Australian GP driver ratings: Hamilton heroics as Sainz’s great race goes to waste

Sam Cooper
Australia driver ratings.

Australia driver ratings.

The 2023 Australian Grand Prix was one to remember and here are your driver ratings.

Ratings explained: Every driver starts the weekend slap bang in the middle with a 5/10 rating and we operate on a sliding scale from there. We take the entire weekend into account, not just the race itself.

However, the scores will be weighted more towards a driver’s race performance, but qualifying performances (good or bad) are also factored into our ratings and, in extreme circumstances, practice will also play a minor part in the overall score.

Well, what an eventful race that turned out to be. Red flags, Safety Cars, Virtual Safety cars. It had it all and just 12 drivers managed to make it to the finish line.

While some familiar faces battled for the lead, others on the grid were in a battle for survival as chaos erupted around them.

Max Verstappen took the win but even his was not a career-best performance while names like Yuki Tsunoda and Oscar Piastri crept into the points for the first time this season.

With that in mind, here are your driver ratings for the 2023 Australian Grand Prix:

Max Verstappen – 8.5

Another trophy to go in Max Verstappen’s very large cabinet but it was not a perfect performance from the Dutchman as a couple of errors could have cost him more had the RB19 not had such an advantage.

He made a poor start as he dived across to block off George Russell but not only was it a futile attempt, it also allowed Lewis Hamilton to move past a few corners later.

It would have been interesting to see if Verstappen could have got past Russell and Hamilton if the Mercedes drivers worked in tandem but the red flag meant that was not to be.

After the restart, Verstappen breezed past Hamilton before building up a sizeable lead. That lead was cut down somewhat when Verstappen decided to give one of the grass verges a fresh trim and had the RB19 not been so dominant, that could have posed more of a threat to his race win.

But in the end, Verstappen held his nerve following the last restart, although it would not have mattered as it transpired, to hold the lead and when the race finished behind a Safety Car, it was the Dutchman who crossed the line first.

Lewis Hamilton – 9

An excellent drive from Hamilton which saw him overtake Verstappen in the first lap, a sight not seen since the 2021 season.

It would have been an interesting fight between him and team-mate Russell for the race lead and to see how much Mercedes would step in to ensure that both drivers kept Verstappen behind, but that was not to be in the end with Russell’s unfortunate pit stop ending his hopes of a second career win.

After the restart, it was Hamilton v Verstappen again but the Briton was not able to hold onto the lead for long with the Red Bull driver soon easing past him.

From there, it was a case of preserving the tyres whilst keeping Alonso at arm’s length, whether Hamilton would have achieved that was another question that went unanswered.

One criticism of Hamilton was he did not make the best of starts following the late restart but even if he had, it would not have made a difference with the grid being reverted back to it was before.

Overall, an excellent and confidence boosting race for both Hamilton and Mercedes.

Fernando Alonso – 9

It says a lot about Alonso’s performance in 2023 so far that a P3 finish now seems par for the course but as usual, the Spaniard did well to secure it.

There was a smart bit of in-race management from both he and Aston Martin as although it looked like Alonso was losing ground to Hamilton, he was actually biding his time like a long-distance runner ready to capitalise when their opponents are at their weakest.

Alonso was saving his tyres at a time when Hamilton was casting doubts about being able to reach the end of the race but unfortunately for Aston, the last red flag meant their masterplan was never given a chance to come to fruition.

After the restart, Alonso was the one who had the most to lose as Carlos Sainz tagged him going into turn 1 but some strong campaigning from the team, including Alonso who had the Silverstone example ready to go, ensured he kept his third place.

Lance Stroll – 7.5

In the same way that George Russell did last season, Lance Stroll is putting in some consistent performances that suggest criticism of him for being a pay driver may not have been completely fair.

In this race, he started badly when he sent Charles Leclerc spinning into the gravel in turn 3 but it was not the Canadian’s fault and was adjudged to be a racing incident.

From there, he was almost in a race of his own with the top three/four often just out of reach but Stroll had enough pace to keep the other drivers behind him.

Following the late restart, he made a dive past Sainz which would have seen him take P4 but even though that was reset, he kept the place as a result of the Spaniard’s penalty.

Sergio Perez – 8

For the race alone, Perez approached a perfect 10 but considering these ratings also take into account qualifying, his score does need to drop down.

Starting from the pit lane, Perez drove excellently to move up the field and while it was not with the same speed as Verstappen did in Jeddah last time out, his slow and steady progress proved to be effective following the many restarts.

As he approached the top 10, he used the speed of the RB19 to pull off some aggressive overtakes but the crowd was denied the opportunity to see how far he could go after the race was red flagged once more.

He crossed the line P6, promoted one place as a result of Carlos Sainz’s penalty, and it was about as much as he could have hoped for given where he started.

Lando Norris – 8.5

That’s more like it from Norris. Qualifying in 13th, Norris battled his way up the grid and yes there was a healthy dose of fortune with Leclerc, Russell, Gasly, Sainz and Ocon all disappearing from in front of him but it was still not an easy race for the 23-year-old to navigate.

After the race, Norris noted that it was in the DRS zones that the MCL60 particularly struggles and while that is less of a factor in the race, it is far more troublesome during qualifying. If they can fix that issue, Norris may have a chance to make it into Q3 and be able to give himself a better starting position in the race itself.

Nico Hulkenberg – 8

It was quite the eventful afternoon for Nico Hulkenberg who, at one time, looked as if he was going to end his 184-race streak without an F1 podium.

That was not to be in the end with the grid rearranged to before the start of the second red flag restart but it should take nothing away from the former Renault man’s performance.

Starting P10, as he has done in every grand prix this season, this time the German moved up the grid rather than down it and when some frontrunners retired, his position was bumped up as a result.

Haas failed with their post-race protest to try and get Hulkenberg back up the order, but it was still a great performance nonetheless.

Oscar Piastri – 7.5

Although Oscar Piastri would not have chosen to start his Formula 1 career with two point-less races, it will all seem worth it now as he picked up his maiden F1 points in front of his home crowd.

Was Piastri the eighth fastest car on the grid? Absolutely not but you’ve got to be in it to win it and he ensured he was hovering around in the correct sort of area so that if there was any drama up front, of which there was plenty, he would be the one to capitalise on it.

Moving a spot up following George Russell’s DNF and Sainz’s penalty, he finished P8 to lift both himself and McLaren off the bottom of the standings.

Zhou Guanyu – 7

An up and down race from Zhou in which at some points he looked off the pace and other times, like he was a contender for the points. In the end it was the latter as he secured P9 thanks to the penalty of Sainz.

There is still not quite the rapid speed in the Alfa car as there was last year but Zhou has now beaten Bottas in two of the three races this year.

Yuki Tsunoda – 7

Yuki Ysunoda will be thanking the stewards after they helped him avoid a third consecutive P11 finish.

While luck was on his side with Sainz’s penalties, Tsunoda’s performances since the start of the season mean he deserves a few things to go his way.

As he was in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, Tsunoda found himself in a fight for the final point-paying spot and although he was not able to get past Zhou, he did keep Valtteri Bottas behind in arguably a faster car.

His last job was to ensure he finished at least five seconds behind Sainz meaning that when the Spaniard’s penalty was applied, Tsunoda would move up to the P10 spot.

Valtteri Bottas – 6

A trip to Melbourne may have become somewhat of a home race for Valtteri Bottas but he did little to inspire the crowd.

The Alfa car has looked much slower this year than in 2022 and Bottas for much of this race seemed out of contention for the points.

Carlos Sainz – 6

As much as you can debate the harshness of Carlos Sainz’s penalty, what is not up for debate was that it was 100% his fault.

The Spaniard should have predicted that his compatriot Alonso would come across and with so little to gain and everything to lose, Sainz should have proceeded with more caution.

Before the incident, it was probably the best drive of Sainz’s career with he and the Ferrari finally showing some pace.

While it was not enough pace to challenge the top three, it was enough to get him into P4 and to potentially hold back Perez but instead he had to settle for P12. recommends

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Did not finish

Nyck de Vries – 4.5

The days of Nyck de Vries’ Monza debut seem long gone now as the Dutchman again put in a bad performance and the more times Yuki Tsunoda battles for points, the more it makes the race of De Vries look worse.

The 28-year-old looked off the pace from the start and although he made three places up from his P15 starting spot, he was down to P17 following the first restart of the day.

A decision to move him onto the softs late on proved to be fruitless when the whole grid was able to do the same following the red flag and his race came to an end when Logan Sargeant rammed into the back of him.

Logan Sargeant – 4

In the same way Tsunoda’s performances shines a bad light on De Vries, the excellent performances of Alex Albon leave questions hanging over Logan Sargeant.

Given the relative ability of Tsunoda and Albon and the six-year age difference between Sargeant and De Vries, more leeway should be given to the American but it was a race in which he looked well off it almost from the get-go.

His day came to a bizarre end when he crashed directly into the back of De Vries, sending both of them out.

Pierre Gasly – 7

Oh Pierre, it was all going so well. The Frenchman looked on course to break his streak of P9 finishes but it was not to be as he collided with his own team-mate.

Before the race-ending incident, Gasly drove excellently to be up in P4 at one point and as more of the frontrunners dropped out, his chances only improved.

But, following the chaotic second restart, Gasly was the one who lost the most. He locked up and as he re-entered the track, he was unaware Esteban Ocon was behind him. They touched, sending both of them in to the wall and out of the race.

He would have been operating at around 8.5/9 if it wasn’t for this costly crash.

Esteban Ocon – 6

Their races may have ended at the same point but both Alpine drivers took a different route there. For while Gasly was battling away at the upper end of the grid, Ocon was lower down after an unfortunate pit stop sent him down the grid,.

Unlike recent weeks, he lacked the raw pace to move past the non-top three teams but even if he had, it would have meant little as his race came to a premature end.

Any talk that this was a re-opening of the wounds in the once frosty relationship between the two were not proven with Gasly apologising to Ocon in what was clearly just an accident.

Kevin Magnussen – 5.5

A costly mistake from Magnussen would not only see his wheel sheer off and fly into the air but would also have huge ramifications for the other drivers on the grid.

Qualifying in P14, Magnussen did not enjoy the same afternoon that Hulkenberg did and struggled to move up through the field. He was running in P12 when he clipped the wall at turn two, ending his race prematurely but creating a situation that would see his team-mate benefit.

Alex Albon – 6

Like Gasly, Albon’s race was going so well until it wasn’t. Qualifying in P8, Albon defied expectations by holding onto that spot for far longer than many had predicted with the FW45 continuing to look quick round the Melbourne track.

But ultimately it was a driver error that would cost him. Albon took too much of the kerb, lost control and could do nothing but crash heavily into the wall, shredding his front wing and flinging enough gravel onto the track for the red flag to be shown.

George Russell – 9

From his perspective, there was not much more Russell could have done. The decision to pit under the Safety Car seemed like the correct one at the time and then the engine giving out was not something Russell had any control over.

In terms of what he did have control over, it was a very good weekend. P2 in qualifying was improved to P1 in the first corner and at the time of his pit stop, Russell was still in possession of top spot.

He looked under some pressure from team-mate Hamilton which would have been an interesting battle to have seen played out but the Melbourne crowd was not given that opportunity.

His engine conked out in lap 16, erupting with fire out of the exhaust, meaning Russell’s day was over with his first mechanical retirement of his Mercedes tenure.

Charles Leclerc – 4.5

Considering Leclerc’s race lasted all of three corners, his rating is primarily focused on his qualifying where truth be told, he was pretty poor.

The Monégasque qualified behind his team-mate for the first time this season (excluding his Saudi Arabian grid penalty) and admitted he failed to get the car to perform how he wanted to.

In the race itself, he made an okay start but then cut in too harshly on Lance Stroll going into turn 3 and paid the price.

While Leclerc became beached in the gravel, the Aston Martin man was adjudged to not have been at fault in a situation the stewards classified as a racing incident.