occasionally performs at his peak. This season he has been thoroughly outclassed by his team-mate yet again and, with someone else in the team in his place, Aston Martin would have likely finished fourth and not fifth.
Some credit should be given for a decent finish to the season and that he managed to bounce back so quickly after a serious injury at the start. 4/10
19th. Logan Sargeant, Williams
Qualifying record: Lost 22-0 to Albon
Points: 1 (21st)
The American is the only driver who finishes the season without a seat for 2024 (yet). On his 2023 performance that is fully justified. He did not look completely out of his depth, but it is difficult to truly believe that there would be nobody better to partner Alexander Albon next season. He had the pace to score points on more occasions than he actually did, but too many crashes and errors cost him dearly. 4.5/10
18th. Sergio Perez, Red Bull
Qualifying record: Lost 20-2 to Verstappen
Points: 285 (2nd)
After four rounds there was talk about Perez putting up at least an illusion of a title fight. Sadly it vaporised soon after with a trouncing in Miami as Verstappen charged through the field from ninth despite Perez’s pole.
That Perez did not beat Verstappen on a Sunday more than twice is not an enormous problem. But that he only recorded four second places in the most dominant car in F1 history is, especially if other teams become more competitive next year. A lot of it stems from his appalling record in qualifying, failing to make it into Q3 nine times. Also crashed far too often. 5/10
17th. Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo
Qualifying record: Lost 15-7 to Bottas
Points: 6 (18th)
There was definite improvement for Zhou in 2023 but it was largely masked by the decline in the competitiveness of his Alfa Romeo car. Yes, team-mate Bottas scored 10 points to his six but that was with only one more top-10 finish. Difficult to find anything too positive or negative about his season other than his progress from 2022, but he has just about justified his place. 5.5/10
16th. Kevin Magnussen, Haas
Qualifying record: Lost 15-7 to Hulkenberg
Points: 3 (19th)
The Dane’s unexpected comeback for Haas in 2022 was one of the stories of the season. There was little for him to enjoy in 2023 as he was beaten by new team-mate Hulkenberg, scoring just three points all season.
Yes, the Haas was a difficult car, and it ate tyres in races, but in qualifying it was almost always his team-mate who got the better of it. Perhaps a mitigating factor is that he had three grands prix in the top 10 compared to Hulkenberg’s one and there was not a great deal in between the two, but Magnussen stood out far less. 5.5/10
15th. George Russell, Mercedes
Qualifying record: Drew 11-11 with Hamilton
Points: 175 (8th)
Russell suffered bad luck this season, yes, but as he admitted to Telegraph Sport, there were a few too many errors and crashes which cost him. As close as it was behind Red Bull, eighth place, two podiums and 25 points behind the next-best driver is a poor return.
After Suzuka, he described his season as a “disaster”. Being level with Hamilton in qualifying and then finishing on the podium in the final race were the only two high points. 5.5/10
14th. Esteban Ocon, Alpine
Qualifying record: Lost 14-8 to Gasly
Points: 58 (12th)
There is so little to choose between the two Frenchmen at Alpine. Both scored a podium apiece and were separated by just four points over 22 rounds. At various points it looked like each one of them was in the ascendancy, but neither could really hammer home an advantage.
For most of the season the car was comfortably sixth quickest, much faster than those behind and much slower than those ahead. Ocon could not have done a great deal better than he did, but neither could have done a great deal worse. 6/10
13th. Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri
Qualifying record: Lost 4-3 to Tsunoda
Points: 6 (17th)
That Ricciardo returned to F1 was a major result and his performances in the seven races he took part in were good enough for him to retain his seat next season. There was a small risk that he would further dent his reputation when he joined a team who had scored just two points up until the Hungarian Grand Prix. But really this was a last chance to regain some of that standing and he managed that. Might have achieved more without breaking his wrist at Zandvoort. 6/10
12th. Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo
Qualifying record: Beat Zhou 15-7
Points: 10 (15th)
Like other drivers in teams below the top six, it was always going to be a struggle for Bottas to score points. However, he finished third in F1’s “Class B” as it were, behind Albon and Tsunoda. That is probably a respectable result given the Williams and – later in the year – the AlphaTauri were quicker cars than the Alfa Romeo. Might well still be the best candidate to help the team transition into their new era as Audi. 6.5/10
11th. Nico Hulkenberg, Haas
Qualifying record: Beat Magnussen 15-7
Points: 9 (16th)
As mentioned above, it is difficult to really separate Magnussen’s and Hulkenberg’s performances on Sundays. However, the German has managed some superb results on Saturdays, when the Haas was at its best. Only five times was he out in Q1 and nine times he qualified in the top 10, compared to Magnussen’s three.
Race days were more difficult, but a superb sixth in the sprint race in Austria and seventh in Melbourne meant he finished the season with a creditable nine points given the car’s limitations. A fine return to F1 after several years out. 6.5/10
10th. Pierre Gasly, Alpine
Qualifying record: Beat Ocon 14-8
Points: 62 (11th)
Best of the rest outside the top five teams but really Alpine spent most of the season in no man’s land, he only needed to beat Ocon to finish there and he did, albeit marginally.
Hard to say there was much to separate them throughout the year with a podium apiece, though Ocon did have two more top-10 finishes. Solid, though his relationship with his team-mate and compatriot was testy as the year went on. 6.5/10
9th. Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
Qualifying record: Beat De Vries 8-2, Ricciardo 4-3, lost to Lawson 3-2
Points: 14 (14th)
When he was racing against De Vries it was difficult to tell if he was having a good season – two top-10s and three 11ths in the first five rounds suggested yes – but since the Dutchman’s departure it is clear that this is comfortably Tsunoda’s finest F1 season.
Ricciardo and then Liam Lawson proved stiffer competition later in the year but with a vastly improved AT04 Tsunoda managed 14 points in the final five rounds of the year – outside of those drivers in the top five teams only Gasly managed more. 7/10
8th. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
Qualifying record: Lost to Leclerc 15-7
Points: 200 (7th)
Sainz’s three seasons at Ferrari have all had their highs and lows. His error-filled start to 2022 cost him and he cut out most of those mistakes this year. His consistency was crucial in him leading team-mate Leclerc in the standings until the very end when a loose manhole cover wrecked his Las Vegas hopes and a Q3 error (his own) hampered him in Abu Dhabi.
Being the only non-Red Bull driver to win – and being wily in doing so – is no bad thing. But for more awful luck in Australia and Qatar (where he did not start) he may have beaten Leclerc. But Leclerc had plenty of bad luck of his own and Sainz could not quite match his late-season peaks. 7.5/10
7th. Oscar Piastri, McLaren
Qualifying record: Lost to Norris 15-7
Points: 97 (9th)
The points gap to team-mate Norris (108) looks pretty significant but that says as much about the Briton’s season as it does Piastri’s. In many ways his debut year has been reminiscent of Norris’s own impressive 2019.
15-7 down in qualifying is a decent return and the undoubted highlights were a front-row start for the sprint in Belgium and then his sprint-race win in Qatar. Lacked a little in race pace compared to his team-mate but those parts of his armoury will develop in time. He has fully shown the enormous talent is there and will probably give Norris a tough time in 2024. 7.5/10
6th. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
Qualifying record: Beat Sainz 15-7
Points: 206 (5th)
It was nip and tuck again between the two Ferrari drivers but the Monegasque’s scintillating form at the end of the season means he just shades it. Sainz made the most of his opportunities at Monza (pole and third) and Singapore (pole and a win) in a resurgent car, but Leclerc’s run from then on was him at his best.
We mentioned that Sainz may have triumphed in the Ferrari battle were it not for a few bouts of bad luck, but Leclerc was disqualified after finishing third in Austin and had a hydraulic problem on the formation lap when on the front row in Brazil. Still has an error in him, but remains red hot over one lap in qualifying. 8/10
5th. Alexander Albon, Williams
Qualifying record: Beat Sargeant 22-0
Points: 27 (13th)
Just as Williams’s stock has risen in 2023 (moving from last to seventh), so has Albon’s. He is fulfilling the role that Russell did for the team from 2019-2021 but the FW45 has given him the opportunity to score points frequently. He delivered 27 of them in total on seven occasions.
His qualifying has been superb again, with seven Q3 appearances. He shouldn’t feel too itchy to leave a team that is on the up, but his current form means a move up the grid would be fully warranted. Could not have done any more. 8/10
4th. Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin
Qualifying record: Beat Stroll 19-3
Points: 206 (4th)
I am not sure we learned an awful lot about Alonso in 2023, other than his significant powers do not seem to be diminishing. In the first third of the season he scored six podiums when the Aston Martin was at its best. As the team were out-developed, big-points opportunities were fewer (just one top-five in the final nine rounds) but that early-season form helped him keep fourth in the standings.
Team-mate Stroll is not a good benchmark for performance, but he was utterly outclassed at almost every opportunity anyway – even if Alonso repeatedly played the team man in trying to help him. 8.5/10
3rd. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
Qualifying record: Drew with Russell 11-11
Points: 234 (3rd)
Hamilton’s season ended on a couple of low points as Mercedes (generally) dropped off the pace a bit, but for most of the year this was Hamilton at close to his best. The car was never there to challenge for more than the occasional podium.
The 28-point gap to the next-best Mercedes, Aston Martin, McLaren and Ferrari driver behind is proof of his consistency. After losing to Russell last season, this year he was clearly the better man on race day, though he seems to have lost a bit of his edge in qualifying. Could do with a quicker car, but he can hardly moan after having had it from 2014-2021. 8.5/10
2nd. Lando Norris, McLaren
Qualifying record: Beat Piastri 15-7
Points: 205 (6th)
Norris finishing sixth overall does not reflect how superb he was in 2023. The McLaren was such a poor car early in the year that he had scored just 12 points after the first eight rounds. However, his 193 in the next 14 was better than any driver but Verstappen and 34 points ahead of the next best scorer. Is he now the best Briton on the grid?
In that period he managed seven podiums, too – most of them second places. Earlier in the year I questioned whether the McLaren was good enough for his talents. It is now. If there is one point to improve it would be maximising his qualifying performances. As shown in Abu Dhabi, it cost him on several occasions. 9/10
1st. Max Verstappen, Red Bull
Qualifying record: Beat Perez 20-2
Points: 575 (1st)
Twenty-two races and 19 victories with his third drivers’ title wrapped up in record time. Verstappen scored almost as many points on his own as the four McLaren and Aston Martin drivers combined. The only “aberration” was a fifth place in Singapore. It is difficult to talk of “perfect” seasons but this is probably about as close as anybody has come.
Verstappen scored nearly 93 per cent of the total points available to him. As good as the RB19 is (though let’s not forget Perez was nearly 300 points adrift) and as well suited it is to him, this was a mind bogglingly dominant season from a driver who should now be mentioned among the greats. It is hard to even come up with a reason to not give him a perfect score. 10/10