F1 driver power rankings: Charles Leclerc on the rise after Portuguese Grand Prix as top three changes

Jack de Menezes
·9-min read
Charles Leclerc in action at Autodromo Internacional do Algarve (Getty Images)
Charles Leclerc in action at Autodromo Internacional do Algarve (Getty Images)

The return of the Portuguese Grand Prix did not disappoint on Sunday as the Algarve International Circuit proved the scene of Lewis Hamilton’s record-breaking 92nd victory.

Hamilton recorded his eighth win of the season to put himself on the brink of a seventh world championship, which while he cannot mathematically secure it next time out at Imola, will almost certainly be confirmed at the Turkish Grand Prix unless fate intervenes.

However, it could have been a very different story at the weekend if the opening laps were anything to go by as the cold temperatures and light drizzle played havoc at the start, with Hamilton himself dropping from first to third as an unexpected leader in Carlos Sainz emerged at the front of the pack.

There was drama behind as Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez had contact on the opening lap, while Perez’s Racing Point teammate Lance Stroll had a day to forget after colliding with Lando Norris and landing himself not one but two timed penalties before retiring from the race.

Out in front though, Valtteri Bottas had no answer in his fight with Hamilton as the world champion-elect breezed past to re-take the lead before their one and only pit stops, before the Briton emphatically pulled away at the front of the field to secure a victory that broke Michael Schumacher’s record for the most wins in F1.

Here’s how the Portuguese Grand Prix impacted on The Independent’s driver power rankings.

20. Nicholas Latifi (Williams) - no move

Qualifying was disappointing for Latifi, with his spot at the back of the grid highlighted by the fact that his teammate George Russell made it through to Q2. But the Canadian showed the benefit of enjoying an accident-free Sunday afternoon to bring it home in front of the AlphaTauri of Daniil Kvyat.

19. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) - down one

It was a disappointing weekend for the two Haas drivers for obvious reasons, and the news that both Magnussen and Romain Grosjean will be out of a drive at the end of the season brought with it complete honesty of just how bad the Haas is this year. The Dane qualified on the back row of the grid, and although he managed to fight through the back of the pack to finish 16th, this won’t have been one of his fondest weekends in the sport.

18. George Russell (Williams) - up one

Russell did brilliantly to reach Q2 and relegate Kimi Raikkonen into the Q1 elimination zone, but once again a less than impressive start left him on the back foot off the grid and he dropped a couple of positions as a result. However, a strong first stint threw him right up into the points in what was an entertaining battle with Antonio Giovinazzi and a recovering Norris to finish between the two in an 14th place that won’t be knocked.

17. Romain Grosjean (Haas) - down one

Like Magnussen, Grosjean will not look fondly on the Portuguese Grand Prix as his F1 exit was essentially confirmed, while he also saw himself outperformed in the race by his younger teammate despite qualifying ahead of him. His strong performances of late keep him in front of Russel and Madnussen though.

16. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) - up one

Giovinazzi may have lost his race-long duel with Russell but he leaves Portugal looking set to retain his place in the Alfa Romeo team next season, which is some feat given where he was towards the start of the 2020 campaign.

15. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) - up one

It sums up Vettel’s season perfectly that a drive from 15th on the grid to 10th is deemed a good day at the office, but the four-time world champion had been on a run of just one points finish in five races that really needed to end. Vettel drove a welcome accident-free afternoon, but he remains a country mile off Leclerc both in qualifying and race pace and is going out of Ferrari with a whimper.

14. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) - down two

Stroll was a top-five regular in these rankings earlier this season but is on a torrid run of results that not only has seen him plummet down the order as well as the championship, but add weight to the argument that Racing Point have backed the wrong horse next season. Stroll qualified a disappointing 12th, and upon trying to make up for the poor showing on Saturday he messed up a rash move on Norris that ruined both of their races when the inside door at Turn One was wide open. A second time penalty for exceeding track limits soon brought the inevitable retirement, but he is now on a run of four races without finishing, including the Eifel Grand Prix that he missed with illness, and has slipped out of the top 10 in the championship.

13. Alex Albon (Red Bull) - down one

Albon is under huge pressure for his seat at Red Bull and this could prove to be the race that decides it. A two-stop strategy did not pay off for him on Sunday, and he did not benefit from any additional pace late on as he came home out of the points and behind both Vettel and Raikkonen, who started well behind him. Having started sixth on the grid, a 12th-place finish makes pretty terrible reading.

12. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) - up two

The Finn delivered one of the great opening laps of his career as he mastered the damp conditions to move up from 17th off the grid to inside the points by the end of the first lap. Despite the relative lack of pace from the Alfa Romeo, Raikkonen was able to fight his battle until the very end, with former teammate Vettel just getting the better of him for the final points-paying position.

11. Daniil Kvyat (AlphaTauri) - down two

It was a pretty disastrous race for Kvyat, who was one of the drivers to suffer with the two-stop strategy as he plummeted from 13th on the grid to 19th and last. The performance was made all the worse once again by Pierre Gasly’s heroics towards the front of the field.

10. Carlos Sainz (McLaren) - up one

The early race leader delivered a brilliant showing on race day to take advantage of the early chaos and lead the race, and he picked his battles wisely to let the two Mercedes and Max Verstappen to pass as he knuckled down with his own race. Sainz went with the one-stop strategy that paid off towards the end of the race as he and Gasly chased down Perez, with the Spaniard sealing a strong sixth-place finish.

9. Lando Norris (McLaren) - down two

Norris was running in a good position behind his teammate until Stroll unceremoniously took a chunk out of his front wing, which ruined his day and eliminated him from the points picture. The result adds to a run of three disappointing races, which will be of some concern for the Briton.

Stroll was punished for colliding with Lando NorrisGetty
Stroll was punished for colliding with Lando NorrisGetty

8. Esteban Ocon (Renault) - no move

Ocon had a rather strange race in that it looked like there was more to be had from the Renault, yet he will have taken a big positive out of beating teammate Danial Ricciardo after starting behind him. All things considered, it was an above-average drive from Ocon for what was a double points finish for the team.

7. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) - up three

Leclerc is back at his best in a Ferrari that is not up to scratch for his capabilities, with a fourth-place finish just reward for his recent performances that failed to produce what he really deserved. For much of the opening stint Leclerc kept Verstappen honest in the much quicker Red Bull, and it will be interesting to see how far he can push on in the season run-in.

6. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) - no move

Perez may have had to make do with a seventh-placed finish, but given he ended up exiting Turn 4 backwards on the out-lap, it was some recovery drive from the Mexican. Another strong race included a brilliant eight-corner fight with Ocon, and he may well have taken the biscuit for the driver of the day.

5. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) - down one

It was a disappointing weekend for Ricciardo, with the Australian only just scraping through to Q3 and promptly chucking it off before it started. He never really looked to have the race pace we’ve come to expect, and finishing behind Ocon will have dented his pride.

4. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) - up one

The Frenchman was one of the joys of the weekend as he fought his way up through the field, converting a ninth-place finish into a brilliant fifth. Gasly made no complaints with Perez’s strong defensive targets late in the day, which made it all the more warming to hear him celebrate once he had made it past his mid-field rival.

3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) - down one

Something just didn’t seem right with Verstappen this weekend as he accepted third was the best that Red Bull could hope for. A good start failed to materialise into anything of note as Bottas quickly repast him into Turn 3, and contact with Perez at the following corner didn’t help matters.

2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) - up one

Bottas has shown his fighting side in recent weeks and has established himself as the second-fastest driver on the grid this season, which helps him to jump back in front of Verstappen after a lengthy stint in third. He has no answer for his Mercedes teammate though, which is of course a major concern for his own hopes.

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) - no move

Hamilton showed a rare tentative side that saw him choose conservation over outright speed in the opening laps, dropping him down from first to third, but from there he drove to perfection to eat into Bottas’s advantage, pass him with consummate ease on the main straight and pull away to an incredible 25-second gap to write his name into the record books once again.

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