F1 driver ratings: Sainz, Norris impress, where is Hamilton?

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F1 driver ratings: Sainz, Norris impress, where is Hamilton?

After the opening five rounds of the 2024 Formula 1, Sky Sports F1 rate the drivers’ performances to this point.

Max Verstappen and Red Bull have picked up where they left off with a dominant start to the season, but in a year when more than half of the drivers have expiring contracts, competition is fierce up and down the grid.

Carlos Sainz’s impressive start to the season has made the Spaniard’s future one of the most talked about topics in the paddock, with his Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc under pressure to respond.

With Mercedes struggling once more, Lewis Hamilton has endured his worst ever start to an F1 season and is facing a struggle to salvage any success from his final campaign with the Silver Arrows.

Having analysed performances in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Japan and China, this is how the Sky Sports Digital team rate the drivers:

1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull – 9.5/10

It has been a near-faultless start to the Dutchman’s quest for a fourth successive drivers’ title. He has claimed all five pole positions and the only race he failed to win was when he retired from the Australian Grand Prix with a brake failure.

Even with rumours swirling over his Red Bull future, Verstappen looks set to continue his historically dominant streak. His only error so far came in Chinese Grand Prix Sprint Qualifying as he was caught out in the wet.

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Sky F1’s Damon Hill and Karun Chandhok discuss the long-term future of Max Verstappen and the possibility of him joining Ferrari at some point in his career

2. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari – 9/10

The Spaniard has offered the best possible response to Ferrari’s decision to replace him with Lewis Hamilton for the 2025 season. He began the season with a podium in Bahrain before appendicitis – and resulting surgery – ruled him out in Saudi Arabia.

Despite not being fully fit, he took advantage of Verstappen’s retirement to lead a Ferrari one-two in Australia. He would finish on the podium – and ahead of his team-mate – once more in Japan to establish himself as the clear top free agent for 2025.

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Carlos Sainz and Frederic Vasseur celebrate Ferrari’s huge victory in Australia!

3. Lando Norris, McLaren – 8/10

After a slightly underwhelming first two races, Norris seems to have rediscovered his form from the second half of last season by taking two podiums in the last three races, including a second to Verstappen in China.

While he continues to search for an elusive victory, with a chance from pole in the Shanghai Sprint slipping away with a first-corner error, the Brit has laid down an early marker in his battle for supremacy with McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri.

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Lando Norris felt McLaren exceeded their expectations after claiming second place in China and feels that his first race win will come this season

4. Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin – 8/10

Fresh off signing a contract that will keep him in F1 until the end of 2026, by which point he will be 45, Alonso is showing no signs of slowing down. The Spaniard appears to have dragged every bit of performance out of his Aston Martin so far this season, often defying a race-pace deficit to the other front-runners to score consistent points on Sundays.

While he has driven excellently, Alonso received penalty points on his licence for controversial infringements in Australia and China.

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Fernando Alonso saves himself from going into the wall with a quick reaction and shortly after overtakes both Lewis Hamilton and Oscar Piastri

5. George Russell, Mercedes – 7.5/10

While his results in another underperforming Mercedes haven’t been hugely eye-catching, Russell is comprehensively outperforming Lewis Hamilton, which is an achievement in itself.

The 26-year-old appears to have rediscovered the solid form of his first season with the Silver Arrows and would have finished in the top seven at all five races if it weren’t for being caught out by Alonso’s antics late in the Australian Grand Prix.

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A panicked George Russell calls for a red flag over Mercedes team radio following his crash on the penultimate lap of the Australian Grand Prix. Video contains content that some viewers may find distressing

6. Nico Hulkenberg, Haas – 7.5/10

The experienced German has caught the eye in the opening weeks of the season with three points finishes and a couple of forays into Q3. It is a major challenge to score points for the drivers outside of the clear top five teams, so the fact he has done it three times is highly impressive.

Hulkenberg’s performances are not going unnoticed, and he has been heavily linked with a move to drive for Audi’s new F1 works team, which will take over Sauber from 2026.

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Ted Kravitz finds Nico Hulkenberg during his notebook and names the Haas driver his star of qualifying

7. Yuki Tsunoda, RB – 7.5/10

There was a concerning start to the season for the 23-year-old as he reacted petulantly to being ordered to let team-mate Daniel Ricciardo through in the latter stages of the opening race, but he delivered the perfect response.

A statement seventh-place finish in Australia was followed by a further point at his home race in Japan, reminding the Red Bull hierarchy of his talent. China was his weakest weekend of the season, but there was a little he could do about his retirement as he was clipped by the Haas of Kevin Magnussen.

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Home favourite Yuki Tsunoda joins Ted Kravitz for breakfast to discuss his younger karting days, his rivalry with team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and what the future looks like for him at RB

8. Sergio Perez, Red Bull – 7/10

Perez’s performances are difficult to assess due to the other-worldly displays of his team-mate Verstappen, but the Mexican has made a solid start to the season as he attempts to convince Christian Horner he is worthy of a contract extension.

Perez has four podiums in five races and has improved on perhaps his biggest weakness, qualifying, to seal Red Bull front-row lockouts at the last two races. His failure to overcome unhelpful Safety Car interruptions to reclaim second in China would have been a slight disappointment.

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says there is no need to change the line-up if Sergio Perez continues to perform well

9. Esteban Ocon, Alpine – 7/10

The only driver to make the top 10 without scoring a world championship point, Ocon’s ranking is based largely on the fact he is outperforming a well-respected team-mate.

Amid Alpine’s shocking start to the season, Ocon has qualified ahead of fellow Frenchman Pierre Gasly at all five races, and produced his best race so far as he finished just one place – and a couple of seconds – outside of the points in China.

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Esteban Ocon attempts to console the Alpine team after he and his team-mate Pierre Gasly finished last in qualifying at the Bahrain GP

10. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari – 6.5/10

While he was the driver chosen to remain alongside Hamilton at Ferrari for 2025, Leclerc has so far failed to justify that decision.

He showed the one-lap pace he is renowned for by joining Verstappen on the front row at the first two races, but has had some issues since delivering in the crunch time of Q3. While the margins have been extremely tight, Leclerc finished ahead of Sainz in a race for the first time this season by claiming fourth in China, and will hope to build on that over the coming weeks at tracks he has excelled at in the past.

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A couple of plastic bags caused mayhem for Charles Leclerc during P1 in Saudi Arabia

11. Valtteri Bottas, Sauber – 6/10

Bottas may not have any points on the board this year but Sauber’s nightmare slow pit stops have been very costly. For example, at the Japanese Grand Prix, Bottas was right with Yuki Tsunoda but lost out in the pit battle.

Tsunoda went on to finish 10th. A points-scoring result was possible in Shanghai too after Bottas reached Q3, but this time a race-ending engine failure denied the Finn.

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There’s drama in the pit lane as five cars came in at the same time and nearly collide on release

12. Oscar Piastri, McLaren – 6/10

Piastri was expected to continue his upward trend from an impressive rookie season but, if anything, has taken a small step back against the flying Norris at McLaren.

The 23-year-old was excellent in Saudi Arabia and solid at his home race in Australia, but has struggled with race pace elsewhere. This was most evident at the Chinese Grand Prix, when his tyre management was poor, particularly in comparison to Norris.

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Catch McLaren driver Oscar Piastri take on the lie detector test this weekend at the Australian Grand Prix

13. Alex Albon, Williams – 6/10

Williams haven’t so far provided Albon with a car quick enough to repeat the impressive performances he produced last year, but the Thai driver remains a clear step ahead of team-mate Logan Sargeant.

He was guilty of a major error in Australia when his huge crash in practice exposed Williams’ lack of a spare chassis, leaving the team with one car for the remainder of the weekend. Albon was controversially given the American’s chassis, making it clear where team boss James Vowles’ faith lies.

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Alex Albon covers the track in debris to bring out the red flag in Practice One at the Australian GP

14. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes – 5.5/10

Hamilton is experiencing his worst ever start to any of his 18 seasons in F1. Russell has completely outperformed him and as much as the seven-time world champion might be experimenting with his car setup at times, he will be disappointed.

His second place in the Sprint in China showed he can still perform at a very high level, but has Hamilton lost an edge or that fire in his belly, knowing he is going to Ferrari next year? The Mercedes car is tricky to drive and definitely on a knife edge, but you would expect more from, statistically, F1’s greatest ever driver.

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Sky F1’s Karun Chandhok and Damon Hill discuss the problems at Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton’s decision to join Ferrari next season

15. Kevin Magnussen, Haas – 5/10

Magnussen, one of the many drivers on the grid with an expiring contract, is so far failing to prove he deserves to stay in F1. The high points have been the Dane producing some brilliant defensive driving in Saudi Arabia to help earn his team-mate a point, and also following Hulkenberg home for a point of his own Australia.

However, there has been a gulf between the pair on qualifying on a couple of occasions, and Magnussen’s frustration perhaps showed in Shanghai as he got himself a penalty for taking out Tsunoda.

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Lance Stroll and Kevin Magnussen fight in intense battle to secure P16 at the Chinese Grand Prix

16. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin – 4.5/10

Stroll has been a long way off Alonso in all areas and two careless errors during the race in Saudi Arabia, then more recently in China, have been costly.

Alonso is one of the top drivers on the grid but Aston Martin are 12 points behind Mercedes, when they could be ahead in the constructors’ standings. The fact Alonso has committed his future to the team until 2026 means the situation is unlikely to get any easier for the Canadian.

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Lance Stroll has a huge crash in the early stages of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, bringing out the Safety Car

17. Daniel Ricciardo, RB – 4.5/10

Pressure on Ricciardo was gradually growing over the opening weeks of the season as he was repeatedly outperformed by Tsunoda, with his quest to seal a 2025 Red Bull seat quickly turning into a survival mission amid speculation Liam Lawson could replace him sooner rather than later.

However, a stronger performance in China – before he was unfortunately forced to retire – will provide a big boost, and the next few races will reveal whether he has swung the momentum back in his favour.

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Watch the restart chaos as both RB drivers Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo are forced to retire at the Chinese Grand Prix

18. Pierre Gasly, Alpine – 4.5/10

Alpine have a slow car but Gasly is not getting the most out of it in either qualifying or races. Ocon is coping with the car’s deficiencies better than Gasly, whose frustration has begun to show over team radio.

There may be some regret over his decision to join Alpine, and hope of an escape at the end of the season.

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Alpine team-mates Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly collided with each other during the Japanese Grand Prix

19. Zhou Guanyu, Sauber – 4/10

Zhou may have got a memorable ovation after the Chinese Grand Prix in front of his home crowd, but his performances have been disappointing in a year where he is out of contract.

Sauber’s slow pit stops have hurt him as well as Bottas, but he’s clearly had a lack of pace compared to his team-mate and is failing to show the sort of improvement that might be required to keep him on the grid.

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Former NBA player Yao Ming praises the impact Zhou Guanyu’s career in F1 has had in China, similar to his with basketball

20. Logan Sargeant, Williams – 4/10

Sargeant desperately needed to close the gap on Albon but it is yet to happen, or at least not enough.

The 23-year-old’s confidence must have taken a big hit when the team chose to give his chassis to Albon in Australia, but with that in the past, he must begin to show greater consistency starting at his home race in Miami.

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Williams Racing driver Logan Sargeant takes a massive hit into the wall and brings out the red flag during P1 at the Japanese Grand Prix

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