A new season, a fresh era of F1 regulations and some different line-ups – and the revamp even extends to PlanetF1’s driver ratings.
Finley was a bit too young for a Kimi Raikkonen-style retirement but has expanded his horizons elsewhere, so I’ve moved across to the ratings team while Oliver slots into the vacated seat at Conclusions.
Sounds a bit Bottas/Russell, but after the Bahrain Grand Prix that may not necessarily be such a bad thing.
Anyway, in terms of the ratings, let’s pretend we are playing Football Manager and everyone starts on 6/10 and then gets a higher or lower mark depending on how they have performed.
And to be fair, very few drivers dented their reputations in what was a surprisingly clean Bahrain Grand Prix in terms of racing incidents.
Charles Leclerc: How could you give anything but top marks to the Ferrari man for his third victory in Formula 1?
It was a perfect weekend for his team and for Leclerc, who qualified on pole position, then led away from the start line and did not panic when challenged for the lead by Max Verstappen on lap 17 and 18. Apart from that brief duel, he was always in control.
Having been beaten by his team-mate in last year’s championship, this is a big year for Leclerc because he cannot afford to be put in the shade again and this represents the ideal start. Whether he can sustain a championship challenge remains to be seen though. 10.
Carlos Sainz: I’m probably far from alone in always being left with the strong impression Sainz is a much better racer than qualifier, but that was not necessarily the case this weekend.
On provisional pole before the final Q3 runs, Sainz was just edged out into third and ran in that position for much of the race, unable to match the pace of Leclerc and Verstappen.
He admitted he is struggling to get to grips with the F1-75, but P2 was still a rock-solid start that matched his best result in the sport and it looks as though there is better to come from the ‘Smooth Operator’ once he has mastered the car. 8.
Lewis Hamilton: With the W13 off the pace of Red Bull and Ferrari, we cannot yet know for certain whether Hamilton remains at the stratospheric performance heights he reached at the end of last season, given everything that has happened since those tumultuous closing laps in Abu Dhabi.
But Bahrain suggested there has been no dimming of the seven-time former champion’s powers.
In these circumstances, the benchmark for Hamilton was his team-mate, who was partnering him in a race for the first time. Faster than Russell in qualifying and the race, Hamilton maximised his opportunities to get on the podium and can be perfectly happy with his own display. 9.
George Russell: A poor last run in qualifying meant Russell started P9 for his full-time Mercedes bow, but to improve five places by the end of the race represents a creditable start.
Like Hamilton, he was inconvenienced by being put on the hard tyres before the team realised their error and while no threat to Hamilton, he was equally never in danger from anyone behind after working his way up. 7.5.
Kevin Magnussen: A storybook return for the Dane, who must fear he will wake up any minute having finished P5 to put Haas third – yes, third – in the Constructors’ standings.
Not even a Formula 1 driver two weeks ago, his cheerful disposition has been a breath of fresh air in the paddock and recalling him has clearly been one of Haas’ better decisions in recent times.
It was not a faultless display because Magnussen made a few mistakes, especially at Turn 1 where he lost early positions. But frankly, in the circumstances, we’d forgive him just about anything this weekend after that stupendous result. 9.
— Kevin Magnussen (@KevinMagnussen) March 20, 2022
Valtteri Bottas: The flying Finn must have feared trundling around at the back on his Alfa Romeo debut after the Barcelona test, but the C42 now looks pretty nifty and he found himself lining up on the same row as his former Mercedes colleague Hamilton.
A bad start when he tumbled down the order knocks off a point for Bottas, but he recovered well and probably thinks he should have finished at least one place higher than sixth. 7.
Esteban Ocon: Faster than his Alpine team-mate on the day, Ocon was happy to open his points account for the season in what he said was his first ever three-stop race.
But a performance slightly tarnished by an early collision with Mick Schumacher, for which the Frenchman apologised after incurring a five-second penalty. 6.5.
Yuki Tsunoda: There is clearly something about Bahrain that agrees with Tsunoda – after scoring points on his debut there last year, he went one better this time by finishing P8.
That represented comfortably the biggest improvement in the race from grid to chequered flag – and for a driver who had been forced to sit out FP3. Keep it up, Yuki. 8.
Fernando Alonso: A bit of a subdued weekend for Alonso and, just like last year, Alpine are not proving easy to weigh up in terms of their overall standing.
The Spaniard, who finished one place below his grid slot, was another driver not helped by being fitted with the hard tyres, which most teams chose to avoid. 6.
Guanyu Zhou: For Tsunoda in 2021 read Zhou in 2022. This was a similarly impressive debut for the Alfa Romeo newbie as his Japanese rival enjoyed 12 months ago.
Unafraid to get stuck in with a C42 showing strong pace, China’s first F1 racer pulled off a series of overtakes to grab a deserved first F1 point, overcoming a problem at Turn 1 on the opening lap. He looked anything but out of place and can only get better still. 8.
Mick Schumacher: His highest F1 finish in the much more competitive VF-22, but Mick will probably feel he should have joined Magnussen in the points.
His hopes of doing so were hindered, he felt, by the contact with Ocon which meant the car “didn’t feel amazing afterwards” and he lost a couple of places after the Safety Car restart. 7.
Lance Stroll: Not a weekend Stroll or the Aston Martin team generally will look back on fondly.
It all went wrong in qualifying for Stroll as he started on the back row and was never a factor in the race, yet still made respectable progress up the order to 12th. 7.
Alex Albon: Williams’ current expectations are probably put into context by Albon describing reaching Q2 as “a lovely surprise”.
The car did not have great pace in the grand prix and keeping the McLarens behind him was as good as it got for the London-born Thai. 6.
Daniel Ricciardo: The best we can say for Ricciardo is that things can only get better and he will know that himself, getting straight out of his sick bed and into the car after returning a negative COVID test.
Having missed testing because of the illness, the Australian was clearly ring rusty in an MCL36 experiencing early teething troubles – but at least he beat his team-mate. 6.
Lando Norris: Like Aston Martin, this was a race to forget for McLaren and it remains to be seen whether they are still suffering as a result of their issues in testing or have ultimately gone the wrong way with the new car’s design.
From Norris’ perspective, as usual he tried putting a brave face on it but was unable to make a difference and, again, the decision to put him on hard tyres for the second of four stints backfired. 5.
Today hurt for all of us. We’re focused on the task. Your support means everything.#FansLikeNoOther 🧡
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) March 20, 2022
Nicholas Latifi: At least the late Safety Car was not caused by Latifi hitting the wall this time, but apart from that there were few positives for the Canadian.
Starting right at the back, he acknowledged the car’s lack of pace and could only finish ahead of Aston Martin stand-in Nico Hulkenberg. Big improvement needed with Albon already establishing himself as top dog in the team. 5.
Nico Hulkenberg: Deputising for Sebastian Vettel, Hulkenberg probably did as well as could be expected in a car that needs plenty of work.
He was last of those to finish, but there have been reports he may get another turn in the AMR22 next week if Vettel decides he needs longer to recuperate. 6.
Did not finish
Sergio Perez: With the fastest lap in his pocket for a good portion of the race, running P4, Perez looked on for the podium at times – never more so than after his team-mate exited, but he then suffered the same fate with a terminal spin at Turn 1 under pressure from Hamilton.
A performance up to then that showed the Mexican is what most pundits think he is – a solid ‘wingman’ to Verstappen but not a championship contender in his own right. 7.
Max Verstappen: An “extremely painful” loss of 18 points now puts the reigning champion on the back foot early in the season and while that was not his fault, this was also not a Verstappen at his absolute best.
He could not make a move on Leclerc stick on laps 17 and 18 and although it was academic in the end, you wonder whether a bit more patience at that stage might have been prudent.
There were also plenty of tetchy radio messages that suggested Verstappen was not at peace in the car, hitting back at his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase like a told-off teenager when informed he had pushed too hard on out-laps.
A little “wobble” on his last Q3 run had cost the Dutchman pole position on a weekend when the chance to capitalise on Mercedes’ struggles eventually went begging. 7.
Pierre Gasly: In his own words, Gasly ended up barbecuing the AlphaTauri but said his race had been “amazing” up to that point, running “comfortably in P8”.
Fastest in FP1 on Friday, it is generally hard to predict when Gasly’s team will be quick or will flatter to deceive, but with Tsunoda finishing eighth it is logical to assume the Frenchman would have finished ahead of him without the retirement. 7.