Season review - F1 2013 Driver Rankings: Part One

By on Friday, December 13, 2013

As part of our review of the 2013 Formula One season, we rank the drivers who entered a race this year and evaluate how they fared, beginning at the lower end of the grid. Here is the annual driver rankings...

23 | Heikki Kovalainen | Lotus F1 Team | Championship: 21st, 0 points

Lotus F1 Team

Lotus F1 Team

Kovalainen wasn’t the worst driver to compete in 2013 but it would be unfair to rank him properly among rivals who participated in all 19 races. The Finn acquitted himself well during practice and qualifying at Austin but slipped back after a sudden loss of downforce at the front end. His second effort in Brazil was less successful as another poor start ended any hopes of ending his pointless streak. It was a competent, if not starring, cameo.

High point: Getting the call up by Lotus.

Low point: Poor start in Brazil ended slim hope of points.

22 | Max Chilton | Marussia F1 Team | Championship: 23rd, 0 points

Marussia F1 Team

Marussia F1 Team

Chilton was hardly expected to set the world alight but sometimes the gap to team-mate Jules Bianchi in qualifying was over a second. An ill-handling car compromised his progress but he showed well on a couple of occasions, especially at Suzuka. He also managed to finish every single race, an achievement that had not previously been managed by a rookie. He blotted his copybook by triggering the red flag in Monaco, although he usually remained out of trouble.

High point: Strong qualifying lap in Japan as he won the battle at the back.

Low point: Dismal showing at home in Britain.

21 | Giedo van der Garde | Caterham F1 Team | Championship: 22nd, 0 points

Caterham F1 Team

Caterham F1 Team

After several false starts, Van der Garde finally joined the Formula 1 grid and enjoyed a competent, if not spectacular, rookie season. His qualifying pace improved across the year, although he was eclipsed 11-8 overall by team-mate Charles Pic. Nonetheless, it was on a Saturday where he was twice able to excel courtesy of tyre gambles in tricky conditions in Monaco and Belgium, where he progressed through to Q2. Pic was frequently ahead in the races as Van der Garde struggled with tyre wear, though this improved with experience. Hungary was the standout drive as the Dutchman won the battle between the new teams.

High point: Qualifying at Spa – P3 in Q1!

Low point: Error under braking for the first corner in Japan.

20 | Charles Pic | Caterham F1 Team | Championship: 20th, 0 points

Caterham F1 Team

Caterham F1 Team

The problem for young Pic is that his shy and intelligent approach does not mean that he is less of a racing driver than some of his extrovert rivals, including team-mate Van der Garde, but he does not grab the attention. Pic was unable to pull off the eye-catching qualifying performances like Van der Garde (although he has a weighbridge call to blame for that in Spa) but he was usually the lead Caterham driver. He was twice able to finish a race in 14th place but his biggest problem late on in the year was his tendency to pick up unnecessary penalties, caused by sloppy driving. It would be a shame if Pic’s Formula 1 adventure came to an end after just two seasons.

High point: Strong lap in qualifying in Canada.

Low point: Early, fiery retirement in Monaco.

19 | Pastor Maldonado | Williams F1 Team | Championship: 18th, 1 point

2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Friday

Williams F1 Team

Maldonado matched his points tally from 2011 as he scored just a single point across the entire season, courtesy of a 10th place finish in Hungary. The Venezuelan struggled with an uncooperative car as he was unable to feel the front end properly, which blunted his attacking driving style. He was beaten by team-mate Valtteri Bottas in qualifying although in the races he frequently had the upper hand, which should be expected due to his greater experience. From the outside, he seemed at odds with the team when matters deteriorated and his confused comments in Austin – while Bottas starred – were disappointing and beneath him.

High point: Sneaking into the top 10 in Hungary.

Low point: Pressing the self-destruct button in Austin.

18 | Esteban Gutiérrez | Sauber F1 Team | Championship: 16th, 6 points

Sauber F1 Team

Sauber F1 Team

Rookie Gutiérrez appeared to be plunged into the deep end prematurely as he struggled with a recalcitrant Sauber and pushed too hard to make amends. After crashing out in China and enduring a woeful weekend in Bahrain, an alternative strategy in Spain meant he set the fastest lap and briefly led the race, signalling the potential for improvement. Such progression took a while to eventually arrive as he showed well in Singapore and Korea before finally bagging a handful of points in Japan. The final four races yielded little to shout about and he was outclassed by Hülkenberg across the year, out-qualifying the German just once. A good first season, but he has to improve.

High point: Accomplished drive in Japan which netted seventh place.

Low point: Careering into Adrian Sutil in China.

17 | Jean-Eric Vergne | Scuderia Toro Rosso | Championship: 15th, 13 points

Scuderia Toro Rosso

Scuderia Toro Rosso

A surprising statistic from this season is that Vergne finished in the points on just three occasions, the final time being in Canada back in June. Vergne only got the better of Ricciardo four times in qualifying, restricting his race prospects and ruling him out of the Red Bull seat pretty early. Nevertheless, Vergne was potentially the unluckiest driver on the grid this season as he suffered several reliability issues in an era of very few mechanical failures. Strong races in Monaco and Canada demonstrate that he has the speed, especially in low-grip situations, but he cannot apply it consistently across a season. Something of a raw diamond waiting to be polished, the speed of Daniil Kvyat and approach of Helmut Marko could spell trouble for Vergne next year.

High point: Excellent drive in low-grip conditions in Canada.

Low point: Most of the second half of the season.

16 | Adrian Sutil | Sahara Force India | Championship: 13th, 29 points

Sahara Force India

Sahara Force India

Sutil returned to the sport after an enforced sabbatical in 2012 but while he initially impressed, his final tally and championship position was lower than in 2010 and 2011. There were mitigating circumstances: a captive wheel nut failure in Malaysia, contact in China and Bahrain while a minute-long pit stop in Spain all cost him a hatful of points when the car was competitive. His finest race was in Monaco, where he pulled off a couple of spending moves at the Loews hairpin as he finished fifth. Results thereafter were few and far between and, even when Paul di Resta suffered a string of accidents, the Brit was usually ahead on-track.

High point: Sublime moves on two champions to score fifth in Monaco.

Low point: First lap contact in Bahrain.

15 | Jules Bianchi | Marussia F1 Team | Championship: 19th, 0 points

Marussia F1 Team

Marussia F1 Team

The low rate of attrition meant that putting in a starring drive was a difficult proposition, but Bianchi still managed to turn heads. A last minute replacement for Luiz Razia, Bianchi’s performances in Australia and Malaysia were nothing short of outstanding, with his qualifying lap in Sepang putting him within tenths of Q2, a feat he replicated in India. Not only did he trump team-mate Chilton 17-2 on a Saturday, but he was only twice beaten to the chequered flag by the Brit (and one of those was not his fault), with his 13th place in Malaysia ultimately earning Marussia the potentially lucrative 10th in the constructors’ championship. It’s difficult to envisage Marussia breaking into the midfield in 2014, but Bianchi is a top asset for the team to possess.

High point: Sensational qualifying performance in Malaysia.

Low point: Crash in practice in Japan that scuppered entire weekend.

14 | Sergio Pérez | Vodafone McLaren Mercedes | Championship: 11th, 49 points

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

Pérez’s misfortune in 2013 was twofold. The first was that he joined McLaren as they produced one of the worst cars in their history, meaning that Pérez could achieve only a maximum of fifth place. The second was that Kevin Magnussen’s ascendency was such that McLaren felt he was ready for 2014. Pérez still managed to eclipse Jenson Button in the qualifying battle, but it was during the races where Pérez was less effective, firstly being too passive, but then too aggressive. The outright pace was rarely there (partly car related) and it’s no surprise that Pérez’s best two results came in Bahrain and India, when tyre preservation was crucial – it is perhaps the Mexican’s main ally. He pulled off one of the passes of the season on Button in Monaco, but then wasted a good result by colliding with Kimi Räikkönen. Considering Pérez’s inexperience compared to Button, the final points tally did not reflect too badly on the younger racer, but with Magnussen waiting in the wings, McLaren had to act. The stars did not align for Pérez, but it would be a shame if, at the age of 23, his career has peaked. Force India offers him a chance for redemption.

High point: Double move in India sets up season-best fifth.

Low point: Overly ambitious move on Räikkönen in Monaco cost points and hurt reputation.

13 | Valtteri Bottas | Williams F1 Team | Championship: 17th, 4 points

Bottas was third on the grid in Canada

Williams F1 Team

The erudite Finn had few troubles in adapting from GP3 to Formula 1 as Williams’s decision to use Bottas as a reserve driver in 2012 paid dividends as he starred in 2013. For all of Maldonado’s faults as a racing driver, the Venezuelan has natural speed yet Bottas put him in the shade in qualifying to the tune of 11-8. The high point came in Canada, where he was quick throughout qualifying and astonishingly put the car into third place on the grid. He struggled to an extent in the races and typically it was Maldonado who was ahead, albeit with the caveat that split-strategies rarely favoured Bottas. The Finn nonetheless stayed out of trouble in the races and when his opportunity came, he grasped it with both hands as he bagged eighth place in Austin, which included a wonderful move on Gutiérrez. Having Felipe Massa as a team-mate next year should galvanise the team and Bottas could be the one to watch.

High point: Super speed throughout wet qualifying in Canada.

Low point: Disappointing performance in Spain.

12 | Daniel Ricciardo | Scuderia Toro Rosso | Championship: 14th, 20 points

Red Bull/Getty Images

Red Bull/Getty Images

Forget the laid-back, perma-grinning persona, Ricciardo is a steely racing driver who has earned his promotion to Red Bull next year. He’s unlikely to seriously trouble Sebastian Vettel (what would be the purpose of that for Red Bull?) but his speed means that the German will occasionally be rattled. He only outscored Vergne by 20-13, but Ricciardo’s superior Saturday performances (15-4) meant he usually made Q3, while Vergne did not, and therefore squandered a set of tyres, with Toro Rosso’s strategy gurus only infrequently more astute than their midfield rivals. Qualifying performances mid-season, especially at Silverstone, were sublime, while races in China and Italy were particularly rewarding. 2014 will be the real acid test for Ricciardo as, assuming Red Bull will once more be the benchmark, there will be no hiding place when races don’t run smoothly.

High point: Putting in a string of top qualifying performances mid-season.

Low point: Crashing out in Singapore.

11 | Paul di Resta | Sahara Force India | Championship: 12th, 48 points

Sahara Force India

Sahara Force India

To borrow an analogy from football, Di Resta’s year was one of two halves. In the first, he frequently outclassed team-mate Sutil and embarked on a sequence of points scoring races, the highlight being a near-podium result in Bahrain. Sadly, Formula 1 has a tendency to focus heavily on the second half of the campaign rather than the whole season and the Brit endured a miserable run of races, crashing out of four straight events (three his own doing) as Force India struggled on the updated tyres. His performances in India and Abu Dhabi were very strong, especially after such a dismal run of form, but it wasn’t enough to stay on at Force India.

High point: A flawless drive in Bahrain.

Low point: Crashing for a fourth successive race, in Korea.

Next week: The second part of our driver rankings, featuring the top 10 drivers of 2013.

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