2019 Driver Rankings

A Tier

6) Carlos Sainz Jr., 86%

After a bruising year at Renault, Sainz found a new home at a rejuvenated McLaren, and slotted into the team leader role superbly. Twice he charged through from the back of the field, with his drive in Brazil earning him his first podium, and McLaren’s first in 5 years. Sainz’s 2019 ranking has only increased with time, and any driver that can double the points total of someone as talented as Norris (even considering the fact that Norris was a rookie) is clearly delivering at a top level.

5) Daniel Ricciardo, 87%

Renault lured Ricciardo away from Red Bull for 2019, and expectation were high for their star driver. His debut race was a disaster, losing his front wing after just a few seconds. Over the next few races he took time to adjust to his new surroundings, before establishing a clear edge over Nico Hülkenberg. As noted previously, Ricciardo seems at his best in a stronger car, and it’s when the Renault was most competitive that he was able to extract the most. The lack of a podium finish was a reflection of how far into the midfield Renault were, and a stark reminder of how Ricciardo let go of a Red Bull seat for an opportunity to lead a team, which ultimately never really came to fruition.

4) Max Verstappen, 91%

Whilst the statistics suggest that Verstappen and Ricciardo were closely matched across 2016-18, the truth is that Max was slowly gaining an edge on his more experienced teammate. By 2019 Ricciardo had left and Verstappen was the clear focus of the team, and for good reason. The Dutchman absolutely dominated his teammates, and his rating for the year has only improved with time (see below). Red Bull scored 3 wins and 9 podiums: all of them by Verstappen’s hands.

Whilst Mercedes were typically out of reach, Verstappen finished the season ahead of both Ferrari drivers, and his elbows-out battles with Leclerc in Austria and Silverstone became a talking point in the middle of the year. This was the year Verstappen became a complete package, and the model’s perception of his performance has only improved with time.

3) Sebastian Vettel, 95%

The 2019 season accelerated Vettel’s deteriorating relationship with Ferrari and highlighted how the driver was not entirely happy with the direction of modern Formula One. It also saw him outscored by his teammate for just the 2nd time in his career. Finally, any championship charge was quickly forgotten about due to a slow start to the year for the team. Despite all this, there was a lot of positives in Vettel’s season and the results look incredible compared to the seasons that have followed.

A win in Singapore, as well 5 second places (most memorably Canada, where he crossed the line first only to lose the victory due to a penalty), showed that he could still deliver, and he came on strong as the season progressed. Indeed, Rob Smedley suggested that 2019 was Vettel’s greatest season in F1, for exactly this reason: his ability to respond to the pressure and raw pace of Leclerc.

Yearly ratings for Vettel, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Sainz

S Tier

2) Lewis Hamilton, 101%

Hamilton cruised to a 6th championship, with 11 wins, 17 podiums and points in every race. Errors in Germany and Brazil showed and perfection is not possible across an entire season, but Lewis was still over 3 race wins clear of Bottas by the end of the year. Whilst Mercedes was clearly the best team over the year, Hamilton proved that it wasn’t all the car’s doing. Perhaps his greatest win was in Hungary, hunting down Verstappen on fresher tyres before passing with just a few laps left.

1) Charles Leclerc, 102%

It seems like ancient history now, but Ferrari was still very much Vettel’s team when Leclerc arrived at the start of 2019. It didn’t take long for the Monacan driver to make his mark though, almost winning his second Ferrari race in Bahrain before being denied by an engine issue.

Leclerc also showed an ability to learn and adapt: After losing victory at Austria to a late on-the-limit overtake by Verstappen, he subsequently upped his defensive driving at Silverstone, and was rewarded with victory at Monza despite warnings for his own defensive driving being over the mark.

However, both of Leclerc’s DNFs were due to driver error. The idea that he is prone to mistakes has carried on until the present day, but like Verstappen and Hamilton before him, the most likely scenario is that he will mature with age and experience. Not many would bet he would outscore Vettel in 2019. Incredibly he would fare even better against the German in 2020.

Yearly ratings for Leclerc and Hamilton

Comparison with other 2019 Driver Rankings

RankAverageF1-AnalysisTeam BossesF1 DriversGoodwoodPlanet F1ESPNRaceFansF1 Metrics
1HAMLECHAMHAMHAMHAMHAMHAMVER
2VERHAMVERVERVERVERVERVERHAM
3LECVETLECLECLECSAILECSAISAI
4SAIVERBOTSAIBOTLECSAILECVET
5BOTRICVETBOTSAINORBOTBOTLEC
6NORSAIALBRICALBBOTNORPERPER
7VETPERSAINORVETALBVETRICRIC
8RICBOTRICVETPERRUSRICNORHUL
9ALBHULRUSRUSNORRICALBRAIMAG
10RUSRUSNORGASRICPERRAIVETNOR
Bold: Ranking is significantly above average, Italics: Rankings is significantly below average

There’s a lot to interpret here, but as expected each result has something about it that’s different to the general consensus. I’ll leave you to look through and see where opinions differ and which aligns most closely with your own opinions.

How additional data changed the rankings

For current posts (e.g. the 2021 rankings or 2022 mid-season rankings) the results are generated from all the data available at the time. I took the decision to follow this approach for 2019, rather than making listing the model’s current rankings for the year.

However, we can also see how these results would be different if we included the additional data from 2020-22:

RankRanking at the time (as above) Ranking now (2022)
1LeclercVerstappen
2HamiltonSainz
3VettelLeclerc
4VerstappenHamilton
5RicciardoVettel
6SainzRicciardo
7PérezNorris
8BottasHülkenberg
9HülkenbergPérez
10RussellRussell
11KubicaBottas
12RäikkönenKubica
13NorrisAlbon
14MagnussenGasly
15AlbonRäikkönen 
16StrollMagnussen
17GrosjeanStroll
18KvyatKvyat
19GiovinazziGrosjean
20GaslyGiovinazzi

Whilst only 2 drivers have the same rankings, most of the ratings are pretty similar. However, the model is much more forgiving of Gasly’s and Albon’s performances, given how much more we know of Verstappen’s abilities. Similarly, the McLaren pairing of Sainz/Norris both receive a boost due to their subsequent performances versus Leclerc and Ricciardo respectively.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. Please come back to see more great content (currently I upload at the start of every month).

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