F1 2017 Drivers Half-Term Report

With the British Grand Prix marking the half way point of the 2017 Season, Craig Woollard looks at the drivers of the field, and their performances so far this year.

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Grid during the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 11, 2017 in Montreal, Canada.

Ten races down and ten to go in a thrilling Formula 1 season. The F1 2017 driver tussle has been at times spectacular, controversial, exciting as well as fierce regardless of where you are looking in the field. Sebastian Vettel leads the way in the championship right now by a single point over Lewis Hamilton, but is he the outright stand-out performer? What of drivers in new teams? What of the three rookies?

F1 2017 Drivers Half-Term Report

Mercedes
Best grid: 1st (Hamilton x6, Bottas x2)
Best race: 1st (Hamilton x4, Bottas x2)

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton – 2nd – 9/10

Three-time champion Hamilton has had a mixed season so far. When at his absolute best, which has been on a number of occasions this season, he is absolutely unbeatable. Each of his three victories this season displayed the absolute best of his ability. His qualifying this season has generally been superb in what is probably the fastest car over one lap. However, there has been more than one weekend where he has simply not been good enough. On two of those occasions, he was fortunate not to lose more points in the championship battle. A bit of bad luck did not help matters in the second quarter of his season. His rivals are enjoying better form right now. Hamilton cannot afford too many ‘off-days’ if he is to secure a fourth world title.

Valtteri Bottas – 3rd – 8.5/10

Bottas had a fairly slow start to this season. Perhaps that is understandable given that he was shoehorned into Nico Rosberg’s vacant seat after the world champion decided that he was finished. A silly spin at the Chinese Grand Prix and a myriad of issues at the Bahrain Grand Prix (where he clinched his first pole) brought suggestions that he will have to adopt a ‘number two’ role in the team. He immediately shut those critics up at the next round with a brilliant first victory where he held off both Ferraris. He performed beyond the car’s capabilities in Monaco and delivered a monstrous recovery drive in Azerbaijan, before putting in a performance in Austria nearly identical to his first win to take his second. He followed that up with a superb recovery drive to second following a gearbox penalty at Silverstone.

Ferrari
Best grid: 1st (Vettel x1, Raikkonen x1)
Best race: 1st (Vettel x3)

Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel – 1st – 9/10

After a tricky 2016, Vettel has been back to the sort of fearsome form he clinched championships with in his Red Bull Racing days. There is one obvious black mark against the four-time world champion and that is for his actions at the conclusion of the second safety car period at Baku. He was lucky to not be black flagged for his misdemeanour and lucky to have been racing in Austria (where he finished second). Otherwise, there has been very little wrong with Vettel’s season to date. His consistency (finishing the first nine races in at least fourth) helped him open up a healthy lead at the top of the championship, which was all but wiped following a late puncture at Silverstone.

Kimi Raikkonen – 5th – 8/10

Raikkonen has appeared on paper to be quite some way behind his team-mate still. But a few reliability hiccups, some questionable strategy choices and some blameless incidents has not helped his season so far. The 2007 champion has demonstrated some of his speed at times though, with his pole position in Monaco and a strong weekend in Britain being evident that he can still deliver. However, his situation in the championship means that it is almost certainly inevitable that he will become a clear wingman for Vettel this year.

Red Bull-TAG Heuer
Best grid: 4th (Ricciardo x2, Verstappen x2)
Best race: 1st (Ricciardo x1)

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo – 4th – 8/10

Ricciardo has had a bit of a strange season. Compared to a stunning 2016 campaign, it really hasn’t been particularly stellar despite his record saying otherwise. Red Bull has spent so much of the season in no man’s land that sometimes the only person he has had to race has been his team-mate when his car has worked. He benefitted from a collision and reliability problems in Spain, made a strategy work well in Monaco, resisted squabbling Force Indias in Canada, won despite a qualifying crash and debris in his brakes in Azerbaijan and delivered a brilliant third in Austria and followed that with a superb recovery to fifth from the back in Britain. On paper, he’s had the upper hand in an exciting intra-team duel, but the fact is the other side of the garage has simply been quicker. But Ricciardo is delivering the points by keeping it out of trouble as well.

Max Verstappen – 6th – 9/10

Verstappen’s reliability this season has almost been as much of a joke as Honda’s performances. He has had just one podium so far this year – third from 16th on the grid in China and that does not reflect the level he is at right now. There has been a couple of incidents on the first lap, and Verstappen cannot be considered blameless in each instance. It took him a very long time to have a weekend where everything actually worked for him, but when that happened at the British Grand Prix he finished a fine fourth. He has admitted that his consistent luckless form has resulted in a confidence knock, but this clearly not translated to the racetrack.

Force India-Mercedes
Best grid: 6th (Perez x2)
Best race: 4th (Perez x1)

Force India

Sergio Perez – 7th – 9/10

Perez has delivered the absolute maximum capable of the Force India more often than not in 2017 and has done so consistently. The only real thing he has done wrong really has been refusing to accept team orders in Canada, and even then that is up for debate. His only retirement this season was due to being hit by his team-mate at Baku. Otherwise, he has largely kept it clean and has drilled home points-paying positions at almost every time of asking. These performances would certainly justify a second attempt at a top team, and multiple factory team seats are yet to be confirmed for the 2018 season.

Esteban Ocon – 8th – 8/10

Ocon is without a doubt the rookie of the year so far. Now with effectively a full season underneath his belt, Ocon has delivered some mightily impressive drives so far despite his inexperience. He has not been too far away from his team-mate, and has gradually closed the gap up over time and has sometimes challenged or finished ahead of him. Being so close to an in-form Perez will do the young Frenchman’s stock no harm whatsoever. He has already proven that he is destined for some incredible things in the future.

Williams-Mercedes
Best grid: 6th (Massa x2)
Best race: 3rd (Stroll x1)

Williams

Lance Stroll – 12th – 5.5/10

Stroll’s season took a very long time to get going but he has done a very solid job since then. Poor qualifying results at the start of the year really compromised his races, and sometimes resulted in collisions he was not to be blamed for. A couple of failures resulted in a six-race streak of no points. It took until a race of attrition mixed with some controlled aggression for the youngest driver in the field to get onto the scoreboard, and this did wonders for his confidence which led to a very solid weekend in Azerbaijan. He kept his head unlike a lot of very experienced names to take a fine podium. He was able to match Massa in Austria, but had a tricky weekend at Silverstone.

Felipe Massa – 11th – 7.5/10

For a ‘retired’ bloke, Massa is not doing a bad job this season. He has rectified some of his qualifying problems from 2016, and has consistently picked up points as and when they have been on offer. His run to ninth despite a puncture in Russia was very strong, as was his runs to sixth in Australia and Bahrain. The popular Brazilian could have been on for at least a podium at Baku, before a rear damper failure ended his hopes. These performances could well secure his future for another season.

Toro Rosso-Renault
Best grid: 6th (Sainz x1)
Best race: 6th (Sainz x1)

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat – 16th – 6.5/10

The first half of 2017 was scruffy from ex-Red Bull driver Kvyat. His pace issues which hampered him following his demotion in early 2016 appear to have disappeared, especially in qualifying, and he has performed much better than last year. The points table does not tell the entire story, with his team-mate on more than seven times the tally of the Russian. However the term ‘Torpedo’ has started to be thrown around again, following a couple of silly first lap incidents as the season has progressed. The result of this is Kvyat being just three penalty points away from a race ban. It appears that he wants to remain at Toro Rosso, but perhaps a move away from Red Bull would do him more good.

Carlos Sainz – 9th – 7.5/10

We have seen the best and the worst of Sainz at times this season, who is visibly becoming frustrated with his stagnant situation within the Red Bull hierarchy. Superb drives to seventh in China and Spain as well as his seasons best sixth at Monte-Carlo has been paralleled with clumsily taking Stroll out in Bahrain and causing a multi-car collision in Canada. Rumours consistently fly about his future and where that future might lie. Perhaps once his future is secure, then the mistakes will begin to iron out and he can start delivering consistently as he did in 2016.

Haas-Ferrari
Best grid: 6th (Grosjean x2)
Best race: 6th (Grosjean x1)

Haas

Romain Grosjean – 13th – 6/10

Grosjean has been incredibly hot and cold in 2017. When the car works for him, he has been absolutely superb. When he has brake problems (which seems to be more often than not), then he really struggles. Nonetheless, Grosjean has taken Haas’s best grid and race results in 2017, and had seriously strong weekends in Australia, Britain and Austria. However, his team-mate is proving to be more than a match for him this year. Grosjean can do better, and needs to if he is to be considered for a Ferrari seat.

Kevin Magnussen – 14th – 7/10

2017 has perhaps been Magnussen’s strongest season in F1 to date. He hopped into Esteban Gutierrez’s seat and like the Mexican has been able to drive around problems at times. Unlike Gutierrez, he has been able to place the car into the points on a number of occasions. He has had some shocking luck at times, be it traffic at Monte-Carlo or a myriad of issues at Austria when the pace was looking very strong. It appeared an unpopular move at the time, but this switch has worked out very well for both Haas and Magnussen.

Renault
Best grid: 5th (Hulkenberg x1)
Best race: 6th (Hulkenberg x2)

Renault

Nico Hulkenberg – 10th – 7.5/10

Switching to Renault is a long-term deal for Hulkenberg, but the performance improvement from Renault has been clear to see pretty much instantly also. A very strong weekend at the British Grand Prix rocketed Hulkenberg into the top ten in the championship, while his team-mate is yet to score a point. His performances have not been perfect though, crashing out from a potential podium at Baku being perhaps the strangest of his moves in 2017.

Jolyon Palmer – 18th – 4/10

It has taken far too long for Palmer’s season to really get going. He has often been absolutely walloped by his team-mate in qualifying, and he has rarely been able to threaten the points places in the race due to this. A trio of 11th places is all he can boast from the races this season. He only really had one strong session this year, and that was in the race in Austria. However, his luck at times has also been atrocious, and he has not always had the same equipment as the other side of the garage. Trying to rate Palmer’s performances when it counts in Azerbaijan for example is impossible, because the car let him down.

Sauber-Ferrari
Best grid: 13th (Wehrlein x1)
Best race: 8th (Wehrlein x1)

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson – 19th – 5.5/10

Ericsson has not made much of an impression in 2017. He has rarely fought for the points, and when he has he has still been behind his team-mate. The internal situation within Sauber will not help the atmosphere in the team, and rumours would suggest that Ericsson is in the middle of it. Fighting for points is tough in a Sauber in 2017, but Ericsson has not been there to pounce when it has mattered.

Antonio Giovinazzi – 21st – N/A

Giovinazzi did a very good job in his first grand prix by almost humiliating Ericsson in qualifying. The Chinese Grand Prix was less fruitful as he crashed at the same corner twice in 24 hours.

Pascal Wehrlein – 15th – 6.5/10

It was important that Wehrlein had the upper hand over his team-mate in 2017 and an injury sustained in the Race of Champions did not help his preparation for the new season. He sat out the first two races but silenced his critics immediately with a very strong performance in Bahrain. He then followed this up with a stunning eighth place finish in Spain and kept it out of trouble to finish in the points again at Baku (with the help of team orders). He was also the only driver to record an on-track overtake at Sochi.

McLaren-Honda
Best grid: 7th (Alonso x1)
Best race: 9th (Alonso x1)

McLaren

Stoffel Vandoorne – 20th – 5/10

Vandoorne’s first full F1 season has been tough. A very unreliable car and struggling to adapt to F1’s 2017 cars has resulted in him being completely blown away by his illustrious team-mate. There has been flashes of Vandoorne’s obvious talent however with Monaco (despite two crashes), Azerbaijan and Silverstone (where he started a strong eighth) being clear stand-out performances.

Fernando Alonso – 17th – 9/10

Alonso has simply placed another McLaren-Honda which is simply not good enough into positions it should not consider being in. His qualifying, which has not always been his strongest asset, has been unbelievable this season. He has tried to race, but the limitations of the Honda power unit has also been clear to see. His performance at the Indianapolis 500 is not reflected here, but that showed that with the equipment he can still be at the very front. Pace does seem to be coming from Honda, so perhaps Alonso will be able to add to his tally of two points before the season is out.

Jenson Button – 22nd – N/A

Button made a cameo appearance in Monaco while Alonso was busy making a name over at Indianapolis. He qualified well, but had engine penalties to take into consideration. He started at the back and was running there before attempting to flip Wehrlein into the harbour.

Ranking:

  1. Vettel
  2. Hamilton
  3. Perez
  4. Alonso
  5. Verstappen
  6. Bottas
  7. Ricciardo
  8. Raikkonen
  9. Ocon
  10. Hulkenberg
  11. Massa
  12. Sainz
  13. Magnussen
  14. Wehrlein
  15. Kvyat
  16. Grosjean
  17. Stroll
  18. Ericsson
  19. Vandoorne
  20. Palmer
  21. Button
  22. Giovinazzi

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