Racers Rated: How The Formula One Drivers Performed in 2017

Lewis Hamilton was at the peak of his powers; Sebastian Vettel mounted a grand title challenge; Max Verstappen put down a marker for the future

Giles Richards

Giles Richards

@giles_richardsMon 27 Nov 2017 22.50 GMT


1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes

Championship finish 1

Became the most successful British driver with his fourth world championship, one more than Sir Jackie Stewart, and in so doing also surpassed Michael Schumacher’s record of 68 pole positions. But his achievement is best measured by the competition he had to beat. A resurgent Sebastian Vettel in an equally strong Ferrari offered as tough a fight as he has encountered and it took nine wins and some flawless performances to see off the German. Now enjoying a revitalised, positive atmosphere in the team, he handled setbacks with composure and in turn was able to put the pressure on his rival. Deserved champion at the peak of his powers.

Lewis Hamilton

2) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari

Championship finish 2

Mounted a grand assault on the title, enjoying a car that was often quicker than the Mercedes. Vettel turned in some superb performances, as did his team, aggressive and clever strategies in Australia and Bahrain both returning wins. There was fortitude, as seen in his recovery to finish fourth in Canada after losing his front wing but the four-time world champion was stymied by errors. The swipe at Hamilton in Baku was evidence he was feeling the pressure and crashing out after aggressively defending off the grid in Singapore cost him a likely win. Then Ferrari, who had started so strongly, proved fallible and mechanical problems in Malaysia and Japan all but ended the charge.

3) Max Verstappen, Red Bull

Championship finish 6

A torrid opening to the season that included five DNFs had the 20-year-old openly frustrated with his team but by the close both sides were more content. Verstappen finished very strongly with two wins and signed a new contract with Red Bull. Was out-scored by his team-mate, Daniel Ricciardo, but when the car was working he out-performed the Australian. Verstappen out-qualified Ricciardo 13-7, including a fantastic second in the wet at Monza. There were errors that cost him – notably hitting Ricciardo in Hungary – but superb races in Malaysia, Mexico, Japan and the US, some electrifying starts and fearlessness in taking on Vettel and Hamilton belies his sixth place.

4) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull

Championship finish 5

Enjoyed more reliability than his team-mate and in a car that was off the pace of Mercedes and Ferrari still turned in a very strong season, including some aggressive but controlled overtaking. The win at Baku came after dropping to 17th followingan unscheduled pit stop and he was similarly impressive to take sixth from the back in Brazil and fourth from 16th at Monza, where his dive up the inside of Kimi Raikkonen at the first chicane exemplified his fighting spirit. Defended skilfully too, holding off Hamilton in Austria. Nine podium finishes are more than might have been expected from the Red Bull.

Lewis Hamilton with third-place finisher Sebastian Vettel on the podium after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

5) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes

Championship finish 3

Opened strongly but the Finn will be ultimately disappointed with a second half of the season in which he was well off the pace of Hamilton despite a flourish at the finish. Two of his three race wins, in Russia and Austria, were impressive, both including holding off Vettel in the latter stages, but with Mercedes so strong his returns should have been higher. There were errors too, spinning behind the safety car in China, a poor restart at Spa and giving up the lead too easily in Brazil. Deserves some leeway given it is his first year with the team and his victory in Abu Dhabi in the final race, but now has everything to prove next season.

6) Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari

Championship finish 4

Even given that Ferrari were putting all their weight behind Vettel for the title, the 38-year-old did not deliver nearly enough. The Scuderia needed him at least to be in a position to take points from Hamilton but too often he was not in the mix. Pole at Monaco was a reminder of his undoubted talent but it was a one-off. Indeed, the Ferrari chairman, Sergio Marchionne, warned of him being a “laggard” in mid-season. Ferrari have re-signed him for 2018 but on this form it could be very costly.

7) Esteban Ocon, Force India

Championship finish 8

Although beaten on points by his team-mate Sergio Pérez, the 21-year-old French driver was hugely impressive in his first full F1 season. He and Pérez were in a fight of their own that became feisty and costly on the track but Ocon maintained his composure remarkably well. Finished in the points in every race bar two and there were stand-out moments such as taking fifth in qualifying in the wet at Monza. Part of the Mercedes driver development programme, Ocon more than justified their investment and will have made just the impression the team wanted.

Force India’s Esteban Ocon
Force India’s Esteban Ocon finished in the points in all but two races this season. Photograph: Octane/Action Plus via Getty Images

8) Sergio Pérez, Force India

Championship finish 7

Equalling his best championship finish of seventh, achieved last year, and being the first driver behind the big three teams, proved “Checo’s” strength and how comfortable he is now at Force India. Clashes with Ocon at Montreal, Baku and Spa did not endear either driver to the team but, aside from these incidents, he was also consistently strong. Pérez out-qualified Ocon by 13-7 and also finished in the points in all but three races. Fourth in Spain was his best moment and a spirited, if brief, defence against Hamilton in Brazil, was typical of his on-track determination.

Fernando Alonso during his first test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

9) Fernando Alonso, McLaren

Championship finish 15

After a season that had opened with Honda’s power unit proving to be woefully inadequate, an openly dispirited Alonso still turned in some performances that proved just how much difference he can make. Despite seven retirements, when the Spaniard was given the chance the flashes of brilliance remained. Putting the recalcitrant McLaren into third qualifying seven times was remarkable and he picked up two seventh places at Monza and Interlagos. The team celebrating the sixth-place finish at Hungary reflected his achievement. From the back of the grid to 11th in Japan, was equally impressive and his duel with Hamilton in Mexico proved he has lost none of his appetite for racing.

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, left, and Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kyvat, right, crash at the start of the Austrian Grand Prix  at Spielberg in July
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, left, and Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kyvat, right, crash at the start of the Austrian Grand Prix at Spielberg in July. Photograph: Darko Bandic/AP

10) Carlos Sainz Jr, Toro Rosso/Renault

Championship finish 9

Having long shown great promise, Sainz delivered in 2017 – and was duly rewarded. Opening the season for Toro Rosso alongside Daniil Kvyat, he had the hammer on his team-mate from the off. Five points finishes from the opening six races caught the attention and he went on to maintain the charge. A career-best fourth in Singapore after being ninth on the first lap was superb. When Toro Rosso severed their ties with Renault, the latter took Sainz to replace Jolyon Palmer in return and he then had a marvellous run at Austin to take seventh, splitting the two Force India cars.

11) Nico Hülkenberg, Renault

Championship finish 10

Started strongly and was comprehensively quicker than his team-mate Jolyon Palmer, including two good finishes in sixth after Renault’s upgrade at Silverstone. Should have finished higher but was stung by a spate of retirements in the final third. Needs to eliminate occasional errors such as the misjudgment at turn seven at Baku to make the step forward Renault need.

12) Felipe Massa, Williams

Championship finish 11

Likely to be the final outing for the veteran Brazilian but did what his team required and scored consistently. Thanks to his greater experience, he more than had the measure of his team-mate Lance Stroll, out-qualifying him 17-2 and showing superior race pace. Did well to keep wresting the best from a Williams car that was left behind by Force India.

13) Romain Grosjean, Haas

Championship finish 13

Sometimes appeared to be at war with his car and indeed with his team over the radio, the French driver once again veered from the sublime to ridiculous. Qualifying eighth at Monaco was exemplary as was the sixth place in Austria. But at Sochi and Baku when struggling with the car, especially the brakes, he was poor and vocal in his displeasure. Subsequently sported the phrase “I’m not moaning” on his helmet but solving the root issues is now paramount.

14) Lance Stroll, Williams

Championship finish 12

Bought considerable financial backing to Williams but early indications were that it might prove costly for the team. His opening performances were poor but after points in Canada and a podium place at Baku he proved he was learning. Given leeway for it being his rookie season but Williams badly need him to step up next year, a potentially make or break point in his career.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates after winning his fourth F1 World Drivers Championship after the Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico.

15) Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber

Championship finish 18

Unsurprisingly had the edge over his team-mate, Marcus Ericsson, Wehrlein raced well and against the odds scored points, too. With a year-old Ferrari engine in the car, his eighth place in Spain was rightly celebrated, as was the team’s strategy. Given Sauber’s machinery and budget, the German made a real fist of dragging them forward.

16) Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren

Championship finish 16

Always likely to be put in the shade by Alonso, Vandoorne, in his first season, did well to stay within decent range of the Spaniard’s lap times – and that in a new car that was denied track time due to the troublesome power unit. There were mistakes, especially colliding with Massa in Spain, but also promise – qualifying and then finishing in seventh at Sepang was impressive. Now must deliver on his potential with a Renault engine in 2018.

17) Kevin Magnussen, Haas

Championship finish 14

Not as strong as Grosjean over a single lap but had less struggles with the car, from which he found a more consistent performance. Hampered by being overly aggressive on occasion and failing to play the percentages in tricky situations. The car is not as competitive as Haas would like and in a tight midfield battle Magnussen did not pick up points often enough.

18) Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso

Championship finish 19

Time ran out for “The Torpedo” with an air of inevitability. He remains quick, especially over a single lap, but, while hampered by reliability issues and bad luck, his race craft was once again under scrutiny. Woeful misjudgments at Spielberg and Silverstone ensured the writing was on the wall and he was replaced by Pierre Gasly with five races remaining.

19) Jolyon Palmer, Renault

Championship finish 18

Way off the pace of Hülkenberg in qualifying and beaten 16-0 by the German, the British driver also suffered a fair amount of bad luck, unable even to start at Silverstone. But with Renault looking to join the big three as genuine title contenders, even his first points – a well-deserved sixth at Singapore – were too little too late and Palmer was replaced by Carlos Sainz with three races remaining.

20) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber

Championship finish 20

Offering backing but not an awful lot else to Sauber, the Swedish driver was at least reasonably consistent in bringing his car home, with 14 finishes including two just outside the points. But being outclassed by Wehrlein and crashing when under the safety car at Monaco did not enhance his reputation. The back of the grid would be better served by Sauber (and Ferrari) putting the F2 champion, Charles Leclerc, in the seat next year.

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