Australian Grand Prix: Driver Ratings

By on Monday, March 17, 2014
Red Bull/Getty Images

Red Bull/Getty Images

They're back! As ever, we rate all 22 drivers for their performance at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

1 | Sebastian Vettel | Red Bull-Renault | Ret | 6/10

Vettel was left in the unusual position of qualifying only mid-grid (for the first time in 18 months) after a software issue left his RB10 extremely difficult to drive. He did well in the circumstances.

His race was little better as power problems were evident from the formation lap and he desperately searched for a solution. It was a futile task but he toured around for a couple of laps before retiring from the race.

3 | Daniel Ricciardo | Red Bull-Renault | DSQ | 8/10

After pre-season testing woes, Ricciardo’s Saturday performance was the stuff of fairytales…until the silver #44 came bounding around the final corner. Seldom is there a crowd so vociferous towards a driver and it was a welcome reminder of the value of fans to the sport (missing and quiet at some venues).

Ricciardo’s race performance was flawless as he claimed his maiden podium, albeit one which was consequently snatched from him. It remains to be seen how competitive the RB10 is if it was contravening the regulations – the court of appeal awaits.

Williams F1 Team

Williams F1 Team

44 | Lewis Hamilton | Mercedes | Ret | 8/10

Hamilton missed first practice after a sensor calibration issue (a non-problem in reality) but bounced back to storm to a fine pole position, his third around Albert Park.

His race was a non-event as five cylinders left him horrible exposed at the start and consequently for the few laps he competed. Mercedes pulled him in to retire and that was a disappointing end to what should be a productive season.

6 | Nico Rosberg | Mercedes | 1st | 9/10

Rosberg stormed to the fastest time in the final practice session but in qualifying his main fault was not being last over the line and consequently unable to benefit from the drying track. Still, third was a good result.

Rosberg controlled proceedings in the race after his team-mate’s demise so it remains to be seen how the duo fare in a proper scrap. Nonetheless, it was a measured performance as he collected his fourth Formula 1 victory.

Scuderia Ferrari

Scuderia Ferrari

14 | Fernando Alonso | Ferrari | 4th | 8/10

In the 1980s Alphaville released the fairly famous song ‘Forever Young’. It’s a catchy, slow and emotional song, but Alonso could change the last word to ‘Fifth’, because it seems as if Alonso has spent his Ferrari career qualifying in that position. The trend continues into 2014 as he set a time good enough for the third row of the grid.

In the race he tried his best but he was always restricted by the limitations of the F14 T. He put up a typically feisty fight against Hülkenberg but the 35 second deficit to race winner Rosberg will set the alarm bells ringing at Maranello.

7 | Kimi Räikkönen | Ferrari | 7th | 5/10

The Finn appeared to be struggling with the handling of his Ferrari F14 T throughout practice and qualifying. He was trying to make a desperate attempt at progressing through to Q3 when he lost control exiting turn three and wiped the front nose off of the Ferrari.

Matters did not improve hugely in the race as despite losing track position courtesy of needing to double stack the cars in the pits, he had a couple of trips off the road. It was hardly the performance which suggests that a title challenge is about to be mounted.

Lotus F1 Team

Lotus F1 Team

8 | Romain Grosjean | Lotus-Renault | Ret | 6/10

An utterly miserable time pre-season continued into the race weekend. Grosjean missed FP1 while FP2 and FP3 were barely better. He appeared to struggle with the brakes – although that was more down to the car than the driver – and set the slowest time in qualifying.

Grosjean started from the pits but Lotus sent him out of the garage prematurely and he consequently copped a drive through penalty. He lasted 45 laps before retiring, which was positive progress after a trying weekend.

13 | Pastor Maldonado | Lotus-Renault | Ret | 5/10

It’s far too premature to conclude which drivers have made the best career move over the winter break, but right now you’d forgive some Williams team members for allowing themselves a mild smirk. Maldonado, like Grosjean, endured a torrid time and seemed to spend more time off-track than on it during qualifying.

He briefly made it up to 11th place in the race but achieving points was always an unlikely feat and so it proved when he pulled off the circuit mid-distance. But like Grosjean, he probably went further than he could have imagined pre-race.



22 | Jenson Button | McLaren-Mercedes | 3rd | 7/10

Button was one of the drivers caught out by Räikkönen’s meeting with the wall as the Brit slowed for yellow flags and consequently missed out on a space in Q3.

This left him on the back foot for the race but he fought back in typical Button style. He stayed out of trouble and profited from the safety car period by making a last gasp dash into the pits. He claimed third place after Ricciardo’s exclusion but it was a weekend in which he was outshone by his team-mate.

20 | Kevin Magnussen | McLaren-Mercedes | 2nd | 10/10

The Danish rookie, affectionately known as K-Mag, was measured across practice and qualifying as he bested his more experienced team-mate by setting the fourth fastest time.

But surely he couldn’t match the result in the race? No, he didn’t. He beat it. He controlled a wild moment at the start – which so easily could have resulted in a huge shunt – and drove with a composure which belied his inexperience. He looked completely bemused on the podium at what he had just achieved. A star is born.

Sahara Force India

Sahara Force India

27 | Nico Hülkenberg | Force India-Mercedes | 6th | 8/10

Nico Hülkenberg’s magical mystery tour of the Formula 1 midfield continues but at least he didn’t end up putting pen to paper at Lotus.

A strong qualifying performance was backed up in the race as he finally finished the Australian Grand Prix at the fourth time of asking – and in the points. However, it wasn’t the best strategy as he lost out in the pit phase to both Button and Alonso.

11 | Sergio Pérez | Force India-Mercedes | 10th | 5/10

Pérez began his career rebuilding programme this weekend but squandered a good chance by sliding wide at turn three and picking up a hatful of gravel in his Force India.

In the race matters improved little as he made contact with Sauber’s Esteban Gutiérrez which resulted in a puncture. He toured back to the pits and while the safety car aided his progress, he spent too much time behind Adrian Sutil. A disappointing start.

Sauber F1 Team

Sauber F1 Team

99 | Adrian Sutil | Sauber-Ferrari | 11th | 6/10

It wasn’t the smoothest of performances as Sutil made his Sauber debut. The German claimed after practice that the tyres were too hard while during the race issues with the powertrain cost him valuable time. Sutil switched to a one stop strategy due to the safety car but the benefits were negligible. The Sauber was simply too slow. Mid-grid, back of the midfield and doing it anonymously: probably Sauber’s 2014 in a nutshell.

21 | Esteban Gutiérrez | Sauber-Ferrari | 12th | 6/10

Gutiérrez was walloped with the unlucky stick on Saturday as a gearbox problem ruled him out of final practice and the resulting change left him with a penalty. The delay in getting the car ready, allied to traffic and rain, compounded his woes and left him rounding out the grid.

Gutiérrez’s race was little better as he spun at turn three, offsetting the potential advantages of starting on the prime tyre. He recovered but followed Sutil home. The message from the Swiss camp about a general lack of pace doesn’t inspire confidence.

Red Bull/Getty Images

Red Bull/Getty Images

25 | Jean-Éric Vergne | Toro Rosso-Renault | 8th | 8/10

Wet weather, low grip and an attacking style required? It was no surprise to see Vergne among the front runners during qualifying as it was exactly the kind of conditions in which he excels. He claimed fourth was possible but had to back off for yellows, ironically caused by Daniil Kvyat’s debris. “I'm so mad at it,” said Vergne. “P4 was possible, but I'm still happy with sixth,” he said in the quickest emotional u-turn in years.

He fared well in the race as he was competing with the Ferrari drivers and held on magnificently when he dipped a wheel onto the grass entering the final corner. It was a positive start after a dreadful second half of 2013.

26 | Daniil Kvyat | Toro Rosso-Renault | 9th | 8/10

“I don’t care about that,” said Kvyat after his prang in Q3, but it’s easy to forgive his casual attitude towards having an accident as for a 19-year-old on his Formula 1 debut at a new track in the wet to qualify eighth is an impressive feat.

In the race he was hanging onto the group which featured more esteemed runners but he dropped back late on as he switched focus to fuel conservation. Nonetheless, at 19 years and 325 days old he becomes the youngest driver to score a point in Formula 1 history, beating Vettel’s record by a mere 24 days.

Williams Martini

Williams Martini

19 | Felipe Massa | Williams-Mercedes | Ret | 7/10

When Massa inched the Williams FW36 out onto the circuit on Friday lunchtime it was the first time the Brazilian had taken part in a Formula 1 race weekend in a car not powered by a Ferrari engine. That’s pretty impressive considering Massa’s tenure in the sport (the fun-filled facts never stop at

His race lasted just a single straight as he was the victim of Kamui Kobayashi’s car failure. Massa’s fury towards the Japanese driver was premature, but it was a disappointing start to his Williams career. Matters will improve.

77 | Valtteri Bottas | Williams-Mercedes | 5th | 8/10

This was exactly the sort of event in which the much heralded Bottas was finally able to demonstrate his potential. A penalty for a gearbox change put the Finn out of position but he fought back with gusto and picked off rivals left right and centre across the opening laps.

However, he tagged the wall and damaged the car, dropping him back down the order. Back he came and he wasn’t put off by his earlier contact. Fifth place was a just reward but he won’t make that mistake again! Nonetheless, he's already got more points than Williams managed in 2013.

Marussia F1 Team

Marussia F1 Team

17 | Jules Bianchi | Marussia-Ferrari | NC | 7/10

Bianchi endured a difficult time in qualifying as electrical problems and then a gearbox issue restricted his progress and cost him a genuine chance at progressing into the second segment of qualifying.

Bianchi suffered a problem at the start and the team spent six laps resolving the problem. The rest of his race was therefore more like a test session as he was unclassified in the final results.

4 | Max Chilton | Marussia-Ferrari | 13th | 7/10

Chilton did something he had done just once previously beforehand and that was manage to drag his car around a qualifying lap faster than team-mate Bianchi.

However, it mattered little when the car conked out before the formation lap, forcing him to start from the pit lane. Nonetheless, Marussia worked quickly and got the car running; Chilton finished the race in 14th place and continues his run of finishes!

Caterham F1 Team.

Caterham F1 Team.

10 | Kamui Kobayashi | Caterham-Renault | Ret | 7/10

New team, new car, little running and over a year out of the sport. No problem for Formula 1’s quirky Japanese as he made it through to Q2 and put the aesthetically challenged CT05 a dizzying 14th on the grid.

Sadly his race lasted little longer as he creamed into Räikkönen, then Massa, at the start of the race and was forced to retire with significant damage to the CT05. It wasn’t his fault though, as the brake-by-wire system went haywire. The FIA will be keen to investigate and evaluate why Kobayashi’s car dug so deep under the Williams.

9 | Marcus Ericsson | Caterham-Renault | Ret | 6/10

Formula 1’s new Swede proved that he wasn’t a turnip as he acquitted himself well across the weekend despite a lack of running.

In the race he made quiet but positive progress and was running up in 12th place when the safety car was deployed. He ultimately failed to finish due to an oil leak but it was a promising start for Ericsson.

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