Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
Championship position: 1st. Driver rating: 9
Is this Charles Leclerc’s first title chance? It certainly looks like it, and in the five races so far, the highly-rated and exceedingly fast Monegasque has driven like a champion.
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Key to Leclerc’s early 19-point lead has been consistency; he has finished in the top two in all but one race while he also has three pole positions despite not always having the fastest car. The one blip for Leclerc was his Imola spin that cost him a podium and potentially crucial points and the Ferrari star, always self-critical, knows better than anyone that he must eradicate those mistakes going forward if he is going to seal a dream first crown.
But still a very impressive start with seemingly a title-contending car finally in his grasp. His wheel-to-wheel racing with Max Verstappen has been splendid, while his domination over Carlos Sainz has also been notable given how evenly matched they were last year.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull
Championship position: 2nd. Driver rating: 9.5
Leclerc may be the leader, but nobody has been faster on track than Max Verstappen so far in 2022. The proof of that? The fact Verstappen has won every race he has finished…
Indeed, the only thing slowing Verstappen down has been reliability issues, with his two DNFs in Bahrain and Australia costing him 36 points and a title advantage. Other than that, Verstappen has replicated his title-winning form from last year with fierce racing coupled with wheel-to-wheel nous, and the ease in which he has dispatched Leclerc in recent weeks in a Red Bull car that just keeps getting quicker will be a worry for Ferrari.
The favourite for the championship? Quite possibly.
Sergio Perez, Red Bull
Championship position: 3rd. Driver rating: 8
Being Verstappen’s team-mate is arguably the toughest job in F1, and Perez has enjoyed an improved start to his second season with Red Bull. It seems these more rear-dependent 2022 cars suit the Mexican’s style more and he has been much closer to Verstappen in qualifying than last year – even taking pole in Saudi Arabia. He would have hoped to be closer to the Dutchman in races, given Sundays are usually his strength.
Still, he has two podiums, the best of which coming in Imola when he frustrated Leclerc into his error, and would have finished every race in the top four if not for his own reliability bad luck in Bahrain.
George Russell, Mercedes
Championship position: 4th. Driver rating: 8.5
George Russell has justified Mercedes’ 2022 driver gamble, and then some, with some fantastic drives to start his career in silver. Signed to replace Valtteri Bottas and compete with Lewis Hamilton, Russell has finished ahead of his seven-time champion team-mate in four of the five races. While there are some mitigating factors to that – which we’ll explain in Hamilton’s rating – the fact Russell is even close to Hamilton on track deserves credit.
The only problem for Russell is that his work, which has proven he belongs among F1’s elite, has come in a car that to much surprise is nowhere near the competitive beast it has been over the past eight seasons. Drives which last year would have landed Russell multiple wins are this year giving him fifth. How’s. Your. Luck?
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
Championship position: 5th. Driver rating: 6
Having finally been given the chance to prove himself in a title-contending car, in his ninth F1 season, Carlos Sainz has fallen flat. Not only has the Spaniard been off the pace of Leclerc – as opposed to last year when he shone in his rookie season in red – he has made big mistakes on consecutive weekends, crashing in Australia, Imola and Miami.
Ferrari still have plenty of faith in Sainz – as proven by a new two-year deal – but he has to start delivering the performances we all know he’s got in his locker. A first F1 win at his home race wouldn’t go amiss…
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
Championship position: 6th. Driver rating: 7.5
It’s been a strange, strange season for Lewis Hamilton. Fuelled by the fire of last year’s Abu Dhabi controversy, Hamilton came into 2022 as a man on a mission and if there’s anything we know about F1’s most successful driver, he’s most dangerous when he’s got something to prove. But, and it’s a huge but, Mercedes have had an awful start to the season with their new car, leaving Hamilton and Russell well adrift from the fight at the front.
Perhaps lacking motivation and definitely a huge amount of luck, the performances haven’t been up to Hamilton’s high standards so far this year, albeit with the caveat that he is ahead of Russell in the qualifying head-to-heads and would be ahead on race days too if not for some unfortunately-timed Safety Cars.
Hamilton will hope his luck, and most importantly his car, improves quickly.
Lando Norris, McLaren
Championship position: 7th. Driver rating: 8.5
While McLaren haven’t enjoyed a leap up the standings like Ferrari as hoped, Lando Norris continues to deliver. Still beating experienced team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, still improving on-track, Somerset’s rising star has pretty much got the maximum out of the MCL36 every time he has hopped in the car, only finishing out of the points when his car was uncompetitive in Bahrain and when he was tagged by Pierre Gasly in Miami.
In the other races, Lando has finished seventh, fifth and an impressive third. Not bad, not bad at all.
Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo
Championship position: 8th. Driver rating: 8
A lot of people would have raised their eyebrows at Valtteri Bottas, an established driver, opting for backrunners Alfa Romeo when champions Mercedes decided to move on. But Bottas has so far been in inspired form in a much better than expected Alfa, scoring points in every race he has finished (Saudi being the exception) while also outqualifying the Mercedes on multiple occasions.
Finishing fifth in Imola was a high point, while he could have had that result again in Miami if not for following a Safety Car with a brush against the wall to let Hamilton and Russell past. The Finn has also made light work of new rookie team-mate Zhou Guanyu, as expected.
Esteban Ocon, Alpine
Championship position: 9th. Driver rating: 7.5
Esteban Ocon’s very solid start to 2022 has been under the radar somewhat. Sure, the Frenchman has only made it through to Q3 twice and trails Fernando Alonso in the Alpine qualifying head-to-head, but points are scored on Sundays and that is when Ocon is showing his best work – as evidenced by his superb back-of-the-grid to eighth drive at the Miami GP. Alpine are pleased with what they see, handing Ocon a new contract. And he could be their future.
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Kevin Magnussen reflects on his unexpected return to the Haas team and his sensational fifth-placed finish in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix
Kevin Magnussen, Haas
Championship position: 10th. Driver rating: 9
What a rollercoaster few years it has been for Kevin Magnussen and what a start to the season he is enjoying. Magnussen was only signed by Haas a week(!) before the start of the season, thrust back into F1 action more than a year after he originally left the team.
Not even the most optimistic of K-Mags could have predicted this start – with three points finishes and the domination of team-mate and supposed rising star Mick Schumacher, who is still waiting for his first points, Incredible.
Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
Championship position: 11th. Driver rating: 5.5
Daniel Ricciardo was pinning a lot on 2022 after openly admitting his struggles with the 2021 McLaren car. But so far, not so good for the Australian, who has yet to outqualify Norris in the same car and has only finished in the points once, at his home race. Ricciardo is possibly still playing catch-up after missing the crucial final Bahrain test with Covid, but he still has to pick up the pace. Could his seat even come under pressure?
Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
Championship position: 12th. Driver rating: 7
AlphaTauri haven’t been quite competitive as hoped but Yuki Tsunoda appears to be maturing in his second season and, while aided by his team-mate’s misfortune, he is ahead of Pierre Gasly in the standings right now. Tsunoda has achieved two top-10 finishes, most encouragingly in Imola where he finished seventh after a difficult start to the weekend. With rumours about his seat for next year, this solid start is much needed for Yuki.
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Sky Sports Karun Chandhok discusses the collision between Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris and the battle between the two Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell
Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
Championship position: 13th. Driver rating: 7
Pierre Gasly, on the other hand, just can’t catch a break in 2022. He’s enjoyed a few fabulous and eye-catching few seasons back at Red Bull’s sister outfit but his season has yet to ignite as while he’s 4-1 up on Tsunoda in qualifying, his race days haven’t gone to plan. A Power Unit DNF in Bahrain and damage from Sebastian Vettel and then Norris in Miami haven’t helped, certainly.
Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
Championship position: 14th. Driver rating: 7.5
Considering he missed the first few races due to Covid, Sebastian Vettel has done a sterling job at Aston Martin, beating Lance Stroll in qualifying and in points so far, with the four-time world champion another driver to shine in the tricky Imola conditions. The bigger question over Vettel isn’t his ability, but his motivation. How much longer will the German stay in F1 given Aston Martin’s lack of pace, and his own environmental concerns?
Alex Albon, Williams
Championship position: 15th. Driver rating: 8
Alex Albon was brought in to lead the Williams team in Russell’s absence and he’s done a great job so far, scoring surprising points in Australia – thanks to a remarkably long first stint – and Miami. After a year away from F1, you couldn’t expect much more from Albon, particularly as he is comfortably outperforming Nicholas Latifi… who actually has more F1 experience.
Fernando Alonso, Alpine
Championship position: 16th. Driver rating: 7
Fernando Alonso has long talked up his excitement for F1 2022 but it’s been a bit of a nightmare so far for the Spaniard.
At times he has shown frightening pace – like in Australia when he actually looked in the hunt in pole – but that weekend ended with him in 17th after a qualifying crash, while others have ended in DNFs. His position and points doesn’t reflect his pace at all given he is ahead of Ocon in the qualifying head-to-heads, and Alonso is another driver who just needs a bit of a shift in luck.
Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
Championship position: 17th. Driver rating: 6
It’s been tough going so far for Lance Stroll, with only two points on the board, a qualifying deficit to Vettel despite his missed time – while he also was outqualified by stand-in Nico Hulkenberg in Saudi Arabia. The positives? He’s on a two-race scoring streak, with 10th place finishes in Imola and Miami.
Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo
Championship position: 18th. Driver rating: 6.5
Arriving in F1 as a rookie is an extremely tough task and it’s showing so far for Zhou Guanyu. He hasn’t been miles off the pace of Bottas, but a few tenths makes a huge difference in that midfield and that has unvariably dropped him down the grid. His only points finish came at the Bahrain season-opener.
Mick Schumacher, Haas
Championship position: 19th. Driver rating: 5.5
This was a big year for Mick Schumacher to stamp his authority at Haas, with a new returning team-mate in Magnussen, and in F1, looking to follow in his father’s footsteps. But it hasn’t gone to plan so far, and Schumacher – who had a huge crash in Saudi when Haas were looking quick – is still waiting to break his points duck.
It must be said, being beaten by a driver who arrived with such short notice in Magnussen is not a good look.
Nicholas Latifi, Williams
Championship position: 20th. Driver rating: 4
It’s been a disastrous start to 2022 for Nicholas Latifi. His highest qualifying position has been 18th and his season has been littered with mistakes, spins and crashes. Will Williams retain him until the end of the season, let alone for 2023?
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