Belgian GP driver ratings: Ferrari surprise and Red Bull redemption for Sergio Perez?

Henry Valantine
Driver ratings, Belgian GP 2023.

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, Belgian Grand Prix driver ratings 2023.

Max Verstappen was once again in imperious form as he won the Belgian Grand Prix, and our driver ratings are in from an entertaining race at Spa-Francorchamps.

Driver 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.

It ended up being a Red Bull 1-2 at Spa on Sunday as the class of the field showed their dominance once again, but there were a few surprise packages throughout the field in a sprint weekend.

The sprint will play a part in our overall ratings for the weekend, but the obvious weight should be placed on the main event as a whole.

So with that, let’s get cracking with the Belgian Grand Prix driver ratings.

Max Verstappen: 9.5

A grid penalty, merely squeezing through Q2 on Friday and a few laps out of the lead in the sprint were just bumps in the road for Verstappen in yet another consummate drive (qualifying eight full tenths clear of everyone else, no less).

The fact he asked race engineer GP Lambiase whether or not Red Bull should have a bit of extra pit stop practice towards the end of the race is a sign of supreme confidence in himself and the team, given how far ahead he was.

Like last year’s race at Spa, he made short work of making his way back up through the field and was back in the lead by lap 17, and he was once again able to sail away into the distance.

Remember, if life seems a little too easy for Verstappen and Red Bull right now – it’s because he’s making it look that way.

Sergio Perez: 9

There’s not an awful lot that Perez did wrong in the race on Sunday, doing the right thing in getting into Charles Leclerc’s slipstream through Eau Rouge and making a bold overtake around the outside of Les Combes to take the early lead of the race.

But equally, there wasn’t much else he could do to resist the sheer speed of his team-mate when he got up behind him either, finishing 22 seconds behind Verstappen come the chequered flag in the same car.

A front-row start and second podium in a row will do Perez the world of good heading into the summer break, but a 125-point deficit (or five whole race wins) to make up in 10 races will probably be a step too far.

Charles Leclerc: 9

George Russell admitted the pace of Ferrari and Leclerc caught Mercedes by surprise at the weekend, but Leclerc did what he had to do in qualifying to capitalise on Verstappen’s penalty and take pole position.

He drove well to keep Lewis Hamilton at bay all race long, and after a few underwhelming weekends for Ferrari, a much-improved performance will be a sigh of relief for the Scuderia heading into the summer break.

Lewis Hamilton: 7.5

Hamilton admitted his problems with bouncing showed back up again on his Mercedes, but he did well to make the most of what was underneath him on Saturday and Sunday.

His collision with Sergio Perez in the sprint will remain a matter for debate among fans, but the fact he was penalised for it is immaterial now, losing three places with his five-second penalty on Saturday.

He had something of an uneventful afternoon in terms of on-track action on Sunday, but he did what he needed to do in his position and gained the bonus point for fastest lap for his troubles, and extended his advantage over his team-mate.

Fernando Alonso: 8

In a time where Aston Martin have fallen away from the pace, Alonso and Lance Stroll qualifying on the fifth row of the grid respectively, the Spaniard pulled off one of his trademark speedy getaways to gain three places at the start.

With Carlos Sainz falling away, fifth place on the road was his and he finished what eventually became a lonely P5, with Hamilton more than a pit stop in front and George Russell not troubling him behind.

But given the recent troubles Aston Martin have had after their electrifying start to the season, it was an excellent drive to see the two-time World Champion into the summer break.

George Russell: 6.5

A weekend Russell said himself that he wants to move on from quickly, after a couple of tough sprint and qualifying sessions where he was behind team-mate Lewis Hamilton throughout.

He said he felt “boxed in” by the slowing Oscar Piastri, which cost him several positions on the first lap and the potential opportunity to fight his team-mate and Charles Leclerc, but while he was only two positions behind Hamilton in the race, the distance on the road was further than it seemed – particularly with Hamilton having taken an extra stop for a fastest lap attempt.

Lando Norris: 8

A higher rating than expected perhaps, but given that McLaren put Norris on a setup that included a high-downforce rear wing that Norris predicted cost him up to 15mph in DRS zones and up to a second per lap in straight lines by his predictions, the way he went about the race defied expectations.

Starting seventh, Norris plummeted all the way down to near the back of the field in the early stages, a sitting duck for those around him.

But a well-timed switch to soft tyres saw him fly all the way up to seventh, and with some solid tyre management (26 laps on the same set of softs, impressively) and clean air, he was able to pull off an unlikely result and make use of his speed in the middle sector where downforce requirements were higher.

A smart drive in the end, after being less than optimistic at best heading into the race.

Esteban Ocon: 7.5

After a qualifying session that saw Ocon point the finger at himself for losing his front wing, and his team for not fitting a replacement in time to make it through Q2, a six-place rise in the race is a solid recovery from the Alpine driver.

His progress was steady throughout the race, picking off the drivers in front as he made solid headway into the points.

A turbulent weekend for the team on a number of levels, but team-mate Pierre Gasly’s sprint podium and Ocon’s points on Sunday will go some way to lifting morale heading into the summer break.

Lance Stroll: 6

A weekend in which he qualified on the same row as his team-mate, but in the race they were unevenly matched, with Stroll having to move aside for Alonso with the two Aston Martins on different strategies.

His sprint shootout crash was a result of heading out on dry tyres too early, but it had the double effect of knocking Alonso out with him at the same time.

He deserves credit for making a one-stop strategy work and bringing points home with him, but there was more in the car this weekend, as Alonso proved.

Yuki Tsunoda: 9

An excellent drive from Tsunoda in the end to hold on to a point come the chequered flag, having run higher up the standings at times during the race as well.

He had pace throughout the Belgian Grand Prix, and was well worth at least a point on the day – just AlphaTauri’s third of the season – and was an excellent performance on Sunday after a promising qualifying session.

Maybe some good can be had from the rest of this season from AlphaTauri yet?

Pierre Gasly: 7.5

Arguably the holder of the overtake of the day, passing Alex Albon around the outside of Stavelot after some fantastic wheel-to-wheel racing between the two, an ambitious one-stop strategy would not quite work out in the Alpine driver’s favour.

His rating is helped by his sterling drive to P3 in the sprint on Saturday, but he ultimately could not quite bring it together in the main event on Sunday.

Valtteri Bottas: 6

Another weekend of Alfa Romeo looking somewhat anonymous in the midfield, and while Bottas did what he could to try and pick up the pieces, neither car looked in realistic points condition all weekend.

He finished only a few seconds behind Yuki Tsunoda come the chequered flag and probably made the most of what was available to him, but it was an uncompetitive weekend all round for the Hinwil-based team.

Zhou Guanyu: 6

Out in Q1 after a stunning performance in qualifying in Hungary, it looked to be back to earth for Zhou and Alfa Romeo this time around, and he didn’t quite have the pace to match his team-mate in sprint or race trim either.

Finishing 10 seconds behind Bottas, it looked a relatively lonely race from Zhou’s perspective, but didn’t do himself too much of a disservice in a car that didn’t look at the races.

Alex Albon: 7

An afternoon that was probably undone by strategy as much as anything else, as Albon’s P13 finish belies a race of some excellent overtakes.

The best starter of the day by some distance, going from P15 to P10 by the end of the first lap, and up to P8 by lap 4, Williams opted to stop both cars early as the degradation on the soft tyre was higher than expected.

The three stops from both cars saw Albon fall back down the field towards the end after running in and around the points and, while he was able to make up a few places – including a stunning move around the outside of Nico Hulkenberg at Blanchimont – he came away with nothing come the chequered flag.

Kevin Magnussen: 6

A decent run to P13 was curtailed by a three-place grid penalty for impeding but, in truth, the Haas drivers did not look in contention for points in race trim all weekend.

The weekend was smoother on Magnussen’s side of the garage than it was for his team-mate, but it was one in which the Haas duo were not able to compete in the top 10.

P15 represents Magnussen’s best finish on the road since scoring a point all the way back in Miami, but there’s work to be done at Haas to improve as a whole.

Daniel Ricciardo: 6.5

Another rating in which his sprint helped, given the finish came just too soon for him to get his first point since his return, but Ricciardo’s lap time deletion in qualifying on Friday cost him dearly as he started on the last row of the grid.

He admitted after the race that he saw “a lot of gearboxes” as he struggled to make headway, but Ricciardo also pointed out his first time in the AlphaTauri was only nine days beforehand, so the hard work will really start now as he looks to hit the ground running in the second half of the season.

Logan Sargeant: 6

Like Albon, Sargeant was brought in early on in the race and put onto a three-stop strategy to counteract the rapidly-degrading soft tyres on his Williams.

He was one of several drivers to run near the bottom of the standings all afternoon and, while Albon was one of the busiest drivers of the day in terms of on-track action, Sargeant was rarely seen on camera but finished only eight seconds back from his team-mate.

He’s been improving of late, and Williams will be hoping for more in the second half of his rookie season.

Nico Hulkenberg: 4

Unfortunately for Hulkenberg, it was just one of ‘those’ weekends where absolutely nothing would go right for him.

Last in qualifying, last in sprint qualifying after not crossing the line in time to start a lap, a pit lane start after taking a new power unit, almost suffering an engine problem before the race with that new power unit, we could go on.

Things didn’t improve much for Hulkenberg in the race either, with Haas not looking too threatening for the points places all afternoon.

Get this man a beverage of his choice. A rare blip in the comeback season he’s had so far. recommends

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Did not finish

Carlos Sainz: 6

Sainz’s weekend was undone with his lock-up into La Source, but believed Oscar Piastri was “too ambitious” in placing his car where he did in trying to overtake.

Fred Vasseur said after the race they held on in case a red flag came for rain and were allowed to fix the damage on Sainz’s sidepod, but it never materialised and a retirement was the sensible move.

Oscar Piastri: 9

“How can he get such a high rating when he didn’t get past the first lap?”

Don’t worry, we can hear the comments starting already – but anything less would feel like an unjust reward for the rookie who again showed his chops in tough conditions all weekend up to that point.

The faster McLaren all weekend long in qualifying and the sprint (by setup or otherwise), leading his first ever laps in Formula 1 by pitting for intermediates a lap before Verstappen on Saturday, and going to within 0.011s of pole in the sprint shootout.

Piastri himself told media including after his retirement that his clash with Sainz was “quite firmly in the category of a lap one, turn one incident” – impressive maturity too.

He was blameless for the incident and should be lauded for the weekend he had up to that point. How he goes in the second half of the season will be intriguing to watch.

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