Written by Sasha Macmillen
We're officially at the halfway point of the 2022 Formula One season, and Max Verstappen is leading the drivers' championship by 38 points over Charles Leclerc. Red Bull are 56 points clear of Ferrari in the constructors', with both teams having suffered numerous reliability failures.
Momentum has swung time and time again this season, with Charles Leclerc's F1-75 dominating early proceedings. Having taken 71 of the 78 points on offer from the first three races, Charles has only scored 99 points from a possible 224 in the 8 races that have followed. Strategy mishaps in Monaco and Silverstone, coupled with engine blowouts in Barcelona and Baku, and a driver error in Imola, have compounded a series of painful losses for the Italian team. Meanwhile, Max Verstappen in the RB18 has been imperious and ruthlessly consistent, winning 6 of the opening 11 races, and finishing on the podium in two more. Engine blowouts in the opening races robbed him of podiums, as well as debris preventing a probable Silverstone victory, in which he could manage P7 in a hobbled Red Bull. However, it is 2021's world champion who is in the strongest position, with half of the season remaining.
Throughout the field, battles have been fierce and unforgiving, with the new regulations working a treat. Dramatic storylines have been aplenty, whether that be resurgence of Haas and Alfa Romeo or the demise of Daniel Ricciardo. So at the halfway point of the 2022 season, how do I rank the drivers' performances so far?
Max Verstappen: A+
The Flying Dutchman has been relentless and constantly a nuisance, never out of the hunt for victory. Bar a slight off-weekend in Monaco, where he still clocked a podium finish, Verstappen has had the measure of his teammate Sergio Pérez. Impressive victories included a tough battle against Leclerc in Jeddah, supreme pace in Miami and excellence under pressure in Canada. The Red Bull driver has a healthy margin in the championship, and needs to continue with his consistency.
Charles Leclerc: A+
The Monegasque Ferrari driver has been rapid-quick, scoring six pole positions, often by large margins. Has also been the victim of strategy mishaps and two engine blowouts whilst in race-winning positions. A major error in Imola is the standout defect in Leclerc's performance thus far, evidencing that his eagerness may still require some control, and mistakes need to be cut down upon. However, he is certainly not lacking speed, and victory in Austria has hauled him back into championship consideration.
Sergio Pérez: A
The Mexican has been much closer to his teammate in 2022 than in 2021, partly owing that to the favourable characteristics of the RB18. Has stood on the podium six times, and took an excellent win in Monaco. Has generally head the measure of Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari, whereas both of them have rarely been a match for their teammates. However, Checo has managed to outqualify Verstappen on three occasions, even though his race pace hasn't been able to match the World Champion's.
Carlos Sainz: A-
Has made a number of errors, including spins in Australia and Barcelona, but has also been dealt a heavy blow after being caught up in a first-lap incident in Imola, coupled with mechanical retirements in Baku and Austria. Has not been on the pace of his Ferrari teammate this season, and has taken time to adapt to the 2022 car. But, recent signs are on an upward trend, having taken his maiden pole and victory at Silverstone. Is unlikely to challenge for the championship due to his usual pace deficit to Leclerc, yet could well take a win or two more.
George Russell: A
Had the total measure of Lewis Hamilton in the opening races, yet recently has seen the tide turn back against him. Ruthlessly consistent and unyielding, the Brit has scored enough points to make him a consideration for a late charge up the standings, now that Mercedes' W13 has made serious steps forward. Was the unmeaning initiator of a serious first-lap incident in Silverstone, as well as ruining Sergio Pérez's Austrian Grand Prix, therefore preventing me from giving him an A+.
Lewis Hamilton: B+
Started the season in fantastic fashion, benefiting from Red Bull's issues to finish P3 in Bahrain. However, his experimental setups chasing more than what was possible often left the car undriveable, with painful weekends in Jeddah and Imola evidencing this. Was being consistently beaten by George Russell for a period, but a standout recovery drive in Catalunya gave signs of life that Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time World Champion still has it. Recently, he has turned it around and has the measure of Russell, and could have taken victory in Silverstone without the safety car.
Lando Norris: A
The Bristol-Born McLaren driver has had to handle an inconsistent performance package, which has sometimes struggled to make the points and at other times been right at the top of the midfield. 64 points, including a podium in Imola has been an impressive return whereas Daniel Ricciardo has only managed 17. Norris has comfortably had the measure of his Australian teammate and has scored points in every race but three this season.
Esteban Ocon: A
Has been excellent throughout, scoring 52 points and only finishing outside the points-paying positions on two occasions. Has gone under the radar, but is happy to quietly go about his business racking up solid finishes. Has been closely matched with Fernando Alonso this season, with their points totals not providing a totally fair comparison.
Valtteri Bottas: B+
Heralded by many as his chance to shine, having now been thrusted outside of Lewis Hamilton's shadow at Mercedes. Started the season in excellent fashion, with characteristically competitive qualifying performances and solid racecraft. However, his and Alfa Romeo's form has dipped somewhat of late, failing to score points in both Azerbaijan and Austria, whilst Valtteri was outqualified by his rookie teammate Zhou three times in a row. Overall, Bottas has been highly competitive, with the standouts being sixth-place finishes in Bahrain and Catalunya.
Fernando Alonso: A
In my opinion, the unluckiest driver of the season so far. Has been rapid throughout, but Fernando is unfortunate enough to be struck by an issue most weekends. Has been the innocent victim of incidents, mechanical retirements and strategy failures, meaning that his tally of 29 points so far is not a meaningful representation of his potential. The highlight so far was a front-row qualifying in Canada, yet an ERS issue in the race cost him a probable top-5 finish. Was lightning-quick in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, yet a hydraulic failure prevented a definite top-5 result, with potential there for top-3. Whilst his points tally baulks in comparison to Esteban's, he has been extremely unlucky, and has continued to show that the wily old fox has still got what it takes.
Kevin Magnussen: B
Kicked off his 'Viking Comeback' with an outstanding P5 finish in Bahrain, and has scored points on four further occasions. His teammate Mick Schumacher has proved a much more worthy opponent in recent races, with K-Mag being rather ordinary amongst Haas' many struggles.
Daniel Ricciardo: D
Where to even begin with the 'Honey Badger'. 2022, somewhat like 2021, has been a very tough season for the Australian. Has only finished in the points on three occasions, with a P6 at home in Melbourne being the best result. Hasn't come close to challenging his teammate Lando Norris, and has really struggled to adapt to the car. Has not always been dealt the easiest hand by McLaren, yet this season has been truly dismal in terms of Daniel Ricciardo's performance.
Pierre Gasly: C
By his high standards, has been a sub-par season for the Frenchman. Partly in tune with Alpha Tauri's struggles, yet Pierre Gasly has been unable to churn out those stellar qualifying performances for which he is renowned for. A P5 finish in Baku was the standout result, yet has only scored 16 points overall, with many races spent scrapping outside of the points. Has not been able to destroy Yuki Tsunoda, as many would've anticipated him to do again.
Sebastian Vettel: B
Missed the opening two races with COVID-19 and endured a horrorshow of a weekend in Melbourne. However, he has had strong results in Imola and Baku, and has scored 15 points overall. The AMR22 has been a truly awful car in qualifying trim, but the races have often seen it in and around the points paying positions. Overall, I would rate Sebastian Vettel's performance as average.
Mick Schumacher: C+
Has made a series of mistakes, and has once again taken a long time to adapt to new machinery. Huge shunts in Jeddah and Monaco have cost Haas millions, and has generally made a lot of mistakes. However, he has turned a corner recently and was unlucky to retire whilst running in the points in Canada. Two excellent results with 8th in Silverstone and 6th in Austria have kickstarted his season, in which he'll look to make a statement by beating the far more experienced Kevin Magnussen.
Yuki Tsunoda: C
Kicked off 2022 with a solid P8 in Bahrain, and also finished P7 in Imola. Aside from those two results, he has only scored points on one other occasion, bringing his total to a mere 11 points at the halfway point. AlphaTauri have struggled this season, and haven't been able to replicate their occasional stellar pace that they would showcase in previous seasons. Has generally been quite equal with Gasly, and was very unlucky in Azerbaijan to suffer a rear wing failure whilst running in the points. All in all, it has been quite average from the Japanese driver.
Zhou Guanyu: B
Generally quite impressive from the first Chinese driver to reach Formula One. Has never been very far off Valtteri Bottas, bar a couple of poor qualifying results. Has scored points on two occasions, with P8 in Montreal a particularly strong result after qualifying 10th. Another strong qualifying in the wet at Silverstone sadly became a horrific first lap accident, in which everyone was grateful to see him walk away unscathed. Has been unlucky too this season, retiring three times with engine issues.
Alex Albon: B+
Has coped with the struggles of Williams machinery admirably. Has often found himself fighting on the outskirts of the points paying positions, with an unusual strategy in Australia paying off with P10. P9 in Miami followed, and the Thai driver has only finished lower than 13th on one occasion, in what has been the slowest car on the grid. Has made a mistake here and there too, including an incident at the start of the British Grand Prix, and a crash in Canada qualifying, but has been impressive on the whole.
Lance Stroll: D
An anonymous campaign so far from the Canadian. Has done little to make fans sit up and take notice, and is being beaten relatively comfortably by Sebastian Vettel. Has finished 10th on three occasions, enough to pick up three points so far, but is sat behind Alex Albon in the championship, who has had an inferior car. His seat may not be at risk, but Lance Stroll must improve.
Nicholas Latifi: D
Like his compatriot, there has been little to take notice of concerning Nicholas Latifi. Has picked up a reputation of crashing at inopportune moments following last year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as well as wrecking Sergio Pérez's strategy in Jeddah this year. Has been battered by Alex Albon, and aside from an impressive qualifying performance in Silverstone, where he managed a Q3 appearance, there has been nothing impressive from Nicholas Latifi.