F1 2018: Top 5 Driver Performances

Does the five-time World Champion make the top of our list?
Does the five-time World Champion make the top of our list?
George Howson

Lewis Hamilton became just the third man to win five Formula 1 World Championships in 2018 and the Brit has made a very strong case to be named as the best overall performer this year.

However, there have been some incredible showings up and down the grid and across the season, so the World Champion has some strong competition.

It's always difficult to compare drivers from different teams, so their performances compared with their team-mates will, of course, be considered in this ranking.

From a red hot rookie to a departing legend, all of these drivers have out-performed their cars on a number of occassions, so here's our best five performers of F1 season.

#5 Pierre Gasly

Pierre Gasly put in one of the performances of the season in Bahrain
Pierre Gasly put in one of the performances of the season in Bahrain

Pierre Gasly gave us a sneak-peak into what we could expect from the Frenchman in 2018, but the Toro Rosso driver still rose well above expectations this year.

In just his seventh race in Formula 1, he thrilled us all by putting in an electric qualifying lap at Bahrain, lining up fifth on the grid thanks to Lewis Hamilton's penalty and Max Verstappen's mechanical troubles.

In the race, Gasly began to fall back but remained in the coverted "best of the rest" spot. Red Bull's decision to switch to Honda power for 2019 units may have been aided by this race, as both Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo retired within the first three laps, the pair exiting due to mechanical issues.

Kimi Raikkonen would also retire during the race, leaving Gasly to finish an extremely impressive fourth.

That was arguably the performance of the season, but similar displays in Monaco, Hungary and Belgium saw him comfortably beat Brendon Hartley over the course of the season.

No wonder Gasly has been promoted to Red Bull, while Hartley is out of the sport, being replaced by Thai hot shot Alexander Albon.

#4 Charles Leclerc

Leclerc's highest finish came in Azerbaijan, but he had a number of other standout performances too
Leclerc's highest finish came in Azerbaijan, but he had a number of other standout performances too

Saying that Charles Leclerc was the Formula 1 rookie of the season in 2018 isn't much of a statement, especially when his only competition for that award was Sergey Sirotkin, but awarding him with fourth on this list speaks volumes about the youngster's talent.

Choosing between Leclerc and Gasly is a difficult one - I wrote an article on the subject earlier in the season if you're interested - but I give the advantage to the Monegasque, partly because of Leclerc's better wheel-to-wheel racing and also due to Marcus Ericsson having a better season than Brendon Hartley.

It could be argued that Leclerc had a slower start to the season than Gasly, a point I somewhat agree with, and it's backed up when you realise that Pierre had five races towards the end of 2017 to bed himself into the pinnacle of motorsport.

Leclerc's highest finish of the season was sixth place in that chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix, a race where he was arguably lucky to place that highly, but there were plenty of other superb drives.

The best of these were towards the end of the year, seventh places in Russia, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi showed us all exactly when Charles will be partnering Sebastian Vettel in Australia in March.

The best of those showings was probably his seventh at Interlagos, finishing in the best of the rest spot despite Marcus Ericsson putting the performance of his career in during qualifying the previous day.

Don't rule out Leclerc beating Vettel over the course of a season, especially if the German struggles like he did in 2018 once again.

#3 Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso arguably had one of his best seasons in F1 but had nothing to show for it.
Fernando Alonso arguably had one of his best seasons in F1 but had nothing to show for it.

The second half of Fernando Alonso's Formula 1 career is a tragic example of "what could've been" and being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Regardless of what you think about the Spaniard's ability to rally a team around him, he's one of the fastest drivers in the history of motor racing.

Alonso spent four years McLaren in what was a whimper of a swansong, not even managing to stand on the podium once in that time.

That wasn't due to Fernando's lack of speed, far from it, in 2018 he completed drubbed his teammate, Stoffel Vandoorne.

Alonso out-qualified Vandoorne in all 21 races, the first man to do so since Fernando himself managed it back in 2008.

There were some great racing performances too, not least when Alonso finished fifth and ahead of Max Verstappen in a far superior Red Bull at the opening round of the season.

That was as good as it got for the double world champion, though, as McLaren failed to develop their car through the year and the Woking team slid further and further down the grid, culminating with their worst qualifying in almost 40 years at Brazil.

An 11th placed driver's championship finish may not seem very special, but take nothing away from Alonso, he was without a doubt one of the best performers of the season yet again.

We'll miss you, Fernando, and if he completes the triple crown, it'll be going to a very worthy winner.

#2 Max Verstappen

Verstappen was in a league of his own in Mexico
Verstappen was in a league of his own in Mexico

Here's a controversial one, but let me explain.

Max Verstappen made a number of mistakes during 2018, that's undeniable, but the Dutchman was probably the best driver of the season after the return from the summer break.

Verstappen strolled to a win in Mexico, completed several superb comeback drives from engine penalties (most notably in the US) and would've won in Brazil, had it not been for a complete brain-fade against Esteban Ocon.

Does he need to work on his race-craft? Yes. Has he got a lot to learn before becoming a world champion? Yes. But that will come with time, and at 21 years of age, he certainly has plenty of that on his hands.

Verstappen has a level of speed that very few drivers possess, and he showed it to devastating effect in 2018.

Despite numerous engine penalties and mechanical failures, he finished ahead of Valtteri Bottas in the overall standings and only just classified behind third-placed Kimi Raikkonen.

If Red Bull provides Max with a car that's on par with the Mercedes and Ferrari, don't rule out there being a new world champion this time next year.

Some might say that putting Verstappen ahead of Alonso is unfair, especially when the former's mistakes are considered and that's a fair point.

However, with how unlucky Max has been and how big of a margin he out-performed a driver of Ricciardo's quality by, I give this one to the Dutchman, although it is very close.

#1 Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton made it four championships in five years in the V6 era
Hamilton made it four championships in five years in the V6 era

Nobody else could've won this one, Lewis Hamilton was simply the best in 2018.

It took Lewis four races to win his first Grand Prix of 2018, but a slow start eventually gave way to near-perfect results after the summer break.

Six-race wins in seven Grand Prix between Germany and Japan provided Hamilton with an insurmountable lead that Sebastian Vettel couldn't challenge.

Vettel did his utmost to follow in Hamilton's slipstream, but mistakes in Azerbaijan, France, Italy, Japan, and the USA showed that the German couldn't handle the pressure of a title battle with Lewis.

Even with what was the best car for most of the season, Seb couldn't convert it to a fifth world title.

It's not like Vettel had a particularly poor season, he made unforced errors but also produced some fantastic displays and reminded us of the driver that won four titles in a row between 2010 and 13.

The gap by the end of the season was largely down to Hamilton's Absolutely faultless campaigns, one of the best season-long performances in the history of motorsport.

To pick out a few standout results, there's the Hungaroring pole position in treacherous conditions, coming out on top in the race-long battle with Raikkonen at Monza, the perfect pole lap in Singapore and of course, winning at the Hockenheimring after starting 14th and after Vettel fell off the road in humiliating fashion.

11 wins, 11 poles, and 17 podiums from 21 races, along with a record high points tally, even the best champions from down the years would struggle to deal with that form.

If Mercedes produce another top car in 2019, you'd be a fool betting against this legend becoming a six-time world champion.

Honourable mentions should also go to Nico Hulkenberg, the man who finished best of the rest, Sergio Perez, the only driver to score a podium who doesn't drive for a top three team and also Kimi Raikkonen, who arguably also drove one of his best seasons in his final campaign for Ferrari.

Who do you think has been the best performer in 2018? Was it our world champion or someone else? Comment below and let us know!

Edited by Alan John


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