Pit Debrief’s 2023 F1 Driver Rankings — 22-17

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22) Nyck de Vries —

To the surprise of absolutely no one, the second Dutchman on the grid is ranked 22nd and last by our editorial staff, despite the writer of this section profoundly disagreeing with that notion. However, it is not hard to see why, as the 2019 Formula 2 champion too often was the bottom slice of bread in the Dutch sandwich that is the 2023 Formula 1 grid.

Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

De Vries himself refused to label himself a rookie, despite his only previous outing in Formula 1 was last year in the Williams at Monza. And whether that put too much pressure on him to make his position ultimately untenable in the eye of Dr. Helmut Marko, or that he was simply not up to the task will remain a question. The fact is that the young Frysian took too long to get up to speed, a trait he also showed in various feeder series categories.

The start of the season wasn’t too bad, finishing 14th in Bahrain after outqualifying Pierre Gasly in the Alpine, but after a few vario incidents in Melbourne, Baku and Miami the pressure started to heap up. And while he managed to beat teammate Yuki Tsunoda in Monaco and outqualified him in Spain, the results didn’t stick, ultimately forcing Red Bull to check out Daniel Ricciardo, who would replace De Vries from Hungary onwards.

His biggest mistake was crashing himself out of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix while finally showing some decent pace, but overall he was just not quick enough compared to Tsunoda. It would have been fairer to judge him over an entire season, but with a Harvard course, a seat in Toyota’s Hypercar programme, and a drive in Formula E at Mahindra, there is little to worry about for the 28-year-old.

21) Logan Sargeant —

At 21st place we have Logan Sargeant. Being ranked 21st in a motorsports series of 20 is an achievement in itself, yet, let’s take a look at other achievements of Sargeant throughout the season. Unfortuntaely, it is not going to be a long list.

Photo Credit: Williams Racing

The Williams rookie concluded the season in 21st place, perfectly in line with how he was ranked in Pit Debrief’s driver rankings. What saved him from being potentially ranked last was the single point he scored at his home race. In a thrilling turn of events at the 2023 United States Grand Prix, Logan Sargeant made history as the first American point scorer of the 21st century. Racing at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, Sargeant crossed the finish line in a commendable P12.

However, the real drama unfolded post-race when news circulated through the paddock about two cars under investigation due to plank issues. The Mercedes and Ferrari drivers were disqualified, elevating Sargeant into the points. This momentous occasion not only ended America’s 30-year wait for an F1 points finish but also marked Sargeant’s first and last point as a rookie.

The American driver’s string of crashes, notably at Suzuka and Zandvoort, had intensified concerns about his future in F1. His mishap at Suzuka, where he lost control at the final corner during Q1, was his second qualifying crash in just four races. This followed the earlier incident at Zandvoort during the Dutch Grand Prix, which saw him as the first driver to retire in the race due to challenging wet conditions.

These repeated errors have raised questions about Sargeant’s ability to navigate the complexities of Formula 1, casting shadows over his racing career. As a result, it took Williams a while to announce him for 2024 season. He was the last driver to secure a place on next season’s grid.

20) Zhou Guanyu —

Zhou Guanyu’s second F1 season would fall into the category of ‘somewhat underwhelming’.

It must be stated that the C43 was far from the greatest F1 car ever designed, regularly lacking raw pace to fight for the top 10 on both a Saturday and Sunday.

However, the Chinese driver did not deliver for the most part. Fifteen Q1 exits compared to teammate Bottas’ seven is a pretty damning statistic. Far too often he failed to get the most out of the car in qualifying.

The obvious highlights are his superb, career-best P5 in qualifying at the Hungarian Grand Prix, a brilliant recovery from the back of the field to finish P9 in brutal conditions at the Qatar Grand Prix, plus another 9th in Spain with a very strong weekend overall as he outqualified and outpaced his Finnish stablemate.

Nonetheless, if he wants to guarantee a spot on the 2025 grid, he will need to find a step in performance, particularly in qualifying. With such tight margins between the cars these days, getting Saturday (or Friday on sprint weekends) right is absolutely critical.

Ahead of his first home race at the Chinese Grand Prix next year, the pressure to avoid only making a single appearance at it is well and truly on.

Photo Credit: Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake

19) Kevin Magnussen —

In his ninth Formula One season, Kevin Magnussen had one to forget in the main.

As with the likes of Zhou Guanyu and Sergio Perez, qualifying was extremely difficult for him.

Unhappy with the characteristics of the VF-23, the Dane was knocked out in Q1 on twelve occasions during the 2023 season, seven more than teammate Nico Hülkenberg who was impressing in his comeback campaign.

The standout moments for the one-time podium finisher were at Miami and Singapore. He qualified an outstanding P4 on the first trip to North America in 2023, and he had some fantastic battles with Charles Leclerc in the race as he dug in and got a point from his efforts.

In Singapore, he bagged his third and final point of the season after putting the car P6 on the grid. A late race charge saw him pass Zhou and Hülkenberg, and he could take P10 in the end as Alex Albon got involved in an incident with Sergio Pérez.

Ultimately, however, it was a pretty poor season for the 32-year-old, even taking into account the Sunday struggles the VF-23 had.

He will need to make a massive step in his performance next year to justify staying on the grid beyond 2024.

Photo Credit: MoneyGram Haas F1 Team

18) Lance Stroll —

Fitting for the Canadian, he’s placed in the exact place as his driver number. Stroll also has the biggest gap between himself and his teammate in our ranking. I’ll save Alonso’s ranking as a surprise for when we get to him, but spoiler alert: it won’t be until much later.

Stroll’s season had some positives. His highest finish this season was P4 in Australia after a solid drive on that late Sunday afternoon at Albert Park.

To add, his end of season for was good, as he finished P5 in Las Vegas and in Sao Paulo, clearly outperforming teammate Alonso in the third race to the held in the US in 2023.

Brazil was another major highlight for him, as he qualified P3 after maximising his run at the start of Q3 ahead of the deluge of rain. Thanks to those results, Stroll finished in the top 10 in the Championship for the first time in his career, and was only one point off tying his career best points total, set in the COVID-reduced 2020 season.

However, those positives are few and far between. Stroll’s season was tumultuous, filled with numerous bad calls throughout his season. To start, there were rumors that his seat was under threat, and that his dad, the team’s owner, Lawrence, has had enough with his son’s inconsistency and was about to kick him out of the seat for 2024.

Then, there was the infamous shove on his trainer in Qatar after a disappointing Q1 exit in qualifying. Those are just the ones off the track.

On track, based on the car that he had, his season could not have gone much worse. Stroll did not pick up any points in 5 straight races, between Zandvoort and Austin.

As well, Stroll had 4 DNFs, and one where he did not start after suffering a heavy crash in Singapore’s qualifying by overdriving in the last corner. For a while, Stroll was fighting Williams’ Logan Sargeant on whose crashes will cost the team the most money. That is definitely not a prize you want to be fighting for.

That being said, while looking at his stats alone, they look pitiful. Comparing them against his teammate, Fernando Alonso, they look even worse, which probably is a big factor to his low rating on this list. While Alonso was consistently scoring podiums, Stroll was fighting to finish in the points. Even then, he failed to score points 4 times while his teammate got to the podium: Saudi Arabia [unreliability], Monaco, Miami and the Netherlands. This represents half of Alonso’s total podiums this season.

To boot, Stroll only outqualified Alonso 3 times, and has beaten him in a race twice. This is unacceptable from someone who is supposed to be a talented driver, and one with 7 years of F1 experience under his belt.

Better drivers have lost their seats in less time, and while Stroll has his seat confirmed for next year, his seat should have coals on it. If I, a Canadian and Lance Stroll defender think that his seat should be under question, I wouldn’t doubt that other people within his inner circle are too. Next season should be “make it or break it” for the 25-year-old, and he’s probably well aware of it.

Photo Credit; Aston Martin Aramaco Cognizant F1 Team

17) Valtteri Bottas —

The final driver to feature in today’s end-of-the-year round-up is the best of the worst, a.k.a. the Sauber driver turned model for charity. In spite of the success with his calendar, which raised over 150k dollars for Movember, his racing year wasn’t as impressive as his off-track achievements.

Bottas’s sporting season was a tad underwhelming, with a fifteenth place in the drivers’ standings and only four top-ten finishes, which saw him tally up only a fifth of the points he had been able to score in his first year with the Swiss team.

It has been a tough swan song for Alfa Romeo, in their final year as main title sponsor ahead of Audi’s takeover set to take place with the new can generation, only four points from ending the year last in the standings and still unable to solve the starting issue which had marred the second part of their 2022 season.

The Finnish driver, who scored the majority of the points for the Swiss team, managed to take advantage of the rare occasions he was offered to score with his underdeveloped C43, and where he wasn’t denied points by mechanical failures like the São Paulo GP.

On tracks where he has historically done well like the inaugural Bahrain round, it was definitely among the highlights of the season for Sauber as he scored the team’s best result in P8.

Photo Credit: Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake

There are very few positives to be found in a ninth place overall in the Constructors’ Championship, especially as the goal ahead of the season had been to confirm the very positive sixth place scored in 2022, as well as to be able to fight again for the top five positions.

Considering the lack of overall pace from the C43, the 34-year-old delivered a solid season.

There could be a silver lining with a completely different project for their 2024 challenger, which will be the first one to be created under newly appointed Technical Director James Key’s guidance, and will feature a fresh, “thinking outside the box” approach, in the words of the 10-time Grand Prix winner.