2017 & 2018 were seasons where Mercedes Petronas would encounter increased opposition from Scuderia Ferrari. With 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg announcing a shock retirement once he sealed his driver’s title, it was left to quadruple champion Sebastian Vettel to fight Lewis Hamilton. New technical regulations permitted teams to build cars 2 metres wide. The title fight in both seasons would follow a similar pattern: Vettel & Ferrari would start the opening races strongly before Hamilton & the Silver Arrows would catch up. However, catastrophic driving mistakes for the German and weak technical developments allied with operation errors for his team paved the way for his British rival to wrap the titles by Mexico in both seasons.
Using the Crystal Score system, I will mark down every driver with a score out of 10 and then rank every driver with a points score average. This Crystal score will consist of all of the driver’s eligible points accumulated, which are then divided by the number of races they clocked up a score.
Jolyon Palmer- 2017: 4.79 (67/14) E (20th) REJECT OF THE YEAR
After a solid rookie 2016 campaign, the Briton was caught out horribly with the 2017 new regulations. It proved to be the season from hell, as crashes in Australia, Russia and skirmishes in Italy & Malaysia was the tip of the iceberg. In addition, Palmer’s relationship with Renault deteriorated rapidly and he found himself hammered in terms of all-round pace by new team-mate Nico Hulkenberg. Once it became clear the 25-year-old was not even in the same postcode as his German counterpart, the team prioritised new parts to their team leader and mechanical issues affect Palmer’s outings at Baku, Silverstone, Spa & Monza. Despite a superb drive in mixed conditions at Singapore, where he achieved a career-best of 6th, Jolyon was handed his P45 by Japan and was replaced by Carlos Sainz.
Daniil Kvyat- 2017: 5.08 (66/13) D- (19th)
2017 was supposed to be the season where the young Russian revived his flagging reputation, but it seemed as if the humiliation of being demoted to Toro Rosso early in 2016 had demoralized him more severely than initially thought. After scoring points at Melbourne & Catalunya, Kvyat would suffer technical failures at China, Canada and Baku. However, he certainly did not help his own cause with collisions at Monaco, Austria & Britain- the last of these in which he smashed into team-mate Sainz on the opening lap- eventually wore out Helmut Marko’s patience. Therefore it was no surprise to see Daniil replaced by Pierre Gasly for Malaysia and despite Sainz’s late-season departure to Renault, Brendon Hartley would also fill in the remaining races. Fortunately, Kvyat will be returning to Toro Rosso as a race driver for 2019 after a year of testing for Ferrari.
Lance Stroll- 2017: 5.79 (110/19) D (17th)/ 2018: 6.00 (114/19) D+ (20th) REJECT OF THE YEAR
The much-derided Canadian made his GP debut in 2017, where major question marks over his readiness for F1 were raised very quickly. Numerous scrapes and barges was the story of his opening races, which enhanced his image as a “pay driver”. His home race at Canada would prove a substantial turning point, however, as a punchy drive with effective overtakes saw Stroll clinch his maiden points finish for 9th. Although some derided his maiden podium at the subsequent Baku race as a fluke, it was a solid display of Stroll’s nerve under pressure despite Valtteri Bottas nipping past on the finish line to relegate the 18-year-old to 3rd. Lance would then pick up five further points finishes during 2017 and qualified 2nd at a wet Monza, but it was inescapable how often he outpaced by veteran team-mate Felipe Massa for the majority of the season. 2018 would see Massa replaced by Sergey Sirotkin and a dreadful new Williams chassis, but Stroll’s attitude would also prove to be problematic. In spite of a steady performance to grab 8th at an attrition-affected Baku race, his Monaco race was characterized by his petulance on the team’s radio. Being out-qualified 13-8 by Sirotkin once again placed the spotlight at his father’s money, which has been transitioned towards the newly-purchased Racing Point outfit. Of course, 2018 Reject of the Year will be joining his father at the rebranded Force India team for 2019.
Sergey Sirotkin- 2018: 6.33 (114/18) C (19th)
Whilst some may find themselves forgetting that the 23-year-old Russian ever raced in F1, it’s safe to say the Moscow-native did not disgrace himself. Entering GP racing with a heavy dose of SMP money behind him, Sirotkin gradually came to grips with Williams’ recalcitrant FW41 and impressed at times. His Monaco qualifying performance was arguably the highlight of his season, where he clocked the 13th fastest time behind Vandoorne’s McLaren and ahead of both Saubers and Haas, as well as Hartley’s Toro Rosso and team-mate Stroll. Sirotkin scored what will most likely prove to the only point of his F1 career at Monza, whereby the season’s end his sponsors announced he would not be returning for 2019 due to their dissatisfaction with Williams’ dreadful developments.
Brendon Hartley- 2018: 6.53 (111/17) C (18th)
New Zealand’s sole representative has provided a solid, if unspectacular display of himself during the past two years. Unfortunately, it became a frequent sight to see Hartley outperformed by team-mate Pierre Gasly by a large margin. Helmut Marko made his displeasure at the Kiwi’s lack of speed very loud in the media and there were rumours Brendon would be dropped mid-season. Alas, Hartley would complete 2018 with Toro Rosso, but just three points finish has seen him dropped in favour of Kvyat and Alex Albon. However, it was rather poignant to see Honda’s farewell message to Hartley, as it appeared the Japanese engine supplier believes his knowledge and experience will be heavily missed.
Marcus Ericsson- 2017: 5.32 (101/19) D (18th)/ 2018: 6.61 (119/18) C (17th)
The Swedish journeyman commerced 2017 with a 3rd season with Sauber, much to the consternation of the F1 fan base. He would complete his second consecutive season with scoring a point, in a year littered with apathy and basic driving errors at Singapore and Japan. Despite persisting with an image as one of the sport’s most underwhelming drivers, it was found that Ericsson’s average qualifying deficit to team-mate Pascal Wehrlein was only 0.049 seconds. However, that it did not stop pundits slamming his re-signing for 2018 at Hinwil, especially now as Alfa Romeo announced themselves as new sponsors of Sauber. 2018, though, proved to be a huge leap in form for Ericsson, who scored six times and his points total of 9 clinched him 17th in the drivers’ standing. It is rather curious, however, that the 28-year-old has been dropped by Sauber in spite of his best season in GP racing, but he will be racing in Indycar for 2019.
Stoffel Vandoorne- 2017: 5.94 (101/17) D+ (16th)/ 2018: 6.75 (135/20) C (15th)
Belgium’s biggest prospect had so many experts anticipating his full-time debut for 2017, but McLaren’s newest protege has been a major flop. Whilst poor equipment has undoubtedly stunted his progress, there’s been far too many occasions in the last two years where Vandoorne failed to make an impression. To illustrate his struggles further, 2018 saw him whitewashed by Fernando Alonso in qualifying, becoming the first driver since Nelson Piquet Jr. to suffer such a fate. (Of course, he too happened to be the Spanish double world champion’s team-mate). Only twice did the Belgian finish in front of Alonso during these two years and his best drive was arguably his 7th place at the 2017 Sepang race. With Vandoorne having already departed to race in Formula E, it’s unlikely we will see the 26-year-old race in F1 again.
Pascal Wehrlein- 2017: 6.00 (96/16) D+ (15th)
Whilst no-one doubted the 24-year-old German’s ability, the Sauber driver’s commitment and passion was something that left insiders unimpressed. Ultimately, despite scoring at Barcelona & Baku, it was felt by many that Wehrlein was doing the bare minimum to narrowly defeat his journeyman stablemate Ericsson. Inevitably, his Mercedes affiliation costed him his Sauber ride for 2018 thanks to Alfa Romeo stepping in to fund the Swiss outfit. With George Russell joining Williams for 2019 and Esteban Ocon reverting to a reserve role for Mercedes, Pascal split ties with Mercedes and now races for Mahindra in Formula E.
Romain Grosjean- 2017: 6.18 (105/17) C- (13th)/ 2018: 6.65 (133/20) C (16th)
Oh Romain. It’s obvious the Frenchman joined Haas as a springboard into a Ferrari seat, but the past two seasons have put paid to his chances of ever clinching a ride at any top team. It’s arguable that Grosjean’s decision to leave Renault in 2015 has proven to be the wrong choice, especially if 2018 constructors’ standings is a harbinger for future success for his former team. For every potent result he produces, there’s always a subsequent performance that makes you wonder how the Swiss-born driver was handed an opportunity to race in the top tier of motorsport in the first place. Whilst Grosjean maintained his dominance in qualifying over team-mate Kevin Magnussen, it’s clear to see the Frenchman has been the cause of his own failure to capitalise on promising positions. He will continue to race for Haas in 2019, but if he repeats his antics of 2018 which left him pointless after the opening eight races, it’s probable it could be his final year.
Kevin Magnussen- 2017: 6.125 (98/16) C- (14th)/ 2018: 7.00 (147/21) C+ (14th)
Denmark’s most famous name in racing has proven himself as one of the most aggressive drivers in F1 during the past two seasons. However, despite making few friends, K-Mag has displayed massive progress and his early 2018 form even prompted rumours of a potential move to Ferrari. Scoring five times in 2017, he entered 2018 with commentators demanding better consistency and cleaner driving. Whilst Magnussen improved his driver’s standing position from 14th to 9th between these past two years, his sportsmanship is still questionable. Bizarrely, however, the Dane only has two points on his superlicence, but we feel that’s a major blot on the judgment from the stewards. Despite a dip in form towards the end of 2018, it is expected by many that the 26-year-old could end team-mate Grosjean’s career in F1 for good if he really turns up in 2019.
Pierre Gasly- 2018: 7.00 (119/17) C (13th)
New Red Bull driver Gasly has impressed when his car has proven competitive, with 2018 providing five points finishes for the Frenchman. Making his debut at 2017 Malaysia, he’s only had two team-mates in Carlos Sainz & Brendon Hartley at Toro Rosso thus far. Therefore it is difficult to judge how Pierre will fare against 2019 team-mate Max Verstappen, but if he can produce performances similar to his 2018 Bahrain drive to 4th, he may be prove to be respectable. However, there have been reports from team insiders that Gasly needs to be instilled with “discipline”.
Carlos Sainz- 2017: 6.56 (105/16) C (12th)/2018: 7.30 (146/20) B (11th)
It is difficult to decipher whether the 24-year-old actually displayed any improvement in 2018 or his 2017 season was only strong in a superficial sense. It’s probable there is a significant margin in talent levels between two of his most recent team-mates Nico Hulkenberg and Daniil Kvyat: the German has been stupendous on his best days, whilst Russian’s erratic displays saw him dropped for 2018. Whilst the Spaniard did a marvelous job of earning 7th in the constructors’ standings for Toro Rosso in 2017, it must not be understated he was just as invaluable in contributing to Renault’s 4th place in 2018. My opinion is that Sainz is one of F1’s most consistent drivers, scoring 23 times in the past two seasons, but he will be filling Alonso’s shoes of leading McLaren in 2019.
Felipe Massa- 2017: 6.76 (115/17) C (9th)
Brazil’s most recent representative drove his farewell season in 2017, where he had the advantage over Lance Stroll without even sweating. Whilst Massa drove as precisely as he could, bad luck would see him lose a possible final career victory at Baku. Despite finishing 3 points ahead of Stroll, it was clear Massa had been superior but Williams began shopping Felipe’s seat around with cash issues arising. It was a wise decision on the Brazilian’s part to announce his retirement for good late in 2017 and he would achieve 7th at his final home race, which was a much better send-off than the tear-jerking scenes of the previous year when he spun in torrential conditions. Massa now races in Formula E.
Sergio Perez- 2017: 6.75 (135/20) C (10th)/2018: 7.40 (148/20) B (10th)
The past two years have proven to be a checkered affair for the 28-year-old Mexican, who has blended impressive displays with moments of hot-headed madness. However, he must be commended for saving the Racing Point team last August when it appeared the team would be shut down following Vijay Mallya’s legal issues back in his homeland of India. By placing the team in administration, Perez and his sponsors were able to facilitate Lawrence Stroll’s purchase of the team, but it meant the team’s constructor points was wiped out for the first 12 races. Nevertheless, Perez and Esteban Ocon succeeded to make up for these lost points by sealing 7th place for the Silverstone-based outfit in the remaining nine races. Unfortunately for Perez, he has been consistently out-qualified by Ocon and there have numerous collisions between the pairing: 2017 saw them tangle at Montreal and Spa, whilst 2018 saw Perez slam Ocon into the wall on the opening lap at Singapore. It should come as some relief that Perez’s new team-mate will be Lance Stroll, who should not pose any threat, but with the Mexican accelerating towards the age of 30, he may overdrive in 2019 in the hopes of catching the glances of the top teams.
Esteban Ocon- 2017: 6.95 (132/19) C+ (8th)/ 2018: 7.58 (144/19) B (9th)
It’s been a couple of promising, but rather erratic, seasons for the 22-year-old Frenchman. The jury remains undecided whether Ocon is worthy of a Mercedes seat any time soon, but his qualifying speed has been mesmerising to say the least. Ocon has clocked up 28 points finishes in the past two seasons, but he has found himself consistently outscored by veteran team-mate Perez 162-136. Despite this, their partnership has proven to be the sport’s most evenly matched with Ocon finishing ahead of the Mexican 16 times to Checo beating the Frenchman 15 times. If Bottas struggles in 2019, don’t be surprised to see the lanky Normandy native appear mid-season as Hamilton’s new team-mate.
Valtteri Bottas- 2017: 7.45 (149/20) B (7th)/ 2018: 7.05 (141/20) B- (12th)
It’s been a tale of two contrasting years for the Nastola-native: 2017 was a steadfast breakthrough season with three victories and a strong 3rd in the drivers’ standings, but 2018 was one mixed with ill fortune and fading motivation. Both seasons did follow a similar pattern, where Bottas was much quicker and closer to Hamilton in the first half of the season compared to the second half. However, whilst the Finn was rewarded for strong performances in 2017, a lack of aggression at Bahrain and disaster at Baku denied him further eye-catching results in 2018. It’s safe to say if Bottas was following team-orders at Hockenheim and Sochi in the hopes of prolonging his stay at Mercedes beyond 2019, he is in desperate trouble. It is one of major urgency Valtteri improves for 2019, especially his impotent run of four consecutive P5 results to conclude 2018.
Nico Hulkenberg- 2017: 6.71 (114/17) C (11th)/ 2018: 8.07 (121/15) A- (3rd)
It’s been two virile seasons in terms of result for the 31-year-old German, who will have the prospect of facing Daniel Ricciardo at Renault for 2019. Due to suffering 13 retirements in the past two years, it is a credit to Hulkenberg that he dragged himself into a top 10 position in the drivers’ standings for both seasons. In addition, his 2017 season was interrupted by numerous technical issues that saw him strolling to weak finishes as his French team adapted to the new regulations. With the far more effective Carlos Sainz replacing Jolyon Palmer as his team-mate for 2018, Nico has lifted himself to another level and likewise Renault improved their constructors’ position from 6th to 4th.
Charles Leclerc- 2018: 7.89 (142/18) B+ (7th)
Ferrari’s newest signing and youngest driver in almost 50 years had a fabulous rookie season at Sauber. Every superlative that can be said about the 21-year-old Monegasque has already been written, but the statistics tell us that he destroyed team-mate Ericsson with ease. However, it remains to be seen whether he can match or even beat quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel in 2019.
Kimi Raikkonen- 2017: 7.50 (120/16) B (6th)/ 2018: 8.00 (152/19) B+ (5th)
Whilst many panned the Iceman’s 2017 as an unadulterated disaster, 2018 was in truth an upgrade, rather than any major strides forward, for the 2007 world champion. Collisions with Bottas wrecked his races at Barcelona and Baku in 2017, a year which also saw Kimi cynically wiped out by Vettel at Singapore and then being denied the chance to start the Malaysian GP thanks to power unit issues. There were also some who believed Ferrari deliberately pitted the Finn early at Monaco & Hungary to allow Vettel to leapfrog and maintain his lead at both races respectively. 2018 would see more missed opportunities for Raikkonen, as a botched pit stop at Bahrain, an engine failure at Spain and a mediocre outing at Canada snapped the now-deceased Sergio Marchionne’s patience. Austria & Italy would see Kimi cruelly denied victory, the first of which saw Max Verstappen unpenalized for shoving Kimi on lap 1 and the latter saw Raikkonen’s rapidly-degrading tyres lose an emotive win in front of the Tifosi in what was his final Italian GP as Ferrari driver. Gracefully, COTA would see Kimi reborn in the USA and achieve his first victory in five years. Hopefully his return to Sauber will see the Finn in a more dignified position.
Fernando Alonso- 2017: 7.73 (116/15) B (3rd)/ 2018: 7.76 (132/17) B (8th)
The feisty Spaniard continued to display his credentials of one of the sport’s greatest drivers in his final two seasons of F1, but the results proved to be woefully lacking. In between his efforts to drag his underpowered McLaren to points finishes, it became a regular occurrence for Alonso to bemoan his machinery and Honda’s lack of progress in 2017. So 2018 was supposed to be the year in which the best chassis on the grid would finally allow the double world champion to win races again, but as you may know all hopes were disintegrated by Catalunya. The car’s non-linear progress was found to be sidetracked by the McLaren’s distractions with their dalliances in sports car racing, their production car operation and their flirtations with setting up a full-time Indycar program. Thankfully, Alonso’s whining and attacks on F1 will finally disappear in 2019.
Max Verstappen- 2017: 7.62 (99/13) B (5th)/ 2018: 8.05 (152/19) A- (4th)
The temperamental Dutch youngster has shown himself to have the credentials of not only becoming a F1 legend, but being one of the sport’s most thrilling drivers on- and off-track. Whilst Max has out-raced and out-qualified team-mate Daniel Ricciardo regularly, their Red Bull car’s disgusting reliability has stopped them from potentially challenging for more race wins. Unfortunately, Max’s weighbridge skirmish with Esteban Ocon following their 2018 Brazil race collision shows the 21-year-old needs to develop control of his emotions.
Daniel Ricciardo- 2017: 7.73 (116/15) B (4th)/ 2018: 8.19 (131/16) A- (2nd)
In terms of average race performances, the Crystal Score ranks the Honey Badger as the third-best average driver over the past two years. However, it appears the consensus on the Australian is that he has probably reached his peak at 29-years-old, so it is wise move for Ricciardo to move to Renault. It is visible Max Verstappen will only get better and the performance gap between the split pairing of Max and Dan will certainly grow and leave Ricciardo humiliated. 2017 would witness Ricciardo on the podium nine times, including a plucky win at Baku, whilst 2018 consisted of two wins at China and Monaco that proved to be the Australian’s only podium appearances of this season! Sadly, once the news of Ricciardo’s move to Renault became apparent, Red Bull gave him the cold shoulder and conspiracy theories over his reliability woes proliferated. So here’s to hopng 2019 bears better fortunes.
Sebastian Vettel- 2017: 8.16 (155/19) A- (2nd)/ 2018: 7.95 (167/21) B+ (6th)
2017 Belgium: Vettel led Hamilton by 7 points. 2018 Britain: Vettel led his Hamilton by 8 points. Those stats tell a story of two title campaigns that fell apart in similar dramatic fashion, when you consider the deficit by the end of both seasons. However, the way they collapsed differs monumentally when both campaigns reached Singapore: 2017 witnessed the German pull off one of the most idiotic defensive manoeuvres ever seen in F1 history by clattering into Kimi, Max and Alonso. 2018, on the other hand, saw Ferrari carry new technical updates which failed and handed the development initiative to Mercedes. Whilst 2017 would be further hamstrung by Ferrari’s power unit suffering reliability woes as they attempted to close the power deficit, 2018 witnessed Vettel’s reputation hang by a thread thanks to numerous collisions and driving errors. Hence the new Ferrari management’s decision to hire Charles Leclerc as his new team-mate, but it is certain the harmony between Vettel and his departing team-mate Raikkonen will be missed in the political slaughterhouse that is Maranello.
Lewis Hamilton- 2017: 8.40 (168/20) A (1st)/ 2018: 8.62 (181/21) A (1st)
Britain’s most successful GP driver has been simply unstoppable. Take your pick of his best races in the past two year: in 2017 he came out on top in duels with Vettel at Spain, Belgium and USA, whilst 2018 saw him steal four improbable victories at Germany, Hungary, Italy & Singapore when the odds were stacked against him. He has dismantled new team-mate Valtteri Bottas with devastating ease, but Lewis may be praying Bottas shows some improvement to help him fend off revitalised driver partnerships at Ferrari and Red Bull respectively. In addition, it’s unlikely Hamilton will be welcoming of Esteban Ocon if the Frenchman does find himself promoted to a Mercedes race seat, considering Ocon’s past history of clashing with Sergio Perez.