2019 Driver Rankings

Whilst the 2019 season lacked a title battle, it featured many great races and interesting discussion points. At the front, Mercedes seemed unbeatable at times, setting a record of consecutive 1-2 finishes from the start of the year, and even allowing Mazepin to top a practice session. Meanwhile, Ferrari were undergoing a battle for supremacy and Red Bull had the opposite problem: finding a second driver who could deliver results. The season also featured the debuts of Russell, Albon and Norris, making it one of the greatest years for rookie drivers in F1 history.

Here is the 2019 driver rankings using the mathematical model to compare how impressive each result is versus their teammate. For this, I have decided to use the rankings as they would have been at the end of the 2019 season. As ever, a score of 100 is considered to be a typical score for Lewis Hamilton across his career.

  1. Driver Rankings
    1. C Tier
    2. B Tier
    3. A Tier
    4. S Tier
  2. Comparison with other 2019 Driver Rankings
  3. How additional data changed the rankings

Driver Rankings

C Tier

20) Pierre Gasly, 49%

With the additional data from 2020-22, Gasly’s season isn’t considered quite as bad as it was at the time (see below), but 2019 can only be viewed as a failure. Gasly’s promotion to Red Bull was somewhat forced by Ricciardo’s surprise departure to Renault, and it’s clear that he was unprepared for the challenge of facing Verstappen as a teammate. During his 12 races at Red Bull, he scored just 2 top 5 finishes (a 4th and 5th place). Verstappen meanwhile finished every race in the top 5, including 2 wins and 3 further podiums.

Following his demotion, his results are seen as pretty competent, with an unexpected podium in Brazil a reward for a difficult year. However, the damage was already done, and Gasly is still trying to rebuild his reputation despite some quality drives in subsequent years.

19) Antonio Giovinazzi, 52%

Giovinazzi had the unenviable position of being compared with the departing rookie Charles Leclerc at Alfa Romeo. The model considers the Alfa solid midfield car, which puts the disappointment of just 4 points finishes into perspective. Giovinazzi showed some decent qualifying pace, and the model believes he improved as the season progressed (although by then the car was past its best). Only a 5th place in Brazil prevented him from being ranked last. Subsequent years would demonstrate further progress, but Antonio was never able to make a convincing case to remain on the grid long term.

18) Daniel Kvyat, 56%

Kvyat continued his role of benchmark for other drivers after being dropped in 2018. Beaten in qualifying by both Albon and Gasly does not make for good reading, but generally the 3 drivers were not too far off each other in terms of pace. An opportunistic drive in Germany gave Toro Rosso it’s first podium in over a decade, but it’s telling that Red Bull decided to promote Albon mid-season rather than Kvyat. This may have seemed harsh considering Kvyat had more points at that stage, but at least Red Bull showed consistency in the reasons for promotion: Kvyat’s own promotion to Red Bull 4 years earlier was mostly based on potential rather than actual results.

The graph shows Kvyat’s score slumping in the 2nd half of the year. This is partly due to a lack of results, but also due to the way the comparison switched from an unknown Albon to Gasly.

17) Romain Grosjean, 57%

A relatively poor season for Grosjean. Outpaced and outscored by his teammate in a non-competitive car that the team struggled to understand. 7th place in a chaotic German Grand Prix was the closest he got to a season highlight. Grosjean himself gave a pessimistic but honest review: “A good season? No. A bad season, most likely, yes.”

Yearly ratings for Grosjean, Kvyat, Giovinazzi and Gasly.

B Tier

16) Lance Stroll, 62%

Whilst he was outdone by Pérez on all meaningful metrics, Stroll did at least demonstrate that he is not just a pay driver and is good enough to be in F1. Qualifying remained a major weakness, being knocked out 14 times in Q1. Whilst he tending to make places up on Sunday, there was always the underlying suspicion that he should never be so far down the grid in the first place. 4th place in Germany may have owed something to fortune (and can be seen on the graph below by the spike in his rating mid-season), but he has shown both before and since that he excels in wet conditions.

15) Alex Albon, 64%

A whirlwind debut year for Albon. Kvyat’s podium (against the run of play) in Germany left him behind his teammate in the points, but the two were closely matched overall and it was Albon that was promoted mid-season. Whilst he was unable to keep pace with Verstappen, Albon was popular with the team and continued to build on the potential he had already demonstrated.

Beating both of his Toro Rosso rivals in the rankings is probably enough to demonstrate a successful campaign, and he would have been higher with a bit more luck in races like Germany and Brazil where podiums were on offer.

14) Kevin Magnussen, 67%

The Haas car was clearly a tough beast to tame in 2019, but Magnussen did a reasonable job of it under the circumstances. Contact with teammate Grosjean on more than one occasion rightly angered team boss Steiner, but it was Magnussen who was able to get the bigger results for the team.

13) Lando Norris, 67%

A positive debut for the British driver. Whilst Norris ended the season nowhere close to Sainz in terms of raw points, the battle in qualifying was much closer. Occasional unreliability (including a last lap failure in Belgium) denied him points, but it was clear that Norris had a lot of potential. Evidence of how Sainz and Norris have subsequently performed means that his season is seen as even more impressive now.

12) Kimi Räikkönen, 69%

Many were surprised by Räikkönen’s decision to return to the Hinwil team he made his debut for rather than retire (when asked why he wanted to return to Sauber, Kimi simply said “because I want to“). Regardless, the Finn quickly established himself at the lower end of the points in the first half of the year. The results were of course still a major climbdown from Ferrari, and his ability to easily outscore Giovinazzi should come as no surprise considering the obvious experience gap between the two drivers. His teammate was also a match for Kimi in qualifying, which was perhaps a sign of age catching up to him. Nevertheless, the season was a further reminder that Räikkönen could still perform, following a strong end to the 2018 season.

Yearly ratings for Raikkonen, Norris, Magnussen, Albon and Stroll
Zoomed in yearly ratings for Raikkonen, Norris, Magnussen, Albon and Stroll.
A zoomed in look at the above graph, to show the changes more easily

11) Robert Kubica, 74%

Kubica’s return to F1 nearly a decade after his accident was a wonderful story, and a reminder of what can be achieved with the combination of determination and talent. What of the racing itself though? The Williams team were the slowest on the grid, and Kubica was consistently outqualified by rookie George Russell. Race results weren’t much better, with the exception of Germany where his 10th place finish allowed him to finish ahead of Russell in the championship. Overall, the model rates Kubica’s season as respectable, and subsequent information we have from Russell (particularly in 2022) has made the fact he was outpaced by a rookie far easier to swallow.

10) Nico Hülkenberg,77%

A season in which Hülkenberg relinquished the role of team leader to Ricciardo, before being dropped by the team altogether. Despite this, he still produced some decent results. He only twice failed to reach the chequered flag, both times due to engine issues, and finished in the points 7 times in a row towards the end of the year (although he was later stripped of his points finish in Japan due to a technical breach by Renault).

Nico’s F1 career is seen as a case of unfulfilled potential, with the infamous tag of “no podiums” dogging the last few years of his career. His agonising slow speed crash in Germany is a classic example of how he was unable to string a result together when a strong finish was on the cards (although he was far from the only driver crash that day). Despite this, he scored a higher proportion of Renault’s points in 2019 than his replacement Ocon managed the following year, and the model thinks he was more than good enough to win races in the right car.

9) George Russell, 77%

A strong debut year for the British driver. Russell outqualified Kubica in every round and only finished behind on 2 occasions. Unfortunately he finished the season pointless, and whilst this was largely due to being in the worst cas on the grid, the fact his teammate got a points finish must have stung slightly. Due to his higher finishes over the course of the year, the model rightly places Russell ahead of Kubica, and recognises that he was delivering all that could reasonably be expected of him.

8) Valtteri Bottas, 80%

Bottas lead the championship after 4 races and it looked like a title challenge could be on the cards. A difficult middle period put paid to that, and once again brought questions about his Mercedes contract being renewed. Ultimately he was kept on, coasted to second in the championship, and even won a couple more races at the tail end of the year. All in all, he achieved everything Mercedes could have expected going into the season.

7) Sergio Pérez, 80%

A strong season for Pérez, who easily held the upper hand on Stroll. He also progressed in his driving as the car developed across the season. At the summer break Pérez was 16th in the championship, and even behind his teammate after a fortunate 4th place for Stroll in Germany. By the end of the year he’d jumped to 10th, with double his teammate’s points. Sergio had a reputation for getting podiums out of midfield cars, but this year there were no podium finishes, and no major highlights. Instead we witnessed several classy drives to the lower regions of the top 10.

Yearly ratings for Perez, Bottas, Russell, Hulkenberg and Kubica.
The unusual results in the German Grand Prix caused some driver’s ratings to dip/spike, but they generally recovered to close to previous value.

Click here for page 2: Top ranked drivers, how the rankings have changed over time and how they compare to other 2019 rankings.

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