2022 Mathematical Driver Rankings

A Tier

6) Lewis Hamilton, 98% (⬇2)

Faced with a more competitive teammate and a worse car that the team struggled to understand, Hamilton’s early season results were mixed. Much has been made of him doing more than is fair share of set-up experimentation in the early season, and it’s true that mid-season on wards he was typically the faster Mercedes driver.

Although failing to achieve either a pole or a win (unlike his teammate), Hamilton can hold his head high, and the expectation is surely that both he and Mercedes will rebound next year. His season is considered to be below average (remember an average Hamilton here is calibrated at 100%), but it’s a tantamount to his quality that even this is easily enough for a top 6 ranking.

5) Carlos Sainz, 102% (⬇2)

An unusually inconsistent year from Sainz, whose rating swung wildly due to a combination of DNFs, mishaps and beautiful drives. An early season slump (clearly seen on his rating below) lead to rumours of an immanent sacking, but within just a few weeks he’d completely turned thing around. Strong drives in Monaco and Silverstone (his first win) also showed a driver capable of leading a team and using his head. Whilst Sainz wasn’t quite able to keep pace with Leclerc across the year, that is a very high bar for any driver and the model is impressed with his level overall.

4) George Russell, 107% (⬆3)

Before the start of the season I ran a twitter poll on the McLaren driver line-up. Whilst some thought it would be close between he Mercedes divers, not one person was confident that Russell would be ahead come the end of the season. Regardless of the circumstances, it was an extremely impressive season from the young Brit, and when it mattered most it was him that grabbed the win and 2 poles. A few blunders in wheel-to-wheel combat were the only negatives, as Russell surely answered any questions of why he was being given the opportunity to drive at Mercedes.

Russell’s rating was stable all year, with Sainz and Hamilton recovering from relatively poor starts

S Tier

3) Charles Leclerc, 120% (⬆2)

After the opening 3 rounds of the championship, Leclerc looked odds on for the title. Whilst his championship campaign unraveled pretty quickly, he maintained an edge over his teammate and was still performing at a very high level across the year. Nine poles showed his searing one lap pace was as good as ever, and a run of 5 consecutive podiums towards the end of the season showed that he (and Ferrari) could be consistent at times.

Criticism came from some painful driver errors in Imola and France, as well as some hesitation when questioning team strategy (particularly when compared to Sainz). However, it’s questionable whether his reputation for cracking under pressure is justified. His early season battles with Verstappen in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia showed he could race, and it’s a tantalising view of what the whole season could have been had Ferrari managed to keep pace with Red Bull.

2) Max Verstappen, 120% (⬇1)

A record breaking year for Verstappen. After some initial reliability woes, Max stretched his legs as the season progressed, winning the title comfortably in the end. So after dominating the driver ratings last year, why is such a successful season considered worse? The main factor is that Pérez was closer to Max than he was last year, particularly in the first part of the season.

His season is still considered extremely good though, and Max is of course a worthy champion. Singapore was the only major low point all year from a driving perspective, demonstrating that even the elite of the sport don’t have perfect seasons.

1) Lando Norris, 123% (⬆1)

Last year Norris was in a fierce battle with 4 other drivers for 2nd place. This year he’s been in the battle for 1st throughout. Contrary to expectations, the already notable gap to Ricciardo extended further in 2022.

Whilst the car was less competitive than last year and gradually lost ground to Alpine in the midfield, Norris was the only midfield car to finish on the podium and the only one to score more than 1 fastest lap. Comfortably finishing 7th in the championship in what the model thinks was the 5th best car, Norris’ performances have often flew under the radar in 2022. He consistently extracted everything the car was capable of, something that his talented teammate seemed unable to do.

The model often tends towards one driver being ranked the best performing driver regularly over an era. Beating Verstappen in the rankings (or matching, once DNFs are accounted for below) is a fantastic achievement, particularly given that Max was the dominant force this year.

Norris, Verstappen and Leclerc jostled for position all year, the 3 drivers considered a cut above the rest in 2022.
2022 featured a three way battle between Norris, Verstappen and Leclerc for highest ranked driver.

Now that we have every driver, let’s smush them all together onto one graph. This is a bit too much to read everything at once, but hopefully gives a bit of context for how close difference drivers and tiers are to each other.

A VERY messy graph showing how every driver's rating varied over time.

Rankings Including DNFs

Here I will present some adjusted rankings for 2022, obtained using the same system as above with one difference. Instead of using a total number of points, it instead produces an adjusted total based on how many mechanical DNFs the driver suffered. For example, finishing in all races with a total of 22 points would now be considered the equivalent of 11 points if a driver’s engine blows up every other race (i.e. each one would be an average of 1 point per counting race).

One major reservation I had about implementing such a system is that it would be difficult to objectively decide which incidents to account for and which to not. The current system is that anything referencing a spin, accident or crash (regardless of the perceived fault) would receive no mitigation, whilst a DNF for other reasons (e.g. gearbox) would. In cases of DNS, the reason for the non-start is explored in a similar way. Sprint races are also factored in, with a roughly 1/3 rating compared to a full GP.

Whilst reliability differed significantly across teams, the main factor here is how the differences manifested themselves within a team. Only at Alpine was there a difference of more than 1 counting DNF, with Alonso recording 3 more mechanical DNFs than Ocon (and an additional sprint race too).

So, let’s see how this change affects the driver rankings:

Original RankingRanking including mechanical DNFsChange in position
1) Lando Norris1) Max Verstappen +1
2) Max Verstappen2) Lando Norris -1
3) Charles Leclerc3) Charles Leclerc
4) George Russell4) George Russell
5) Carlos Sainz5) Carlos Sainz
6) Lewis Hamilton6) Lewis Hamilton
7) Esteban Ocon7) Fernando Alonso +4
8) Sebastian Vettel8) Sebastian Vettel
9) Alex Albon9) Esteban Ocon -2
10) Pierre Gasly10) Alex Albon -1
11) Fernando Alonso11) Pierre Gasly -1
12) Sergio Pérez12) Daniel Ricciardo +1
13) Daniel Ricciardo13) Sergio Pérez -1
14) Valtteri Bottas14) Valtteri Bottas
15) Yuki Tsunoda15) Yuki Tsunoda
16) Nicholas Latifi16) Lance Stroll +1
17) Lance Stroll17) Nicholas Latifi -1
18) Kevin Magnussen18) Kevin Magnussen
19) Mick Schumacher19) Mick Schumacher
20) Zhou Guanyu20) Zhou Guanyu

Half the drivers stay in the exact same position, with the biggest changes unsurprisingly at Alpine. The change at at the top is small, but significant. Given the difference between Verstappen and Norris in this system is less than a tenth of a % (which translates to a prediction of less than half a point across a season in the same car), it can effectively be considered a draw for top ranking. Extra data from subsequent years may even cause this ranking to swing backwards and forwards between the two of them.

Alpine are the only team to swap driver rankings, with Alonso’s season now considered more impressive than Ocon’s. Whilst a jump of 4 places seems like a big change, he only actually increased from 82% to 86%, with much of the jostling due to an extremely tight midfield.

We can see how big the changes are in the bar chart below:

Scores that have decreased start at the right hand side of the red bar, and have moved to the left hand side.

You can see that large adjustments in score are not really apparent over the course of the season. However, I’m sure including DNFs would stabilise driver ratings across a season significantly better, as a random DNF early on can have a significant impact on a driver’s points total (e.g. 40 points instead of 50 at the start of the year is much more significant that 240 points instead of 250 at the end).

I’m pleasantly surprised with how the results turned out for DNFs, and I plan on using it from the start of 2023, as well as going back across seasons passed too.

Let me know what you think of the 2022 rankings!

4 thoughts on “2022 Mathematical Driver Rankings

  1. Acescheil

    That really makes me curious to see how taking into account DNF/DNS will change McLaren 2015, Raikkonen 2005 and if you ever will go as far back as redoing some seasons in the ’70 and earlier.
    And one question: if you are gonna do some of the rankings of the previous season accounting for reliability, will you need to do the ranking based on that season alone? Or will you also take into account for the ranking the performance of the driver in the other seasons, even if the other seasons don’t take reliability into account?

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    1. formula1stat Post author

      I’m also intrigued about Räikkönen in the McLaren and some of the older years! You’ve identified a weakness of the DNF approach for 2022, that it takes every season into account but only DNFs in 2022.

      The idea is to go back through every season, although it will take some time as a lot of the input will be manual. Luckily we’re in the off-season. The aim is to have it all up and running by the start of the 2023 season, or failing that, to have it go back far enough so that modern seasons will be minimally affected by any further changes.

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      1. Acescheil

        I’ve got 2 questions:
        1. How are you dealing with DNFs when the driver completed at least 90% of the race and therefore is still classified?
        2. If you’re answer to the first question was ‘I count them as proper DNFs’ then how are you going to deal with the situations in which a driver retired, but completed enough laps to be classified AND classified in a point scoring position?
        I was thinking about a solution to the second would be to count the situations as DNFs and also taking away the points they scored in that race to the total at the end of the year, but I don’t know if you’re can do that without rewriting a huge chunk of the algorithm

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