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F1 2020: Half-term driver rankings, part two

F1 2020: Half-term driver rankings, part two

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F1 2020: Half-term driver rankings, part two

F1 2020: Half-term driver rankings, part two

The halfway point of a very different Formula 1 season is now upon us, with Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes appearing to have one hand on retaining their titles.

But who have been the stars? GPFans has taken a look at the performance of all the drivers, and in old-school fashion, we have awarded them a grade.

Following on from part one when we brought you the teams currently positioned 10th to sixth in the constructors' championship, we now bring you those sitting from fifth to first.

Renault

Daniel Ricciardo - B

Ricciardo has enjoyed a much improved season at Renault. He has regularly outperformed Esteban Ocon, currently lying 23 points ahead of his team-mate.

Ricciardo enjoyed a superb period of form during the most recent triple-header. At the Belgian Grand Prix, he found additional pace with a low downforce set-up, setting the fastest lap of the race as he tried to overhaul a 17-second gap to Max Verstappen.

At higher-downforce Mugello, it was the other Red Bull of Alex Albon that denied Ricciardo the bottom step of the podium. It is clear to see, however, the Australian still has a penchant for a divebomb move down the inside. Do not be surprised if team boss Cyril Abiteboul winds up with a tattoo before the season's end.

Esteban Ocon - D

Ocon has endured a difficult start to life back in F1. The Frenchman, who looked like a potential future title challenger during his first stint in the sport has struggled to get to grips with the Renault RS20.

Ocon enjoyed his best finish of the season of fifth at Spa-Francorchamps, but was still 22 seconds down on Ricciardo at the chequered flag.

It has not been a disastrous season by any stretch of the imagination, however, so Ocon will be hoping to be on par with his team-mate by the time we reach Abu Dhabi.

Racing Point

Sergio Perez - C+

It hasn't been a vintage season for Perez in what will be his last as a Racing Point driver.

Two races at Silverstone missed due to a positive Covid-19 test skew the standings comparison with team-mate Lance Stroll. However, in the seven races the pair have both raced, Perez has only beaten Stroll three times - twice when Stroll has suffered a DNF.

With the car provided to the Mexican this season, he will no doubt be disappointed he has been unable to finish higher than fifth. It is hard to tell how much the uncertainty over his future, and with the talk of Sebastian Vettel joining, clouded his performances.

Lance Stroll - B-

Stroll seldom gets the credit he deserves. His aforementioned results compared to Perez prove he has the talent, while he was on course for another top-five finish at Mugello before a suspected puncture.

He has twice been best of the rest behind the Mercedes' and Max Verstappen, whilst a third-place finish at Monza added to his only other podium from Baku a few years ago.

The only reason his grade is not higher is his failure to convert his second-place restart berth into a win at Monza, losing out off the line and seeing Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz flying through.

McLaren

Carlos Sainz - B-

If it was not for bad luck, Sainz would have no luck at all. Two DNFs and two no-scores mean his championship position - 11th - does not bear any resemblance to the job the soon-to-be Ferrari driver has done this season.

Pit-stop issues, tyre delaminations, first-lap incidents in the mid-pack - all have blighted Sainz's copybook. The truth of the matter is that the Spaniard has driven the bolts off the McLaren and the second-place at Monza was fully deserved on merit - he was second even before the chaos started.

If Sainz can continue the form he has shown this season and remain trouble-free, another podium is in the offing.

Lando Norris - B+

It is clear Norris is not just a joker. The Briton has shown exactly why McLaren promoted him so early in his career. His qualifying at the season-opener in Austria was sublime and the way he fought during the final few laps to earn his maiden podium was even more spectacular.

But perhaps the most impressive aspect of Norris' second season is his consistency. Only once has he failed to reach Q3. Only once has he failed to score points.

To be ahead of a Red Bull in the standings is stellar and even if he does not hold on to fourth, the fact he is in that position after nine races is testament to his ability. Star of the future? Norris is already a star.

Red Bull

Max Verstappen - A-

It is fair to say that without Verstappen, the first seven out of nine races may have been quite boring as a spectacle. The Dutchman, though, has kept the Mercedes honest out in front.

In fact, Verstappen has bettered at least one of the Mercedes on three occasions, with his victory at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix briefly putting him into title contention. However, two non-finishes during the Italian swing has pitched him out of the running for another year.

The best compliment for Verstappen is he constantly runs alone. Team-mate Albon cannot get anywhere near him during race weekends. Verstappen really is one with the car.

Alex Albon - B-

It has been an up-and-down season for Albon in his first full campaign with the team. If you look at qualifying you would say it has been a nightmare but on the flip side, his performances on Sunday have arguably been good enough for him to be in the top three.

Albon has struggled to get to grips with an admittedly twitchy Red Bull and the gulf between him and Verstappen would be worrying. Thankfully, he managed to qualify fourth at Mugello to give himself a chance of a first podium on Sunday - one he took with some sublime moves late on.

Chances are he would have won at the season-opener had it not been for a tangle with Lewis Hamilton, with further strong race days allowing Albon to be hot on the heels of Norris' fourth in the standings. A strong second-half is needed to cement a 2021 place at Red Bull.

Mercedes

Valtteri Bottas - B+

When Valtteri Bottas took victory at the Austrian Grand Prix, you would have been forgiven for thinking we would have a titanic battle for the championship. In truth, Bottas has been sunk by the iceberg that is his team-mate.

Too often, Bottas has finished over five seconds adrift in identical machinery. To be fair to the Finn, he was in control of the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix before his team hit tyre wear issues, was second a week previous before a tyre went pop, whilst he suffered from cooling issues after a poor start at Monza.

In truth, those starts have cost him too much this season but a redeeming factor for him is his qualifying performances. On four occasions, Bottas has been one-tenth or less within Hamilton's pole times - not bad when Hamilton is one of the greatest qualifiers in F1 history.

Lewis Hamilton - A+

His team-mate described him as "flawless" at Mugello. Hamilton seems to have found yet another gear this season. After just nine races, it already looks like championship number seven is coming his way.

His qualifying form is, as usual, phenomenal but his race pace has also been out of this world. Six wins out of nine, three fastest laps and a second-place all mean he holds a 55-point lead at the top of the standings.

It could have been more had it not been for the closed-pit fiasco in Monza, or his penalty for turning Albon around at Austria. His tenacity to drag his stricken W11 across the line at Silverstone will live long in the memory. Who, or what can possibly stop him equalling Michael Schumacher's record of seven titles?

Before you go...

Ricciardo confident Renault has cracked the code to high-downforce circuits

Hamilton 'humbled' to be asked for advice by young chargers

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