Three races of Formula One’s unprecedented 2020 season are down and the top of the championship looks pretty familiar, but the standings never tell the whole story of a season as it is happening.
ESPN will be keeping tabs on the season with its Power Rankings.
In compiling these standings, we have taken out the car factor and focused solely on the drivers and how each has been performing. 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 British Grand Prix.
Here’s how the order looks heading to Silverstone:
1. LEWIS HAMILTON
After a relatively clumsy season opener, Hamilton has flexed his muscles with back-to-back wins and (once again) sits atop the drivers’ standings, and our Power Rankings. The six-time world champion isn’t just leading on the track, either. Hamilton is championing F1’s fight for equality and that in itself highlights his unrivalled standing in the sport. With Mercedes having taken another giant leap forward, it’s hard to see anyone but Hamilton claiming the world title this year.
2. MAX VERSTAPPEN
The Dutchman is the only driver taking the fight to Mercedes and would be closer to Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, in terms of points, had it not been for an engine failure in the season opener. If we needed a reminder as to just how quick Verstappen is, take a look at how far ahead of Red Bull teammate Alex Albon he finished in Hungary: 69.614 seconds! He really is the only man who can save the season.
3. LANDO NORRIS
Had these Power Rankings been published after the back-to-back in Austria, Norris could very well have held the top spot. Sure, he has had a little luck at times, but the young Brit is showing maturity beyond his years, and in 2020 has already scored his maiden podium and fastest lap in a race. Not only that, but you have to admire his humility in helping the McLaren crew disassemble his car, post-Hungarian GP. It’s not just a bright future for Norris, it’s a bright present.
4. DANIEL RICCIARDO
There’s two things Ricciardo will be pleased to see. First, he’s well and truly got the edge over Renault teammate Esteban Ocon, having consistently outperformed the Frenchman in the first three rounds. Second, and perhaps more importantly, his decision to sign with McLaren for 2021 is looking better and better with each passing race weekend. Perhaps the Honey Badger will be battling for podiums sooner rather than later.
5. VALTTERI BOTTAS
It’s a little bit of déjà vu for Bottas. He won the first race in commanding fashion, but a couple of mistakes here and there have seen him surrender the championship lead to his, let’s face it, more accomplished teammate. He might be a happier man away from the track, but there hasn’t been much of an indication on it that this will be the year he mounts a season-long championship battle.
6. GEORGE RUSSELL
Just like with Verstappen, you have to wonder what sort of results Russell would be achieving in a quicker car. The young Brit humiliated Robert Kubica in 2019 and is repeating the dose with rookie Nicholas Latifi this season. Will anyone ever better him in qualifying!? It now seems inevitable he will secure a more valuable seat in Formula One.
7. PIERRE GASLY
What a difference 12 months (and a new team) makes. This time last year, Gasly was dumped from Red Bull after a string of uninspiring results, but fast -forward and the Frenchman is now putting his hand up for a possible return to the main team. He’s very much flying under the radar at the moment, so keep your eyes on Gasly over the next few races.
8. LANCE STROLL
Things are looking pretty rosy for Stroll. He’s equipped with the best car of his Formula One career and looks to have a seat at Racing Point sewn up for years to come … or so long as father Lawrence remains in charge. With pressure building on Sergio Perez, and his future at the team, 2020 is a great opportunity for the comfortable Stroll to show he can be a top-eight driver over the course of a season.
9. CARLOS SAINZ
Once again, Sainz has made a very solid start to the year, scoring points at each round. The problem? He has been outshone by Norris in the second McLaren. We all know Sainz is on the way to Ferrari in 2021, but all of a sudden he’ll be wondering if leaving McLaren for the Scuderia really is the right move. Formula One is often about being in the right place at the right time, and for Carlos’ sake, we hope Ferrari get its act together!
10. SERGIO PEREZ
One of the star performers of the Austrian doubleheader had a rare off weekend in Hungary, where he let Stroll upstage him. He’ll be disappointed by that. Like Sainz, Perez has scored points at each of the three races, but with speculation growing about the possibility of Sebastian Vettel moving to Racing Point, and thus Perez’s future looking more and more uncertain, he has to fall.
11. KEVIN MAGNUSSEN
It’s a bit of a one-man show at Haas in 2020. Magnussen is extracting everything he can out of what seems to be another uncompetitive car, and his point in Hungary could prove to be valuable come the end of the season. If he continues to walk all over Romain Grosjean, he won’t just catch the eye of team bosses down the pit lane, but could ultimately be responsible for ending the Frenchman’s career.
12. CHARLES LECLERC
He produced an exceptional drive in the season opener, albeit thanks to a little bit of luck, but has since gone backward at a rapid rate and looks to be in for a rough year. We know he has Ferrari’s unwavering support, and he has certainly earned that, but this car is in need of some serious upgrades if it wants to challenge the top four teams consistently. Mentally, it must be difficult for Leclerc to go from competing for wins to battling for points.
13. ANTONIO GIOVINAZZI
Perhaps the greatest surprise so far in season 2020 is how Giovinazzi has been able to turn the tables on Kimi Raikkonen. Last season, the Alfa Romeo team battle was utterly dominated by Kimi, but all of a sudden it’s the young Italian who looks like the experienced campaigner. He scored valuable points during the second race at the Red Bull Ring, and it could easily have been more if his car wasn’t so far off the pace.
14. SEBASTIAN VETTEL
Two years ago, we were debating who the best driver of the modern era was: Hamilton or Vettel. This question now seems laughable. The German is currently piloting the worst Ferrari of the modern era, has no drive beyond 2020 and has done little in the past two seasons to show he is still a top-tier driver. Sorry, Seb, but count yourself lucky to be ranked this high.
15. ALEX ALBON
Cast your mind back 12 months to when the jury was out on Gasly. All right, Albon might not be facing the exact same pressure at Red Bull, but Verstappen is certainly making him look second-rate, both in qualifying and race trim. For Albon’s sake, he needs a strong showing at Silverstone or the Red Bull-AlphaTauri merry-go-round may well continue.
16. ESTEBAN OCON
What was all the hype for? Aside from one decent qualifying session at the Styrian Grand Prix, Ocon’s return to Formula One has been underwhelming. This is a year for him to test himself alongside a multiple-race winner, but so far he has been outclassed by Ricciardo in each of the three races. Given his year out of the sport, we will cut Ocon some slack, but he’d better live up to the hysteria soon.
17. DANIIL KVYAT
It’s looking like Kvyat’s time in Formula One is drawing to an end (again). He has fallen right off the pace and Gasly (yes, Gasly, the man who 12 months ago was just about the most criticised in the sport) is making him look second-rate. The fact he scored a sensible point in Austria means he avoids the dreaded bottom three of the Power Rankings … for now, at least.
18. KIMI RAIKKONEN
Is Kimi a year past his expiration date? Early signs in 2020 suggest the Finn, now 40, maybe should have hung up the gloves at the end of last season. Sure, the Alfa Romeo isn’t exactly setting the track alight, but being outclassed by Giovinazzi is only tarnishing Raikkonen’s legacy in the sport.
19. NICHOLAS LATIFI
Yes, he is the only rookie in the 2020 field, but unlike the three who made their debuts last year, Latifi is yet to show anything even remotely impressive. He has made a number of errors and, as mentioned earlier, isn’t in the same ballpark as Russell in the second Williams. There’s too much young talent in the sport for Latifi to have a full underwhelming year, and a shortened season isn’t helping his cause for a return in 2021.
20. ROMAIN GROSJEAN
Mistakes. Mistakes. Mistakes. It’s a bit of same old, same old for Grosjean who (like Raikkonen) is looking like his time in Formula One may be coming to an end. The 2020 Haas certainly hasn’t helped Grosjean’s cause, but his performance compared to Magussen, particularly last time out in Hungary, was disappointing. In fact, his past 18 months has been disappointing, with just one top-nine finish in the past 24 races.