F1 driver power rankings: Verstappen takes top spot after late-season surge

After a first class drives in Malaysia, America and Mexico, it's Max Verstappen who takes the top spot in our penultimate power rankings of the year.


1. Max Verstappen

It’s been a sensational few races for Max, who has picked up wins in Malaysia and Mexico, a second place in Japan, and so nearly third in America. A new contract will keep him at Red Bull through the 2020 season and the future is brighter than ever for the young Dutchman. (Toby Durant)

2. Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton tops my list after a series of great drives to close the championship out with races to spare. It’s easy to forget that Lewis wasn’t leading the championship until the Italian round, and since then he has put in stunning performances at all the races. His only mistake would be his reluctance to risk overtaking in the early stages of his Mexico fightback, but he quickly got over that and wrapped up his championship in the points. A worthy champion. (Sam Dulledge)

3. Sebastian Vettel

You can’t really blame Sebastian Vettel for the issues he suffered in Malaysia and Japan, issues that brought his championship challenge to an unfortunate, and premature end. And although he may have been somewhat to blame for the first corner issues in Singapore, and perhaps Mexico, the German has still been one of the best drivers to watch, exemplified by his excellent pole last weekend and his barnstorming drives through the field in Malaysia and Mexico. (Nick Brown)

4. Daniel Ricciardo

Ricciardo’s form has fallen off a little of late, and grid penalities put him to the back in Mexico, but the smiling Aussie has been an overtaking machine at every race and continues to take the fight to the Silver Arrows ahead of him. (Toby Durant)

5. Esteban Ocon

Ocon continued his highly impressive debut season with a career-equalling best result of fifth in Mexico. The young Frenchman has now beaten Max Chilton’s record for completing his first 25 races, and now stands to extend this run, bringing new levels of Oconsistency to Formula 1, and setting an excellent example for rookies of the future. All the more impressive this season is that he has only finished outside the points once. Definitely a star of the future! (Nick Brown)

6. Fernando Alonso

Alonso’s form of late has shown us why we need him back at the front. His little duel with Lewis in the closing stages of the Mexican GP showcased both his tenacity and supreme defensive driving ability. Let’s hope the Mclaren-Renault is fast enough! (Matt Ashman

7. Carlos Sainz

Eyebrows were raised somewhat when Carlos Sainz made his switch to Renault from the USA onwards. It was understandable that both team and driver might have wanted to get together early to get a head start on their relationship for 2018, but there was a feeling that Sainz would do his reputation a disservice by dropping in next to Nico Hulkenberg over the remainder of the season

In fact, the opposite has happened, with Sainz slotting into the Renault setup like he had been part of it all his life, and putting in two strong performances to show why Renault wanted him in the first place. (Nick Brown)

8. Valtteri Bottas

Bottas has had an awful autumn so far. In Mexico however he was quite convincing, coming very close to beating Hamilton qualifying, which of course wasn’t highlighted as the Silver Arrows didn’t make it into front row. In the race he had a solid drive, bringing points to the team when Lewis wasn’t there. (Mikael Kataja)

9. Kimi Raikkonen

Raikkonen’s season took a slight dip in the second half of the year, but of late he has shown immense consistency and drive to keep Ferrari afloat despite horrific reliability issues. 

With consecutive podium finishes and steady race pace, all eyes will be on him as the Italian team may just let him go all out instead of play second fiddle to Vettel for the final two races. (Ansh Sanyal)

10. Nico Hulkenberg

Hulkenberg has had some rotten luck recently, retiring from four of the five last races he has started. He had been running well in many of these though, including a strong fifth place in Mexico before his ERS failed, so it’s not like he isn’t driving well. 

However, with a new teammate in Carlos Sainz, Hulkenberg will be hoping for some clean races before the end of the year so that he can show what he’s capable of and retain his number one status within the team. (Nick Brown)

11. Sergio Perez

Sergio Perez has had a very strong season so far, but recently has been regularly outperformed by his rookie teammate Esteban Ocon, and now faces a stiff challenge to stay ahead of him in the standings if things continue as they are.

Whether Perez feels constrained by Force India’s new rules of engagement and this is frustrating him, or he is simply feeling the increased pressure from Ocon, Mexico’s sole representative on the grid will be hoping to recapture some of the form that saw him in the frame for a Ferrari drive not so long ago. (Nick Brown)

12. Lance Stroll

Since F1 left Europe, Lance Stroll has been showing why Williams put their faith in him earlier in the year, and the rookie Canadian now finds himself ahead of his veteran teammate for the first time this year. His strong sixth in Mexico, as well solid points finishes in Singapore and Malaysia, have now established Stroll as a driver that we would certainly like to see more from in 2018. (Nick Brown)

13. Stoffel Vandoorne

It’s been a difficult year for Vandoorne and McLaren, and now finally they seem to be reaping some kind of reward from Honda’s engine development. Two seventh place finishes in Italy and Singapore have elevated the young Belgian above his vastly more experienced teammate Fernando Alonso, and it will be fascinating to see whether he can hold this advantage until the end of the year. (Nick Brown)

14. Felipe Massa

Having stated his desire to remain in F1 at the same time as Williams announced they would be evaluating Robert Kubica and Paul di Resta, Felipe Massa has continued to deliver solid points finishes for the team, and battling performances against some of the best drivers on the grid in Mexico will have done his chances of a 2018 drive no harm whatsoever. 

Unfortunately though, as mentioned above, he has fallen behind his rookie teammate in the standings over the past few races, and this certainly wouldn’t have been part of the plan. (Nick Brown)

15. Romain Grosjean

The last few races haven’t been kind to Romain, and have seen a return of ‘Romoan’. Arriving in Austin with a Nicky Hayden tribute helmet, complete with Grosjean-specific “I’m not moaning” speech bubbles, he was then told to “Shut up” after moaning about his car late in the race.

When everything is going well for Grosjean he shows his ability in delivering good points finishes for the team, but it seems that when something goes wrong, he just can’t resist complaining. This is something he is going to have to get a handle on and just get his head down. We see that the best drivers are often able to drive around issues with their car, so it’s time for Romain to show that he can do this too and not just complain. (Nick Brown)

16. Kevin Magnussen

Personally I think Magnussen should have ended up higher on this list. Two strong eighth places in Japan and Mexico have put the Dane back on the radar, and have brought him to within striking distance of his teammate in the standings with two races to go. If Kevin can show the kind of pace and tenacity he showed in Mexico, then  there’s no reason he can’t finish the year has Hass’s number one. (Nick Brown)

17. Pascal Wehrlein

As Sauber have gone backwards, so have their drivers. Now regularly being in the slowest car on the grid now that McLaren have managed to pull into the midfield, there hasn’t been much opportunity for Wehrlein to show his talents to the degree he could earlier in the year when he managed an eighth and tenth place finish.

Recent rumblings in the paddock suggest that Wehrlein will be dropped in favour of Charles Leclerc at the end of the year, so Pascal will be hoping for any opportunity to snatch a good result while he can. Otherwise he may find himself on the sidelines for 2018. (Nick Brown)

18. Pierre Gasly

Obviously a recent arrival on the grid, Gasly has acquitted himself well since his arrival, putting in solid performances in Malaysia and Japan, albeit somewhat off the pace of his then-teammate Carlos Sainz, although to be fair this was more than expected.

With a 2018 drive confirmed for the young Frenchman, expect him to be a bit more relaxed as we close out the season. (Nick Brown)

19. Brendon Hartley

Given a shock second chance at F1, and then an even more shock 2018 drive, Brendon Hartley will finally realise his dream of being an F1 driver seven years after he thought this dream was over.

His debut drives were less than spectacular from the outside, but since he hadn’t driven an open wheel car for the better part of a decade, he still did very well. In a similar vein to Gasly, expect him to be more relaxed in the last few races of the year now that a 2018 drive has been confirmed. (Nick Brown)

20. Marcus Ericsson

Poor Ericsson just can’t catch a break, and now that Jolyon Palmer has gone the Swede now occupies the dreaded bottom spot on our rankings. Regardless of this though, Sauber clearly see something they like (possibly sponsor money) in Ericsson, as he is rumoured to be keeping his seat to partner Charles Leclerc for 2018. (Nick Brown)

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Nick Brown

Audio tech by day, caffeine fuelled RS F1 writer by night/horrifically early flyaway race weekends.

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