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Power Rankings – Vettel, Bottas and Albon in a race to the bottom

After the first six races of the 2020 Formula One season, there is really only one man in contention for the title: Lewis Hamilton. But that’s not to say he is the only driver performing near his maximum this year or that Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas is the only driver underperforming.

So with another tripleheader on the horizon, we take a look at how the entire grid stacks up against each other in ESPN’s F1 Power Rankings.

In compiling these standings, we aim to take the performance of the car out of the equation and focus solely on driver performance. This is not a prediction for how the race will go this weekend. Nor is it a prediction for how things will look at the end of the season. Instead, read this as a gauge for who has the most influence over everything that lies ahead, who’s hot and who’s not ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix.

Here’s how the order looks heading to Spa-Francorchamps:

Leading from the front

1. Lewis Hamilton
His performance at the Spanish Grand Prix was one of the most complete of his career. A six-time world champion at the peak of his powers and with Michael Schumacher’s records firmly in his sights. Enough said.

2. Max Verstappen
The only credible threat to Hamilton at recent races, but his Red Bull simply isn’t a match for the Mercedes. Yet he still goes into every race as a candidate for wins.

Outperforming their machinery

3. Pierre Gasly
Twelve months ago, Gasly was being replaced by Alex Albon at Red Bull, and his career appeared to be on the ropes. The demotion to Toro Rosso (now Alpha Tauri) was a sink-or-swim moment, and Gasly arrived at the team seemingly wearing concrete boots. Yet he has outperformed his teammate and the car to emerge as one of the standout drivers of the year. It begs the question about what exactly is going on with the second Red Bull and in some ways offers a defence of Albon’s poor performances this year. In the meantime, Gasly is salvaging his F1 career.

4. Charles Leclerc
Leclerc is the one shining light at Maranello this season and is almost single-handedly keeping the team in the top three in the Constructors Championship. Now in his third season in F1, he is still improving at a remarkable rate and in doing so could boot his four-time champion teammate Sebastian Vettel into an early retirement.

5. Carlos Sainz
We were starting to worry about Sainz, but his performance in Spain put him right back where he belongs among the top 10 in the Power Rankings. A cooling issue at Silverstone was rectified for Spain, and with it he unlocked a couple of tenths of performance, which in this year’s midfield battle counts for an awful lot.

6. George Russell
It’s such a shame that Russell will be spending another year at Williams in 2021. It’s clear that he is as talented as the other drivers in his generation, such as Leclerc and Verstappen, but he will have to continue to wait in line to get a car to match his potential.

Room for improvement

7. Lance Stroll
Credit where it’s due, Stroll has started to perform to a good standard now he has a competitive car. Gone are the embarrassing qualifying gaps to his teammate, and with it has come five consecutive finishes in the points. He is currently fifth in the drivers’ standings, tied on points with Red Bull’s Albon.

8. Lando Norris
The darling of the first three races has been reminded of how tight the midfield battle is at recent rounds, but he is still grinding out results. And there’s no reason to believe he won’t be back mixing it with the front-runners at the coming races.

9. Daniel Ricciardo
Ricciardo has shown flashes of brilliance at times in the Renault, but he is struggling to string together consistent performances. That’s probably down to the car rather than the driver, but it’s hard to be 100% sure right now.

10. Sergio Perez
Perez made an impressive return in Spain after recovering from the coronavirus, but there are still big questions hanging over his future. His time quarantining in a one-bedroom apartment in Milton Keynes coincided with rumours that Vettel had already been offered his drive for 2021 and verified reports that the Ferrari driver was carpooling with Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer. Perez maintains he has a contract with the team for next year, but the rumours are not going away as he and teammate Stroll continue to struggle to get the most from the Racing Point.

Getting lost in the midfield

11. Kevin Magnussen
Now Haas has become a permanent fixture at the back of the grid alongside Alfa Romeo and Williams, Magnussen seems to be dealing with it better than teammate Romain Grosjean. Magnussen’s races have been solid if unspectacular, but until the car improves, it’ll be hard for him to make more of a mark.

12. Antonio Giovinazzi
Giovinazzi has clearly improved this year and has performed well compared to teammate Kimi Raikkonen, but has he done enough to remain on the grid next year? With fellow Ferrari Driver Academy members Callum Illot and Robert Schwartzman in the top two positions in Formula 2, Giovinazzi needs to up his game again to avoid being replaced in 2021.

13. Esteban Ocon
Based on what we saw of Ocon in 2017 and 2018, his performances this year have been disappointing. The spark that was so evident in his Force India days just hasn’t been present in 2020 so far. Whether that’s because he is now being compared to Ricciardo or simply because he hasn’t quite settled into life at Renault isn’t yet clear. However, the return to Spa, a circuit where he qualified third in 2018 and at which the Renault should perform well, could see his season finally kick into gear.

14. Kimi Raikkonen
Spain was a complete weekend for Raikkonen, but it says a lot about the Alfa Romeo that he only finished 14th. That poses the question of why a former world champion would want to continue to lap several seconds off the pace in a car that does not appear to be improving.

Must do better

15. Daniil Kvyat
It’s not that Kvyat is driving badly, but he’s being shown up by Gasly. Like all the drivers in this section of the list, his teammate is making him look very ordinary.

16. Valtteri Bottas
Any hope of a championship challenge has gone out of the window at the past three races. It’s easy to point to elements of bad luck, but a sudden drop from championship contention at this stage of the season has become something of a trend for the Finn. One stat that underlines just how disappointing his time at Mercedes has been is that since the start of the 2016 season, he has scored fewer wins than Nico Rosberg, despite taking the German’s seat at the start of 2017.

17. Sebastian Vettel
His performance in Spain kept him from hitting rock bottom on this list, but only just. His relationship with Ferrari appears to be in tatters and there are still 11 races remaining. That wouldn’t be an issue if he was performing to a decent standard, but the pace is lacking compared to his teammate in both qualifying and the race.

18. Nicholas Latifi
Much like Kvyat, he is being shown up by his teammate. His drive is secure for another year but he needs to start challenging Russell to elevate his status from that of a pay driver.

19. Alex Albon
The mystery continues. Another driver with clear natural talent arrives at Red Bull as Verstappen’s teammate and is comprehensively outperformed. Albon wasn’t helped in Spain by a poor strategy call from the Red Bull pit wall, but he shouldn’t be in a position where the team feels it needs to gamble to get him into the top four. He made a strong debut with Red Bull at Spa last year, so the hope is that he can use the Belgian Grand Prix to up his game again this season.

20. Romain Grosjean
It would be nice not to have Grosjean at the bottom of this list at some point this year, but he’s not making it easy for us. Clearly, he is still quick when the car is operating in the right window, but that seems to be once every six races and often only for a Friday practice session. True, the Haas isn’t a great car, but Grosjean has been making mistakes as well as struggling for performance.

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