Japanese Grand Prix driver ratings: Daniel Ricciardo verdict as three drivers shine for Honda

Sam Cooper
Driver ratings for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen had a perfect day at Suzuka.

Another perfect performance from Max Verstappen while Yuki Tsunoda brought delight to the home crowd with the first Japanese home points score in over a decade.

Suzuka produced an overtake-filled race and one that was defined by strategy as much as it was racing ability. But with the majority of the grid putting in a good race, here’s how we reckoned they all stacked up.

Max Verstappen – 10

As was the case last year, Suzuka was the home for another Max Verstappen comeback story and it was another perfect performance from the Dutchman. A lap one red flag did little to unsettle him, he created more than a second gap before the pack was given DRS meaning he could sail off into the distance.

From his performance in quali, his fourth pole of the year, there was every suggestion that Verstappen would run away with it come race day and he emphatically did.

Sergio Perez – 9

Really ran his team-mate close in quali but come race day, Verstappen was always a step ahead.

Regardless, it was a good race for Sergio Perez who had more to do than his team-mate but Red Bull’s strategy and the RB20, as well as a Charles Leclerc error, allowed him to move up to P2 with little fuss. His double overtake in consecutive laps of the Mercedes duo was a particular highlight.

Carlos Sainz – 9

Another very strong performance from Carlos Sainz who is making the Ferrari competition less of a battle and more a one-sided procession.

After his victory in Melbourne last time out, repeating that against a superior RB20 was always going to be difficult so P3 was the best he could have hoped for – but he is emphatically making himself the hottest property in F1.

Charles Leclerc – 8.5

Did incredibly well to survive on an effective one-stop strategy when the rest of the field was on two but it ultimately left him vulnerable as the race went on.

He was forced to let Sainz past but was able to keep Lando Norris at bay behind.

Leclerc does lose marks though for going wide and allowing Perez past.

Lando Norris – 8.5

Will be slightly disappointed to drop two places from his starting spot but the Ferraris did look a step ahead on Sunday, something which could not be said on Saturday.

Lando Norris’ race was heavily impacted by that of George Russell with McLaren worried the undercut by Mercedes could prove to be impactful for Norris, so opted to bring their man in perhaps earlier than they would have liked.

Even still, he returned from the pits behind Russell and had to fight his way back but did so to a P5 finish and more points.

Fernando Alonso – 7.5

The best Alonso could have hoped for given the relative pace difference between himself and those up ahead.

His gamble to start on the softs never had the chance to materialise given the early red flag but he did not make much headway on the restart either.

The rest of the race though was a solid drive from the lead Aston Martin driver.

George Russell – 7.5

Was perhaps fortunate to avoid a penalty when he forced Oscar Piastri off the track late on, the kind of incident he would have argued warranted punishment if roles were reversed, but other than that it was a far better race for Russell than it was for his team-mate.

It would have been interesting to see had he been able to catch Fernando Alonso up ahead had the race been just a few laps longer.

Oscar Piastri – 6.5

An uncharacteristically patchy drive from Oscar Piastri with a number of mistakes, if they were only minor. He admitted after the race he did not want to be fighting that low down the order but he did have a challenge on his hands with Russell in his rear view mirrors late on.

In the end, an error allowed Russell to pass meaning Piastri had to settle for eighth, his joint-worst finish of the year so far.

Yuki Tsunoda – 8.5

Of all the drivers to finish in the points, this is the one that will have brought the home crowd the most joy.

Yuki Tsunoda seemed to be thriving off his local support all weekend and he followed up a Q3 appearance with the first points score by a Japanese driver at their home grand prix in over a decade.

As for the race itself, it was an assured performance from Tsunoda and after dropping back to P12 following the restart he produced a series of excellent overtakes to move back into the top 10.

Late on he held off the likes of Lance Stroll to earn a deserved point to add to his total.

Lewis Hamilton – 6

An extremely frustrating race for Lewis Hamilton and one which saw him at odds with the team throughout.

As was the case on Saturday, he seemed perplexed as to where he was losing so much time and it was clear he was not the biggest fan of the strategy calls made by the team in Japan.

It represents Hamilton’s worst start in his F1 career having earned just 10 points so far.

Nico Hulkenberg – 7.5

Flirted with the points on occasion but Nico Hulkenberg was hoping for a safety car that never came.

In the end, he fought his way back up following his final stop but could not reel in Tsunoda up ahead.

Lance Stroll – 6

A poor Saturday was hardly improved on by Stroll who finished outside the points for the second time this season.

Alonso’s repeated strong performances are only serving to shine a spotlight on Stroll’s troubles and his most memorable moment from Suzuka was his scream at his engineer that their speed was so slow on the straight it felt like his car was in a different category to everyone else’s.

Kevin Magnussen – 7

A few lovely moves from K-Mag in the race that personified the typical aggression he has been known for in his F1 career but he ultimately came away with no points.

Haas opted to split their strategies with Magnussen on the two-stop but he was forced to watch Hulkenberg sail on by late on in the race.

Valtteri Bottas – 6.5

It says a lot about Stake’s recent performances that a four-second pit stop was seen as a good thing but those kinds of times are just an absolute killer to a driver’s race.

Valtteri Bottas did well on the Saturday, qualifying in 13th but a slow pit stop is such an anchor to his race that anything more than a lower mid-table finish is out of the question.

Esteban Ocon – 6.5

Received a love tap from his team-mate after the red flag restart but then struggled to make any headway to those ahead of him. A Q2 appearance will be his highlight of the weekend but ultimately he remains on zero points.

Pierre Gasly – 6

Still more troubles for Pierre Gasly at Alpine as he just cannot find any kind of performance. At the restart, he hit his teammate in an effort to steer clear of traffic but from there it would have been a frustrating afternoon spent near the back of the grid.

Logan Saregant – 5.5

Was having a good race until he lost it late on and went spinning off the track. To his credit, he did manage to keep it going in a gravel trap that even Verstappen thought he would be stuck in but all it got him was a last-place finish.

Did not finish

Zhou Guanyu – 6

A gearbox issue meant it was an early end to Zhou Guanyu’s race but before that moment he was struggling to make ground on those ahead of him.

Daniel Ricciardo – 5.5

His early exit seemed a clumsy one and although it fits the ‘first lap racing incident’ category, Ricciardo was more at fault than Albon was.

There was an initial suggestion that Ricciardo was wary of an attacking Lance Stroll on his left but replays showed the Aston Martin was not close enough to trouble the Australian, meaning Ricciardo did not look in his mirrors as he moved across to the racing line.

The result was tagging Albon and sending both of them into the wall. Another miserable race to continue 2024 for Ricciardo.

Alex Albon – 7

Made a good start to rise up the order but it was ultimately for nothing as he was taken out by Ricciardo. Not much Albon could have done as he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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