Drivers parade, Interlagos, 2017

Which F1 team has the best – and worst – driver pairings for 2018?

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The final place on the F1 grid for 2018 was filled this week when Williams announced Sergey Sirotkin will step into the seat vacated by Felipe Massa.

The only other newcomer on the grid since the end of last season is Charles Leclerc, who takes over from Pascal Wehrlein at Sauber. However several other teams have also changed their line-ups over the course of the last 12 months.

Which team has the most promising driver line-up ahead of the new season? Here’s a run-down of what’s changed and what hasn’t:

MercedesValtteri Bottas won himself a second season alongside world champion Lewis Hamilton after winning three times last season
Ferrari – Another one-year contract extension for Kimi Raikkonen last year makes this his fourth campaign alongside Sebastian Vettel
Red BullDaniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen have been team mates since early in 2016 but this is their second full season together
Force IndiaSergio Perez goes into his fifth season at Force India but he had a combustible relationship with Esteban Ocon in their first season together last year
Williams – The youngest pairing on the grid: Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin have a combined age of 41
RenaultNico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jnr have spent just four races as team mates so far
Toro Rosso – With just nine starts between them, Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly are the least experienced pair in the field
HaasRomain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were quite evenly matched in their first season as team mates last year
McLaren – Will Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne have a car which does justice to their talents this year?
Sauber – While Charles Leclerc’s potential remains to be seen Marcus Ericsson is more of a known quantity

I say

I found it harder to select a strongest driver pairing than a weakest one. Ferrari has a pair of world champions, Mercedes has Hamilton who’s at the top of his game and Bottas who has some very strong races last year, and McLaren have the irrepressible Alonso alongside the steadily-improving Vandoorne.

But I’d pick a pair of drivers with no world championships between them as the strongest combined pairing in F1. At times Ricciardo and Verstappen were incredibly closely matched in qualifying last year as they appeared to be wringing everything from their RB13s. Both are gutsy racers too.

For me the pairing with the most to prove are Williams’s two drivers. Stroll had a largely poor debut season (with, admittedly, two highly respectable showings) and Sirotkin has looked adequate at best in the junior categories. However there’s a big question mark over Toro Rosso’s inexperienced pairing too.



You say

Which team has the strongest and weakest driver line-ups for the season ahead? Cast your votes below and explain your choices in the comments.

Which team has the STRONGEST driver line-up for 2018?

  • Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas (9%)
  • Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen (6%)
  • Red Bull: Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen (71%)
  • Force India: Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon (3%)
  • Williams: Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin (1%)
  • Renault: Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jnr (4%)
  • Toro Rosso: Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley (0%)
  • Haas: Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen (0%)
  • McLaren: Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne (6%)
  • Sauber: Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc (0%)

Total Voters: 447

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Which team has the WEAKEST driver line-up for 2018?

  • Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas (0%)
  • Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen (1%)
  • Red Bull: Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen (0%)
  • Force India: Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon (0%)
  • Williams: Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin (66%)
  • Renault: Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jnr (0%)
  • Toro Rosso: Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley (19%)
  • Haas: Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen (5%)
  • McLaren: Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne (1%)
  • Sauber: Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc (7%)

Total Voters: 443

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 100 comments on “Which F1 team has the best – and worst – driver pairings for 2018?”

    1. Glad I could affect the result ;)

    2. I think the best (Red Bull) and the worst (Williams) are quite obvious. But it’s interesting to rank them. So:

      Red Bull
      Mercedes
      McLaren
      Force India
      Renault
      Ferrari
      Haas
      Sauber
      Toro Rosso
      Williams.

      1. With the caveat that the gap from Red Bull down to Ferrari isn’t that big, but the gap from Ferrari to Haas is.

        1. @hahostolze I’m completely lost as to how you rate Vettel and Raikkonen (whom people like to act is terrible but in reality would still destroy half the grid) below Force India and Renault, with a batch of drivers who surely belong in the sport but in comparison with the other two have proven just nothing. Even putting them below McLaren is just way to much credit for Alonso,…

          1. It may well be because of the fact that my favourite driver is Kimi, and this has led me to be so disappointed with his current level that I’m actually underrating him now.
            But it’s also informed by how highly I rate Ocon, Vandoorne and Hulk.

            1. Hulkenbergisaballlicker (@)
              26th January 2018, 6:58

              Ocon and Vandorne I get, but Hulky, carlos Sainz and Perez are absolutely the most overrated, overpaid drivers for 2018

          2. @flatsix Incidentally, the people below me seem to largely be following my line of rating Ferrari that lowly. That may also have to do with F1Fanatic commenters generally not rating Vettel as highly as they ought to, mind.

            1. @hahostolze
              I can only speak for myself, but I agree with the general tendency of ranking the Ferrari duo lower than the line-ups of Red Bull, Mercedes, and McLaren – but not because I am not convinced of Vettel’s qualities (I’d say he’s as good as, if not better than, Hamilton), but because Räikkönen ruins Ferrari’s ranking.
              The only aspect of the current standings I don’t necessarily agree with, is the fact that it seems to overlook two hidden champions of the midfield. Both Force India and Renault have terrific line-ups with nothing but above-average drivers. The only problem with them is that they lack drivers with the outstanding qualities that Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen, or Alonso clearly have, but on the other hand, they’re not carrying clearly inferior number 2 drivers around. I’d rank all of them, Pérez and Ocon, Hülkenberg and Sainz, higher than Bottas, so I think those line-ups are at least worth looking at. But I understand that the nature of this ranking is rather unfavourable for teams without star drivers.

      2. I fully agree with Hamilton that the strongest drivers on the grid are: (INPO) HAM, VET, ALO, VER.
        And each of their partners seem robust enough to make those teams the top 4!
        I’d go 1) RBR; 2) MER (RIC is closer to the top 4 than BOT); MCL (VAN steadily improving); FER (RAI showed last year(s) that we can no longer rely on him to bring the prizes home).
        REN 5) to me ahead of 6) FI (or whatever they will be called this year). IMO Hulk just beats PER, and SAI still has a sliver of advantage over OCO (not due to talent, but based on experience).
        7) Haas sits lonely in the middle, almost boring.
        And even though 10) Wiliams might be the red lantern pairing, they are not that far behind 9) SAU (ERI seems to be merely a STR with more experience), or 8) STR (drivers underwhelmed me at the end of 2017).

        1. That’s a bit unfair for Raikonnen, if not for supporting Vettel he’d easily won in Monaco and Hungary.

        2. RIC is closer to the top 4 than BOT

          On what planet are you currently presiding??? RIC is CLOSE to the top 4?? hahaha! RIC is one of the, if not THE best driver on the grid.

          Do you need to be reminded how hard he spanked the driver you have ranked as number 2?

      3. Ian Leapingwell
        21st January 2018, 21:29

        Clearly Haas has the worst driver lineup.
        Grosejean and Magnussen are a waste of space.
        Mr Haas should employ Robert Kubica

        1. We have Stroll, Sirotkin, Hartley and Gasly are on the grid, and you think Haas has the worst line up?

          1. Grosjean and Mags are accident prone, blame everyone else but themselves, blinkered codwallops. Hartley has pedigree and WC under his belt, what has Haas drivers got? apart from RG GP2 series win, nothing really note worthy.

            Plus Hartley impressed in his first 4 races, he didn’t crash, he didn’t obstruct, and in his first race ended with the 8th fastest lap time which over 1sec faster than Kyvat. I mean credit where its due. His lack of performance was the car, not him.

            I don’t think the driver pairings will be as open and shut as people think, and when people are so close minded and only judge them on their finishing places without considering all factors of the race, then I think it could make for some interesting results this year.

      4. Mclaren is a little over rated 7% of the votes. Vandoornes start of the season was poor and so was his end, he had a couple good middle of the champ races and thats all.
        Personally haas is 2ns worst as i am concerned.

    3. RBR

      Mercedes
      Renault
      FI
      Ferrari
      Haas
      Sauber – Williams – STR

    4. 1st Red Bull
      2nd McLaren
      3rd Mercedes
      4th Renault
      5th Force India
      6th Ferrari
      7th Alfa Romeo
      8th Haas
      9th Toro Rosso
      10th Williams

      1. This is my rating of the drivers:
        1st Fernando Alonso
        2nd Max Verstappen
        3rd Lewis Hamilton
        4th Sebastian Vettel
        5th Daniel Ricciardo
        6th Charles Leclerc
        7th Carlos Sainz
        8th Valtteri Bottas
        9th Esteban Ocon
        10th Nico Hulkenberg
        11th Sergio Perez
        12th Stoffel Vandoorne
        13th Kimi Raikkonen
        14th Romain Grosjean
        15th Kevin Magnussen
        16th Brendon Hartley
        17th Pierre Gasly
        18th Sergey Sirotkin
        19th Marcus Ericsson
        20th Lance Stroll

        1. Mmm, based on your OWN ranking, mercedes should be ahead of mclaren, which seems more sensible to me as well!

        2. @f1frog Very good rating. IMO: Leclerc is hard to position, but I don’t think he isn’t that high, probably around 10th.. Ericsson should be dead last for sure. I also would rate Bottas a bit lower..

        3. @f1frog Charles Leclerc as nr 6th… Based on all the experience he has from driving f1 cars. Lol

    5. 1. Red Bull
      2. Force India
      3. McLaren
      4. Renault
      5. Mercedes
      6. Ferrari
      7. Haas
      8. Sauber
      9. Williams
      10. Toro Rosso

      Red Bull has by far the best combination. Both of them push the car to the max and are more or less equal.
      Same can be said of Force India. Ocon is 1 of the biggest talents of the past 10 years, paired with Perez who is also quite good. Although Ocon has the edge on pure speed, Perez has got the experience.
      McLaren has arguably the best driver of the grid, with a highly talented teammate who has been improving a lot during last season. I expect a lot from both of them.
      Sainz is a drivers who can challenge any of the top drivers in F1. As he showed at STR against Max. Hulk has shown his racecraft time and time again. Also, great in qualifying and in wet condition.
      With Hamilton, Mercedes has 1 superb driver. Arguably the best in F1. But his teammate is mediocre, bringing Mercedes down in the list
      Same with Ferrari. Vettel is one of the best drivers. But Raïkkonen is so-so… it is costing Ferrari championships.
      Haas has two mediocre drivers.
      Sauber has two really bad drivers.
      Williams has two awful drivers.
      Toro Rosso’s line-up is the worst line-up in the team’s history. Nothing accomplished in junior series..

      1. @spafrancorchamps Where would you put Mercedes and Ferrari, if they had Hamilton/Ocon and Vettel/Leclerc instead, assuming the Red Bull pairing stayed the same? Both of these pairings I see as quite possible for 2019.

      2. @spafrancorchamps

        Toro Rosso’s line-up is the worst line-up in the team’s history. Nothing accomplished in junior series..

        Erm, Brendan Hartley is part of the incumbent winning driver team from last years WEC?

        1. And Gasly is a GP2 winner.

          1. @godoff1, mind you, at the same time it could be pointed out that Gasly was driving for Prema Powerteam – Prema have been pretty dominant in quite a lot of major junior series in recent years (in 2016, when Gasly won the title, they won the GP2 title, the European Formula 3 title and multiple Formula 4 titles as well). It’s not to say that he is a bad driver – he’s got some ability, that’s for sure – but that, whilst things are ostensibly equal in GP2, in reality the choice of team does still influence the situation, and Gasly was placed at arguably the best team that year.

            It is also worth noting that Gasly was beaten fairly soundly by Sirotkin in the 2015 GP2 season as well (Sirotkin was 3rd with 139 points, whilst Gasly was 8th with 110), even though Gasly arguably had a slight advantage as he’d already driven in the final rounds in the previous season, whereas Sirotkin was a rookie in 2015. It’s why I think the comment that Sirotkin was “adequate at best in the junior categories” is a bit harsh on him – I’m not saying he’s the greatest driver ever, but I do feel that he’s being overly harshly treated because people want to lash out at him for not being Kubica – whilst perhaps a few of Gasly’s poorer races in GP2 have been glossed over.

      3. “Sauber has two really bad drivers”

        You didn’t watch Formula 2 last year, did you? I’d just like to say that Leclerc is BY FAR the most impressive driver ever to drive in GP2/F2. That includes drivers like Hamilton, Rosberg, Hulkenberg and Vandoorne. If you think of him as a “really bad driver”, you are in for a massive surprise. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if dominated Ericsson the same way Hulkenberg dominated Palmer.

        1. Leclerc is also the first driver this decade to win it as a rookie, which is especially impressive, before him only Rosberg (inaugural season in 2005), Hamilton, and Hulkenberg have won it as a rookie. And just watching the way in which he drove, he should’ve won the championship by even more if not for disqualifications from his team trying to be too clever. I think he’ll take a few races to get up to speed, but he’ll be well ahead of Ericsson by the end of the year, possibly into the Ferrari for 2019.

          1. @hugh11 Just like Pascal would be into Mercedes by now then.

            1. Michael Brown (@)
              21st January 2018, 20:33

              Seconded.

              Let’s hope he can impress in F1, first.

          2. @hugh11 Don’t get your hopes up.
            What happens if ERI beats him throughout the season? What about his marketing value then? Getting sacked and replaced by Gio?

            Beating Ericsson is not gonna be that easy for him. Both of them weights about the same so there will be no advantage like WEH had.

            1. (@orchide) Leclerc WILL beat Ericsson next season. No doubt about that. After Palmer’s departure Ericsson is the least best driver on the grid. But otoh I can understand your bias. ;-)

            2. @rinodina A rookie in f1…new car, new team, new engineers etc. compared to ERI who makes his 4th year in Sauber and knows the team and how they work.

              Apparently you are affected by the mass hype around LeClerc and can’t really think straight.
              He WILL have a hard time beating Ericsson.

            3. @orchide watch some videos of Leclerc in GP2, then watch videos of Ericsson in GP2, and tell us Ericsson is better. Sure it may take Leclerc a few races to get settled, but once he is he’ll be Ericsson. He has ridiculous talent, Verstappen is the only one I’ve seen more talented at his age since I’ve been watching motorsport.

            4. @rinodina
              I know some are sick of me going on about Ericsson, but I don’t see how Leclerc will certainly beat Ericsson. Ericsson with be in his 5th season in F1. And 4th with Sauber. Leclerc is totally new to F1 and Sauber. He looks far more promising than Ericsson, but I think he will have a real tough time beating a team mate who has been in F1 and the team for quite some time. And just because a driver looks promising from their career before F1 never will guarantee that they will be a superstar. There was so much hype about Vandoorne for so many years. And I’d say the first 3rd or so of his season was terrible. But maybe not for a rookie.

            5. @orchide Ericsson… Karlsson… And you’re talking about thinking straight. ;-)

              It’s not about hyping Leclerc, it’s about what Ericsson really is; a thoroughly mediocre driver with a penchant for silly accidents. His only asset, which has kept him in F1 for 2018, is his financial backing. There is no doubt Wehrlein deserved the seat, together with Leclerc.

            6. @rinodina Well, you apparently don’t know anything regarding the season regarding ERI vs WEH. Read up om the weight, tyre pressure advantage etc. before you make a fool of yourself.
              Ooh, Wehrlein is a Merc driver by the way. Good lucking putting him in a seat using the latest Ferrari PU.

            7. @orchide
              >the weight, tyre pressure advantage etc

              :-)

              >Wehrlein is a Merc driver by the way […]

              I know. I did not say he should be in the 2018 Sauber, I merely said he deserved it.
              Btw, Giovinazzi is a Ferrari backed driver, who lost out on Ericsson and his sponsors.

          3. @hugh11 Not only the only rookie to win the championship this decade but the only rookie ever to win it with the Dallara GP2/11 chassis or Pirelli tyres.

      4. I am not sure about that. Hulk and Bottas are pretty close to each other, in my book. Sauber has LeClerc, who is a reigning F2 champion that he won in his rookie season, after winning GP3 series the year before, also in his rookie season, and is regarded as one of the best young drivers. Just go watch some of his races… And Toro Rosso drivers accomplished nothing??? What??? Gasly – GP2 champion, and was within arms reach from a very competitive Super Formula, where he beat likes of Rosenqvist, Loterer and Nakajima. Hartley – WEC champion, Le Mans winner, super fast and super consistent driver. Both lack experience in F1, but so did Lewis and Sebastian at some point

    6. 1 Mercedes (HAM/BOT)
      2 Red Bull (RIC/VER)
      3 Ferrari (VET/RAI)
      4 Renault (HUL/SAI)
      5 McLaren (ALO/VAN)
      6 Force India (PER/OCO)
      7 Toro Rosso (GAS/HAR)
      8 Haas (GRO/MAG)
      9 Sauber (ERI/LEC)
      10 Williams (STR/SIR)

    7. Red Bull
      Mercedes
      McLaren
      Renault
      /Force India
      /Ferrari (pretty equal)
      Haas
      Sauber
      Toro Rosso
      Williams

      1. Just to explain these, this is kinda how I figured it out. Some drivers may be like .5 off or whatever, but the rankings end up being roughly the same.
        Ricciardo – 9.25, Verstappen 9.5 = 18.75
        Hamilton 9.5, Bottas 8.5 = 18
        Alonso 9.5, Vandoorne 7.25 = 16.75
        Hulkenberg 8.5, Sainz 8 = 16.5
        Perez 8.5, Ocon 8 = 16.5
        Vettel 9.5, Raikkonen 7 = 16.5

        Grosjean 7, Magnussen 6 = 13
        Ericsson 5, Leclerc 6 (atm) = 11
        Hartley 5, Gasly 5.5 = 10.5
        Stroll 5, Sirotkin 4.5 = 9.5

        1. Hugh: Nailed it! Couldn’t agree more.

    8. Red Bull
      McLaren
      Mercedes
      Renault
      Force India
      Ferrari
      Haas
      Sauber
      Toro Rosso
      Williams

    9. Curious that you chose to head the article with a photograph from 2015…

    10. 1. Red Bull – Both drivers are probably the strongest on the grid
      2. Ferrari – Two champions, one stronger than the other
      3. Mercedes – One champion & one promising talent that needs to do better
      4. Force India – Both strong, but both raggedly and needlessly aggressive
      5. Renault – Both good but both unproven in consistency
      6. McLaren – One of the best drivers with a solid younger driver
      7. Haas – Both stable & decent drivers in a weak car
      8. Toro Rosso – Great pedigree of talent but no experience
      9. Sauber – Mediocre partnered with potential star, unproven
      10. Williams – Uninspiring with a strong stink of cash

      1. Ferrari – Two champions, one stronger than the other

        which one? ;)

        1. One wouldnt qualify into F1 at all based on his performance so its not that hard to figure out.

          1. as easy to figure out as the ‘wink’ in my comment ;) x2

    11. Feels a bit boring just agreeing with Keith but the choice felt clear cut.

      I feel like Verstappen is pretty much on the level of Hamilton, Alonso, and Vettel. Ricciardo is also there or thereabouts with them.

      And worst pairing was always going to be Williams. A couple of ok showings from Stroll don’t diminish he clearly isn’t F1 material.

    12. Quite easy for me, Red Bull and Williams.

      Although I don’t think there’s anything to choose between Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso, and Verstappen, Ricciardo is by far the strongest of the teammates. In fact, I’d sooner put him in the same category as those 4 than I would alongside Raikkonen, Bottas, and Vandoorne.

      Force India are the only other team I’d say have a lineup of similar quality to the big teams. Renault are not far behind. Sauber have one future star and another thoroughly mediocre driver. Haas feels a bit… meh. Toro Rosso’s pairing have been brilliant elsewhere, but totally unproven in F1.

      Williams doesn’t really have anything to get excited about. I won’t criticise Sirotkin; we havent seen him race in F1 yet, and we’ve seen far worse junior records in F1 than his. As for Stroll, he had a handful of strong moments in an otherwise very poor first year. When Lance Stroll is supposed to be the experienced team leader, that shows just how weak the lineup is. Williams face another season of never reaching the full potential of their car.

      1. Yes, agree, ricciardo is great but is no doubt not as good as verstappen, this explains the level of the red bull driver pairing, and one could indeed put the 5 you mentioned as the current top drivers.

        Then we have good midfield drivers who didn’t have the chance yet to prove themselves in top cars, sainz, ocon, perez and hulkenberg, so I’d put renault and force india even.

        Obviously hamilton should be better than these drivers and bottas very similar to them, making mercedes lineup imo better than those 2.

        Mclaren, mmm, vandoorne did bad in the beginning, then improved, I think mclaren lineup could be similar to renault and force india on average, and same goes for ferrari with vettel similar to alonso and raikkonen to vandoorne.

        Then we have haas with average drivers, sauber with a bad driver and a potentially great but so far unproven (in f1) driver and in the bottom, williams and toro rosso with both bad drivers from what I saw so far.

    13. RBR strongest, Williams weakest for me. It’s sad what that once great team amounts to these days…

    14. “Ferrari has a pair of world champions”

      Like that means anything, Raikkonen is a zero to the left at this point.

      1. Indeed, perez, sainz, ocon, bottas, hulkenberg, all at least a little better than raikkonen and younger.

    15. You know what would have made this poll interesting? “Which F1 team has the second best/worst driver pairings?”

    16. Red Bull – good, but not as good as everyone thinks. One of the two will get badly shown up this year.
      Renault – the addition of Sainz is a game-changer for them.
      Mclaren – Alonso, obviously, is quite good, and Vandoorne was encouraging towards the end of last year.
      Mercedes – Bottas could be a dead weight this year if he continues his form from the second half of the season.
      Force India – Think Perez will come out on top again, but the friction between the teammates is not ideal.
      Ferrari – Vettel is too hot-headed, Kimi is terrible now.
      Sauber – Ericsson is not as bad as everyone says, and Leclerc will be the best rookie in F1 for years. Yes, better than Verstappen etc.
      Williams – Stroll showed some potential in the races last year, if he can sort his qualifying he could come good. Sirotkin, far from being merely ‘adequate’, has shown flashes of star potential. If he can be more consistent Williams will surprise. Although neither driver can really win it seems: whatever they do, ‘fans’ will say ‘yeah but if so-and-so was in the car they would have lapped the field a gazillion times’.
      Haas – Grosjean is a bit moany and Magnussen is a bit forceful. Both inconsistent.
      Toro Rosso – I know they were thrown into a difficult situation last year but both Gasly and Hartley looked to be struggling to me.

      1. Leclerc will be the best rookie in F1 for years

        You can only be rookie for one year ;)
        And do you really see him win his first race for his new team?

        1. @seth-space The best rookie there’s been in years is what that means. No I don’t see him winning his first race, because he’ll be in a Sauber. If he was in a Red Bull or the like, then yes, I’d put decent money on it if I were a betting man.

          1. Good you’re not a betting man.
            You’d be a rich fool betting on Verstappen winning his first race at RBR; you’d just be a fool betting on Leclerc doing the same.

            1. Just as much chance of Leclerc doing it if in the same situation, if he were in a front-running team.

    17. Red Bull
      Mercedes
      Force India
      McLaren
      Ferrari
      Renault
      Haas
      STR
      Sauber
      Williams

      Kinda hard to rank STR and Sauber, but Williams definitely last. Still feel for Stroll, with a couple of years at GP2/F2 level he could have been as good as Vandoorne and Gasly, in an A/A- category.

      The Haas lineup is the one which is probably set to move down if Gasly, Hartley and Leclerc are all able to get to grips with the 2018 f1 spec quickly.

    18. I happened to be on a thread which was created on the planet F1 forum a few days ago. And I did my conclusion there. I will quote it here and insert the link:

      http://forum.planet-f1.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=14763

      Red Bull – I don’t think that Verstappen has improved quite as much as many are suggesting. I think Ricciardo just had a slightly worse year than his previous. But Verstappen certainly was really strong in qualifying and this seemed to put pressure on Ricciardo and he did make a couple of mistakes. But other than that, I do think they are 2 top drivers and probably the best combination.

      Mercedes – Last year, I think Hamilton was certainly the best driver on the grid. And considering the circumstances that Bottas made an unexpected change without a lot of time to make the car to his liking, then in many ways, he did have an excellent start. But then he did have a low dip. But nothing was that bad. He kept out of trouble and constantly brought reasonable results home. I think that with time over winter to play more of a roll in the team for the car next year, he will be a lot better. Then, if Ricciardo and Verstappen don’t improve much over last year, I may swap these 2 teams around.

      Ferrari – I think Vettel is the next best driver on the grid after Hamilton. He has however struggled to show it consistently recently. However, I don’t doubt his ability and I do think he is better than Ricciardo and Verstappen. I think Kimi has been rather under rated by some. I think he is still easily good enough for F1, just maybe not a top team. He did have a lot of races where is was well off the pace, but a lot where he was strong to. The problem was, that these were often when Vettel was at his best. I think Ferrari can be the 3rd best line up though.

      McLaren – I’d have them below Ferrari because it has been so long since I have seen Alonso have the chance to show he is consistently a top driver. This seems really harsh, but I can’t be sure how good he is. I think he’s right near the top, but I believe Hamilton, Vettel, Ricciardo, Verstappen are probably better than him now. And I think Kimi was better than Vandoorne was last year quite easily. But Vandoorne was improving. However, I thought he had a terrible start. about the first 3rd of the season was really disappointing given thy hype i heard about him. I’d have rated him lower than Ericsson for the first half of the season. He did much improve though and I think he will keep getting better.

      Force India – Really stuck between them and Renault. I think Perez is one of the top midfield drivers. Ocon truly game him a hard time before ehe’d even had a full season in F1. That was impressive. They get involved in contact and disagreements that do end up ruining results that could be better. So that is a slightly negative side to things. But other than that, they are both really Stong and I expect Ocon and hopefully Perez to improve.

      Renault – I think Sainz has been one of the most over rated drivers last year. He had several top performances, but not many. I think Toro Rosso were really strong at Monaco and he just got the best out of it. Nothing outstanding. I thought China was over rated. As he nearly crashed on the first lap and then when he desperately tried to get going, he hit the wall and luckily survived. But he was brilliant at recovering from that mistake, no doubt about that. But the main problem I have with Sainz is he has been really inconsistent over the past 2 seasons. He had 3 big crashes this year, 2 being some of the biggest mistakes by any driver this year. He retired in all of them and caused 2 others to retire as well. Resulting in him causing more retirements than any other driver on the gird. But his other results were consistent and even with his mistakes, he got a huge amount of points for the team which hopefully indicates that if he gets more consistent, he will be much better. I’m also unsure about Hulkenberg. I’ll call him very solid and better than Sainz, but not managing a podium in his whole career is just a little disappointing. He was unlucky, but he has had a few chances. But he certainly seems pretty reliable.

      Hass – Only about Sauber because of experience. Grosjean has been in F1 for quite some time now. I like Grosjean, I used to think he was very good, especially in 2013. But I think he performance really had dropped since then. He’s up and down, but mainly pretty bad. Such a shame he still makes so many mistakes. He however still has several very good races which is another reason why I don’t rate them right near the bottom. I think Magnussen has been really bad this year. He’s had a few decent races, but some of his driving looks rather messy and he makes a fair load of mistakes too. But having now had 3 years in F1, that does make this team a rather experienced line up.

      Sauber – I don’t think Ericsson is a good driver when compared to most on the grid. But I think he has been quite under rated in the last 2 seasons. He hasn’t scored any points, but I can remember at leased 3 races that were looking very impressive, 2 of which were Mexico. He does crash rather a lot, but I’d say his pace was level with Wehrlein this year. There average qualifying gap was the smallest on the grid last year. I think Ericsson’s pace tends to be decent, it is just that he has made a fair few mistakes. I don’t know anything about Leclerc, but from what I hear from others, he hopefully will get to be very good. But I don’t think he will be better than Ericsson in his first season. Ericsson although he did take his time to improve has now been in the sport for 4 years and with Sauber for 3. So I think Ericsson being used to the team will give him and advantage over Leclerc. However, this will probably mean Sauber has a weaker line up than last year. To begin with anyway.

      Williams – Stroll in my view was really poor last year. But he did have one stunning performance for a rookie. I think that it is likely he will be able to improve next year and hopefully repeat that performance a few times as well as develop he lack of speed in qualifying and the race. I don’t know anything about Sirotkin. Williams really have taken a risk here though. Stroll was certainly not good on the whole, and they get rid of Massa, who was good and get a new driver. I wish they had kept Massa but I heard Massa was wanting more money than they were willing to give. But I really think Williams have a weak line up now. I just hope Sirotkin turns out to be good and Stroll improves, both of which could be possible.

      Toro Rosso – Don’t know and haven’t seen much from these 2 drivers. They didn’t impress me at all at the end of last year. Toro Rosso have just got rid of Sainz, who gave them loads of points, and Kvyat did actually look better to me than either of these 2. They really should have kept him IMO until the end of last season. And I think he could well have turned around and turned out to be better than either of these 2 are going to be anyway. He did have 4 years experience. But all is unknown for this year. They could surprise me.

      1. Wish I’d checked through it before posting but I’ve made several mistakes with the first few lines about Hass.

        It is meant to be “Only above Sauber because of experience” and “But I think his really has dropped since then.”

        I did write all this pretty late so sorry for the mistakes!

        1. And I can’t even correct my own mistakes with the last quote. Oh well, I think most will get it now.

          1. I think Max is a superstar on an upward trajectory. I think he was better last year than the previous, and I think he is going to be even stronger this season. If the car holds up for him, watch out.

            1. I think that is likely yes, but as he’s had so many retirements this season and so few races against his team mate, there hasn’t been much clear evidence of how much he has improved. And he does still take more risks and has been to blame for one or 2 of his incidents this year which cost his team a few points. But then most of the time, his risks get better results. If he gets a reliable car next year and makes hardly any mistakes, I can easily see him as one of the top drivers. But I am one of the few who seem to think we need more evidence to actually prove how good he really is. I’m not saying he isn’t really good already, we just haven’t seen him be consistently great yet.

    19. I’m going with the following:

      Red Bull – Riccardo and Verstappen, to me, look as good as each other. Both of them rarely err in ways that get them penalised and both are the equal of Vettel, as far as I can see. They also work very well as a team, increasing performance on both sides of the garage.
      Mercedes – The strongest individual driver (Hamilton) and a good #2 (Bottas), who work well together. The only reason it’s not #1 is because Bottas isn’t quite championship-battle-calibre in a series where perhaps five of his fellow F1 drivers are. Yet.
      (gap)
      McLaren – Alonso is still clearly championship-calibre, even in a car which… …isn’t. Vandoorne is hard to assess because he’s not really had to compete against a near-equal team-mate in F1. However, he shows well on the rare occasions the McLaren allows. Unfortunately, McLaren’s poor position as a team precludes bridging the gap on this matter – the car has to work for drivers to be able to improve their skills in it.
      Ferrari – Vettel is championship-calibre. Sadly, I’m not even sure that Raikkonen is quite at the level of the typical seasoned performer in F1 – but if he’s not, he’s pretty close. With two Vettel-standard racers, Ferrari would have a line-up to rival Mercedes. However, it doesn’t and is unlikely to have that for some time.
      Force India – Very equal line-up – but with two drivers who are basically driving like seasoned pros, rather than title contenders. When the in-team referereeing is sufficiently strict, the pairing is nearly as good as Ferrari’s.
      (gap)
      Renault – Hulkenberg is a seasoned pro. However Sainz Jr. lets the side down a little, because he has very good drives interspersed with erratic actions. He’s clearly trying to iron these out, and by 2019, I suspect Renault will have bridged this gap.
      Toro Rosso – The hardest to judge. Both Gasly and Hartley look like typical rookies to me (so, a bit worse than a seasoned pro would be, but not by huge amounts). I think they will nip at Renault’s heels, but it would be equally reasonable to predict them as just ahead, such is the level of unknown information.
      Sauber – Leclerc is emphatically not a typical rookie, but even so, I don’t want to assume he’ll be at championship-fighting standard on his first race (if he is… …watch out for Sauber being the next breakthrough team in F1). Ericsson does not impress me by his speed, though he will play an important role in Sauber’s development that is likely to outweigh that obvious downside to some extent.
      Haas – I think Grosjean is slightly better than Magnussen, but I’m not sure Magnussen is significantly better than Ericsson, which is why Haas doesn’t clear Sauber in my assessment. On the other hand, I believe that Grosjean and Magnussen are sufficiently close in speed that they can work together to improve their combined value to the team.
      Williams – While I can see the logic of Williams benching the best of their three drivers, the fact remains that Sirotkin is still a rookie, and not (on current evidence) a better one than Gasly or Hartley. Stroll is just about good enough not to be a track hazard given the basic performance of his car, and would likely be in the process of replacement by this point had he been at a slower team like Toro Rosso.

    20. Mercedes and Red Bull are definitely my top two, but I couldn’t easily say one pairing is better than the other. After that, I’d put McLaren and Ferrari, not separated by much – really depends on whether Raikkonen shows up and how well Vandoorne pushes on.

      Renault aren’t far behind those pairings, maybe even in the same bracket, followed by Force India and Haas. Of the remaining three, Sauber are probably stronger by virtue of an experienced driver and the reigning GP2 champ… and Toro Rosso guys haven’t been actively bad in F1, whereas Stroll has.

      So…

      1. Mercedes
      = Red Bull
      3. McLaren
      = Ferrari
      5. Renault
      6. Force India
      7. Haas
      8. Sauber
      9. Toro Rosso
      10. Williams

    21. Full agree with @keithcollantine ‘s analysis.

      I think its quite obvious that RBR has the strongest. However, I’m hoping that Bottas will surprise us and not repeat his subservient number 2 role. I think Danny Ric and Max will be closer this year. Based on Dan’s very honest review of his performance last year, it seems like he’s worked out why he was losing out in qualy. If he get’s his qualy pace back, we know he is one of the best on a Sunday.

      With Williams, I’d say that if Stroll had shown more potential in his first year, I suppose their lineup would not have been disparaged as much. When it comes to Sirotkin, if recent history has taught anything, having a stellar career in junior formulae is hardly an indicator of success in F1.

    22. Because of the huge gap in car performance in F1, most agree that the only true way of assessing a driver’s talent is to compare them to their teammates (or so I’ve heard a million times from team principals). Lewis has definitely had his lapses, but all-in-all he’s handily outperformed (and often dominated) most of his. Same with Alonso. Same with Vettel. But I’m confused by everyone jumping on the Red Bull bandwagon. They seem very talented, but… who really knows? I know everyone, including the media, is trying to create Verstappen as a prodigy, maybe because they feel he can be the manufactured hero that brings fans back to the sport. And maybe he will be in the future, but at this point he hasn’t clearly outperformed any of his teammates. People are so swept up in the hype of ‘Verstappen’ that they’re making him into something that he isn’t yet (or perhaps never will be). Ricciardo has proven more, but he’s never dominated a teammate, even being beaten by Vergne.

      I know people are swept up in the ‘out with the old, in with the new’ current that’s taking over F1, but c’mon. You can’t just conveniently throw away proven talent and pretend that new, potential talent is already better, just because you really want it to be that way.

      1. Verstappen destroyed ricciardo last year, go look at the race, qualifying, laps ahead head to head, the only thing ricciardo got more are points, why? Verstappen lost more points through reliability, correct for that for both drivers and he’s slightly ahead on that too, and don’t forget ricciardo is already at a high level, we’re not talking about an average driver!

    23. Its pretty easy. Red Bull the best and Williams the worst. Just like 2017.

    24. I voted for Red Bull for ”Which team has the STRONGEST driver line-up for 2018?” and Williams for ”Which team has the WEAKEST driver line-up for 2018?” But I only voted for that because there isn’t a ‘not sure’ option. It’s too early to jump to definite conclusions regarding the ‘weakest driver line-up’ part, so, therefore, I wish there’d be that type of option as well.

      1. do not vote = ‘not sure’
        And the question is which line up is strongest/weakest based on what we’ve seen so far.
        We might all change our assessment come Abu Dhabi 2018.

    25. Williams’ isn’t particularly strong, but so neither is Toro Rosso’s; actually, despite liking Hartley a lot, my hopes are not too high for the pairing. I have certainly higher hopes for Sirotkin than the Red Bull juniors.
      Mercedes’ paring is probably on par with Ferrari’s, as 2017 showed: Hamilton and Vettel ahead, and Bottas and Raikkonen almost equally behind. Red Bull have an excellent pairing, but I voted for “strongest” selecting a line-up of two good drivers, as equally-matched as possible, and I went with Renault. Two excellent drivers which have a huge potential and a huge opportunity of being amongst the class of the field if the French team becomes a front-runner in the next years.

      1. I don’t quite get how Mercedes pairing is close to being on par with Ferrari. Once the whole season was over last year, Vettel certainly wasn’t quite as good as Hamilton. Kimi clearly a lot worse than Vettel. And Kimi was a fair bit further behind Bottas in terms of performance than Vettel was from Hamilton. Not a single win for Kimi and his points difference sort of shows this. He certainly was a bit unlucky, but he had so many drives that were way off the pace. Bottas did too, but he had many more top drives than Kimi. I rated Ferrari as the 3rd best Line up, but I would rate Mercedes higher than them by quite some margin.

        I also don’t quite get how 4 races show that Hulkenberg and Sainz are very equally matched. They hardly got the chance to race against each other due to mistakes my the team, getting caught out in incidents or other things. Of course we can all guess what might happen, but until we see more, I have to say Hulkenberg is better than Sainz, certainly last year on the whole. Sainz had 2 of the worst crashes of any driver and caused more retirements than any driver on the grid. He was a bit erratic and inconsistent. But when he did perform, he did get loads of points, so hopefully he will get more in Renault. But I think Hulkenberg will be better than him to start off with. And given that Sainz has made quite a few more mistakes than Hulkenberg in the past 2 years, I’m not sure how soon he will be able to look as good or better than him. But I could easily be wrong.

    26. I think that Gasly and Sirotkin are going to surprise everyone, they are very very good. Leclerc is another talent, the drivers of the future.

      1. Lets hope so. More drivers of Verstappen quality would be great.

    27. I don’t understand people saying that “Lance Stroll is not F1 material”. Lance’s Dad pays Williams $35 million per season to give Lance a seat: That makes Lance F1 material in today’s F1.

      1. That’s exactly what they mean: without the money, after a season like this, he wouldn’t be in formula 1 any more, though I think he deserves a second season, see if he improves a bit.

    28. Funny. Although RB has two drivers of the Top-6 or so, I wouldn’t pick them for WCC at all. If Kimi isn’t delivering, truth is Max isn’t consistent at all in the long run. Whatever the reason, it’s a fact. That he has to be proven yet. Plus, with the kid is win or bust. We already know what happens in the end with that approach.

      And Danny Ric… He’s good, but as he says, between himself, LH and SV, you get 8 titles.

      That said, it goes:
      Renault
      Force India
      Ferrari (couldn’t put Bottas over Kimi)
      Mercedes
      RedBull
      McLaren
      Alfa
      Toro Rosso
      Haas
      Williams

      The key in my analysis is just the pairing. RS and FI have both solid drivers. They are really consistent, even considering that I don’t find Perez any special.

      If I’m to rank the teams only, Ferrari descends heavily, Force India remains on the Top-2 and Williams remains at the bottom.

      1. In what universe are vettel and raikkonen 2 places better than verstappen and ricciardo? Red bull was generally inferior this year, yet the few chances verstappen had to fight with vettel he put him behind, ricciardo isn’t much worse, raikkonen was a disaster this year.

        And same goes for mercedes vs ferrari, vettel and hamilton might be similar, but bottas worse than raikkonen? When bottas’ team mate had bad weekends, he won and kept vettel behind, when raikkonen’s team mate had bad weekends raikkonen could never threaten hamilton, even accounting for mercedes’ superiority the difference between raikkonen and bottas was too great.

        1. The universe that the RB pair hasn’t done nothing special so far.

          KR isn’t the same anymore, yet he’s still a top driver.

          MV is just a wildcard so far. Hopefully this season he gets a shot and we’ll see what he truly can and cannot do. Until then, I’ll reserve my right of being skeptical.

          DR is a decent driver, but that’s all. Yet, being slower, he finished ahead the kid, sure with 1 less retirement, but with points to spare regarding that.

          Bottas started a great season. But when it really mattered, he blew it miserably, same time that he wasn’t threatening Vettel at all (neither the RB pair). He proved himself a better squire than KR, Hungarian GP considered. As for WCC, crazier than it might seem, i’d pick KR. I like his repertory best.

      2. truth is Max isn’t consistent at all in the long run. Whatever the reason, it’s a fact.

        Well Donald, good to finally get the ‘facts’.
        How can it be that all the team managers, other drivers, journalists, and fans don’t see it as clearly as you?

        1. I am sorry. Didn’t realize that a person cannot think differently.

          1. You are entitled to your opinion, just don’t state them as facts.

            1. Very well. What I can state is that Ricciardo was the consistent one. Finished ahead despite being clearly slower, and with less wins. You may argue MV had one RET over DR, yet the australian had points to spare in the end.

              The kid hasn’t bested, as far as results goes, an inferior team mate in 2 seasons.

              MV delivers the best performances, but it’s DR who, till now, delivers the best championship places.

              But again, maybe I should ask for some motorsport gurus to check if my statements match.

    29. So people are saying Kubuca is extremely weak then. I chose the toro rosso pair as the weakest. I think Stroll has his good days and i believe Sergei will be fairly good. Gasly will be good as well but i don’t trust Hartley’s pace for some reason.

    30. Relative to the car’s probable potential: best, Red Bull; worst, Ferrari.

    31. I know this will be a landslide for Red Bull and Williams, probably justifiably so, but my votes were for Renault as having the best line-up and for Sauber having the worst.

      Sainz and Hulkenberg is a fantastic pairing, not just because they are both massively talented but because they both have something to prove. That will drive them both on to the next level next season I think.

      As for Sauber, I think Leclerc is amazing, he has Verstappen like potential, but Ericsson has showed nothing at all that justifies his place in F1 in his previous 4 seasons in F1. Even the much maligned Stroll managed to bag a front row and podium in his debut season and, in the one season Sauber had a decent car, it was Nasr who got the attention grabbing results. Ericsson pulls this line up down to irreparable depths for me.

    32. RedBull
      Mercedes
      Ferrari
      Force India
      Renault
      McLaren
      Haas
      Sauber
      Toro Rosso
      Williams

      Very surprised other people don’t have a ranking similar to this, based on what we actually know about the performances.

      I’ve seen McLaren ahead of Ferrari, because they have Alonso and a promising Vandoorne? Lets not forget that Vandoorne was marginally better than Stroll during the season, and yet it seems that there is no doubt in placing Williams last. And Alonso’s performances this year were over-rated imho. Itza yoke, a yoke!

      Force India also underrated, it doesn’t help to have Perez? The guy has proven his worth, people still rank him below Hulk, and like it or not he lead the Force India charge with a promising young talent beside him. FI is very close to 3rd because Raikonen is being dominated by Vettel (oh! another under-rated driver around here, well well well), which says more about the latter than the former (remember when Alonso destroyed Kimi, but people said Alonso was a driving god? Same thing folks, you can’t change your argument as it best suits you)

      Haas/Sauber/Toro Rosso/Williams very close to me, Haas has two drivers that I could describe with a simple ‘meh’, Sauber is wasting yet another year with Ericsson and has Leclerc, which lets face it, in F1 is an unknown quantity. Toro Rosso has some promise in Gasly, but Hartley I have my doubts, lets see and Williams with Stoll labelled as the ultimate pay driver and Sirotkin stealing the romance of every F1 fan around the world will get the last place for sure (I actually voted Toro Rosso in the poll, because they are the most inexperienced duo)

    33. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      22nd January 2018, 14:10

      One thing to note about Verstappen’s season last year was that he was racing with “house money” – essentially he had nothing to lose after scoring almost no points due to technical issues and everything to gain by taking chances. He said so every time he was interviewed stating that the other drivers all had a lot to lose and “should just let him by if he gets close enough”.

      That worked well against Hamilton who let him by but Vettel was less accommodating in Singapore.

      Obviously, he’s an incredible talent and it’s hard to argue with his 2nd place in the paddock amongst principals. If I had to pick the most exciting driver pairing it would be Red Bull, Renault, and Force India. I cannot wait to watch them in the races.

      If I had to pick the most solid pairing, that would have to be Mercedes. For all his criticism, Bottas brought in a lot of points. It’s easy to compare him to Lewis but I feel it’s like comparing Suarez or Neymar to Messi – you can’t blame Suarez for not beating Messi’s record and scoring 80 goals in a season when he’s scored 40 or 50… It’s not like Suarez (or Bottas) were scoring 17 goals like Gareth Bale did after the monster transfer – not meant as an insult to Gareth who’s a great player and I’m still befuddled why he hasn’t been able to deliver for Real. Just making a point using similar results.

    34. Stronger: Renault
      Weakest: Sauber

    35. I’m doubting between Hamilton/Bottas and Verstappen/Ricciardo for best pairing. It’s hard to say how Verstappen will perform when he’s actually fighting for a WDC. He could be like Vettel, completely crumbling when the pressure gets too much, or he could be like Hamilton, stepping up even more when the going gets tough.

      I also doubt the relationship between Verstappen and Ricciardo will be so easy going when the two of them have a shot at the WDC. Just look at how Verstappen botched his defense on Ricciardo in Hungary and the immediate fury that Ricciardo displayed. Add a WDC to the fray and emotions will flare up a million times hotter.

      Perhaps Verstappen and Ricciardo indeed perform better than Hamilton and Bottas when they have nothing to lose, but when fighting for the WDC I think the Mercedes guys have a better shot.

    36. So typical people putting Williams as the worst pairing before they’ve even turned a wheel together. The worst KNOWN pairing has to be Gasley & Hartley at Torro Rosso. Very uninspiring & lacklustre. I shall be cheering the young guns at Williams just to see you all wrong!

    37. I thought I had voted and commented on this article at the time but obviously not.

      My ranking of the driver pairings for 2018, in order are

      Red Bull
      Mercedes
      Force India
      Renault
      McLaren
      Ferrari
      Haas
      Sauber
      Toro Rosso
      Williams

      My reasoning was that in most cases the team is only as strong as its weakest link, or in this case I mostly tried to rank the teams by who I thought was the weakest second driver.

      This is why I have put Ferrari so far down, they may be the only team with two world champions and Vettel may be one of the best drivers on the grid currently, but Raikkonen’s performances in recent years mean he is a shadow of how good he used to be.

      I probably wouldn’t put either Red Bull driver in to the top tier of drivers just yet, I think they probably need the experience of being in battle for the title first, but if you put either of them up against any other driver on the grid I wouldn’t bet against them coming out on top in one off races and I wouldn’t be surprised if either of them manged to win the 2018 WDC if Red Bull produce a good enough car.

      Williams have the weakest line up for me, this is through a combination of the two driver’s youth and inexperience, they may collectively have more F1 experience than the Toro Rosso pairing, as Stroll has a full season under his belt, but Gasly and Hartley have at least both competed in a few Grand Prix.

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