12 races down in the 2023 Formula 1 season and it is time for a look back at the drivers who have struggled to make an impression during the first half.
As many of you will know, PlanetF1.com rates every driver after every race which gives us a handy barometer when it comes to determining how well a driver is performing.
With the summer break now underway, we have crunched the numbers to reveal who are the 11 worst-performing drivers of the season (thanks to Red Bull for making it an uneven number!) so far, according to our average ratings for the year to date.
11.) Pierre Gasly – 6.88
Points: 22 | Drivers’ standing: 12th
The French driver probably expected more from his switch to Alpine from AlphaTauri, but has struggled for visibility in the midfield throughout most of the season.
The A523 is hardly a world-beater and, combined with the unreliability and operational errors that have resulted in Otmar Szafnauer and Alan Permane leaving the team, the drivers have had a tough time scoring good points positions.
Australia was a big blot on Gasly’s copybook as he triggered the Alpine collision after producing a fantastic opening 3/4 of the race, meaning seventh in Monaco is still his high point of the year.
10.) Esteban Ocon – 6.67
Points: 35 | Drivers’ standing: 10th
Given his familiarity with Alpine, both as a team and the characteristics of the car, one might have expected a slightly bigger gap between Ocon and Gasly. But the pair have been closely-matched throughout, and it took until Monaco for Ocon to put some clear distance between himself and his new teammate.
Third place in Monaco aside, Ocon’s season has been the very definition of being mired in the midfield, even if the French driver has outscored Gasly by 13 points over the opening 12 races.
Curiously, despite the points advantage going in his favour, our Driver Ratings have just given Gasly a tiny little edge over Ocon heading into the second half of the year.
9.) Yuki Tsunoda – 6.67
Points: 3 | Drivers’ standing: 17th
Having inherited the de facto team leadership position at AlphaTauri in the wake of Gasly’s defection, Tsunoda had a reasonably unpressured opening half of the season as Nyck de Vries struggled to adjust to life in F1.
Impressive drives in Australia and Azerbaijan caught the eye, as did a strong showing in Monaco until brake issues hampered his efforts, but the lack of competitiveness of the AT04 has meant points are scarce.
Tsunoda now faces a huge challenge in the second half of the season, with Daniel Ricciardo coming into the second seat in De Vries’ place. Should he struggle to keep up with the Australian, life may become very awkward for the Japanese driver as he closes in on the end of his third year with the Red Bull junior squad…
8.) Carlos Sainz – 6.38
Points: 92 | Drivers’ standing: 7th
Without his disastrous restart at the Australian GP, Sainz would probably be ahead of Charles Leclerc in the points standings. With the Ferrari clearly not an outright frontrunner this year, the dynamic Sainz and Leclerc had in 2021 has returned – the Spaniard finding it much easier to match, and occasionally beat, the Monégasque.
Leclerc still has the measure of Sainz more often than not, particularly with three podium finishes as Sainz has yet to finish in the top three, meaning the Spaniard features on this particular list of 10 rather than the other…
7.) Lance Stroll – 6.17
Points: 47 | Drivers’ standing: 9th
Without Fernando Alonso’s performances proving how strong the Aston Martin is, it’s likely Stroll would rank quite a bit higher with a different teammate.
But Alonso’s string of assured podium finishes have left Stroll with nowhere to hide, as he has continued to bring home his car in roughly the same positions one might have expected over the last few years.
Strangely, it’s perhaps the race he was least prepared for – Bahrain – at which he was most impressive as he came home in sixth, but the Canadian has been unable to match Alonso to any great extent.
6.) Nico Hulkenberg – 6.17
Points: 9 | Drivers’ standing: 14th
After three years out of a full-time drive, Nico Hulkenberg has proven one of the stars of qualifying during the 2023 season as he’s been far happier with the VF-23 on Saturdays than Haas veteran Kevin Magnussen.
But Hulkenberg hasn’t found converting some good grid positions into points an easy task, although seventh place in Australia was a great result – even if helped by the late carnage.
Unlike Magnussen, whose future remains unclear, Haas have already indicated their desire to retain Hulkenberg on into 2024 as Guenther Steiner has spoken of being impressed by how on top of things Hulkenberg has been despite his sabbatical.
5.) Valtteri Bottas – 6.08
Points: 5 | Drivers’ standing: 15th
Eighth place in Bahrain has proven to be something of a false dawn for Bottas and Alfa Romeo, with only a solitary 10th place in Canada to show from the rest of his season. He’s brought the car home on every occasion and continues to prove himself a safe and solid pilot, but that’s usually way outside the points.
Bottas remains mired in the midfield, and has openly said the car is not as competitive as it was at the start of his Alfa Romeo tenure – the Sauber team being somewhat stuck in no man’s land as they count down the days until the Alfa Romeo partnership ends and they begin building up to their Audi deal.
With Bottas having usually fallen short of the ultimate potential of a car, as evidenced during his Mercedes years, the real question mark is whether there’s more performance to be had from the Alfa – Zhou as a teammate doesn’t serve as a true barometer due to his relative lack of experience.
4.) Zhou Guanyu – 5.88
Points: 4 | Drivers’ standing: 16th
The Chinese racer isn’t spending his time damaging his car or throwing it into walls or opponents (aside from Hungary!), but results are proving difficult to come by as well.
The Alfa Romeo isn’t a particularly strong car this year, if not one of the overall weakest cars on the grid, and both Zhou and Bottas have proved roughly equal at extracting the same level of performance from the car.
While Bottas’ experience and lack of gameplaying have no doubt been very helpful for Zhou as he’s found his feet in the sport, the Finn isn’t the highest benchmark in the sport to aim for. With Zhou there or thereabouts with Bottas, he needs a big result in order to prove the potential is there – the opportunity presenting itself in Hungary as he qualified fifth, only to make a mess of Turn 1 after a dodgy start.
3.) Kevin Magnussen – 5.79
Points: 2 | Drivers’ standing: 18th
While Magnussen was the driver with the more recent experience and the longevity of a career at Haas, it’s surprising that the Danish driver has struggled to keep up with new teammate Nico Hulkenberg almost from the get-go this year.
Qualifying, in particular, has been a weakness for Magnussen, with his race pace being much more comparable to the German driver. But the Haas’ overall poor race pace has meant Magnussen has found it difficult to move forwards in races, and he only has two 10th place finishes to his name.
There’s a notable reluctance from both Magnussen and Guenther Steiner to discuss his contract for next year and, with the second half of the season looming, the Danish driver might be facing some protracted negotiations to hang on for another campaign.
2.) Logan Sargeant – 5.33
Points: 0 | Drivers’ standing: 19th
While Logan Sargeant has struggled to make an impact on most of the races he’s been in so far this year, particularly when Alex Albon is powering the other Williams to some eye-catching performances, the American driver has shown some signs of improvement in recent races.
Sargeant has proven a reasonably solid pair of hands behind the wheel and, in Austria and Silverstone, was far closer to Albon’s performance level – arguably his best races since a strong debut in Bahrain.
The monkey on his back remains scoring his first points in F1 but Sargeant is showing just about enough potential to have faith that he might just pull a result off before the end of the year.
1.) Nyck de Vries – 4.65
Points: 0 | Drivers’ standing: 20th
With one Dutch driver at number one on our best-performers list, the grid is bookended nicely with another Dutch driver at the other end – unfortunately for Nyck de Vries.
Unfortunately for the Formula E Champion, De Vries made little impression on any race he was in aside from getting involved in some interesting battles with Kevin Magnussen as his situation became more desperate.
Baku was undoubtedly De Vries’ lowest point, due to the number of times he hit the barriers – including the eventual tap of the wall that led to his retirement – an outing that brought down his Driver Rating average considerably as we awarded him just two points that weekend.