Edd Straw's 2024 F1 Saudi Grand Prix Driver Rankings

The Saudi Arabia Grand Prix may have been another straightforward 1-2 win for Red Bull at the start of the 2024 Formula 1 season, but the driver standings were a task with a few twists and turns.

Taking into account the last-minute Formula 1 debut, a true Jekyll and Hyde performance in the midfield and much more, here is Ed Straw's final verdict on the performance of the field in Jeddah.


The 20 drivers will be ranked by performance from best to worst at each Grand Prix weekend. This will depend on a whole range of criteria, from speed and racing skill to consistency and whether they have made key errors. How close each driver comes to achieving the car's maximum possible performance will be a key consideration.

It is important to note that this reflects performance over the entire weekend, recognizing the fact that qualifying is effectively 'lap 0' of the race and key to laying the foundations for the race, and that it is not a classification for everyone. Round qualities for every driver. It simply comes down to how they perform on a given weekend. Therefore, the ranking will fluctuate significantly from weekend to weekend.

Although each of the ten cars has different performance potential and 'luck' (i.e. factors beyond the driver's control) contribute to the way the weekend goes, this ranking will also differ significantly from the overall results.

I started: eleventh I finish: Seventh

Berman's high rating reflects the fact that he was in completely different conditions to the rest of the field, as he was put in a car he had never driven before in FP3 and did a fantastic job. He was quick enough to get into Q3, but couldn't quite string it together, then went on a great race with some decisive overtakes, most impressive on Tsunoda, and then showed good enough pace to stay clear of Norris and Hamilton.

Verdict: I couldn't ask for more in these circumstances.

I started: the first I finish: the first

The Verstappen/Red Bull combination was once again in a class of its own and won from pole position with ease. The second round of Q3 could and should have been better, by Verstappen's own admission, although his first attempt was impressive and more than enough to take the lead in qualifying. Those insignificant criticisms aside, he was as good as ever.

Verdict: Completely in control.

I started: the second I finish: the third

Leclerc's weekend was not defined by Verstappen's speed, as the Ferrari was clearly the second quickest car. Instead, look at the fact that he overtook Perez in qualifying, albeit not with one of his best laps in qualifying, and was far behind the contenders behind him. He's scheduled to have a lot more weekends like this in 2024.

Verdict: Maximize qualifying and race result given Red Bull's speed.

I started: Fifth I finish: the fourth

Norris' shade in qualifying and McLaren's DRS disadvantage meant that fifth place was probably the best he could achieve. He turned that into fourth by passing Alonso into the first corner on the second lap. He spent a significant amount of time trapped behind Hamilton after the safety car thanks to McLaren's top speed flaw, locking up and stopping briefly during that frustrating period, but clinched fourth place once Mercedes stopped.

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Verdict: Maximize your qualifying and race result.

I started: 15 I finish: The tenth

Hulkenberg had a great chance to secure a position in Q3, but because he stopped on track before starting a push lap in Q2 thanks to a lack of fuel due to a technical problem while refueling the car. After finishing 14th early on, he stayed under the safety car and thanks to a combination of his good pace and, more importantly, Magnussen becoming a rolling barrier, earned a point in 10th.

Verdict: He needed Magnussen's help, but he did his part.

I started: the fourth I finish: Fifth

Another strong weekend for Alonso, who extracted good pace from the car in qualifying. It was a similar story in the race, although if he had been able to keep Piastri at bay at the start of lap two, it likely would have translated into a higher finish, albeit in a car that was more competitive than the Aston Martin. One lap of race pace.

Verdict: Maybe leave a place at the table in the race.

I started: the third I finish: the second

Perez had a good weekend, but as always, he had the misfortune of being compared to an all-time great teammate. He really should have been on the front row, but he didn't make the most of the final lap in Q3 thanks to understeer. However, Leclerc was relieved of second place for good on lap four after briefly leading at the start before falling back. The unsafe start was, in his words, “bad” and earned Perez a five-second penalty that did not cost him second place after showing good race speed even compared to Verstappen.

Verdict: A good weekend, but not 'Verstappen good'.

I started: VI I finish: VIII

Norris ended up on the wrong side of a close battle with teammate Piastri, clocking 0.043 seconds slower in qualifying after losing time in the second half of the lap. He ran sixth in the first stint and had the leading car stay out under the safety car, allowing him to lead briefly. Without the help of another break, when he finally stopped, the soft speed advantage wasn't enough to climb from eighth.

Verdict: Marginally the second best performance in a McLaren team.

I started: twelveth I finish: eleventh

Albon suffered a disaster in Q1 thanks to traffic that spoiled his final session and forced him to cancel it before he secured a strong starting position in Q2. He was part of the train that built behind Magnussen in the second period and did well to be able to “win” that battle at the back, despite sustaining minor damage from the previous contact with Magnussen.

Verdict: It was close to the limit of what Williams was capable of.

I started: Seventh I finish: VI

Russell was more comfortable with the tough Mercedes than Hamilton all weekend, although he did not make the most of qualifying after a rear exit at Turn 10 on his final lap in Q3 put him in a run-off. However, he was one and a half tenths faster than his teammate. I spent the race behind Alonso, sitting seventh in the first stint and then shifting to sixth thanks to Norris's late pit stop.

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Verdict: Qualifying could have been better.

I started: Ninth I finish: 15

Tsunoda was once again the spearhead of the right-back side, comfortably edging out Ricciardo in qualifying and securing a place in Q3 thanks to his victory over not only an unprepared Pearman but also Hamilton, who were both in faster cars. It was a frustrating race, although if Magnussen had not overtaken him for an illegal overtaking due to a derailment it would have been a very different story. He also lost a place at the flag thanks to an unsafe launch from his pit stop.

Verdict: Fast, even though the race was a mixture of disorganization and bad luck.

I started: VIII I finish: Ninth

Rear instability was encountered throughout the weekend and the car's lack of speed in high-speed corners. Russell trailed him in qualifying by 0.144 seconds, finishing eighth in the first stint and then sitting out under the safety car in the early race. That ultimately cost Berman a place, which he was unable to negate by passing Norris, who also made a late stop.

Verdict: Second best Mercedes on a tough weekend.

I started: Thirteenth I finish: twelveth

Magnussen's single-lap pace looked much stronger than in Bahrain, although he was denied the chance to show it in Q2 when he failed to complete the outside lap and set up the tire before the checkered flag thanks to poor timekeeping in the pit wall. His race was chaotic, particularly the collision with Albon, but he rose through his brilliant, if sometimes forceful, moves in service of team-mate Hulkenberg, earning Haas a priceless point.

Verdict: Rear guard action raises his rating.

I started: seventeenth I finish: Thirteenth

While Ocon may have left some time on the table in qualifying in the second half of the first sector and apologized via radio, he described the car as less “cohesive” than it had been before. He has reached the periphery of points contention in this stint after a safety car ahead of the Magnussen barrier spoiled that, although the Alps' lack of pace will always mean he won't be able to capitalize on that.

Verdict: Fight hard in a losing cause.

I started: fourteenth I finish: sixteen

Ricciardo felt he had taken a step forward in terms of pace this weekend, and blamed his 0.461-second deficit to Tsunoda in Q2 on his struggles to find the increased control he expected as qualifying progressed. His race was effectively ruined by safety car pit stop problems that left him last, finishing only ahead of the Sauber duo after they ran a late lap after losing out when he went over the curb.

Verdict: Quiet weekend.

I started: eighteen I finish: DNF

Up until the final round of Q1, Gasly appeared to be outpacing Ocon, but a puzzling lack of rear grip on the final lap cost him what he thought was a chance in Q2. Unfortunately, he did not have the opportunity to show what he could do in the race after a gearbox problem occurred on the formation lap, forcing him to retire at the end of the first lap.

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Verdict: Circumstances, not performance, are what destroys his ranking.

I started: sixteen I finish: seventeenth

On paper, this was a bad weekend for Bottas. But it included some bad luck for him, as he was forced to go off the throttle due to traffic on his final qualifying lap, wasting what he saw as an opportunity in Q2. His race went nowhere thanks to his inability to start the C2 Pirillis due to Sauber's poor tire activation, meaning he fell far behind the pack at the back even when it was backed up before stopping again for the soft tyres.

Verdict: It's hard, but not quite as bad as it seemed.

I started: The twentieth I finish: eighteen

Zhou's weekend turned into his FP3 crash. As he said, “It was my fault and I paid for it”, and he continued to pay for the resulting repairs which meant he was unable to make a qualifying time despite exiting late in the session. He paid double for the accident in the race, as cooling problems developed after repairs, meaning he had to lift and descend from the start. Under the circumstances, his race pace was impressive, but it was not rewarded thanks to him losing 25 seconds at the pit stop.

Verdict: The FP3 shunt destroys his ranking despite a race drive that was better than it looked.

I started: nineteenth I finish: fourteenth

At times, Sargent showed strong pace compared to Albon. The problem was that he also set himself back by clipping the wall on his first set lap in FP3 and costing himself the session. He had a respectable first quarter of his first year, though not fast enough for a top 15 finish, then a tough prep session left him without the control he expected and he couldn't improve enough. His race was decent, although he fell behind the back of the Magnussen-led pack once his speed picked up and he struggled more with the tire grade.

Verdict: FP3 crashes and fades in the second mission against him.

I started: The tenth I finish: DNF

Stroll peaked in Q1 with a lap that proved to be the fastest in qualifying, although he was unable to repeat that when counted in Q3. He cited a lack of electrical power near the end of his lap, which left him in tenth place. He struggled badly for speed early and fell out of the top eight before clipping the inside wall and sustaining damage that sent him into the wall and was out of the race.

Verdict: A weekend to forget.

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