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Charles Leclerc

2023 F1 driver rankings: Fifth-to-Max Verstappen

RacingNews365 brings you Part 2 of the top 10 driver rankings of 2023, with no prizes for guessing who emerged on top.

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It's rare that a driver ranking at the end of the Formula 1 season does not need to take into account the World Champion.

For example, in both 2014 and 2016, Daniel Ricciardo was arguably the best driver on the grid, but it was Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, respectively who walked away with the crown.

In 2023, pretty much from the Miami Grand Prix, it was nailed that Max Verstappen would win the title and it was just a case of when not if.

But to do so in the fashion he did was extraordinary and predictably, all of the RacingNews365 team who voted put him top.

Our method for the rankings was to list our top 10 drivers, and award them points based on the F1 points system in the 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 style.

We brought you Part 1 and places 10 through six yesterday, which is available here.

Team members who voted: Jake Nichol, Fergal Walsh, Rory Mitchell.

5 - Charles Leclerc, 28 points

It was a real mixed season for Charles Leclerc, as he endured a third winless campaign in five seasons at the Scuderia.

Some of his qualifying performances were extraordinary and in the non-Verstappen class, he was the best driver on the grid in the closing run of the season after a minor floor upgrade unlocked the SF-23 for him in Japan.

He banked five pole positions and bar that three-race stretch between the Netherlands and Singapore, always looked better than Carlos Sainz across the garage.

Throwing the car into the wall twice in Miami did not help his season - but some rotten reliability and bad luck cost him big points, including a third place in Bahrain, a grid penalty in Saudi Arabia and a DNS in Brazil when the hydraulics packed up on the formation lap, not to mention the DSQ in the US.

The over-arching target for 2024 must be to win from pole and end the streak that now stands at 12 races since he did at the '22 Australian GP.

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	© XPBimages

4 - Lewis Hamilton - 38 points

No driver in the rankings had such a difference between the team as Lewis Hamilton.

For Rory Mitchell, he was second, Fergal Walsh had him fourth but Hamilton was only sixth for Jake Nichol, enough for 38 points and fourth overall.

It was a difficult season to judge for the seven-time World Champion. That ultimate final tenth is not going to come when you are fighting for the odd podium and other scraps, while there is the sense that the thought of 'it is all worth it?' just starting to register in the back of his mind.

The peaks gave the idea that Mercedes was finally getting its head around ground effects and that he was motivated to kick on, but the troughs were very bad.

Mercedes heads into the off-season after taking a battering in the final rounds of the season after Mexico, with a dreadful showing in Brazil before Hamilton effectively declared in Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi, even if his drive in Vegas was strong.

The fire is still there for that eighth title, but is it as once bright as it was, especially if the W15 is another dud out of the box?

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	© XPBimages

3 - Lando Norris, 43 points

Seven podiums, six-second places and a whole load of 'what ifs' characterise Lando Norris's season.

Once those upgrades were bolted onto the McLaren in Austria and Singapore, Norris was unleashed and effectively won five times, finishing behind Verstappen on those occasions in Britain, Hungary, Japan, the United States and Brazil.

But while his race performances - with a recovery charge to fifth in Mexico arguably the pick of the bunch - were extraordinary, his qualifying performances were not.

Too many errors crept in at crucial moments, but for a driver experiencing a genuinely competitive car at a range of tracks for the first-time, while certainly not being excused, can lend some justification.

Making that mistake when fighting for eighth on the grid as opposed to a front-row start and ending fifth as he did in Abu Dhabi is quite different.

That being said, there were far too many blunders on a Saturday, which must be eradicated. Perhaps that elusive first win will help calm Norris down a little.

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	© XPBimages

2 - Fernando Alonso, 45 points

Fernando Alonso's season was almost inverse to Norris's.

Alonso started out with a quick car, banked his podiums but more importantly, when the package was not as strong, he still managed to wrestle two podiums from it in the Netherlands and Brazil.

When the McLaren package was not as good at the start of the year, Norris was unable to drag the MCL60 to places it had no right being.

He left Alpine based on the fact it felt Old Father Time was catching up to him, which Alonso duly destroying the notion, with eight podiums and fourth in the Drivers' in a car that ended the year fifth.

He is as sharp as ever in battle but was unable to grab that win he craves. Not fitting Intermediates at that pit-stop in Monaco left a taste of shoulda, woulda, coulda.

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	© XPBimages

1 - Max Verstappen - 75 points

Now, it's one thing to have a dominant car.

But you could have the most dominant car in history (RB19), but if the lump of organic material in the middle of it cannot extract performance from it, you won't get anywhere.

Perhaps the biggest trait of Verstappen's this year was his masterful tyre management of the ever-fickle Pirellis. That is something that was picked up on by rival team bosses.

He annihilated Sergio Perez to such an extent, the Mexican was a broken shell by the end of the season who cannot find a way of adjusting to a Red Bull package Verstappen can.

There is a serene confidence around Verstappen who is robotic in approach and has surely set a record that will never be beaten with 19 wins this year?

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	© XPBimages

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